Thursday, August 25, 2016

Dipping My Toe in the Dress Over Pants Trend

Like most women who love clothes, I like to keep up with trends. I like to know what's in and what's out, and whether what's in or out will ultimately have any effect on my wardrobe. I like to look polished, pulled together, and current, but I don't usually like to go off the deep end when it comes to trends. Especially if it means spending money on something that might look dated next season. But shopping my closet for pieces I can recombine, or re-purpose to replicate a trend that I like. Dipping my toe in the water, so to speak. Maybe even wading in a little. Well, I'm all over that. 

The dress over pants (or trousers for you Brits) trend isn't new. It's been around off and on for ages. In one shape or another, one era or another, or one culture or another. I love this gold and red confection from the fifties. I can't say that I'd wear the skirt and pants... bit too dramatic for me. But those gold, kitten heel pumps would suit me just fine.

Skirt over pants in the fifties
source
In my research, I found articles from each of the last three years exhorting readers to dive into the dress over pants trend. I read articles that show us how to do it, why we should do it, and who else is doing it. And I found lots and lots of examples. Some of the outfits are...uh...okay. But not for me. The off the shoulder look is one trend that I haven't embraced. Not at all. That sleeveless tuxedo dress with leggings, from this blog, is more my style.   

     
 Image sources: here and here.

Yep, it seems this trend is everywhere, on the runways, and on the street. I love the look of that long tunic and slim pants from The Row, on the right. But since I don't own anything resembling that tunic, and I'm not going to buy one anytime soon, I'll settle for just admiring.    


Image Sources: herehere, and here

But I do own a dress that might work over slim pants. My Rag and Bone "Luna" dress, which I bought last spring, looks quite good with my Paige high-rise skinny jeans, and my flat sandals. I like this look for shopping or out for lunch, if and when the weather cools down a bit. Maybe next week? I'm meeting a young, former colleague for lunch and shopping. She's heading back to the classroom in a couple of weeks, after a year on maternity leave. A new work wardrobe is required. This is the best kind of shopping. Helping someone else spend their money. 


Rag and Bone dress over Paige high rise skinny jeans, with Michael Kors sandals, and Kate Spade bag

When I rummage in my closet, I see that my Rag and Bone dress is exactly the same shade of navy as my new Veronica Beard cropped pants. In fact these pants look like they were made to go with the dress. I love this outfit with my Munro sandals. I'd wear this out to dinner and feel fabulous. Covered, comfortable, pulled together, and a bit trendy all at the same time. 

Rag and Bone "Luna" dress over Veronica Beard "Scuba" pants with Munro sandals, Anne Marie Chagnon bracelet and earrings

And maybe in September, when the weather is cooler still, I can swap the summer sandals for these wedge espadrilles that I've had for eons. Add my Marc Jacobs bag from last year. And maybe even, on a cool evening, this pretty scarf that I bought at the Nordstrom Anniversary sale in July. The burgundy accessories take this outfit from summer to fall, I think. 

 Rag and Bone "Luna" dress over Veronica Beard "Scuba" pants, with Marc Jacobs bag, Anne Marie Chagnon bracelet and earrings, sandals vintage     Rag and Bone "Luna" dress over Veronica Beard "Scuba" pants, with Marc Jacobs bag, scarf from Nordstrom, Anne Marie Chagnon bracelet and earrings, sandals vintage

Sigh. There's not much that gives me more satisfaction than being able to dip my toes in a new trend without dipping into my bank account. Especially when it allows me to haul out something that I've been hanging onto, but haven't worn in ages... like my old espadrilles. Despite the size of my closet, and the fact that it's now "curated" and "capsulized"... I'm always reluctant to consign or donate shoes. I'm such a hard fit. So when I find a pair that I like, which fit, I usually wear them to death and have to throw them out eventually. But if they become dated, and are still in good shape, I just pack them away until the day when they come back in style. Or until I need a pair of shoes in just that style, or colour, or with that heel height. But we live in a small house with limited storage so.... I know that one of these days I am going to have to weed out my shoes and boots. One of these days. Just not yet. 

So that's my trendy story. How I dipped my toe in the dress over pants trend. Even waded in a bit. Not going off the deep end. Not drowning in trendiness, or buying something new just to enable me to participate in the trend. But shopping my closet instead. I bought the dress in the spring because I was looking for... a dress. Similarly the cropped pants.... which I bought because I had cropped pants, not jeans, on my list for fall. The fact that they look good together is a bonus. 



Now... I have to go and weed out my fall and winter sweaters and jackets. And see if there is anything I want to take to my friend Fiona's consignment shop tomorrow. 



How about you my friends? Do you go off the deep end when it comes to trends? Somehow I doubt it. You're all way too sensible for that. I'm sure you're in the shallow end with me... wading, not drowning. 


Apologies to poet Stevie Smith for the very bad English teacher joke. You can find the original, not misquoted, version of her famous poem here.  






         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, and Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, Casual Friday at Two Thirty Five Designs

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Why I Love Golf. Ha. And It's Not Why You Think.

This is a reprise of an old post from the summer of 2014. If you weren't reading my blog back then... I thought you might enjoy it. Hubby and I are fishing in northern New Brunswick for a few days this week. I'll be back to my regular post schedule next week. Maybe with fish stories...we'll see. 


I love golf. I started to play not long after I met my husband. He's an avid and excellent golfer and has been playing since he was a teenager. 

It all started with his teaching me to swing the club on the front lawn. Then we played our first game and I parred my first hole. Yep... I hit that darn little (one could even say minuscule) ball into the equally tiny hole in 4 strokes! Mirriam-Webster on-line dictionary defines "par" as "the number of strokes a good golfer is expected to take to finish a hole or course." Pffft, I thought dismissively... this game is easy... and fun. 

For a few moments I dreamed of playing at some of Prince Edward Island's fabled courses when we were at our rented cottage that summer.

source
And then later sipping afternoon tea on the veranda at Dalvay By The Sea... me in my fetching little golf skirt and sun visor.

Dalvay By the Sea
Then my husband cleared his throat and said, "Suz, you need to tee off." And with the second hole, the fun ended. For years. 

I took lessons from a good friend of my husband's who teaches golf. I learned a few tips. I had a couple of lessons from the golf pro at a local course. Then I took a series of weekly lessons offered at the RA Centre here in Ottawa. (The RA is a recreation facility and organization set up primarily for federal civil servants but open to the public. Hubby played in a hockey league there for decades. And I tried to learn to play squash there a few years ago. But that's another story.)

Anyway... every single golf coach or teacher with whom I worked said: "Great swing, Sue." Apparently I looked great; I had good form. I gripped the club properly, kept my head down, rotated all the parts that were supposed to be rotated, followed through with my swing. And couldn't hit the ball to save my life.

Oh, I had a few moments of improvement. Just enough to keep me hopeful. I could chip pretty well. That's the short shot you take to get the ball onto the green. But with the longer shots, I continually "topped" the ball. That means you don't hit it squarely, but kind of skiff the upper half and thus move it about three feet. My legs are too long, I'd cry. Then on hubby's advice, I'd adjust my hand position to try to correct this and I'd swing and dig up about six feet of turf. I could feel the vibration of that all the way down to my toes. "You don't practice enough," Hubby would say. Gawd, I'd think... you mean four hours on the golf course wasn't practice enough?

Then all of a sudden I got better. 

We had been to see the movie Bull Durham while we were on vacation in P.E.I. The next day when we were (trying) to play nine holes of golf... I said to my husband, "I'm going to take Susan Sarandon's advice. What she said in the movie to that pitcher who was psyched out about the game. She told him to stop thinking and 'breathe through [his] eyelids.'"

So I did. I just stepped up to the ball and swung and didn't think about stuff. Wowee... the ball flew through the air. Straight at the flag. I scored a 5 on that hole! And even better than that... I overheard a man and woman on the next fairway... and the man was saying to the woman..."Just do it like that lady over there." And amazingly, he gestured towards... me!

This is me during my "skillful golfer" period. Keeping my head down and putting out at Glen Afton Golf Course on P.E.I. Note that my pink visor matches my pink golf ball. 


Okay. Well that transformation lasted for about three games and then my skills disappeared as mysteriously as they had arrived. I breathed through my eyelids like there was no tomorrow... with no luck. Sigh. 

Then I started having major upper back issues. Naturally rounded shoulders, too many long hours hunched over my marking (English teacher = essays, essays, and more essays to mark) and poor positioning when I was cross-country skiing and paddling etc etc all added up to lots pain and months of physiotherapy. And golf became painful in a whole different way. 

The last morning I played we started early, the weather was quite cool, and my muscles were tight. On the first tee, I swung at the ball and felt a jab of pain through my shoulders and neck. Then I couldn't turn my head. Then I was done. I was totally done! "Maybe golf just isn't my game," I said tearfully to Hubby. 

I hate to admit I can't do something. I hate to admit defeat. But golf had defeated me. Hubby replied, "Maybe golf isn't a good game for a perfectionist with poor hand eye co-ordination." Ouch!

So I gave up on golf. That was a few years ago, now. Since then Hubby and I have both retired from teaching. Which means that we're both home... at the same time... a lot. 

Before I go on, it's important to understand one thing about my husband and me. He's a morning person: a get up and get moving, with enthusiasm, best part of the day, has fifteen things done before 7:00 A.M. kind of person. I'm not. I'm a roll out of bed, stagger around, make a cup of tea, sigh, drink another cup of tea, maybe sit and read my book for a bit, then have another cup of tea before I do anything person. Well, except when I had to get up for work; that was different. 

Which brings me to this morning. It's Friday. Hubby has a regular Friday golf game with a group of his hockey buddies. They tee off early, naturally. 

When I stagger out of bed and put the kettle on, the house is silent and still. The sun is shining. I make my tea and take my cup and my book out onto the deck and sit there in my pyjamas. I sip my tea and read my book for a half hour. Then I don my sneakers and shorts and plug my i-pod in; I'm listening to a great Peter James mystery this week. And I head out for my power walk. I feel justifiably pleased with myself, and my world. Back home I shower and wash my hair. Then I make a pot of tea and an omelet for breakfast which I eat on the deck, and read my book some more. For a few moments I just sip my tea and look at the sun glinting off the river. And breath.

I so love these mornings to myself. 

Don't get me wrong. My husband and I do all kinds of things together. We have learned to make allowances for our conflicting natural bio-rhythms. We cycle together at least twice a week, we fish and canoe, and camp, and hike, and travel together and talk politics and books and food and truly enjoy each other's company. 

But I do so love these mornings to myself. 

And that my friends is why I love golf. Not my futile efforts to swing a club and hit a tiny (yes, minuscule ball), not my fleeting moments of success at doing so, not even the cute pink sun visor. But those blissfully quiet and solitary mornings...when Hubby is out golfing... and I'm not. 


Friday morning...not golfing.

So dear readers... any surprising things that you love that we might not expect?




 ***Note: Thanks to Frances at Materfamilias Writes for the spelling of "Pfffft." She used the word in a post and I thought ... that's the perfect way to express that little expulsion of dismissive air we make when we're being...dismissive. You can read her original post here.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Lost in the 'Hood

Hubby and I are back in the old 'hood this week. Downeast. Staying with my mum for a few days. Fishing and reading and visiting. Drinking too much tea and talking, talking, talking.

On Thursday we were up before dawn to set off for the long drive. Truck loaded with bikes, fishing gear, suitcases. Big cooler packed with fresh veggies from our garden to take to Mum. Thermos mugs of strong tea. Breakfast would be a few hours down the road. Our picnic lunch tucked into our trusty travel cooler that's been everywhere with us from New Zealand to the Yukon to France, was behind my seat. By 5:00 A.M. we were packed, loaded, belted in, and ready for the ten hour drive.

Then we took a wrong turn... or didn't take the right one. Didn't get off the new highway that takes us around Montreal in time to avoid going an hour out of our way. Sigh. How the heck did we do that? Ah well. We'd never actually seen this part of Quebec. What's one more hour? But we added another hour when we stopped for supper in Woodstock and then took the old road down along the Saint John River from there. That drive was like taking a step back in time. We drove past the old farms that I remember visiting with my step father. Past the place where my best friend Debbie and I used to go horseback riding. I tried to pick out the place where we went to the Saturday night dances in the back of someone's truck, reckless teenagers that we were. The old road was bumpy and crumbling and tree lined. And lovely. Well worth that extra hour, even at the end of a long day of sitting.

Dawn on highway 417
On the road before dawn

The next day Mum and I did what we always do first when I get home; we made our usual foray to visit Gus at the best little book shop in the world. To us anyway. Gus and Mum are buddies although you couldn't immediately tell that if you listened to them bicker. Only the fondness in their tone reveals that Mum thinks he's the cat's meow and I believe he feels the same. Last year I popped in to his shop by myself to get a gift certificate for Mum's birthday. He told me that when he saw me through the window on my own, he thought, "Oh no, this is not a conversation I want to have." And considered locking the door. He'd assumed that arriving without Mum, I was the bearer of bad news. He and Mum reluctantly posed for the shot below. Then Mum said, "Enough of that. Back to the books."

Book shopping at Gus Books
Mum and I shopping at our favourite book store

I love to talk books with Gus. He is an avid reader, no surprise there. And he knows a ton of wonderful author trivia. I have yet to stump him with an author he hasn't read or doesn't at least know about. We discussed mystery writer Stuart McBride the other day. How his books are too graphic for me. But wonderfully written. I quoted a line from one of McBride's books that I've never forgotten. Describing his unkempt co-worker, the main character says: "Her hair looks like it was styled by seagulls." I love that line. Then Gus quoted another thriller author who said that a character's hair looked as if it was styled "by grenade." Then Mum said that my grandfather Sullivan used to say my uncle Dick, who had very thick curly hair, always "looked like he combed his hair with the egg beater." Good one Grampy. You get the prize for best line. Love that.

That's my grandfather Sullivan below. He was a big man. With very long legs... which we all inherited. I love looking at Mum's old photos when I'm here. I get buried in her boxes of pictures and come out feeling as if I'm in a time warp. An identity warp, more like. Catapulted from retired teacher, wife, blogger back to youngest child, little sister, tomboy, budding artist (ha), frizzy haired drama queen bookworm.

My grandfather Sullivan


The picture below is one I found from the late fifties. My brother Terry, sisters Carolyn and Connie, and me. I'm the one in pale green with the big head. Brother Terry is looking suitably serious and big brother-ish. When we were growing up, he could do no wrong as far as I was concerned. I was, to his chagrin I imagine, his ninth birthday present, since we were born on the same day. He was (and still is) the best of big brothers. Generous to a fault. With a wry sense of humour and his Grandfather Sullivan's (and our mum's) gift of delivering a great line. My favourite being one night at supper when I was around eight, which would make him seventeen. My mum decided that we should have the "talk" about sex. And Terry quipped," Okay, Mum. What do you want to know?" That still makes me laugh. I'm pretty sure I never got "the talk" that night.

My brother has had many, many health challenges in his life. He's a paraplegic due to an operation to remove a spinal tumour twenty years ago, a double amputee now due to circulation problems. And he's battled other issues too numerous to mention here. My last two visits home he's either been in hospital, waiting for surgery or recovering from surgery, or confined to bed at home. The van he had newly fitted for his wheelchair sitting idle in the driveway. And only in the past few weeks has he been given the go ahead to get out of bed. For the first time in almost a year. The first night after Hubby and I arrived, we heard Mum's doorbell and there he was on the deck. Grinning. In his motorized wheelchair, with a bag of fresh corn in his lap. He'd stopped at the nearby vegetable stand. He's back on the road again, in that new van, all on his own, just him and his dog. What a feeling of freedom he must feel. Of life regained. Makes me tear up as I write this.

My brother and sisters and me, 1959
In our Sunday best, 1959

Yesterday Mum and I drove up to Terry's in the little blue car we'd rented so Hubby could be free to use our truck to go stream fishing or golfing... and we could be free to "run the roads" as Mum says. On the way we unexpectedly pulled in at Freddy's Family Farm vegetable stand. Freddy has known Mum and me since we moved to the farm over forty years ago. He grows potatoes and corn, and used to keep a large herd of milk cows. Back when he farmed full time and cut hay on his island lots, he took his machinery over to the big island in the Saint John River on the farmers' ferry that my stepfather ran in the summer. As a teenager in the 70s, I used to take over running the ferry to allow my stepfather to go up to the house for lunch or supper. The first few times I manned the controls, the farmers laughed, and teased me, tickled at the novelty of being shuttled across the river with their big machines by a skinny, frizzy haired girl. So on Sunday when Mum, gesturing at the vegetable stand, said, "That's Freddy standing there in the green jacket," we pulled a u-turn and went to say hi. Freddy leaned in Mum's car window, smiled at me and said in his slow quiet voice," Well... it's Susie. You come to run the ferry boat for the summer?" I chortled. Delighted that he remembered that small piece of my history. As I said to my mum later, there are not many people left who remember that particular part of my past. See? That's why it's like being in a time warp coming home... or identity warp... as I said.

That's me on the ferry below... in the hat and rubber boots, with my mum, a neighbour, and my step-father in the wheelhouse. It was May 1983. I was home for a week from Ottawa and we were heading over to the island to pick fiddle heads. A spring rite of passage here in New Brunswick. I don't have any pictures of me actually running the ferry. But you can take Freddy's word for it that I did.

On the farmer's ferry, Douglas New Brunswick
On the farmers' ferry in 1983

So as you can see, while Hubby and I are here, back in the 'hood, I've been a little lost. Who the heck am I when I'm here anyway? Little sister, youngest child, frizzy haired dreamer, ferry-operator (part-time)? All of those? Or none? Grown up and gone for more years than I lived here, it still feels disconcerting to return. Disconcerting in a good way. I think the layers of identity we accumulate over our lives, especially when we don't live all of our life in one place, can be kind of like when we delete something on the computer. The bits are all still there on the hard drive... just scattered. Or in the case of identity, buried under the subsequent layers of grown up selves. And it can be good, I think, to try to gather those scattered bits. Unbury those buried selves. If only to remember who we were. And recognize how far we've travelled to become who we are.

Gad. I am waxing profound tonight. Time to wrap up this post. It's way past my bedtime. And Mum is just down the hall. I might get in trouble.


How about you, folks? What's going "back home" like for you?


Linking up with Thursday Favourite Things over at Katherine's Corner