Wednesday, July 1, 2015

O Canada!!

Today is Canada Day, the day we celebrate the "birth" of our country, and it has inspired me to think about how grateful I am to have been born here, and able to create a safe, productive, and enjoyable life.  In honour of the day, I wanted to share some specific things I'm grateful for, or have enjoyed recently....

I am fortunate to live in a city with many parks and green spaces.  I work on a university campus that features many different types of trees and flowers, and in the summer it's a beautiful place to take a lunchtime stroll.  The tree on the left with the drooping white blossoms is just outside the building where I work, as is the bush with the flowers in the bottom right photo.  The flowering tree in the upper right photo is some type of Dogwood and this was the first year I noticed it had exploded with blooms.

In addition to the variety of flora, we also have an entertaining selection of fauna on campus.  We have at least two groundhogs who make their home near our building, and a few years ago I managed to get a photo of a litter of groundhog babies.  Like most critters, they are adorable when they are small, before they get their giant yellow teeth.  I have also spotted the occasional rabbit, and a few chipmunks, which are my personal favourite - I've wanted to pop one in my pocket to bring back to the office as a pet.  We are also visited by raccoons and deer.

I am proud to live in a country that supports equal rights for gays and lesbians, and while the recent Supreme Court decision in the United States is definitely a cause for celebration, it's worth noting that Canada legalized gay marriage 10 years ago!  This past weekend was the annual Gay Pride Celebration in Toronto, Ontario and the city was awash with rainbows (and a whole lot of rain, unfortunately). The ten day festival is the largest Pride celebration in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. 

As a single woman, I am able to travel in Canada unaccompanied without the fear of being attacked or harrassed, which is a privilege many women in other countries do not have.  I travel alone often, and am fortunate to live close enough to Toronto to be able to enjoy the city's many art galleries, museums, and other arts and culture events.   On my most recent visit, it rained cats and dogs all day, so I took refuge in the Bata Shoe Museum for a couple of hours.   The museum celebrates the history of footwear and has approximately 1,000 pairs of shoes on display at any one time.  In addition to the main gallery which showcases footwear through the ages, special themed exhibits occupy three other galleries.

My favourite pair of shoes in the "History of Footwear" gallery are these beautiful Bolivian dancing boots from 1950.  They could easily be worn today with their stylish "spectator" design.

One of the current special exhibits was titled "Fashion Victims - The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century" which contrasted the beauty of the clothing and accessories that were available to the wealthy of that time period with the dangers posed by clothing containing arsenic-based dyes (the dress in the photo above was coloured using such a dye) and impossibly narrow footwear that constricted and deformed the feet.

I was in Toronto to see a performance that was part of Luminato, an annual celebration of the arts that began in 2007.  Since Jorn Weisbrodt (aka Rufus Wainwright's husband) took the helm as Artistic Director in 2012, the festival offerings have shifted from events aimed towards the mainstream masses, to a more balanced selection that includes creative experiences designed to challenge audiences to think about what Art is, and its purpose in society.  Apocalypsis, which was performed at the Sony Centre, was such an event - a musical theatre spectacle composed by R. Murray Schafer in the late 1970's, and performed only once, in 1980.  The piece is based on the Book of Revelation;  Part one depicts the end of the world, and Part two, a renewal of life, and hope.  This version featured approximately 1,000 performers (800 of them members of choirs from all over Ontario) including actor Brent Carver, dancer Denise Fujiwara, throat singer Tanya Tagaq, and the voice of Laurie Anderson.   It was an extravaganza that was at times mystifying, mesmerizing, discordant, annoying, beautiful, and moving, and I was so glad I made the effort and spent the money to see it, as it was one of those experiences that will not be repeated.   The budget was reportedly 1.4 million dollars, and Luminato is the only arts festival in the country that has a large enough budget to be about to put on an event of that scale.

There are many other things to appreciate about Canada, and I won't attempt to catalogue them all;   these were the things that came to mind this past week.   There has been one other thing I've been grateful for and it's not really related to Canada, although, I'm sure there are countries where I would not be able to keep these two little girls as pets...

This is included for the remaining members of my St. Louis fan club (a lovely group of elderly women who unfortunately are dwindling in numbers), who asked if I could please post more photos of Ginger and Ruby.  I never thought I could become so attached to a pair of rodents, but I love them dearly, and am fascinated and entertained by their adventures.  And for those of you wondering, unfortunately, I am still allergic to them.
top left - they are very affectionate, and at times I am the recipient of double rat kisses; top right - beverage and bath break during evening playtime; bottom - they love climbing things, but are not the best at figuring out how to get down.  Often their strategy is to just let go, fall off, and hope that I catch them (which so far has worked)

Hope my Canadian Readers are enjoying their Canada Day Holiday.  I just finished reading the "The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind" - if you are looking for an informative, entertaining and inspiring story that reminds you how much we have to be grateful for living in Canada, this fits the bill.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I Couldn't Think of a Witty Post Title.....

I'm kind of in love with this dress....

I spotted it on the rack at The Sentimentalist, and had to try it on - it hadn't even been priced yet.
It's made in Thailand, but from the style and label in the dress it appears it was likely made to be sold in that country, not exported to North America.

It falls into the category of outfits I call, "not very flattering to my body, but like it anyway".  It's a nice cotton, and the pattern consists of pieces of fabric that have been sewn onto the basic black dress.  It is also embellished with pieces of silver metal that look like small bells cut in half.  I imagine it's going to be a pain in the butt to wash.  Hmmmm......unflattering shape, hard to clean, yet I had to have it - must be one of those impossible to explain relationships.

Another dress made in Thailand  - this one is from Red Light Clothing Exchange in Portland.  It's a very light weight silk and the black underlayer is pretty transparent.  Unlike the other dress, I'm guessing this one was likely imported by one of those stores that sell handicrafts from Southeast Asian countries.
Thifted dress worn with the hand beaded neckpiece I purchased from Debra Rapoport during one of my New York visits, a duck-print scarf from The Sentimentalist on my head, and my FitFlop sandals.
I really tried to come up with a post title that incorporated the word "Thai" or "Thailand" but I had to give up, otherwise it would be the end of the week before this was published.  If you have any brilliant ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Art and Soul

Each year the students in the Art program at H.B. Beal Secondary School here in London have an end-of-year show of the work they have created.  The BealArt program is very well-respected, and many talented Canadian artists attended classes, or taught there.  The students can take classes in sculpture, drawing, photography, painting, print-making, ceramics and textiles.

I enjoy seeing all the students' work, but especially that of those select few who have already found their voice, so to speak, and have the talent to translate their ideas into a work of art.  I always start my tour with the Ceramics Studio, where I have seen some beautifully creative work in porcelain, clay and stoneware over the years.

This year the first thing that caught my eye were these stunning porcelain pieces by Tiffany Nichol.  I can't imagine the number of hours of work that went into creating the various pieces of marine life.  The piece in the bottom right corner was used as the poster image for the show.

Another artist who demonstrated a style of her own was Cesia Ignacio, who incorporated her own face into the design on her porcelain pieces.

I really liked these stoneware heads, made by Samantha Tsang.  The heads appeared as a pattern on a dress that was on display in the textile studio.

I admired the shape, and treatment on these Stoneware Oryx by Heather Young - they looked modern and primitive at the same time.

The painting studio

My other two favourite mediums are sculpture and textiles.  This giant (it appeared to be at least 8' long) steel horse made by Faith Robinson was sold - I hope whoever purchased it has a very large empty wall to hang it on.

At first I couldn't figure out what this wire sculpture made by Mason Nesbitt represented and then after I read the title ("The Jump"),  my eyes adjusted and I could see the figure in various stages of a giant leap through the air.  The more I looked at it, the more I liked it.

One piece of sculpture that was definitely more statement than decoration was this pregnant female torso constructed of cigarette butts titled "Born in Addiction" by Danielle Harris.  It was a powerful piece that spoke to the dangerous, and repulsive aspects of cigarette smoking (including the smell).

The Textile Studio was my last stop where I found colourful crocheted barnacles by Jaymz Ropp, (top right), a felted top hat made by Cassandra Robinson, and on the left, a jacket by Rachel Simpson and pants made of found materials by Matt Meiller.

Samantha Tsang painted the pattern on this dress (called the Grumpy Man Dress) incorporating images from her stoneware heads in the Ceramic Studio

The BealArt year end show runs for three days every June  It provides an excellent opportunity to see the work of up and coming artists and as most of the work is for sale, you can pick up a new piece of art for your home at very reasonable prices.  Put it on your calendar for next year!

 And, just because...a couple of gratuitious photos of yours truly taken by random folks during the Fringe Festival..

Richard Gilmore, Communications Coordinator at The Arts Project, took this photo of me during the Fringe Festival, and I rather liked it - yes, I am leaning on a torso-shaped piece of art.

 Heidi Wholeness, aka Patti-Ann Sim, owner of the Dear Thelma Love Louise craft trailer seen in my previous blog post, took this shot of my attempt at hula hooping on Saturday. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Let The Festing Begin!

I have feeling I may have used this title on a post a year or so ago, but I'm over 50 now so I'm allowed to repeat myself...

When the London Fringe Theatre Festival rolls around in early June, you know that summer has officially begun in the Forest City, or as we like to call it - "Festing Season".  From now until Labour Day weekend the city's parks, streets and public squares will be taken over each weekend by one of the many festivals that have become a staple of the summer months.

I try to attend as many Fringe performances as I can, and the highlight of the last week for me was having my photo taken with God, who apparently is a Scottish Drag Queen, according to performer Mike Delamont, who brought his one man (woman) show, God Is A Scottish Drag Queen 2, to the London Fringe Festival (he performed Part 1 last year).  The material is wickedly funny and Delamont is a wonderful performer.


This year, it was decided to hold one of the summer's Car-Free Street Festivals in my hood, otherwise known as "Old East", or EOA (East of Adelaide).   It was a beautiful day and lots of locals were out enjoying the festival.

There was lots of creativity on the street, from pottery-making demonstrations, painting (that's my neighbour, Natalie, in the upper right), chalk drawing, and live music

Speaking of creativity, Patty-Ann Sim brought her trailer, Dear Thelma Love Louise, to the festival.  It was stocked with fun jewellery, greeting cards, craft supplies, and other bits and bob, most of which was made by Patty-Ann as her crafting persona, Heidi Wholeness.

I purchased this card, made from a photograph taken by Patty-Ann

One of the prettiest buildings in the neighbourhood, the Palace Theatre, is one of the venues for the Fringe Festival this year.

This little pup, who had the waggy-est tail, was enjoying the sunshine with his owner, as were many of the other neighbourhood pooches.


Sunday was London's first Forest City Flea, an outdoor market with local vendors selling vintage and repro furniture, hand-crafted goods, art, clothing, and household items held in the parking lot across from the London Convention Centre on York Street. 

 Paul Dromgole, owner of Heist in Wortley Village, organized the event

I loved the apron worn by the woman at the Littleshout Vintage booth

She had the cutest cross-stitched art at her booth 

You could find mini dinosaur planters at Botanista,  teepee style tents for your kids to play in from Row Row Apparel, lots of bicycles,  and fancy hula hoops at Candice Sheriff's booth

Local artist Shayna Patterson had prints of her skull and heart-themed art for sale

Erin named her booth after her rescue dog, Kurt, who was filthy when she found him.  She was selling homemade preserves and syrups

This beautiful carry case at  Jackpot Vintage still held the original hair dryer, hose and bonnet.

Back to the Fuchsia had a taxidermied duck, pipes and an old radio, amongst other treasures

The two dapper gents in the top photo were modelling the wood bow ties they were selling at their booth Upcycle Bowties.  The fab brogues in the bottom right from Revival 72 went home with a happy customer, and the paisley print dress lit up the Brookside Vintage booth.

It was great to see the eclectic crowd of people who came out to support the first Forest City Flea -  vendors seemed to be busy and happy with the turnout.  Hopefully it was enough of a success that it won't be a one-time event.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Portland - Food Trucks, Vintage Shopping, Flowers, and a Chicken

I can't believe that an entire month has passed since I was in Portland.   I really enjoy the reseach/planning part of a trip, and the anticipation of a new adventure, but then when I'm back home, It often feels more like a dream than something that actually happened, so I have to remind myself by looking at photos and remembering how I felt at that moment.  There were so many wonderful, happy moments during my visit with Krista and exploration of Portland that I had to do one more blog post before it becomes just a distant memory....

The Food.....

The impression I had after spending three days in Portland was that there is a serious obsession with food, and as far as I'm concerned, that makes a place even more attractive to visit.    Krista took me to a couple of cool neighbourhoods, and each one was chock full of delightful little restaurants and food trucks.  You could pretty much find any kind of food you could possibly want to eat.

In the neighbourhoods we visited, there were several parking lots that were home to one or more food trucks.  I'm used to the one or two food trucks we have at home that sell Souvlaki and grilled cheese sandwiches, but in Portland you could get almost any kind of food you wanted, from omelets and quiche at Lulas, tamales and enchiladas, to meatloaf and collard greens at the Cultured Caveman.   Unlike in my hometown, it is not expensive to get a license to operate a food truck in Portland, and as they seem to co-exist peacefully with the restaurants in the neighbourhood, Portland has wisely realized that not everyone has the time or the money to eat a sit-down meal in a restaurant for lunch.

My most memorable meal - the chicken and waffles I had for breakfast at  Bread and Ink Cafe on Hawthorne Street.   The restaurant, which has a "Waffle Window" on the side, is known for their chicken and waffles, and I was not disappointed.  The chicken was juicy, the coating crispy, and the waffles were fluffy and crispy on the outside.  It came with a yummy parmesan lemon dipping sauce for the chicken, and we ordered blueberry basil mimosas (although I couldn't taste the basil) and I was in breakfast paradise.

There seemed to be more little pizza joints and coffee places than I've seen anywhere else.  I don't drink coffee, but I do eat pizza, and the one we had for dinner one night was delicious.

The sign in the window in the Hawthorne district pretty much summed up my idea of a good time

Cool Neighbourhoods..

We spent most of Saturday in the Hawthorne district, in Southeast Portland.  According to the website Travel Portland, Hawthorne Boulevard is where "Hippies and Hipsters mingle...".  There was a very eclectic and relaxed vibe, and many amenities that would make it a very attractive neighbourhood to live in.   You can enjoy a craft brew and pizza while watching a flick at The Bagdad Theatre, originally opened in 1927, and full restored in 1991 by Portland Brewers, the McMenanin Brothers.   The CineMagic Theatre, top left, opened in 1914, and shows second-run films and classics as well as new releases.   Cycling is extremely popular in Portland, which has earned it many "bicycle-friendly city" awards.  The Community Cycling Center (top right) is a non-profit organization that sells new and used bikes, operates a repair shop, and offers bicycle educational programs for kids and adults.

There were fun things to look at everywhere, and I had to pose with some of the street art.  I wasn't sure if the animal statue behind me on the left was an otter, a beaver or some other critter.

The majority of the houses are made of wood, being the most readily available building material, and many were painted pretty colours.
This little house appears at the beginning of an episode of Portlandia (I be you were wondering when I was going to mention that show).  The sign on the easel on the front porch said "Estelle and Stringbean R.I.P".  Whoever they are, they were obviously missed.

Beautiful Scenery....


Even though the roses in the Washington Park International Rose Test Garden were not yet in bloom, there were lots of other flowers to be enjoyed.  Giant Rhododendron bushes were everywhere, as were Irises, and we found athe hand-sized rose in a small garden in front of someone's house.

I don't know the name of the orange flowers, but they matched Krista's vintage maxi-dress perfectly

There was so much green space to be enjoyed - the trees are huge!  With lots of parks, hiking trails, and special attractions such as Wine country bike tours and Segway tours of the waterfront, Portland caters to the outdoors enthusiast.  Washington Park has an open-air amphitheatre (top right) where every year a Summer Festival takes place with musical performances, and outdoor film screenings.  On Saturday night after dinner, Krista, Cristi and I took a stroll around the Mt. Tabor Reservoir (bottom right) which was lovely and peaceful.

Krista took me to Pittock Mansion, built in 1914, in the style of a French Chateau, for publisher Henry Pittock and his wife.  The mansion, now a museum open to the public, is situated in the west hills of Portland and overlooks the city skyline.  

The museum was closed by the time we arrived, but we were able to enjoy the stunning view from the lawn at the rear of the house.  In the bottom photo is the city of Porland, with Mt. Hood in the far background.

The Critters....

I was in dog heaven during the trip -  adorable canines were everywhere.  I fell in love with an beautiful pit bull named Lola (top photo), whose owner sat at the table next to ours when Krista and I had lunch on a patio on Sunday.  In Ontario we have had a ban on pit bulls since 2005, and owners find themselves constantly in the position of having to defend their choice of pet.  I had never been in close contact with a pit bull before, but Lola completely won me over with her gentle nature and doggie kisses.  I spent much of the weekend with Krista's little shadow, Peetee (bottom right), and we met the young woman with the lovely smile and cute pup in the bottom left photo while out shopping Saturday. 

In addition to dogs and cats, there was another critter I met while I was in Portland.  Krista and I were at her friend Cristi's house, and I happened to glance out the front door and was rather surprised to see a chicken peering in from the other side.  Apparently Red belongs to the neighbours, and makes regular visits to Cristi's for a snack of freeze-dried meal worms.  Only in Portland....
And how could I forget?

The Shopping....


On the second day of my trip, these two crazy chicks and I were psyched for a day of shopping.
After a quick trip to Sock Dreams, where I got some fab cotton blend tights for next winter, and fortified by chicken and waffles from Bread and Ink (see food section above), we arrived at our main destination - Red Light Clothing Exchange.  I had heard so much about this place from Krista and was sooo excited to experience it for myself.

There was no photography allowed in the store, but I did snap this photo in the change room while trying on this heavy cotton blouse.  I loved the pattern and the pin-tucking at neckline, but it was just a bit too voluminous.   Not to fear - there was a whole store full of fabulous stuff to choose from!  The stock was an awe-inspiring mix of contemporary, vintage, designer, and ethnic, and the prices were extremely reasonable.  I felt like I had died and gone to secondhand-shopping heaven.  I made two trips to the change room, loaded down with things to try, and we spent 2 1/2 blissful hours there.

I purchased six items, my favourite being this vintage palazzo pant jumpsuit.  I've worn it to a party (where this photo was taken) and I wore it to work, and it was a big hit both places. Best $20 I've ever spent.

I scored these Missoni-collaboration Converse at the Nordstrom Rack in Krista's neighbourhood.  I also picked up a pair of fancy knickers and a cute flowered pencil skirt from Naked City Clothing, a fun shop full of punk, goth, rockabilly, and pinup-inspired clothing.  The verdict -  New York may have the glamour and high fashion, but Portland has lots of places to find affordable, unique, new and used clothing. 
Whew, that was a lot of photos!  Hope you enjoyed these Portland posts - if you ever get a chance to visit, I would encourage you to go.  If a  Portland Tourism website offered to pay me to visit again and write about it, I'm 100% on board with that...