Friday, December 30, 2016

Help I'm Alive

There's been a lot of this going on over the holidays - by "this", I mean both sleeping, and shielding myself from what is going on in the outside world.  The deaths of Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds a mere 24 hours apart was a terrible shock. Fisher had always been fiercely vocal about her battle with mental illness, and I greatly admired her for that, and Debbie, well, she was Debbie Reynolds.  "Singin' in the Rain" has always been one of my favourite films.

I got new eyeglasses from Old North Optometry.  The shape is different from what I've had in the last few years and I loved the colours used in the stripes on the frame.

In a sudden burst of creative inspiration, I made this necklace from some Dollar Store Christmas ornaments and a choker purchased at a street market in London, England, many years ago.   I wore it over to Heather and Travis' for Christmas dinner.

After said dinner (pork enchiladas), we had some messy good fun decorating a batch of Pusheen the cat cookies that our friend Lola had made that morning.  Apparently, I can be as detail-oriented in my cookie decorating as I am in many other aspects of my life, as evidenced by my blue and green polka dot cookie in the upper right, compared to many of the less-detailed abstract ones the others created.  In the bottom right corner is Heather's Christmas tree topper, which her husband found at Halloween.  A good bat skeleton should definitely be displayed more than once a year.

I spent a day in Stratford visiting my mother, and found some time to do a bit of shopping for myself which included the book and paper dolls above.  I loved making my own paper dolls when I was a kid, and the outfits in this particular book are fantastic.  There may or may not have also been the purchase of a couple of dresses, but you'll have to wait to see those.

Sylvester has made himself very much at home, and as to be expected, I have fallen completely in love with him.  His days are filled with eating, sleeping, belly rubs, and playing with his beloved Cat Dancer.

I found it easier to get through the holidays by listening to my inner voice which says it's ok to feel sad, and stay home with a book or a movie, instead of forcing myself to be social and pretend I enjoy the chaotic food and shopping frenzy that so many people embrace at this time of year.  I hope you all had moments of peace and joy to balance out the stress and anxiety that often comes with the season. 2016 has been a devastating year for many people and I am wishing for a brighter 2017.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

And Then a Black Cat Crossed My Path....

As I mentioned in my last post, it was my 55th birthday in November, and as a present to myself, I had planned to spend a day in Toronto, but then, on the weekend before my birthday.....

this happened....

This is Sylvester - my new roommate

Those of you who follow me on Instagram have already been subjected to photos, (and a couple of videos) of him, but I wanted to wait until we had lived together for a least a month before posting about him here.  

For those of you who are wondering what happened to my dear rats, Ginger and Ruby, all I can say is that I loved them as much as I could, for as long as I could.   I was not planning to get another pet any time soon, especially when I was so sick the past year, partly from allergy-related illnesses.  The plan was to wait until I was no longer working full time, and then look into adopting a small, hypo-allergenic dog from a shelter.   Of course, as I love all animals,  I snuggle any dog or cat I meet up with, regularly peruse the websites of the local animal rescue organizations, and visit the cats up for adoption at the my closest PetSmart.   I want them all to find good homes, but I hadn't been sufficiently charmed by any one in particular to want to adopt one.   While my heart is set on having a dog at some point in the future,  I have always liked cats, and have lived with them when I was in my 20's and early 30's.  Some cats trigger my allergies, some don't.   

The weekend before my birthday PetSmart hosted an adoption event, and Heather and I decided to go look at the cats, as they bring in additional ones for these events.  There was a very large (he weighs 17 pounds), 6 year old black cat in one of the cages, and when I approached him, he lay down, showing off his belly and white bikini-bottom, and stuck his paw outside the bars of the cage.  I've always had a soft spot for black cats, and was intrigued enough to ask for a meet and greet outside his cage in the staff washroom during which he proved to be very sociable and affectionate.  I stuck my face right into his fur to check for an allergic reaction, and to my delight, there was nothing (it usually happens pretty fast).  Heather and I went to get lunch and discuss the pros and cons of my taking on the responsibility of owning a cat, and before long, I was completing the necessary paperwork and handing over $150.  Back at my apartment, I let Sylvester (he came with the name) out of the cat carrier and he promptly lay down on my living room floor.   No hiding, no freaking out. He knew he was home.

He follows me around the house, and sometimes acts more like a dog than a cat.   He is a very good boy who talks ALL the time.  I wish that for just one hour, once a week (or month, or year), we and our pets could speak the same language so I could learn about his life before me, but then again, maybe I wouldn't want to know.   

It's nice to have something else to photograph aside from me - he's an excellent model.  He loves being brushed, and his fur is very thick and shiny.

Profile shot

The couch has become his primary lounging spot - as it's only a loveseat, there is barely enough room for the two of us.  Everyone that has been over to meet him has been smitten.  He likes everyone and LOVES being petted and having his belly rubbed.

The living room floor has become a minefield of cat toys - the Cat Dancer is his favourite thing in the whole world, next to catnip, and me, of course. 

As these photos show, in addition to being very affectionate and well-behaved, he is also very handsome.    I promised myself I would not be dressing him up in undignified, uncomfortable, costumes, but when the pet store had all their Christmas items on sale, I couldn't resist this elasticized jester collar with bells and to my surprise, he was just fine with it.   Of course, any cat of mine would have an appreciation for dressing up!

So that's what I've been up to.   I know that many of the other bloggers I follow have cats, but what about you, are you a cat or a dog person?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The REAL Freedom 55

The title of this post will require a bit of context for my non-Canadian readers.  Freedom 55 was an ad campaign developed in 1989 by London Life Insurance Company that promoted the idea of early retirements (at 55, hence, Freedom 55).  The ad featured a man in a suit running for a bus, suddenly transported to a gorgeous beach, running next to an older version of himself (we are supposed to assume his 55 year old self).  He comments on the fact that his older self looks good, and wonders how he was able to afford such a great lifestyle - the answer, of course was Freedom 55.

Of course, the economy has changed since the ad was created, and very few people are able to retire at 55, but the phrase still remains a part of our culture, and has become more of a joke ("Freedom 85!")  than an achievable aspiration.   I knew that as my 55th Birthday was approaching there would certainly be no early retirement for me, but I did like the phrase "Freedom 55", and wondered what else it could mean.

So here is my version of Freedom 55 - the freedom to dress however I want, to proclaim my age without embarrassment or apology, to speak my mind in a respectful, civilized manner and not apologize for marching to the tune of my own orchestra (to hell with a drummer, I want a whole band).  Thanks to the wonderful staff at Old North Optometry (where I was shopping for new eyeglass frames) for letting me briefly take over their beautiful space for this photo.

I'm wearing:  knit and pleather moto jacket received as a gift for a blog post, a crinkled bubble mini skirt by Pink Tartan purchased secondhand, a splash of hot pink, and ribbon-laced Doc Martens purchased in New York

Monday, November 21, 2016

Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway

I had made plans to get together with Debra Rapoport while I was in New York, and she contacted me before I left home to say she had been asked by singer, songwriter, and recently, jewellery-maker, Jocelyn McKenzie to model some of McKenzie's jewellery for a photo shoot on the day we were going to get together.  She had mentioned to Jocelyn that I was coming to visit, and I was invited to  participate in the shoot as well.  Each time I visit New York, opportunities for new adventures present themselves and I make it a point to say YES to as many as possible.

Above is Jocelyn, wearing a hat she made at one of Debra's Rapoport's workshops.  On the table in front of her is the treasure trove of treats we were going to model.

The shoot took place at the Brooklyn home of Sonya Farrell, who was also our photographer.

Jocelyn styles Nicole for a photo

Nicole wearing the goldfish necklace, grapes necklace and giant skull earrings

I took this selfie, wearing the snake necklace and clacker earrings, while waiting for my turn in front of Sonya's camera.   Jocelyn let us pick the pieces we wanted to wear and provided some clothing (the denim jacket I'm wearing is hers) if we wanted to make a wardrobe change.  She and Sonya also provided snacks and beverages and the atmosphere was very relaxed.  The other models were enthusiastic and friendly, and the jewellery itself inspired us to play with different shapes and colour combinations.

I just love this photo of Jocelyn and Debra, captured as they were posing for Sonya.

Iyabo rocked the hell out of the Space Phaser necklace which went perfectly with her outfit.

Emily Hope Price,  a talented singer and musician, wearing the foozeball table necklace and giant circle earrings.

Jocelyn was one third of the indie-pop trio Pearl and the Beard ( with Emily Hope Price and Jeremy Styles). The band released their third and final album in 2015, and three of their songs were featured in Sally Field's recent film "Hello, My Name is Doris".   She recently released a solo E.P. and was holding a Songwriting Workshop in Brooklyn on the weekend.  McKenzie is totally adorable, with infectious positive energy and a saucy sense of humour;  I felt like she could have been my younger sister (we have the same taste in hair styles).

Debra working her magic in the snake necklace, "ribcage" necklace,  a clacker worn as a ring and stretchy rubber thingy earring.

Near the end of the shoot a couple of young men showed up who had been recruited by Jocelyn in hopes of getting some photos of guys wearing some of her pieces.  They seemed a bit bewildered by it all, and frankly, I think they were a little scared of the loud, quirky, (and in the case of Debra and me, much older) women they were asked to pose with.  Jocelyn asked one of them to put his arm around Debra, and you could just see the discomfort written across his face.  It probably didn't help that we were laughing and yelling encouragement - "pretend she's your grandmother".  That young man has no idea how many guys would love to put their arms around Debra.

The guys weren't the only ones who were uncomfortable.  The  other models had big, open-mouthed smiles and lovely straight white teeth (as you can see in the other photos), and I am very self-conscious about mine (they are very crooked, and one of my front teeth is dead so it is darker than the others), which is why you rarely see photos of me smiling with my mouth open.  Unfortunately, this means I can look pinched or as if I'm grimacing (see photo above of Jocelyn and I for evidence of this).   Jocelyn wanted us to laugh and be silly in some of the photos, and I expressed my discomfort to her about my teeth - she was encouraging and supportive, and in the end, I relaxed and laughed along with the rest of them.  I can't promise I won't be unhappy with some of the photos, but it was a "feel the fear and do it anyway" moments.

I am so grateful I was given the opportunity to meet and collaborate with Jocelyn.  One of the many things I admire about Debra Rapoport is that she is tremendously supportive of young artists, and social gatherings at her apartment always include people of all ages and backgrounds.  This mixing of young and old in social settings is not something you find often, especially where I live.   I have found in my visits to New York that there also seems to be a greater spirit of collaboration regardless of age, and the photo shoot was just one example of this.  It was a refreshing, and inspiring experience. 

How inspiring, you ask?

Enough that I put this photo of myself on my Instagram, teeth and all, wearing my new goldfish necklace (Jocelyn let us choose a couple of pieces of jewellery to take home).

Sunday, November 13, 2016

"For Every Head, A Hat"*

*Lithuanian Proverb

On Friday, October 28th I met up with my friends The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas, and several other hat aficionados at East Village Hats in New York.  The occasion was the launch party of Toronto milliner Tierre Taylor's "Iconic Hats of the 20th Century".  As a fellow Canadian, I was looking forward to meeting Taylor, but unfortunately, the milliner herself missed most of her own party as her flight from Toronto was delayed.  In her absence, the rest of us had great fun trying on her marvelous hats which were recreations of hats made by 5 influential milliners of the last century.

On the left is Julia Emily Knox, proprietor of East Village Hats (formerly Barbara Feinman Millinery) chatting with Jean, one half of The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas.  Knox, originally from England, trained as a milliner at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and took over the business this year.  She heads up a small team of milliners who make the hats at the shop.

 I arrived at the party to find artist and milliner Carol Markel (above) and her husband Richard Cramer checking out the shop.  Carol loves wearing bold colours, and her marvelous colour-blocked coat was a welcome respite from all the New York black.

 Four of the Tierre Taylor hats on display - clockwise from top left: Yours truly wearing a 20's inspired black wool felt cloche with a delightful "wing" on one side (hard to see in this photo).  The hat was covered in gold metal bugs that looked like cicadas; The Elsa Schiaparelli/Salvador Dali Shoe Hat as interpreted by Taylor; Jean wearing another one of Taylor's hats that looks like it would unravel if you pulled on the top strip of fabric; Taylor's recreation of Lilly Dache's "Peekaboo Hat.

East Village Hats has a unique hat for every taste, and if they don't have one you like, they can custom make one for you.

I had never considered myself a "turban person", but I tried the leopard print one in the center, and I rather liked it, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the Norma Desmond vibe.

The exotic headwear on the shelf in the photo above was made by Maor Zabar.   The hats on the bottom row, and the purple and white "dripping vase" hat in the top row are from the "Stains" collection.  There are also two hats from the "Carnivorous Plants" collection in the top row.

The head-turning Sushi hats above are also by Maor Zabar

Most of the guests came wearing one of their own hats, and also took advantage of the opportunity to try some of the hats on display.  I believe the gentlemen above are wearing their own hats, while Bettina, a German actress, in the middle, is wearing a hat from the shop (I hope she ended up taking it home, as it looked so good on on her).

Patrick McDonald, also known as The Dandy of New York, made an appearance.  His impeccable, extravagant style was featured in the Bill Cunningham documentary, as he was a favourite subject of the street photographer.   I admire Patrick's style and follow his instagram feed, so it was delightful to meet him in person, and he was just as charming as I expected he would be.

Diana, left, was wearing a fabulous black, white and red ensemble, topped with a spectacular vintage hat.  I caught her in conversation at "the bar" with Valerie, the other half of The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas.

Valerie tried this animal-print top hat and she would definitely rock it with the right outfit.

I prefer smaller hats on me, especially ones that are more fascinator than hat, and I particularly liked the pinched wool felt ones in the top and bottom right photos.  The red one on the left felt like it was molded out of leather and while it was a fabulous statement piece, I couldn't imagine wearing it as often as the other two.  The only problem with wearing hats that are held on your head with elastic when you have extremely short hair is that there is nothing to hide the elastic, as you can see in the top right photo.

I asked this woman her name, but I was being a lazy blogger that night and didn't take any notes, so of course, by the time I got home I complete forgot what it was.  I really liked her chic, androgynous style, and her custom-made boots (above right) were spectacular.

Julia's daughter was the most adorable server ever.  She looked so angelic, but if a guest didn't see her when she offered them a mini cupcake, she poked them with the platter to get their attention.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

She's A Lady

To compensate for the downer that was my last post, here's a lighthearted one to show off one of my purchases from Beacon's Closet in New York.   Beacon's Closet is a Brooklyn-based buy-sell-trade store with four locations in New York with a large, always-changing selection of men's and women's designer/contemporary/vintage clothing and accessories at very reasonable prices.  This means the stores are always busy, and the racks are very close together (at least this is the case at the Manhattan location which is the only one I've been to) so browsing can be a challenge and requires patience, as you will then have to wait in line for a change room.  However, I'm willing to brave that kind of crowd as I have found great pieces there, and it is on my list of "must-visit" places when I am in New York.

This very lady-like dress is not my usual style at all, but I was drawn to the mix of patterns and the fabric, which drapes beautifully and appears to be a crepe of some sort (rayon maybe?).  The dress is in perfect condition, and the label is E. D. Michaels, made in the USA.   I couldn't find any information on the internet about the brand other than it seems to have existed in the 70's - 90's.  I would put this dress closer to the 70's than the 90's but I'm just guessing.  It was priced at a very reasonable $21.95 (USD).  

I was sticking my pinky finger out to show just how much of a posh lady I am, but apparently sticking one's pinky out is considered to be rude according to this article on tea etiquette.

"People often think proper tea drinking means sticking your pinky out. That’s actually rude and connotes elitism. It comes from the fact that cultured people would eat their tea goodies with three fingers and commoners would hold the treats with all five fingers. Thus was born the misguided belief that one should raise their pinky finger to show they were cultured. Tuck that pinky finger in."

The pattern is navy and white with splotches of very orangey-red, and the skirt has inserts of the same fabric as the sleeves and neck ruffle.  Godet is my new word for the day, as I had to look up on the interwebs whether this is considered a "gored" skirt, and discovered that the pieces of fabric inserted to add flare to the hem are called Godets.  If I'm completely wrong on this, I'm sure one of my skilled sewer friends will correct me.

Our office gets pretty chilly by the afternoon, so I wore my favourite denim jacket for an extra layer of warmth, and to add a bit of an edge to an otherwise elegant dress that has excellent "Swish" factor (and we all know how important good swish factor is).

Who am I kidding? I'm no lady!  Still like the dress though.

E. D. Michaels dress - Beacon's Closet
denim jacket - The Sentimentalist
suede Fly Yalas - From Mars

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Halloween In New York, aka Nightmare on 6th Avenue

There comes a time in every romantic relationship, if it lasts long enough, that as you get to know your partner better,and get comfortable with each other, you're not on your best behaviour anymore. You no longer find everything they say to be delightfully witty and insightful.  They find one (or more) of your habits to be annoying.  You see what each other looks like first thing in the morning, and it may not be pretty.  Illusions are shattered, reality sets in, and you realize if you really want the relationship to last, compromise and acceptance will be required.

During this year's visit to New York (which I refer to as my boyfriend) over the past few days, I experienced a reality check in our relationship.  It was the first time that New York had showed me anything but love and affection, so it was an upsetting end to an otherwise wonderful visit.

I usually schedule my trip to coincide with the Autumn edition of the Manhattan Vintage Show, but this year, I decided to go a week later so that I could be in New York for Halloween to experience one of the traditions that has always fascinated me - The Village Halloween Parade.  After all, Lou Reed wrote a song about the parade (which appeared on his "New York" album).  The parade was started in 1974 by a Greenwich Village mask maker and puppeteer,  Ralph Lee.  From its humble origins as a walk from house to house in Lee's neighbourhood, the parade has grown to become the largest celebration of its kind, and has received many awards and grants from the city.  It is estimated that about 2 million people turn out to watch the parade, and just once,  I wanted to be one of those 2 million.  I had no idea what I was in for.  

I met a friend at 6 pm so we could stake out a good viewing spot on 6th Avenue for the parade, which started at 7 pm.  We were right on the corner of 6th Avenue and 15th Street, and the block wasn't as busy as those further south on the parade route.  There were so many police officers around that the atmosphere felt kind of tense, and an officer approached us and declared the parade did not come up this far on 6th, and we had to move further south.  I knew that the parade did, in fact, go at least a couple of blocks past where we were, which had been confirmed by another officer we had spoken to earlier, but how does one argue with a member of the NYPD in full body armour?  We were forced to head south only find ourselves engulfed by crowds of people.  We finally found a tiny space to squeeze into, and waited for the parade to start. 

 The view we almost had...until the police removed the blue tape you see in the photo

Close to 8:00 pm we could see giant skeleton puppets approaching, and at that moment, the police opened a barricade on the side street in front of us, allowing a crowd of people to surge forward, and and completely block our view of the parade route.  We stood there speechless for a few minutes, and sadly, decided I was not meant to see the parade after all.  

 The view we had.  I was able to get this photo by holding my camera up above my head

At that point all we wanted to do was go home, so as my friend headed off towards 5th Avenue, I started to squeeze my way back up 6th Avenue towards 15th Street.  The first block was challenging, but then in the next I hit a wall of people on a corner, and there was no space to pass, go around, or go back.  A crowd of people had built up behind me and were pushing to get through, and at that moment I thought "this is how people get knocked down and trampled".  A woman with two small children were squished against me, and she and I were both starting to get frightened.  When it finally became clear no one was going to move in front of us, and people were not going to stop pushing from behind, I started to get angry, and use my elbows to push people aside.  When we were finally made it around the corner and were on a clear patch of sidewalk, the women with the children thanked me for getting them through.  I stopped a police officer to let them know there was clearly a dangerous situation at that corner.  Her response?  "That does sound scary."  Did she do anything? No.

 This was the only costume I managed to photograph.  I have no idea what he was, but I loved the suit

I headed east a block and then went to double back to my corner when I was halted by a wooden barricade across 5th and 15 Street, and another police officer who informed me that unless I had ID with my address on it proving I lived on that street, I wasn't going anywhere.  It was bad enough I hadn't even been able to see the parade, and was almost knocked over by a crowd, and now, I was  told I couldn't go home.  I could feel tears of frustration starting to well in the corners of my eyes as I patiently tried to explain my situation,  and I think the officer must have sensed a full blown breakdown was coming, as he pushed the barricade aside and let me pass.  As I reached the apartment, I couldn't help but notice that there were people lined up watching the parade in the exact spot on 6th Avenue and 15th Street where we had originally been standing, when the officer had told us "the parade doesn't come this far". 

New York, I still love you, but at that moment, I didn't like you very much at all.  It was unfortunate this all happened on the last night of my trip, as it affected my feelings about the trip as a whole, even though the rest of it was great fun.  And my next post will be about the fun, I promise.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

T-shirt and Jeans My Way

Occasionally I'm asked by people who see me often if I ever go out wearing a plain t-shirt and pair of jeans.  When I go to the gym on the weekend and am coming straight home afterwards, I have been known to throw on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans for convenience sake, but it always feels like a muted version of "me".

It was darn cold here on Saturday (a high of 8 degrees celsius and a brisk wind) so layers were required, and I ended up wearing, what was in essence, a t-shirt and a pair of jeans.  However, it was my version - the long-sleeved t-shirt is an official Cirque du Soleil brand shirt that incorporates different fabrics (thrifted for $7, original price between $50 and $60), and the jeans are a pair of old Levi's 501's that had been made into a skirt by Melinda (aka The Sentimentalist) back in the day, customized with bleach.  It was a maxi skirt when I bought it from her, but she's taller than I am, so I chopped off several inches to make it calf-length on me.

I'm not a big fan of lettering on my clothing but at least the word "dream" is fairly innocuous, and the graphics are cool.  If you've never seen a Cirque du Soleil show,  I would recommend that everyone see at least one if they come to a venue near you.

My hair had been freshly shorn and I forgot how cold your head gets when not insulated by hair.   Winter is not the best time of year to be sporting a modified mohawk. I have a couple of very warm hats, but it wasn't quite THAT cold, so I found an inexpensive touque in the Halloween section at Shopper's Drug Mart.  I sense a theme.

I was wearing a coat (I will not freeze for style) which I found at Talize a month or so ago.  It's wool and quite warm, and I fell hard for the giant collar and flounces (and the $17 price tag), even though they make me look bigger and boxy.  Heck, we all look larger in the winter anyway!

The collar is excellent as a disguise if I wish to go incognito.

Heather was kind enough to stand in the cold and take these photos, but now it's time for a hot beverage - Gotta Go!