Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Tail of Two Ratties

My apartment is now home to two little rodents...

Rat #1 - Fred, whom you've met before, seen here destroying a button that she removed from my pajama top

Rat #2 - Ginger, made from felted wool by artist Rae Stimson

I read about Rae Stimson and her amazing felted creations on the Idiosyncratic Fashionista's blog here.  The Brooklyn-based artist makes fabulous sculptures, animals, and accessories from needle-felted wool, and I fell in love with this little rat, which I named Ginger (to go with know).  She's life-size, and has very similar markings to the other rat in my house.  I did tell Rae when I purchased Ginger that for future reference, rats don't sit up when they eat, they crouch, and sent her a photo of Fred for reference, which she appreciated.

Check out Rae's critters and other creations on her Etsy page.

While Fred and Ginger are similar in size and colour, and share a love of blueberries, the resemblance ends there, and unfortunately the two shall never meet, as Fred would no doubt chew Ginger to bits.
While Ginger spends her days perched atop my computer monitor, Fred has a much more exciting life....

......that includes after-breakfast naps, in which she demonstrates the "if I can't see you, you can't see me" theory

Bobbing for peas before bed.  Interesting fact - plastic paint trays make excellent wading pools for rats

Penguin Bowling is also a pre-bedtime activity.  If you have not played Penguin Bowling before, Fred will now demonstrate how it is done....
   First, you get the Penguins (Pins) and the Snowball (ball) out of the box

Set up your Penguins, and try to keep the damn ball from getting away on you

Line up your shot.  Fred gets to shoot from close to the pins because of her poor eyesight

Take a look to see how many Penguins you knocked down...

....and take your revenge on the ones that remain standing

The End!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Just Hangin' Around

On Sunday, my friend Heather asked if I would take a family photo for her as she had a relative visiting from the States.   It was incredibly hot, so we didn't waste time dilly dallying, but I did seize the opportunity to get an outfit photo in a location other than my porch or the stairwell at work. I found this pair of overalls/romper at Kind Exchange in Toronto, and I think it's going to be a hot weather wardrobe staple this summer.    The brand is Skunkfunk, which I wasn't familiar with so through the magic of the interweb, I learned that the brand was started in 1996, in the Basque Country (North of Spain) and offers funky and colourful men's and women's clothing and accessories.  Most pieces are in the $100 - $200 range, so I was happy to have scored this cotton romper for $25.  I would definitely go back to Kind Exchange the next time I'm in Toronto (they have three locations).  You can sell, trade, or donate your gently used, unwanted clothing and accessories - most of their stock comes from regular customers in the neighbourhood.  Prices are very reasonable and both times I've been to the store I've found more than a few things I would have liked to bring home.

I was a klutz at tree-climbing when I was a kid, and apparently some things never change

Skunkfunk romper - Kind Exchange, Toronto
heart necklace - Black cat jewellery
crappy sandals - Joe Fresh

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Naked cyclists, Candy-coloured Docs and Laurie Anderson - What a Weekend!

This is another one of those seemingly endless posts that may require reading with a coffee or a cocktail.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

I spent last weekend in Toronto, visiting friends and attending some of the music events that were part of the Luminato Festival, which continues this weekend.  I consider myself very lucky to live only a two hour drive from a city that is host to festivals, concerts, and other cultural events featuring world renowned artists.    Many times I have been there for a visit only to discover that something interesting was going on that was completely off my radar.  Case in point - after arriving in Toronto on Saturday afternoon, I was walking through Nathan Phillips Square, and imagine my surprise when I came upon this....

I had stumbled upon the participants in this year's World Naked Bike Ride, a global event that began in 2004, in protest of car and oil dependency.    I chatted to a couple of the guys who were joining the ride to find out what it was all about, and discovered it was somewhat less awkward than one might imagine to carry on a conversation with a naked man (aside from helmet and shoes) that I didn't  know, in a public setting.  Most of the participants were male (one guy said he thought that was because women had more body issues), of various ages and body shapes, and many had participated in previous rides.

I headed down Queen Street West and found the sidewalk packed with gawkers as the stage and lights were being set up for the MuchMusic Video Awards which were being held on Sunday evening

My original plans to head to Trinity Bellwoods Park to participate in an interactive art installation were thwarted by street closures and time constraints, so I did what every shoe-obsessed woman with time on her hands on Queen West would do....

I stopped by the Doc Marten store to ogle the latest arrivals!   I was just in the door and I saw these...

...and these

...and these, which also come in the same orange/pink/yellow combination as my brogues.  To my sadness, and relief, the 8-hole docs don't fit me well as I am between sizes, so I resisted trying them on, but that doesn't mean I couldn't drool a little.  I tried a pair of the spiked silver sandals from their summer line but they cut into my bunions, so no new Docs this trip.  I did find a pair of red leather converse (on sale!) just up the street at Get Outside, which I had been wanting for ages as my grey ones need a break, so that softened the blow.  I also found something cute at Kind Exchange where you can sell, trade, or donate your clothing and accessories which I will show on my blog later.

Shopping done, I went to meet my friend Judy for dinner, and then off to the late night concert by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall.

Roy Thomson Hall

We had amazing seats, and viewing the orchestra from above provided and opportunity to see instruments like the triangle, tambourine and cymbals at the rear of the orchestra that were used in the second piece of the concert, Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade

One of the highlights of the evening was the opportunity to hear world-renowned pianist, Yuja Wang, perform the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1.  I am no expert on classical music but the 24 year-old artist is a brilliant performer....and totally adorable in her orange dress and skyscraper heels. 

Day Two....

On Sunday, I met up with another friend and we strolled over to the St. Lawrence Market for their regular Sunday Antique Market.  I really wanted to bring home this little chair with fold up steps - my grandmother had a yellow one in her kitchen that I always sat on when I was a little girl.

My friend was thrilled with the My Melody watch that she found

Of course I bought something - it's me, remember?  There was a guy selling a bunch of hats a friend  had collected on his travels around the world, and somehow this one ended up on my head, and then in my bag.  There was much debate about its origins - Tibet, Eastern Europe, Africa, were all suggested.  It has a star shape stitched on the top in bright coloured thread and sequins.

I had one of these projectors when I was a kid and spent many happy hours projecting pictures from books and magazines onto the empty walls in our hallway and tracing them onto paper. 

I'm not a fan of dolls like this (I do have a collection of quirky dolls from other countries) but the dress and jewellery on this one caught my attention.

After dinner I headed over to The Hub, which was the outdoor stage setup at David Pecaut Square

I arrived in time to see a Kyiv-based quartet, DakhaBrakha, whose members experiment with traditional Ukranian folk music, and add elements of Indian, Arabic, Russian, African and Australian instrumentation.  The audience loved them, and I was particularly entranced by the tall furry hats and elaborate necklaces worn by the women.

Band member Nina Garenetska is a self-taught cellist with a marvelous voice, and I loved her hair, and her painted cello

There were also some photo-worthy hair adornments in the audience

double threat - fabulous moustache and adorable doggie!

Nigel, in the photo above, was at the concert with his owners, who also owned the dog in the previous photo.  They were standing directly in front of me, and after noticing me fawning over Nigel who is a mix of Chihuahua and Dachshund, I was asked if I wanted to hold him for a while.   How could I say no? 

Finally, it was time for Laurie Anderson to perform.  The experimental performance artist/musician was backed by a band and joined by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei by Skype for a dual rant about their respective countries, a piece titled "Greetings from the Motherland".  

I have been a fan of Anderson's work since I first heard "O Superman" back in the early 80's.  Even though she did not perform any of her earlier pieces at the Luminato Concert, I was thrilled just to see her performing live on a stage in front of me.  And for free, no less.

Ai Weiwei also talked about his time spent in detention.  There were a few technical difficulties with the Skype connection, causing delays which resulted in my missing the last half of the show when I had to leave to catch my bus back to London.  You can watch the hour long performance here.

My next post will be much shorter, I promise....hope you're all having a good weekend!

Monday, June 17, 2013


A friend of mine has been packing up her house as she prepares to join her husband on a year's Sabbatical in France.  She discovered this dress, which she purchased in a vintage store in Toronto in the 1980's, and added it to a pile of things she was getting rid of.  My friend Lili and I were asked if there was anything we wanted and although I didn't think it would fit, I took this dress home.  To my surprise, it fit perfectly!  The shoulder pads are in bad shape and need replacing, but otherwise it's in great condition.  It has a 50's housewife vibe to it, but not in a bad way.

I bet I could even bake a pie wearing this dress

 I'd rather just wear it to the office and enjoy it's full-skirted fabulousness.  I have never been, nor will I ever be, a woman who is at home in the kitchen, as the only talents I display there are in the areas of "mess-making" and "dirty-dish piling"

The skirt was given extra "oomph" by the addition of a crinoline that had belonged the same friend's daughter.

I'm wearing:   50's dress and crinoline - gift from a friend
ballet flats - Ecco (retail)
belt - Lovesick Vintage
lion head bracelet - Reflections of Tyme booth at the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Travelling Yellow Skirt Freak Show

For those of you who don't know the story of the Travelling Yellow Skirt Freak Show,  last fall, Melanie, of Bag and a Beret, found a marvelous lemon yellow long full skirt at a thrift store, and after posting a photo of herself wearing it on her blog, she received a comment from a friend(?!) who noted that she "looked really ugly in those clothes".  Well, the challenge was on!  After some discussion in the blogosphere about personal style and the reaction one has to criticism like that and whether we should let it affect our ability to experiment and play with our clothes, it was suggested by Sarah Misfit that the skirt go on a journey and visit other bloggers to see what fun they could have with its retina-burning fabulousness.

The skirt had already made its way from Vancouver to Australia, New Zealand, Italy, California, when it finally arrived in Ontario, first to Amber of Butane Anvil, and then to me. 

Most of the bloggers who have had the skirt have taken it out into nature -  the beach, a field, or the forest.  I was determined to urbanize it, and when I found this graffiti in my neighbourhood (O.E.V stands for Old East Village, which is what my neighbourhood is called) I knew I'd found the perfect backdrop.

I saw the skirt as a cocoon, so a few strategically placed thrifted belts were employed to rein in its voluminous-ness

The skirt inspired some clowning around

...and then it was time for the metamorphosis.  Released from its restraints, the skirt spread out like the wings of a butterfly in the sunshine

which lead to a twirl...

and one good twirl deserves another!

I'm wearing:
The Travelling Yellow Skirt
sleeveless turtleneck and red belts - thrifted
awesome hat - gift from The Style Crone
magical shoes - Doc Marten store Toronto
arm warmers - London Rock Shop
Ray Ban Wayfarers - courtesy of Smartbuyglasses
 Thanks a million times over to my photographer extraordinaire, Heather!

If we choose, we can add something to the yellow skirt before we send it off to the next blogger

  I drew a pair of red glasses, but of course didn't plan my letter spacing very well. 

The Travelling Yellow Skirt will be hand-delivered to its next recipient, Megan of The Fashionable Bureaucrat, this weekend

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Grand Day Out*

*an affectionate homage to Wallace and Gromit (but without the cheese)

This weekend was the start of what we in London have come to refer to as "Fest" season.  The London Fringe Theatre Festival kicks it off, and over the next two months we have Sunfest, Festa Italiana, Rib Fest, Home County Music and Arts Festival, etc.  Saturday also featured what used to be called "Car Free Festival", now referred to as "Our Street" festival.  First step - pick the appropriate "Festing outfit"...

I'm not sure what I'm doing with my face, but I'm rather pleased with my outfit, all acquired secondhand, except for the shoes

ruffle-skirted dress - thrifted from a store in my neighbourhood for $4
T-shirt - Talize
jacket - purchased from The Style Crone
ceramic necklace - The Sentimentalist
 magical shoes - Doc Marten Store
hair flower - some cheap accessories store going out of business

It is a rule that when you wear a ruffled skirt, you must do a little closed-eye shimmy

Before hitting the street festival, there was some business to attend to...

After the regular Saturday morning visit to the Western Fair Farmers' Market, a road trip was in order.  A friend and I had arranged to take over a friend's vegetable share from a co-op farm while she was away at a conference, and not only did the farm have veggies, it had a gorgeous dog. 

The road trip was followed by a photo shoot for the Travelling Yellow Skirt Freak Show (results of which will appear later this week), and then it was off to the Our Street Festival.  The purpose of the festival, formerly known as Car Free Festival, is to inspire Londoners to lead healthier, more eco-friendly lives by walking, cycling, taking public transit, composting, supporting local artisans and independent businesses, etc.  Dundas Street was closed to traffic between Wellington and Talbot Streets, and for 5 hours, was crowded with vendor booths, activities, musicians, information tables and lots of pedestrians and cyclists enjoying the atmosphere.

Candice Sheriff, who sells her line of jewellery at Jackpot Vintage, demonstrated her skills with the hula hoop

You could draw on the street...

show off your strength....

create your own button/badge....

....and jump rope!  I was rather shocked to learn that some elementary schools have actually banned skipping ropes because of the possible chance of injury.  Skipping rope culture (rhymes, jumping patterns, etc.) was a large part of my childhood -  how did those of us who grew up in the 60's and 70's ever survive?

Some of the performers in the Theatre Fringe Festival took advantage of the crowds to advertise their shows.  Jamesy, one of the characters in 2 For Tea, carried a banner advertising his Fringe show. I saw the show that afternoon, which is silly and loads of fun.  The actors who play James and Jamesy are talented physical comedians, and there is a great deal of audience participation (don't say I didn't warn you).  I made my Fringe Festival debut as Jamesy's Mum.

There were lots of fun items for sale made by local artisans as part of the Rag Bag Bazaar.  I was crushing on these adorable crocheted creatures by Fred and Lila, especially the submarine, the sardines in a can, and...

..the most adorable squirrel!

Gord Moon and his wife make these super cool pillows, printed with movie magazine covers

The Sentimentalist cuddled with The Beatles

Rachel, from the Women's Community House store, Mine 101, had some pretty upcycled scarves at her table.  Women's Community House is celebrating its 35th anniversary and Rachel was handing out coupons that offered 35% off your next purchase at Mine 101

One of The Paper Girls with a display of their handmade cards

 I practiced excellent restraint - the only thing I purchased was these beaded ring from Vanessa Garcia

There were lots of information booths promoting organic gardening, composting, community car-sharing, and other ecologically-friendly activities 

The festival was an opportunity for bike enthusiasts to show off their cool wheels (literally)

There was some very cool personal style on display...

Melanie and Jagoda from Salon Cyan 

Jagoda was wearing super stylin' boots that she found on Ebay

cute guys in bow ties

Elzbieta Kurowska is an artist, photographer and biochemist, and uses her multiple talents to create abstract compositions that resemble primitive life forms.  We seem to run into each other at arts-related events and she and her husband were behind me in line to get our photos taken for Edward Jackman's Red Couch Diaries at Nuit Blanche last year.

Words fail me

Knitted mask head-piece thing, made by his friend.  Good thing for him the temperature was more spring-like than summer

I see this young woman everywhere, and she always looks adorable.  

MEEEOW!  I love the pattern on her caftan and how the cat makes a great accessory.  Seeing that toy gave me a weird flashback, as I had a cat toy like that when I was a child, only it was sitting on its hind legs, without the colours, but exactly the same face (with eyes that open and close), same material, with a squeaker inside. 

All in all, it was truly a Grand Day Out.  The Fringe Festival continues until June 16th.