Saturday, 31 May 2014

So She Ran Away

If you asked my ex husband why I left the marriage, he is likely to tell you either that I was depressed or that I had some notion of going off to find myself.  I thought that the woman running off to find herself thing had gone with the seventies and haven't really heard it mentioned since Kramer vs Kramer, but apparently it still gets resurrected to explain the unpredictability and capricious whims of women such as myself.  Although my ex and I are amicable, and maintain a small degree of social connection as well as a joint role as parents, and although we were together for 25 years, married for nearly 23 by the time I left, he doesn't really understand me at all.  There was a time when that really hurt.  It no longer matters so it no longer hurts but it does leave me thinking about this concept of finding myself.


I didn't leave the marriage in order to find myself in any self conscious way, but after I left that is precisely what happened.  I think a better term is that I reclaimed myself.   I reclaimed independence and self confidence, peace of mind and freedom.  If the marriage had been a good one those things should not have gotten lost, but they did and for many years I did not even know they were lost because I was too busy with the efforts of coping without them.  I was not thinking about finding myself when I left, I was thinking only of escaping out from under an enormous weight,  the weight of an unhealthy relationship that looked healthy to everyone viewing it from the outside.  And thus it seemed I was suddenly and irrationally walking away from everything.  What else could the reason be other than mental illness or that flaky desire to find myself?

For the first few years of my unmarried life, my focus was primarily on trying to regain some sort of recovery of my own health, remaining an active parent in support of guiding a 16 year old son through the bumpy patches of youth, and figuring out how I was going to support myself when I was struggling to work, and how I would cope with the significant loss of identity if I gave up teaching.  I had no time for caring about my clothes and little love for the body I had to dress.  In my struggle with food, which I have mentioned in another post, I was suffering from gluten intolerance and I was accumulating unwanted extra weight from a high carbohydrate vegan diet.  This was not a blissful adventure in finding myself though it was not all misery either.

I had more time and opportunity to paint and draw and write.  As I figured out how to eat properly for my own body and health, the weight came off and I found myself 30 lbs lighter than I had been in over a decade.  In order to dress a body that was shedding a dress size every couple of months, I embraced shopping for clothes in thrift shops more than I ever had before.   There was still much to get through,  many hurdles and obstacles and challenges to cope with and such is the way of life that really there always are.  But I was happy.  I felt more joy than I had known in a long time.  I was in control of myself again despite the fact that I live with an incurable chronic illness which can and will flare up regularly beyond my control.

I do not think that clothes are the most important thing in my life, they are not my greatest source of joy nor my passion, but they do bring me a certain degree of pleasure and dressing myself is now enjoyable whereas it used to be a chore.  Sure I could select clothing I liked but I never particularly liked it once it was on me.  I didn't like what I saw in the mirror or in photos because she didn't look like me.  She wasn't the woman I was inside.  I now have the freedom to buy what I like, to budget according to my own choices and not feel guilty about buying clothes or art supplies or books.  With this freedom comes the ability to express myself and to feel truly like I am the real me.  There is no doubt this is something I enjoy because I belong to a more privileged class of people in this world.  That is easily the subject of a whole book, and not something I can adequately address here.

But in the world in which I live and function and contribute, I am making my way, attempting to make it a better place, attempting to spread a little happiness.  In order to do that I have to be comfortable in my own skin and in the skin I put on every day, my clothes.  I don't need a lot of clothes, but I am someone who finds pleasure in the self expression they contribute to, in the colours and textures and patterns which must necessarily come with clothing.  I have embarked on an experiment, to find the items which suit me enough to make me happy wearing them but also to be able to forget that I am wearing them.  There is pleasure in something new but I do not need to go on accumulating at the rate in which I have over the past year.  I had a closet to fill.  I was making a fresh start and I finally feel as though I have gotten to where I was going.  Four years ago today,  I left what everyone believed was my home.   In my heart I knew it wasn't.  I am finally home now, and I cannot deny that clothing has helped me to get there.

Friday, 30 May 2014

The Nineties....Where Did They Go?

I don't really remember much about the nineties, and no I wasn't drunk or stoned.  It was a time of my life when I was immersed in establishing a career and having a child. Needless to say I was very busy.  A teaching career did not  require a fashionable wardrobe so I wasn't really very up on the latest looks and I didn't feel great about my post baby body so I was inclined to just cover it up with baggy, lumpy things.  I wasn't very well tuned into the pop culture of the times and it was more about Thomas the Tank and The Magic School Bus at our house, but I do remember watching Seinfeld sometimes.  Although Elaine Benes was perhaps of questionable character, I really liked her style.  I wanted to look just like her, which is rather impossible given I'd have to suddenly be tiny with really big hair instead of really big with tiny hair.


I suppose her look was a 90s version of preppy.  I did love the floral dresses of the nineties and even had a couple.  As they are popping up in the local thrifts shops I try them on but some of the styles suit me better than others and I can live without the collars some of the dresses had.  I'm not a fan of collars and the heavily shoulder padded jackets Elaine wore, while I love the look on her, don't really work for me.  I loved a chunky, over-sized cardigan and the chunky shoes.  I'll pass on the lacy ankle socks. 

Another look I remember seeing then but can't find anywhere on Google Images was a skirt suit with a fingertip length narrow jacket or vest over a  pleated skirt that hit just above the knee.  I admired it on some of my colleagues while I admire a more grunge look on other colleagues.  Nearly anything goes in teaching!

So, inspired by Elaine, as well as Bella at Citizen Rosebud here is my 90s look, dress and shoes thrifted, cardigan Target.  Elaine's dresses often hit just above the ankle and on her this floral dress might do that.  Not on me, it doesn't!  So I took my thrifted 90s dress and layered it over one of my long black jersey skirts.  I used textured tights (which don't really show up in the picture) to emulate the lacy socks and dug out my most sensible shoes.   I added the slouchy cardigan since I don't have any over-sized shoulder padded blazers. So I hope I achieved a grungy-preppy look.  I also made an attempt at bigger hair and pulled it back Elaine style.

It turned out to be too warm today for this outfit, and so I didn't keep it on.  The floral dress on it's own feels a bit more formal than what I required for today so I changed completely and dug out more new-to-me clothes in the form of some colourful striped capris.  As with another pair of striped capris I recently found at the thrift shop, I don't think these are meant to be short.  The label says petite.  So on me petite pants are capris with a little bit of a rolled cuff. 

I think I might be in love with Jason.  I hope his fiance doesn't mind.  A short haircut that is versatile is a beautiful thing and being able to pull my hair off my face in warm weather is just fantastic.  I think I am pulling it off in more than one sense here-faking an updo.

Linking up to the nineties and Second Hand First see you there!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

I Found Prints Charming in my Closet!

I always thought I was pattern shy, but actually I am just pattern picky.  I love some and loathe some and some just aren't right for me.  Because of this I don't have a lot of patterned clothing but when I find something I really do like I pounce!  Mixing patterns, while I know how to do it, never came easily to my wardrobe because I usually just don't have the right mix.  As a lover of floral patterns and paisley, and not being too fond of graphic prints, dots, stripes or leopard (am I the only woman in the world who isn't fond of leopard except on the leopards themselves?) my patterned clothing just wasn't ever very mixable.  Until recently that is.  I have lately been buying stripes. In fact my wardrobe is looking positively stri-ped, with a dress, a skirt, two pairs of capri pants and even a striped tee shirt, which I had always shunned as being too much of a contrived french look.

The creative juices have been flowing lately... oh damn a cliche just crept into my writing.  I've been painting and writing and enjoying getting dressed.  I am attempting to  keep the writing short here today, because a lot of pictures are about to follow.  Can I actually keep this down to two paragraphs?  That's doubtful but I'm going to stop nattering here and leave the rest of the text to comment on some of the photos.  Someone tie my hands behind my back now because my fingers are just an extension of my brain and thoughts keep flowing...


Next week I'm going out to a poetry night at The Grotto.  It struck me that poetry nights are rather beatnik so I wanted to wear black.  I began to play around with the items I wanted to wear, particularly attempting to mix the patterns because I do have more than one plain black skirt but that wasn't what I wanted here.
The weather is probably too cool to wear it like this, but you never know what it will be like a week from now.  However I really do want to wear it with this vest. And some boots.  I have two boot options.  The vest is a new thrift shop find and needs to be tailored to fit me better but for sitting down in a dim room it will be fine.

My glasses frames just happen to be black and white too so I might wear them even though I won't need them.  Which pair of boots do you prefer?

I am crazy about this skirt.  It's a bit odd, but still flattering to wear.  It has a pattern of black and white but on the bottom it's blue and white.  Under the black part is a lining, but it's sheer at the blue part.  If you look closely at my leg on the right you can see that a bit of skin shows through.  Oooh how daring and avante garde! (Keit stop laughing)

Okay, moving on to what I am actually wearing today.  No prints were mixed unfortunately.  And lately I seem to have a bad case of blurry face.  Fire the photographer! 
The reality of today is that I'm probably not going outside at all unless I take out the garbage and collect the mail.  I will alternate feeling warm and cool so the topper will be put on and taken off constantly.  The topper is actually a beach cover up that was once white until I went on that dyeing everything violet spree recently.  I have never worn it at the beach and always used it as a gauzy summer topper.  The skirt (which is jersey!) is brown, violet and gold with a lovely seventies vibe but it doesn't show up quite as well in this photo.

The entire outfit in the last picture is thrifted, and the cute little top is part of a twin set but I never wear them together.  That would be a cliche and I never use a cliche!

Linking up to Anne's 52 Pick Me Up- Pattern Mix....check it out at Spy Girl

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Experimenting at Home

I love jersey fabric, which is probably no secret anymore.  It is so damn comfortable it's like wearing pyjamas or sweatpants only in a nice skirt or dress.  Not that pyjamas can't be nice.  I decided to wear a jersey maxi skirt today, and I realise I am dressed as a bruise-black and blue.  That's rather fitting since I bruise myself frequently and usually have no memory of doing it.  Such a delicate flower I am!

So this is me at home, usually barefoot, bra strap showing, glasses come on and glasses go off and I have to go hunting for them.  Amazingly, at the moment I know where my glasses are because they are on my face.  Where my lens cap is, well that's something I don't know.

I got my hair cut yesterday, and decided to experiment with a smokey eye.  You know I don't bother with much makeup but I do like a smokey eye.  I can't be bothered with mascara, just a nice smudgey liner pencil is all I need.  I can even dip into my artist charcoal if necessary.  It is common wisdom, and I like to think I have uncommon wisdom so I don't usually follow this rule, that short hair needs more makeup in order to look girly.  I don't think I am easily mistaken for a boy so I generally don't worry about that but today I am pairing a smokey eye with my edgy new do!  In January I had a shorter pixie cut.  I wanted it a little longer so he took out more bulk than length.  I don't know if this still qualifies as a pixie but it's very me.



Top and belt-thrifted
skirt-Winners
feet-my own since birth
haircut-the fabulous Jason at Roots the Salon

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Come on Into the Library.

I've decided that my home has a name and it's name is The Library.  As much as I would love to live in a cottage and name it The Insert Something Funky here Cottage, that is not my situation.  With the horrible term condominum generally representing something one owns and apartment meaning the same thing but one rents it, and flat sounding too pretentiously wanna-be British, I am always stumbling over home related words.  I used to say 'my house' so easily but it's not a house that I live in anymore.   There are books piled up in every room, neatly stacked though they are, and I think that books taking over may be one of the first impressions my home gives.  I have fiction and non-fiction, reference books, hard covers and paper backs.  And I love to share my books.  I love nothing more than to grab a friend and steer her towards my stacks of books and say go ahead, borrow something.  Chances are I have a few things in mind that I want to encourage her to borrow too.

So I think that my home, if it is to have a name and I am rather hell bent on it having one, should be called The Library.  Overall that sounds better than Cat Fur Infested Houseplant Jungle don't you think?  I promised I would share a few more pictures so now is as good a time as any.

When you come in my door you step into a foyer that is quite nicely lit with natural light because the centre of the building has an atrium with a glass ceiling and glass block windows that face into my hall and my sitting room. 
These paintings are by local artists.  The door is just to the left and to the right is where a storage room and two bedrooms are.  They aren't on the tour today.

When you come in the door, there is a mirrored coat closet straight ahead and to the right is the first glass block window.  One of my own paintings leans against the glass and two of my elephants are on the sill beside it.

As you go to the right down the hall there is another glass block window and a bathroom on the left.  There are candles and more of my art on the window sill.  The bathroom is how I found it when I moved in.  I don't love it or hate it but have done my best to impose my own taste on it.  The shower is never used so I've covered it a bit with beads and a hanging with a quote from the Dalai Lama.  On the back of the toilet, because I think it is amusing to do so, I've place a book called The Bohemian Manifesto.  Everyone should take a little time while on the toilet, to read up on how to be bohemian.  I have a couple of stubbly little plants which I am hoping to encourage to grow with the help of the skylight. The door just past the shower leads to my laundry closet.
Through the french door, which I always leave open, we enter into the main living area.  You have seen my kitchen and the eating nook which I use for my art in a previous post.  Let's go into the sitting room.  First, near the third of the glass block windows, is the area  meant to be more formal dining area.  I have an antique table that once belonged to my great grandparents, and it is of course covered in books and I rarely sit at this table to eat.  It's the library table. The bench against the window has a special story.  I had four chairs that went with my table but were in rough shape, damaged from a few moves and not really salvageable.  I contacted a young man I'd heard about from a neighbour, he was keen about woodworking and very creative, starting up a buisness of his own using recycled materials to create something new.  I asked him if he would make me something funky with my chairs.  I suggested a bench or end table would be much appreciated but I also wanted him to have free reign for his creativity and I wanted to be surprised.  He made me the bench and his mum upholstered it.  I hadn't even told him purple was my favourite colour but I think he saw the purple sofa in the den.  So he made this wonderful bench and a table you will see in a moment.

 Between the table of books and the sofa, is the spot where I stand and pretend to be a model.  There are a few books stacked on the floor there and the opposite wall, where I set up the camera has several stacks of books.

My sofa is very old.  It had belonged to my parents and is a good quality sofa of the kind one should get reupholstered.  I would like to get that done one day and the cushions could stand to be replaced but for now I live with it as it is and cover it up with a textured white bedspread from the thrift shop.  I spend a lot of time there reading or blogging, and you can see that from it's rumpled condition and the laptop that is sitting there. The two arm chairs in the sitting room are also hand me downs.  One goes with the sofa and the other belonged to my grandparents originally. The trunk, which I use as a coffee table, is a pine settler's travel trunk, and it came to Canada from England in the late 1800s.  I have the date written somewhere. The chest in the far corner was something a colleague was throwing out so I happily took it. The same colleague was getting rid of the dresser in the photo above.  It was in rough shape so I stained it a beautiful teal blue.
The wall of mirrors is not due to my overwhelming vanity but rather to my intention to catch some of the light from the window and let the mirrors act sort of like windows themselves.  That is the only wall on which I don't have any windows, being the wall that is shared with the neighbour.  One of the frames doesn't have a mirror in it yet  The side table is meant to be an outdoor bistro table, the vintage phone should work and I want to use it but it needs a wiring update.  The basket under the table holds cat toys and the glass bowl holds my knitting, with the ball of wool too difficult for Sophie to get out and play with.
One of the small changes I made when I moved in was to paint the fire place surround.  It was painted white and I didn't like it that way so I used the same chalkboard paint I used in my kitchen to paint it a matte black and I'm quite happy with it.  The spherical metal thing is meant to hang in a garden.  I haven't really decided what I want to do with it so it just sits there for now.  In the book nook behind it is the table the clever young man made for me.  He put a reclaimed wooden bar top on top of the chair bases.  The sad story is that several months after he made these items for me he died.  He was only 20, enthusiastic and creative and sweet and obviously his mother's pride and joy.  He died tragically but most likely painlessly and quickly in an accident while off road quad riding.
I change my mantel decor twice a year.  This is the spring/summer look.  When I first moved in I hated those light fixtures but they have grown on me.  I might even like them now.  I rarely turn them on though.  The painting on the left is by my great grandfather, an English landscape artist.  This is one of his very few still life works and I have loved it all my life.  Mum gave it to me as a divorce gift.   The silver candlesticks in front of the mirror were a wedding gift from my parents.

Because I had hoped to paint the walls, I was reluctant to put things up.  I've lived here nearly a year now and gradually began to hammer nails into the walls and hang things.  I still hope to paint soon, so what hangs on the walls may evolved a little in time.

I hope you enjoyed the tour. 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Some Stuff and a Cat


 I have mentioned once or twice, to one or two people, that I started and then abandoned some blogs in the past.  I thought I might share them with you.  I'm not sure if I will regret that but what the heck.  For the most part, as far as I know, these blogs are sort of lost to me.  Mangotangerine I just stopped.  It's an abandoned ship rusting in the bay and I get an e-mail once in awhile telling me someone is now following it and I feel a bit guilty.  Then I think that if the person is silly enough to follow a blog that hasn't been added to in a very long time then it's not my fault!  The blasphemous fiendess is from my previous life.  The account is under my married name with an e-mail address that no longer exists.  I don't believe I could retrieve it even if I wanted to.

I haven't looked at them in years.  I wonder if they are embarrassing.  Oh well, I must own who I am and who I have always been.  It is all part of who I am today.

http://mangotangerine.wordpress.com/

http://theblasphemousfiendess.blogspot.ca/


And speaking of owning up to my messes.....

Weekends are not much different from any other day for me.  That isn't a bad thing at all, only it can contribute somewhat to my not knowing what day of the week it is.  Having had a busy week, I was determined to stay home and not go gallivanting about town.  That's not particularly a difficult thing for me to do as I am quite happy at home.  I happily ignored the accumulating dust and spent much of my time working on my latest story, researching and making notes for my big project which might be called a novel if I am feeling bold, and I also spent time painting.

I have an abstract in acrylic in the works ( you can see it behind the portraits) and I've used pastels to paint some portraits on top of my scribble sketches. Basically if you didn't know these people you would say oh those portraits are okay.  But since you know who they are supposed to be, well, that kind of blows it all to hell.  I gave you quite a suntan, Jayne.  Nearly a sunburn!  I do like to put a lot of colour in. Natalia looks like she has just been to the dentist and still has cotton in her mouth and  Curtise, my dear, you look just a bit like you are plotting my death.  Need I say that realism ain't my thing?  Let's call this interpretive, expressionism.  You did give me permission, remember.  And if you are feeling left out, don't worry I will be making you purple and distorted soon!




Gratuitous cat photos to soothe the savage beast/portrait subjects ....

Sophie pretending to be innocent right after scratching the chair.


Sophie sneaking up the back of the sofa coming to attack me.  She really misses our dog when it's play time.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Saturday Morning Lust



Forgive me as I cheat fantastically.  I have been getting behind in my blog reading, though not for the lack of trying to keep up.  I woke up today with the intention of trying to make a dent in some of it.  I think the main challenge to my blog reading is that I am sleeping better these days.  More sleep means less time lying awake at 3am reading blogs.  Anyhow, I woke today and dressed for a casual Saturday at home but I did happen to put on one of my favourite red shirts.  So I was delighted when I saw the link up party at Mis Papelicos because most of the time I am a dismal failure at participating in link ups. 

So here I am in my Saturday blog reading outfit, peering at you over my granny reading glasses and getting ready to share a blog post of my own inspired by what I read on another blog today.


One of the blogs I follow but rarely comment on is a blog with a huge following and a very dedicated focus on bohemian styled homes called Moon to Moon.  Every once in awhile it features a home that makes me gasp in the way that any man might hope to make me gasp.  Today I made such a gasp and I can't tear my eyes away.  These images are really what I want my own home to look like.  I already know the two significant things I lack and which I have wanted from the moment I bought my home: white walls and wood floors. 

I've always loved colour and at one point in my life favoured coloured walls.  I still love them but now prefer them in small accents, because I prefer to collect a colourful life and place it against the backdrop of a white wall.  Being a colour enthusiast, I am well aware that there might be fifty shades of grey but there are a million shades of white.  I prefer a warm one, not too yellow and not too pink, just a softer shade of warm off white works best for me.  My pinterest board is full of ideas and paint samples.

I don't care what is trendy in wood floors I will always love best a sort of medium to medium-dark oak floor.  My preference there, since I lean towards a rustic look, is for wide planks, but I live in an apartment so rustic is not necessarily the right aesthetic.  I won't be pretending it's a farmhouse or beach cottage, as much as those might appeal to me. 

In the meantime, I will work at getting the walls painted and keep saving for my dream floor, but at least I inherited a neutral carpet.  It could be worse.  It could be that damned funky green and brown cork throughout the whole place!

The original source of the photos is here and on Apartment Therapy

I'm just sharing three of them to give you an idea and if you want more you can use the links I've provided. 


Some of you asked for more photos of my own home.  A blog post is coming.  It will be a good before/after photo shoot for me.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Bad Photos and Nice Shoes


Thursday:
The weather cooled a little so I wore a skirt and sweater-yay, favourite outfit.
The skirt is thrift, the sweater new, the shoes new and the glass bead necklace thrift.  I took a close up to show off the necklace, which I love and forgot there was a spray bottle of cat vomit cleaner behind me.  Well, this is a reality blog.  There is also the reality of my hair flips, shiny scrubbed morning face, and general goofy look.



Then it felt even colder so I changed my skirt to a longer, warmer one.  It's navy with a white stripe but it doesn't show up well in pictures.  At least not the kind of hasty and terrible pictures I take, with my out of focus face. It's meant to be a maxi skirt but it can actually be hiked up and worn like a strapless dress or sort of scrunched up to make it a less maxi and more midi.  As a maxi it's a bit too mermaid style for my taste and I am not a strapless dress person, but like this I am quite comfortable.

Friday:
The writer's club of two meets every last Friday of the month.  I always look forward to this as I love my dear friend and of course the chance to talk about and share writing is not something I have with many people.  I presented her with a second short story.  It connects to my previous story which she loved and made me feel quite full of confidence.  This story, since it contains scenes of gay love and sex, which I hope I wrote with good taste and compassion, is not a story I will share with my parents.  They don't really know what to make of my writing but this story would leave them speechless.

Almost as fun as writing, is shopping so Sheila and I did some.  She needed me to convince her to buy the most gorgeous leather cross body bag, which she had wanted for ages but had felt guilty buying.  We looked at it and a whole bunch of others but she kept going back to the one she really liked.  I'm so happy she bought it for herself.   Sheila has very good taste.  Of course she does; we like mostly the same things and she likes my stories.  Clearly her taste is excellent.

More glass beads, yay!

Please tell me that either the awesomeness of my shoes or the blinding whiteness of my legs will detract from my weird hair.


I made an appointment for a haircut next Tuesday.  That's a somewhat scary thing when trying to actually grow my hair but if I don't get the mushroom dealt with properly I will be attacking it myself and that could be a disaster!


**  I've belatedly linked up to Sheila's Shoe Shine
Have  lovely weekend!  I hope it is full of sunshine.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A Tall Girl in High Heels


 I always figured I had three good reasons for eschewing high heels.  I was never comfortable with my height so why would I want to increase it, I have little practice at it so I'm not very good at walking in them and  I never considered them particularly practical for teaching small children, so in all, heels have never been something I did.  "I don't do heels", I would usually say.

Lately I'm doing them.  Or at least trying to.  I doubt I will ever be seen parading around in stilettos, since comfort and practicality still matter to me. But a chunkier heel or a wedge approximately three inches suddenly seemed doable.  As well, two pairs of appealing sandals in a spectacular sale also seemed very doable.

I think I may walk a little self consciously in them.  I certainly am self conscious, though mostly about my  height.  I suppose there are deep and dark psychological reasons for that.  I can easily put my finger on two of them.  One is that while most women feel feminine in heels, I feel less feminine when I am taller than most of the guys around.  That tiny little Disney princess image of the ultimate in femininity has permeated my psyche.  The ideal heroine is tiny.  Even if she is tough and strong, much is made of her being a tough and strong tiny woman, even when that strength has more to do with character than muscle.  And when time comes for the romance or sex, whichever you prefer, she has to be tiny enough to be swept of her feet by the handsome hunk of a man. 

Models, may be tall but they are about half my width so I can't say I identify with them either.  We might be told they are beautiful, all long and willowy but I've only got half that equation down, the long part.

So the take home message for me has always been, you are not the feminine ideal, not even close, you great big galumph, and because you are bigger than average we expect and assume that you are tough so we will treat you that way but if you act too tough we will call you a bully.  (I guess there may be some childhood incidents creeping in here)  And don't go thinking you look like a model because you are not nearly skinny enough.

Random Boy to Shawna: "Gee you're tall for a girl"

Random Boy to Shawna :  "You have big feet for a girl"

Random Classmates to Shawna:  "Hey Stilts!"

Random person to Shawna:  "Can you reach that thing up there for me?"


And I have never really been a person who wanted to stand out.  But here I am putting on some heels, not because they make me taller but in spite of it.  It's shoe therapy at a whole new level! 

It's funny to look at the pictures and the heels don't even really look high and  yet for me they feel dangerous like I've climbed a tall tower and am teetering at the edge.  I have also considered that my attempting to walk in them makes me sashay somewhat and I am not sure a bumless woman is mean to sashay.  Isn't sashaying all about bums?

Well what do I know.  I'm just a neurotic, tall woman in 3" heels heading off to have coffee at the grocery store with a dear friend who will be wearing sneakers.

A little acting is required.  Let's take awkward self consciousness....

And turn it into an I can do this attitude!


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Usual Sorts of Problems

I was sitting around thinking, because that's what I do when I am not lying around thinking, and the thought that occurred to me was that I am a bit sick of my clothes.  I want to throw stuff on and be done with it, knowing that I'm wearing something I like, feels like me, speaks of me and is suitable for the day.  I'm not asking for much.  But actually I am.  I am not going anywhere today, except a possible run to the bank for some cash I need to pay the cleaning lady but  I still changed my outfit three times.  It wasn't that I didn't like anything I put on, it was that it didn't feel right for the day, the weather, my mood and I still seem to be struggling with clothes I like the concept of but don't like on me.  I am not sure if it is the clothes or me, in that I mean I am not sure if it is my own body I am objecting to and the fact that clothing at this time of the year is essentially more revealing, or the simple conundrum that my favourite outfit is a skirt, tights and a sweater and I just can't wear that at this time of year. I'm trying to translate that into a skirt, tee shirt and bare legs with sandals but it isn't quite working.


The first two outfits I put on today also seemed quite unsuitable because it's shaping up to be a warm day and after half an hour in them I was too warm.  There is no guarantee that what I throw on tomorrow won't turn out to leave me not warm enough. In fact a breeze could come up and I will find myself cold later today.  That's so typical of our climate here.  Then I seem to get hung up on getting the colours and proportions right, always feeling as though I don't have the right coloured, tee shirt in the right length for each particular skirt, no matter how much I have attempted  shopping to solve this problem. 

 whine whine whine whine....
 
 In case you think my thoughts ended there, you would be quite wrong dear reader, my brain is constantly a buzz.  I continued to think about this for a few days.  I stood in my closet and looked at everything and tried to figure out what was wrong.  Eventually it came to me.  I have mastered my own style for fall and winter, and I've got a handle on it for cool spring wather, but I cant' figure out what I want to wear in warm weather.  I know I want to wear skirts but I can't seem to find the right skirts.

I have a closet full of spring/summer skirts and dresses which I put on and then take off, deciding they are not quite right.  I don't feel too terribly guilty because they are thrift shop finds at thrift shop prices, easy enough to afford the experiment in finding my summer style.  It is a time of experimenting for me but instead of being excited about it and wanting to take photos and share, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed.  Or perhaps underwhelmed. Underwhelmed by my choices and overwhelmed with the effort of trying. 

The sartorial solution to over-underwhelmedness and general closet dissatisfaction is to put on my favourite tie-dyed dress.  It's cotton jersey, easy, comfortable, has blue, green and purple colours and just sort of screams Shawna.  Or perhaps it whispers Shawna.  I'm not really the screaming type.  I'm looking for a nice word to describe a vocalisation in between a scream and a whisper but I'm all done with thinking for today.....haha.  Just kidding.  When would that ever happen?




I'm not a finished product.  To belt or not to belt, never mind shoes!  In the end I decided I like both options but today is a beltless day because it is to be spent mostly at home where comfort reigns. Then I added a couple of necklaces and some sandals and was satisfied enough to run out to the bank like that.

Yesterday's outfit was somewhat similar.  It was a wonky hair day and required a hair band that was once a belt on a dress that doesn't fit me.


See it's the jersey again.  I want more of this. More more more but it's not easy to find.  And I want some above the knee skirts in light weight jersey.  I'm going to have to make them aren't I?  Yeah, I knew it.

Monday, 19 May 2014

I Cooked Something Without Cheese!

It seems likely that nearly everything I like to cook and eat has a good dose of cheese in it.  I can't deny it, I love cheese.  I also tend to love things with a tomato sauce, whether it is full of vegetables, slightly curried or delightfully cheesey.  If I am cooking, you can bet there is likely to be tomato, onion, mushroom, garlic and spinach in the dish.  All things my ex husband greatly disliked.  I kept cooking these things trying to get rid of him but he just wouldn't leave so finally I had to.  No, I'm kidding, honestly!  Really. 

One day while wandering around on the internet looking at recipes I came across something called Shakshuka or Shakshouka.   I don't remember where I originally found it but there are recipes all over the net, if one only googles it. Here is an explanation of it  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakshouka 


Believed to be Tunisian in origin, it is basically eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce so although I probably pinned it to my long neglected pinterest board,  I just kept the basic idea of it in my head.  Some recipes include feta cheese with it and some don't.  I am quite fond of feta but also very happily eat this dish without it.

A recipe isn't really required.  I used a bit of marinara sauce and add my favourite veggies, those mentioned above and sometimes some roasted eggplant and/or some sweet peppers if I have them.  In this case I forgot both the peppers and the feta though I did have them on hand.  Sometimes I just use come canned tomatoes mashed up a bit.  I add salt, pepper, and a bit of spicey pepper such as cayenne or chipotle according to my taste preference.
The main thing is to aim for a spicy tomato sauce with some chunky veggies in it.  I tried it out with some chopped olives and that was quite tasty.

There's enough sauce here to serve four people so I used only a quarter of this amount when I added the eggs and put the rest of the sauce in the fridge.



When the sauce is simmering in the pan, crack a few eggs into it and pop a lid over them to poach them on low heat.  I eat three eggs at a time for this meal.  I like to make a big batch of the spicy sauce to keep on hand so I can just heat some up and cook eggs in it any time. 

I'm not fancy.  I dump it all into a bowl and happily eat my eggy, tomatoey, veggie stew.  Fancy recipe sites make it look pretty garnished with parsley and feta.


This photo directly above comes from Smitten Kitchen where there is a recipe, information and apparently 300 comments worth of controversy and contention over which country this dish originated in and what ingredients should be in it.

I have no desire for such controversy so I will not call my dish Shakshouka and claim merely to be inspired by it.



I don't eat grains, but I'm sure this dish is very tasty with couscous or quinoa. It's probably also great with nice crusty pieces of bread and some wine.   I think it is totally appropriate as a meal any time of day though I usually have it for dinner.


Perhaps some time I will follow an original recipe a little more closely, because how much fun is it to say 'I had Shakshouka for dinner tonight!'


Sunday, 18 May 2014

Happy Little Sunday

I can't really remember Saturday but that is not because there was any alcohol involved.  I think there was a lot of reading involved, a game of scrabble and some laundry.  Sunday was sunny and I really wanted to get outside. I had tired myself out by getting groceries on Friday so that made Saturday a mandatory rest day.  On Sunday I headed out with my camera to walk around my neighbourhood and pop into the little church across the street where a market was advertised.  It didn't look promising as I arrived, only a few cars in the area indicated anyone was present at all.  Sure enough when I poked my head in the door I saw about five tables set up with various crafts on display and several women all looking at me.  "Come on in" they chorused.

I immediately felt trapped.  Fortunately I had my camera quite visible and i offered up cheerfully that I was out for a picture taking walk and had spotted them and popped in.  This was meant to suggest I was not carrying cash.  I did a quick circuit, politely listening to and enthusiastically encouraging someone's build your own jewelry business, smiling nervously at the woman with knitted dishclothes and the one beside her flogging some sort of slimming body lotion.  Then there was The Mustard Lady, who was not actually manning, or I should say womanning her table.  I didn't want any mustard and I didn't ant to have to explain I was sensitive to gluten and needed the mustard to have made no contact with it.  I glided on, confident that I was nearing the door and then a cheerful woman popped up in front of me.

She was the proud maker of some crafty items which I must say did not impress me at all but she was so sweet.  Oh dear this is exactly the sort of trap I am prone to falling into.  I had better get it out of the way now and make it clear that I am not a big fan of crafts that involve little to no artistic talent and I particularly dislike them if they have anything plastic in them.  My loathing of plastic is a whole other post.  I think crafts are a wonderful thing, providing hours of entertainment to the people who enjoy doing them and I have seen many levels of talent on display at craft fairs.  I have my own opinions about which items are quality and which are crap.  I am known to view many things as tacky which others are happy to display in their bathrooms, covering their spare rolls of toilet paper.  You may think I have no sense of fun.  Perhaps I don't.  However I am being excruciatingly honest here and in real offline life, I am even more excruciatingly polite.

I cringe as I say such things, being someone who dabbles in amateur artistic endeavours and them puts them on her blog where her poor readers then have to come up with something nice to say.  But the difference, I would argue, is that I am not asking anyone to pay for them.  No, I would be no good at selling my paintings or drawings at all.  I would happily give them away to someone who wanted them.  So there I was today, faced with a very sweet woman who had some degree of drawing talent, but who spent it drawing on little pieces of plastic which she then strung and sold as jewelry.   There were other items on her table, which reminded me of the crafts I might have done while in Brownies.  Have I mentioned that she was very sweet?

So I got stuck there.  I felt compelled to admire her work and pretend I might buy something, which then turned into feeling compelled to buy something.  Her prices were too high.  I agonised over what I might like enough to justify spending the money.  I disguised it as unable to decide which of the many delightful items I should choose.  What did I buy and how much did I spend?  Are you dying to know?  I spent too much, that's for sure.  I purchased two little pendants at $10 each, made by gluing a decorative piece of paper onto a wooden scrabble letter, covering it with some sort of sealant and attaching one of those doodads which allow it to be strung on a chain, or as in this case, a stretchy piece of black string.

Why do I do this sort of thing?  I don't really know.  I know it has something to do with feeling a sort of agonised sympathy with someone who has put herself out there and is taking a risk, offering up a little bit of herself and hoping it is of value.  Like the teacher going around the classroom, encouraging every student, I make my way around a craft market telling every vendor that they have done a lovely job.  The only problem is that when I was a teacher I made money, as a captive at a craft fair I lose money.


How did I take my mind off this expensive little adventure?  I had a pleasant wander around my neighbourhood and took a few pictures to share, of course.



This is The Little Red Church, just across the street from me, where the unfortunate Market cum Craft Fair was held.  It's no longer used as a church but is rented out for artsy endeavours and performances.



I crossed the street here, where there was once a crosswalk but it has since been removed, rather hastily retreating from the church parking lot and heading back into my little neighbourhood to walk a circular route home. This is actually one of the main roads in town and thus one of the busiest, but not so much on Sunday so it was quite easy to scoot across.  Why yes, that is a car driving down the middle of the road. 

It seems I missed the party.


We are at the bottom of the road now, looking past a few parked boats and campers, to the bay just beyond an old cemetery disguised as a little park.  Remember we are just down the road from the town's first Catholic church.  All that remains of the cemetery ( oh ha ha I am punny! ) is one cenotaph with names of some of the town's wealthy early inhabitants.  No need to pay my respects today, so I veered to the right and carried on.

This building, just down the road from my home is known as The Manor, a sort of tongue in cheek name though my mother refers to it as the old fort.  I am not sure why-must ask her!  This is the wild west and we don't have much in the way of old buildings.  The best we can do is rickety wooden things that date to the 1890s.  I don't think this one is even quite that old.  Our town did have what was the oldest building in the province, but it burned down two years ago.  The Manor is now home to a peculiar assortment of offices. In order to make a sort of circular route for my short walk, I am actually walking through the parking lot of The Manor which connects two roads into a sort of unofficial circuit.

Walking up the next road I approach home, a trio of ugly 1982 built three story walk ups.  This one is the foremost one and mine is in behind it.

The neighbourhood is mainly basic family homes built in the late 70s and early 80s. Now a coveted neighbourhood it is a more expensive one though fewer than half the properties could be considered fancy.  The gardens are generally nice and the trees well established so it's  very pleasant here.  I have no garden of my own anymore but I am still surrounded by them.


A neighbour has a large mass of this lovely blue Lithodora, spilling all across the boulevard and along the edge of the road. Rhododendrons are in bloom everywhere and some of the earliest roses are coming out.  Along the edge of the driveway as it goes up towards my own building, grows a Rosa Rugosa Alba, one of my most favourite plants and which I had in my own garden growing near the drive.  It is beautifully fragrant and has spectacular hips in the autumn. Wouldn't we all love to have spectacular hips?



I have a passionate love of rugosa roses, which are both rugged and beautiful, simple, delicate and yet impervious to any sort of trouble, usually fragrant; they are among the plants that make me most happy, that seem to me to represent what I want life or perhaps my own self to be.  Sniffing them apparently makes me wax drunkenly poetic.  I can see this one out Sophie's window, though I am rather higher above it than I am accustomed to being.  It seems right to me though, that it grows right where I can see it every day. On this happy little Sunday, if I had not gone to the struggling little market, I would have missed a chance to bury my nose in it, this rose that means so much to me.