Monday, January 26, 2015

Working For The Weekend

When I was growing up, it seemed that most of the adults I knew toiled away at their jobs during the week just so they could relax and enjoy their life during those two days known as The Weekend.  My father was a carpenter, and my mother also worked outside the home from the time I was about 8 years old.   I remember her being tired and harried most of the week, having to look after a family after working at a job that was not particularly fulfilling in any way except that it paid the bills.  I was determined to not be one of those people whose "real life" was restricted to Saturday and Sunday.  In  my 20's, I worked in a series of low-paying retail jobs and found I could pursue things I enjoyed like writing, dancing, and photography during the work week.  I could wear pretty much whatever I wanted to work (most often it was army boots, skinny black jeans, and over-sized men's jackets);  I could go dancing on Monday night til 1:00 am, and still make it to work on Tuesday by 10 am.  I had my own weekly show on the local university radio station, and was able to plan my theme for the week while working my shifts in a local record store.  There was no great divide between my work life and my non-work life.  It didn't seem to bother me that much that I had no money, benefits, or plans for the future.

That all changed when I finally got a "real job" - one with a decent salary and benefits that required more of me than just ringing in customer purchases and keeping an eye out for shoplifters.  Suddenly, I found I couldn't stay out late during the week and function well at work the next day, and working a 9 - 5 schedule meant that evenings during the week were set aside for  errands and laundry.  The activities that gave me joy were set aside for weekends and holidays, and for many years, I would mourn the fact that I hadn't found my "dream job", which would allow me to get paid for doing the things I was passionate about.  I finally came to terms with the fact that things I love to do don't pay very well, and realized there was nothing wrong with working at a job that wasn't particularly exciting, or inspiring, as long as it was a means to an end.   I try to make the most of every weekend, savouring those precious 48 hours during which I can set my own schedule (you can see why I didn't have children), see and do things I enjoy, and work on projects that feed my soul instead of my bank account.

So what did I get up to this weekend?

After a trip to the market with Heather, followed by a coffee and chat, I stopped at one of my neighbourhood thrift stores where I saw this....

This would be Miss Kitty, lounging in a pile of purses at Silk Road.  She and Smoke, the other store cat, pretty much run the place.  They have not, however, learned how to operate the cash register (yet)

I scored a $5 skirt that inspired an impromptu photo session with my friend Sylvie, who I had planned to meet for a cocktail and a gab later that afternoon.

Sylvie had told me she would be wearing a marvelous hat for our get-together, and she most certainly was.  She was also wearing a beautiful fur and leather vintage coat she found at Value Village.   As we were both looking rather spiffy,  I suggested we do a quick detour to a parking lot in my hood and take a few photographs while there was still a bit of light.  

So there was a bit of this

and some of this....

....and then we headed off to a local pub for some wine and conversation. 

Yep, those are jellyfish.  Soft, sparkly, sequined jellyfish

On Sunday I went to Museum London to see a film (more on that in a minute).  The film was tied in with one of their current exhibits titled "Nature's Handmade" (until April 15th), which features  works by contemporary Canadian artists who use a variety of materials and found objects to create non-traditional representations of nature.  My favourite piece in the exhibit is created by Conan Masterson, and titled "Sea Dab Jig".  The piece depicts a bloom (the term for a large number of jellyfish swarming together) of jellyfish made from fabric and yarn.

             From the artist's statement: 
                          "Jellyfish are like weeds.  Though brainless and boneless, these gelatinous 
                          creatures are resilient, adaptable, and great at surviving.  Overfishing, climate
                          change, and pollution only fuel their spread.   In environmental hotspots across 
                          the globe, certain species of jellyfish are now destroying other aquatic species, 
                         and in absence of competition are quickly becoming the top predator of our waters.
                         Sea Dab is an old Newfoundland term for a variety of jellyfish.  The installation
                         Sea Dab Jig creates a bloom of fabricated jellyfish invading Museum London."

Some of the other pieces in the exhibit were quite striking, such as this large quilted garden by Joyce Wieland.  The piece is between seven and eight feet in height.

Clockwise from top left:  Another large piece entitled Plankton, created by Reinhard Reitzenstein from welded steel;  detail of Plankton;  Ovo and Claw Entablature (Fragment) by Spring Hurlbut.
I had gone to the gallery for a free showing of the 2013 documentary "Spring & Arnaud".  The film is an intelligent and intimate love story between two well-respected Canadian artists, Spring Hurlbut and Arnaud Maggs.  I remembered meeting Hurlbut here in London in the early 1980's, which sparked my interest in seeing the film.  The couple met when Hurlbut was 35 and Maggs was 60, and they were together for 25 years until Magg's death in 2012.   The filmmakers follow the couple at their cottage in France and their home and studios in Toronto as they discuss their relationship and respective art practices during the last year and a half of Magg's life.  The film is beautifully shot, and received very good press when it debuted at the Toronto Hot Docs Festival in 2013.    It was unfortunate only about a half dozen people came to see it this weekend.  You can watch the trailer below.

And now, back to work!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Since we have settled into real winter this month, I noticed I've been wearing a lot of black clothing to work.  Winter is notoriously "Black" season - the streets are a sea of women wearing black leggings and black down-filled coats - and while I abhor this cult of sameness, I must also acknowledge that I really do enjoy wearing the colour black.  I'm naturally very pale, and like the contrast of black against my skin, and wearing black makes me feel stronger, and more in control (we can discuss my control issues another time).  After spending my 20's and most of my 30's wearing primarily black clothing,  I did make a concerted effort to include more colour in my wardrobe after my mother asked me during a visit, "Don't you have anything to wear that isn't black??" 

I've accumulated a lot of black items of clothing over the years and a lot of them are made of warm, heavy fabrics suited to winter.  Black is also a great camouflage when one is feeling kind of chunky after the chocolate binge-fest that was December.  However, to avoid being mistaken for an Italian Widow, I have made a point of pairing it with at least one other strong colour.

Black and White 
Wearing my favourite faux fur vest (The Sentimentalist), fleece skirt (From Mars), and Hello Kitty leggings (Forever 21).  I'm also wearing my computer glasses with my 1950's frames, and a strangely smug expression.

Black and Red
I really need to take a posing class, or a facial expression class, or something.   I'm not sure what I'm doing here, but this was the best photo out of the bunch, which doesn't say much.  It's been really cold in our office lately, so an increasing number of layers have been necessary.  It made for an excellent excuse to wear my thrifted knit rabbit fur poncho (Value Village), which I love, even if I don't wear it often.  The skirt (Anthropologie) is one of those items that year after year I plan to get rid of, but then I wear it once, and its woolly warmth, and pink and red ruffle trim wins me over.  The red fleece-lined leggings (From Mars) are sooooo cozy!

Black and Copper
I wore this outfit to greet our incoming students at the beginning of the term, and was trying to go for a "funky, but professional" look.  The jacket (Le Chateau) has a flattering shape, giving me the illusion of a waist, and it's got a bit of stretch to it.  I found the painted suede skirt and the copper vintage Florsheim Italian leather ankle boots at Talize, for $12 each.
Over the last couple of weeks I've also worn black and grey, black and blue, and black and green.  The thrifted Marks and Spencers jacket in the photo above is a bit big on me, but I was drawn to the colour and the gigantic buttons (but was very disappointed to see the Made in China label).

I see that many of my blogger friends (Vix, Melanie, Ariane, Curtis and Judith) are wearing head-to-toe bold colours and prints despite the cold temperatures, so I will be content with being the "Black Sheep" for the rest of the winter!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Please Help Fulfill a Kite Dream

If you have been following my blog for a while, you may remember seeing Maureen Riley and/or her artwork in a couple of posts (here, and here) over the years.  I've known Maureen for somewhere between 15 and 20 years, and have no recollection of how we met, but suffice it to say that we immediately sensed a kindred spirit in each other.  She is a warm, kindhearted person, with a delightful sense of humour, and has been a full-time working artist for the last 30 years.  I have always loved her work, which focusses on the lives of women - her richly-coloured paintings feature scenes of women reading, dancing, or drinking cocktails together.  Many pieces of her work have been a tribute to Mexican artist Frida Kahlo who has been a great inspiration for her.

Riley and two of her works - the triptych on the mantel depicts Frida Kahlo at three different times in her life.

I love visiting Maureen in her art-filled home - jewel-like colours glow on every wall, goddesses and angels radiate with benevolence and wisdom.  The bottom right painting, titled "The Artist and Friends Pose for The Millenium" features a young Riley.

 One of Riley's three cats may come up and say hello - this adorable calico is Queenie, who, on my most recent visit decided that I was worthy of petting her.

Riley has the most entertaining bathroom filled with kitschy religious iconography, photos of her beloved niece and some quirky dolls.

Now I'm going to do something I've never done before on this blog - I'm going to ask you, the reader, for money.  I'm asking you to support Riley's crowd-funded project, titled Kite Dream.   What is Kite Dream?  It is a graphic novel about Riley's life in the years since 1991, when she was diagnosed with Dystonia, a neurological movement disorder.  In the years following, her sister died after being infected with tainted blood, Riley unexpectedly found herself in the role of a parent in her 40's, and through it all she continued to produce her art.

A detail of the first page of the graphic novel that Riley is hoping to finish in a year if her crowdfunding campaign is successful.

The goal of her Indiegogo campaign is $10,000, which would allow Riley to devote a full year to work exclusively on the graphic novel.   If that goal isn't met, Riley still gets to keep whatever amount is raised, but Indiegogo keeps 9% of the funds received, instead of the 4% taken if the full $10,000 is raised.  There are 23 days left in the campaign, and so far almost $3,800 has been donated.  If all of you who have enjoyed reading my blog each donated $5 to the campaign,  we could probably get it over the $5,000 mark.  

It is through the telling of stories that we form connections with others, and we come to understand ourselves.  Riley has decided that it was the right time for her to tell her story.  Please watch the short video below that I made where Riley discusses Kite Dream and how dystonia has impacted her life.

Here's the link to the Kite Dream page on Indiegogo.  If you believe in the importance of sharing our stories, and are able to spare $5, please support the campaign.   

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Kits On The Block*

*in Europe, baby rats are called kittens, so for the purpose of this post we'll pretend I'm in Europe

It had been over four months since the passing of dear little Fred, and I started thinking about getting another pet.  Then I had allergy tests done, which pretty much confirmed what I already knew - I'm allergic to cats, dogs, rats, and apparently horses (also trees, grass, weeds, etc., but that stuff is outside).  My allergist suggested a bearded dragon or a hedgehog as possible hypoallergenic pets, neither of which appealed to me.  I don't mind reptiles, but I don't want to live with one, and hedgehogs are nocturnal and not very smart.    I really wanted another rat, so I looked at a couple of breeders' websites and checked on Kijiji (which is like Craigslist) for listings of baby rats for sale.  I  contacted a few people, and when all of them proved to be either very strange and/or terrible communicators, I ended up back at PetSmart again.  This time, however I was armed with questions and experience, and fortunately, there was a lovely young woman working there who had pet rats, and was very friendly and knowledgeable. 

And now these two little girls live with me; the brown and white one is Ginger, and the white one is Ruby.  Neither of them were freaked out when I held them at the store, and they have adjusted very well to their life in Fred's former home (which had been cleaned and sterilized).  And they are adorable.....

They were so small when I brought them home two weeks ago.  The store clerk said they were the youngest rats they had ever had in the store (most likely about 8 weeks old).  

I knew rats are very social, and should not live alone, and if I could go back and do it over, I would have got Fred a sister.   At the time I didn't know if I would like having one rat, much less two, and while I gave her the best life that I could, she was lonely.   There was no question that the next time there would be two.  The difference is amazing (and makes me even more sad for Fred) - the two of them sleep together (sometimes stacked, like blocks, or nose to tail, or whatever is going on in the bottom right photo) and chase each other around the cage like kittens.

 "What are you looking at??"

There is also a whole lot of rat wrestling going on, and Ruby has turned out to be quite a scrapper. 

Ginger is similar to Fred in her colouring (this photo looks eerily like one I have of Fred), although she is a darker brown.   She's a little piglet, who will climb over/step on anything (usually Ruby) between her and a treat.

Ruby is very pretty, and her fur is as soft as a cotton ball.  I've never been drawn to white rats because most have red eyes, which I find rather demonic, but she has black eyes, which is very unusual.  She is proving to be a quick learner as well, and braver than her sister.

And what about my allergies?  Well, within 24 hours of bringing them home, I was coughing and wheezing, and to be honest, the first few days were horrible.  A week after I brought them home, they started making the same chirping and huffing noises that Fred made when she started to get sick, so back to the store they went, where they were checked over by the vet (they were still under warranty) and pronounced fit as little fiddles.  A change to a more expensive, 99% dust free, bedding seemed to  do the trick;  I wish my allergies could be cured so quickly.   I've been experimenting with taking an antihistamine and using my ventolin puffer at different times of the day to find which works best, and it has been getting better.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed, as I already am attached to the little girls and they are bonding with me.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Outfit Parade

I didn't have anything thought-provoking or fascinating to post about on the first day of a new year, but what I do have is a bunch of unpublished outfit photos from the last month or so.  I thought this would be a good time to stick 'em up, and as I'm trying to pare down the wardrobe (which seems to be an ongoing process) and trying to only keep things that I really love, sometimes it helps to see a photo of yourself wearing an item.  Purging your closet is never simple, because there are always those things that you have a sentimental attachment to, or, an astonishing vintage piece that you know would be worth a chunk of money if you could only figure out where to sell it, or that jacket that you've loved forever and is a weeeee bit too tight, but you think you will fit if you lose a pound or two (like THAT happens after 50??)....
But first....

this has nothing to do with my wardrobe, or, it has everything to do with my wardrobe, you decide 

Two books I acquired this month that brought back a whole lot of childhood memories: (left) a 1950 hardcover edition of The Bobbsey Twins - Merry Days Indoors and Out" by Laura Lee Hope from a Goodwill thrift store, and (right) a lovely Christmas gift from a friend

And Now To Business....

I had forgotten to post this photo when it was taken back in the fall.  I found the skirt, which is made of heavy linen, at a thrift store for $12.  I loved the volume and weight of it, but it was at least 3 inches too small in the waist.  I bought it anyway, and took it to my neighbourhood tailor, who was able to add extra length to the waistband.  A thrift-shopper's best friend is her tailor!  The scarf was part of an outfit I got at a clothing swap, and the colour was perfect with the skirt.  The turnip head is courtesy of Melanie, and was just what this outfit needed.

I've come to the realization that my favourite items of clothing are those with an extreme shape:  big shoulders, voluminous skirts and pants, or short and snug.  A-line skirts and flared or standard cut dress pants have no place in my closet.   I love the thrifted Evan Picone jacket I'm wearing in the photo above for the graphic check pattern and 1980's giant shoulders.  The skirt I'm wearing was also thrifted. 

A rare bathroom selfie at work

Another thrifted jacket, this one by Linda Lundstrom.  You can't see from this photo, but it has the same "big shoulders/nipped waist" shape as the black and white one, is shot with silver thread, and is most likely from the same decade.  The sleeves were a bit short, so once again, my tailor came to the rescue.

More thrifted goodness!  

The heavy cotton sweater on the left has wooden bead embellishments and came from The Sentimentalist.   The orange fur vest on the right was a recent score from the May Court thrift shop in my neighbourhood, and the Calvin Klein pants were a Value Village find.

Another outfit example made up of the extreme shapes that I love, and secondhand purchases

The Japanese haori was puchased at the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show and Sale, and the wide-legged khaki pants were found at Talize years ago.  I don't wear them often because I didn't have much to wear with them until I got the haori.  

It's worth noting that most of the outfits shown here cost less than $50 (except for the shoes).  I did some thrift shopping over the holidays, some items went to others as gifts, and others will show up in a blog post in the near future. 

Here's to a New Year full of adventures, love, laughter, good health and good friends, kindred spirits and secondhand treasures,  and furry critters to snuggle!