The House at Riverton

If you, like me, are grieving the cancellation of TV’s popular drama series, Downton Abbey, then have I got a book for you!

Riverton

Originally released in her native Australia as The Shifting Fog, The House at Riverton was author, Kate Morton’s, debut novel. Described on the back cover as “the captivating story of an aristocratic family, a glorious English estate, a mysterious death and a way of life that vanished forever”, the story is set in England between the two great wars. Told in flashback by 98-year-old Grace, who was employed at Riverton, first as a housemaid and later as lady’s maid to the family’s eldest daughter, I found it a captivating read. The time period and master/servant relationships were so very reminiscent of Downton Abbey!

I’m not generally a fan of mysteries, but this one is more than a simple who-done-it and kept my attention to the end. In addition to providing a window into a fascinating time in history, The House at Riverton explores topics like memory and long held secrets, the devastation of war, and the end of an era.

Since The Shifting Fog was released in 2006, Kate Morton has published four more novels. I picked up The House at Riverton and two of the others, The Forgotten Garden and The Distant Hours, at a garage sale this spring thinking that they would make great summer reading. So  far, I haven’t been disappointed. We’ll be camping for the next couple of weeks and the other will be going with me.

What are you reading this summer? 

What’s in your purse?

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A friend of mine once reached into her handbag and pulled out half a hamburger wrapped in a paper napkin! It had been there for several days and was practically petrified.

What’s the most unusual thing in your purse?

Here’s what’s in mine right now:

  • leather clutch wallet purchased 8 years ago in Japan that contains driver’s licence, health care cards, cash, credit cards, receipts, business cards, an expired State of Israel Border Control Stay Permit and a reloadable Japanese Pasmo card that can be used for anything from train and bus travel to shopping. (The last two items are non-essentials, but they don’t take up any space and they bring back memories that make me smile every time I see them!)
  • cell phone
  • keys
  • pens
  • small folder containing rewards cards
  • cheque book
  • notebook
  • address book
  • calendar/planner
  • small pack of tissue
  • an ultra compact reusable shopping bag
  • 2 small cosmetic bags containing lip balm, lipstick, nail clippers, emery board, tiny foldable scissors, bandaids, eyeglass cleaning cloth, allergy and headache medication, a small tube of hand lotion, toothbrush and toothpaste
  • ziploc snack bag of almonds

Until recently, I was a one purse person, carrying the same bag for months on end without ever switching. The purse we carry is part of our overall fashion statement, however, and since boring is not the message I want to give about myself, my collection of handbags has started to grow and I’ve figured out how to switch quickly and easily from one to another. The trick is to organize the contents of your purse into smaller bags that can be transferred from one bag to another with ease.

I’m presently using this one a lot. I love it’s carefree summer look and the fact that it’s big enough to carry extras like sunscreen, sunglasses, my camera and even a hat. From The Sak, I won it last summer and first posted about it here.

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What do you carry in your purse?

 

Modesty and cultural sensitivity

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Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 11.07.24 PM 3Visitors who dress immodestly will no longer be allowed to enter Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat temple complex, the agency that oversees the site announced last week. Beginning August 4th, all tourists will be required to wear pants or skirts that fall below the knee and shirts that cover their shoulders.

When I read that, I immediately went back to our photos from Jan 4, 2009 to see what we were wearing the day we visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is also Cambodia’s biggest tourist attraction. Would we meet the new standard, I wondered.

We got up at 4:30 a.m. the day we toured Angkor Wat so that we could be there in time to watch the sun rise over it’s towers. It was still a bit chilly when we arrived and at that point, dressed in a warm fleece hoodie and capri pants, I would definitely have met the new dress code.

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Richard would not have, however, as he was wearing shorts and later, in the heat of the day, I wouldn’t have either.

I almost hate to post that picture because I look so frumpy, but please keep in mind that we were basically backpacking through southeast Asia. We had just traveled the length of Vietnam by night bus and we were staying in a $12/night guesthouse that wasn’t much more than a roof over our heads. I may not have looked great, but I was having the adventure of a lifetime and fashion was the farthest thing from my mind!

The question here, though, is what is modesty? My tank top may not be particularly attractive, but is it immodest?

In 1 Timothy 2:9, the apostle Paul advises women to “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation” but he doesn’t give a lot of detail about what that looks like. He does go on to say, “not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing” but to understand what he was getting at, one needs to look at the culture and the context. In this passage, Paul was advising women on how to dress for church, telling them to adorn themselves in a manner that was considered appropriate for worship. In Ephesus, where his protégé, Timothy, was pastoring at the time, the elite of that culture were known for their gaudy and extravagant wardrobes, their elaborate hair styles, and their expensive clothing that communicated extraordinary wealth. Paul’s description of immodest dress conjured up a picture of someone preoccupied with appearance, fashion, luxury, and perhaps even sexual prowess. He was simply advising the Christian women of that time and place not to mimic that behaviour, but to dress in a way that showed that they desired attention to be on God, not on themselves.

Dictionary definitions of modesty include “behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency” and “the quality of behaving and especially dressing in ways that do not attract sexual attention.”

In discussing dress codes, it’s important to note that modesty must involve cultural sensitivity. We don’t find the wearing of shorts or sleeveless tops offensive here in North America,  but Cambodia is a completely different culture. Angkor Wat was the spiritual centre of the Khmer empire that dominated that region from the 9th to 15th centuries. It’s a symbol of great national pride and is depicted on the Cambodian flag. As such, it is worthy of utmost respect. If, to the Cambodian mind, that means a certain manner of dress, then visitors definitely need to honour that.

Though it’s unlikely that I will return to Angkor Wat (only because there’s so much world that I have yet to see), but if I do, I won’t be wearing a tank top. If you haven’t been yet, I would definitely suggest adding it to your bucket list, but make sure you pack accordingly. After August 4th, those who are not dressed appropriately will be turned away or required to change their clothes before being allowed to enter.

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Brand new, but second-hand

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I volunteered at the Good As New, our local thrift shop, on Wednesday afternoon and had hoped to find something new to share with you today, but that was not to be. Though I tried on several items, some didn’t fit and others simply didn’t inspire me. Then I remembered that I had yet to wear one of my recent frugal fashionista purchases.

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The royal blue sleeveless top, originally from Laura, one of my favourite Canadian fashion retailers, still had it’s original $65 price tag on it when I bought it for just $2! I can’t imagine why anyone would buy a garment and then donate it to a thrift store without ever wearing it, but the Good As New has recently set aside one rack especially for brand new items because they receive so many of them. Obviously, in spite of our present economic downturn, we are still a culture of excess!

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When I was young, I refused to wear anything without sleeves because I was very self-conscious about my skinny, toothpick arms. Once I started working out, however, I began to feel differently and now I’m very comfortable in sleeveless tops and dresses.

The polyester/spandex top is just loose enough to hide the little bit extra that I carry around my waist these days and the silver grommets around the neckline and on the shoulders dress it up a bit.

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My sister and I are off on a road trip to visit our brother’s family this weekend. Perhaps this outfit should go with me. The white jacket is a hand-me-down from my daughter, or perhaps I should call it a hand-me-up! The pants are the white crops that I’ve featured in a couple of other posts recently and the shoes are a favourite pair of denim flats from Payless ShoeSource that are several years old and, sadly, almost worn out.

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Black lace

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 11.07.24 PM 3Lace is on-trend for 2016 for both evening and stylish daytime wear. My latest frugal fashionista (thrift store) purchase, a black lace top, is feminine without being too girly and, unlike some lace garments, it doesn’t remind me of my grandmother’s curtains!

For me, versatility is an important factor when I’m shopping for clothes and this top definitely fits that bill. It can be worn with dressy pants, jeans, capris or even a pencil skirt. It isn’t lined, so I can wear it over any number of different camisoles. It looks good over both black and white, but I especially like it over khaki as shown below.

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Black has never been the best look for me, but the khaki camisole underneath seems to soften the overall effect. Even so, this much black close to my face can leave me a bit tired looking. Adding a little extra colour to my face helps overcome that. Hence, the bright lipstick, something that I seldom wear.

Considering the fact that I seem to be perpetually packing and unpacking our suitcases, I also think about how well a garment will pack before I buy it. Again, this top works well. It takes up hardly any space, weighs practically nothing and doesn’t wrinkle. It has to be hand washed, but I can easily wash it out in a hotel sink (after all, isn’t that what they’re for?) and hang it overnight to dry.

At just $2, this was definitely a bargain! I wore it to a conference last week, to church on Sunday and here, I’m wearing it for a day of shopping.

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That brings me to another recent purchase. I bought this handbag brand new at a garage sale for just $8! It still had its tags on, the handles and zipper pulls were still wrapped and the tiny silica gel packs were still inside. It had clearly never been used.

No, it isn’t a Tory Burch (I’ve been asked twice), it’s from La Terre Fashion, but what do you expect at a garage sale? It’s very well made and I love it!

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Frugal fashionista!

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 11.07.24 PM 3I looked through my closets yesterday and counted 24 garments purchased at our two nearest thrift stores; the Good As New here in Sedgewick and Twice Nice in the neighbouring town of Killam. Add to that a couple of belts, several scarves, a pair of shoes and a favourite necklace and I am clearly a frugal fashionista!

In our area there’s no stigma attached to shopping second hand. In fact, the shops are social gathering places frequented by people of every social and economic status and, for many of us, searching their racks for bargains has become a delightful game.

Richard and I were invited to the home of friends for dessert and drinks last evening. Here’s what I chose to wear.

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The sleeveless cowl neck top (originally from Reitmans), the necklace and the shoes were all purchased at the Good As New for a grand total of $9. The pants were bought new a couple of summers ago.

Over the next few Fridays, I’ll be sharing more of my thrift store finds, evidence that it’s possible to dress with style even on a limited budget.

What about you? Do you shop thrift stores too?

Art on my arm

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 11.07.24 PM 3No, I’m not talking about a tattoo! I’m actually referring to a favourite bracelet that is, in fact, a piece of wearable art.

When I arrived at Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute for my treatment last fall, there was an Art Society of Strathcona County show and sale going on in the main reception area. Of course, I had to stop and take a look! There were several paintings that caught my eye, but I especially admired a unique bracelet made by artist, Barbara Mitchell.

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Imagine my surprise on Christmas morning when I opened a gift from my husband, who was with me that day at the Cross, and discovered the beautiful bracelet inside! Sneaky guy!

People often comment on it and because it has a somewhat Asian look, they usually assume that I got it when we lived in China or Japan. Their surprise at learning that it actually originated much closer to home led me to contact the artist and ask her about the process she used to make it.

Barbara graciously replied explaining the process that she uses for two different types of bracelets.

I take every single piece of glass in the bracelets…and I turn them over, handpaint on them using inks, mica powders, luminere, etc…then I seal them and after it dries I glue on a piece of white cardboard which brings the colors out. Then I file them all and glue them into the bracelet blanks.

In the case of your lovely bracelet, I take my original paintings or tile art paintings…and I make a copy of them…seal it…file it into the round or oval shape…glue it into the bracelet. It’s all alot of work but I enjoy doing it.

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I love having Peace, Hope, Faith and Believe circling my wrist!

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