Sunday, October 23, 2016

New York Stories. Well... Some of Them.

In a moment of beautiful serendipity, I sat down at my computer this morning, to start this post about my trip to New York. The shopping. The theatre. The art. And on CBC radio, Michael Enright began interviewing Ross King, discussing King's new book Mad Enchantment, about Claude Monet and his famous water lily paintings. Two of which I just saw... like... three days ago!  At Moma in New York. I love it when stuff like that happens, don't you? 

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's begin at the beginning. Elizabeth and Sue went to New York. On a plane. They stayed four nights, and saw and did many exciting things. These are their stories. And pictures, of course.

View from our plane as we approach New York
Glued to the window. Waiting for a view of the New York skyline.
Elizabeth and I have been planning this trip for a few months. Getting together to eat lunch and talk about what we wanted to see, and what we didn't give a toss about. Researching the best ways to travel and where to stay. Making lists of what we wanted to do. We decided to stay at the beautiful, historic Gregory Hotel on West 35th St. There was a bit of a glitch with our booking when we arrived on Monday. But that was solved, and the rate for our first night suitably reduced. I do admit to getting, ahem, a bit testy with the front desk clerk over that. But I calmed down and things were soon hunky dory. This is me, below, lounging on my bed in my Veronica Beard jacket.

Lounging in our room at the Gregory Hotel, NYC. Veronica Beard suit
Photo of me in our room at the Gregory courtesy of Elizabeth 
The Gregory is close to so much we wanted to see and do. So, for three and a half days we walked. And walked. The first afternoon and evening we found our bearings. Explored a few blocks in all directions from our hotel. Saw the first of many iconic landmarks. Ate Korean tapas at a nearby Korean Gastro Pub. Oh, yum. That was delicious. I even managed to use chopsticks without embarrassing myself. Thanks to my sister-in-law Yu Ling who taught me this skill many years ago.

View of the Empire State Building which was near the Gregory Hotel. NYC
The Empire State Building was quite near our hotel. 
The next two days we hoofed it all over midtown and downtown. Somewhat shell shocked, I will say, by the crowds and the sensory overload. As Elizabeth said, "Too much much-ness" Love that line. Times Square is definitely a far cry from Manotick on the Rideau, folks.

Times Square
Times Square ...  Photo courtesy of Elizabeth 
We spent a lovely afternoon at Moma, the Museum of Modern Art. Moma was on both our 'must do' lists. I love modern art, having been converted many years ago when I took my creative writing class on a field trip to the National Gallery here in Ottawa. I still smile at the memory of our "very cool" tour guide who kept me and 30+ initially bored and dismissive teenagers spellbound for over an hour. I don't pretend to always understand what I'm looking at. But I'm always willing to be enlightened. At Moma, the Matisse painting, below, began to unfold for me when I read the description. Ah, now I could see the flower pot on the balcony, the man in the round turban, seen from behind. Of course, we also saw lots of Picassos, stunning paintings by Andrew Wyeth, and those Monet water lilies that I mentioned above. And then after only two floors ... we were done. Arted out, so to speak. We'd leave the rest for another visit.

The Moroccans by Henri Matisse as seen at Moma in New York City

Text description of a Matisse painting at Moma in New York City

On our way back to the hotel from Moma we stopped for a quiet moment at Saint Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. Beautiful. Then toured Uniqlo, a temple of a very different sort. So many sweaters; none of them suitable, as it turned out, for moi. We ended the afternoon at the New York Public Library. A gorgeous old building, and so wonderful that it belongs to the people of New York. The library... perfect end to a perfect day for an ex-English teacher and a retired editor, don't you think?

Saint Patrick's Cathedral and fast fashion retailer Uniqlo, both on Fifth Avenue, New York City
Two Fifth Ave temples: Saint Patrick's Cathedral and fast fashion giant Uniqlo
That night we were well able to handle a big meal, but not prepared to walk far to get it. So we dined in at Brendan's Bar and Grill attached to our hotel, part of the original "public rooms" of the Gregory back in its heyday. That's Elizabeth below. Hungry and footsore, but still smiling.

Dining at Brendan's Bar and Grill, West 35th St, New York City

Day two was largely dedicated to shopping. Now why doesn't that surprise you? Caffeinated and coiffed we left the hotel early, hoofed it down Broadway, and ate our breakfast in the square under the shadow of the iconic Flatiron building.

View of The Flatiron building, Broadway, New York City
New York's iconic Flatiron building erected in 1902
Then we pressed on, intent on shopping in Greenwich Village and Soho. We lost ourselves for a time among the "eighteen miles of books" in the Strand Bookstore. Experienced the strangely confusing decor at Prada on Broadway. Seriously, when we entered the store, the stairs looked as if they disappeared into thin air. We laughingly asked how to access the women's clothes, and a staff member chuckled and kindly explained. In fact everyone was lovely; which kind of surprised both of us. We had expected haughty indifference. I had a hard time choosing a sweater: burgundy or military green? I also had a hard time opening the sliding door of my dressing room. For a moment or two I was trapped inside four walls of mirrors with a video screen of Prada-clad models, their hair softly blowing in the breeze. Totally surreal, almost Ray Bradbury-esque. Then we lunched in Soho. And on our way back to our hotel, we detoured through Washington Square Park, Henry James country. Books and clothes and literary landmarks. Oh my. My Stan Smith sneakers were steaming from the miles of pavement we'd covered. 

Day three started with a visit to Macy's. I shopped, and tried on coats, and felt a little guilty as Elizabeth patiently held my purse. I found a fall coat that I loved, and which now resides in my closet. I'll tell you the tale about that in a fashion post soon. We stopped by Rockefeller Center to see the statue of Prometheus. And the ice skaters, of course. Not surprisingly the ice looked a little spongy after the recent heat wave. Then we purchased a take-out salad for supper and went back to the Gregory to put our feet up for a while. 

Shot of Prometheus and ice skaters at Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center, Prometheus and some skaters. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth 
We wanted to be fresh for our last night in New York. We had tickets for Beautiful:The Carole King Musical at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. It was marvelous. Especially for two people who were teenagers in the seventies. One of whom remembers her older sister buying King's Tapestry album back in the day. The songs from that record form part of the sound track of my early teen years. "So far away..." 

 In Times Square on our way to the Stephen Sondheim Theater, NYC
Elizabeth's photo of me in Times Square on our way to the theatre.
I grinned throughout the entire performance. And Elizabeth says I may have audibly "oh-ed" once or twice at the beginning of a particularly beloved song. It's hard to keep quiet when you hear the first strains of a song you've sung every word to, for so many years. During the encore number the entire audience got to their feet and sang along. Sigh. Brought a tear to my eye. 

Playbill for Beautiful: The Carole King Story, outside Stephen Sondheim Theatre, NYC

In another serendipitous moment, we discovered that the role of Carole King is now played by Canadian Chilina Kennedy, whom I saw in Evita at the Stratford Festival, and Elizabeth saw in Evangeline. Now how cool is that? 

New York at night
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth 
New York at night is beautiful. We wended our way back to the hotel, as a mist descended. That's the Empire State Building below. The top of it lost in the fog. Tomorrow the weather would change. And we'd head for home. 

The Empire State Building disappearing into the mist
Elizabeth's shot of the Empire State Building in the mist 
Our journey home was not without its drama. Extra long cab ride to the airport courtesy of construction and lots and lots of rain. Weather delay, as well as broken-down ground equipment and some guy who had to get off the plane minutes before we were to take off, all meant that our flight out of LaGuardia was delayed by almost two hours. This ate up (pun intended) the time between flights in Toronto when we should have been able to get supper. It also meant a mad and frantic dash for our flight to Ottawa. And I do mean mad. Leaping to the front of the loooong security line after clearing customs. This upon the advice of the West Jet operator whom Elizabeth phoned as we languished in the huge line ten minutes before our flight. Then the dash to the gate as our names were called. Red faced, hair no doubt standing on end (well, mine anyway), filing to the back of the plane (of course) under the baleful gaze of people who had been waiting in their seats, and were probably wondering who the two airheads were who couldn't get to their gate on time. Or at least that's what I imagined they were thinking. Then, starving, we were offered those disgusting granola bars... again. I hate those. But I inhaled it anyway, thinking that hopefully Hubby would have something good to eat at home. And, of course, he did. 

So. Elizabeth and Sue went to New York. These were their stories. Well, some of them. We've already started talking about next year. I hear that Sally Field will be playing Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Oh. I adore Tennessee Williams. I'd give anything to see that.

If you get a chance, you have to see Beautiful. I mean it. You'll love it. Have a listen.

Linking up with Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner

Monday, October 17, 2016

New York State of Mind

This post will be short and sweet. Short because I'm flying to New York City tomorrow with a girlfriend. And there are outfits to be tried on, ironed, packed... etc etc. And sweet because... well ... tomorrow I'm flying to New York City with a girlfriend. And I'm excited. It's my sixtieth birthday treat to myself. Albeit a few months late. But who cares? As my friend Elizabeth said when I asked her if she wanted to come along... "Autumn in New York. Sounds good to me."

New York City

We've had our flights and hotel booked for a while. What will we do when we get there? We've done our homework. We've lots of ideas, and recommendations, and we've narrowed down what we don't care about, and what we do. But as for making specific plans.... we've not made up our minds yet. We plan to walk a lot, and shop some. See a show, or maybe two. Visit some museums, we're not sure which ones yet. And other than that... eat, sip wine... and enjoy just being there. 

Just being there will be great. 

So, my friends. I'll be in touch in a few days. In the meantime. I am truly in a "New York State of Mind." 

Love this Billy Joel song.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Avoiding the Dreaded Question: What To Wear When You Don't Have Time To Wait for Inspiration.

What should I wear, today? What, what, what? Sigh. How many times have I stared blankly into my closet and asked myself that dreaded question? Ha. Many, many times, my friends. 

To be truthful, I haven't done it in years. But when I was younger... well... that was a whole other thing. Back then I might go through several outfit changes each morning, tossing aside unwanted items as I became more and more frustrated, and had less and less time before I had to be out the door. Then, when inspiration failed me, and time ran out, I'd root through the pile of clothes on my bed, haul out a favourite and too often relied upon outfit combination, and rush down to the basement to plug in the iron. Because, of course, the blouse or skirt was now hopelessly wrinkled, having been discarded early in the process, and lying under a growing pile of other discarded items. I'd press the wrinkles out, toss on whatever it was I'd chosen, and dash out the door, coat flying, twenty minutes late, knowing that if traffic was heavy my first morning class might be in danger of starting without me. And that would be bad because I was the teacher. Phew. So glad those days are over.

Wouldn't it be nice if we all just looked like this every morning? source
But, as I said, I haven't done that in years. Partly because I'm much more organized now. If there's one thing that teaching teaches teachers it's that being organized pays off in sooo many ways. Course timelines planned, units mapped out, target dates for tests and major assignments in place from day one of the semester. All of that frees you up to be more creative in planning day to day activities, more in the moment, and better able to have fun with the kids. And it reduces your stress. Big time. And after a few years, that technique of planning the big stuff in order to relax with the day to day bleeds into other aspects of your life. Like wardrobe planning.

Here's how it works for me. I know many of you have read this "philosophy" numerous times, so I'll be brief. Every season I do a wardrobe inventory of what I own that I will still wear this season, and what I will consign or give away. Then I look for gaps or needs. To help me decide what I might want to add to my wardrobe, I pull pictures from magazines and pin them on my bulletin board for inspiration. Or I start a Pinterest board. Then I make out a seasonal shopping list. And I write all this down in my little book. The writing down part is important.

 Fall 2016 fashion inspiration board
My inspiration board for Fall 2016.
I don't always follow my shopping list. Sometimes I can't find an item, or I change my mind about what I want. But I always know what I don't need. And I shop for items that fit with other things I own. Sometimes I find a jacket or a suit that I really love which takes my wardrobe off in a new direction. Like my navy Veronica Beard suit. But I am always aware that I may need to then find coordinating tops or shoes. So I don't do that often. And only if I love, love whatever I'm buying. And never if the only reason for buying it is because it's on sale. I mean, buying that brown midi-skirt at a fabulous price isn't smart shopping if you now need new brown boots, and maybe even a camel or brown coat, to go with it. Later in the season, I usually do a follow-up shop, to fill a specific niche that I've identified. Like yesterday I found a pair of khaki jeans at Massimo Dutti that work beautifully with my khaki suede Twiggy moto jacket. They will also work with a grey and sage green striped Vince tee, with my navy and white tees, or with my navy Veronica Beard jacket. So one new pair of jeans broadens the wearability of several other major pieces.

 My tiny clothes closet.
Most of my tiny closet. The pants and jeans are on the right out of sight of the camera.
Once my closet is organized. And I've shopped. I always spend a happy afternoon trying on all kinds of outfit combinations. To see what goes with what in reality, on my body, and not just on the hanger. When I worked, I'd do this on a Wednesday. Hubby always played hockey after school on Wednesday afternoon, and I knew I'd have the house all to myself for several uninterrupted hours. So I'd rush home from work, brew up a pot of tea, and get started trying to recreate the outfits that hitherto had existed only on my inspiration board and in my imagination. Sometimes the fantasy did not translate into reality. Sometimes I'd find new combinations that had never occurred to me. I used to keep a hastily scrawled list of these new ideas pinned on my cork board, where I could see it when I was working at my desk. That way I'd be more likely to remember to wear these new outfit combinations. 

These days, instead of taking notes, I just take pictures for my blog. Then when I'm getting dressed, I can quickly look up an outfit shot on my i-pad. If I weren't writing this blog, I think I'd still take pictures with an i-phone and keep outfit ideas stored there. Seems like a quick way of recording outfits that work, that you like, and that you want to be able to recall when you have to be somewhere, and you don't have time to wait for inspiration.

Earlier this week, I had what Hubby jokingly refers to as one of my "fashion shows." I tried on a whole mess of clothes. This time, I wanted to see how I might get more wear out of these old brown suede Prada ankle boots. Eventually I found I liked them with my flared Current Elliot jeans, my new Veronica Beard jacket, over a cream silk blouse. And with this double-faced, wool scarf which has teal green, blue, and brown animal print on one side, and which looks great with both chocolate brown and with navy. 

Veronica Beard navy jacket, Current Elliot jeans, cream silk Equipment blouse, brown suede Prada booties, Holt Renfrew animal print scarf
Trying to translate inspiration into reality the other day.

I should add that "fashion shows" are just for the purpose of identifying what I might wear. They are not generally for public consumption... especially given the fact that I had no make-up on, and my hair was sticking up in tufts. Hence my hiding behind an artfully placed book. See how beneficial reading can be? Ha. Totally appropriate camouflage for me. I always did have my nose stuck in a book

So you see, if you know what you own, and you know what goes with what because you've already tried on several different outfit combinations, you can avoid the dreaded question "What should I wear?" You can eliminate the distressing last minute dearth of inspiration. And totally do away with the towering pile of cast off outfits on the bed under which the one item you desire will now be languishing in severe need of a good ironing. I always hate when that happens. 

And let me add one caveat to this advice. Never, never presume to plan too far in advance exactly what you will wear for each day of the week. I did that one year when I started to become a bit obsessed with organization. In love with my newly learned skill of planning ahead, I thought: "If a bit of planning is good, then of course a whole lot of planning will be...well.. better. Won't it?" Ah. Not so much. Sometimes you really can have too much of a good thing. I began to realize that it was much better to have a range of outfits from which to choose to suit my mood. Because there's nothing worse than planning to wear, say, a skirt suit with high heels on the one morning when you feel like crap and really, really want to wear cords and running shoes. Always have a plan B ... trust me on this one. 

Now, I know some of you are saying... "Gad, this woman takes dressing seriously." You're right. I do. I seem to be temperamentally unable to grab whatever jeans and top are handy, throw them on, and happily head off to start my day. I want to look good, or as good as I can. Be comfortable. And appropriately attired for my mood, and for whatever activity I'm embarking upon. Shallow it may be... I will admit... but I can't help it. That's just the way I am. A bad outfit makes me verrry cranky.

How about you my friends? How do you solve those last minute 'what to wear with what' dilemmas? Any secret tricks you use to pull together a polished look when you're pressed for time? Any funny wardrobe stories you want to share? 

Go ahead. We're listening.

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