Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fake It Til You Make It

It's obvious from my posts that Winter is far from my favourite season.   Hibernation has always seemed like a great idea to me - eat a whole bunch of food, sleep for 4 months, wake up thin, and it's Spring!  However, as I am a mostly responsible human being with a job, and not a bear, I need a coping strategy for the winter, and this particular winter has been especially brutal.

I took this shot with my camera phone after I finished shoveling the walk last night.

It's a challenge to put together an outfit when you have to dress warmly enough to protect against the 
- 20 to -25 degree wind chill in the mornings, but not so many layers that you have to completely change your outfit when you get to work.

I've always found it warmer to wear a skirt in the winter, with a thick pair of tights or leggings underneath, and an extra layer of knee socks or leg warmers if necessary, rather than a pair of pants.  This floofy one works because it allows for a lot of layering and still looks kind of girly.  The sweater is an old standby, made of thick, soft wool.  It is also my favourite shade of blue (teal?) and the front zipper detail and ribbing on the sleeves add visual interest.  Unfortunately, with the weight I've gained over the past couple of years, it's a snug fit, which I'm not so comfortable with, but I'm working on that (fewer baked goods, more visits to the gym).

With the addition of some fun accessories, I had an outfit that was cozy, and also made me feel kind of awesome (I believe those were my exact words when I asked my friend Heather to take these photos).  I think it's important to recognize, appreciate, and document those "feeling kind of awesome moments" when you have them, because at least for me, they have been few and far between this month.
Sweater - From Mars
Skirt - May Court Consignment Store
Felt Flower - The Fairies Pajamas
Leggings - Joe Fresh
Boots - Housing Works Thrift Store in NY

Yep, just fake it til you make it, I say.   There are some days when even faking it seems too much effort, but I know the day will go better for me, and everyone around me, if I at least give it my best shot.  

Oh, and since I thought we could all use a treat, it's time for another giveaway!


Remember the cool black and white plastic hair bow I purchased from Kayla Gibbens, and wore here?  Kayla generously offered to donate one of her creations to give away to one of my readers, so I have a green and black one (which is not fuzzy, despite being so in the photo above)  with a black plastic barrette style clip on the back to give away. You have until midnight, February 2nd, in which to indicate in a comment that you would like to be included in the draw.   It would be very helpful if you can include some way for me to contact you in your comment, whether it is a link to your blog/website, or your email address.  I will announce the winner on Monday, February 3rd.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Retail Therapy

It's January, and it's really cold.   And then there's the snow, and the ice....and did I mention how cold it is? 

The thought of spending the next month or two swathed in my big, black, down-filled coat, scarf, hat, mittens, and boots was incredibly depressing, so I made a financially irresponsible, spontaneous decision.  I resorted to retail therapy in order to make me feel better.  This is certainly not the first time I've done this, but usually when I feel this urge coming on, I try to satisfy it with to a trip to one of my favourite thrift stores.  This time, I bought something new, from a high-end retail store....

modelling my new Betsey Johnson, down-filled coat - it's sooooo PINK!

I had twenty minutes to spare before my hair appointment last week, so I ducked into Kingsmills Department Store to check out the winter coat selection.  Within minutes, my attention was drawn to this hot pink down-filled piece of eye candy on the rack (it reminded me very much of Krista's hair!).  The label is Betsey Johnson, not a brand I would have expected to find in a store known for "quality and classic fashion sense" in its selection of women's wear.  The sales assistants are exceedingly polite, if somewhat on the conservative side, and when I picked up the coat, one of them noted that it was "certainly an unusual coat", and that "you would certainly stand out when you were wearing it".  The sight of its glowing fuschia awesomeness in the mirror made me a little giddy, and the fact it was half-price pretty much eliminated any hesitation on my part.
 The lining is kinda fabulous, and it's filled with a mix of down and feathers for warmth

Photo of Kingsmills from their Facebook page

Kingsmills has been a fixture in downtown London ever since Thomas Frazer Kingsmill opened his dry goods store in 1865.  I took my Mother there about a decade ago to purchase a winter coat, and I may have purchased two or three things myself there since.  I can appreciate its tastefully elegant displays of high end merchandise (it sells beautiful furniture), and old-fashioned details like a hand-operated elevator with an attendant, and a working pneumatic tube system to send paperwork and change throughout the store.   It is also one of the last family-owned businesses left in downtown London, and to our collective dismay, it was announced last fall that the owner of Kingsmills would be putting the store up for sale.  It's another nail in the coffin of our downtown, which has been struggling to attract new businesses, and customers, for as long as I've lived here.   I'm glad I was able to buy something I really liked from the store before it closes in July.

I got my hair cut and coloured after I purchased the coat, and the bright orange and purple swirl on my head lifted my mood considerably.  It's still really cold and snowy, but for the moment, I'm feeling "in the Pink"!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Matchy Matchy

Two women.   Two different colour palettes.   Two very different personal styles.

First up is Lili, who is known in our office for always looking very stylishly put-together.  I think she outdid herself with this outfit - the sweater is exactly the same shade of turquoise as in the pattern in her skirt, and her necklace, sweater and shoes not only match, but the colour plays off the blue beautifully. 

As if it wasn't perfect enough already, the colour of her sweater is the same as that of the inside of the canoes in her tropical print skirt.   

Then there's me.  This was the first day that I had started to feel normal again after my cold, and subsequently made an effort to dress the part.   Another example of colour coordination from head to toe, all tied together by an Asian robe.   

The jacket looks very much like a vintage smoking jacket, so while I'm pretending to hold a cigarette between my fingers, it's obvious I don't know how to smoke.  Perhaps I'm just flashing a sideways "Peace" sign.

Even my jewellery matches!

What I'm wearing:   
Asian robe - gift from the lovely Ariane
red jeans - The Sentimentalist
Converse - From Mars (with red and black laces from the Citizen Rosebud)
bracelet - clothing swap
rings - retail

The day I took these photos I had my hair coloured, so I felt kind of fresh and revitalized - you can see my new 'do in my next post!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Immigrant - Paintings by Rosemary Sloot

It was a sunny, mild afternoon here last Sunday, and I was feeling somewhat energetic and sociable, which had not been the case for the previous week.  I decided to go for a walk and take in the opening of the show of paintings by London artist Rosemary Sloot at Strand Fine Art, and I was very glad I did, as it is a great exhibit.   The show consists of 21 oil paintings and chalk pastel drawings that explore the narrative of her parents' experience as post-war immigrants who came to Canada from the Netherlands.  It is a visually stunning, emotionally engaging exhibit that was inspired by the revelation by Sloot's "strong, pragmatic" mother in her final year of life that her biggest regret was leaving their home in the Netherlands to come to Canada.   This revelation "felt like a bomb being dropped" to Sloot, who spoke for almost an hour prior to the opening reception.

Artist Rosemary Sloot speaking to a large crowd at the opening of her exhibit "Immigrant" at Strand Fine Art

Sloot found that the process of creating the works in the show allowed her to view her mother's revelation as more of a gift than a bomb, and to make peace with her feelings about her parents' immigration experience.   Her parents were in their mid-30's when they boarded a ship destined for Canada in 1952.  They already had 4 children, and Sloot's mother was 7 months pregnant with their fifth, Rosemary.   Her mother was violently ill through the entire voyage, and as the men were not allowed to stay in the same quarters as the women during the voyage, it must have been a lonely, terrible experience for Sloot's mother.

The original source materials for the exhibit were black and white photos taken by her parents in the Netherlands and Canada, along with the few surviving documents related to their immigration, such as the ship's passenger list.  Sloot also incorporated text from the writings of other Dutch immigrants.  Images were enlarged using an overhead projector, and the only computer contribution was in the creation of some of the text.   The paintings are done in Sloot's meticulous, high-realism style, and incorporate the layering of images, and the blurring of certain objects to create a sense of the passage of time.

Vicki Easton McClung (I wrote about her October 2013 exhibit here), a fellow artist and friend of Sloot's, stands next to a painting titled "Halfweg, Holland" that shows Sloot's parents on their wedding day, merged with a dark body of water representing the ocean they would eventually cross because of the War.  It is the only reference to WWII that appears in the exhibit.

I had a lovely conversation with Holly, in the photo above and I asked if she would pose in front of my favourite painting in the show, titled, "Final Farewell, May 1952".  The painting shows Sloot's technique of layering a blurred image from a family photo with a sharp foreground, in this case,  young maple leaves that symbolize the country that will soon be their new home.  The faces are deliberately blurred in the paintings in order to move the images from the specific to the general.  The story she tells in this exhibit is specifically that of her parents, but it could be that of many Dutch immigrants.

I originally approached Holly, in the photo above, to compliment her on her beautiful embroidered suede boots.  They were a gift from her husband, who purchased them in Turkey.

"Matters of the mind and heart" (above) layers a page from an English language workbook that had been completed by her mother, over an aerial photograph of her grandparents' farm and gardens in the Netherlands.  While her mother's mind was on her English lessons, her heart was back with her family in Holland.

A visitor to the show examines the painting titled "To Emigrate" which layers a family photo with an immigration card.
In addition to the oil paintings and chalk pastel drawings in the show,  Sloot has included a crate installation.   The crate (De Kist) played a very important role in the life of the immigrant, as it was the means by which their belongings travelled from their homeland to their new country.  The three exterior walls of the installation are printed with sample delivery addresses of Dutch immigrants, and inside are three panels filled with text.  The text describes how Sloot's parents didn't have a crate that followed them overseas; their furniture, appliances, toys, linens, etc. all remained behind. One of the reasons for this was the cost of shipping the crate to Canada. 

The irony of this is evident in the text on the third side of the crate seen in the photo above

Sloot uses some of the meager kitchen objects that her parents managed to bring with them as subjects for smaller oil paintings on handmade paper.  The artist's meticulous painting skills are clearly demonstrated in these still life paintings, like the one incorporating the Indian Tea tin (above right).  The original tin is on the left.

The subject of this painting, "Oliestel (Cooking Stove)", is the paraffin burner (Oliestel) that was found in the home of every Dutch family in the post-war era.  It was a necessary item that would have travelled with its owners to their new country, where there was no gas hookup.  

The teapot in this section of the larger work "Homesickness" looks like you could pick it up off the canvas.  

"What was given up, what was gained" layers three separate images to create a glimpse of a life left behind, including the unfurnished, unheated farmhouse that was to be the Sloot family's home in Canada, a photo of Rosemary's mother taken in Amsterdam, and part of the passenger list of the ship that brought them to Canada.

The viewer is left with a sense of the feelings of loss, desolation, and disorientation that was felt by Sloot's family, as well as by many other immigrants in similar circumstances.  Sloot noted that while her parents wanted to embrace their new life in Canada, they always felt like foreigners, and the feeling of being torn between two worlds, stayed with them the rest of their lives. 

Rosemary Sloot, standing in The Crate (De Kist)

I found the exhibit entertaining, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, but an interest in the subject matter isn't required to be able to enjoy the show. The paintings are technically brilliant, and beautiful to look at, but don't be surprised if you leave the show with a much greater understanding of the hardships and isolation faced by post-war immigrants.

Immigrant: - an Exhibition by Rosemary Sloot continues at Strand Fine Art until February 8th

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Girl In The Bubble

So, apart from the deer - blogger meetup, I've so far not been very impressed with 2014.  Most likely this is because I've been either dragging my phlegm-filled carcass to work, or covered in Vicks VapoRub and rendered unconscious by Nyquil in bed.   I've heard it said that however you spend the first day of the New Year, that sets the tone for the rest of the year.  Let's hope that doesn't apply here.  On the up side, my faithful ingestion of Oil of Oregano has kept my cold from developing into bronchitis or pneumonia, which, until a few years ago, was pretty much the routine, AND, I have been able to lie on the couch and start watching Boardwalk Empire, which I have been hoping to do since the series started.

So let's look back to happier days, and do a re-cap of December, 2013....

My friend Maureen Riley had a show of new work in early December.  I enjoy going to her shows because a) I like her women-focussed, jewel-toned, watercolours, and b) I get to hang with Maureen, who is one of the kindest, warmest people I know.  Also, her house is full of cool stuff...

"Lavender Snow" Watercolour by Maureen Riley

 "Cocktails with Jessie Tait" - Watercolour

Jessie Tait, who died in 2010 at the age of 81, was a British ceramic artist and responsible for some of the most recognized and innovative ceramic designs in the 1950s.  As chief designer of Midwinter Pottery, she incorporated the best of 1950's cheerful, modernist abstract design into their pottery.  "Cocktails With Jessie Tait" is Riley's tribute to the artist, and incorporates patterns from her ceramic designs into the clothing of the women who are enjoying a bit of bubbly with the talented woman.

"Eleven Block" - Acrylic and Watercolour

The majority of Riley's work has a joy and lightness about it so it was a surprise to see this work included in her most recent show.  She had been working on "Eleven Block" for the last two years.  The statement displayed next to the work explains that 11 Block was a red brick building in the camp of Auschwitz, that contained a variety of torture chambers designed to "punish" prisoners.  The Nazis first used Zyklon B, a hydrogen cyanide, in 11 Block.  The mundane exterior of the building gave no hint of the horrors that were contained within.  Riley has attempted to find out the names of some of the people who perished in the building so she can add them to the petals of the flowers on the shelf.

Everywhere you look in Maureen's house your eye lands on something wonderful.  I have coveted the Frida necklace since I saw it in her previous show  in 2012 at Strand Fine Art.

So from Art to Music...

The London-based Country music band The Rizdales host an annual "Rizdales Country Christmas" at the local downtown watering hole, The Richmond Tavern, which has been operating as a bar and a hotel for the last 150 years.  The Rizdales, lead by husband and wife team Tom and Tara Dunphy, play covers of gems by George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Tammy Wynette, Hank Williams (Sr.) and Ernest Tubbs, as well as originals in the classic country style.  Each year I show my support by heading to the Richmond for some tunes, some snacks (free chips!) and a cocktail.   The crowd is always an interesting mix of the Richmond regulars, die hard country music fans, and folks like me, who may not be regular listeners of Country music, but can appreciate an afternoon of classic drinkin' and hurtin' tunes played with skill and enthusiasm.   

Photo of The Rizdales from The London Free Press website

Unfortunately, I left before The Rizdales played (they are always on last) so I thought I'd include a photo of them that I borrowed from the interweb.  From left - bassist Oscar Macedo, guitarist Blair Heddle, Tom Dunphy, Tara Dunphy, and drummer Steve Crew. 
The Rizdales invite musicians from surrounding cities to join in, and this year it was Hamilton's Ginger St. James, and Toronto's Big Tobacco and The Pickers.

Big Tobacco and The Pickers

Hamilton's Ginger St. James, whose rockabilly-edged style and charm won over the audience

This is the second time I've seen St. James perform and both times she was wearing a gun print skirt

There was a good outfit or two...

Me, back when I was healthy and had a sense of humour, attempting some ballet moves in my birthday-present-to-myself dress from From Mars.  Yeah, it's black, and pretty simple, but the poufy skirt won me over.

My best curtseying days are behind me

Looking pretty chuffed in my new-to-me faux fur coat I got at Mesh Boutique, which looked pretty spiffy with the red hat and pants ( both from The Sentimentalist), I was wearing when I bought it.   I was obviously taken over by a moment of insanity, because even though the coat fit perfectly, was an amazing price, and is super soft,  IT'S WHITE for frack sake, and I am NOT the person who should be wearing a white coat.  Does anyone know if you can safely use Scotchgard on a faux fur coat?? I'd be concerned about it affecting the colour and the texture of the fur.

And I saw some movies...

And hung out with The Bun..

who is now a year old - (omg, they grew up so fast!) and has not been happy about having her routine disrupted just because I'm sick.  

So yeah, December was good, and in fact, so was most of 2013.  I'm sure that once I'm feeling better, my attitude will improve as well.   As usual, I did not make any New Year's resolutions, but I was asked by Readers.Com to be part of a blogger panel and offer my opinion on the idea of New Year's Resolutions as a whole.  You can read what I had to say in the three part series here.
Here's to a happy and healthy 2014, and a big squishy hug (from before I was contagious) to the friends (here and far) and readers who inspire me to keep sharing stories, taking photos, dressing up, and being the best me I can be. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Close Encounter of the Best Kind - Oh Deer!

I have been working on another post, about how time slips away, and that even though I had a lot of time off at Christmas I accomplished very little and blah, blah, blah, and then as I was heading down the stairs to the side door of our building on my way home from work today, I saw this....

I froze before he/she had a chance to see me and managed to get my camera out of my purse.  I knew we had deer living in the woods behind our building and have seen one or two from a distance, but never so up-close-and-personal.   In many areas of Ontario the increasing deer population is considered a nuisance, and a danger to motorists, and there have been calls for culls to reduce their numbers.   I can respect that point of view, but I also think they are beautiful, and as corny as it sounds, I was filled with a kind of wonder (and you'll likely never hear me use that phrase again) at seeing one so close that wasn't in an enclosure.

This one was awfully brave/foolhardy to come so close to the building which is normally teeming with students, but as they won't be back til Monday, the deer must have thought it was a perfect opportunity to snack on the tree right outside the door.

 At one point it looked right in the window and I was glad that I was still out of its line of vision.

The best shot I could get through our dirty windows with my crappy zoom lens

He/she finally wandered off into the bushes next to the building so I was able to get outside without scaring it, and to my delight, I saw that it wasn't alone...

We had a mutual stare-down, and I felt compelled to thank them for the visit before they headed towards the trees.  

I resented having to get out of bed early today to go back to work when a number of people in the office took the rest of the week off.   I was also feeling kind of crappy from a cold that I got a couple of days ago, and it was freezing cold outside.   I'm not a religious person by any means, but I do believe that we are where we are at any given time for a reason.  I have always loved animals, and get a particular thrill from observing wild animals in their natural habitat, so I felt like I had been given an amazing gift.  My hands were frozen by the time I got on the bus (you can't shoot photos in mittens), but I smiled all the way home.   Not a bad start to a new year, I'd say.