What is “coastal grandmother” style?

LogoImagine yourself enjoying a leisurely stroll on a long sandy beach, sipping wine on your patio while reading a summertime novel, snipping herbs or flowers from your garden, or heading to the local bakery or farmers market for something fresh. That’s the “coastal grandmother” vibe.

So what is coastal grandmother, you ask? The term, coined by 26-year-old Californian TikTok user, Lex Nicoleta, in a video that went viral in March, has taken the TikTok and Instagram world by storm and become the hottest fashion trend of the season. In a nutshell, the coastal grandmother look draws inspiration from the aesthetic seen in Nancy Meyers’ movies, specifically Diane Keaton in the 2003 romcom Something’s Gotta Give.

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The coastal grandmother look is all about casual, breezy, seaside-inspired elegance. Think loose silhouettes and linen blends, lightweight cable-knit sweaters, striped boatneck tops, straw hats and rattan bags. Billowy dresses or button-down shirts with the cuffs rolled up. Whites and beiges. Sandals, sneakers, and sunglasses. Gold jewelry and pearls.

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The best thing about the coastal grandmother trend is that you don’t have to be a grandmother or live near the ocean to pull off this look, though the ocean part would be really nice! I must say, however, that I absolutely love the fact that “grandmother” is being associated with “stylish” and “trendy” for a change! We don’t all become fashion frumps as we age.

As soon as I started reading about this trend, I knew that I could easily pull several coastal grandmother outfits from my closet.

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Here, I’m wearing a denim shirt, purchased last spring at Uniqlo, over cabi’s Classic Blouse from several seasons ago. The pants are chinos from Mark’s, bought two years ago. The white leather sneakers are also from Mark’s. Most of these pieces have appeared on the blog before.

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In the second photo, my white jeans and striped top are both thrifted pieces. I bought the crushable hat, still available here, at Golf Town three summers ago. It’s very coastal grandmother, don’t you think? The sweater is my trusty Shirttail Cardigan, one of my very first purchases from cabi back in 2016 and still a favourite.

Don’t be surprised if you see a few more coastal grandmother outfits on the blog this summer. I’ve always been a coastal girl at heart and I absolutely love this classic, yet casual aesthetic. Now if only I had a beach to walk on!

Another diagnosis, another pill

No, it’s not another cancer this time!

Seven years ago, I was diagnosed as pre diabetic. I managed to control it with diet alone until recently when I gradually slipped into the diabetic range. Though I’d originally hoped that this would never happen, it comes as no real surprise. In some ways, I’m not a usual candidate for diabetes. I’ve never been overweight, I’m not a smoker, and I ate a healthy diet and exercised regularly long before the pre diabetes diagnosis. In addition to a family history of diabetes, however, the injection of Sandostatin that I receive every 28 days for my neuroendocrine cancer (NETS) can suppress the release of insulin and cause elevated blood glucose levels. With those two strikes against me, I’ve now reached the stage where I need medication and my doctor has prescribed Metformin, the most common treatment for type 2 diabetes. I’m also going to be meeting with a dietician to find out if there are ways that I can further tweak my diet.

If there’s one good thing about having NETS, it’s the fact that the regular surveillance that it requires brings other health issues to light before they become as serious as they might otherwise. Typical symptoms of type 2 diabetes include increased thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, unintended weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing sores, and frequent infections. I have experienced none of these. If it wasn’t for the regular blood tests that I undergo because of my cancer, I likely wouldn’t have known that I was pre diabetic seven years ago and without the dietary changes that I made back then, I probably would have reached the diabetes threshold much sooner. Looking for silver linings helps me maintain a positive attitude!

I don’t share these health updates to garner sympathy. In spite of cancer, diabetes, and several other health concerns, I continue to enjoy excellent quality of life. Hopefully, with the help of medication, excellent health care practitioners, and healthy lifestyle choices, that will continue for a long time yet!

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Mending and alterations… making old new again

Logo by SamLong before I took the required Home Economics class in grade 8, my mother had already taught me the basics of sewing. Before I made the requisite Home Ec apron, I’d already sewn a skirt with a fitted waistband and a zipper. I’ve had my own sewing machine since I was 18 and there was a time when I made many of my own clothes. I even sewed my own wedding dress! It’s been years since I did that much sewing, but the skills that my mother taught me still come in handy from time to time.

Spring or fall, when I do my seasonal closet switch, is the perfect time to do any small repairs that have been overlooked or neglected during the previous season. Mending clothing is an ancient practice that needs to be revived if we want to work toward more sustainable wardrobes and lessen our impact on the environment. In a culture of disposability upheld by the fast fashion industry, mending is a slow fashion practice that focuses on care and re-wear. It rejects the idea that new is always better. While some mending jobs are quite simple, others are more complicated. Replacing a zipper, for example, might be something that you can do yourself, but if not, a tailor can do it for you and add life to a garment that you already own.

Alterations, whether you’re able to do them yourself or pay someone to do them for you, can often make an ill-fitting garment look like it was made for you. Tailoring is excellent for those times when you find great clothes on sale that just need a little tweaking. It can also help you build a sustainable wardrobe by purchasing quality second-hand items and having them altered to fit. It’s often hard to find the perfect size in a thrift store, but tailoring opens up many possibilities. A good rule of thumb when choosing a size is to go with what fits the widest part of your body. From there, a tailor can make all the necessary adjustments to make the piece look perfect on you. Just make sure that you take the price of tailoring into account whenever you purchase something that will need to be altered.

Alterations can be as simple as taking up a hem or adding a hidden snap to the front of a blouse that gapes or they can be as complicated as taking in a waistband or adding vents to a jacket. This week, I did a simple alteration that gave new life to an older top that I haven’t worn for quite awhile. Four years ago when I bought it, I knew that bell sleeves were a trend that wouldn’t last, but it was on sale for less than $20 and I thought even then that someday I’d probably alter the sleeves.

Before…

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After…

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A simple change from bell to three-quarter sleeves gave the top a much more current look and now I’ll start wearing it again!

Stuck between the seasons

Logo by SamWhen we arrived home from our recent trip to the coast, I thought that I would be doing my seasonal closet switch right away. I expected spring to have arrived while we were gone. I looked forward to putting away my winter wardrobe and bringing out my spring/summer clothes. I anticipated trying things on and making a shopping list as I know that there are some gaps that need to be filled and pieces that need to be replaced. None of that has happened! Instead, we seem to be stuck between the seasons! One minute it looks and feels like spring; but the next thing we know, the wind is howling and it’s snowing again! I know I’m not the only one who’s had enough of this!

I think the transition is going to have to be a gradual one this year. So far, I’ve put my winter coat, my boots, and my heaviest sweaters into storage and I brought out two pairs of chinos that are warmer than shorts or capris, but cooler than jeans. Today, I think I’ll go through the rest of my winter wardrobe and weed out those things that need to go. This requires discipline as I tend to hang onto things longer than I should!

The first thing I’ll do is check the hangers. Every time I put a new season’s clothes into the closet, I turn all the hangers around. Then, when I wear an item, I turn it’s hanger back the right way. At the end of the season, if an item is still hanging backwards, it’s a clear signal that I need to consider whether or not to keep it.

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Unlike those who advise getting rid of anything that hasn’t been worn during the current season or in the past year, I sometimes keep items that are excellent quality or that I love even if I haven’t worn them for quite awhile. Eventually, I enjoy resurrecting some of those pieces and wearing them again. There are some, however, that simply need to go. If they no longer fit well or I don’t actually enjoy wearing them, they’re destined for the second-hand store or an online buy and sell group.

It was snowing when I started writing this, but sunny and bright when I finished! The weather forecast is promising even better things for the next week or so. Maybe we’re finally becoming unstuck and I’ll be able to do the remainder of my seasonal wardrobe switch before next Friday. Maybe. I sure hope so!

Trying a new hobby

Inspired by a fellow blogger who sometimes shares sketches with her readers, and perhaps by the young artists in my family, I recently decided that I wanted a sketchbook. I’ve always enjoyed art, but never really pursued it as a hobby. Perhaps now was the right time?

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In addition to the sketchbook, I also bought a basic set of sketching pencils, charcoal pencils, charcoal sticks, soft pastels, erasers, a sharpener, a couple of stumps, and a tortillon. At the time, I didn’t even know what the last two items were!

When I brought my purchases home, did I crack them open and start drawing right away? No, not me! I was always that little girl who, at the beginning of each September, loved getting new school supplies; the little girl who hated to make the first mark in that brand new, spotless notebook. So, before I started sketching, I simply savoured the idea for a few days. Then I got started.

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I knew exactly what I wanted to draw, one of my favourite sights from our recent trip… Fisgard Lighthouse at Victoria, BC.

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I worked on it a little at a time. First, just an outline, then gradually adding details. With my mind focused on nothing but what I was doing, I found it very relaxing.

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After awhile, I figured out that I could use one of the stumps to smudge, blend, smooth, and maybe even add depth.

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I’m pretty happy with the finished result!

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For my first drawing, I only used one of the sketching pencils, an eraser (quite a lot!), and one of the stumps. Now I’m eager to turn the page and experiment with some of the other supplies.

I think I’ve found a new hobby!

Canadian tuxedo

Are you hooked on Wordle yet? According to the New York Times, over 300,000 people play the online game daily. I confess to being one of them. I also play Hurdle and Canuckle every day. If you’re not Canadian, you might not be familiar with Canuckle. Created by an Ottawa resident, it’s basically Wordle with a Canadian twist. Every word is related to Canada in some way. Yesterday’s word even gave me an idea for today’s fashion post!

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Logo by SamWhat’s so Canadian about denim, you ask? Each day, the Canuckle solution comes with a fun fact that explains the Canadian connection. Yesterday’s explanation said, “The Canadian tuxedo is an outfit consisting of a denim jacket or jean shirt worn with denim jeans, or denim-on-denim.”

The term originated in 1951 when American singer and actor, Bing Crosby, was almost denied entry into a posh Vancouver hotel because he was dressed completely in denim. Hotel management eventually recognized who their famous guest was and made an exception to their dress code allowing him to enter. When Levi Strauss & Co. heard the story, their designers immediately produced a custom made denim tuxedo jacket for Crosby.

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In 2014, Levi’s reproduced Bing’s famous outfit with a limited run of 200 Canadian Tuxedo jackets.

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Fifty years after the Bing Crosby incident, celebrity couple, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, created a stir when they attended the 2001 American Music Awards wearing a matching Canadian tuxedo or double denim look. I would agree with those who thought the look was a little over the top!

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But what about ordinary mortals like you and I? Would we, could we, should we wear denim-on-denim? Here are a few ways to style the Canadian tuxedo in case you decide to give it a try.

  • Instead of going full dark or light wash, mix things up with different denim shades. Go darker on top and lighter on the bottom or vice versa.
  • Swap the jeans for a denim skirt.
  • Add some contrast with a white or brightly coloured top under your denim jacket.
  • Keep accessories to a minimum and definitely don’t add denim accessories.
  • Stay away from cowboy boots and cowboy hats. You’re not trying to look like a cowboy caricature. For footwear, try a pair of white sneakers, ballet flats, strappy sandals, or even statement heels.
  • Cropped jean jackets are on trend this year. To give your double denim an up-to-date look, you could even cut off a longer jacket and fray the bottom edge for a DIY distressed look.

And now, here’s my take on the Canadian tuxedo using pieces that have been in my wardrobe for a long time… dark wash jeans, a lighter denim jacket, white sneakers, and since stripes are on trend for spring this year, a black and white striped tee.

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Comfy, casual, and very Canadian!

A new hat

Logo by SamOn Tuesday’s walk from our Victoria hotel to Chinatown and back, we passed many little souvenir shops that sell pretty much the same things that we might find in Banff, Jasper, or one of several other Canadian tourist destinations. Those stores didn’t particularly appeal to me, but then I spotted Roberta’s Hats! I rarely pass a hat shop without stopping in “just to look”!

Roberta’s Hats is an eclectic little shop that features a wide selection of styles for men, women, and children, many at very affordable prices. There were berets in almost every colour imaginable, but I still have the one I bought in Paris three years ago and didn’t feel the need to buy another one. As much as I loved the section of hats that looked like they came right off Downton Abbey, I knew that I didn’t have anywhere to wear one of those. Then I spotted the corduroy newsboy caps. The moss green one would go perfectly with the spring/fall anorak that I was wearing. Of course, I had to try it on! And then I had to buy it! I simply had to!

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It was a chilly morning, so I had the lady behind the counter remove the tag and I wore it out of the store. I’ve been wearing it almost constantly ever since! I have a fairly large collection of hats, but most of them don’t get worn very often. I don’t foresee that happening with this one though! Until the weather gets too warm, I expect that I’ll be wearing it a lot. It just feels like me.

There are many good reasons to wear a hat. Sometimes it provides protection against the elements… shading your eyes from the sun or adding warmth in extreme cold. Often, however, a hat is an accessory that adds panache to an outfit and gives a woman a look of confidence. It’s also a quick and easy solution to a bad hair day!

If you’re a hat lover like me and you’re ever in Victoria, make sure to take a short walk up Government Street from the harbour and visit Roberta’s Hats.

Salt water and sea air

On our first day in Victoria, we walked approximately 10 km. Today, our last day before heading toward home, we walked at least 7 more!

We woke to a chilly, wet morning. In fact, there was even a bit of snow in the air. Thankfully, however, the forecast promised better things to come. After a leisurely breakfast in our hotel and a little while spent relaxing back in our room, the rain stopped and we headed out. Our first destination this time was the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America after San Francisco.

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I’m thinking that it must also be one of the smallest. Barely more than two blocks in size, there are a number of authentic Chinese restaurants and businesses, but I was also surprised to see a sushi shop, a schnitzel restaurant, and a taco place! 

Victoria’s Chinatown is perhaps best known for Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada. Only 0.9m wide (about 4 feet) at the narrowest point, the alley is filled with boutiques and shops selling clothing, jewelry, music, and other items to both tourists and locals. In its early days, however, it was home to a variety of less savoury places including gambling and opium dens. 

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On Sunday, we walked the beach at Cordova Bay and yesterday we did a harbour tour on one of Victoria’s little green “pickle” boats, so-called because of their colour and shape, but I’m a coastal girl at heart and I wanted a bit more of the sea before heading back to the prairie. 

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After returning from Chinatown, we drove about 20 minutes to Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites. Consisting entirely of original structures, Fort Rodd Hill, a west coast artillery fortress on active duty from 1895 to 1956, is one of the world’s best preserved and most complete examples of its kind. The buildings are closed during the week, but the grounds are open and many interpretive signs make it an interesting place to explore. Until our visit, I had never really thought about how vulnerable the Victoria area must have felt after the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. By 1944, 17 powerful searchlights clearly lit up the Victoria-Esquimalt harbour area. One of them was housed in this building, camouflaged to look like a fisherman’s hut, complete with a ramp and boat!

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In the background, you can see the Fisgard Lighthouse which was built in 1860 as the first permanent light on the west coast of Canada. Although administered together with Fort Rodd Hill, it is a separate national historic site and there is no historical connection between the two. 

I absolutely love lighthouses, but I won’t subject you to all 24 pictures that I took of this one! I’ll try to restrict myself to just a few favourites. 

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Though the light has been automatic since 1928, prior to that time it was manned.

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The lighthouse is now connected to land via a manmade causeway, but in those days it stood offshore on a tiny island. The only means of transportation that the lighthouse keeper had was a rowboat like this one. Every item he needed had to be rowed across the bay from Esquimalt. Unfortunately, in 1898, the unoccupied boat was found floating in the bay with just one oar still in it. Joseph Dare, the keeper at that time, had fallen overboard and drowned while trying to retrieve the other oar. Had he been wearing a life jacket, he likely would have survived. 

On the rocky point beyond the lighthouse, we found a pair of the red Adirondack chairs that have been placed in National Parks and Historic Sites across Canada. Of course, we had to sit in them and enjoy the view. 

 

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After visiting the lighthouse, we walked the long beach in front of Fort Rodd Hill and then returned to the vehicle via a well-kept nature trail. 

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Now that I’ve enjoyed a fix of salt water and sea air, I’m ready to return to the prairie feeling refreshed! 

 

Tea at the Empress

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Victoria’s iconic Fairmont Empress hotel, overlooking the city’s inner harbour, started serving Afternoon Tea when it opened on January 8, 1908 and continues to serve freshly prepared scones, pastries, and tea to over 80,000 guests every year! Yesterday, we joined that number.

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From our comfortable corner table by the fireplace, we had a gorgeous view of the harbour as we lingered over our lunch.

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The set menu, made from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, arrives on a three tiered tray. On the bottom layer are raisin scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve. I must admit that, until yesterday, I didn’t know what clotted cream was! The name brought to mind something lumpy and gross, but it is far from that! It’s smooth and soft, similar in flavour to a high-quality unsalted butter and somewhere between butter and whipped cream in richness. The second layer consisted of finger sandwiches, mini quiches, and cold smoked salmon on tiny blinis. It doesn’t look like a lot of food, but we were getting full by the time we reached the top layer that held five delectable mini desserts for each of us. We ate two of them and packaged the rest to bring back to our hotel for later.

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We had our choice from a vast selection of teas, so we chose two different ones and sampled both. The original china was gifted to the Empress by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) on a visit to Canada in 1939 and the pattern is reproduced exclusively for the Empress.

Tea at the Empress is pricey. So pricey, in fact, that my frugal nature almost convinced me that we shouldn’t indulge. Hubby insisted, however, and I’m glad he did! It’s definitely worth doing if you’re ever in Victoria.

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Which house was it?

On our way to the coast we stopped in Jasper for a few hours to visit my 98-year-old aunt who lives there. When I told her that we were coming to Victoria, she reminded me that she and my mother lived here for a year when they were young children. It was the beginning of the Great Depression and, like so many other men at that time, my grandfather was out of work. His brother had found employment at the paper mill in Powell River, so he went there to apply for a job and then proceeded to build a small house for his young family. In the meantime, my grandmother and her two little girls shared a single room in a boarding house here in Victoria not far from where his parents lived. Curious, I asked Auntie Norma if she remembered what part of the city they lived in. I could hardly believe it when she told me that they lived on Government Street within a block or two of the BC Legislative Building. That’s less than a kilometre from our hotel! 

I decided that when we got to Victoria, we’d go for a walk down Government Street. I didn’t expect to find a trace of what was there 90+ years ago when two little girls walked down the street and across the parking lot behind the Legislative Building on their way to school. I thought I’d find modern apartment or office buildings or perhaps stores and hotels. Instead, I found a street lined with heritage houses! Was one of them the boarding house where Nana, Mom, and Auntie Norma lived? 

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I was enthralled as I walked up and down the street taking photos of house after house and wondering if Auntie Norma will recognize one of them when I show her the pictures. Of course, they’ve probably undergone many changes since she was here, but I’m hoping that something looks familiar.  

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I love the contrast of old and new in this photo…

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Even if Auntie Norma doesn’t recognize any of the houses, this little confectionary should bring back memories. It’s been standing on the corner of Government and Michigan Streets since 1915! 

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This building, now the Rosewood Inn, is located kitty-corner from the little store. Could it have been a boarding house at one time? 

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What must it have been like for my grandmother and her little girls to spend a year sharing a single room in a house full of boarders? Auntie Norma did say that it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Apparently, the woman who ran the boarding house befriended my grandmother and became like an another grandma to the two little girls while they lived under her roof, but I’m sure that they were all very glad when the little house in Powell River was ready and the family could be together again!