Growing up with gnomes

Our two BC grandsons are growing up in a world of magic. There are gnomes living in the forest near their North Vancouver home. When the boys were younger, we’d often explore the forest looking for gnome homes.

The closest we ever came to finding one was this little gnome gate.

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Now that the boys are in school and busy with other organized activities and play dates with friends, it’s been quite awhile since we’ve gone into the forest together, but the gnomes are still very much a part of their lives. Many years ago, our son and daughter-in-law installed a tiny gnome door on the outer wall of the family room so that the little men can come and go whenever they want. Though they never show up in the daytime, it’s obvious that they sometimes visit at night. They always decorate around their door for special occasions like Halloween and Christmas and they often leave tiny gifts for the boys.

In a world that is increasingly filled with stress and fear, I’m glad that there is also magic and wonder, imagination and creativity, and I’m thankful for parents who make the effort to nurture it!

Hike to Mystery Lake

Much of our time since we arrived in Vancouver a little over a week ago has been taken up dealing with issues pertaining to my elderly father’s declining health, but this weekend we’ve changed gears and we’re on grandparent duty while our son and daughter-in-law enjoy a short getaway without kids. Alhough the temperature was only 5ºC (41ºF) when we got up this morning, the sun was shining and we decided to take the boys on a mountain hike.

It’s been almost two years since our snowshoe adventures on Mount Seymour, but we took the same road that zigzags up the mountainside to the ski resort. Locating the trailhead near the bottom of the ski lift, we set off for Mystery Lake.

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Though the Vancouver Trails website calls this an easy hike, I tend to agree with those who left comments saying that it’s significantly more challenging than that. It’s fairly short, but steep, ascending approximately 150 metres over slippery tree roots and loose rocks. It was also quite wet and icy this morning which made it a bit more arduous than it might be during the summer months when, on hot days, people hike up to the lake to picnic and swim.

Although the hike was a bit more challenging than we expected, it was well worth it for the beauty that greeted us when Mystery Lake came into view.

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We sat on a rocky bluff along the shoreline and ate our picnic lunch. Though the lake wasn’t frozen yet, we had no desire to plunge in for a swim! In fact, the boys had lots of fun playing with the ice on the puddles.

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Rather than returning by the same trail we climbed up, we headed toward the Mystery Chairlift and went down the rocky path directly below it. Though not as scenic, it was an easy descent.

I didn’t think about the fact that we might fit in a hike while we’re here, so I didn’t bring my hiking shoes. I was impressed, however, to find that my golden sneakers managed the trail without any problem! They provided plenty of grip even on the most difficult parts.

Corduroy comeback

LogoI still remember my favourite corduroy bell bottoms from the 1970s. They were a warm toffee colour with dark brown patch pockets. Though its roots go back to ancient Egypt, corduroy as we know it today has been around since the late 18th century when it first appeared as factory wear in Manchester, England. It remained a working class fabric for the next hundred years before becoming a popular alternative to denim in the 1960s. While its popularity probably peaked in the 1970s, corduroy has never completely disappeared from the fashion world and it has been making a comeback this fall. Pants, skirts, jackets, and even dresses are showing up in this comfortable, easy care fabric.

The only corduroy garment in my present closet is this pair of tan pants.

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Unlike most corduroy, with its characteristic ribs, these are made of uncut corduroy which more closely resembles a very short napped velvet. A traditional five pocket skinny jean style, these cotton pants with just a hint of spandex came from Reitman’s, Canada’s largest womens’ clothing retailer, and are amongst the most comfortable in my closet. The only problem with them is that they’re several years old and beginning to show some wear. Perhaps this season would be a good time to find a replacement. Similar pair here.

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I’m wearing the cords with the Wonder Tee from cabi’s Fall 2019 Collection. You’ve seen the ultra light down vest from Uniqlo here and here and the gold sneakers that I wore all over Europe in May here.

 

Crazy (old) sock lady

LogoI’m a long-legged 5’8″ tall. For much of my life I worried about finding pants that were long enough to ensure that my socks didn’t show. Then along came ankle length cropped pants. Suddenly everyone’s ankles were showing. It took me awhile to warm up to the trend, but it really has made life easier for me.

I usually wear white sports socks with my jeans and other casual pants and black socks when I want a somewhat dressier look, but when I was cleaning out my drawers recently I realized that I’ve gradually accumulated a fairly sizeable collection of patterned socks. There are certainly much more colourful and fanciful pairs available, usually worn by gals who are several decades younger than me, but once in awhile it’s fun to look down and see something funkier than plain old black or white.

Some of my patterned socks, like these two weather themed pairs, are quite subtle. I’ve obviously worn the snowflake ones on the left a lot as they’re almost worn out. You can begin to see my gold toenail polish shining through!

These are definitely bolder! Both pairs were gifts from my daughter-in-law. There’s a story behind the zebra print pair on the left that make them very special to me. Robin is a long distance cyclist. She rides with a club that expects members to be able to ride at a minimum speed of 23 km/hr for at least 50 km and has taken part in many longer races and fundraising rides. If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that I have neuroendocrine cancer (NETS) and that the zebra is our symbol. Robin wore the zebra socks for the first leg of a 2 day fundraising ride for cancer and then gave them to me (freshly washed, of course!)

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While zebra stripes hold special significance to me as a NETS patient, the giant panda is my favourite animal. Apparently Santa Claus knows that as this pair was in my Christmas stocking last year.

When we lived in Japan, I discovered that I love wearing toe socks which are very popular there. I brought several pairs home with me. I don’t wear them very often only because they’re a bit of a bother to put on, but once on they’re warm and comfortable. We were in Japan to teach English and I specifically bought this pair to wear to my Saturday morning preschool classes. Teachers and students alike take their shoes off before entering the classroom, so these were perfect for my little ones who were learning to count in English. They loved them!

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I didn’t realize until I started preparing for this post that almost all my patterned socks are in shades of black, white, and grey. Clearly, if I’m going to become a crazy (old) sock lady, I’ll have to invest in some coloured ones!

What about you? Do you wear patterned or brightly coloured socks? Would you?

Because you can

We’re nearing the end of another federal election campaign here in Canada. Monday, October 21 is election day, but since we’ll be far from home that day, we plan to vote in the advanced polls tomorrow. That will be Thanksgiving Sunday here in Canada which I think is quite appropriate. I’m very thankful that I live in a democratic country where I have the right, the responsibility, and the privilege to vote.

Sadly, many people don’t seem to feel that way. Voter turnout for the October 2015 federal election was 68.5%, a significant increase from 61.1% in the previous election. In my opinion, that’s still quite disgraceful. What is the matter with people? Why does 30 to 40% of our population fail to cast a ballot? Are we Canadians really that apathetic?

I will vote, if for no other reason than because I can. It’s a privilege that I don’t take lightly. Women before my time fought long and hard so that I could exercise this right. Women like Nellie McClung, well-known advocate and popular speaker on the subject of women’s suffrage in the early 1900s, who said “Our worthy opponents will emphasize the fact that women are the weaker vessel. Well I should think that a woman who cooks for men, washes and bakes and scrubs and sews for her family could stand the extra strain of marking a ballot every four years.”

The United States began allowing women to vote in 1920, after the ratification of the 19th Amendment to their Constitution. Here in Canada, many women voted for the first time the following year, but it wasn’t until much later that all Canadians had the right to vote. Most “people of colour” were prohibited from voting at the provincial and federal level until the late 1940s and it wasn’t until 1960 that every Canadian of age had the right to vote. That’s right! 1960! Prior to that time, aboriginal Canadians were required to give up their treaty rights and renounce their status under the Indian Act in order to qualify for the vote.

On election day, get off your butt and VOTE! Don’t make excuses. Don’t be one of the apathetic masses. Vote, if for no other reason than because you can! Before you vote, however, do your homework. Don’t cast your ballot based on how your parents or your grandparents have always voted and please look beyond social media for direction. Examine the record of those who’ve been leading us, look at the party platforms, and above all, consider the character of those who are vying for leadership positions. The future of our country depends on it!

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Checkmate!

CheckmateMy husband is a very generous man who loves to surprise me with unexpected gifts. Last Friday was my birthday and he definitely outdid himself! When cabi’s Fall 2019 Collection was released, I fell in love with the cozy Checkmate Jacket, but I balked at the price and decided not to buy it. Apparently, although I don’t remember the conversation, Richard overheard me telling our daughter about it. Engaging the help of my cabi stylist friend and another friend who was hosting a cabi party, he arranged to buy it for my birthday!

He’s definitely a winner! Checkmate!

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The jacket’s roomy, double-breasted style, shoulder pads, and faux horn buttons give it a slightly retro vibe and the soft polyester blend feels like I’m wearing a hug! Panels of stretch fabric on the inner sides of the sleeves reduce bulk and add to the comfort.

I wore it to the city on Tuesday. After seeing my doctor, hearing the good news that there’s been no significant change to my thyroid cancer, and making the decision to simply continue monitoring it, we headed over to West Edmonton Mall to check out the brand new Uniqlo store. I wasn’t really planning to buy anything, but one of the first things I spotted was this lovely orange blouse on sale for a very reasonable price.

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It was immediately obvious that it would coordinate beautifully with the jacket, so I snapped it up. I especially like the 3/4 sleeves and the shirttail hem that’s longer at the back, but I wouldn’t have bought it if I hadn’t known that I could also wear it with several other things in my closet.

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If the jacket looks familiar to you, perhaps you saw it in the August 16, 2019 issue of Family Circle magazine!

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What to wear to a funeral

LogoOn Monday, we’ll be attending our third funeral in ten days, so what to wear to a funeral seemed to be an obvious topic for this week’s post.

In many cultures, black is the traditional colour of mourning and there was a time when everyone was expected to wear black to a funeral. These days, however, expectations in most communities are less rigid. Black remains a popular choice, but it isn’t considered necessary. Without such hard and fast rules, how do we decide what’s appropriate?

In general, an outfit worn to a funeral should be fairly conservative, both in terms of colour and style. It’s definitely not a time to draw attention to yourself by wearing something too brightly coloured or flamboyant. Your choice of outfit should show respect for the deceased and their loved ones. If you’re not sure what to choose, think about what you might wear to a job interview or a business meeting. Things to avoid would include overly casual clothing, very short skirts, and low-cut dresses. In my grandmother’s day a woman wouldn’t have dared attend a funeral in pants, but that’s no longer the case in most places.

Jewelry should be understated and makeup kept to a minimum. If you have a tendency to cry at funerals, make sure your mascara is waterproof! Also, since some people are highly allergic and funerals are often crowded, avoid wearing anything that’s heavily scented.

If the funeral will include a trip to the cemetery, choose shoes that can take you easily from the church or funeral home to the burial site. You may find yourself walking on uneven ground, grass, or gravel, so flat or low-heeled shoes would be best.

At the end of the day, it comes down to being modest and respectful with your choice of attire. When in doubt, you’re better off to be a bit overdressed than underdressed.

Now, let’s take a look at what I wore to the two funerals we attended in the past week.

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For the first, honouring the life of a friend’s 95-year-old mother, I chose plain black pants and jacket, both from Reitmans, Canada’s largest women’s apparel retailer. The pants have been in my closet for years and the jacket since last winter. The layered sleeveless Scallop Top is new from cabi’s Fall 2019 Collection, but it’s likely to become a year-round staple in my wardrobe. The very comfortable flat leather Natural Soul shoes by Naturalizer were purchased somewhere in Kansas almost ten years ago! Although they look navy blue in the photo, they’re actually black. I accessorized with a very simple lariat necklace, a single silver bangle bracelet, and earrings that don’t show in the photo.

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The second funeral celebrated the life of a 62-year-old friend who spent the last year of her life fighting a malignant brain tumour. As you can see, I wore the same shoes, jacket, and bracelet, exchanging the pants and top for a sleeveless dress in a muted green pattern. Like many items in my wardrobe, it’s several years old, but with its animal print-like pattern it’s as on-trend now as it was when I bought it.

 

Choosing a leader

I appreciate the many responses to my last post and particularly those who chose to share it on social media. It appears that I managed to put into words what many people have been feeling. The following post may also be considered a bit controversial and I hope it will be as well received.

I don’t consider myself to be a particularly political person, but with a federal election less than three weeks away here in Canada, I definitely take an interest and occasionally express an opinion on Facebook. In recent weeks, though I managed to avoid saying anything at all about the blackface incidents, I’ve been criticized more than once for posts alluding to what I consider to be flaws in our present Prime Minister’s character. Some people have referred to this as mudslinging or political bashing. “Let’s just focus on the issues,” they say. 

While I agree that it’s important to know what each party and its leader stand for, I don’t put a great deal of faith in campaign promises. Their purpose is to garner votes and at best I think we ought to call them proposals. A recent analysis of 353 pre-election promises made by the Liberals in 2015 indicates that by March of this year Trudeau’s government had entirely followed through on only about 50 per cent of its pledges.

We may not agree on all the issues or the directions that we’d like our leaders to take, but I hope that we can agree that it’s of utmost importance to have a man or woman of character at the helm. Unfortunately, as we look around the world at the corruption and scandals involving many of our political leaders, it would seem to me that voters haven’t been giving character enough consideration.

I like what American author, John C Maxwell, says about leadership, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

With all this in mind, I googled “qualities of a good leader” and discovered dozens of lists. At the top of many of them was honesty and integrity and I would certainly put these two traits at the top of my list. Although they are very closely linked, there’s actually a distinction between the two. According to the dictionary, honesty means “truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness; freedom from deceit or fraud” while integrity is “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character.” Sadly, I think that there are a number of world leaders, including our own, who fail to measure up in the areas of truthfulness and moral character.

Another quality of a good leader that was high on many lists was good communicator. Though a few listed good listening skills separately, I would include that as part of being a good communicator. I would love to have a national leader who was capable of speaking publicly without scattering “um” and “uh” liberally (pun intended) throughout every speech, but even more important would be one who truly listened to the voices and hearts of the people.

Confidence and humility were also high on most lists. Unfortunately, far too often, confidence and arrogance seem to go hand in hand instead. That certainly seems to be the case with our present national leader as well as the one to the south.

Though there are many other character traits that make a good leader, the last one that I’ll mention here is accountability, the willingness to accept responsibility for or account for one’s actions. Oh my, wouldn’t it be nice to see that in our next political leader!

So, fellow Canadians, on October 21 get out and vote, but please look beyond the issues and the campaign promises to the character of the individual party leaders as well as the candidates running in your local constituencies.

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Image: Chatelaine magazine