Dressing for an autumn hike

Dressing for a hike is all about comfort, not style. I don’t want to look terrible when I’m on the trail, but I’m much more concerned about wearing clothes that are comfortable and well suited to the conditions. When we set out last Saturday morning, the sky was overcast and the temperature was 17ºC (about 63ºF). We knew that it was likely going to get warmer as the morning went by, so as always, layering was the key.

I started with a long sleeved grey and white striped Breton tee and a comfortable pair of jeans that used to be black, but are now faded to a dark charcoal grey. (Any tips for keeping black jeans from fading would be much appreciated.) Both items are several years old. Next, I added a lightweight athletic jacket that I bought at our local thrift store back in January. It was like new and was definitely one of the best $3 investments I’ve ever made! It’s been to Mexico and Europe with me and I’m sure its cost per wear is already just a few cents. The final layer was my Uniqlo ultra light down vest.

I wear a ball cap to shade my face. There’s a good reason for that. I have no depth vision. I never have had so I don’t know what I’m missing. My brain has other ways of compensating, but wearing sunglasses removes whatever sense of depth I have and makes walking on uneven ground treacherous. As a result, I never wear them when I’m hiking.

Being surefooted on the trail is important, so good sturdy footwear is vital. My Merrell hiking shoes may not be particularly glamorous, but they’re comfortable and provide excellent support.

One thing I’m not wearing is makeup. Why would I? I admit that I look a little washed out in the photos, but I was hiking! I did wear sunscreen though. Even when it’s overcast, I want to protect my skin.

As the morning progressed, the sky cleared and the temperature rose. Layers came off and by the end of our hike the jacket was tied around my waist, the vest was tucked into it’s little sack and tied to one of my belt loops, and my sleeves were pushed up.

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One more time!

Every fall, regardless of how many times we’ve had the trailer out over the summer or where we’ve taken it, I yearn for one more camping trip. When September arrives, however, the calendar starts to fill up and it doesn’t always happen. The weather didn’t cooperate when we planned on going earlier this month, but this weekend we finally managed to squeeze in two more days of camping, hiking, and kayaking. Now I can clean the trailer out and get it ready for winter without regret.

Big Knife Provincial Park, located in central east Alberta where Big Knife Creek flows into the Battle River, takes it’s name from a native legend. Two hundred years ago, the Blackfoot and Cree who inhabited the area were bitter enemies. According to the story, Big Man, a Cree, and Knife, a Blackfoot, fought near the banks of the creek. Apparently, both warriors died in the battle. In spite of this somewhat bloody history, the park, which is less than an hour from home for us, is now a lovely place to retreat from the busyness of life.

After setting up camp on Friday morning and having an early lunch, we set off to hike the 4.7 km River Flats trail. Beautiful views like these ones whetted my appetite for getting out on the river!

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Unfortunately, it started to rain shortly after we got back to camp and we spent the remainder of the afternoon in the trailer playing crib! As we ate supper, the clouds parted again and the sun came out, so I decided to go for a quick paddle before dark. Richard’s back has improved, but he’s not taking any chances with it yet, so I was on my own in our son’s single kayak again. When I set off shortly after 7:00 PM, the river was bathed in golden evening light.

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Soon afterward, I accidentally took a wrong turn leaving the river’s main channel and I ended up spending most of my time in a shallower dead end backwater. That wasn’t all bad. The quiet arm of the river was bustling with beaver activity! I lost track of how many I saw and how many tails slapped the water when I got too close!

An hour after I set off, the river looked like this and I had to boogie to make sure I got back to the boat launch before it was too late to see anything at all!

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After breakfast yesterday morning, we ventured out to hike the park’s longer trail system, the 5.8 km Highlands Trail. This one climbs out of the river valley and follows a ridge above. I love this view of the meandering river below.

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The Big Knife trails are far from challenging, mostly level, grass covered, and well maintained.

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With the abundance of rain that we’ve had this year, everything is very green, a beautiful backdrop for the fall colours.

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The beavers weren’t the only ones busily preparing for winter. It seemed that almost every Canadian thistle along the trails had a bee busily gathering nectar and they were completely oblivious to me and my camera getting up close. There were clusters of little purple flowers everywhere and just as I stopped to take a photo of one, a bee decided that it wanted to be in that picture too.

In the afternoon, I was back out on the water. The Battle River flows so slowly that looking at it, one might wonder if it moves at all. The fact that I paddled upstream for an hour and a half and returned in an hour, even though I spent some of that time drifting, proves that it really does! The push ups and planks that are part of my daily exercise routine definitely pay off, but by the time I spotted the bright yellow buoy in the distance that marks the location of the boat launch, my arms were ready to say they’d had enough!

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Now we’re busy cleaning out the trailer and getting it ready for winter. If we do get out for any more hiking or kayaking this year, it will be as a day trip.

The art of getting dressed

LogoBefore we look at how we dress, let’s consider why we clothe our bodies. First of all, not to would be considered immodest and in most cases illegal! Of course, we also dress to protect our bodies from cold and from the damaging rays of the sun. If those were our only reasons for wearing clothing though, we could all dress the same and we’d only need two outfits each, one to wear and one to launder. We’d need very little closet space, it would be so much easier on the environment, and just think of how much money we’d save! It would also be incredibly BORING!

Clearly, our clothes serve another purpose. They are an expression of who we are, of our individual uniqueness. That’s why I encourage you to identify your personal style if you haven’t already done so.

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It’s also important to dress the body you have, not the one you want or the one you used to have. Like most fashion bloggers, I don’t show you how I dress in hopes that you’ll copy me. Absolutely not! My goal is to encourage and inspire you to experiment with fashion and to learn how to dress in a way that fits your personality and makes you happy. I love the comment that one reader left on another blog recently. She said, “You wear you and I’ll wear me!”

Getting dressed is like creating a work of art. Every morning, you start with a blank canvas. Many artists begin a painting with the background. We, too, need a good foundation to build our work of art on. That means wearing good quality undergarments that fit well and keep everything in place.

Next we begin to fill our painting with the larger shapes. As you look into your closet and choose which pieces to use to build your outfit, consider where you’ll be going, what you’ll be doing, and what you want your look to say about you. Once you’ve established that, use accessories and makeup to add finishing touches to your work of art.

Artists also experiment with colour. While having your colours “done” and sticking to a specific palette (no, I haven’t found my swatches!) may seem too restrictive, it does help to know which colours make you come alive and which, especially when they’re worn close to your face, make you look tired or washed out. Knowing whether your skin has cool or warm undertones can help in choosing the colours that are best for you. One easy way to figure this out is to look at the veins on the inside of your wrist. Do they look blue or green? If they appear more blue, you are cool-toned; if they’re more green, you’re warm toned. The study of colour can be a complex one, but essentially, if you are cool-toned, take your inspiration from the cool end of the spectrum. Bright blues, deep purples, emerald greens, and frosty shades of lavender, ice blue, and pink will look good on you. If you’re warm-toned, look to the warm end of the spectrum for your best colours. Think fiery reds, peach, coral, oranges and rusty tones, creams, camel, and earth tones. Of course, there are also those universal colours that look good on everyone. In addition to experimenting with colour, you might enjoy mixing patterns as well.

Now, at the start of each day, whether you’re going somewhere special or just staying home, take a look in your closet and create a fabulous work of art! You are so worth it!

 

Zebra stripes, more than just a fashion trend

LogoIn August 2013, I was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer (NETS). In August of this year, I attended a cabi party and treated myself to a zebra print top from the Fall 2019 Uniquely Us Collection. Those might seem like two completely unrelated random facts, but they aren’t.

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The zebra is the symbol of neuroendocrine cancer. Neuroendocrine tumours are difficult to diagnose. The symptoms are usually vague and similar to more common health problems. Many family doctors have never encountered a NETS patient. When presented with symptoms like stomach pain and diarrhea, they naturally think of things like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease or lactose intolerance. Flushing, especially in women of a certain age, makes them think menopause, not cancer. Medical students are taught “when hearing hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras.” Neuroendocrine tumours are rare and therefore they are considered to be zebras.

Some NETS patients and advocates think the zebra symbol is foolish, that it trivializes the grave nature of our disease, and would like to see us stop using it. I disagree. I think we need to take advantage of every opportunity to draw attention to our cause and if that includes zebra stripes, I’m all for it!

Since my diagnosis, I’ve noticed zebra stripes everywhere! As I mentioned in last Friday’s post on trends for fall 2019, the zebra motif is particularly popular this season, but animal prints never go out of style and the zebra has been around for a long time. I’ve seen zebra t-shirts, zebra leggings, zebra jeans, zebra pjs, and zebra bras. I’ve also seen zebra handbags, zebra luggage, and even a zebra golf bag.

I remember trying on a darling zebra dress a couple of years ago, but I didn’t buy it. Like most zebra garments, its stark black and white pattern wasn’t flattering on me. With my pale Spring complexion, I look better in warmer tones. That’s why my new cabi top is so perfect. With its creamy vanilla background and chocolate ganache stripes (doesn’t that sound yummy?) it’s perfect for me.

With soft flutter sleeves, the top is a good stand alone piece for the occasional warm summery day that we enjoy at this time of year, but worn under sweaters and jackets, it will transition well into fall and winter. When worn alone, underarm insets provide good armhole coverage. While the neckline isn’t immodestly low, it leaves enough décolletage exposed to nicely frame a statement necklace. The top looks great tucked in, worn loose, or belted.

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I even tried mixing animal prints. Because both prints are within the same colour family, I think it works!

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For today’s photo shoot, I wore my DIY frayed white jeans. Later in the season, I’ll pair the zebra top with darker pants or skirt, but obviously I don’t adhere to the antiquated don’t wear white after Labour Day rule!

And what am I wearing on my feet, you ask? A pair of flip flops that I bought for $5 at Walmart’s end of season clearance sale. They perfectly match my golden summertime toes!

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Ribstones in the rain

On the top of a hill about half an hour northeast of here, is a collection of rocks with a long history and a story to tell. The Viking Ribstones are quartzite boulders carved by the nomadic First Nations people who inhabited the prairie in years gone by. The stones stand as a monument to Old Man Buffalo, the spirit protector of the herds that provided them with food, hides, utensils, tools, and so much more. Grooves carved in the two largest rocks in ancient times are thought to represent the ribcage of the buffalo and circular holes may represent arrow or bullet holes.

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We weren’t too keen on spending a cool rainy afternoon cooped up in the house with three restless grandchildren who are visiting for the Labour Day weekend and Drew, the oldest, has been wanting to see the Ribstones since he first heard about them, so off we went. Thankfully, the rain was nothing more than a light drizzle as we approached the hill, the highest point for miles around.

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Historically, natives in the area left offerings to Old Man Buffalo at the Ribstones before hunting and after a successful hunt. Today, this is still a sacred and revered site to the First Nations people who continue to visit and leave offerings that include braided sweetgrass, tobacco or cigarettes, and other small trinkets. Five-year-old Simon was naturally curious and wanted to play with some of these objects, but in an attempt to teach him respect for the sacred nature of the place, we explained that it was something like a church and that the objects were similar to what we put in the offering plate at church.

Ribstone sites are very rare and this one has been designated a provincial historic resource. Only nine have been found in Alberta and this one is particularly significant because the stones remain in their original setting.

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Colourful ribbons and prayer cloths hang from the fence enclosing the site and trees in a nearby grove. Some have clearly been there for a long time, while others are newer.

The hilltop is a peaceful spot overlooking fields of grain in every direction. Hopefully the rain will let up and harvest can begin soon.

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Lone kayaker

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Richard has had a back problem for most of his adult life. Usually when it flares up, it settles down again within a few days, but whatever he did in early July appears to be something different. After weeks of rest, he’s still in pain. When the doctor recently told him no more golf and no kayaking for the rest of the season (we hadn’t even been out in the kayak yet), I was very unhappy! I felt sorry for him, of course. Being inactive is very difficult for him, but I was also sorry for myself! Perhaps that sounds selfish. Maybe it was. After all, I could have shrugged and said, “There’ll always be other summers”, couldn’t I? Not really. I don’t have that luxury. I’m hoping that there will be many more summers, but when you’re walking around with two cancers that aren’t being treated, you really can’t count on next year. You have to live for the moment.

I could golf on my own, but our kayak is a tandem and there it hung in the garage gathering dust. Then I remembered the other kayak; the one we’ve been storing in the back corner of the garage for our son for the past couple of years! It’s so lightweight that I can carry it myself. I could go kayaking after all!

We spent the past four days camping at Camp Lake, less than an hour from home, and I spent many hours out on the water. Sometimes I paddled vigorously, sometimes slowly, and sometimes I simply lifted the paddles out of the water and listened to the silence of solitude.

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I spent lots of time playing with my camera too. I especially love to capture reflections on water.

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In some places the fall colours were beginning to show.

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One of the things that I love about kayaking is the chance to see wildlife in their natural habitat. I didn’t see any larger animals this time, but there were many places like this one along the water’s edge where they obviously come down to drink.

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One end of the lake in particular is shallow and edged with reeds and that’s where the action was.

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I have no idea how many muskrats make Camp Lake their home, but clearly there are a lot of them! For every photo that I captured, many were missed. Even the ping of my camera turning on was enough to startle them. I learned to cover the speaker with my thumb to muffle the sound as I drifted close to them. I’m not sure who was the most surprised when one furry fellow popped up and swam beside the kayak for a couple of metres! Before I could grab the camera, he noticed me and dove beneath the surface immediately disappearing from sight. It was easier to capture the ones that were out of the water.

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I’m hoping for at least one more lone kayaker outing this year, and I really hope that we’re both well enough to paddle together again next year, but at least this summer didn’t go by without some time on the water.

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Talking about trends: Fall 2019

LogoWhile much of the world was experiencing extreme heat, it was a non-summer here in Alberta. Our big blue sky decided to take an extended vacation and left us with gloomy grey clouds and endless rain. Our furnace literally came on almost every morning! It’s hard to think about fall when you haven’t really had summer, but the fashions are out in the stores and it’s time to talk about trends.

Rich autumn colours are huge this season. Think pumpkin, caramel, cinnamon, gold, and spicy browns. Green, from light pistachio all the way to deep forest, is also very popular. Animal prints never go out of style, but they are bigger than ever this season. Leopard has been leading the way for the past few seasons, but now it’s being joined on centre stage by zebra and snakeskin. Plaids and checks continue to be popular as do floral prints.

Belts are showing up everywhere; wide ones, thin ones, and colourful ones, worn over blazers, sweaters, dresses, and coats. Perhaps an animal print belt is what’s needed to add a bit of flair to your fall wardrobe.

Shoulder pads, reminiscent of the 1970s, have made their way back into the fashion mainstream over the past few years and are definitely being seen again this fall. Though there’s no one skirt length for this season, maxi skirts have definitely made a comeback. Jumpsuits also continue to be on trend. Capes and long coats are very popular.

As always, some of the season’s trends may appeal to you and others probably won’t. Don’t feel compelled to wear something simply because it’s on trend. Instead, pick and choose those colours that suit your skin tone and looks that fit your personal style. And, before you go shopping for this season’s trends, remember to shop your own closet. Chances are, you’ll find something there that fits right in with the current trends.

Let me show you what I mean. Though I was tempted to dig into my fall/winter wardrobe more than once this non-summer, I haven’t actually done my seasonal closet switch yet and I had to go into storage to retrieve these items. None of them are new.

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I started with a pair of chocolate brown boot cut jeans, taupe booties, and a comfy brown sweater that has been around for a very long time. I haven’t worn it much in recent years and almost got rid of it several times, but now I’m glad I didn’t. This was a good beginning, but the outfit definitely needed some dressing up.

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I added a dark brown leather belt, a leopard print scarf, and a pair of gold tasseled earrings. That’s much better!

Now let’s go outside.

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For a chilly fall day, I’ve added the reversible wool cape that was my Mom’s. I don’t know for sure how old it is, but I think it was quite new when I wore it, ivory side out, over my wedding dress in October 1976! My daughter also wore it over hers 30 years later in December 2006! A gift from my husband last Christmas, the hat is by far the newest item that I’m wearing.

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Now, how many of this season’s trends did I hit without going shopping?