Tuesday, October 21, 2014

If We Could Talk To The Animals, Just Imagine It


 *Warning - in addition to photos of cute furry critters, this post also has photos of a boa constrictor, so if you're snake-phobic, skip to the dogs and cats at the end

This weekend was the London Pet Show, which included the Purina National Dog Show, and the PAWSitive PAWS Cat show.  My heart turns to mush over most animals, so even though the results of my recent allergy tests confirmed that I am allergic to pretty much anything with fur, I decided to load up on antihistamines, pack my inhaler and camera and head to the show.  Heather, a pet owner and animal softy, came too, and we were psyched to pet all the things!

Our first stop was the London Humane Society cat adoption area - there were probably close to 25 cats in cages looking for homes, and while the show is a good venue to attract people who want to adopt a pet, it was sad to see all the beautiful cats that need a home.  I'm sure the Humane Society deliberately chooses the most calm, socialized cats to bring to the show, as they were all very chill - either sleeping, or happy to be taken out of their cage and snuggled by a potential new owner like the one in the photo above.   I like cats very much, and have had a few in my adult life, but I am very allergic to them.  Heather figured that if she could resist the uber-cute polydactyl kitten from the Farmer's Market, she could resist anything.

People were not allowed to bring their pets to the show, but many people who were showing their dogs were taking them for walks through the venue, which meant opportunities to get a bit of puppy love.  This little bull terrier was teething so he was more interested in finding something to chew on than being petted.  I loved his white racing stripe.

The Ultimutts Stunt Dog Dog Show had several performances scheduled over the weekend and we managed to walk by just as one of them was starting.    Sheldon (top and left), a lab/sheltie cross demonstrated his stellar basketball and barrel-rolling skills while Sophia and Bella wait their turn.

Ultimutts also featured a stunt cat, a gorgeous Bengal.  As we all know, cats are NOT fond of doing tricks on command, even for treats, and this one was no exception.  It did walk all around the railing that enclosed the performance area and honestly, it looked so pretty, it really didn't need to do anything else.

There were critters with scales and shells too.  Little Ray's Reptile Zoo was there with some snakes, lizards, and a turtle, and there was another booth that sold reptile tanks and other enclosures that had some very interesting creatures you could interact with..... 

This little guy wasn't getting much attention and was just crawling around his fenced-in area until Heather and I showed up.  He came right over to the bars of the enclosure and tried to get our fingers as we stroked his scale-covered front legs.  I have no idea what kind of tortoise he was (I neglected to ask), but he was obviously quite social.

I don't know about you, but I can't imagine I would be as comfortable holding Clifford, a male Red Tegu lizard, as his handler is.   She's holding him like you or I would hold a baby, or a cat.  He may have a lovely personality, and he was certainly patient with the kids who were petting him after I took this photo, but he has got a face (and the rest of him, for that matter) that only a mother could love.

I was very excited to be able to hold Seth, the 50 lb., 10 foot boa constrictor.  While I would not want to unexpectedly find a snake in my house (or outside it either), in controlled circumstances I find them fascinating and quite beautiful.  Seth is the largest boa constrictor I've ever handled, and you can feel every one of those 50 pounds across your shoulders.  He is 18 years old, and has a very calm temperament (no doubt because he is well-fed).  Of course, someone in group of people who had gathered to watch had to ask what he eats and I had to plug my ears so as not to hear the answer (rats, sigh).

That is the face of a happy woman.  Perhaps I was a snake-charmer in a former life?  It's an added bonus when the snake you're holding coordinates with your outfit.

5 points to anyone who can guess correctly what this is.  Hint:  It's not a prickly tribble

After the snake, this little guy was a bit of an anti-climax, but I had always wanted to see a hedgehog up close.  He was a little freaked out by all the noise and smells so he spent most of the time curled up in a ball on his owner's lap.  That nose!!

This little doll, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is named Audrey.  She was part of the "Breeders' Row" where you could learn about different breeds of dogs.  If I was going to get a dog, my first choice would be to rescue one from a shelter.  The downside of that is you don't know what you're getting, and when allegies are a major consideration, that can be a deciding factor.   I fell in love with a Barbet, a medium-sized breed I had never heard of, that has a woolly coat that doesn't shed, making it a good choice for people with allergies.  The female Barbet at the show was very friendly and loved being snuggled.  

The Purina National, an annual dog show that takes place in partnership with Canadian kennels,  offered the opportunity for some entertaining photos behind the scenes of dogs being washed, dried and fluffed before taking their turn in the ring....

Wash

Dry (the dog seemed to really be enjoying this)

...and Fluff.  I would hang my head too if I was forced to wear a plastic Babushka

in the Ring

There were plenty of fancy cats to be ogled at the PAWSitive PAWS Cat Show, also happening over the weekend.   My favourites were the Rag Dolls, with their distinctive blue eyes and laid-back temperament.   Unfortunately, they are also very expensive, and if I was going to adopt a cat, there are all kinds of cute ones waiting to be rescued at the Humane Society.

This Devon Rex was all worn out from his turn on the catwalk

Toe Beans!

The show was loads of fun, and the Reactine did its job (although I was very sleepy by the time we left the show).   I miss my little rat, so it was very therapeutic to snuggle some critters. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October


“But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
Stephen King, 'Salem's Lot 

"Autumn is a scene of blazing red that brings down leaves upon your head"
(line from a poem written by me in grade school)

I've always liked fall -  cooler temperatures allow for layering of a jacket and scarf, and an open window at night; the red/orange/yellow leaves that litter the sidewalk and beckon you to shuffle your feet through them like you did when you were a child; flannel sheets on the bed and a stew or chili in the crock pot.   October is also one of my favourite months because of my annual trip to New York to visit friends, check out the amazing eye candy at the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show and Sale, and fill my soul with creative energy and inspiration.   To keep me going in the meantime,  I am finding small things to enjoy about Autumn here at home.

I've been able to put together "outfits" again, like this one, that includes layers and "bastard massive" (thank you Vix for this useful descriptor) jewellery.  That's Sam and Ralph guarding my front door behind me.
knit dress - thrifted
leopard leggings - Forever 21 
(sadly, it's one of the few places you can find inexpensive cotton leggings )
hand-beaded necklace purchased from my friend Debra in New York
leopard headpiece purchased from the Style Crone


This weekend was our Thanksgiving, and what better time to get out the Halloween decorations.  Most years I don't bother, but I stumbled across a goldmine of spookiness at a local Dollar store last week, and my porch is now festooned with giant sparkly skulls, and there's a little tombstone in my flower bed.

The End of Summer Roundup of Photos that Didn't Get Their Own Blog Post...


There's nothing like a sign that says "Free Kittens" to set a cat lover's heart racing.  A couple of weeks ago Heather and I arrived at Western Fair Farmers' and Artisans' Market for our regular Saturday morning browse to find, to our delight (and dismay), a carrier full of tabby kittens free for the taking.  And these were not any ordinary tabby kittens - they were polydactyl kittens (extra toes!) .  Heather scooped up the one in the photo above when I pointed out that she had 6 toes on all four feet, which is very rare.  Her feet were positively gigantic, and she was a snuggly bundle of fuzzy love. We reluctantly dragged ourselves away from the pile of kittens, reminding ourselves of all the reasons why it was a bad idea to take one home.

And speaking of cats, one of the neighbourhood felines drew my attention to this cicada who had obviously buzzed his last buzz (I'm assuming he's male).  I rescued him from the cat and then had to photograph him.  According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), this is what is referred to as an "annual cicada".  He's the length of half of my index finger, and I found him equal parts gross and fascinating.

I picked up this button on my last visit to Toronto as it sums up my feelings about being in my 50's quite nicely.

I re-discovered my fabulous silver "fork" ring which is perfect for the days when I feel like I need to wear full armour.

One of the things I miss about summer is being able to enjoy a meal on a patio.  Something about eating outside on a sunny day that is warm, but not hot, makes everything taste better.   The roasted beet salad with steak was from The Church Key restaurant, enjoyed on a late summer afternoon in the company of my best pal.   The weather was still warm enough in late September to eat outside, but the hoards of wasps/hornets/yellow jackets that fought to share your meal were a definite turnoff.
 
What will you miss most about Summer, and what do you like about Fall?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rock and Roll Girls

I don't get really excited about bands much anymore.  There have been instances in the past where I've been to a great concert and I was pumped for days afterwards (David Bowie and Leonard Cohen come to mind), but in general, while I still enjoy discovering new music, I don't feel the same desire to know details about the members of the band as I did in my 20's when I was working in record stores and my days and nights were spent around music.  However, I felt a bit of that old thrill a few weeks ago, when Heather and I went to Woodstock to watch a roller derby game, and there was a band playing at half-time...

I heard the unmistakable opening chords of one of my favourite rock and roll songs (Baba O'Riley by The Who, which for the longest time I thought was called "Teenage Wasteland"), and turned around to see that they were being played by a band consisting of girls who were definitely not old enough to know the song from when it came out.   The band, which goes by the name Populus Romanus, consists of Queena, far left, on lead guitar and vocals, Grace on lead vocals and bass, and Grace's sister Lucy on drums.  I should probably mention that Queena is 12, Grace, 13, and Lucy, 11.

video

Grace has a powerful voice, and loads of stage presence, and along with Queena (who sang the Pete Townshend part),  Lucy, and assistance from a guy playing keyboards off to the side, they gave a thoroughly enjoyable performance.  You would have thought I was either a parent, groupie, or teenager by the way I whipped out my out my phone and recorded a video of the song, part of which is posted above.

That was followed by the Led Zeppelin song, Kashmir

video

They played a closing set after the game was over that consisted of The Ramones' classic anthem Blitzkrieg Bop (Hey Ho, Let's Go!) and Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes.  When I asked their mother about their choice of material for this particular gig, she said that the band wanted to tailor the songs to the audience, and thought that the people that came to Roller Derby would probably be familiar with those songs.  At the time of the show, the girls had only been playing together for a couple of months.

Queena, Lucy and Grace

Remembering how insecure and awkward we were at their age, Heather and I were in awe of the confidence with which the girls attacked each song they played.  Their informed, and eclectic music taste can be accredited to their parents.  According to their mother, who has a photography business,  Lucy and Grace's bedtime CDs featured the ballads of Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen.  As I suspected, the girls are avid participants in other areas of the arts.  Queena is an accomplished pianist and a talented artist (I was able to see her drawings on her instagram account).  Lucy is a competitive Highland dancer, who recently won the highest honour possible at a competition in Scotland.  Grace danced in the Art Harvest Festival at the end of September and displays a maturity well beyond her years when discussing the band and her creative endeavors.   I had a moment where I wanted to adopt all three of them.

Heather spoke to Grace about the possibility of booking the band to play a half time show at a London roller derby game in the future.   Roller derby AND rock and roll played by a trio of talented (pre)teenagers - that will be a show you won't want to miss!!

Monday, October 6, 2014

And The Winner Is.....


The names of all the women who answered the question in my Women In Clothes post went into a  big pot, and the lucky gal who gets her own copy of the book is Sheila!  As soon as I get her mailing address, the book will be on its way to the west coast.  Thanks so much to everyone who commented - I enjoyed reading the stories of the items that never leave your closets.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jump Around


A while back, in my post about my visit to the Jack Lux Vintage Store in Toronto , I mentioned that I did buy something at the store......

It was the first thing that caught my eye - a jumpsuit, which reminded me of the coveralls worn by mechanics.  I liked the colour, and the fact that it is made of cotton.  Aside from the legs being a bit short, it fit as if it was made for me. 

It also reminded me of the outfit worn by Rosie The Riveter   

I had always thought that this iconic image of a woman flexing her bicep was meant to portray Rosie, but was surprised to learn that's not the case.  The image above was designed by J. Howard Miller who was hired by Westinghouse Company to create a series of posters for the war effort.  It was referred to by the title "We Can Do it" during the war, and was shown only to Westinghouse employees for a short period of time before it disappeared.  It was re-discovered in the 1980's and became associated with the feminist movement, and mistakenly became referred to as "Rosie the Riveter".

I've always been one of those people who takes things literally....
(thanks to Heather for the photos)

*A reminder - I will announce the winner of the copy of Women In Clothes on October 6th.  There's still time for you to enter your name in the draw - just leave a comment on my post about the book and answer the question at the end of the post.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

When Bloggers Get Together....


....they shop, eat, and take photos of each other, of course!




That would be Suzanne on the left, and yours truly on the right, hanging out in an art-filled alley off of Queen Street West in Toronto.  I had invited Suzanne and Megan to come to the book launch party (see my previous post) with me, and Suzanne and I were able to get together in the afternoon before meeting Megan for dinner.

 I've met quite a few members of my blogging circle by now, and they have all turned out to be as fun and personable as they present themselves on their blog.  Suzanne was no exception, and we spent a very enjoyable afternoon together checking out some of the street art and the various secondhand stores along West Queen West (recently named as one of the world's coolest street style neighbourhoods). 

And why, indeed, we ask?

because we just are....

I had stumbled onto this alley a couple of years back, but there was only a fraction of the amount of art then as there is now.  A few other people were taking advantage of the great backgrounds to take photos.  The hipster chicken is also the work of Uber5000.

We attempted a credible imitation of the woman on the wall, minus the blood that appears to be dripping from her orifices.  At least Suzanne had the shades.


I can't imagine how many hours went into the painting of this building.  Needless to say, I was in love with the colours.  The mural is by Uber5000, aka Allan Ryan, a Toronto-based painter and aerosol artist.

This was my favourite piece - the colours are stunning, and the skeleton earrings are a surprising, and delightful touch.

The plaid, leopard, and fringe called out for a photo

Suzanne had never been into Mama Loves You Vintage, which I discovered on my last visit to Toronto.   On this day, Mahro, (photo above left) who owns the shop with her mother, Melo, was on duty, and looked adorable in her mix of Bettie Page hair, 70's eyeglasses, cardigan and cons.  The purple suede laceups would look great with a pair of rolled up jeans and a pretty blouse, and the heavy vintage Ralph Lauren poncho in the window would keep you warm on the coldest days.

The store has a beautiful display of 1920's dresses on the wall.  They would be much too fragile to wear, but the fabric, embroidery and beadwork make them gorgeous pieces of art.

We admired the pretty coloured macarons in the window of a shop, which seemed to be the only thing they sold.

The weather was much nicer than I expected, so we enjoyed a nice walk along Queen Street.  We visited both Kind Exchange stores, and each found something at the one near Bathurst Street, before heading off to meet Megan at the funky Drake Hotel for dinner.

The windows were covered with Keith Haring-esque graffiti art

Our server was kind enough to take a photo of three bloggers enjoying a cocktail - from left:  Megan, wearing a cool body chain that I am coveting,  yours truly, and Suzanne.  Megan and I indulged in something called "No Country For Old Men" while Suzanne went for a reliable martini. 

Suzanne snapped a photo of the two of us with the gigantic wall of old books, radios, and other cool stuff behind us.  You can see Megan's gold fluevogs and my pink cons competing for the title of most visible footwear under the table.  We had a delicious meal, and then went off to gravitypope for the book launch (which you can read about in my previous post - and don't forget to comment to enter the draw for the copy of the book).

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Women In Clothes - It's About The Stories

Last year I received an email from a friend with the link to a survey for a project called Women in Clothes.  The survey consisted of about 40 or so questions, such as:

When do you feel the most attractive?
What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you? 

Needless to say, I was intrigued, so I answered the questions as thoughtfully as I could and returned the survey.   Fast forward to September 2014....

we have the book!!

People who submitted surveys received emails updating them on the status of the book, and in July I received an email with the release date and a list of book launch events, one of which was happening in Toronto.  Of course I had to go, as this was the first book I had been a part of (I am quoted on page 464), and as it turns out, it's a wonderful book. 

Editors Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton (who are all published authors) have put together a collection of essays, illustrations, photos, and interviews that address why women wear what they wear.  It's not a style guide; there is no section on fashion trends, what not to wear, where to shop, or how to dress your body.  There are no photos of the women who are featured in the book, which keep the focus on the stories.... and what wonderful stories they are.  Each of us - young, old, rich, poor, living in India, Iceland, Texas, or Montreal, make conscious or unconscious decisions when we get dressed in the morning.  The book gives us a peek at the thought processes, emotions, and inspirations of several hundred women as they decide how to clothe their bodies.   Some of the contributors are famous - musician Kim Gordon, blogger Tavi Gevinson, writer and actor Lena Dunham, artist Miranda July, etc., but most of them are women living their lives under the radar all over the world.  The stories are funny, sad, inspiring, entertaining and reassuring.  The book makes clothing into something that unites us all as women, instead of something that divides us into categories of "fashionable", "conservative", etc. and I felt a connection to the other women in the book while I was reading it.  The reviews have almost all been extremely positive, but one reviewer complained that there is not enough ethnic diversity represented by the women featured in the book.  While it is possible (and probably likely) that the majority of the surveys were completed by white women living in Canada and the United States, the editors include stories and interviews with women from Korea, Egypt, Laos, Cambodia, Israel, Croatia, and Poland, to name a few.

To me, one of the most moving sections in the book was titled "Mothers as Others".  Participants were asked to submit a photo of their mother before she became a mother and give their impressions of the woman they saw in the photo.  Many of the photos showed young, carefree women having fun, and I realized that I have no such photos of my mother, which made me feel rather sad.

 

The Launch Party....

 

The Toronto book launch party was held on Thursday, September 8th at gravitypope, on Queen Street West.  I had never been to the store, but had heard about their jaw-dropping selection of beautiful (albeit expensive) shoes.  I invited two other bloggers, Megan and Suzanne, to join me.  Suzanne and I spent the afternoon together (more about that in another post), and Megan joined us  for dinner before we went to the party. 

The event had been all over social media, and the editors had been interviewed that morning on CBC by Jian Ghomeshi so I was not surprised to see that the store was packed with people, with a lineup outside.  It was rather claustrophobic and I found myself seeking out any little unoccupied corner of space I could find.

The Wall of Shoes (there were two other smaller ones as well as several tables full of men's and women's footwear)

 
I swooned a little over these studded brogues in the men's section.  These would go with so many of my fall and winter outfits....

 The other pair of shoes that almost sent me into cardiac arrest were these metallic blue Trippens

All the staff at gravitypope are quite stylish, but this young man caught my attention with his simple tunic and pants set off by great accessories.  The ring!  Those shoes!

The three editors, (left to right) Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton, were interviewed on the store's staircase.

All of the book launch parties feature a clothing swap, and Suzanne and I brought some items to add to the mix.  It was rather satisfying to see that the three items I brought were scooped up fairly quickly.

The editors asked that women attach their name, and a story about the item, to each item they brought.  Suzanne pointed out this skirt to me, and while I was drawn to the happy mix of colours, it was the story that compelled me to take it home.

I also selected this made-in-India jacket and skirt, which had been previous owned by Annette, who, according to the tag attached to the outfit, is in her mid 50's, has three sons, and sells vintage clothing online.

Suzanne (r) chatted with a woman who used to own a funky clothing store in London, Ontario back in the day and now lives in Toronto.  It was a pleasant surprise to run into her.

The editors settled themselves on one of the couches to sign copies of the book.

This woman was in the line to get her copy of the book signed so I seized the opportunity to get a photo of her cool t-shirt.

Great glasses, cool hair, and a bold print

A young woman from shedoesthecity was wearing this cute pendant

I didn't bring my copy of the book with me to get signed, but I managed to exchange a few words with Sheila Heti as she took a break from signing.  She was very charming and personable, and I wish I could have had an opportunity to chat with all three editors.  Unfortunately, the photo shows the least interesting part of my outfit;  I also wore a flouncy vintage slip that hung below my dress, black and white tights and my pink "Krista Cons".

The crowd started to thin out around 8:30 pm so I was able to get a photo that showed more of the store.  The second floor is dedicated to cool (and, of course, expensive) clothing.

Now, a treat -  I have a copy of Women In Clothes to give away to one of my readers!  Unfortunately, as it is a rather heavy book (515 pages), I can only ship within Canada and the United States.  If you would like to have your name included in the draw for the book, please leave a comment, include your email address (if I don't have it already) and the answer to the following question:

"Tell us about something in your closet that you keep but never wear.  What is it, why don't you wear it, and why do you keep it?"

The winner will be announced on Monday, October 6th.