Thursday, September 11, 2014

Post-Vacation Style Thoughts

I packed sensibly and lightly for our Canada trip. Black knit skirt, white denim skirt, emerald green jeans, white linen shirt, snake print shell, floaty blue and black tunic, black tee, black and white cardigan, black sandals. Earrings, necklace, watch, light scarf for the plane. On the day of my flight, it rained, so I had to add a jacket and proper lace-up shoes. This all fit in my carry-on, which seemed to have more hair products in it than clothes. 
My trusty purple leopard bag.

This all worked very well for the sunny and warm weather we had. I was content to wear the linen shirt with everything. I knew I would shop in Montreal, and I did, finding jewelry and shoes and a scarf.

Usually, when I return from a vacation, I feel like burning the few things I had to wear EVERY DAY. When I came home from Montreal, I found myself wanting to wear those very simple outfits again. In particular, I didn't want to wear a lot of color. My first week back I wore only black and blue. This week I wore only black and red (gray and red on one day). Depending on the weather, I might wear yellow as my color next week. Yellow and white, yellow and gray, etc., and maybe just a shot of yellow at that - a scarf or a necklace.

I'm sure I'll return to bright color combinations eventually; I'm not purging my closet or anything CRAZY. I just want to enjoy simpler choices and more neutrals for a while. Plus I am looking forward to my two new pairs of boots providing a punch of orange (Fluevog suede Milla) or teal (Cobb Hill Bethany lace-ups).
The Milla - so pretty!

Cobb Hill Bethany Blue/Teal
They zip up the back!

I got both of these on sale, but they were still pretty spendy. The Cobb Hill boots come in a variety of rich colors and leathers too. Just a thought.

And my favorite souvenir from Montreal, my fat horsie fridge magnet from my generous and clever friend Heidi:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Montreal, Tout Alors!

Heidi and I went to the remarkable St. Joseph's Oratory on Mount Royal, Canada's third largest church, and the third largest dome in the world. St. Peter's is the largest, and this remarkable place is number two. I'm not a regular church-goer, but I appreciate the emotional intensity of a place where millions of people have focused their hearts and minds on both their own troubles and the power of God to alleviate them. Or perhaps they were filled with joy and thanks when they sat in those pews, or climbed, kneeling, up those many steps. I always light a candle when I visit.

Then we came home and fell on our beds because we were very hot and tired. Lovely, lovely air-conditioning. We had perfectly delicious sushi for dinner.

On Monday, Heidi and Pam hit the airport early - but sadly were delayed for hours, both on the plane and in the airport. That kind of ennui makes me desperate and homicidal. I had booked a later flight, so I went downtown with my suitcase, and ditched it with the pleasant people at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I saw wonderful installations large and small. There was a short film of an artist talking about her memories of her mother's reel-to-reel tape recorder; how fascinated she was with it as a child, and how her distant mother found a connection through the device with her daughter. This film ran side by side with footage of the artist manipulating the recorder in various ways. I found this very touching. My parents also had a reel to reel and I have equally fond memories of it.

I had a leisurely lunch across the street - I pointed to another diner and said "I'll have that salad and a glass of wine." Then I took a moderately sweltering bus (comfy seat by the window at least) to the airport and came home.

It was such a great trip: the company, the city, the food, the sights, the shopping.  I talked with Pam and Heidi a fair amount about the expense and coming to terms with it. I suppose it was a turning point for me in feeling comfortable with taking a nice vacation and all that entails. I'm so close, so close to being out of debt completely, and then a two thousand dollar trip once a year will truly be no big deal. It wasn't much of a deal this year. The apartment was cheap, the flight not too bad, and obviously, I took the bus or walked everywhere. I didn't buy a fur coat. I bought two pairs of shoes, a really nice scarf and a variety of souvenirs. I had an amazing meal/experience. That was key, feeling like I was spending my money on an experience, not just stuff. And when I came home and found the orange suede Fluevog boots at my local store for $200 off their original price, that felt like pure lagniappe.

Fluevog Milla Boots in rust

Of course, I haven't gotten my credit card bill yet.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Montreal August 2014 Part One

I just returned from a wanderjahr through the streets of Montreal. Except wanderjahr usually implies tents, backpacks and beef jerky, and we were staying in a lovely Mile End apartment and snacking on sopressata and Brie.

Montreal is a lovely city and we had a wonderful visit. Here are some of the highlights.

First, our rental apartment on Avenue du Parc! We each had our own bedroom, with a full kitchen and laundry included, and a fantastic shower. No low flow shower heads here. We were also in a wildly diverse neighborhood, with restaurants and bakeries and shops to suit a Hasidic/Muslim/hipster/student community. Those fantastic shtreimel! We tried the Montreal bagels and didn't think they were all that, but the pastries and sushi and Thai food were delicious. Plus, we were across the street from fabulous markets for fruit and cheese and wine and maple bacon potato chips.

On our first day we strolled down Rue St. Denis and just happened to stumble on some amazing shoe stores. OK, I knew there was a Fluevog store there, but I didn't know that I would buy sandals and boots at La Boutique Marcheur. The owner was quite cheerful after our visit. I bought a pair of teal lace-up Cobb Hill boots and red leather Fidelio sandals. THEN we went to the Fluevog store and tried on many things. They had the boots I want in my size but not in the lovely rusty orange I want, so I will check the Chicago store, and if they don't have them, will order them online. After this arduous experienc,e we enjoyed a plate of steak frites and walked back to our apartment. On our way, we found jewelry and funny t-shirts and souvenirs.

That evening we indulged in the tasting menu at Tocque! it is worth commemorating the seven courses. We began with two glasses of champagne to compare and contrast, and during the meal we had a friendly and extensive lesson in wines. Thanks to Heidi and Pam for generously sharing their glasses with me; I couldn't have handled the full flight, but I did enjoy a sip from each.

Scallops with blueberry water and beebalm mousse 
Swordfish tartare with watermelon and daikon radish
Foie Gras, brioche, pistachio crumble and peaches (my first foie gras!)
Barbecue quail, polenta and a corn foam 
Lamb, merguez sausage and petite vegetables
A fabulous cheese plate  - with slivered beets and melted cheese on a slice of pickle! 
Sponge cake, sorbet (maybe currant?) and vanilla cream
Tiny Maple cream candies and tomato/watermelon gems

The whole experience was cheerful, unhurried and completely satisfying.  Hats off to Tocque! (hee hee). When we emerged from the restaurant on to the Place du Congress, the square was filled with dry ice fog, drifting among the trees and benches. The fountain had a ring of fire burning in it. Magical. We took the bus home, slightly stunned, talking about that amazing pickle.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Last Purchases of 2013

This year I realized I'd had it with freezing knees, those square inches between the hem of my wool skirt and the top of my boots. I'm not wearing long skirts like I used to, and I am cold. The object of my affection was a thousand dollar Fleurette coat at Nordstrom's, though I realized that was not happening.

Fleurette Cashmere Long Coat
But there were some more reasonable possibilities at Lord and Taylor and Macy's; Anne Klein, Jones New York, etc. There was even a Cinzia Rocca coat that I might have gotten up the nerve to charge on my card.

Cinzia Rocca Due Wing Collar Alpaca Coat
Some of the more affordable coats were blends of wool and nylon, and I suspected they wouldn't be all that warm. Some seemed warm, but were itchy around the throat. One Forecaster of Boston coat was gorgeous, but had shortish sleeves, which made no sense to me.

Then I found it. (Though mine is black.) 

Portrait Mixed Media Coat at Lord and Taylor. The model's picture, for a change, does not do it justice. It has a detachable hood. It has deep pockets. It is easy to button. It is not too heavy. The cuffs unfold to keep your hands SUPER warm. It is incredibly soft around my neck and face. It was 60% off (and even more marked down now).

I wore it home. I may have taken a nap under it. I wore it Christmas Eve downtown in single digit temperatures, and was toasty. And it even moves well when I walk (down is so stiff). I feel like I'm in the Narnia wardrobe when I'm wearing it.

Then, being on a tear, and in utter contrast, I bought this:
Anne Klein Asymmetrical Quilted Coat

It was 60% off at Macy's. I've wanted a quilted leather jacket since my former boss showed up at work in one about a decade ago. She wore it like a blazer, in a tough but sweet outfit. Moto jacket, floral skirt.

And it is pretty darn cool. It's hanging in my bedroom, letting some of the packing marks relax, letting the leather bloom, as it were. I have a gray and white floral challis skirt that might be good, and an orange pleated silk skirt that might be good too. I kind of like the idea of schoolgirl plaid with it too (which, ahem, I don't own).

So, my last purchases of 2013 are all about NEED (warm, long, soft, affordable) and WANT (short, leather, cool). Here's to a little of both for all of us in 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Buffy and Buttered Toast

Fifteen years ago, our very elderly cat had to be put to sleep. For about a day we caught our breath, and then I saw a mouse in the kitchen. It's not like Keisha could catch them anymore, but apparently her presence was enough to keep them out of sight. Three days later, a friend asked me if I would consider taking in a stray kitten that was living under her neighbor's garage. I would.

She had to be tempted out with a can of tuna, but she was very hungry indeed, so I wrapped her and her needle-like claws in a towel and brought her home. I watched her for a couple of days, cautious but fierce, with a glamorous tortoise coat of bronze and brown. It was 1998, so of course I named her Buffy.

She proved herself an efficient slayer, but a bit anxious and neurotic. She was particular about her food, and I worried that she didn't eat enough. Sometimes she could be encouraged, and I would find Ben sitting on the kitchen floor. "Buffy wants me to watch her eat." Ben even allowed her to sit on his lap at dinner once in a while. I would see a long paw snake past his fork to snag a green bean. Then Ben would sigh, and mutter "I'm putting Buffy away." Too often we forgot about her, and opened the bedroom door guiltily to see narrowed eyes glaring at us from the bed. Every morning she would intently watch me eat a muffin or toast, and then finish off the crumbs. Buttered toast was her single favorite food.

Buffy patrolled our yard in the evening, and occasionally went off to cat bars to meet her admirers, but only brought home her prey once; a noisy cicada. I asked Ben to take it from her, but he called up from the basement, "There's nothing left to take, it's like KFC down here, just legs and wings!"

She lay on our computer back when they were big enough to drape a cat on.

When flat screens came along, she lay in front of the monitor to distract us, and if I leaned close to her, nibbled my hair. If I ignored her, she would reach over to the keyboard and tap my fingers.

She was a very shy animal, and cat sitters commented that they rarely if ever saw her (and then she was backing away from them), but she liked a chosen few friends and would allow them to pet her. My lap would do until Ben came home, and then it was all about The Boy.

She had company nearly all her life in the form of big Riley, but it was detente more than friendship. In the picture below, she (on the right) is about to bite him.

We moved only once in her life, a good thing, because it was traumatic for her, and for weeks, if there was an odd noise (like construction or the trains), Buffy took shelter in the sink.

She liked cool spaces, and usually sat near an open window, where as Riley would bask on our heated floors in the winter. I'm with Buffy, it's too damn hot in the condo most of the time.

Right before Christmas, she wouldn't eat any breakfast, and was breathing hard. I took her to the vet that morning, and she died at home that evening. It was heart failure - nothing to be done. I am glad she didn't suffer for long, glad to have given her a home, and very glad to have known her, my beautiful little slayer.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Ben spent Thanksgiving in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, traveling with his Dad's family. They were refreshing a decades-old family connection between Ben's grandfather, Brace Johnson, and the church he helped to establish. Ben had a great time, as you can imagine, and also found the church compound very peaceful and refreshing to the spirit.

He spent several happy hours with elephants.

Including watching them paint, which he found fascinating.

He learned to be cautious of the food (despite loving American Thai restaurants):

And when he got to my house he was very, very tired.

So Riley made sure Ben had a thorough rest.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Day After Outfits and Houndstooth

This is what I wore the day after Thanksgiving, when no one wants anything feeling tight anywhere: my Dana Buchman jersey dress, leggings, a cotton cardigan, and Born boots. Aaaaaaaah.

I got my new Ann Taylor houndstooth skirt in the mail and wore it the very next day. This is a sign of true affection. The only minor drawback to this lovely item is that it does not have a kick pleat, and makes it hard for me to take my usual long strides. If I had know that . . . I would have bought it anyway, as it is precisely the length and print and fabric that I wanted. I think the skirt has rotated slightly in the above picture, which is why the pattern looks wonky on one side.

My little tripod gave up the ghost after a year of faithful service. Not bad for seven dollars. I never plan to make any more effort than pointing my phone at myself in the kitchen, so I don't want to invest in real equipment. Right now I'm looking at a flexible coil or feet with little grippy hands at one end, something like this:

Cyanics i-3 Flexible Portable Stand

But until that arrives, I'll post pictures of Ben and anything else that comes to mind.