Back to School

Yesterday I returned to school after a gloriously refreshing two week spring vacation. I always find it difficult to return to school after March vacation because it is the one vacation that, due to having no holidays associated with it, is totally mine to do as I like. The transition from pure relaxation back to work is always a bit tough. And therefore I knew it was time to juice my spirits by paying attention to my outfits. And this blog is what helps me to do just that.

In mid-March, prior to vacation, I purchased a new GAP dark denim jean jacket to replace my former J.C. Penny light denim one. My old one was easily 10 years old, and it's shape (or maybe it's my shape) had changed so that it hung too loosely on me, and the color was blah against my lighter hair. I LOVE a good jean jacket as it adds warmth when needed, has pockets, gives a look some structure, and is pure comfort to wear. Plus it goes with everything. So now you won't be surprised when you see it surfacing in multiple outfits.

The pants were purchased at the GAP last summer, and the top from the amazing Kali store in Montréal, also this past summer. The gray and white polka dot Talbots's sweater was an extra layer to help fend off the early morning chill. Scarf came from my daughter-in-law's mother, and the earrings are amazing 3D printed by my talented artist husband, who made them after I bemoaned the loss of one earring from a favored pair.

Pictures by my husband, early morning on our deck before I headed off to school

(mostly) Baking Bread

These past two weeks of March my school had its annual spring vacation. My husband and I spent a relaxing two weeks during which we did a bit of baking (he baked the apple pie, I baked the breads). 'Twas a delicious time to bake, especially as the weather was often just ripe for hot cocoa and something yummy and nourishing.

Since the summer I have been baking a weekly loaf of bread, thanks to having a bread machine that does the labor and my daughter-in-law who taught me the ins-and-outs of veganizing bread recipes. At the start of vacation we went to dinner at the home of close friends, and were treated to a No-Knead Loaf made only with yeast, flour, salt and water. It was astonishingly flavorful, and vacation promised time for indulgences, so Dulcie shared the recipe that Rick had followed, and that's the lone beauty in the two photos below (the other being Whole Wheat Honey Flaxseed from the bread machine.) 

One night I made our favorite vegan mac and cheese; it's the cashews that provide the cheese-like flavor and texture. Since the eight inch dish makes enough for four, and we are trying to eat smaller portions, this dish yielded three dinners for us throughout the vacation. And take it from my husband, the flavors just keep getting better and better the longer the dish sits.

A vacation like this would be incomplete without my husband's homemade apple pie complete with his homemade vegan crust. Am tickled to say we have one (maybe two!) desserts left for tonight and perhaps tomorrow night.

One evening we had four friends over for dinner in honor of one of them who is moving to Portland, Oregon in mid-May. She has lived in our neighborhood, just two doors from us, for 40+ years, and we all will miss her presence. This dinner gathering is something we six have been doing for probably the past ten years, on and off, at one home or another. The picture is of the marinated halibut fillets that turned out to be delicious but, oh my, were the *most expensive* main course I have EVER served!

On a roll, when my husband said we would need naan bread to have with the Indian dish he was preparing, I decided to bake naan. Turns out to be fairly easy and fun to see the dough become just like what we've had in restaurants. The pictures make the dark parts look quite dark but in actuality they were a little bit lighter.

Hair, Hair!

A little over a year ago I wrote about my hair. I love my hair! It doesn't always fall the way I'd prefer it to - curly hair often has a mind of its own - but I wouldn't trade it for any other color, texture or temperament.

My curly hair tends towards flat and wavy in winter due to the indoor dryness and the often outdoor dryness. The one exception is just after washing my hair when there is some humidity in the air on a rainy day; that's when the winter curls express themselves, only to flatten after a night's sleep.

Last month, after my washed hair had dried, I asked my husband to take a picture of the back so I could see what my hair looked like; that's the picture at the top of this post. What impressed me at the time was the array of colour in the ringlets. My hair has long been darker red underneath, in the areas not exposed to sun and wind. 

The blondish highlights are the result of sun, chlorine, and mostly the slowly turning to gray (silver? white?) of my hair. What impressed me was the dark, dark gray (almost like a deep solid brown) that seemed to be present in alternating parts of the ringlets. And yet, when I look at the picture now, I don't even see those gray-brown hairs, though I do see varying shades of red to blonde to brown.

I am intrigued by the colour journey of my hair and curious to see where it goes. As for what's on my mind at the moment - how to style a receding hairline. 

New Year's Day 2017

On most New Year's Days my sister-in-law and brother (in that order, because Shanti does the prep, cooking and cleanup!) host a dinner gathering of their families. Since my sister-in-law and niece tend towards dressing up, I opted to go for a skirt coupled with comfort. I wore new leggings, favored Hush Puppy shoes, a new yoga-ish skirt (purchased to wear over leggings when going to and fro class), a yoga top, and a sweater (so nobody would ever know I was wearing a yoga top :-))

As for how my sister-in-law and niece dressed - it turns out that the idea of wearing flannel shirts went viral in their household and family. Apparently multiple cousins turned up in flannel shirts and my niece, two nephews and brother all went upstairs and replicated the effect for themselves, as well! Ha, I hope someone took a group photo!

My shawl was knit by my Mom. Turns out the house was warm enough and the shawl was not needed.

I seem to have a tendency to stand like an unassuming high school student (not my face, just my stance!), or at least that is what springs to mind when I usually see myself in these posed outfit photos. 

I asked my husband for a third photo to dispel the presumption of the second photo!

My earrings and matching bracelet are holiday gifts from my daughter-in-law's sister, who is a whiz at finding and choosing jewelry made by indigenous women. She lives in Ecuador, and I have numerous earrings from there; these pieces come from Mexico.

2016 Books I Read (not the quantity, just the year!)

I love to read. It is imperative for me to have a book or two during the winter months; a tale of any type can enhance the wintery feeling of occasional low spirits, and keep my brain engaged when otherwise I might be prone to crawling into bed way too early! For awhile now I've been using Goodreads to keep a log of the books I read, usually writing some form of commentary to remind me of the story or how I responded to the reading. Here's my log in picture format for 2016.

For the record, I took multiple screen shots to replicate the list. The only reason, as far as I can tell, that the last book is so large is because it is the last book and in a row by itself, thus being published large. I guarantee that the size of the image does not reflect my view of the book; rather, the two stars under the book more accurately reflect my response to the story.

A little flounce to raise the spirits

The past two weeks have been filled with sadness and gladness side-by-side. My almost 98-year-old father-in-law was felled by a stroke and for close to two weeks each of his five children took turns being by his side for several days. My husband left for Boston on Tuesday, and I joined him on Friday. In the interim, my spirits took a dive, and by Thursday I needed to do something to raise them back up again. 

Sunshine and warmer than usual temperature had me hauling out a summer skirt that used to be a dress. Months ago I sliced off the top of this $12 sale dress from the Gap (too difficult to put on over my head without the benefit of a zipper) and then brought it to a seamstress to put a zipper in the side, turning it into a wearable skirt. This Fall I discovered the pleasure of using colourful scarves as belts; this belt is also from the Gap. The blue top is one of several I have from Lands' End, which a few years ago began marketing Art Tees.

What this outfit did was raise my spirits. Why? When I feel "blah" I tend to dress in comfort clothing – clothes that are easy to wear, cozy on the inside, focus on comfort and not on a "look", and require little to think about when selecting them. For years I have heard other people say that when they feel "blah" they go out of their way to dress nicely as a means to cheer them up. This seemed the perfect time to try this self-medicating antidote to low spirits – compose an outfit that would make me feel good on the outside, and hopefully then cause me to feel better on the inside.

Turns out all those people knew what they were talking about, because I felt greatly improved as I walked out the door on Thursday morning. Yup, the sunshine and warmer weather helped. My comfy blue hush-puppy shoes from Belgium helped. Not needing tights or leggings helped. But mostly what helped was taking the time to choose an outfit that would cause me to smile when I looked in the mirror, and to then keep that feeling going for what turned out to be most of the day.

I remember visiting my father-in-law two years ago in the summer, wearing an above-the-knee sleeveless dress, a light-weight sweater, and blue heels, and my father-in-law greeted me with a big smile and a lovely complement. He would have approved of this outfit, as well. 

As for the gladness of the past two weeks – our niece on my husband's side gave birth to her second child, a healthy adorable girl! My father-in-law became a great-grandfather four times over!

Montréal Souvenir

This past summer a friend and I took a road trip to Montréal, Canada. Big walkers, we meandered thru neighborhoods and stumbled upon Kali, a clothing store filled with funky, colorful, interesting pieces, including the dress I am wearing above. The material is soft as can be, the fit is perfect (a rare find for a petite person!), the colours a bit different for me, and the pattern is interesting. I also purchased the earrings there, as they highlight the turquoise in the dress.

Am not so sure about my hair, though. Am thinking it might be time to return to a gently angled framing of my face on one side. It's that time of year (again ;-)) when I start to rethink how my hair looks. My hair responds to humidity, making it full and curly in summer, and flat and straight in winter. I prefer some bounce to it, and the semi-slanted framing provides some bouyancy in the dry of winter. For now, I'll continue to mull this over…

Linking up with Catherine's #iwillwearwhatilike because it's plain and simple fun to see what others are wearing and to participate in the potpourri!

Dressing for a drizzly day

This one almost got lost in the shuffle! I forgot about the picture till perusing my photo stream this afternoon. One day last week, perhaps Tuesday, the morning began with overcast skies and drizzle. Too grey to wear dark colours! 

H&M dress picked out with my daughter-in-law two years ago. Cardigan part of a sweater set from Brooks Brothers that my Aunt no longer was wearing and gifted to me. The colour was super and up till now I did not have any sweater in this colour, so I gladly accepted her offer. (The rest of the set is a sleeveless shell.) Shoes are Capezios, purchased online years ago. Comfortable as can be, I always forget that I like wearing them because the toe part always looks like it will be too narrow. Then I put them on, and they are a perfect fit!

Louise Penny

I am a huge fan of Louise Penny and her Three Pines stories – mysteries of mind and place, solved by Armand Gamache and his crew of Canadian associates, some who are in the Sûreté du Québec and some who live in Three Pines. My friend Ann first invited me to Three Pines in March, 2014, and I've been reading, indeed devouring, Louise Penny's books ever since, having just finished her twelfth book, A Great Reckoning, three days ago.

Turns out I have several friends with a similar interest, among them Judy, who invited me to come speak with other book lovers in her neighborhood. This past July, Ann and I took a road trip to Montréal with the express purpose of visiting the places in Three Pines and seeing Louise Penny speak at a paperback book launch in Burlington, VT. We took our inspiration for the trip from the Three Pines Inspiration Map. Since detectives need to mull over the facts of the crime, Gamache and friends are often found thinking and discussing while they eat, and usually they are eating at the Bistro in Three Pines. If you are a foodie, you may appreciate The Nature of the Feast, "recipes from the world of Three Pines." I can recommend this one from personal cooking experience and from the satisfaction of my guests!

I put together a slide show and prepared a talk, the notes for which are in the second image above, the first one being the flyer used to advertise the talk.

What fun! For 45 minutes this morning I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the relevant details of our trip and then conversing with fellow book travelers to discuss some of the finer points. Besides the folks in the picture below there were five others who joined us but left before I remembered my promise to Ann to take a picture. Ann was unable to join us as she had just the day before landed in New Zealand!

Last Day of Summer '16

Ah, it was a glorious day! New pants and top, both purchased in August at the Gap. The oversized shawl (a gift from my daughter-in-law's mother) doubles as a thick, full scarf on chilly days. The colour of my pants highlights the similar colour in the scarf, and the colours of the scarf - especially the blue and coral - highlights the colours of my top. And the mixing of patterns is thanks to my following of Sheila's blog, Ephemera. She has espoused pattern mixing (most recently in this post) for as long as I've been reading her blog, and the mixing has become something I try to do as often as possible. Sheila is also a lover of COLOUR, and her fashion writing has definitely influenced the weeding and replenishing of my wardrobe. And linking up with Catherine's #iwillwearwhatilike because, quite simply, I will wear what I like!

Photo by my husband, who deleted the first picture he took of me (from early in the morning, before I left for school) because it was blurry, and took this picture upon my return home later in the afternoon.