Wednesday, 13 February 2019

When Winter Gets Nasty It's Time to Hunker Down

Winter has been pretty nasty around here lately, folks. Probably it's nasty where many of you are as well. Cold and icy, making walking treacherous. And then last night, a big dump of snow, very big, with high winds, and white-out conditions. Schools are closed. Roads are hazardous. It's dangerous out there, and downright depressing. 

So what am I doing about it? Nothing. Nothing at all. I waved the white flag days ago, and hunkered down in front of the fire. After all, I'm retired; I don't have to battle the snow, and the bad roads, and the traffic to get to work anymore. I'm drawing on all my resources to find the silver lining in this beastly weather. 

snow, sunshine, a frozen river in the background, and steam rising from the water.
Beautiful, yep, but very, very cold. 
I'm implementing our Canadian version of hygge. What my friend Marina tells me is called "tout douillet" in French. Devant le feu, tout douillet, avec un bon livre.  All cosy in front of the fire, with a good book. Not to mention feet up, cup of tea in hand. Ahhh. That's better. 

sidetable with three books, and a vase of flowers, and a clock on the wall behind.
What we're reading while we get tout douillet.
Hubby is recovering from surgery, and he's not able to ski. So we've been walking at a local indoor walking track, then grabbing a latte on the way home, where we hunker down again with our books. And today, we're not going anywhere. We made blueberry pancakes for breakfast, and then, you guessed it, we cosied up in front of the fire with our books. 

I just finished reading The Dry by Jane Harper. I loved it. This book was recommended by Sue N. when she read my Mystery Lovers Anonymous post. Sue said that maybe reading what she called "Australian Bush Noir" would be an antidote for what ailed us during our long, cold winter. And she was right

The novel is set in a remote farming town in the outback of Australia, and I very much enjoyed Harper's depiction of place. The main character, Aaron Falk, is a detective from Melbourne who comes home for the funeral of his childhood friend, killed along with his wife and son in an apparent double-murder-suicide. Although I was gripped by the mystery surrounding the deaths of Falk's friend and his family, I found Harper's clever plot device, a combination of flashbacks and real-time narration, somewhat contrived at times. Especially at the end. But it's a weakness easily overlooked, and does not stop me from recommending the book. Hubby is reading it now. 

Hubby and I have spent a little time in places like the setting of Harper's novel. Small towns in the Australian outback, isolated and slowly dying from the drought. We spent a week in the Murray River area, in 2003, where the river level and the overall watershed had declined drastically in recent years, and we were constantly amazed that the dry and stubble strewn fields could support any life, let alone a herd of cattle or sheep. Then in 2008, we drove from booming, cosmopolitan Perth, in western Australia, north through some very remote areas to Broome.  

man in Ozzie hat, standing outside of a roadhouse in Australia
On the road north in Western Australia, in 2008. Heading into the "bush" apparently. 
We still chuckle about the roadhouse where we made our first stop on our first day out of Perth. I asked for a latte. And the cheerful girl behind the counter just laughed and said, "No lattes around here. Yis are in the bush now."  Ha. My face still flushes over that gaffe. But I do kind of wish I had retorted, "Bush? Bush? I don't see any bush." Because the Canadian bush which is characterized by dense forest, rocks, lakes, bogs, and mosquitoes is very different from the Australian bush. Very different, indeed

After I finished The Dry, I ordered, for my Kindle, another book suggested by Sue. The Ruin, written by a young Irish-Australian writer Dervla McTiernan, is set in Galway, Ireland which Hubby and I visited a few years ago. And, coincidentally, McTiernan lives in Perth, Australia. Ha. So it would seem to be a book we were meant to read. I liked this book very much. McTiernan is a good writer. However, I think she relies a bit too much on elements of the thriller genre, and would be better served if she slowed the pace down and didn't rely so much on plot, especially towards the end. It's not a perfect book, but I really enjoyed the characters, the depiction of setting, and her style, and I will look for more by her. Hubby says to tell you he seconds my opinion. 

The last book that I've recently read in my battle against the winter blues is Peter James' Dead If You Don't. I enjoy James' Roy Grace series. I love the police procedural aspect of his books, the details of how and why a case progresses. And this one was great. I pretty much carried it with me everywhere for two days. I read it during breakfast, propped it up on the table while I ate lunch, continued after lunch in front of the fire, on the exercise bike, even while Hubby was watching hockey on television, and trying to talk to me about the game despite my baleful, shut-up-and-let-me-read looks. I was dying to finish it, and then, of course, disappointed when it was done. Not disappointed in the book, no, no, but in the fact that now I had nothing to read. Again. Sigh. 

two books lying on a white chair with a red throw.
Two of  my favourite Canadian novels.
So I scanned my book shelves in desperation. "Maybe it's time I came home from parts faraway and read some Canadian content," I thought yesterday. And I dug out two of my favourite Canadian novels. Jane Urquhart's Away, about Irish immigrants, especially the women. And Carol Shield's Swan: A Mystery. Shields is one of my very favourite writers. I thought about her the other day when someone said on IG that they were reading Shields' novel The Stone Diaries for which she won the Governor General's award and a Pulitzer. But Swann, one of her lesser known books, is my favourite. It's about a naive, country housewife, whose tiny book of poems becomes famous, and much fought over by the literary world. If you can find it and are not familiar with this gem of Shields' you must read it. I'm loving it all over again. 

Both of these books deal in part with surviving life in Canada. And thinking that a little commiseration is just what I need right now, I ordered Susanna Moodie's Roughing It in the Bush: or Forest Life in Canada from the libraryI haven't read this Canadian classic, published in the mid-1800s, since I was in university. How unprepared for life in Canada were Susanna Moodie and her gentleman-farmer husband! I'm sure reading it again will make me feel grateful for paved roads and central heating, if nothing else. 

Moodie's book has inspired numerous other Canadian writers,  including Margaret Atwood whose book of poetry The Journals of Susanna Moodie is a series of poems told in Susanna Moodie's voice. One of my favourite Canadian non-fiction writers, Charlotte Gray, wrote of Moodie as well. I loved Gray's book Sisters in the Wilderness, which tells the story of Susanna Moodie and her sister Catherine Parr Trail, who both left bucolic England to come to the backwoods of Canada in the 1800s. And as you may know, it's the title of Gray's book which gave me the idea for my blog name. 

And now, time is getting on while I've been writing, folks. I hear the distinctive sound of a snow-blower outside my window. Hubby is out in the cold watching that the young man who he's hired to clear snow for us (while Hubby is out of action) doesn't do something to himself while running the snowblower for the first time or when shovelling the four-foot high bank that the plow just left at the end of our driveway. 

And here I am all warm and cosy, inside. I do feel a bit guilty.  Sigh. 

wood and brass clock hanging on a wall.
The lovely clock given to us by an elderly neighbour.
So I guess I'd better stir myself to go make dinner. Then after dinner we'll no doubt retreat to the living room to loll by the fire with our wine and our books. As my friend Marina says, "Devant le feu, tout douillet, avec un bon livre." 

And I would add, avec un verre de vin. 

Rouge, I think. 



How about you my friends? How are you weathering (pun intended) winter? Devant le feu avec un bon livre? 




P.S. The next post I write will be on my spanking new blog. It should be up and running by Tuesday, next week. Same name, same content... totally new look. And since it will take me a while to get to know the new platform, and how to do everything, I'm going to take a few days off posting. I need to do my homework. E-mailed posts will look quite different, but you'll still get them. Hopefully. And if you have this site bookmarked you'll be redirected to the new site. Stay tuned my friends:)






Linking up with:  #ShareEverything over at Not Dressed as Lamb

Thursday, 7 February 2019

How Socks Solved My Winter Wardrobe Fatigue

I have been known on occasion to rant a little over fashion trends. And sometimes I've had to eat my words. Like the time in 2014 when I wrote that I would never, ever wear drawstring pants again. Then promptly fell in love with a pair, bought them, and had to admit that I should probably never say never. Same with jumpsuits, or boiler suits as everyone seems to be calling them now. Everyone except me. I still think of a "boiler suit" as a piece of apparel accessorized with a tool belt and a hard hat, but never mind that now.

Even though socks have become undoubtedly cool these days, wearing visible socks breaks one of my long-held fashion rules. Socks are to be seen in running shoes when I'm running, or in hiking boots on the trails, period, because visible socks with jeans or dress pants are frumpy. Since I grew out of my Mary-Janes and ankle-sock look when I was twelve, I've worn socks in boots, or with shoes if the pant fell so as to make them invisible. Otherwise it was bare ankles with cropped pants, or maybe pantyhose or opaque tights in cooler weather. I was decidedly judgy about socks. I had a rule, and I stuck to it. Until recently. 

woman in plaid pants, navy sweater and socks, and burgundy loafers sitting in a burgundy chair
In socks and loafers and a matching chair. 
Until last week, in fact, when midwinter wardrobe fatigue sent me searching for inspiration, looking for some way to revive my passion for fashion that did not involve shopping. And maybe utilize some pieces that I haven't worn enough this winter. I sat at my computer or on my exercise bike scrolling through Pinterest images, leafing through fashion magazines. And then while I was waiting for my computer to boot up the other morning, I looked up, and the answer to my problem was staring me in the face. In the very middle of my inspiration board, which is supposed to give me inspiration but which I seem to have been ignoring, were four small images of women in suits. One of them looking very sassy in socks. Huh. Socks. 

collage of fashion shots and slogans
My inspiration board had the answer all along.
And when I started casting about on the net, I noticed that some of the very coolest "grown-up" women wear socks. Like Olivia Colman, below in an exquisite navy suit, with oxfords and socks. I saw this Vanity Fair shot of Olivia on Alyson Walsh's blog That's Not My Age. I can't believe that I haven't seen her in The Favourite yet. Or Lynn Slater, the Accidental Icon in socks and jeans and sneakers. Nobody can say she isn't cool. And Canada's own style icon, Melanie Kobayashi from Bag and a Beret. Melanie is the coolest of the cool. And funny too. I love how those grey socks take the ornateness of her pants and coat down just a notch. Now, I don't have the style savoir faire of these ladies, but I do have socks. 

three women in various outfits all wearing socks with pants and shoes
Olivia Colman source, Lynn Slater source, and Melanie Kobayashi source.
So. I dug out these navy socks and pulled them on with my Uniqlo navy cashmere turtleneck, my Rag and Bone plaid pants, and my Paul Green chunky loafers. I actually bought the navy sweater as an option to wear with these plaid pants. But I've been so busy wearing it with my jeans and boots, I haven't tried them together. This outfit makes me happy. And as long as I don't have to wade snow, or slush puddles, I could wear this look right now. 

woman in plaid pants, navy sweater and socks, and burgundy loafers leaning against a wall
Happy in my socks and loafers.
It's worth noting, I think, that not all of the socks and shoes with cropped pants outfits I tried worked for me. I tried other socks; my navy striped socks with cropped jeans made me look a little like Ronald McDonald. Ha. I tried different shoes, ballet flats, for instance, and found that the look needs the chunkiness and thick soles of these loafers to look "right" to me.

woman in plaid pants, navy sweater and socks, and burgundy loafers leaning against a wall
Just enough of a remix to satiate my appetite for change. 
So, yeah, socks, it seems, are something I can do... now. With the right pants, and the right shoes, and the right socks, of course, I'm evolving. Breaking, albeit a little tentatively, my own long-held fashion rule. How cool is that? 

I don't think I'm ready for the socks with sandals trend just yet. Ha. If ever. That look still makes me chuckle, unless the socks are worn to be ironic, deliberately frumpy or slightly wrong-looking  by someone who is a lot younger, and a lot quirkier, than me. In socks and sandals, I think I'd feel kind of like Geena Davis as Miriam in The Accidental Tourist. Remember Miriam? Flying frizzy hair, socks, high heels, and flapping vintage garments? She was gorgeous in that role. 

But that's a role that's way too quirky for this former farm-girl who spent too long in the classroom to truly be a rule-breaker. 

But the socks with pants thing, well, believe it or not, I'm coming around on that one. And trying this look that I said I'd never wear has allowed me to see some of the pieces in my closet in a new way. And solved my winter wardrobe fatigue problem at the same time. 

woman in plaid pants, navy sweater and socks, fuchsia tweed coat, and burgundy loafers leaning against a wall
If the path is cleared, and I don't have to wade snow, I'll be off to the mall in this outfit. 
Now, I may just throw on my Max Mara tweed coat with this get up and head to the mall. I'm thinking that a lovely new pair of plaid socks would look great with my black Stuart Weitzman loafers, black leggings (turned up to make them ankle length), and an untucked white shirt. 

I may not be original enough, nor quirky enough when it comes to outfits, to qualify as a fashion icon. I'm too conservative for that. But I am usually game to try new things. Well, mostly game. Most of the time. Usually. Ha. 

Hedging my bets there, aren't I? 

P.S. About those boiler suits. A couple of years ago I said I'd never, ever wear jumpsuits again. And I haven't. But it's not for lack of trying. I just can't find one that fits.:) 






How about you folks? Any midwinter wardrobe blues out your way? How are you coping?










Sunday, 3 February 2019

Follow the Money... Maybe

Sometimes the uber-glitzy, sunshiney, picture-perfect, I'm-ready-for-my-close-up world on the internet makes me want to retreat to a snow-covered cabin deep in the woods. I know I've said this before, but sometimes the internet makes me crazy.

Here's why.

For a while now I've been giving a lot of thought to the future of my blog. Maybe too much thought. For the past couple of days, I have been going cross-eyed reading various explanatory articles and defensive exhortations regarding how bloggers and users of social media earn payment for their work. I've been perusing articles which outline the lists of rules and regulations regarding "disclosure," how bloggers and "influencers" (so-called) must let their readers know whether or not they are compensated for their content, by whom, and what form that compensation takes. And it has seriously put me off the business of blogging. 

Not that I intend to stop writing a blog, just that I have decided to shelve, for the moment at least, the idea that I might just possibly consider the possibility of maybe monetising. Ha. Well, as long as I'm certain, eh? 


view of a river at dawn on winter's day
 Why am I up at this hour? Too much thinking.
But let me go back. 

All this started when I decided to upgrade my blog, change the format and get some professional technical help. Ergo, for the first time, I'll be spending money on my blog. And a germ of an idea began to form that if I could get some small compensation for the blog in lieu of my outlay that would be good. I explored this idea a couple of years ago and shelved it. 

So I've been doing my research this week. I read a few interesting and informative articles on a site called Smart Blogger, including one called Affiliate Marketing for Beginners. That article appealed to me because I think affiliate links would be the only way to go for me, if I decide to monetise at all. I imagined placing links to sites where readers could buy books, for instance, which I'd read and enjoyed. And if they clicked on the link and bought a book, I'd be compensated in some way. 

I've no interest in becoming a "full-time blogger." Mostly because I retired from full-time employment over five years ago, and I don't want to disrupt my life to go back to work, so to speak. Plus the very idea of managing a blog that is intended to make money just makes me tired. And bores me stiff. As I've said before on other posts, I want to write what I want to write, and not worry about the money. 

Let me make a disclaimer here before I go on. I read (and admire) several high quality blogs which make money for their creators. I read them because of their content, and am not put off by the fact that the blogs provide an income for their creators. That's Not My Age, Une Femme d'une Certain Âge, and Not Dressed as Lamb are three examples. I know from reading Catherine Summers' posts about blogging, how much goes on in the background to allow her to make an income from Not Dressed As Lamb. Promoting a blog, obtaining sponsorship, chasing brands for the money they promised, and keeping track of that side of things is a lot of work. And if bloggers can produce high quality content, love their work, and make an income from it, then more power to them. 

Over the years, I've learned a lot from Catherine's very generous posts about blogging. Including recently a post about the new-ish disclosure guidelines for bloggers and those who use social media to promote goods and services. You can read Catherine's post here if you're interested. And you should because she clearly outlines the rules, and what she will be doing in her posts to notify her readers. Although Catherine refers in her post to the guidelines for bloggers and Instagram-ers who live in the UK, I checked, and there are very similar guidelines for Canadian and American bloggers as well. These guidelines are all about transparency and clarity, and those who are compensated for content, whether through gifted merchandise or payment, have to let their readers know that this is the case. And the disclosure has to be clear and appear early in the post, not buried in the small print at the end of a blog post, or in a long line of hashtags at the end of an IG post. And according to the guidelines mentioning the name of the brand is not transparent enough, and doesn't necessarily imply a compensatory relationship. 

Okay. That sounds fair to me. As a reader of blogs and a follower of lots of people on IG who post sponsored content, I want to know which posts are sponsored/provided with some sort of compensation, and which aren't. 

I follow a number of blogs on Bloglovin'. Each day I get an e-mail which includes a thumbnail of the latest posts for blogs I follow, as well as the latest "most popular" posts, most of which are for blogs I don't follow. So, this morning, just for interest's sake, I clicked on every one of the thirteen featured "most popular" posts. I spent some considerable time scrolling through each post, looking for any indication that the post had been sponsored, whether the items had been gifted, or whether there was an affiliate relationship between the blogger and a brand. One blogger had a clear notification that the products she was reviewing had been gifted. One out of thirteen. That's not good. 

I went back a second time to some of the more glitzy, obviously professionally photographed posts, and tried to find any indication anywhere on the blog that they had brand relationships... with anyone. No luck. I scrolled back through older posts just in case the latest one was an anomaly. Same result. I found a section on most of the blogs which asks brands and advertisers to contact them if they want to collaborate, but no real information for their readers or followers about which post is sponsored and by whom. I mean, I guess I could draw conclusions from the "shop the post" list of product links which are included in many posts, but I shouldn't have to. What's wrong with just being upfront and clear from the outset? One of these very popular blogs included, at the bottom, a link to their "parent company" which I clicked. Turns out Clique Media owns several blogs and according to an endorsement below its header it specialises in "parlaying fashion advice into retail gold." Uh, okay. 

Now, I am highly unlikely to purchase anything found through a link on any of these blogs. So why would I be upset at the fact that  brand relationships aren't clearly disclosed? Live and let live, right? Well... yeah. Except when I mentioned to Hubby a critical comment which had appeared on my own blog a while ago, he shrugged and replied, "You made the choice to put yourself out there, Suz." Yep. He's right; I did. And I'm a grown up. I accept responsibility for my choices. And if bloggers are going to be grown-ups about it, they have to accept that if they're going to play the  game, they should play by the rules. Just make the declaration. How hard is that? 


So then, because I am a sucker for punishment, this afternoon while I was on my exercise bike, I scrolled through my IG feed, and I didn't see any of the early and easy to notice "transparent" disclosures that are supposed to be happening according to the new-ish guidelines. I saw all kinds of people on Instagram posting outfits followed by a reference to something called #LikeToKnowIt which apparently is an ap that followers can download, and which will send the follower an e-mail with all the necessary links to purchase whatever the IG "influencer" is wearing. It's pitched as a "service" with all the links in one easy and convenient place. Ha. Okay. The brand gets a sale and the content creator who featured the item in their post gets a commission. Nothing wrong with that... except... who knew? Not me. 

I had to Google the name "LikeToKnowIt" to find out what it is, and whether it is considered an "affiliate link." Turns out it is. And not to seem like a troll who gets all negative when someone is just trying to make a bit of money for their hard work, but tossing #LikeToKnowIt at the end of a post doesn't seem very transparent to me. Especially if followers, like me, don't know what it is.

In my research, I found several articles about "LikeToKnowIt", and about something called "Reward Style", a "monetisation platform" which requires bloggers and IG "influencers" to go through a screening process before they can join. This article in Forbes outlines just how lucrative these programs are for brands, and for "influencers." Now, if consumers are spending so very much of their money clicking on these links, then it's no wonder consumer protection agencies are looking for ways to make things more transparent. 

Then, just for fun, and because my slight enthusiasm for monetising hadn't already been bashed on the head enough, I read a couple of blog posts which explain to newbies how to use "LikeToKnowIt" to their best advantage, how to "showcase" their work in order to get accepted by "Reward Style"... blah, yadda, yadda, blah. And amidst all the exhortations to fellow bloggers about the need to create "quality" posts, I'm sorry to say I kind of lost it. And I found myself shouting at my i-pad... "To hell with click-through stats, what about the writing? The comma rules? Ever hear of spell check? No, you can't use that word that way." 

Then I stopped. 

And for a few minutes I seriously felt as if I might just pack a bag and head for the hills. 


winter sun setting behind a forested hill, snow covered fields and old barns in the foreground
So peaceful back home in New Brunswick.
photo courtesy of Krista Burpee-Buell
I'm much calmer now.  

So, yeah, I've learned a lot about the world of blogging this week. Some of which has kind of disillusioned me, as naive as that sounds. 

Like I said earlier, I don't plan to stop writing this blog. But I've put back on the shelf, for now, my idea of monetising. I also don't plan to stop reading and enjoying the blogs of others whose work I admire, monetised or not. 

But, I have decided that I will "unfollow" on Bloglovin' and on Instagram those publications which don't follow the guidelines, whose creators, it seems to me, don't respect me as a follower or reader enough to let me know what's up with their posts. 

Oh... and I definitely have to stop reading those blogs which make me all shouty. At least that's what Hubby says. Ha. 





P.S. I hope you don't think that this post has been too negative. If you write a monetised blog and are offended by what I've been saying, then I'm sorry. And if you want to know more about the guidelines I've been talking about you can read more about the Canadian rules here, the American rules here and here, the UK rules here, and the Australian rules here. There are lots of further links in each of these posts as well. 


Now it's your turn, my friends. Anything making you a bit shouty these days? 






Sharing with Thursday Favourite Things.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

When Is It Time to Say Good-Bye to Your Clothes?

One of my style resolutions this year, well every year actually, is to wear what I own. And if I don't, to make the ultimate decision to get rid of what I'm not wearing. 

Even though I have a small closet, wearing what I own is harder than it sounds. Especially if I've hit upon a kind of seasonal uniform. A formula that I find myself repeating over and over, reaching for the same kinds of pieces, if not the exact same pieces, because I like them, they look good together, and it's easier than dreaming up something new to wear. This year I seem to have fallen into a jeans, cashmere turtleneck, Uniqlo down jacket, and  scarf rut. Which is okay, I know. There's nothing wrong with a formula, or a self-styled uniform. It's just that in my style lethargy I'm ignoring other pieces that don't conform to the formula, pieces that I paid good money for, and which are languishing in my closet unworn. 

So... these unworn pieces... should they go or should they stay? And how do I decide? How does one decide when it's time to say good-bye to one's clothes? 


woman in brown boots and leather jacket, jeans and a navy sweater, holding a scarf and leaning against a wall.
Not ready to say good-bye to these Stuart Weitzman boots. No sirree. 
I've been thinking about that question ever since I wrote a post back in December assessing my wardrobe acquisitions for 2018, and Ann in Missouri commented that her "biggest challenge is ever letting go of anything." When it comes to those pieces which still speak to us, but which we seldom wear, "How does one say good-bye?" Ann asked. 

I know that the Marie Kondo preferred method is to dump all your clothes in a huge pile and then tackle the problem. But for me it's easiest to split up those decisions, making a few at a time. Taking one's medicine in small doses, so to speak. I do my main closet purge seasonally. When the spring and summer (or fall and winter) clothes come out from hiding, try everything on and make some decisions. Which pieces will get to have pride of place in my small closet and dresser that season?

First the garment has to still fit me. And fit my retired lifestyle. And I have to still love it. If it fits, and I still love it, and am excited to wear it this year, it goes in the "keep" pile. If it fits, and I'd love to wear it, if I had an occasion to wear it, it goes in the "maybe" or the "just in case" pile. I do not believe in the rule: "if you haven't worn it for a year, you'll never wear it again." That's way too hasty for me. There's always that one piece that I can't bear to part with, and which I just know in a couple of seasons I'll be happy to have hung onto. Like my navy Max Mara pant suit.

I keep my "maybe" pieces in a couple of garment bags in Hubby's closet. "Maybe" or "just in case" pieces have to be good quality, and still fit. Like a certain party dress that I stored because I knew I would wear it again. I bought my Lida Baday dress to wear to the summer wedding of my former student, and now good friend, Erica. It languished for a couple of years, and then last summer I wore it to the wedding of Hubby's cousin's daughter. I've hung onto this dress because the times when I need to wear a nice dress are few and far between. If I can save myself the trouble of shopping when I already own something I love, then the storage space it uses is well used, in my opinion. I mean, have you tried to shop for a dress lately? They are super hard to find. 


jackets and sweaters hanging in a closet
Of the 12 items shown here in my closet, only 5 were purchased in the past two years.
But what happens if the "just in case" pile gets overwhelming? I have a weakness for fall jackets and blazers. I have rarely met a tweed jacket that I did not want to have a meaningful relationship with. Blazers, jeans, and boots... have long been my favourite fall pieces. But the tweed-blazer-as-outer-wear season is very short, some years only a month, here in Canada. September is usually too hot for a jacket, and by November it's raining and even snowing. When I was still teaching, I wore my fall jackets all winter long. Not any more. They do not slip easily under a heavy winter coat, and are not comfortable unless I plan to take the coat off. 

Now, let's enumerate the occasions when I might go somewhere, take off my winter coat, and stay a while. To a party, when a wool blazer is too outdoorsy looking, and neither festive nor casual enough, depending on the party. To a friend's home for lunch or dinner or book club, when, in my blazer, I might look as if I'm at a business meeting, instead of lounging with a glass of wine and my feet tucked up under me. No, to my mind, wool and tweed jackets need boots and jeans and a loosely swathed scarf to make them look casual enough for my non-working lifestyle. And that means wearing them as outerwear. 

When my "just in case" pile gets too big, a mini-purge becomes necessary. I usually do culling like this in between seasons. To that end, I did a jacket purge late last fall, and sent three blazers from my "maybe" stash to be consigned. That still leaves three wool blazers hanging in my closet, all of them quite different in style, all old, all in great condition, all still capable of making my fashion heart go pitty pat. I'll no doubt only wear them during that short fall season, but since they are good quality and meet all my other "keep" requirements, I'm happy to give them closet space. Even if I might wear each of them only once or twice a season. 

woman in brown boots and leather jacket, jeans and a navy sweater, holding a scarf standing in front of a sofa
Breathing new life into this old leather jacket.
The one fall jacket that I'm determined to wear this winter is this Akris leather jacket, above. I'd been looking for two or three years for a light leather jacket when I found this one at Holt Renfrew in 2008. I loved (and still love) the slightly moto look, the chocolate brown colour, the buttery soft leather, the understated hardware. It's much more of an indoor jacket than my tweed ones, and slips easily under a coat. But it's short, and I haven't done short for a very long time. So to wear the jacket I need a dress (which I have been looking for) or a suitably loose, long sweater to fall below the hem of the jacket. The other day, when I wore my navy Uniqlo cashmere turtleneck with jeans, these old Stuart Weitzman suede boots, and my down coat, I remember thinking that I should slip on the leather jacket and see how it felt. 

And actually, it felt wonderful. I love the jacket with this double-faced, wool scarf that has navy and teal on one side, and soft brown animal-print on the other, and my brown suede boots. It makes me smile with satisfaction every year when I see that Stuart Weitzman has issued another version of his high suede boots. I love my boots. They are only appropriate on certain very cold winter days, when there's not too much slush and salty muck on the streets, but on those days I haul them out, feeling pleased with myself for having made the investment so many years ago. 

I see myself in this outfit sliding off my big down coat, stashing it in Liz's dressing room at Nordstrom, then roaming the store looking for that elusive dress, and finally coming back to meet Liz for lunch. Yep. This is exactly what I'll wear when we do that in a couple of weeks. When I attend a party later this week, at a bar, I'll wear this outfit then too. Unlike a house party where one has to shed one's boots and wear indoor shoes, a party in a bar will be the perfect occasion to wear my suede boots and leather jacket. In fact, I think I'll feel quite spiffy in this get up. 

 jeans and a navy sweater, holding a scarf standing in front of a sofa
Feeling quite spiffy in leather and suede.
Substituting my unworn leather jacket for my all-too-frequently-worn Uniqlo ultra-light down one is a good move. It's getting too cold for that light down jacket anyway. And I've thus justified the continued inclusion of this leather jacket in my closet. I won't be saying good-bye to this gem just yet. Although next year may be a whole different story. 

So, I've solved my own problem, but I haven't actually helped answer Ann's question. How do you say good-bye when a certain piece of clothing still calls out to you? 

Well, I have some thoughts on that subject, as you might have guessed.

If your closet is burgeoning, and you know you need to make a start, somehow, to whittle it down to manageable size, but you can't face doing your whole wardrobe in one go, why not start with one category of clothing? Do one season, like I do. Or just jackets. Or only jeans and tees. When you do start, be sure to try everything on. Everything. 

If a piece doesn't fit, is not in good condition, or doesn't suit your current lifestyle, then the answer should be obvious. Consign it or donate it. 

If you don't love it, do the same. 

If some pieces don't suit your current lifestyle, but your life is still in flux, I say hang onto them until things settle down. Making decisions while under stress seems like a recipe for regret. However, if you own a closet full of business wear, and have retired for good, then why not donate most of your suits and dress pants to Dress for Success or some similar organization? Keep one outfit... just in case. You don't have to get rid of everything at once. If you have, say, fifteen cashmere turtlenecks, and they all fit, but you rarely wear them because you've moved to a warmer climate, choose three that are your favourites to set aside for travel, and consign or donate the rest. 

But those pieces which you bought on impulse, but have never worn because they've never, ever worked with the rest of your wardrobe, be strict with those pieces, my friends. Give up, and get rid of them. And never, ever do that again. Do your research and shop with a list. I'm shaking my finger here. 

And if you don't have the courage or the energy to face making all these decisions alone, then call your sister (that's what my sister does), or a stylish friend who understands your style, bribe them with lunch and a glass of wine, and ask for their help. My sister and I had a wonderful afternoon when I helped her cull her closet. I was strict, though. Sometimes someone has to be bossy, even with someone's older sister. And when we were done, we both thought it had been worth the effort. 

It's a great feeling being able to see everything in your closet, loving each and every piece, and knowing that you could pull out anything and feel wonderful in it. No more guilt about unworn, unloved clothing. It's all gone to be loved by someone else. Conversely, no more fooling yourself that you don't need to go shopping because you have "so many clothes already." After my sister's closet purge the need to fill empty niches in her wardrobe became patently obvious. 

I know it's hard to say good-bye to formerly much loved pieces when your relationship has ended. But, as Hubby said to me when I was a little depressed about retiring and moaned, "I can't believe it's the end."... "Maybe you should look at it as a beginning, Suz." 

So I did. And you can too. A new beginning in the life of your closet.

And if you can't bear to never again see that too-small, beloved sweater you've had since university and haven't worn in five years (or ten), then take a picture of it. And keep a file titled... "Clothes to which I have had the courage to say good-bye." 

I love that last idea. It was Hubby's. He's learned so much about closet culling since he's been with me. He even instigated a cull of his sock and underwear drawer a few days ago. He was very strict, and we didn't even have to take any pictures. Ha. 






Now, I know we're all different, have different needs, different budgets, different closets... so let's hear what you have to say, my lovely readers. How do you say good-bye to formerly well-loved pieces in your closet? Or do you? You can tell us. 





 Linking up this week with: Visible Monday#IwillwearwhatIlikeThursday Favourite Things#ShareAllLinkup, Fabulous Friday.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Snow Pant "Chic"

Unless you live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, you probably missed the snow pants controversy last week. And even if you live here, you might have missed it. I almost did. 

Seems that Shannon Proudfoot, who writes for Maclean's magazine, started the whole debacle by tweeting that she thinks Ottawa is a great place to live, and doesn't deserve its bad rap for being "dorky and provincial". Except, she says, when she spies grown ups wearing "snow pants to work." 

That tweet unleashed a veritable storm of yeahs and nays with respect to the merit of wearing ski pants or snow pants when you're not skiing, or tobogganing, or rolling around on the school playground, but are in fact navigating the streets of cold, snowy Ottawa on your way to work. 


woman wearing ski pants, jacket, toque, and face mask near Lac Morency, Quebec, winter 2015
Not on my way to work in Lac Morency, Quebec 2015.
Let's be fair to the snow pants wearers, Ms. Proudfoot was talking about commuters wearing the dorky apparel while on their way to work, on the bus (and one presumes on the sidewalk after they get off the bus), not while actually AT work. Wearing snow pants at work, well, that would be dorky. 

I had to laugh at the vehemence of some of the replies on Twitter. The debate, the quippy rejoinders, the commiserating, even. There were lots of  defenders of dressing appropriately in what has recently been declared the world's coldest capital city. Wearing snow pants makes the time spent waiting for your bus, or the time spent navigating slippery sidewalks, snow banks, and salty slush-puddles after you get off your bus, more bearable. One reply went so far as to say that snow pants are part of Ottawa's winter heritage, like skating to work on the canal. A couple of people even sidetracked the conversation by complaining about women wearing running shoes with skirts, or socks with sandals. One wonders where they've been the last couple of years, style-wise. Ha. 

These two replies were my favourites:

Snow pants may be dorky but they R warm & practical! Also the BEST part of being an adult is finally being ok with being dorky, wearing whatever you want and not trying to fit into someone else's definition of "cool"! Prime time for snow pants!

Just Kathleen @KitKat70169329
I wore snow pants on the bus in Ottawa! Not cool ski pants, dorky snow pants. I was embarrassed for 5 seconds the first time then I saw a woman rocking a 70's one piece, red ski suit. Carrying a briefcase. Fantastic.

I love those two comments. 


woman in rain pants and jacket in front of a historic bridge near Richmond, Tasmania
Dorky maybe, but also warm and dry in Tasmania 2003
All this discussion of appropriate cold weather wear started me thinking of the times I've happily worn dorky outfits. Hubby does not believe that we should let weather stop us from doing what we want to do, within reason, of course. So when we travelled to Australia and New Zealand in 2003, we packed our heavy hiking boots, our canoeing rain gear, and our ski long-underwear. And we were glad we did. In Tasmania, above, we encountered lots and lots of rain, and cool temperatures. I pulled on my ski underwear, then my jeans, and then even resorted to wearing my Gortex ski pants over that. When you're out in the weather all day, it's amazing how cold 15°C can be. 

We did the same in Yorkshire and Scotland in July of 2005. Even though the UK was having a record hot summer, we packed for every weather eventuality. I have a shot of me under an angry sky, on windy Top Withens, near the home of the Brontë sisters in Haworth. I'm grinning broadly, my hair standing on end, my fleece top and Gortex jacket and pants flapping. It was frigging cold... but I was in Brontë country, and I was NOT going to miss any of it because of a little weather. And when we were hiking on the Orkney Islands two weeks later, we were very glad of our rain gear. Very glad. 

And as you can see, below, not all of my dorky outfits have been worn in cold climates. This is a shot of a walk we took in Costa Rica in 2013. Good thing my pants and tee were quick drying even if the jacket wasn't. And in our little cabin in Santa Elena, up in the cloud forest a few days later, we were very glad of our long underwear. The wind at night roaring over the continental divide sounded amazing, like a pounding ocean surf, but it was also pretty darned chilly. We laughed, then, at how I'd scoffed when we'd tossed our ski underwear into our suitcase at the last minute. "Like we'll need it in Costa Rica," I'd chortled. "Best to go prepared for any weather eventuality," Hubby had intoned. And of course he was right. Again.

woman in wet pants and jacket on a trail through the rainforest, Costa Rica
Wet walking in Costa Rica 2013
So I was pretty entertained by all the recent palaver over ski pants. All the rolling of eyes at the dorky, terribly uncool, but warmly clad people, and all the counter rolling of eyes at the silly, chilly, but oh-so-cool snow pant naysayers. Where else do snow pants cause a controversy? Seriously, this could be one of those "Meanwhile in Canada" Facebook memes. 

You can read the Maclean's article which put me onto the whole story here, if you're interested. 

And if you're up for it, you can read this article in the National Post. That is, if you think you can get through it without rolling your eyes in exasperation. I know I couldn't. The writer energetically agrees with Ms. Proudfoot's original tweet, and then goes on to list what she calls "winter wear abominations." Sigh. 

When I read it, I initially thought, "Maybe the young writer should be packed off on a trip to South America with Hubby, and try to get by wearing only chic and fashionable outfits." 

Then I remembered my very first trip to Algonquin Park back in the day, and the look Hubby gave me when I asked him if I should bring my blow dryer. 

Ha. How I've grown since then, my friends! 

Now, when I stroll a fashionable, but rain soaked and chilly foreign town with Hubby, happy and warm in my dorky, Gortex pants, I always hold this thought in my mind: "My other pants are uber chic, and they're leather." :)


man and woman in winter jackets and hats standing in front of snowy background mountains.
North Carolina 2016 when we were very glad of our emergency toques and gloves.


Now it's your turn my friends. Have you ever been happy to be warmly clad, even if you did look dorky? 


Linking up this week with: Visible Monday#IwillwearwhatIlikeThursday Favourite Things#ShareAllLinkup.