I’d like your help

LogoEarlier this month, I had the opportunity to shop my sister-in-law’s closet again. Though I’m a little taller, Sue and I are very similar in size and can usually wear one another’s clothes without alteration. Before we arrived for our annual February visit, she had done another major closet clean out and had several large bags of clothing waiting for me to go through.

Today I want your opinion on 4 tops that now hang in my closet. Please be honest about whether or not you think I should keep them and tell me why.

#1

 

I actually like everything about this one from Cleo, one of my favourite Canadian fashion retailers. It fits perfectly and the soft polyester knit with a hint of spandex is oh so comfortable. Teal is one of the colours that suits every skin tone and the pattern doesn’t overwhelm me. The shirttail hem with ties at the sides takes it one notch up from a simple t-shirt.

#2

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Sue tends to wear dramatic colours and patterns while I favour neutrals. This one, also from Cleo, combines the two. Though fuchsia is also a colour that most women can wear, I like having the beige and grey tones closer to my face. I love three quarter length sleeves and this top is long enough that I can wear it over leggings. Though I love the look of the wide trim on the sleeves and the bottom edge, it does tend to catch on things.

#3

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I love the length and the fit of this button down tunic from Northern Reflections, another Canadian retailer. The lightweight polyester drapes beautifully, but I wonder if the pattern is a bit too intense for me. Perhaps it looks better under my denim waterfront shirt from cabi. What do you think?

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#4

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This silky blouson style top, also from Cleo, is actually a petite. It’s shorter than I usually wear, but other than that it fits well and the sleeves are long enough. It’s very lightweight and would make a good transition piece for spring (if it ever gets here!), but again, I wonder if it looks better under a sweater like my shirttail cardigan from cabi.

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Now that I’ve shopped Sue’s closet, please help me curate mine. Let me know your thoughts about these 4 tops in the comment section below.

 

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Blind date with a book

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To celebrate Valentines Day, the Killam Municipal Library, just up the road from us, decided to play matchmaker. “Going out on a blind date is a lot like opening up a new book – you never know what kind of experience you are going to have!” announced the library website.

I’ve never been on a blind date, but I decided to give this one a try. After all, it fit rather well with my New Year’s resolution. I stopped by the library during the first week of February and chose this one from a selection of similarly wrapped packages.

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Filled with anticipation, I hastened home and I quickly unwrapped my “date”. It definitely wasn’t love at first sight! In fact, my initial response was disappointment. Kind of like imagining someone tall, dark and handsome, then opening the door to find a date who, at first glance, isn’t really attractive at all.

Escape to Havana, Nick Wilkshire

The idea of escaping to an exotic locale intrigued me, of course, but a quick look at the cover told me that the book was a mystery, not a genre that I’m particularly fond of. In fairness, though, I felt that I had to give my blind date a chance and so I began to read.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the message on the outside of my package was a clue to what was inside. “Start a new chapter in your life,” it said. Main character, Charlie Hillier, is a Canadian bureaucrat whose marriage has just fallen apart in a very public way. When the chance to start over by accepting a posting to the Canadian embassy in Havana comes up, he jumps at the opportunity to escape the embarrassment and get as far away from his ex-wife and his dead end job at Foreign Affairs headquarters in Ottawa as he can.

Originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Nick Wilkshire is a lawyer living in Ottawa. Escape to Havana, published in 2016 is the first book in his Foreign Affairs Mystery series.

In spite of my initial apprehension, my date turned out to be fun. Escape to Havana is a light, but entertaining read. I’m not sure that an avid mystery fan would find it very satisfying, especially the rather far-fetched ending, but I enjoyed Wilkshire’s easy writing style and his sense of humour. He did a masterful job of bringing Havana to life. From the oppressive heat and humidity to the dilapidated buildings and ancient vehicles to the wonderful food, he gives his reader a real sense of modern day Cuba.

Would I go on another “blind date with a book”? As in real life, I would prefer to know who I’m going out with, but this was a fun experience, so yes, I probably would. For those who are really keen about the idea, there’s Blind Date with a Book.com. Subscribers receive a “blind date” once a month for six months based their favourite styles and genres. Me, I’ll just wait to see if the Killam Library does this again in the future.

Along with my “date”, there was a Rate Your Date form included in my packet. Everyone who returns the form with their book before February 28 will be entered in a draw. My “date” has gone back to the library and my fingers are crossed!

 

Garbage soup

What do you do with your vegetable scraps? If you’re a gardener, perhaps you compost them and make good use of the nutrients that way. If not, this post is for you!

Food waste is an enormous problem worldwide. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 1.3 tonnes of food is thrown out each year. Here in Canada, according to a 2014 report, $31 billion worth of food ends up in landfills or composters every year. I’m terrible at math, but if I’ve done my calculating correctly, that’s over $870 per person! Shockingly, 47% of that waste comes from private homes, not restaurants. Fruits and vegetables account for the highest amount of food wasted. Instead of adding to this global problem, why not use your vegetable scraps to make broth that can be used in a wide variety of ways. It’s really very simple:

Think potatoes, carrots, celery, cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, beets, tomatoes, cauliflower, pea pods, zucchini and other squash. The possibilities are almost endless! Since you’re going to make use of the outer layers instead of throwing them out, make sure you wash all vegetables thoroughly to get rid of dirt and/or pesticide residue. Remove the tops, bottoms, skins, and stems and toss them into a large Ziploc bag.

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Keep the bag in the freezer and add to it until it’s full. I also add bits of leftover vegetables after a meal is over. Frozen, the scraps will keep for 6 months or more, but I find that I can easily fill a bag in 2 or 3 weeks.

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Once the bag is full, dump it into a large pot and add enough water for the scraps to begin to float.

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Bring it to a boil and simmer for several hours.

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Strain the liquid off and discard rest.

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Your scraps can even do double duty if you choose to compost what remains.

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Every batch of broth is a little bit different depending on the composition of the scrap mix. Some are mild; others more robust in colour and flavour. I always do a taste test before using or freezing the broth. So far, I haven’t had to throw any away, but my daughter did have one batch that reminded her of stinky pond water!

The broth will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator or 4 to 6 months in the freezer. If I don’t plan to use it within a day or two, I freeze mine in containers of approximately 2 cups each.

Looks like I’d better defrost that freezer soon!

There are many recipes that call for vegetable broth, of course, but it has plenty of other uses as well. You can add extra flavour and nutrition to stews, curries, and even rice by using broth instead of water. Sometimes I turn a whole batch into a big pot of hearty vegetable soup by simply adding chopped onion, celery, an assortment of fresh or frozen vegetables, some barley or rice, salt, pepper, and other herbs or spices to taste. There’s something weirdly satisfying about turning your garbage into soup!

The right to bare arms

LogoKim Campbell was Prime Minister of Canada for a little over four months in late 1993. She was was the first, and to date, the only female prime minister of this country. In addition to being a politician, she’s been a diplomat, a lawyer, a university lecturer and a writer, but when it comes to fashion, I think she’s a little out of touch!

Kim Campbell

Campbell created a furor this week when she posted this on Twitter.

Kim Campbell Twitter post

Bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas and are demeaning to women? Really? How ridiculous and archaic!

Campbell is hardly a prude, nor is this the first time she’s created a hullabaloo over bare arms. The first time, however, they were her own. In 1990, the then Minister of Justice posed for a bare shouldered photo while holding her judicial robes in front of her.

Kim Campbell

Some considered it quite scandalous, but I think the photo is rather artistic and I like what it was meant to symbolize. Ms. Campbell recently tweeted that it represented “the juxtaposition of bare shoulders (femininity) and legal robes (male dominated power structure).” Apparently it was also intended to symbolize the law as protection for women.

I’m having a hard time reconciling a woman who championed those values with one who thinks that bare arms are degrading to women! As I said, perhaps she’s just a little out of touch.

Personally, in my younger years, I was self-conscious about showing off my arms because I felt that they were too skinny. It wasn’t until I was almost 40 and started to work out with weights that I felt comfortable going sleeveless. Now it’s my favourite look for summer. In fact, I can hardly wait for our long Canadian winter to come to an end so I can begin wearing them again.

What about you? Do you go sleeveless? Do you think that sleeveless dresses are unprofessional or demeaning to women? I’d love to know your opinion.

Great news!

Just a quick update concerning my health. As many of you know, I live with NETS, a little known and incurable cancer. I’ve been waiting all week for the phone to ring with the results of routine CT scans done early last week. I wasn’t anticipating bad news, but I do live with the reality that it could come at any time. Thankfully, today wasn’t that day!

Today, the news was good! Almost four and a half years after diagnosis, my disease continues to be stable with no sign of growth or spread.

Today I also learned that my last two 5H1AA tests have been normal! What does that mean, you ask. While the injection that a nurse comes to the house to give me once a month and the radioactive treatments that I receive twice a year aren’t expected to lead to a complete cure, the hope was that they would render my tumours inactive or dormant. Neuroendocrine tumours (NETS) produce and release excess amounts of hormones, particularly serotonin. 5HIAA is a 24 hour urine test that measures the amount of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid, a product of serotonin, found in the body. The normal test results show that my tumours are no longer active; no longer producing serotonin. It’s the serotonin that can cause symptoms including abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, joint pain, wheezing, fatigue and flushing of the skin. Because my levels have now been normal for several months, I was told today that I probably won’t have to repeat the 5H1AA test again unless I begin to experience symptoms again! That’s great news as it involves 3 days of dietary restrictions prior to the test and then 24 hours of collecting urine which can be quite a nuisance.

I’ll have my next treatment on May 23. Until then, with the exception of my monthly injections, I can forget about having cancer and get on with the business of living!

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If you’re curious about why the zebra is the symbol of neuroendocrine cancer, check here or here.

Do you really want to be FIERCE?

LogoIt seems that my recent fashion posts have been as much about words as they have been about fashion! First, I wrote about my present style being classy casual and what I meant by that. Then there was a post about the 3Cs… classy, confident, and comfortable. I hope you’ll bear with me today as we consider one more word that is taking a place of prominence in the world of fashion.

When I wrote F is for fashion, one of my earliest Fashion Friday posts, fierce was not one of the six F words that I focused on. In fact, it didn’t even cross my mind. There is, however, a movement started by 56 year old fashion blogger, Catherine Grace O’Connell, known as Forever Fierce that is quickly catching momentum on Facebook and she has now declared February 19 Forever Fierce Day.

“Forever Fierce Day is a celebration of the vitality, power, and wisdom of the Midlife Woman. Why? Because empowered women at Midlife are cool!” writes Catherine. “Midlife isn’t an age. It’s an experience. It’s a time when a woman begins to experience her true power while the world begins to treat her as not relevant or invisible. This is why women begin to rise and rise fiercely at Midlife.”

While I agree with her sentiment, I’m not sure I want to be known as fierce. In fact, I wasn’t sure how to respond when one woman complimented me on this top by telling me that it was fierce!

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I didn’t know her well or I might have asked her what she really meant by that. I’m guessing that fierce has just become a popular catchword and that few people really think about what they mean when they use it.

I’m a self professed word nerd, so naturally I began to wonder about the word fierce, especially as it pertains to fashion. In it’s original usage, the dictionary says that it’s an adjective meaning “having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness.” Yikes! I don’t think ferocious aggressiveness fits very well with my desire to be known as a woman of grace!

Digging deeper, I discovered that fierce was a term that was commonly used by gay men in the late 1990s and early 2000s to describe anything that was of exceptional quality. In fashion, it seems to have become a positive term used to mean cool, sexy, or awesome. Even so, I’m not sure that I’m ready to jump on the Forever Fierce bandwagon. It seems to me that perhaps a woman who has to declare herself fierce is trying just a bit too hard.

I’d love to know what you think. Do you want to be known as fierce?

With script in hand

Community theatre has been an important part of my life for a very long time. I first took to the stage in the late 1970s playing Bob Cratchit in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol followed by the Empress in a stage play of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Then came many years of raising a family and being too busy to perform.

The stage called my name again in 2002. My children were grown and I was going through a low spot in my own life. I needed to do something that was just for me, so I auditioned for a part in the old Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. Returning to the stage after such a long hiatus, I expected a bit part, but instead I was cast in one of the lead roles! I played Mary Bailey, wife of the main character, George.

My love of acting returned full force and I was completely hooked! Over the ensuing years, I’ve played many and varied roles in local theatre productions. In 2003, I was Vera in a female version of The Odd Couple and in 2005, Doris in The Cemetery Club. The story of three Jewish widows in their 50s who meet once a month for tea before going to visit their husbands’ graves, this was definitely one of my favourites. The picture quality is terrible, but that’s me (aka Doris) on the left. The guy with the beard is my husband, Richard. We’ve always had difficulty finding enough men to fill the male roles, so we roped him in and he’s been in several plays with me.

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The following year, the role that I was least happy to be cast in probably became my most memorable! I was Vonga, the jungle girl, in Jack Sharkey’s hilarious comedy, One Toe in the Grave. Even though it wasn’t the role I wanted, I decided to have fun with it. I made my own costume and still have it hidden away.

Vonga - One Toe in the Grave

In 2007, I was acting as assistant director for Arsenic and Old Lace, a classic comedy, when at close to the last minute, the actress cast in one of the lead roles wasn’t able to perform. With little time to learn the lines, I stepped in and became Abby Brewster, one of the somewhat eccentric but seemingly genteel elderly sisters who made it their mission to help lonely bachelors die happy by serving them elderberry wine spiked with arsenic! Here I am sharing the stage with two of my former students. Again, that’s me on the left.

Arsenic and Old Lace

In 2009, we brought A Christmas Carol back to the local stage. This time I played a couple of small parts. Then in 2012, just before leaving to spend a semester teaching English in China, I had a bit part in W.O. Mitchell’s The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon. Again, here I am sharing the stage with two of my former students!

The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon

Acting with former students, some who I taught drama to when they were in junior high, has definitely been one of the joys of participating in small town theatre!

Over the past few years, I’ve intensely missed performing. Though I’ve helped out behind the scenes on a couple of productions, travel and health restrictions have kept me off the stage. Once again, though, I’m at a point where I feel like I need to do something just for me and this time, the timing is perfect! We’ve just begun to prepare for four performances of Auntie Mame in early April. Life has been stressful lately and it’s been a few years since I’ve had to learn a lot of lines. I’m not sure how well that would go, so I’m delighted with my role as servant, Norah Muldoon. With many entrances and exits, I appear off and on throughout the play, but I don’t have any lengthy scenes or long speeches to memorize. Even so, I’ll be spending lots of time over the coming weeks with my script in hand!

So why am I so passionate about the theatre? We thespians are an interesting breed and it’s always a privilege to work with such a creative, talented and fun group of people! It takes many people working behind the scenes to put a production together and in a small town amateur group like ours, people often fill many different roles. Actors can often be found working on set construction, sewing costumes or setting up tables and chairs for the dinner theatre performances. Putting on a play is a lot of work but it’s worth it all when the lights go up, the play begins and we feel the audience respond. What a rush! I’m essentially a very shy person but when I’m onstage, I get to be someone else and it is so much fun! After all, where else would I dare appear in a teeny tiny jungle girl costume?