Thursday, February 4, 2016

More Bang for Your Buck*

*this sounded more exciting than "Good Value For Your Money"

Does this outfit look cheap?   Well, it was - astonishingly so.  When I calculated the total cost of all of the pieces, I was amazed that the entire outfit, footwear included, came in at under $50.

Let's do a tally:  turtleneck - Giant Tiger, $3
Levi's waxed denim tunic - Value Village, $12
Zara polka dot skirt - Beacon's Closet - $10
sparkly, fleece-lined leggings - Winners, $6
Blue boots - Housing Works Thrift Store, $15
TOTAL:  $46 (plus tax, of course)

And speaking of the footwear, one of the best decisions I ever made was to hand over $15 for these boots at a Housing Works Thrift Store on my trip to New York in 2012.  They look just like Doc Martens, the colour is fabulous, and they are very comfortable.  Their only flaw is that they are not real leather, and because I wear them so often, the top of the boots are cracking and peeling.  I've asked at a shoe repair shop if there is anyway to fix them and they didn't have any suggestions.  I will be very sad when they completely fall apart.

And in other news....

The day after I put up my previous post, in which I mention just how "Blah" January had been, I came home to find a package on my doorstep.  Inside, I found this:

A Valentine's Wreath!  This explosion of hearts, beads, flowers, and images of cool women was made for me by Carmen Bury, who sent me the lovely fabric-covered tree for Christmas.  I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day, (or any Hallmark Holiday for that matter) but this is so over-the-top fabulous that I'm more than happy to hang it up in my apartment and enjoy the imagination and thoughtfulness that went into its creation.  The "Blahs" were certainly banished!

Although Carmen and I met just once, she somehow knew the kinds of images I would like, including a couple of me taken at the Manhattan Vintage Show wearing her marvelous coat, with the delightful addition of feather wings.  The connection that her coat forged between us has been a source of joy and inspiration, and I marvel at the serendipity of it all.   

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Back In Black

Oh January, you've been so grey and blah, and left me feeling likewise.  I've been inexplicably tired, and all motivation to clean, organize, create, purge, etc. has left the building.  I've developed a serious relationship with NetFlix which I will admit, has been oddly fulfilling as it requires little from me aside from time, and since there appears to be nothing else entertaining going on, I am free to make that commitment.  I seem to have abandoned colour in my wardrobe as well, and I look around at my fellow bloggers' cheerful outfits and sigh....

Grey and black has become my uniform most days, but if I've abandoned colour for now, I've tried to keep the shapes interesting.  I found this strapless, open-front dress/tunic at Cora Couture in Stratford when I was last there to visit my mother.   I have a feeling that her living there is now going to start costing me money, as the store carries a lot of funky European designs that I haven't seen anywhere else.

I was inspired by this post by my ever-creative pal Melanie (Queen of the Uni-Suspender) to add this leather shoulder strap to the dress, which I kept after the corset top it originally belonged to was sent off to another home.  The metal choker was purchased for the princely sum of $8 at Sunfest, and the multi-beaded bracelet was a gift from the lovely Carmen Bury, whom I met at the Manhattan Vintage Show.

And just so you know I haven't lost my sense of humour, here's a crotch flash (it's dark, but trust me, it's there)!

There was a lovely thing that happened this month - Sheryl Kirby from Still Weird Zine contacted me with some questions, and subsequently included my pithy replies and a bunch of photos of me in a style feature.   Kirby also featured yours truly and a number of my blogging friends back in November in a feature about bloggers over 40 who were rocking their own alternative style.
Still Weird Zine focus on music, fashion, art and design aimed towards us over-40's who are leading lives outside the mainstream.  A recent guest post detailed the author's discovery of Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music on CityTV back in the 80's, and seeing them in concert at the CNE.   Bryan Ferry can eat crackers in my bed anytime, I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Instagram Will Keep Us Together

After seeing the photo of myself and Ilona Royce Smithkin taken at a party I attended in New York in October, some readers expressed interest in seeing more photos from the party.  As I have nothing else to post about so far this year, I'm happy to oblige.  But first, the back story....

Last year I started following a woman named Tutti Bennett on Instagram.  I discovered her through her daughter Cecily's account, and when I saw her photo, my first thought was, "I bet she'd be a whole lot of fun to hang out with". 

I sent a message to Tutti's daughter saying that I hoped I could meet her mother one day, and found out that unfortunately, Tutti and her family live in Australia, and although they travel extensively, there was no plan to come to Canada in the near future.  Then in the summer Cecily mentioned that Tutti was going to be in New York in October, and as it turned out, she was going to be there the same time I was.  It was fate.  Emails were exchanged, friends in New York were contacted, and the ever gracious Debra Rapoport offered to host a gathering at her partner Stan's apartment to welcome Tutti and her family to New York.

I had spent the afternoon at the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show with Jean and Valerie, and at the appointed hour we headed to Stan's apartment.   

Photo taken by Denton Taylor
Valerie, Jean (aka The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas), et moi.  Valerie is wearing the beautiful feather hat she purchased at the Vintage Show.

The funky and fabulous Tutti Bennett, in person!  We squealed and hugged, and agreed that Instagram was pretty awesome for bringing us together.

Tutti's husband Paul (aka The Cranky Guru) and daughter Sonia accompanied her to New York.  Paul is a modern renaissance man - graphic designer, musician, singer, writer and philosopher. Sonia is a fashion designer who currently works for British designer Zandra Rhodes.  The Bennetts are all very charming, with a great sense of humour, and are very engaging.  They mingled with everyone at the party and made many new friends during their visit.

The party was held in composer Stan Satlin's (in photo above) art-filled apartment

It seemed like every single person at the party had unique, and very visible personal style, and women like artist Elke Kuhn (left) were sporting the most drool-worthy accessories.

The vivacious Ilona Royce Smithkin

Debra and Stan have an enviable talent for bringing creative people of all ages together at their parties.  The young man in black above is Iman Chenonceau, a talented artist and designer.  Iman accompanied us to brunch the next day, and held his own conversation-wise with a group of people who were almost all three times his age.

The man in the centre is Spanish artist Fernando Diez-Cabeza, a very talented painter who completed a portrait of Lynn Dell Cohen, Advanced Style's "Countess of Glamour", shortly before she died.  Unfortunately, I didn't get the names of his two companions.

There were a couple of other Canadians in attendance, including Ruth, who was visiting from Vancouver with her husband, shoe designer John Fluevog.

Speaking of shoe designers, the young woman on the right is Italian shoe designer Gioia Maini.  I loved the print on her friend's dress.

Maini was wearing shoes of her own design.  You can see more of her colourful creations on her website.

Nonnie Balcer, wearing one of her many extraordinary hats

I loved this head-to-toe graphic black and white look worn by Claire, above.

There was also a lot of black and white in the guests' choice of footwear.  That small object on the floor turned out to be one of my earrings, which I discovered I was missing shortly after I took this photo.

I was entranced by Mary's jaw-dropping collection of rings and her funky necklace.  We were obviously kindred spirits, at least when it came to our jewellery.

At some point Debra and I went out to the hallway to take some photos of her wearing the Freakish Yellow Skirt, which had been delivered to her by blogger Suzanne Carillo when she was in New York in September.  Debra's addition to the skirt was the colourful shoulder attachment.

I couldn't resist capturing an overhead shot of Ruth, Tutti and Ilona engaged in an intense conversation.

I took the opportunity to take a last photo of Tutti before leaving, and we exchanged hugs, grateful for whatever twist of fate allowed us meet in my favourite city, surrounded by creative and engaging people.   Til we meet again!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Goodnight Sweet Prince

and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest

For some strange reason, I never imagined you would die, as if creative genius was enough to render you immortal, but you will live forever in your body of creative work, and in the thoughts of people whom you inspired to let their own freak flag fly.   RIP Major Tom.

Though I'm fast one hundred thousand miles
I'm feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much (she knows!)
Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit's dead, there's something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear....

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Backward and Forward

I don't know if it's a good idea to have my first post of a brand new year focus on looking back at the previous one, but unfortunately, nothing worth writing about has happened so far in 2016.

So, let's revisit some of my favourite things from 2015.

Even though I brought Ginger and Ruby home at the end of December 2014, January 2015 was my first full month as a baby rat-mom.  Looking at them now,  I can't believe how tiny they were, and how attached I've become to them.

In March, a friend and I went to Toronto Vintage show for the first time, and drooled over stuff like the fab hats in the upper right from the Ian Drummond Collection, and the sequinned tank top from Patina Vintage.  You can find my original post here.  This year's Spring show is on March 5th and 6th.

April meant another vintage show, this one in the company of fellow blogger Suzanne Carillo.  We spent a couple of hours browsing the booths at the Gadsden's Toronto Vintage Clothing Show, and then sat outside on a patio for lunch (yes, it was warm enough!) and treated ourselves to delicious eclairs.  The full blog post is here

April was also the month in which I acquired a few items (including the "flower garden hat" in the above photo) that once belonged to a woman named Rachel Heyndrickx, through an online auction.  From what I learned of Miss Heyndrickx, I came to think of her as a kindred spirit, who was extremely independent, and loved dressing up, and I was sorry I never had the opportunity to meet her before she died.  For more about Rachel and her wardrobe, see my full post here.

May brought a much-anticipated opportunity to meet my dear friend Krista for the first time, in Portland Oregon.  In the company of her friend Christi, we spent hours laughing, eating, and thrift shopping.  I was introduced to the thrift shopping wonderland that is Red Light Clothing Exchange, and got to meet Krista's sweet boy, Peetee, who, sadly, has passed away since my visit.  Portland is a wonderful city and I would return in a heartbeat.

I experienced stomach issues for most of the summer, but still managed to get to some festivals and art shows, and a visit to the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.  My hair also changed colour combinations at least twice.

The highlight of August was the rescue of two orphaned baby squirrels by my neighbour Natalie, whose care and feeding kept them alive long enough to be transferred to a wildlife rehabilitation facility.  I kept them overnight in my apartment, warmed by an electric heating pad, and I was so happy to have contributed in a small way to their survival.

October brought some quality time with my neighbour's cat Oreo, who would move away with his family at the end of the month.

I so look forward to spending time in New York in October with my friends, The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas, and this year's visit was jam-packed with adventures, including the Manhattan Vintage Show, the Suzanne Bartsch exhibit at FIT, and meeting Lea DeLaria and her fiancee.  Full posts here, here, here, and here.

 Photo by Denton Taylor

For some unknown reason, I did not write a blog post about a party I attended when I was in New York, which was unfortunate, because one of my absolute favourite moments of the year occurred there, when I met artist and Advanced Style icon, Ilona Royce Smithkin.  We had a brief, but memorable conversation, and I can honestly say that she absolutely radiates positive energy.  When you are talking to her, her entire attention is focused on you, as if you were the most important person in the world, and one has the impression that she sees you exactly how as you have always wanted to be seen.  I was enthralled, charmed and delighted, and felt incredibly lucky to have spent time in the glow of her warmth.  A special thank you to Denton Taylor for capturing the meeting for me.

As the year drew to a close, my BFF and I went to Toronto to celebrate our birthdays and enjoyed a free night in a fancy hotel, delicious doughnuts and hanging out with the fishes at the Ripley's Aquarium. 

Going through photos from the past year made me realize that despite a lengthy bout of illness over the summer, to quote Frank Sinatra, it was a very good year.  Wishing all of you a new year full of laughter, love, good health, and fabulous outfits.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Kindness of Strangers

When I returned home from work yesterday, I found a large box had been delivered to my door, and this was inside.....

It is two feet high, and covered in a variety of fabrics, felt flowers and ornaments

This little tree was made by Carmen Bury, the lovely woman I met at the Manhattan Vintage Show in New York in October.  Ms. Bury also made the spectacular coat I was thrilled to wear for a few minutes at the show.  Apparently Ms. Bury received some commissions after the Vintage Show, and she wanted to thank me for my part in showing off the coat to a larger audience.  I was touched by her generous gesture, and delighted to be the recipient of a piece of her art.   I am always surprised by the warmth and openness of many of the people I have met on my visits to New York City.  People who say they find New Yorkers unfriendly are obviously not meeting the same people I do. 

This gift got me thinking about what "The Christmas Spirit" means.   I'm glad many people see Christmas as a time to share their good fortune with others in need, but I wish the giving spirit could be spread out over the entire year.   Even if you are not able to give time or money, never underestimate the effect that a kind word or gesture (like a handmade gift) can have on someone's day.  Perhaps they have reached the end of their proverbial rope, and your kindness adds another knot for them to hang onto. 

I wish all my readers a peaceful and happy holiday season.  May you be lucky enough to share good food and good conversation with people whose company brings us joy, and not stress.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Fun With The Fishes!

So remember when I said at the end of my previous post about my birthday trip to Toronto that we went to someplace magical? You'd better grab a beverage and take a seat, because this is a long one...

 We went to play (and not sleep) with the fishes!

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada opened in Toronto in late 2013 and is one of three aquariums owned and operated by Ripley Entertainment (the other two are located in Tennessee and South Carolina).  Everyone I knew who had been there had wonderful things to say about it, so Heather and I decided our birthday trip was the perfect opportunity to see what the fuss was about.  The Aquarium is not a marine park like Sea World or Marineland and has no "performing" mammals.  I have never been, or would ever go, to one of those places, and if you have seen the documentary Blackfish, you'll understand why. 

It was ideal that we were going to be there on a weekday, as I would definitely NOT recommend going on a weekend or anytime when kids are out of school.   The mission of the Aquarium is to promote education, conservation and research, and to that end, is very kid-friendly with hands-on exhibits, programs, day camps, an Ocean Explorers Club, and even sleepovers (you really can "sleep with the fishes)

The aquarium has nine different galleries featuring various saltwater and freshwater environments from around the world.  The first thing you see at the entrance to the "Canadian Waters" Gallery is a giant cylindrical tank full of small fish.  There were hundreds of them, and without warning, they would change direction as one unit.  It was fascinating and rather hypnotizing.

The aquarium is not very large, and can be covered in about two hours, depending on how long you linger in different exhibits.  Except for the open area in the middle, it is also very dark, and because of the lighting in the tanks, very blue which gives it a rather other-worldly atmosphere.

The Canadian Waters exhibit had the largest lobster I've ever seen (top right).  That's his claw resting next to a regular size lobster.  There were also some rather unpleasant looking creatures like the wolf eel  (bottom right) and some large flounder-like fish (bottom left). 

A giant two-storey tank recreated a Pacific Kelp "Forest", which included a wave machine that simulated the surging current of the British Columbia shoreline.  I stood in front of the tank for a while watching the up and down motion of the fish.  If you were extremely stressed or anxious, I would think that time spent in front of this exhibit being very therapeutic.

I shot a brief video on my phone to capture the motion of the current

The tropical "Rainbow Reef" was home to over 100 species of fish, in all shapes, sizes and colours

Illuminated screens provided details about the various types of sea creatures in each exhibit, but as the screens were constantly changing, and were not right next to the exhibit, it was difficult to figure out what the specific fish was you were looking at.

The Dangerous Lagoon was the largest, and my favourite, exhibit.   It contains nearly 2.5 million litres of water in which two kinds of sharks, roughtail stingrays, green sawfish, sea turtles, and other smaller fish swim.  A moving sidewalk carries the viewer through the tunnel, or you can chose to walk on the stationary part of the floor.

This giant green sawfish seemed to be relaxing across the top of the tunnel and remained unmoving the whole time we were in there.  It was very strange having this primitive looking creature suspended overhead, so close you felt like you could reach up and touch its belly.

With the light shining through from the top of the tank into the dark tunnel, and sharks swimming lazily all around you, the atmosphere was oddly dream-like.

....until one of them swam directly over my head, causing me to jump - more nightmare than dream!

I was soooo excited to see Majestic Sea Flap Flaps (aka stingrays) up close, with their minimalist "faces".

magical underwater kingdom

After the tunnel, I assumed the rest of the aquarium would pale in comparison, but I was wrong...

A giant "Goliath Grouper" that must have been at least 5 feet long

a venomous Lionfish

and two of the most bizarre and delicate-looking sea creatures: a Weedy Seadragon

.....and the Leafy Seadragon.  These must have been created during one of Mother Nature's abstract experimental periods.

rainbow-coloured coral

Ray Bay, featuring four different kinds of Stingrays, was incredibly cool.  As corny as it may sound, I was filled with awe watching these graceful, primitive-looking creatures glide around their tank.

In the Discovery Centre, both of us took the opportunity to mingle with some Clownfish (Nemo!) and touch a Horseshoe Crab (my photo in the "bubble" is at the beginning of this post).

And then we entered the most colourful exhibit of all....

Planet Jellies!

 An entire wall, approximately 10 feet high, complete with mirrored ceiling, was full of Pacific Sea Nettles, propelling themselves through water that was backlit to appear a brilliant blue.  Lighting effects also cause the nettles to constantly changed colour, and you really did feel like you were on another planet.  I could imagine sleeping there, surrounded by a quiet kaleidoscope of colour.

Top: translucent Moon Jellies  Bottom photos - tiny jellies no more than a few inches in diameter

One of the last galleries was the Life Support Systems, where you could see the inner workings of the aquarium, and the tanks, filters, etc. necessary to control the various aquatic environments.

And last, but by no means least.....

The Shoreline Gallery is located at the top of Ray Bay, and if you put your hand in the water, Stingrays will swim up from the bottom of their tank, close enough to allow you to stroke their smooth, slippery skin.  Heather and I both were able to touch a few of them, and I am not exaggerating when I say it was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had.

My review?  Two thumbs up and definitely worth a repeat visit!  The Aquarium provides an entertaining and educational visual feast, for adults and children, and although the admission fee is rather high, we felt we got our money's worth.