Sunday, 20 May 2018

What Goes With Vanilla?

The answer to that question is, of course, everything. Everything goes with vanilla... ice cream. But vanilla crocheted cropped sweaters can be a bit more problematic.

vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries, and mint
I bought this vanilla crocheted sweater by Vince a few weeks ago and it's been "seasoning" in my drawer ever since. I love a crisp white or creamy sweater for summer. I have visions of this one over a loose sleeveless cotton dress, or with a creamy camisole and a pair of high-waisted pants, or over a long, loose tank ala Eileen Fisher with cropped jeans and sandals. 

My grandmother taught me to crochet squares very similar to this pattern.
But in the meantime, I'm trying it with what I already have in my closet. 

Try #1. I have a creamy vanilla camisole, below, which is the perfect colour, but not as loose as I'd like around the middle. I love the cream sweater and cami with white jeans. These are my old favourite Hudson jeans. But they're a bit too lumpy and rumply in the abdominal area. The cami is quite snug and shows every ripple. Ha. Wish I could say that there were only ripples under there, my friends. 

woman in white sweater, white jeans, and red loafers
Try #1. Okay for colour, bit too snug around the middle age middle.
Try #2. Better. These are my NYDJ white, cropped jeans from 2015, below. They fit more smoothly around the middle and look better under that stretchy cami. It's too cool yet for sandals, so I'm wearing my soon to be ubiquitous, red Earth brand loafers, my new red cross-body bag, and a pair of old red and gold hoop earrings. I'll wear this outfit with sandals later in the season. For now it's good enough to wear shopping for something else to wear under the sweater.

woman in white sweater, white jeans, red shoes, and red bag
Try #2. Better. Good enough to go shopping and look for a long loose tank
Try #3. I swapped the cream camisole for a black one, crepe joggers which I bought at Aritzia in 2015, and my black, suede Paul Green flats from last year. The joggers have lovely flat pleats in the front which help hide middle age middle. And the cami has a band of extra stretchy fabric in the stomach area which smooths out all the ripples. The bottom four inches or so of the cami is loose and looks good peeking out from under sweaters and such. It's called a "Yummie Tummie." I know. Dreadful name. I bought it at a store here in Ottawa owned by a former student, and when she called into the dressing room, "Ms Burpee, try this Yummie Tummie under that top," I barked back: "I am NOT wearing anything called Yummie Tummie." Ha. Turns out I loved it.  

woman in black pants, black flats, and cream crocheted sweater.
Try #3. I like this look okay. 
I like this outfit. I love black and cream or black and white. I'd probably wear this with my structured black and white Kate Spade bag for a lunching lady look. 

I tried the sweater and cream cami with my striped A.L.C. midi-skirt. I tried it with my pink Elie Tahari cropped pants. I tried it with my black, cropped Rag and Bone pants. I didn't like it with any of them. That's okay. I've lots of tops to go with those bottoms.

And this week, I'm going shopping to find something else to wear with my vanilla crocheted sweater. I'm using these shots from Pinterest to inspire me. 

Shots from Pinterest to give me ideas. 
I have a gift certificate from Escape, a lovely shop in downtown Ottawa. I won the gift certificate at a lunch/fashion show a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I'll find a summery dress or a long loose tank to wear with my sweater. Or even a pair of summery khaki or tan pants? Who knows, I may just get lucky. This store is totally new to me. I'll let you know how it goes. 

Meanwhile, I may not be the picture of cutting edge fashion in this outfit. But I am definitely the picture of contentment. With my clothes. With myself... at least this week. Ha. And certainly with the spring sunshine. 

woman sitting on steps in black pants, shoes and while crocheted sweater
Spring sunshine feels so very good.
All this talk of vanilla has made me hungry for ice cream. Maybe for dessert tonight with some strawberries and a shot of chocolate sauce? Vanilla ice cream goes with everything. It's so easy.

Unlike a vanilla sweater, where I not only have to worry about the colour and shape of the vanilla scoop, but also the size and shape of the bowl. And if I don't lay off the chocolate sauce, not to mention the ice cream, the bowl will only get bigger and bigger. Ha. Okay, that's definitely stretching the metaphor too far. 

Now, I have to wrap this up, Hubby and I are off to visit our 95 year old former next door neighbour. She lives in a seniors apartment complex in the village, and has invited us over this afternoon for a glass of wine. 

Isn't that lovely?

Now it's your turn my friends. What's new in your wardrobe? 

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Romancing the Readers

Okay, be honest with me here folks. How many of you like to read romance novels? I ask this because I heard an interesting segment on CBC radio the other morning. All about the romance novel, the genre so many of us love to laugh at, openly scorn, and then often read in secret.

shelf of several romance novels
I like a good romance although I've never been a fan of the Harlequin variety.
In an episode of The Current, host Anna Maria Tremonti explored the much despised and derided genre that has spawned a billion dollar, global industry by speaking to its detractors and its defenders. And all of this was triggered by the fact that the Toronto Public Library has recently announced its next Writer-In-Residence will be a romance writer. 

I don't mind a good romance myself. Not the ones with the bare-chested Fabios on the cover. Nor the historical bodice-rippers, at least not anymore. But a well written romance, emphasis on the well written, can be very satisfying. 

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Darcy in 1995 Pride and Prejudice
My favourite romance novel, Pride and Prejudice
Not so, says William Giraldi, writer and memoirist, in his interview with Anna Maria Tremonti. Apparently reading a romance novel is, for Giraldi, an "excruciating ordeal." Romance provides "empty entertainment," he says, and is only popular because readers want to escape their "humdrum domesticity and colourless work lives." He adds that romance writing is not real writing, just as "Twinkies are not real food." Okay, that's a bit harsh.

Mary Bly, professor of English at Fordham University and a romance writer herself, counters that the genre is too often judged by its worst examples, and criticized by those who have never read romance. Bly goes on to add that Giraldi is saying a great deal more about himself and his misogynist views than about the genre. Ha. I like that bit. You can read and listen to the whole segment yourself here if you want. 

cover of novel Forever Amber cover of romance novel Bride of the MacHugh

I come from a family of readers. My grandmother was an avid reader her whole life, my mum too. Mum and I often talk about books. In our phone calls, updates on our respective doings are often only a prelude to the real conversation: what we've been reading. Sometimes we try to imagine what life would be like if we didn't read, or we reminisce about favourite books. Sometimes those books are romances. Like Forever Amber, which Mum remembers reading back when it first came out in the forties. And Bride of the MacHugh. Oh my, we both adored that book back in the seventies. I remember telling my step-dad that if Mum and I were gone one morning, we might have upped sticks and headed for the Scottish highlands. Ha. I was kidding, of course. 

I'd mostly gone off reading romance by the time I started teaching. But I remember the year a good friend (and fellow English teacher) and her family moved to Europe for a three year posting, and she entrusted to me her "guilty secret," as she called her beloved Dorothy Dunnet novels. I scoffed a bit, but it was summer and I was on holidays, so one lazy July morning I began to read the first of Dunnet's Lymond series. By the end of the first book I was hooked. Seven books and a few days later, almost at the end of the series, dissolved in tears because I thought the hero had died, I remember getting up from my chair on the lawn, and marching out to the garden where Hubby was weeding. I stood there, book in one hand sodden Kleenex in the other, and wailed that if that bleeping character was dead I was personally going to fly to Germany and strangle my friend. Oh, the drama! Hubby looked up and quipped if I didn't finish those darned books soon, I was going to be dehydrated. Ha.

Below are some of my favourite books from my "romance" bookshelf. Well, I call them romance, but apparently that's up for debate. In particular, I love Joanna Trollope's A Spanish Lover, Barbara Neil's Someone Wonderful, and of course, Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate

a stack of romance novels
My romance shelf
It's hard to nail down a definition of the romance genre, other than that the main plot must revolve around a building relationship and the novel must have a happily-ever-after ending. Other than that there is a wide, wide range of fiction which has elements of romance, and which deals with the lives of women, or "shares the female journey" as literary agent Scott Eagen explains. He calls this genre "Women's Fiction." Others call it "Romance Literature." As I said, I don't much care for the Harlequin type of romance, those books have a certain, recognizable style that makes me cringe a little. But I do love a well-written romance. So I think the novels I prefer are examples of romance literature, so-called. But really, what does it matter? We like what we like. 

One of the comments that resonated with me from that CBC program I told you about earlier, was from Denise Drabkin of the North York library. In response to William Giraldi's dismissal of romance novels as being excruciating to read, and having no value, she said that, on the contrary, "recreational reading should be encouraged and not dismissed or undervalued." 

And really, who can argue with that?

Today when I was reading about romance, I spent some time on the Harlequin website. Have a look at this little video. "Gustaf, the charcuterie must wait"... that line made me chuckle. I guess the romance novel industry isn't so big that it can't poke fun at itself. 

Maybe we should all just stop looking down our noses at romance novels. Maybe you love them. Maybe you wouldn't be caught dead reading a book with a bare-chested guy on the cover. All reading is good, surely we must all agree with that. And like Mary Bly said on CBC the other day, "There's nothing sad or pathetic about wanting happiness and a happily ever after."

But what do I know? I've always been a romantic, with my head in the clouds and my nose in a book. At least according to my mum. Ha. 

Now, how about you dear readers? Do you love a good romance? Or are you of the wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole variety? Do tell. We won't judge you either way. 

Linking up with Thursday Favourite Things,  #SaturdayShareLink-up, and #fakeittillyoumakeit 

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Message Tees and Other Trends

I'm not much for jumping on trend bandwagons. I love to keep up with trends, in that I love to research, read, and look at pictures of what is on trend. But shelling out my money for trends, especially of the 'here today gone tomorrow' variety... not so much. 

smiling woman in white tee and navy jacket
I'm looking pleased with myself, aren't I? 

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Childless By Choice or By Chance

At my book club a week or so ago, we discussed the use of the term "childless." I say "we" but, actually, I started the discussion. Someone used the term innocently, in a comment, and I admit I ranted a little. I hate that word. And the slightly condescending implications it packs. Not that my friend was being condescending in any way. Not at all. Still... use of that particular term to describe a couple who do not have children always rankles. 

Hubby and I do not have children, a fact I'm sure you've surmised if you've read my blog before. I don't usually discuss the fact that we don't have kids. Or the reasons why that happened, or didn't happen as the case may be. It's nobody's business but ours. But what I am not shy about discussing are all the assumptions made by people, by society, if you will, about the state of not having kids. I'm sure that most people, friends, and even some family, have no idea why we never had children, or how I feel or have felt about it. They just think they do. 

I love my nieces to pieces. 

Saturday, 5 May 2018

My Blue and Yellow Period

Wasn't it Picasso who had a blue period? Supposedly inspired by his "emotional turmoil and financial destitution," partly triggered by the suicide of a dear friend and by his own struggle to survive as an artist, he painted mostly in blue for a while (source.) 

Me, I seem to be having a blue and yellow period. Or blue and red. But always blue, more specifically navy. Suddenly everything in my wardrobe is navy. Which can be a good thing because I love navy. Navy and white, navy and red, navy and yellow. But it can be a bad thing for blog post variety. "Ah well," the blogger sighs, "in this case art is supposed to imitate life, and not the other way round." That's if blogging can be considered art, I might add. So if I'm wearing navy in real life, then navy it must be on the blog as well. 

Triple navy outfits. Does that skirt look a little too short to you?