Kids these days!

I wasn’t actually planning to write a Fashion Friday post today, but this young lad showed up at our dining table this evening and I was inspired!

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So, where does a ten year old boy acquire a suit like that? What do you think it cost? Well, perhaps you’re in for a surprise! This is my grandson, Nate, who like me, is a frugal fashionista!

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The suit didn’t cost him a cent! During the current pandemic, a number of Facebook Buy Nothing groups have sprung up, so when he decided that he wanted a suit, his mom posted an “ask” to her neighbourhood group. Within a couple of days, his wish was fulfilled! The top hat was his gift from Santa last Christmas and he’s had fun with it ever since.

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Not only did Nate inspire this short post, he and his brother, Sam, helped me write it! Thank you, gentlemen!

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One woman’s cast-off is another woman’s treasure

LogoIf you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you’re already fully aware of the fact that I love thrift store shopping. Although I often come up empty-handed, every visit to one of our local second-hand stores is like a treasure hunt. 

After doing the seasonal wardrobe switch that I wrote about last week, there were things to drop off and as always, I also had to look around. I figure that as long as I come home with less than I take, I’m doing well! Sure enough, I found two items that I’m in love with!

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The tunic/dress is soft and cozy with just the right amount of stretch. It’s perfect for relaxing at home on a cool autumn day, but dressy enough to go out for lunch, pick up groceries, or stop by the library. I love the pockets and the 3/4 length sleeves and it was even made in Canada!

Then there are the booties! Here’s a closer look. 

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Aren’t they cute? They’re not something I’d walk a long way in, but they sure dress up an outfit. They were made in France and look almost new. The bare ankle with bootie look won’t work for very long in our climate. In mid winter it would mean almost instant frostbite, but it’s a fun look for fall. 

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While we were busy taking photos, our beautiful next door kitty came over to see what we were doing and had to get in on the action! Sophie considers us some of her people and is always curious about what we’re up to. The photo gives you another close-up of the booties as well as a look at the colourful beaded bracelet that I wore with the outfit. 

We live in a small rural community and often when I wear something from one of our local thrift stores, I wonder if the original owner will notice and what they’ll think of how I style their cast-off. Interestingly though, in spite of the number of things that I’ve donated over the years, I’ve never seen anyone wearing one of them. I hope whoever wears my cast-offs next are as happy with them as I am with my new treasures. 

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Thoughts on turning 69

It seems that every woman has a birthday she dreads; an age that she has trouble accepting. For me, that age was 60. The whole time I was 59, I dreaded turning 60. It was such a big number and sounded so old, but then the day came and nothing really changed. It was just another day, another new beginning, and I’d wasted an entire year worrying about it!

Now, nine more years have passed and tomorrow I turn 69! My 60s have not been easy. They brought three different cancer diagnoses, relationship trauma, the death of both my parents, and now a worldwide pandemic, but through it all, I learned endurance, perseverance, and resilience. I also learned to live one day at a time.

Learning not to count on the future, but to see every day as a gift and a blessing, was a very valuable lesson. When I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer shortly before my 61st birthday, I really didn’t expect that I’d still be alive today. Four years later, I threw myself a “still alive at 65” birthday party and now, just one year short of 70, I’m still here and still going strong!

One thing I know that I won’t be doing when I’m 69 is wasting time worrying about turning 70. Instead, as long as God gives me life, I’m going to be busy living it to the fullest and doing my best to accomplish whatever it is that He is keeping me here to do!

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Transitioning to fall

LogoHow do you dress for this golden shoulder season known as autumn? I saw a headline this week that read, “It’s wear a sweater in the morning and regret it in the afternoon weather!” That pretty much sums up fall in my part of the world. When we get up in the morning, the temperature is generally hovering just above 0°C (32°F) and there might be frost on the ground, but by afternoon it has warmed up to anywhere between 18° and 25°C (64° and 77°F).

While running errands early one afternoon this week, I decided to take note of what other people were wearing. A man, sitting in front of the post office reading his mail, was wearing shorts, sandals, and a heavy fleece vest over his t-shirt! That kind of incongruous outfit isn’t as unusual as you might think. I also saw one woman wearing a quilted coat and a toque while another was working in her yard in shorts and a t-shirt!

In spite of this confusion, I decided that it was time to begin my seasonal wardrobe switch this week. Since I found myself reaching for the warmer items in my closet every morning and the true hot weather pieces were no longer seeing the light of day, I knew it was time to put most of those away and bring out my fall/winter pieces.

If you live where the weather is more uniform year round, you probably don’t have to go through this twice a year ritual, and I guess if I had a bigger closet I might not have to either. As it is, however, it’s much easier to have only one season’s clothes to choose from every morning and these seasonal switchovers are an excellent time to evaluate and decide what to keep and what to get rid of.

So, how do I go about doing that? Unlike some who advise getting rid of anything that hasn’t been worn during the current season or in the past year, I sometimes hang onto items that are excellent quality or that I love even if I haven’t worn them for quite awhile. Over the years, I’ve occasionally enjoyed resurrecting some of those items and have even shared a few of them here on the blog. This time, however, I knew that there were things in my summer closet that simply had to go. This required discipline because some were pieces that I really liked, but they were too worn out to keep or to pass on to anyone else. Others that don’t fit well or that I no longer enjoy wearing are destined for the second-hand store.

As I put the new season’s clothes into the closet, I turn all the hangers around. Then, when I wear an item, I turn it’s hanger back the right way. At the end of the season, if an item is still hanging backwards, it’s a clear signal that I need to consider whether or not to keep it.

There are, of course, some items that stay in my closet year round including sleeveless tops that can be worn alone in summer or under sweaters and jackets when the weather is cooler. This time, I also left a couple of pairs of favourite capri pants for those 25° afternoons. They won’t stay there all winter, but for now, we’re still transitioning!

Utility jacket for fall

LogoWhen I saw this post from Tania Stephens on her blog, 50 is not Old, several weeks ago, I thought how easy it would be for me to replicate her look with the Cabela’s utility jacket that I picked up at a garage sale last spring! As always though, the idea is to take inspiration from how another woman dresses, not to copy her exactly.

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Tania Stephens

Now let’s take a look at my take on Tania’s outfit.

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Both our outfits involve three simple items; a black t-shirt, an olive utility jacket, and a pair of blue jeans. Shopping Tania’s look in my closet, however, I started by choosing a darker wash jean than she did. I like her V-neck t-shirt, but since the only black t-shirt in my closet happens to be a crew neck, that’s what I’m wearing. Our jackets, though similar, are also quite different.

So, before we go any further, what exactly is a utility jacket? In a nutshell, it’s a practical piece that is commonly made from denim or cotton twill. They’re usually fairly boxy, with a collar and a button down front. Mine also has a zipper. Four pockets are most common, but as you can see, Tania’s has only two which gives it a slightly dressier look. Though originally a workwear item worn mostly by factory workers and farmhands, the utility jacket has been adopted as an enduring fashion trend and can be found in a wide range of colours and styles.

The main reason that I only own one black t-shirt is that black tends to wash me out, especially when I wear it close to my face. I can get away with it when I wear it under something like the olive jacket, but after creating my version of Tania’s look, I changed the t-shirt out for a cream coloured blouse with an abstract pattern of warm fall colours.

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Personally, I think that this is a better look on me.

I usually wear a medium, but my jacket is a large. After all, you don’t get a choice of sizes when you shop at a garage sale! It fits a bit loosely, but that’s actually one of the things that I liked about it. Layering is essential in our Canadian autumn. In fact, here I am wearing it over a lightweight hoodie and my ultra light down vest from Uniqlo on a chilly morning walk on our latest camping trip.

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300+ km!

Yesterday morning, on a quiet walk beside Grebe Pond in Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, I crossed an invisible finish line! If you’ve been reading my blog over the summer months, you know that on the second of May I challenged myself to walk and/or hike 300 km by our 45th wedding anniversary on October 2. With just 10 days to go, I accomplished that goal!

On Monday morning, we headed off on one last camping trip before cleaning out the trailer and preparing it for winter. We knew that the nights would be cold (in fact, it was 4°C or 39°F when we got up this morning) but with an extra quilt and a furnace, we were toasty warm. The days were crisp, but great for hiking and over the three days that we were there, we hiked over 19 km (almost 12 miles). 

In addition to Miquelon Lake itself, the park is dotted with small bodies of water, home to many kinds of waterfowl. The “knob and kettle” terrain consists of hummocky mounds (the knobs) and water-filled depressions (the kettles). Hiking trails wind up and down, around and between the ponds and at this time of year, colourful foliage adds to park’s natural beauty. 

So, let me share a bit of that beauty with you…

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Tuesday’s hike was the longest; 9.2 km on the park’s backcountry trails. We packed a lunch and set off about 10:30 in the morning when the air had had a chance to warm up a bit. This was the view from our lunch spot… 

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Just me enjoying another view…

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The next photo was taken close to my self-imposed 300 km finish line. I’ve always loved reflections on water. 

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And finally, a couple of shots from the end of Moose Trail, our last hike…

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It’s pumpkin spice time!

 

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I’m always sad to see summer come to an end and this year is no exception. With our long, cold winter just around the corner, fall is bittersweet. Thankfully, it’s also pumpkin spice time! There’s something about a pumpkin spice latte that warms the tummy and the heart. I’ve always said it tastes like hot pumpkin pie in a cup!

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Sadly. when I learned that I was prediabetic and had to start seriously limiting my sugar intake, I had to stop indulging in these fabulous autumn treats. “Don’t drink your sugar,” is the advice given to those of us on the diabetes spectrum. 

There are sugar-free pumpkin spice recipes online that use artificial sweeteners, but I haven’t tried one of those yet. What I have been experimenting with and perfecting lately is a simple pumpkin spice smoothie recipe that I’ll share with you today. It’s not sugar-free, but it’s low-sugar, healthy, and delicious.  

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie (for one)

  • 1/2 cup cold canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tbsp artificially sweetened maple syrup substitute
  • 2 tbsp unflavoured protein powder
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Put all seven ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Enjoy!

If sugar and/or fat content are not a concern, you can use whole milk, regular yogurt, and/or maple syrup instead of the low-sugar, low-fat substitutes that I use. 

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I’m still using hubby’s laptop to blog while the WordPress Happiness Engineers do their best to figure out a way to help me. My fingers are gradually getting more accustomed to his keyboard and I’ve figured out a way to transfer photos from my computer to his, but the whole blogging process is slower and less satisfying than usual. I’m not giving up, however. I will persevere until the problem is resolved or I have to buy a new laptop! 

 

When is an accessory not just an accessory?

LogoAccessories are the finishing touches that can take an outfit from drab to dramatic. They also add versatility to your wardrobe enabling you to create many different looks with the same basic outfit. Accessories are also an opportunity to express your personal style, taste, and preferences, but sometimes they are even more than that. Sometimes an accessory has special meaning or significance to the person who wears it. That’s definitely the case with my new hand-crafted zebra pendant!

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As many of you are already aware, the zebra is a symbol of neuroendocrine cancer (NETS), the cancer that I’ve been living with for the past eight years. In medical school, doctors are taught “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras”. NETS was previously considered rare and therefore, a zebra. However, with increasing awareness and quicker diagnosis, neuroendocrine cancers are proving not to be as rare as once thought. Another reason that the Canadian Neuroendocrine Tumour Society (CNETS) chose and continues to use the zebra as their mascot is the fact that every zebra has its own pattern of stripes. Just as each patient and their needs are unique, no two zebras are exactly alike.

Committed to improving the quality of life and the survival rate for NETS cancer patients across Canada, every year CNETS funds research initiatives that will have a direct and meaningful impact on their lives. As a little-known cancer, it falls upon patients to raise much of the money for this ongoing work.

Screen Shot 2021-09-15 at 2.45.32 PMAl Gillis is a neuroendocrine cancer patient who came up with a unique idea for both increasing awareness and raising funds; a beautiful one-of-a-kind pewter pendant/keyfob featuring the CNETS zebra logo. Made entirely of donated materials and using only volunteer labour, the first distribution sold out in less one day! I was fortunate to nab one of those. Now, a second batch is in stock and going fast. If you’re interested in purchasing one and supporting this important endeavour click here, but don’t hesitate too long or you’ll be waiting for Al and his crew to make more!

You might also be interested in watching this video in which Al demonstrates and explains how the pendants (which can also be used as keyfobs) are made. I found it quite fascinating.

Do you have any accessories that are especially meaningful to you? Please tell us about one or more of them in the comments section below. 

 

Blogging woes and cancer news

My beloved MacBook Air is getting old; old enough that I’m not able to update to a newer browser. Recently, whenever I opened WordPress to check my stats or work on a post, I received a message telling me that I was using an unsupported browser. Until earlier this week, however, I was able to click through to the appropriate page and work as usual. Then came the fateful day when all that I could open was a blank page with the WordPress logo in the centre!

As I usually do when something goes wrong in my blogging world, I fired off a cry for help to WordPress support and hoped for the best. They’ve never let me down yet, but while I wait to find out what they can or can’t do for me, I’m typing this on my husband’s computer. Not easy! Mine is a Mac, but his is not. The keyboard is a different size and my fingers don’t know what to do. Things jump around when I’m not expecting them to and then there’s the issue of all my photos being on my computer and not knowing how to transfer them to his. With practice, I’m sure these things will get easier, but this is, at best, a very temporary solution! I’m hoping that I don’t have to invest in a new computer right now as mine still does everything else I want it to do, but I have to be able to blog!   

Now, for the other news… 

In mid August, I went through a series of tests and scans, as I do every six months, to determine whether or not there were any changes to my cancers. When the results became available online, I was concerned about a spike in one marker that is particularly significant to neuroendocrine cancer (NETS). Not only had the level increased dramatically, but it was now slightly above the normal range. Knowing that I had to wait several weeks to see the doctor for an explanation, my response was similar to when WordPress quit working. I called for support. I sent out a cry for help to eight godly women asking each of them to pray, not only that my cancer had not grown or spread, but also that I wouldn’t be anxious as I waited for answers. Almost immediately, an unnatural peace descended on me and I was able to go on without undue stress or anxiety. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

And now for the really good news… my cancer continues to be stable and the doctor has no concerns! Though the spike in that one marker looked concerning to me, she assured me that it would have to be much higher before it was anything to worry about. Praise the Lord!

The ancient art of henna

LogoThough I have nothing against them, I’ve never had any desire to have a permanent tattoo. For quite some time, however, I’ve wanted to try the ancient art of henna and I finally had the opportunity when I came across Dinkal Patel‘s booth at a recent community event.

While the use of henna is most often associated with India and Pakistan, it’s origin is difficult to pinpoint. It’s earliest use appears to date back to the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Cleopatra, the last reigning queen of that early civilization, is said to have used it to adorn her body and beautify herself.

In modern times, until fairly recently, intricately designed henna tattoos, or mehndi, were predominantly used as part of traditional Indian wedding celebrations. Designs symbolizing good luck, wealth and health are applied to the hands and feet of the bride the night before her wedding. It is believed that the henna will cool the body’s nerve endings and help keep her calm throughout her big day. This custom holds great cultural significance in Hinduism and the symbols that are used are considered sacred.

These days, however, henna tattoos have found their way into western culture where they act as a form of body jewelry. Though Dinkal does do bridal henna, the designs that she offered at her booth were more generic. After looking at some of the examples on display, I chose to have a floral design applied to the back of my right hand. I was astonished at how quickly she applied the henna paste. Working completely freehand, she was done in no more than ten minutes and charged only $15!

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Dinkal told me to leave the dried paste in place for 2 to 3 hours before removing it. I left it a little longer than that until it began to crumble and fall off. When I removed the remainder, because I didn’t know how henna dye worked, I was hugely disappointed. Most of the design was indistinct and looked like I’d simply spilled something orange on my hand or as hubby said, like I’d scraped my hand on the concrete!

Immediately after removing paste

Dinkal had also told me to try to keep the design dry until the next day, so even though it didn’t look like the henna was going to amount to much, I followed her instructions. That’s a little tricky to do when it’s on your right hand, but hubby took over supper making for the day and I kept it out of water. As the evening progressed, I thought perhaps it was beginning to darken, but I chalked that up to wishful thinking or an overactive imagination. Imagine my surprise and delight when I woke up the next morning and this is what I saw!

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The design continued to darken until it looked like this at the end of the following day. I was delighted!

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Over the next week or so, had numerous comments and compliments, even from total strangers! The most frequently asked questions were where I’d had it done and how long it would last. Though I’d read that henna tattoos can last from 1 to 4 weeks, Dinkal told me to expect about a week and a half and it appears that she was correct. Here’s how it looked at the end of day 8. Gradually disappearing, but not yet unattractive.

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By yesterday morning, almost two weeks after the henna was applied, only the darkest bits remained. There was no design left on the back of my hand, just a smattering of brown dots. I did some research into how to remove faded henna tattoos and found several different suggestions. The most common ones involved baking soda and lemon juice. Another suggestion that sounded like it would be kinder to my skin involved using either baby oil or coconut oil. I didn’t have either of those on hand, so I decided to try olive oil which, like henna, has been used on skin since ancient times. It’s loaded with nutrients, is a natural humectant, and is rich in antioxidants. I applied it to the back of my hand, left it for 10 minutes, then gently scrubbed it off using a facecloth and hand soap. It worked like a charm! The designs at the ends of my fingers, though faded, still looked okay, so I left them for now.

Next time… and yes, I’m pretty sure there will be a next time… I’d like to try a henna tattoo on my shoulder or forearm. Since my hands are in and out of water constantly, I thinking that perhaps it would last a little longer in one of those locations.