Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Ongoing Battle With My Authentic Hair

So here's the story. For months now I've been battling with my hair. Or to be more precise battling with myself, over my hair. Trying to back off, be a little less controlling, a little less of an annoyingly anal perfectionist. Trying to let my curl go its own way. At least some of the time. And it ain't easy. 

It ain't easy when my cut and colour are fresh. Let alone when it's been weeks and weeks since my last cut and still two more weeks to go. So that my hair is too long and heavy on top making it smush down no matter how much I fluff and scrunch. Not to mention the frizz enhancing humidity we've been experiencing. Humidity that kinks and fuzzes my bangs. And makes colossal whoop-de-dos exactly where I don't want them. 

So despite my best efforts to look like one of these ladies...

various short curly cuts that I love.
I aspire to make my hair look like any one of these cuts from my Pinterest board.

I end up looking a little like Schroeder, from the Peanuts comic strip...

Shroeder has hair just like mine

... with a quiff on top that looks very much like Tin Tin. Seriously. I'm not joking. 

My hair sometimes resembles Tin Tin's.

You see, my hair is neither one thing nor the other. Not straight, that's for sure. And not nicely curly either. Parts curl, parts don't, and the rest frizzes. This was me last week trying to wield my tools to blow out the part in front that ends up looking like Tin Tin. And scrunching, scrunching, scrunching to encourage "nice" curls in the rest. Not to mention all the squinting, sighing and swearing. 

Curly hair is a pain in the neck.
Blow drying, scrunching, squinting, and swearing
Hubby was away on a canoe trip recently and I was home alone. Just me and (what seems like) fifty acres of vegetable garden which I had to water assiduously every evening. In the heat and humidity. And every night, when I came in from the garden to shower, my curly hair looked like an increasingly bizarre free-form sculpture. Free range hair. Wilder and weirder each night. 

One evening I had "the girls" over for a barbeque. We sat on our deck for hours eating, drinking wine, chatting and laughing. And even though it was hot and humid, the breeze from the river kept us pretty cool. So now imagine, if you will, my already pretty wild hair, frizzing in the humidity, stirred by a breeze. So that when we were standing in the kitchen saying our good-byes, my friend Nancy who purports to never notice things like hair and clothes gazed at the top of my head and said,"You ARE letting your hair go curly aren't you?!" I moaned about how it was such a mess and a challenge, and they all murmured not to worry, it "looked fine." Ri-ight, I thought. And when they had driven off, and I went into the bathroom to take my make-up off, I couldn't help but gasp audibly, and then guffaw, at the wild woman who looked back at me from the mirror! The next day I e-mailed them to say, "Thanks for coming. I had a great time." And that I only noticed when they had gone my hilarious case of "humid hair." And Nancy replied, "Humid hair is authentic hair, and who doesn't want to be authentic with their friends?" Ha. Good one, Nancy. Authentic hair. 

The next day, I was off to shop the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. Authentic hair and all. And when I was sitting in her chair watching in the mirror as my buddy Katie, who manages the Laura Mercier cosmetic line, showed me how to apply a new product, I moaned some more about my hair. She stepped back, surveyed me, and said briskly. "You know, Sue. I swear, I think you have hair dysmorphia." And we both laughed.  Another good one. Hair dysmorphia. 

And you know when I look at the shots below taken for the blog over the last few weeks... I like my authentic hair... when it's short enough to control. And even the wild whoop-de-doos when it's longer aren't terrible. Exactly. I mean I'm no Audrey Tatou. But my hair ain't that bad.

Four views of my authentic hair in various stages of growth
Some of these looks I like. And the others aren't terrible. Exactly.
So maybe Katie has a point. Maybe I can't control my negative thoughts about my hair. Maybe I don't see my hair for what it really is. Maybe I do have hair dysmorphia. 

But I must say these past few weeks, when humidity has been high. And I'm languishing in between hair appointments. Trying to last a couple of extra weeks until just before we head down east on our vacation. And my hair is too long on top. And too frizzy everywhere else. And I've got grey roots like there's no tomorrow. Well... it's enough to try the patience of even the most well adjusted person. Let alone a recovering perfectionist who suffers from hair dysmorphic disorder.

How about you folks? Are you able to just let your authentic hair be whatever it wants to be? Curly, straight, or in between? 

Note: I don't mean to make light of the very real body dysmorphic disorder. You can read about that disorder here. I taught too many teenagers over the years to think that BDD is in any way a joke. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dreaming of the Cool

Our summer heat continues apace, folks. At least here in Ottawa. So tank tops and white jeans, sandals and light dresses are still de rigueur. I don't think I've worn a light jacket, even in the evenings, for weeks and weeks. And while I'm struggling to survive the heat, I'm dreaming of the cool. Sigh. Conjuring images of autumn in my head. Partly because I'm not much of a hot weather person. But also because I've been doing my fall shopping research in time for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

On the days when it's too darned hot to cycle, or too humid and buggy to walk the trail, I'm on my exercise bike, trolling the web on my i-pad for fall clothes. Here are a few of the images that inspire me this season... well, actually, to be precise, they're inspiring me to plan for next season.

Like this polished look from Berlin designer Marina Hoermanseder. It's from her Spring 2016 line... but I'd love a softly draped pair of pants like these for fall.

pants and top by Marina Hoermanseder, Berlin spring 2016
My friend Liz says that burgundy is big again this year. I love this coat from the Marina Hoermanseder fall line. You can see her entire fall "Look Book" here, if you're so inclined. I love lots of her pieces... just not sure about the pink plastic breastplate in some of the shots. Might be a titch hot. See what you think.

coat by Marina Hoermanseder, Berlin Fall 2016
I'm finding lots of camel in my virtual travels. And black with camel. I love this timeless look below. I can't tell if the model is wearing a skirt or culottes. But who cares, really. This outfit is polished enough for work, if you have to go to work. And yet casual enough for my non-working life. I'm keeping my eye out for soft, loose sweaters like this camel one. Sweaters that are loose enough to wear on their own (aka not too clingy or form-fitting) and yet light enough to slide under a blazer. 

outfit from on Pinterest
And I love this gorgeous Thornton Bregazzi suit below with the silky Alexander McQueen tie blouse from the Matches Fashion website. The model is Los Angeles based blogger and stylist Jayne Min. Matches Fashion featured her in a story for their "Influencers Edit" series where Min picks her favourite pieces for fall. Honestly, I now rely more on sites like this to inspire me than I do hard copy magazines.

Suit Thornton Bregazzi, blouse Alexander McQueen
These casual coats look great with sweaters and jeans. I may be on the look out for a new coat this year. Navy or grey...or tweed. These are lovely. And I will need some new basics. So in addition to light sweaters, I'm looking for white tees and a white shirt. And I'd love to find a pair of cropped pants that aren't jeans. 

Two looks from on Tumblr
So earlier this week, suitably inspired, having inventoried my closet, researched and made a general kind of list, I headed off to visit with Liz at Nordstrom. We were "shopping Anniversary" as she said. Looking exclusively at the items that were marked down for the Anniversary Sale to see what might fit with my "needs list." Or what might strike my fancy.This was not necessarily my fall shop. Here were some of the contenders. 

A few pieces I tried at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

 I have to tell you that the pieces from the various lines chosen to be featured in the sale did not hold much appeal for me this year. I was disappointed; last year there were so many wonderful choices. Many of the items listed as part of the Anniversary Sale on the website were not available in Canadian stores. Or at least not available in the Ottawa store. Pooh. What's up with that, do you think? 

Still, I didn't come home entirely empty-handed. I bought a lovely tote bag. And a couple of other things which were sadly not on sale. And which I stashed in my closet right away. They'll be "seasoning" there for a few weeks before they make an appearance on the blog. 

And... News Flash... I discovered a new designer whose line Nordstrom in Ottawa has recently started carrying. Veronica Beard. Have you heard of her? Liz and I both really like her clothes. I checked out the brand website when I came home, and the designer is not a "her" but a "them." Two Veronicas, sisters-in-law. In their own words, they are trying to "strike a balance between classic and cool." Designing "iconic staples" which are "effortless and chic." Ok-ay. They are definitely speaking my language. And more important than the descriptors, I found the jackets well tailored, long enough in the sleeves, and comfortable. And the pants. Well... the pants fit me like a glove. Except... they're pants. Ha.  Here are two looks from the Veronica Beard website that I love. 

Veronica Beard Fall 2016
So I'll be adding Veronica Beard to my short list of go-to designers. Those brands that fit my style and my lifestyle. And my body.... let's not forget that little deal breaker. Because there's nothing worse than loving a pair of pants or a jacket when they don't love you back. Unrequited fashion love. I've known a lot of that in my time. And I suspect you have too. 

All of the looks in this post can be found on my Pinterest fall fashion board which you can check out here if you're interested. I'd show you the things I bought, but like I said, they're seasoning in my closet. Waiting until it's a bit closer to fall. When it's not sooo hot. 

Me and Ella... we both think it's too darned hot. 

Right now, as I wrap up this post, I'm sipping a glass of cold white wine and waiting for Hubby to bring supper in from the barbeque. Blogging can be hot work, people. 

I'm going to try to put fall shopping out of my mind now for at least a month. Maybe. What are you up to? Not fall shopping, I imagine.

            Linking up this week with these great blogs: Visible Monday at 
Not Dead Yet Style, #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, and Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, Style Me Wednesday at Shopping My Closet.

Monday, July 25, 2016

It's Summer... Are You Bored Yet?

I could be wrong, but I can remember only once in my childhood, saying, "Mu-um, I'm bored." My mother's solution, while I can't remember it exactly, had something to do with tasks that did not appeal. At all. Like cleaning my room. So I found something fun to do on my own. Problem solved. And more importantly, lesson learned.

vintage photo of bored child
Writing a post last week about boredom with my summer wardrobe started me thinking about those long, hot summers as a kid. And how we mostly relied on our own initiative to amuse ourselves. And how the possibilities of what we might do to amuse ourselves were constrained mostly by our own imaginations. And only occasionally by the fact that some things "weren't allowed." Which ...actually... to be honest... didn't always stop us. Sorry Mum.

And that started me thinking about the stuff we got up to. Building "camps" in the woods, riding our bikes, acting out stories that involved whatever favourite television show we were watching that year. Bonanza was big for a while. I distinctly remember trotting around the yard making clicking sounds with my tongue to imitate horses hooves, and pulling up on invisible reins, to toss imaginary lassos around cattle... or bad guys. Riding and wrangling was supplanted only by our craze for being spies like in Get Smart. I always wanted to play Agent 99. I recall using a hand mirror from my homemade "spy kit" to see around the corners of buildings, checking for enemy agents. Then there was always reading. Or drawing. And planning parades. This was my brilliant idea. That's because my older sister had a twirling baton, and if we had a parade I'd be majorette. I remember we assembled all of our doll carriages, dolls dressed to the nines, ourselves in whatever fancy hats and gloves we could scrounge and we marched up and down the road in a line with me and my baton leading. Gad. I must have been bossy back then. 

You see, it was usually me who organized the six or seven kids around my age in our small neighbourhood. When I was a bit older, I made lists of possible activities. I loved list-making even back then. This morning I dug around in a pile of old sketch pads and school notebooks that I carted home when my mum closed up the farmhouse, and I found this list of potential summer activities from 1968, written on the back of a page in my grade six English notebook.

My list of possible activities to keep us kids entertained circa 1968

Please note that # 6 was "not allowed." That was because Mill Brook had a cement dam across it with a deep mill pond built for the old sawmill that had long since been torn down. But for us there were tadpoles to be caught in the pools below the dam, and thrills to be had when we dared to walk across the narrow top where the water gushed through the old sluiceways. Looks like #20 was a winner, though. Now, why doesn't that surprise me? Seems I was obsessed with fashion even back then... whether for myself or for my Barbies. 

It wasn't that we were left on our own all summer. I remember going swimming with my older sisters sometimes. Or after supper baseball games when the adults would come out and play with us. My mum could run bases like anything. And when I was around eight I remember hosting a pyjama party, or my idea of a pyjama party. I invited all the neighbourhood kids to come to my house after supper in their pyjamas. Mum made us popcorn and my sister Connie lit a candle and told us ghost stories. Then everyone went home, no doubt dashing through the summer dusk shrieking, pursued by "bloody boots" or some other specter conjured up by my sister. 

Our summers weren't totally unsupervised. There were always adults around somewhere. It's just that they didn't always figure into our plans, or decide for us what we did. And if we were bored, well, we always came up with something to do. Or made a list. And it turns out that we probably learned pretty useful skills running a bit wild, left to our devices during those long summer days. Being bored. And then finding a way to amuse ourselves. 

In an article in Quartz magazine, Olivia Goldhill quotes psychologists and child development experts who believe that children need to experience boredom. London based child psychologist Lyn Fry says that children who learn how to be bored also "learn to motivate themselves to get things done. Being bored is a way to make children self-reliant." Fry says parents shouldn't try to fill up "all their child's spare time" with structured activities because then kids "never learn to do this for themselves." You can read Goldhill's article for yourself here.

And according to Jessica Lahey's article Why Free Play Is the Best Summer School in The Atlantic, psychologists believe that "free play," or unstructured activity, helps children to learn to "make their own decisions, solve their own problems," and develop something called "self directed executive function." The article defines this as the "ability to generate personal goals, and determine how to achieve them on a practical level." So, kids who participate in more unstructured activities gain a greater ability to "self-regulate," and develop more independence than kids who participate in structured, adult-run activities. 

I do recognize that times have changed, and in most neighborhoods, letting kids have as much freedom as we had back in the sixties is probably not realistic. Or safe. Still there is something to be learned here, isn't there? That maybe all those planned, scheduled, structured, organized, educational summer camps and activities might just be a teensy bit... too much of a good thing? 

Anyhoo, I'm glad that Mum didn't solve my boredom problem for me way back when. That was a good lesson for me to learn. And probably the genesis of my list-making ability. 

When I was researching this post I couldn't get this scene from the new Sherlock out of my head. The one where Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock is soooo bored! Now there's a boy who needs to learn how to deal with boredom. Appropriately. Or he should get sent to bed without any supper. Have a look.

He's the perfect Sherlock, isn't he? Every bit as good as Jeremy Brett in my opinion. But I digress. 

What's your take on summer boredom, folks?  What do you recall of those long summer days when you were a kid? Or when your kids were kids? Any thoughts?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Capitulation: How I Cured My Summer Wardrobe Fatigue

I'm weak. I admit it. I caved. 

I was so bored with my hot weather wardrobe that I shopped. I couldn't help it. Well, okay... I actually could. Help it, I mean. I chose to capitulate to my need... or my desire... to alleviate my boredom with my current wardrobe. By shopping. But... I did it only as a last resort. Let me explain. 

I wrote a post last week about how sick I was of my hot weather wear. What there is of it. I had shopped so hard for a perfect not very pricey tank top, found it, and now was desperately sick to death of it. Hoisted on my own petard, so to speak. A victim of my own success in finding the perfect tank that went with everything. But as I concluded in my post, I didn't really need to shop for any more summer clothes. Instead, I really should stop whining and wait for the weather to cool so I could wear some of the other summer things hanging in my curated closet. 

Then I read a comment about my post on Goggle Plus... apparently the reader had never heard of anyone getting bored with their summer clothes. Really? And she said it was time for me "to go shopping or get creative." Okay. 

At first I wondered if the commentor had even read my post. And then I took it as a kind of challenge. I dug around in my closet, tried numerous outfit combinations that might work in our hot humid weather. I even hauled out a couple of the things that I had tucked away during my closet cull. Things which I thought I might wear for a specific occasion. I think that boredom can count as an occasion, don't you?  But the results were not encouraging. Ick. Nope. Not wearing that... or that. The only outfit that I'd even consider wearing combined a pair of Theory dress pants with guessed it... black tank. Sigh. 

Then the next morning, I sat down to check my e-mail. Aritzia was still having their big summer sale. Hmm. Wonder if they have that black tank in any other colours at a sale price? They did. And they had really cute little summer dresses on sale too. So after hemming and hawing all day, I finally sat down and ordered.

I bought this tank top. Which is the exact same style as my black one. But with grey and black stripes. So it goes with everything that the plain black one does. As you can see below, this is the same outfit I showed on the blog a couple of weeks ago. With the new tank. And I think I like it better. And it was on sale.

Joggers and striped tee from Aritzia cardigan from Green Tree Eco Fashion, sandals Michael Kors
My new capitulation tank top. Better and cheaper than the original.
I also bought the tee shirt dress below. I was hesitant about this one. It looked way shorter on the model, but the site says that the model is 5'10" and wearing size small. And I could return it to the Aritzia store if it didn't suit. So...nothing ventured and all that. 

Dress from Aritzia, sandals Stuart Weitzman, bag Michael Kors, earrings from Magpie Jewellry, bracelets vintage
New tee shirt dress, old sandals, old bag... I mean the tote, not me.
I'm quite pleased with this little dress. It's not as wonderful as my blue Rag and Bone one. But at $40.00... I'm not complaining. It's cotton, heavy enough weight so it doesn't cling, and machine washable. Making this dress a perfect hot weather, wear it running errands, take it on vacation dress. I would have liked the indigo and white stripe, but this tan and cream gives me an excuse to wear these old Stuart Weitzman wedge sandals again. 

Dress from Aritzia, sandals Stuart Weitzman, bag Michael Kors, earrings from Magpie Jewellry, silk scarf Holt Renfrew
I kind of like this little scarf with the dress, don't you?
So, to recap. I was bored. I tried to be patient. I tried to be creative. Then, I capitulated. And as a last resort, I shopped. 

But you know, it's not like I went wild and bought a ton of things. Only two. I was very judicious. As I am wont to be when it comes to shopping. But sometimes, you know, that judiciousness can be a problem. Careful shopping, and a carefully curated closet, sometimes means that I don't have enough variety. And I get bored. And break my own rules. But seriously if one's own rules weren't meant to be broken... well... whose are? Okay. I was trying to be witty there... but does that actually make any sense? The heat must be getting to me. Humidex readings say tomorrow will feel like 43°C. Phew. And besides, I'm a bit stressed. Next week is the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and I'm not even close to being ready. 

And speaking of not making sense... kind of reminds me of when I was teaching and I'd get angry and/or stressed with a class. Especially this one very energetic, off-the-wall, rambunctious, patience-trying, but absolutely wonderful grade nine class. And I'd rant a little bit and half way through my rant about not doing homework...or whatever... I'd always lose my train of thought... because I can't think straight when I'm stressed. And then I'd laugh. And I remember one boy said..."You know Ms. Burpee, you're not very good at being mad at us." "No," I replied, "I'm not." "That's okay," he said gravely. Ha. I love that he said that. 

Now, no more procrastinating... or philosophizing as one former member of my department used to say during my meetings. Chop, chop. I'm off to inventory my fall wardrobe, do my research, and make a list of what I need and/or want for Fall 2016. In the heat of summer this will be a stretch. But next week is the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, as I said. I'm visiting my friend Liz on Tuesday and I want to be prepared. 

I may break my own rules about shopping once in a while. But... listless shopping? Perish the thought.

So what about you dear readers? How are you faring this summer wardrobe-wise? Any tactics to help the rest of us get through the summer heat? I also know that some of you have hardly had any summer yet at all. So are you wearing your summer dresses under a cardi? Pantyhose under your summer culottes? Do tell. 

Linking up this week with these great blogs: Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style, #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner, What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, and Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, Style Me Wednesday at Shopping My Closet.
And My Refined Style at The Fabulous Journey

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Remember Me When This You See... Thoughts on Alzheimer's

I think the first time I ever really contemplated the effects of Alzheimer's, I mean really thought about the effects beyond the superficial understanding that it's a disease that affects your memory and your mind, was when a girl named Melanie, a student in my creative writing class, decided to base her final project on her grandmother. Who had advanced Alzheimer's. This was back in the nineties. What a lovely girl Melanie was... and how she laboured... how we both laboured... over her project. Making sure it was a fitting tribute to her grandmother, and to her grandmother's life. I still remember reading her rough draft. Wiping my tears as I read, and raising my head to notice Melanie wiping her own tears as she watched me read.  

I recently thought about Melanie and her writing project which taught me that Alzheimer's is about so much more than memory loss. I was reading Emma Healey's wonderful debut novel Elizabeth Is Missing. Healey's main character, Maud, is over eighty, and suffering from Alzheimer's disease, we assume. Whether Maud has Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia is never spelled out for the reader. But it doesn't matter, really. We learn quickly that Maud, wry humoured and obviously intelligent, has trouble remembering. The shelf in the hallway is lined with half finished cups of tea that she has made, put down, and forgotten. Her pockets are stuffed with notes she writes to herself. Reminders to not buy any more canned peaches. To wait until noon to eat the lunch prepared for her by the visiting "carer" Carla. And a note that wonders if her friend Elizabeth is missing. 

Emma Healey's Elizabeth Is Missing

And that is the main thrust of the plot. Maud's belief that her friend Elizabeth is missing because she doesn't answer her phone, and when Maud finally goes to Elizabeth's house, she isn't there. So where is she? And as Maud struggles with the loss of her friend and with, well, everything really... all the confusion, and fear and exasperation of her day to day life... she also ponders a much older mystery. Where did her sister Sukey go when she disappeared over forty years ago? Healey weaves these two plots together, jumping back and forth between Maud's present and her past in the aftermath of World War II when her sister simply disappeared.  

The book is not perfect. Maud is by virtue of her failing memory an unreliable narrator. In her review in The Guardian Viv Groskop notes that Healey's plot device eventually becomes "frustrating rather than thrilling." A sentiment I would agree with. But she also calls Healey's book an "impressive debut," comparing her work to the mysteries of Kate Atkinson in being "not quite crime, not quite literary fiction." Comparing any writer to Kate Atkinson is high praise in my book. And frustrating as the plot becomes at times, Healey brings both mysteries to a satisfying and inextricably linked conclusion. I mean, of course they're linked. This is fiction after all. 

Elizabeth Is Missing author Emma Healey
Elizabeth Is Missing author Emma Healey    source
But plot aside, I think it's Emma Healey's ability to bring Maud to life so convincingly for the reader that is the book's strongest attribute. The novel is told in the first person, so we see what Maud sees, feel what she feels. Her fear, her confusion, her determination to not be identified just by her disease. Although Healey doesn't really deal with the other aspects of Alzheimer's and dementia. And only peripherally with the burden of care for Maud that falls on her daughter, she still helps the reader to develop a deep empathy for Maud. How someone as young as Healey (she was not yet thirty when she wrote the book) can get into the head of an elderly woman suffering from dementia is amazing. And wonderful. 

And timely in a world where the number of cases of Alzheimer's disease is growing daily. Timely given the fact that most of us will be affected by the disease in one way or other. Sooner or later. Whether we're caring for aging parents, partners, or battling the disease ourselves. According to The Alzheimer Society of Canada 747,000 Canadians were suffering from the disease in 2011. And the numbers are growing as our society ages. The Alzheimer Society website is a great resource in explaining the difference between Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Apparently dementia can be caused by numerous conditions, of which Alzheimer's disease is only one. The website also outlines the symptoms of Alzheimer's, explains the stages of the disease, and what one might expect if you, or a loved one, are diagnosed. Needless to say, it's not a fun read. There are also good links to resources for family members and those who will eventually shoulder most of the burden of caring for those with Alzheimer's.

The video below is just one of many on an amazing site I found called Living With Alzeimer's Film Project. Films submitted to this project attempt to tell the story of those who are affected by the disease. In one film the narrator, Anna, says that she suffers from Alzheimer's, that she wants to tell her story not to educate or inform, not to talk about prevention or cures, but just to show that once she was "beautiful, and intelligent," that she's a "real person who mattered," that she "still matters." 

Have a look at this one. It's only six minutes long. Not too much time to invest to learn about this woman named Joy.

Joy from Objekt Films on Vimeo.

Now back to Emma Healey's book Elizabeth Is Missing which made me think of my former student, Melanie. And how both of these young writers managed to make their readers feel such empathy for people affected by Alzheimer's. But, you know, reading this book also made me think of the two friends who I've recently learned have been diagnosed with the disease. And of a close family member. 

My sister's husband underwent heart surgery last winter. As a result of his extreme reaction to the surgical anesthetic, he was tested for and ultimately diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. And I think about him... and about my sister... a lot. Especially about my sister. 

Okay. Enough. As my mum always says when we talk about the past or about difficult subjects... enough of that, now.

How're you doing this week? Read any good books lately? 

Linking up with Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Midsummer Wardrobe Fatigue

The middle of July in Ottawa is the heart of the summer. Midsummer, you might say. And everything in our garden is blooming like nobody's business. We've had really hot weather, and then finally a lovely soaking rain over the weekend. I'm sure the tomato plants in Hubby's vegetable garden have grown a foot in the last few days. And we've been feasting on the fruits of his labours: fresh lettuce, kale, chard, beets, and peas. 

Our garden... hydrangea and lily beds.
Our hydrangea and lily beds are burgeoning.
But while the garden is profusely fruiting and flowering, my enthusiasm for my summer wardrobe is waning somewhat. You might even say it's wilting in the heat and humidity. Kind of like my hair. I am so tired of everything I own. And so very sick of wearing black tank tops. I'm a victim of my own culling and curating, kind of. 

I've been wearing my new black Aritzia tank that I searched so hard for with my shorts, or with my jeans, to run errands, or go to the library or to the dentist. And when I go out, I've been wearing my good Rag and Bone black, gauzy layered tank from last year. Like the other night, Hubby and I went out for a casual dinner on our 27th anniversary, and I wore my  Rag and Bone tank with these crepe joggers and my flat black sandals.

Rag and Bone tank, Aritzia joggers, Michael Kors sandals, Michael Kors bag
Love my good Rag and Bone tank ... but it's still a black tank.
And when I had lunch with Rosie, who reads this blog and was in town earlier in the week, I wore the Rag and Bone tank with my white jeans. And... yep... my flat, black sandals. I changed up my MK bag for my black and cream Kate Spade.   

Rag and Bone tank, NYDJ cropped jeans, Michael Kors sandals     Rag and Bone tank, NYDJ cropped jeans, Michael Kors sandals, Kate Spade bag

Now, it's not that I don't like either of these outfits. I do. And while the black and white is the exact same outfit I wore last summer, the tank with the joggers is a new combination which I really like. 

So, what's the problem, then? 

Good question. Maybe it's just the heat. I'm not truly sick of everything I own. It's just that I haven't been able to wear most of it lately. It's been too hot for anything but a sleeveless top. And I don't own many of those. And two of them are black. It's been so hot that I haven't even worn my new Rag and Bone dress lately, because I don't want to spoil it with perspiration stains. Maybe what I need is the dress version of my black Aritzia tank, which I bought to wear for everyday and thus avoid ruining my good Rag and Bone tank. Maybe I need a light inexpensive summer dress that I could wear to run around town, worry free. Or maybe I need another tank top in a different colour. Or maybe I need another pair of flat sandals. Sigh.

Rag and Bone dress, Munro sandals, vintage bracelet
Not sick of  this Rag and Bone dress. Just never get to wear it.
Maybe I just need to stop worrying (and whining) so much. I don't really need another dress. Or another tank. Although a new pair of flat sandals in a colour wouldn't go amiss. But mainly, I just need to chill. 

July is supposed to be about slouching around in shorts, and a tank top, and flip flops, isn't it? And about berry picking. And bike riding. And sitting on the deck with a glass of wine and a good book.

 berry picking in July
Berry picking at Miller's Farm near our house
In another two weeks the temperature will have cooled off enough that I can wear all the other perfectly lovely outfits in my closet, that I can't wear at the moment. I'll wear my Rag and Bone dress again. And my Citizens of Humanity jeans with my blue Tory Burch tunic. Or that new long-sleeved Equipment blouse with the daisy pattern that I bought last spring. I'll wear my flared Current Elliott jeans again. And my sneakers, or loafers. And my khaki suede Twiggy jacket. Oh, I long to be able to wear my Twiggy jacket again. And boots. I miss my boots. And then it will be fall and I'll wear my tweed blazers. And soon enough it will snow. And then before long I'll be whining and wishing it were spring. 

Some people are just so hard to please.

But right now, I think I'll work on that chill thing. Literally. I'm going to grab my book, pour myself another cup of iced tea, and adjourn to my air-conditioned sun room (it being toooo hot to sit outside today.) I am in the middle of a fabulous novel that I can't wait to get back to... but I'll tell you all about that soon.  

In the meantime, how about you, folks? Has midsummer wardrobe fatigue set in for you yet? 

Linking up this week with these great blogs: Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style, #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner, What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Casual Friday at Two Thirty Five Designs

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Finding My Fitness Groove. Without Yoga

Let's get something straight right off the bat. I hate yoga. When I retired and had more free time, I decided I would get back in the fitness groove. I'd always been active, and worked out regularly, but now was my chance to really ramp things up. And I intended my new regimen to include yoga. 

Everyone, but everyone, told me I would love it. That as an active person who has always had issues with flexibility, it would be perfect for me. Just what I needed. That's what I thought too. Everyone loves yoga... and so would I. It would add to my fitness routine, be fun, and help me become more flexible. 

Cycling near the Rideau River, Ontario
Cycling along the Rideau.
Well... as it turned out... not so much. 

Over that first winter, I tried numerous classes at two yoga studios with at least three different teachers. The first class was a disaster. Before we started I explained to the teacher, who seemed like a lovely person, about my rank beginner status (I emphasized rank... as in zero knowledge... I will admit I knew what to wear... but that was all.) I told her of my ongoing upper back issues and explained that I was in physiotherapy for a shoulder problem. And despite all this and the fact that it was a beginner class with only five students, the teacher pattered away, narrating what we were supposed to do, never moving from her place to assist me when I clearly didn't know which arm or leg went where. 

I found it almost impossible to mimic her movements because she was facing us, and thus presenting a mirror image of what I should look like. Not to mention the fact that I couldn't see her half the time because my head was down and my arse pointed at the ceiling. Pardon the almost profanity... but I was frustrated. I didn't know how to modify poses to accommodate my back and shoulder problems. Shouldn't she have been mentioning that instead of just reading her script? And I couldn't tell if I was doing the poses correctly because I have really poor body awareness. Just ask Hubby. When I finally plunked down on the mat and just sat watching, she tossed me some weirdly shaped foam thingies, said "these might help," and returned to her script. Thanks, but what the heck was I supposed to do with these? I just looked at them until one of the other students whispered what they were for. Sigh. So, first class... not a success? Ha. You think?

After the class the teacher recommended that maybe I should get a video and learn the poses. Maybe that had been the problem. Really? Not the fact that in a beginner class it seemed we were supposed to know everything already? Sigh. Afterward I was assured by many friends that she was NOT a good yoga teacher. It wouldn't always be like that. 

a sun dappled trail near Kemptville, Ontario
Sum dappled trail near Kemptville.
So I pressed on. I did get a "Yoga for Beginners" DVD from the library. I learned some of the poses. And I persisted with classes. I visited a different yoga studio near my house, and talked to the two owners about which classes might be best for me. They had differing opinions. I tried both of their suggestions. And signed up for a few more classes. I was more vocal this time. I asked the instructor questions when I didn't understand what she was telling me to do... like when she said something about making my hips "one" with something or other..."Do you mean I should tilt my pelvis?" I asked. "Yes. That's a good way to put it," she replied. So, I tilted. Then she instructed us to pose in a manner that contradicted my physiotherapist's recommendations. It was the exact position my physio had warned me could exacerbate back problems. Okay. I'm definitely NOT doing that, I thought. I sat on the mat. And she tossed me the foam thingies. Cripes, not again. This time I spoke up..."I don't know what I'm supposed to do with these." At least she stopped her narration and came over to show me. That was good. Better than the first class. 

But the lying on the mat breathing and stuff at the end of the class just annoyed me. Don't get me wrong. I've tried meditation. A few years ago during a very stressful time, I tried breathing exercises and meditation and they really helped. But on that day in the yoga studio I just lay there feeling silly, looking at the cracks in the ceiling. Maybe I'm just not a deep breathing in public kind of person, I thought. Maybe I'm just not a yoga kind of person, I admitted. 

hiking near Ispagnac, Languedoc, France
Hiking in the Languedoc in France
A few classes later, I had a good rant and then a good laugh with my nephew's wife, Ange, who was also, at the time, my physiotherapist. "How can I be the only person alive who hates yoga?" I spouted one afternoon. She laughed.  Ange really knows her stuff. She has a kinesiology degree as well as a post-grad physiotherapy degree. And she's really good at what she does, as well as being one of my favourite people. And we came to the conclusion after many discussions about yoga, that it wasn't for me. 

It's not good for my body and its limitations. Not good for specific injuries I've sustained. When I tried to replicate one yoga pose that I thought might be problematic for me... ouch... yep... that's the pain I was talking about. So, yoga may have contributed to my hip and back problems, and instead of helping me, we think it may have hurt me. And finally, this is an important one... maybe yoga is not good for me temperamentally. Maybe I can't be a yoga person. I'm too impatient. Too critical of the instructor. And I'm almost ashamed to admit this one... too competitive... the "if she can do that stupid move, surely I should be able to do it" kind of thing. I'm too likely to hurt myself by trying to do things my body doesn't want to do. For good reason.

MacAfee Knob in Roanoke, Virginia
Hiking up to McAfee Knob, Virginia
Still, I somehow felt as if I had failed. Millions of very chill, yoga pant clad,  rolled-up mat carrying people couldn't possibly be wrong, right? But recently I've discovered that even some yoga aficionados are now saying that yoga can hurt us. Have a look at this article by William J. Broad for The New York Times. According to the experts Boyd spoke to, yoga has many virtues but it can also harm us. And has harmed people. Even longtime yoga practitioners. Seems that sometimes the damage takes years to accrue. Hmm. Maybe it's not just me.

Before you say it, I recognize that any sport or physical activity can potentially harm us. Knowing how to do whatever you do is very important. Proper posture, correct form, alignment. Bending your knees, watching your position, avoiding over training etc etc. I've not lived with a jock/phys. ed. teacher for all these years and not learned that. You see this is where my lack of body awareness can hurt me. I can't tell half the time if I'm doing something correctly. I usually need Hubby to watch and tell me if I'm doing what I think I'm doing, so it takes me a while to develop a particular skill. Skiing down hill and cross-country, paddling, working with weights, I've struggled to make sure I do them all properly, so I don't get hurt. That's why I really needed the yoga instructor to tell me if I was doing things correctly. Or not. 

And finally, I've come to the conclusion that I'm just not willing to put in the time learning something new if I'm not having fun. And I guess that is part of the problem with yoga. Quite frankly, I find it boring. 

I know, I know, that's so shallow. 

Rideau Valley Conversation Authority trail along the Jock River, Manotick, Ontario
Walking with my buddies Marina and Margaret. 
I realize that many, many of you practice yoga and love it. And I don't mean to offend you by hating it. But it's not for everyone. And I don't think we should assume it is. Our bodies are all different, after all. Not to mention our temperaments.

So, I guess I'm going to stick to cycling and walking, and paddling in the summer, and skiing and pedaling my exercise bike in the winter. I'll throw in a weekly weight work-out, or two. And do my daily stretches recommended by my physiotherapist. And I won't be lying on the yoga mat, feeling silly, deep breathing, and looking at the cracks in the ceiling. I'll be chatting with my friends. Debating who's going to win this year's Tour de France with Hubby. Or listening to a great mystery on my i-pod. 

So I guess finding my fitness groove won't include yoga, after all. I still have the outfit, though. A lovely pair of black yoga pants and a pretty pink top. 

But... I can wear always them hiking, can't I?

What about you, dear readers? How's your fitness groove coming along? What's your plan for staying healthy and active?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Fashion Math... Summer School

Fractions. Do they still teach fractions in math, I wonder? Fractions, proportion, percentages. I remember, when I was in school, kids rolling their eyes, or blurting out in frustration... "When am I ever going to use this?" 

Ah... like... all the time, kid. It's amazing how many times I use the skill of manipulating fractions or playing with percentages in real life. And I don't mean manipulating fractions like when Hubby decides that he's going to double or triple a recipe for chili, and he needs to know how many 1/2 tablespoons of whatever. I'm talking fashion. 

Fashion Math. And it's been a long time since math class for most of us, so we need a summer school refresher course. On fractions and proportion. Don't you think?

Now, I don't mean proportion in the sense of choosing a short, slim jacket over wide leg pants, or a long, loose top over skinny jeans. Although I would probably wear those combinations. In fact, do wear those combinations. I'm not talking about the changing proportions in fashion either, all those huge pooling pants, or hilariously long sleeves. Let's not go down that road again. Been there, wrote the post. I mean proportion in the sense of achieving balance between the feminine elements of an outfit and the masculine, between the edgy and the classic. 

looks from and from Bloglovin'
Original sources on my Pinterest board.
Like these two looks above. A casual yet classic sweater, with masculine pants, albeit rolled into edgy cuffs, and casual cool sneakers. I love this look. 1/2 classic and slightly serious, 1/2 casual sporty. Or the gorgeous, feminine full skirt on the right, with that primly buttoned blouse, sleeves rolled up in a very masculine fashion, and anchored by those sneakers. This look inspired me to try my full skirt with my Stan Smith Adidas. Minus the pom-pom on the purse. This one is 2/3 lady-like and 1/3 edgy casual. And 2/3 +1/3 = 3/3 = 1 very pulled together outfit. Are you still with me, class? 

Or the outfit below. Toughening up and dressing down a feminine dress and strappy sandals, on the left, with a leather biker jacket. Or dressing up distressed jeans and a sloppy sweater with a sheer lacy underpinning and very feminine pointy-toed pumps. I would have worn this back in the day. I used to love wearing high heels with my jeans.... back when I wore high heels. I mean high heels. But even though I might not wear stilettos anymore, the idea is transferable. The idea of balancing the percentage of masculine with feminine, or dressy with casual. Fashion fractions, if you will. 

looks and from
Original sources on my Pinterest board
Achieving this balance is important for me. Especially now that I'm... ahem... a person of a certain age. And a retired one at that. I want to look casual, but not old-lady frumpy. And be comfortable, but not look like I've given up on style. And I want to look modern, as if I know what the trends are, but not embarrass myself by following them slavishly. 

And since I'm committed to my curated closet. To trying to update the pieces I already own. And not shop too, too much. I tried styling some of my former work skirts, this spring, so they were a bit more edgy, and a little less prissy. I've embraced the idea of sneakers with skirts, instead of pumps or sandals. Edgy is just so darned comfortable, people. And the math works out. 2/3 classic, business wear + 1/3 trendy casual = 1 happy middle-aged errand-runner who feels modern, but not like mutton dressed as lamb. 

restyling work skirts with sneakers for my more casual retirement life

And I recently tried to play with the proportion of feminine in styling my new Rag and Bone dress. I wore it to a retirement party and dinner with my new Munro sandals and my pink Cole Haan bag (seen here.) Very lady-like. Dressed it down a bit with my black flat sandals and Mackage bag. Okay. I like this. And then tried the same with my sneakers and just felt silly. I thought I was using the same proportions as in other outfits, but the numbers didn't add up. Whatever the reason, I just didn't feel good in this combo.

Rag and Bone dress, Munro sandals, Michael Kors sandals, Mackage bag, Stan Smith Adidas

Speaking of my Munro sandals, in the spirit of my curated closet ethic, I really should be wearing them more. And this sleeveless, silk Judith and Charles top with the navy panels in the sides has yet to make it out the door this season. This top can look a bit frumpy if not paired with the right bottom. I never wear it anymore with the navy capris I bought to go with it. Ickkk. But I do like it with skinny, dark denim, like these Paige high-rise jeans, and my Munro sandals. The colour of the sandals goes well with the top, and the jeans keep the shoes from looking too fussy. I'd wear this shopping or out for a casual lunch. 

Judith and Charles silk blouse, Paige skinny jeans, Munro sandals

And if the weather cools down I can add my Paige jean jacket. Double denim toughens up lady-like shoes. I might even carry my pink bag. So that would be 3 lady-like pieces + denim x 2 = uh... who the heck knows. See, I knew I needed a refresher course in math. My fashion instincts tell me the proportion of feminine to sporty casual is right. But it's just like math class; I leap to the correct answer, but don't get full marks because I can't explain how I got there. I can't "show my work." Ring any bells? Sigh. As a kid I found that frustrating. But as a former teacher who has good friends who are math teachers... whom I love and don't want to alienate... I totally understand the principle involved. Sheepish grin here. 

Judith and Charles silk blouse, Paige jacket, Paige skinny jeans, Munro sandals

So that's it then, folks. No earth-shaking fashion inspiration, nothing too edgy, or terribly fashion forward. Just changing up a few old pieces with some newer ones. Looking for the balance between being sixty but not dead, and not being twenty. Gad. Not that I want to be twenty again. 

Because for me the formula for getting older but staying current and modern is a balancing act. A matter of proportion. It's not rocket science. It's just Fashion Math.... Fractions Refresher. See how useful fractions can be?

Okay that's enough enough school for now. It's summer. And despite the fact that I'm more of the Alice Cooper "School's Out for Summer" vintage... I've never been much of an Alice Cooper fan, in all honesty.  I prefer this joyous, 1980s, we're not in school, let's go wild and crazy, scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I loved that movie.

How about you folks? What formula do you use to stay current but not look like you're trying to be twenty? 


Linking up this week with these great blogs: Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style, #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner, What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, and Friday Finds at Forage Fashion and My Refined Style at The Fab Journey