Sunday, June 25, 2017

An Abundance of Blue

We have had an abundance of blue in our little part of the world these last few days. Yesterday morning, the sun shone, the river sparkled and reflected the blue sky, and Hubby's blue delphiniums were blooming up a storm. I love them. 

Blue delphiniums, green grass, blue water and blue sky above.
Blue flowers, blue sky, blue water.
And all this blue has me thinking that I seem to have an abundance of blue in my closet, all of a sudden. Especially blue tops that I'm not wearing very much. No point in these pieces taking up closet space if they're not pulling their weight. So I'm determined to make more of an effort to get them out and about. And mixing the old pieces with new ones is a great way to give them a fresh look. 

This blue and white Tory Burch tunic was a sale purchase in 2015. I had passed on it in the spring in favour of items I needed to take on our trip to France. So I was pleased when it came on sale later in the season. It's super light and feels like linen even though the percentage of linen in it is very small. I'm wearing it with my new (this season) Rag and Bone black cropped pants, and black suede Paul Greene flats. The bag is Michael Kors, and it's so old that my memory of its purchase is lost in the mists of time. But I still love it for the metallic clasp and the fat, woven straw. It has stood up really well over time. Especially since I use it most summers, and my sister Carolyn borrows it most winters when she heads down south to a conference. I'd wear this outfit to book club, or out for lunch, or downtown to a gallery visit and lunch with a friend. 

Woman in blue tunic, black pants, black flats with a straw tote bag

Woman in blue tunic, black pants, black flats with a straw tote bag

The other blue top that does not get out nearly enough is my blue Equipment shirt. Another 2015 purchase when I decided that maybe my white shirt was a bit boring. This would be a great outfit for running errands or going for coffee with friends. I swapped my Paul Green flats for my old Michael Kors sandals. Easy peasy. I just have to make sure the shirt is pressed. Because I won't wear it if it isn't, and if I'm in a hurry, I will pull something that doesn't need ironing out of the closet instead. 

Women sitting on a red Arirondack chair wearing black pants, black sandals, and a blue shirt.
My black pants and blue shirt look great with our freshly painted Adirondack chair.
This is the newest blue addition to my closet. I bought this Frame navy and white striped linen tee at Nordstrom earlier in the spring. It's quite sheer, with a shirt tail hem, outside seaming on the sides, and an interesting mismatched stripe in the back. It doesn't seem to be in stock at Nordstrom anymore, so here's the link to the Frame on-line store. I think it's supposed to be over-sized because I'm wearing size small. And as I said in an earlier post about my new Vince lilac sweater... a size small I am NOT. 

Woman in black pants, striped top, holding a straw tote bag.        Woman in black pants, striped top, holding a straw tote bag.
Channeling Jackie and Laura.

I'm going to get a ton of wear out of this outfit in the next few weeks. For shopping on hot days, or out for lunch, or just running to appointments. Wearing this, I feel like a cross between Jackie O. and Mary Tyler Moore in the old Dick Van Dyke show from the sixties. Remember Mary as Laura Petrie? "Ohhhh, Ro-ob." 

So... now I've a few "new" outfits lined up to grab when I'm in a hurry this summer. Trying to take advantage of the abundance of blue in my closet. Like a good golfer who is supposed to utilize every club in his or her bag... or so I've been told... a good wardrobe planner should utilize all the items in his or her closet. Otherwise, those pieces are not pulling their weight. And you might as well store, donate, or consign them in your next closet cull. 

Hopefully these three outfits will work as well under a rain coat. Because after I took the shot on our deck, above, the sun disappeared, the thunder cracked, and it began to rain. Hard. And then it hailed. And now it's still raining. And Hubby says that it looks like this will be our weather for the week. 

Sigh. Ah well, all that sun and blue sky was nice while it lasted. It's just that I'm beginning to think we may never be able to finish painting our deck chairs. We have two more left to do. They're stashed in our garden shed, waiting for a dry day. Ha. Maybe in September.


How about you folks? Any plans to utilize some of those items in your closet that may not get out enough? 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Funky Town

I have to say that despite the fact that summer seems to have arrived, the sun is shining, and I just returned from a fun little trip to Toronto. Despite the fact that I'm well, and happy with my life. Not to mention happily retired with no real financial worries... and no exams to mark, a situation which fills me with gratitude every January and June. Still, despite all this, I've been in a bit of a funk lately. 

pink wild roses amid greenery and blue sky
I'm in a funk despite waking up to this every morning.
Partly it's just the wear and tear of day-to-day life. I found my trip to New Brunswick last month stressful. And since I've been back it seems that on the home front all sorts of little things have been going wrong. Small stuff, like my new washing machine hasn't been working properly. Then my printer stopped working. Then my desk top PC started acting up. I had to take it for repair, and for two weeks I've been blogging on my i-pad mini which is a pain in the neck... literally. And now it seems to be performing poorly. I've googled articles on how to fix it and have done all they suggest, and everything else I can think of, but I'll have to take it into the Apple store... when I get my big computer back. You see? All small stuff. But somehow I don't seem to have my normal level of resilience to weather the small stuff. I'm usually calm in the face of frustration. Just not lately. 

Other things that should have gone well, have not been doing so. Three weeks ago Hubby received in the mail his approval from our supplemental health insurance carrier to change one of his heart medications from the generic to the brand-name. He's been suffering side effects and his cardiologist changed his medication in hopes of alleviating them. Drugs for seniors are covered by the provincial government in Ontario, but only for the generic, most cost effective, formulations. Our supplementary health insurance would pick up the difference in cost, which is considerable, but we had to jump through a few hoops to get it approved. And we were relieved when he received his letter and could finally get that prescription filled. 

Ha. Or so we thought. I'm not going to go into a long-winded explanation here, let's just say that things did not go as planned. And since I'm better than he is at methodical analysis, careful reading of fine print, and then patient discussion of same... I made the phone calls to track down what was what and why. Five phone calls to our insurance provider, four to the drugstore, over three weeks, each call resulting in my finding the "answer," and Hubby returning to the drugstore, to be told each time that the insurance company had given the pharmacist the exact same reason for not covering his prescription. And finally, on Monday, I tracked down the problem, and the solution. Which it seems everyone knew all along, except us, and which no one told us. Not one person in all of those phone calls. The insurance people said the drugstore should have told us and vice versa. And everyone I spoke to seemed to think that it was not their job to actually help us solve the problem... just their job to tell us exactly, and only, what they were and were not allowed to do for us. And that is what really, really bugs me. No one anticipates that the person they are "helping" might not be as conversant with the details of their job as they are.  Still, Hubby has the new medication now, so that's good. Yah.

In the meantime, a few days before my much anticipated trip to Toronto, my vertigo, which I battled a number of years ago, came back with force. My head pounded, and I was dizzy, staggering about, feeling bobble-headed, as my sister describes it, as if I'm balancing a huge, lead-filled balloon on top of my neck. I saw our doctor; Hubby had to drive me. I'm fine. And the dizziness abated mostly, in a day or two, except for one bout at the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit caused by all the visual stimuli and the repeated head turning. So the dizziness is mostly gone, but the accompanying headache still lingers. Sinus issues, we assume. Allergies and pollen-filled breezes the problem, I'm sure. But it's making me cranky, and more impatient than usual. And at times a bit shouty, even, and then teary. Sigh. Poor Hubby.

Then the night before I left for Toronto, I received an enormous, and surprising, phone bill for the time period covering my visit to New Brunswick. I won't bore you with the detail, but I will say that after we purchased our new i-phone a few months ago, I spoke to three separate people making sure I knew exactly what my plan covered, and what it didn't. We are newbie i-phone users, and we didn't want to be caught unawares by a huge bill when we were in South America. Sigh. It seems I didn't ask any of the three people I spoke to at Rogers the right questions, or ask them to define their terms. Until the other night, when a lovely young man at the Rogers help line got an earful. As I said, I've been a bit shouty. I'm happy to say that he did feel it was his job to fill me in thoroughly and try to get some of the huge bill reimbursed. And he added long-distance coverage to my plan at no extra cost. So thanks for that, Jesse. 

Then Tuesday I received the call that my PC was back from repair. I was so relieved, and drove to pick it up right away. It would be just like a new computer, I was told. Back home, I plugged it in, connected all the stuff that needed connecting, and turned it on. And sat there. Mystified. WTF. And then, instead of doing what I would normally have done, fiddling around, trying to figure things out, patiently downloading and searching out desk-top short-cuts for all the programs that were no longer there... I just picked up the phone. Then I picked up the computer and marched it back to Best Buy. "Please restore everything the way it was when I brought it in," I said. "Yes, I know now that this is what you meant when you said it would look like a new computer. I understand you didn't know what programs I had on it once it had been wiped. Yes, I see that. But this is not what my computer looked like when I first brought it home after I bought it. And that is what I need it to look like. I don't have the time or the patience to fiddle around to install everything. Here is a list of what I need. Yes. Tomorrow will be fine." I'm pleased to say that I was not shouty. Maybe a bit shirty... but not shouty. 

I'm also pleased to say that I wasn't shouty with the restaurant where a friend and I hosted a retirement dinner last night for another friend. Where I made a reservation weeks ago for their private room, and was asked to call back a few days before the party with exact numbers. And when I called to tell them we would be twenty-four people was told (for the first time, I might add) that they could not accommodate more than twenty. And then was forced to listen to the owner whinge that large groups are so troublesome this time of year. "You have to understand our position," she said. Well, actually, I don't. But I listened because I'd never find a place three days before the party, and I really, really wanted her to squeeze us in wherever she could. 

So you see, what with things not working out as planned, and things just plain not working, and what with incorrect information, or insufficient information, or just plain old obstreperousness from the people who are supposed to be helping... not to mention feeling a little unwell... I've been in a bit of a funk. As I said. 

And it sort of culminated in a rather fraught moment the other day. I was on my exercise bike and Hubby came down to the basement and said, "Suz. What do you think we should do about dinner?" And I replied... or barked actually... "I DON"T KNOW... OKAY?" And then he said, "Are you going to cry?" And I said, "Yes." And then I did. Sigh. Poor Hubby. 

I think that somewhere in all of this I had reached the limit of my problem solving ability. And problem solving is usually my forté. I was reminded of my friend Julie with whom I taught for years. When we were having a stressful week, she'd always say: "This is one of those weeks when we're going to have to dig deep." I had dug deeply and reached the bottom of the pit, I guess. I was also reminded of an interview I heard on CBC radio a while ago. About the idea that we all have a limited amount of decision making ability. And sometimes during a very busy, very decision-y day, we use all that ability up. And that's why people make poor decisions at the end of a stressful day. Decision fatigue. It's a thing. You can read a very interesting article in the New York Times on that here

But, you know, all this problem-solving, decison-making is just day to day living in our modern world. I get that. Our very privileged first-world world. Where we filter through multiple layers of "please hold" and "press 8 for whatever" before we reach a person who is unable or unwilling to help us. Where we have to know all about what we are trying to get help with before we can get the right help. Where it seems we had better be armed with lots of information, and researched detail before we do most anything. And where it seems so rare to find someone who feels their job is to put themselves out for others. To really help. 

That part bothers me most.  

woman in jeans, tank and cardigan, pointing finger assertively
"Now you listen to me, young man."

The shot above was taken just before I left to march my computer back to Best Buy. Almost make-up-less, and loaded for bear. So to speak. Not willing to take you-know-what off anybody, nor to put up with any "you have to understand our position" bull. The poor young man who served me was really nice and helpful after all. 

Ha. Did he dare be otherwise? 

So what's got you in a funk these days, my friends? Do you ever feel unaccountably low on problem-solving, decision-making resources? Having to dig deep just to get through the week? Please tell me it's not just me.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Crazy for Georgia O'Keeffe

I may not know much about art or artists, but I know that I'm crazy for Georgia O'Keeffe. Especially since my friend Elizabeth and I just returned from a two day mini-vacation in Toronto where we took in the Georgia O'Keeffe retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario. 

Posters for the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario 
Posters for the AGO Georgia O'Keeffe show were plastered all over downtown Toronto.

O'Keeffe was an amazing artist. A leader of the American Modernism movement, and an iconic figure in the art world. Her life is an inspiration to anyone trying to live and work on their own terms. Which is most of us, I think. Whether we succeed or not is, of course, another matter. 

Georgia O'Keeffe photographed by Alfred Stieglitz in 1927 
Georgia O'Keeffe photo by Alfred Stieglitz 1927

I adore her work. I know that she is most famous for her flower paintings. But I prefer her vivid landscapes, views of her adopted home in the American south west. Born in Wisconsin, she lived for many years in New York City, summering at Lake George in northern New York, with her husband photographer Alfred Stieglitz. But O'Keeffe said that beautiful as it was around Lake George, she found the rampant greenness smothering. And when she first saw the barren, arid landscape of New Mexico she felt as if she had come home. This painting below reminds me of our jaw-droppingly beautiful drive in March, along the backroads of northern Argentina. Similar colours, same starkness. 

"Out Back of Marie's" 1930, by Georgia O'Keeffe 
Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico: "Out Back of Marie's II", 1930

Still, as much as I love those stark landscapes, the paintings she made of New York City are my most favourite. I adore the black, grey, and blue on black in the painting, below, of the Radiator Building at night. The clean lines. The Art Deco sensibility. So wonderful. Most of her New York City paintings capture views from her apartment on the 30th floor of the Shelton Hotel where she and Stieglitz lived for many years. You can see several of her New York skyscraper paintings on this website. I was interested to read at the AGO exhibit that she was heavily influenced by photography, by the work of her husband and other photographer friends like Ansel Adams. The exhibit also includes works by Stieglitz and Ansel Adams. 

"Radiator Building-Night" 1927, by Georgia O'Keeffe
Radiator Building- Night, New York, 1927

Stieglitz was an amazing photographer. And he spent a lot of time photographing his wife. Like this shot of her below taken in 1929. The AGO exhibit features fascinating information about O'Keeffe's life, her marriage, and her artistic influences. Including many famous shots of her taken by Stieglitz. That's what makes an exhibit great, for me, not just the art itself, but also the narrative of the artist's life, and the analysis of their works and influences. I admire Georgia O'Keeffe's work, but after Thursday, I'm intrigued by her as a person. 

Georgia O'Keeke photographed by Alfred Stieglitz 1929 
Georgia O'Keeffe photographed by Alfred Stieglitz in 1929

I'm intrigued by O'Keeffe's life. And also by her style. She was frequently photographed, by her husband, by Ansel Adams, Cecil Beaton, and every major photographer of the day during her very long life. She was wonderfully photogenic. And seemed so comfortable in front of the camera. Staring, serious-eyed, off into the distance, or straight at the camera. Calm. Contemplative. Insouciant, even. And then there was her style. That pared back aesthetic. Minimalist, austere, or as one article called it "monastic." Eschewing decoration. Severe suits. Flat shoes. Long skirts with wide heavy belts. Then there were the hats, skull-caps, and scarves. 

I think it's interesting that a few days before we left for Toronto, I saw an article in W Magazine, calling Georgia O'Keeffe the "Original American Super Model." Okay. MaybeBut the term super model seems too shallow. How Georgia O'Keeffe looked and how she dressed is, to me, anything but shallow. Her style seems to be an expression of her artistic values, of her stripped down to the basics sensibility, an exploration of contrast, and texture, and a distillation of the essence of herself. I'm struggling to say what I mean, here. That's because I'm not confident discussing art and artists. Now if she were a poem or a piece of literary prose I'd have no trouble waxing analytical. 

The final piece in the AGO exhibit was the photo of O'Keeffe, below, taken by Canadian photographer Yousuf Kharsh in 1956According to this article in the New York Times, written as a review of another Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit, currently at the Brooklyn Museum, O'Keeffe carefully crafted her public persona. Controlling who photographed her and how. The exhibit in Brooklyn entitled "Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern" shows "fifty works of her art, alongside fifty of her garments or ensembles," drawing parallels between her art and her wardrobe. I love the idea of doing this, examining how an artist's work is reflected in the way they present themselves to the world. It seems as if Georgia O'Keeffe was a trailblazer in many ways, not just artistically. A strong, successful woman, charting her own course, and deftly controlling her own image. Pretty impressive.  

Georgia O'Keeffe photographed by Yousuf Kharsh in 1956

Elizabeth and I didn't spend all our time in Toronto immersed in high culture. We walked and walked. The weather was beautiful. We managed to squeeze in a little vintage shopping, exploring the stores around Kensington Market. We had dinner with an old friend one night. Good food, a glass or two of wine, and lots of laughter. You know, the usual. 
Georgia O'Keeffe inspired iconic skyscraper image.

Oh... and we took a few selfies. This one made us chuckle. Especially when I pointed out that we were wearing the exact same outfits that we wore on our New York trip last fall. Hmmm. Let's reflect on that. Might this mean that we are boring and predictable? That maybe we don't have large enough wardrobes to ensure selfie variety? Or are we creating iconic Sue and Elizabeth images that reflect our artistic sensibilities and which are synonymous with our curated public persona? Ha. I know what I think, but I'm keeping it to myself. 
Sue and Elizabeth in Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto 
Elizabeth and Sue in Nathan Phillips Square

So, I learned a lot at the O'Keeffe exhibit at the AGO this week. About art, and about Georgia O'Keeffe as a person. I discovered that I'm crazy for Georgia O'Keeffe. The art, the clothes, the whole deal. 

And I admit that I may not know much about art... but I'm working on it. 

How about you folks? Are you familiar with O'Keeffe's work? Feel free to weigh in here. About O'Keeffe. About art. About selfies. Whatever. 

Linking up with:  Saturday Share over at Not Dressed as Lamb and Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner.