Monday, December 31, 2012

How I Spent My Christmas Holidays

*Warning* - this post contains photos of a rat (albeit a very cute one, but I may be biased), including a rat tail, so if you are one of those people who are squeamish about rodents (and there are a great number, I have discovered), proceed at your own risk.

Christmas is unfortunately all too often fraught with stress - unpleasant interactions with relatives, too much money spent on gifts,  and more time spent travelling than relaxing.   I did manage to avoid all of the above, and I hope that you did too.  There are some very nice things about the holidays as well - time away from work (for those of us lucky enough to get it) that can be used to catch up on reading, napping, watching movies, and indulging in some very yummy meals with friends.

I will confess that most of my time off has been spent bonding with Fred (see two posts ago for the introduction...) and figuring out what treats she likes.  Lettuce, apples, pears and red peppers have gone over well.  Bananas, not so much.  We have already experienced "The Great Escape", when she channeled her inner Steve McQueen on Christmas Day, shot out of my friend's hands like a cannonball, and scooted under the couch.  The 40 minutes that followed were stressful for all involved, but all's well that end's well.  I'm hoping that being called a "f**cking stupid rodent" in a moment of acute frustration won't scar her for life.

To lessen the chance of future escapes, she's confined to her exercise ball when outside the cage.  After much rocking side to side (with a "holy crap get me out of here" expression),  her ratty smarts kicked in and she was rolling across the floor, and when she crashed into something, she figured out how to turn around and head in the other direction (that's my girl!)

Even my holiday reading had a rodent theme...a friend loaned me her copy of Jenny Lawson's (aka The Bloggess) memoir, "Let's Pretend This Never Happened", that includes stories of how messed up it is to grow up with a father who is a taxidermist, and kind of crazy.  It is a wildly entertaining read, as is her blog.  In fact, her latest post makes me think we could definitely be sisters under the skin.  Lawson has a collection of taxidermied mice, that includes Hamlet, pictured on the cover of her book. 
Of course there was some thrift shopping...I was in Toronto and discovered that my favourite Salvation Army Thrift Store had 50% off all their clothes that day, so I ended up with 3 skirts, a shirt, 4 new Chinese embroidered robes in their plastic packages, and the Japanese-style robe in the photo above, all for $28.  The skirts are steamed and waiting for warmer weather, the Chinese robes were given as gifts, and the home-made Japanese robe is on my bedroom wall. 

I made a stop at 69 Vintage, on Bloor St. West, where I met the most adorable young aspiring fashion designer and stylist by the name of Aziz Vivant.  He is ridiculously young, talented, and incredibly stylish, which you can see from his blog.   We had a delightful conversation while I tried on coats (have I mentioned before that I have a severe coat problem?).  The store was having a sale, and I ended up coming home with this one, which has a label inside that proclaims it's "furrier made, designed in London, and is pure NYLON pile".  I will not be wearing it near an open flame.

So far, the list of movies watched over the last week includes:  Mr. Hulot's Holiday (one of my favourites from french comic Jacques Tati), Magic Mike (for the story, of course..),  Hitchcock (featuring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren) the British film, The Trip, and the obligatory Christmas eve viewing of the classic, White Christmas.

I confess that I am kind of looking forward to heading back to work this week.  I need my routine, and an excuse to get dressed in something other than cozy pants and a t-shirt.  Thanks so much to all of you for your support, your comments, and your inspiration.

Wishing all of you a Very Happy New Year - see you in 2013!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

It's Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)

As a tribute to the Rolling Stones, who recently played in New York as part of their 50th Anniversary Gorilla tour, I thought I'd feature an outfit that made me feel rather bad-ass rock chick...or maybe more 80's New Wave?  I can't decide.  My friend Jean, of The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas, had the good fortune to attend the Stones' concert December 13th at the Prudential Centre in Newark, NJ - you can read her review, and see some of her photos on their blog here.  I have never seen the Stones perform live, and had assumed that to see them now would be a letdown, but apparently they put on a great show, and proved that after 50 years of touring, even if they still can't get no satisfaction, their fans certainly can!

If I had my own band, this is definitely one of the outfits I would wear on stage.  I'm not sure what I would do in a band as I can't sing, and the few guitar and saxophone lessons I've taken during my life wouldn't go very far.  Perhaps I could be a "pretend" backup vocal singer, and do some cool choreographed shimmys and hip swivels while lip-syncing?

I bought these pants/skirt (skants?) over a year ago, but for some reason they've never been on my blog.  They are made by a Toronto designer, Deborah Korosec, and sold under her label Studio Gang.  They were the first thing I saw when I visited the designer's store on Ossington Avenue, and if they fit, I knew I was taking them home.  They went to  New York with me last year, where they got lots of compliments.
80's jacket - Mine 101
Skants - Studio Gang in Toronto
Neosens boots - From Mars
fave owl necklace - Frilly Lizard

And in other news....

I had a "SQUEE" moment when I saw that I had been included in this brilliant post by the lovely Bella, on her blog Citizen Rosebud, along with a number of my favourite 40+ blogging goddesses.  Real women do wear red lipstick (or not), and don't follow anyone else's rules when it comes to what we wear and how we present ourselves to the world.

Keep Calm, and Rock On!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

She's Got Sew-cial Skills

This is Christina, who I met at the Western Fair Farmers' Market this past weekend.  Her beautiful navy coat caught my eye so I asked her where she got it - turns out she made it herself!  She loves styles from the 1950's and this full-skirted, shawl-collared coat definitely has the shape from that era. 

She even stiffened the collar with horsehair so that it would stand up and frame her face.  I am so envious of people who can design and sew their own clothes - it's both a skill, and a creative art, and one for which I have neither the aptitude or the patience. Apparently she is also an accomplished baker.  A stylish young lady who can sew and bake = triple threat!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Not A Creature Was Stirring, Except For....

Just to prove that I am not all doom and gloom when it comes to the holidays, here's what I wore today to run a few last minute errands and distribute, and collect, some Christmas hugs.  I love this skirt, purchased last year from a consignment store.  It's wool, handknit, warm, and makes me feel very girly.

Chinese silk jacket - The Sentimentalist
twirly skater skirt - Mesh
fave ankle boots - Neosens, From Mars

I had to compensate for today's flat hair with a cheesy pose

I will be spending the holidays bonding with my new roommate..........
Her name is Fred (those of you who watched the Joss Whedon series, "Angel" will get the reference) and she's smart, clean, curious, and quiet - all the qualities one looks for in a roommate.  More photos to come, being a proud new pet owner and all (and she's a rat, not a mouse).

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Calls Are Coming From Inside the House!

Yeah, I know....this is not exactly a "feel-good" post for the holiday season, but it is nonetheless, seasonally appropriate, and was inspired by the guilty pleasure of watching the Canadian horror film, Black Christmas on TV the other night. 

I am not a fan of slasher flicks like Halloween or other similar gore fests, but for some reason I have a soft spot for Black Christmas.   The film was released in Canada in 1974, and was one of the first, if not the first, slasher movie, and many directors and writers have since gone on to borrow heavily from the plot devices of the film.   It was filmed in Toronto and directed by Bob Clark (who went on to direct the holiday favourite "A Christmas Story with Ralphie and his Red Rider BB Gun), and featured actresses Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder (who went on to play Superman's girlfriend) and Andrea Martin, who would later shine as a member of the famed Second City comedy troupe.  The plot was simple - a group of young women living in a sorority house are terrorized by a demented serial killer who picks them off one by one and follows up each murder with an incredibly creepy telephone call.  It's cheesy, and is chock full of what have since become classic slasher film cliches.   The 1970's clothing is pretty awesome, including the gorgeous fur-trimmed coats.

This was the original poster for the film, which I remember from my high school days, especially the tag line...

I decided to put together a Black Christmas-inspired outfit to brave the cold and bitter wind yesterday to run errands that included some fur, and my ass-kicking boots.
50's hat - The Sentimentalist
sweater and boots - From Mars
leather and fabric leggings (a winter staple) - Danier leather
scarf and fur vest - Mesh Consignment boutique

So far it looks like we'll be having a grey/green Christmas here, unless there is an unexpected dump of snow before Tuesday.  I wish all of you a safe and happy holiday, with good food and good company!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

All Creatures Great and Small

I ran into this very well-coordinated duo while waiting for a bus the other day.  They know that fur and a winter white coat make the perfect cold weather outfit.

A smile and a hug is always good too!

When I got to work, I spotted this fierce looking fellow perched on the roof of the building next to the one I work in.  He's wearing a rather handsome ensemble too, courtesy of Mother Nature.  I was pretty sure he's a red tailed hawk, as we have a number of those on campus.  Rabbits and rodents beware!

Don't forget your four-legged and feathered friends during the holiday season - show some love with a donation of cash or pet food to your local Humane Society or other animal rescue organization, or hang a suet ball on a tree for the birds!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Not Quite 50 Shades of Grey

My wardrobe choices for work these days have been mirroring the weather - grey, grey, and more grey, with some black thrown in for contrast.  For those of us whose mood is drastically affected by the season change, with long dark nights, and short grey days, this has been a rather "challenging" month.  Some people might try to combat the onset of weather-induced bleak despair with bright colours, but not me!  I'm going to make friends with the grey (we're talking clothing here, not hair...)  and it so happens that many of my favourite items in my wardrobe are black and grey.

 I'll throw in a twirl just to lighten the mood a bit, and to show off the awesome frilly-ness of my sweater.  It's worth mentioning (to reduce the guilt) that although everything I'm wearing was purchased retail, all of it, including my shoes, was half price.

"Stevie Nicks would be proud" sweater - Sara Sohan in Cherryhill
leather and fabric leggings - Danier Leather
leather Converse - From Mars
silver necklace - Ebay
Squinchy facial expression - I made it myself!

The title of this post is dedicated to my pal Mark, who always gets the joke

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Island of Misfit Dolls

I had missed the last two shows at the Dollirium Art Doll Emporium so I made a point of getting to the one currently on display titled "The Island of Misfit Dolls",  featuring the creations of artists from 7 countries.  I am always amazed at the creative leaps taken into the dark side by these artists when they set out to create a doll or sculpture.   The majority of the dolls are sculpted from clay or clay, painted, and decorated with hair or fur and other materials such as wood, fabric and metal. 

As this show runs through the holidays, there was a Christmas theme to some of the works, such as the ornaments created by Dollirium owner, Jacqui Gallant.  This Jack Frost ornament was one of my favourite pieces.

Other seasonally-themed pieces were the "tree toppers" that were a cool and somewhat creepy alternative to the classic angels and stars. The one above is by Michelle Di Pinto.  

I could totally dig a Christmas tree topped with this doll, created by Michelle Lynch

This elaborate doll was created by Kelly Chehardy

Detail of "Kandi",  another doll created by Chehardy

Another of my personal favourites - "Rotunda Ring Master" by UK artist, writer and trapeze artist Romina Berenice Canet

One of the darker (literally and figuratively) dolls in the show, "Jaclyn" by Michelle Lynch

I loved the delicate beauty of the face of the "Bird Head Girl" by Japanese artist Bubu Kawaguchi

"Louise" by Alexandra Soury

"Island of the Misfit Dolls" continues at Dollirium Art Doll Gallery, 1 Cliftonvale Avenue, until February 2, 2013.  Gallery hours are Tuesday - Saturday, 11 am - 7 pm

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Visit From St. Leonard

....otherwise known as Leonard Cohen, whose visit I was looking forward to so much more than that of the other guy whose last name begins with the letter "C".  Revered Canadian poet and singer Leonard Cohen, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, is blessed with a marvelous baritone voice and a large repertoire of rather bleak songs that combine the religious and the sexual. Backed by a stellar group of musicians and backup singers, he entertained his London fans for over three hours with songs from recent albums, and old favourites like "Chelsea Hotel", "Suzanne", "Hallelujah" and "Bird on the Wire" -  it was a Leonard lovefest all around.

Sadly, I was sitting rather far from the stage, and as I don't have a gigantic lens for my camera, I had to settle for the least blurry shots I could capture.

 Thank God for Jumbotrons

Mr. Cohen had stopped touring back in 1993, and then his life took a very unfortunate turn in 2004 when his longtime business manager absconded with Cohen's life savings while he was at a Zen Buddhist monastery.   He was forced to go back on the road in 2008, at age 74, in order to pay his bills.  What was a devastating situation for him turned out to be a bonus for his fans, as he has been playing packed venues for the past 4 years, presenting a show that would be an endurance test for a performer half his age. 

The years in the Monastery obviously kept him flexible, as he alternated between standing and kneeling, and there was never any sign of a struggle getting from one position to the other. 

His concerts are precisely choreographed, from the backup singer's movements to the between-song patter, so there are no surprises, but that also means no disappointments either.   My personal highlight of the night was when he recited his poem from 1998, "A Thousand Kisses Deep".

I loved you when you opened 
like a lily to the heat
I'm just another snowman
Standing in the rain and sleet,
Who loved you with his frozen love
His second-hand physique
With all he is, and all he was
A thousand kisses deep 

Cohen is extremely generous in his praise to the members of his band, whom he introduced twice during the evening and several times doffed his hat to them.  They are a multi-cultural mix of some of the most talent musicians that a singer could wish for, including acoustic flamenco style guitarist Javier Mas, violinist Alexandru Bublitchi,  Hammond player Neil Larsen, and electric guitarist Mitch Watkins, pictured above.

Cohen has a wonderful trio of backup singers who accompany him for all his tours.  The two women on the left are the fabulous Webb Sisters, Hattie and Charlie, and Cohen's longtime collaborator, Sharon Robinson, far right, who sang a solo during the evening.

When Cohen, playing guitar, sang his classic, "Suzanne" in front of a gigantic silhouette of himself, the floor was lit by a host of LED screens of cell phones raised to capture the moment.  You know you're old when you can remember when people use to do this with cigarette lighters.

One of the highlights of my trip to New York last year was stopping by the Chelsea Hotel and seeing the plaque that had been erected in recognition of Leonard Cohen's 75th birthday.

And finally, what I wore - a hat was necessary, as a tribute to Mr. Cohen, who always wears a suit and a fedora when performing.  A friend who took this photo noted that I was in full "1980's MuchMusic VJ" (think Erica Ehm and Ziggy Lorenc) mode.
polka dot dress - From Mars
black and white checked thigh high stockings - The London Rock Shop
Hat - The Sentimentalist

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Go Big or Go Home

After having this flower print 60's dress hanging on the front of my closet door since I brought it home from the Manhattan Vintage Show in October, I decided it was time for a coming-out party.  The dress cried out for a hat, and before I knew it, I was at work, dressed like this.  I should have collected a couple of bucks from everyone who either said, "why are you wearing a hat", or, proclaimed, "You're wearing a hat!"; I would have had enough money to buy another hat.

On the rack, the pattern on this dress was intimidating, as were the ginormous butterfly sleeves, but when I put it on and it fit perfectly,  I had a "Casablanca" moment, where I thought, "dress, this is the start of a beautiful friendship".  The most puzzling comment I received was from a female colleague who confessed to me that she didn't know how to interact with me when I was dressed this way, and that it made her feel a bit uncomfortable.   Even though the phrase "get over it" came to mind, I kept it to myself, since I was dressed like a lady and everything.

I'm wearing:  60's dress -  Manhattan Vintage show
40's hat - The Sentimentalist
Ankle boots - From Mars

On an unrelated note, apparently I have at least one fan in Washington!  A woman whose photo appeared on my blog last year told me that she had recently been in Washington, DC, and was stopped on the street by someone who recognized the fabulous red plaid coat she was wearing from seeing the photo of her wearing it on my blog - I mean, what are the odds?  Definitely a "SQUEE!!!" moment for me.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Artists and Models

Re Figured - Sculptures by Evan Penny 

 Stretch # 1 by Evan Penny, 2003

When I was at the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the Frida and Diego exhibit, a friend suggested I also  look at another exhibit by Toronto-based artist Evan Penny.  The show is a retrospective of Penny's sculptures from the past 10 or 12 years, which begin their life as digital scans which then become clay models, and eventually, larger than life-size distorted figures made from silicone, pigment, hair and aluminum.

 Murray, Variation # 3 by Evan Penny, 2008

The figures change depending on the angle from which you view them.  Some, like "Murray", look realistically proportioned when viewed head on from the front, but then when viewed from the side you see that they are compressed and distorted, and some, like "Stretch #1" (photo above) are grossly distorted from every perspective.  Penny has been quoted as saying "I try to situate my sculpture somewhere between the way we perceive each other in real time and space and the way we perceive ourselves and each other in an image.

 Murray viewed in profile.  The figure is approximately 3 times life size

The details of the skin and  hair are uncannily realistic, and a bit creepy - the silicone skin is hand painted and each hair is inserted by hand.  Penny spent 13 years creating special prosthetic effects for the film industry, including a number of films by Oliver Stone.  Re Figured continues at the Art Gallery of Ontario until January 6th.

Sculpture Culture - Indie Toy Show and Sale at Uber Cool Stuff

 "Ghost Pig", created by toy artist Laird Henderson of Big Trubble

Ghost Pig (my personal favourite) and many other custom toys and figurines were on display at Sculpture Culture, an Indie toy show and sale held at Uber Cool Stuff in November.

Dr. Who figures created by Meg Kirkland on display at the Sculpture Culture show

"Mind Blown" by Nik Harron

And finally, the model....

Window model at Frilly Lizard during the "Discover Downtown" promotion in November

Monday, December 3, 2012

Second Hand Rose

"Stuff in our apartment came from father's store
Even things I'm wearing someone wore before
It's no wonder that I feel abused
I never get a thing that ain't been used"
lyrics from "Second Hand Rose" by Grant Clarke and James Hanley*

When I got a friend to take the photo of me in the outfit above, it was to show off my birthday jacket, but upon closer inspection, I realized that everything I'm wearing (except for the t-shirt under the jacket and my underwear) was purchased second hand, even my glasses frames.

For Fanny Brice, and for most people growing up in decades previous to the 1970's, wearing hand-me-downs was a sign of poverty and lower social class.   Given that people used to wear their clothes until they fell apart, or outgrew them, there probably wasn't much that was handed down in pristine condition.  I supposed that in some people's minds, anything that is "used" will always have a negative connotation, but for me, and for most of my friends, a trip to the nearest Value Village, Goodwill, or vintage store, is part of our regular routine.   I continue to buy basics like t-shirts and turtlenecks, and most of my shoes, from retail stores, but the majority of my jackets, coats, and dresses were owned by someone else before I got them.  Far from being ashamed of wearing my purchases, I am very appreciative of the well-made, and well-priced items I have collected over the years and I am always curious about the stories of the previous owners.

The raglan sleeved jacket from The Refinery vintage store in Toronto was a birthday present.
Fcuk jeans - Value Village, worn at work because I made a
donation to United Way (the sticker on my right leg)
Belt - Value Village
Horseshoe nail necklace - Goodwill
blue lace-up boots - Housing Works Thrift Store, NYC
vintage eyeglass frames - The Sentimentalist

* Funny Girl was one of my favourite films when I was a kid, and I own the movie, and the soundtrack, on vinyl, no less.