New looks

logoHave you ever noticed that adding a new basic to your wardrobe can breathe fresh life into older pieces?

I’ve only purchased one item from this season’s cabi collection, the Indulgence Tank. With it’s wide ponte waistband and two floaty layers of lightweight polyester creating a beautiful blouson effect, this pure white sleeveless top will go with practically everything.

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Here I’m wearing it with a short navy cardigan that hadn’t been out of my closet all winter. Purchased at Uniqlo shortly after my arrival in China in early 2013, it was once a wardrobe staple, but I’d grown somewhat tired of it. When I paired it with the Indulgence Tank, however, it felt almost new again.

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In these photos, you’re seeing me with more hair than usual. I normally have my hair cut every six weeks, but it’s now been almost nine weeks since I last visited my hairdresser. That’s because I’m trying to decide whether or not it’s time for a longer style. Some days, like the one pictured here, I’ve been playing around with its natural curl instead of straightening it. Regardless of what I decide, I know that it needs a good trim to give it shape, but what do you think? Cut it short again or let it grow? I really want your opinion!

Ghost moose

We had an unusual visitor yesterday; a young moose that has been hanging around our neighbourhood for the past few days munching on the plant life.

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Yes, I was actually that close to him! When I first realized that he was there, he was standing just outside our front door snacking on my rose bush.

A rather scraggly looking character, he is what is known as a ghost moose. Infested and irritated by ticks, he has rubbed off most of his dark brown hair, exposing his pale undercoat.

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Though I’ve never seen one before, apparently ghost moose are becoming more and more common and are most often spotted in March and April. Biologists blame climate change for ushering in shorter, warmer winters that are conducive to increased tick populations. The tick’s life cycle begins in late fall. Larva cling to plants and climb aboard unsuspecting moose that brush against them, feasting on their warm bodies over the winter months until early spring when they generally drop off and lay their eggs to begin the cycle over again.

A single moose can be host to a staggering number of ticks. I’ve read numbers upwards of 50 000! Thousands of feeding ticks can actually kill a moose! Calves, like this one, are particularly vulnerable. Loss of blood leaves them weak and easy prey for predators. Scratching off large patches of their thick outer coat in an attempt to remove the ticks leads to the loss of body heat and even hypothermia. Some spend more time scratching than foraging for food. Skinny and malnourished, they eventually die of starvation.

Considering that our young visitor has made it through our cold winter and seems to be eating well, I’m hopeful that he will survive, but I also have other concerns for his well-being. He is obviously one of last year’s calves. As such, he’s still a bit young to be wandering about on his own. Moose calves usually stay with their mothers for about a year and a half.

The fact that he’s spending so much time in town is also a major concern. It’s not unusual for us to see a mother moose and her calves in the yard during the winter, especially at night, but they are usually easily spooked, retreating to the trees on the edge of town when startled. This little guy is much too bold. He continued to nonchalantly trim the lower branches of our weeping birch while vehicles passed by just a few feet away. Even a neighbour in a noisy truck stopping to take pictures didn’t deter him.

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Not only is becoming semi domesticated not good for him, but as cute as he is (in his own scraggly way), he poses a danger to people. He’s already big enough to cause serious damage and  if he survives, he’s going to get a LOT bigger. A full grown bull moose can reach a height of up to 2.15 m (7.1 feet) at the shoulder and weigh between 500 and 725 kg (1,102 and 1,598 pounds)!

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Real date

Since yesterday’s dream date post captured the interest of so many readers, I thought today I’d share a real date that Richard and I went on on a beautiful fall day. We live in a tiny town of just over 800 people. It’s a two hour drive from the closest major city and an hour from a town large enough to have a movie theatre and a choice of restaurants. If we lived in the city there would be a myriad of things to do on a date, but out here coming up with creative date ideas is much more challenging.

Known as a flip-a-coin date or a penny date, this concept is a simple one that works just as well in the countryside as in a city, perhaps even better. Here’s how it works:

  1. Pack a picnic lunch.
  2. Grab a coin. HEADS is right; TAILS is left.
  3. Choose a number. This will be the number of times you turn before you reach your destination.
  4. Every time you approach an intersection, flip the coin to determine which way you’ll turn.
  5. Once you reach the number that you chose in step 3, look around and find a spot to enjoy your picnic.

Since we didn’t want to spend our time driving around and around our tiny community, we drove to the nearest exit from town before flipping the coin the first time. The countryside in our area is criss-crossed with roads, most of them just a mile apart, so we chose a number large enough to take us some distance from town. Though I don’t remember for sure, I think it might have been 20.

We were hardly out of town when we stopped to watch a huge flock of snow geese landing on a pond. It was like a magical dance!

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As we wandered the backroads we passed a few old abandoned buildings including this one, the old curling rink which was moved out of town when a new recreational centre was built in the early 1960s.

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At one point, a right turn followed by three lefts in a row took us in a complete square back to where we’d been not long before. Fortunately, the next flip was a right and off we went in a new direction!

Soon after we made our final turn, we spotted a secluded clearing overlooking a field of ripening grain.

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It was a perfect spot for our tailgate picnic!

Now, with spring finally on the way, geese are flying overhead again. When the last bit of snow has melted away, the muddy roads have dried and leaves are back on the trees, I think we’ll try another flip-a-coin date. I wonder where the next one will take us?

Dream date

A couple of years ago, when our decades old marriage had hit a particularly low spot, Richard and I decided to be more intentional about incorporating regular dates into our often busy schedule. We’ve been a little lax about that lately which has given me reason to start thinking about what my dream date might look like.

I visualize candlelight, seafood and white wine on a patio overlooking the ocean. After a leisurely meal with gentle waves lapping in the background, we’d walk a moonlit beach with warm sand between our toes.

Alas, I am a coastal girl living on the western Canadian prairie, so unless I’m on vacation, that date is but a dream. I’m delighted, however, to collaborate with Turo, a unique car-sharing company, to suggest a way to ramp up that or any other date and take it to a whole new level. I’m imagining Richard and I arriving for our dinner in a red carpet worthy luxury vehicle, perhaps a Mercedes Benz or a BMW, instead of our trusty SUV. With Turo, that part of the date doesn’t have to be a fantasy!

Perhaps your dream date would be entirely different from mine; maybe something more adventurous and outdoorsy. Turo can help you with that too. With vehicles available in more than 4500 cities across the US, Canada and the UK, you could rent a truck, an SUV or, in some locations, even a Hummer.

I was delighted to learn that Turo operates right here in Alberta. I’ve got my eye on this sporty little Jaguar. Wouldn’t that make date night special?

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Disclaimer:  This is not a paid endorsement. Information and image provided by Turo, but the words are my own.

One year!

logoTomorrow it will be exactly one year since I introduced Fashion Friday to my blog! One year of writing a weekly fashion post, something I would not have imagined myself doing just a few years earlier. I thought today would be a good day to reflect on that first year and do a bit of self-evaluation.

I stated a number of goals in that first post:

“I want this to be much more than just a “look what I’m wearing today” feature. I hope that together we can explore the topic of personal appearance and how what we wear affects our daily lives.”

One of my early posts, F is for Fashion, is one of my favourite examples of this. Though it does include one photo of me, it focuses on six F words to consider when shopping for clothes.

“You can expect posts on everything from fabulous footwear to dressing on a budget, and packing a suitcase to purging your closet.” 

Before I wrote my first Fashion Friday post I brainstormed a fairly long list of ideas, enough to keep me going for quite awhile. The topics mentioned in that first post were on that list and I’ve written about all four of them. Dressing on a budget has definitely been a popular theme. I’m a frugal fashionista who loves thrift store shopping and over the past year I’ve written several posts featuring some of my favourite finds. You can find the first of a three week series here.

“I also intend to do a bit of investigating and share what I learn about some of my favourite clothing retailers.”

I haven’t been as successful with this part of my original plan. Early on, I emailed several retailers expressing my interest in featuring them on my blog and asking a few pertinent questions. Disappointingly, none of them responded! I have, however, written unsolicited posts about Cabi and Uniqlo and both of them responded favourably. I was also approached by American eyeglass brand, Warby Parker, and asked to write my very first collaborative post featuring their newest collection. Perhaps with these successes under my belt I should consider contacting a few of those retailers again.

“I want this to be an interactive feature, so I will be encouraging you, my readers, to participate by sharing your insights, ideas and questions in the comment section.”

This is where you come in! While several of you have liked or commented on posts, I would love to encourage more of this. Some readers leave comments on my Facebook page, which is fine, but I would rather you left them here on the blog where they remain permanently and can be seen by other readers. I’m not looking only for accolades. If you don’t like something I’m wearing or disagree with my point of view, please feel free to say so and tell me why. All I ask is that you do it politely. Over the past year, I’ve received some great fashion tips from readers and I especially love it when you ask questions and I’m able to help you with your own fashion concerns. I’ve made it my habit to respond to every comment left on the blog and I will continue to do so.

As part of today’s evaluation and to help me choose future topics,  I also took a look at my stats to see which Fashion Friday posts were most popular. My most read fashion post so far was Ideas and inspiration with Favourite fashion blogs for women of a certain age taking second place.

So, what has writing a regular fashion feature done for me? In addition to exploring a topic of growing interest, it has ensured that I keep writing and posting on a regular basis even during those times when we aren’t traveling or doing anything else that’s interesting enough to write about. It’s also caused me to take an even greater interest in fashion, reading the work of and sharing ideas with other fashion bloggers. It has inspired me to take more care with my own appearance and has led me to experiment with new and different looks that I might not have tried in the past. Here’s just one example of that. Most of all, it’s been fun, so unless the well of ideas runs dry Fashion Friday will continue to be a regular weekly feature here on Following Augustine.

It would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to thank my husband, Richard, for the time he’s spent being my fashion photographer. For a man who had rarely used a camera in the past, I think he’s done a pretty good job! Here are a few of my favourites from the past year.

Happy Birthday, Fashion Friday!

 

Column of colour

logoColumn dressing begins with a solid base in one colour, usually a neutral. It can be either a top with pants or a top with a skirt. Add accessories and a topper and voila!

Here’s an example from my wardrobe. I wore this to church recently.

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I started with my skinny black pants purchased about a year ago at Dynamite and a stretchy high-necked tank top that I’ve had for years. Though I seldom tuck my tops in, this one is a bit on the short side and tends to ride up if I don’t. A narrow black belt with a black and gold buckle helped keep everything in place. To this basic column, I added tall black boots, a grey mix cardigan and simple jewelry in a gold and silver combo.

By simply exchanging one waterfall cardigan for another less structured one in a colourful silky fabric and the boots for a pair of black pumps, I was ready for a date night with my hubby. We started the evening with dinner at a new restaurant and then went dancing.

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Here’s a third look built on the exact same basic column. This time I styled it with a bright red leather jacket that’s on loan from my sister-in-law, Sue, who thinks I need to add more colour to my wardrobe. For the purpose of this post, I wore the same jewelry for all three photos, but imagine how I could create many different looks by changing my accessories.

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Though it would be boring to dress this way all the time, there are many advantages to creating a column. First of all, it’s easy and who doesn’t like easy? Even better, it’s cost effective. The basic pieces of a column can be worn over and over again in so many different ways making them excellent investment pieces. It creates a long, lean look which is highly sought after by many women and it makes packing, especially for business travel, a dream. Depending on the length of the trip, one or two basic columns with several toppers and a mix of interesting accessories might be all you need!

How to host a successful clothing swap

logoThey say that you should write what you know, but this time I’m going out on a limb and writing about something I’ve never tried. Everything I suggest here is based on what others have written.

A clothing swap is a party where you and each of your guests bring an agreed upon number of garments and/or accessories to the event to trade with one another and thus breathe new life into your closets without spending a cent!

So, how does this work?

1.  Choose your guests

The first step to hosting a successful clothing swap is to decide who you’ll invite. Include friends of all sizes and shapes making sure that no one feels left out because there isn’t anyone in a similar size for her to swap with.

2.   Choose the time

The best time to host a clothing swap is toward the end of a season when people are likely tired of what they’ve been wearing and ready for a few new pieces to freshen up their wardrobes. They may be planning to clean out their closets anyway and your party will be just the incentive they need.

3.   Set some rules

Decide on a minimum and maximum number of items that each person should bring and include this information in the invitation. You want to ensure that there are plenty of items to trade but not so many that it becomes overwhelming to look through everything. It’s also best to ensure that you don’t have a situation where some people bring lots and others hardly anything at all.

Encourage your friends to bring accessories as well as clothing. Shoes, handbags, scarves and jewelry add to the fun and ensure that everyone, regardless of size, is able to find something that fits.

It should go without saying, but make sure to stipulate that everything must be clean and in good condition. It’s also a good idea to remind your guests to empty all pockets so that they don’t inadvertently give someone a cash bonus or find themselves trying to track down lost ID after the party is over!

4.   Set the scene

Presentation is important. If possible, have a hanging rack available as well as a table or two so that items can be organized and displayed attractively. No one wants to feel as if they’re digging through someone else’s laundry!

Designate one or two rooms for changing and have at least one full length mirror available. It’s also a good idea to have a belt or two on hand for your guests to use when they’re trying things on. Belting a loose-fitting dress or top might be just the thing to make it work for one of your friends.

5.   When your guests arrive

Start by going over some basic ground rules and then let the fun begin. Set a time limit for the swap so that when it’s over you can all relax and enjoy some wine and cheese or whatever you decide to serve. It is a party, after all!

Depending on the size and make up of your group, you may want to consider dividing the time into five minute segments allowing each person to choose only one item per round.

If two or more friends have their eye on the same thing, have a predetermined method of determining who gets it. Having them each model the item and letting the group vote on who wears it best can be fun, but if you’re afraid of hurt feelings, flipping a coin might be a better idea.

No one should go home with more than she brought.

6.   Serve snacks

Wait until the swap is over to bring out the goodies. This helps keep things moving along during the exchange and also helps prevent spills. Keep it simple. You might even want to ask each guest to bring something to share.

7.   When the party’s over

Choose in advance a local charity or thrift store that will appreciate the overflow from your swap. Give each guest the option of taking home anything she brought that wasn’t chosen, then pack up the leftovers to be donated.

Have you ever hosted or attended a clothing swap? Do you have any tips or suggestions?

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Fighting the third enemy

On February 7, shortly before our trip to Mexico, I had routine PET and CT scans to check on my neuroendocrine tumours (NETS). Diagnosed in September 2013, they are Enemy #1. NETS is a little known, slow growing cancer that’s usually considered incurable. Fortunately, in my case, treatment has been successful in shrinking the tumours and controlling the symptoms related to the hormones that they produce. For the most part, I feel 100% healthy and I’m able to lead a normal life.

Enemy #2 was a second completely unrelated cancer discovered in one of my salivary glands in March 2014. After seven hours of surgery and six weeks of radiation it was gone.

So what is Enemy #3?

Fear is not usually part of my vocabulary. I’ve placed my life in the hands of the creator of the universe and I trust Him completely. For the most part, I’ve held onto His promises to take care of me and I’ve experienced great peace, but there is an adversary who does his best to shake that confidence. He, or at least the anxiety that he instills, is Enemy #3.

Anxiety often begins as a little thing, but it feeds on itself. That’s what happened to me over the past couple of months and by this morning, when the phone finally rang to give me the results of last month’s scans, I was approaching a full-blown case of scanxiety.

When you have or have had cancer, it’s easy to start second guessing every ache or twinge and wondering if it’s related, if it’s a sign that something’s going wrong. That’s what happened this time. Back in January, I had a cold. It wasn’t even a particularly bad cold. It started in my sinuses, moved briefly into my ears and then settled in the lymph nodes in my neck. I knew that that’s a pretty normal scenario and that it can take awhile for the swelling and discomfort to dissipate, but I began to worry. When I’m stressed or anxious, I carry the tension in my jaw, neck and shoulders. I’m sure that that didn’t help. Add to that the fact that even almost three years after surgery, nerve damage to my face and neck is still gradually repairing itself. Sensations are constantly changing and feeling is returning where only numbness has been. I don’t even know what my neck is supposed to feel like anymore! Foolishly, I started wondering if maybe I was actually experiencing a recurrence of Enemy #2. Logically, I knew that that wasn’t the case, but Enemy #3 is insidious, sneaking doubts in where they don’t belong.

Then came Mexico. I relaxed, had a wonderful time and forgot all about my neck! On the way home, we spent a couple of days with grandchildren. The two year old, who attaches himself to me like velcro, had a nasty cold. Not surprisingly, I started to experience minor cold symptoms again and with them came a recurrence of the swelling in my neck. Enemy #3 started to poke and prod again.

Long story short, however, this morning’s phone call brought good news. Enemy #1 is still entirely stable. There’s been no growth or spread of my neuroendocrine tumours. Better yet, there’s absolutely no sign of Enemy #2; nothing unusual growing in my neck!

What a relief! Regardless of how weird my neck might feel, I can get on with living life. I will continue hanging on and not let Enemy #3 overcome me!

 

Shopping Sue’s closet

logoMy sister-in-law, Sue, loves to shop and has a larger clothing budget than I do. She has excellent taste and knows what looks good on her. Many of the sales clerks in her favourite mall know her by name and are familiar with her personal style. I am often the lucky beneficiary!

As a child I didn’t wear hand-me-downs, not because we were well off or because I didn’t want to, but because I was the oldest daughter in the family and had only one female cousin who is ten years older than me. There wasn’t anyone to hand clothing down to me. As an adult, however, and a frugal fashionista, I am more than happy to wear pre-owned clothing, especially Sue’s! Though I’m taller, we are very similar in size and can usually wear one another’s clothes without alteration. Though Sue tends to wear dramatic colours (she says I need more colour in my wardrobe!) and I favour neutrals, we have similar taste in clothing and we love to shop together.

Last month, we got together for our annual girls day out… lunch and shopping. Though I bought a couple of items, most of what I came home with came from Sue’s closets! Before I arrived for the weekend, she had done a major closet purge and I was met with several large bags of clothing to sort through and try on. What fun! I came away with one dress, one skirt, four sweaters, three golf shirts (like me, Sue is an avid golfer), three dressier tops, a warm fleece pullover and two handbags. That was just a tiny fraction of what was in the bags which then went to my daughter and, after she chose the items she wanted, to a thrift store.

Here’s my favourite item from Sue’s most recent castoffs. I love its loose fitting blouson style. With elastic at the hem, it’s great at camouflaging a midsection bulge and the colours coordinate with so much that is already in my wardrobe. I know I’ll wear this one a lot especially when the weather gets warmer.

This is far from the first time that I’ve benefitted from Sue’s extensive wardrobe and her generosity. In the past, she has also acquired a few items from me, but I’m a minimalist in comparison, so her gain has not been as great as mine. Shopping Sue’s closet started me thinking about clothing swaps in general. I’ve never taken part in a clothing swap party, but I’ve been reading up on the idea and I’ll share what I’ve learned next week on Fashion Friday. See you then!