What to wear while working from home

LogoIt may seem frivolous to be writing or even thinking about fashion in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, but I believe that maintaining some sense of normalcy in these trying times is wise and helps alleviate stress. For many of you, your new normal includes working from home, perhaps for the first time. While it might be tempting to let your appearance go, I’d like to suggest that you’ll probably be more productive and feel better about yourself and your current situation if you don’t.

If your workplace has a strict dress code, this might be a time to enjoy a more relaxed look, but that doesn’t mean lounging around in pyjamas. Instead, perhaps think of every day as casual Friday.

As a retiree, except when I go to a student’s home to tutor, which obviously isn’t happening right now, I “work” from home all the time. Once I retired, I didn’t need a career wardrobe anymore, but I still wanted to look like I mattered; like I cared about myself. Now I try for a classy casual look even on days when I have no plans to leave the house and I’ll continue to do that through these days of sheltering in place.

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This week, my “job” has included doing reams of paperwork related to the settling of my father’s estate and my temporary office has been the kitchen table. The animal print top and cardigan that I’m wearing here have both appeared on the blog before. They’re comfortable workhorses in my day to day wardrobe. Though you can’t see them in the photos, I’m also wearing dark wash jeans.

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I’ve always been a minimalist when it comes to makeup, but even on stay at home days I use mascara and a bit of blush. I also wear accessories. Layering necklaces is a thing right now, so I’ve been experimenting.

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Both these necklaces have special significance to me and lately I’ve been enjoying wearing them together. The string of pearls was a gift from my grandmother when I was just a girl and I was given the pendant necklace by a very close friend who died of breast cancer in 2006.

During my teaching days, I had a small home office in the basement, but when I retired it became a playroom for the grandchildren when they come to visit. Nowadays, when I’m not working at the kitchen table, one end of the living room couch is my “office”. This is where the blog happens and here’s what I was wearing as I finished up this post.

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Again, everything I’m wearing has been seen on the blog before, in this case skinny grey jeans and a favourite sweater both from past seasons of cabi. I could be working in pyjamas or sweats, but it only takes a few minutes to dress for the day and even if no one but hubby sees me, I feel better about myself and I like what I see when I pass by a mirror!

If you have school age children, you’ve probably had a second job thrust upon you in these unusual times; that of teacher or learning coach. As important as maintaining routine and some sense of normalcy is for adults, it’s even more important for children and getting dressed for school is part of that. Here’s what’s happening at my daughter’s house.

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photo: Melaina Graham

These three love to lounge around the house in their pjs, but right now they’re up and dressed for school each day in their new “classroom”. Mom and Dad are both working from home and each has a separate workspace in this same room.

How are you faring in these unusual days and what are you wearing?

Remembering my father

The blog has been unusually quiet for the past week and a half. There was no Fashion Friday post last week and nothing in honour of International Women’s Day yesterday. My father passed away less than 48 hours after I published the last post. All I’ve written since then is his eulogy and a myriad of lists. Lists of things to do and people to contact. In fact, I wrote so many lists that Richard suggested perhaps I needed to make a list of my lists!

As I worked on the eulogy, when we chatted with Dad’s pastor while planning the memorial service, and when we visited with friends and family after the service, it was comforting to recall who Dad was before macular degeneration robbed him of his sight, a stroke stole most of his speech and mobility, and in his final months, dementia began to weaken his mind. My Dad was many things. He was a kind and generous man who was accepting of all people. He had a keen scientific mind, but also loved good literature and often quoted poetry to us. Above all else though, Dad was an adventurer. Even though it was very far removed, he was proud of his Gypsy heritage!

After graduating from the University of British Columbia in the spring of 1946 with an honours degree in chemical engineering, Dad found a job up the coast in the pulp and paper town of Powell River. That fall, he bought an old 24-foot wooden boat powered by an ancient 1927 car engine. With a friend, he sailed it up the coast from New Westminster to Powell River where he spent many hours over the next year sanding, re-caulking, and painting the hull and having the engine overhauled. He also met his bride-to-be that fall and the summer after they were married, they spent two weeks puttering up the coast in that old wooden boat. Apparently it rained every day but one, but that didn’t deter them from further adventures!

It was also during the Powell River years that Dad took up mountain climbing. He was a member of the BC Mountaineering Club for many years and ascended many peaks in the Powell River area as well as around Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. Dad always had a passion for seeing what was in the next valley, behind the next hill, or around the next corner. As a climber, he had at least one first ascent because, in his words, he was mad enough go one mountain further back than anyone else had ever bothered!

Dad loved to get away to quiet and remote places. For our very first camping trip as a family, he piled Mom and three kids into the little rowboat that he’d made with his own hands and rowed us across an isolated inlet to a rocky point where we would set up camp and stay for a week. A second trip in the rowboat brought the big canvas tent and the rest of our camping gear across. We had so much fun that we returned to the same spot the following summer!

After we moved to Vancouver in 1963, Dad’s passion for the path less traveled took us to some of the most remote places in BC that were accessible by road. As a child, I remember wondering if some of them were really roads at all and if we were going to get permanently lost! In 1967, we drove the then mostly unpaved Alaska Highway all the way to Anchorage. The following year, Dad chartered a little floatplane and we flew into Garibaldi Lake to spend a couple of weeks camping, climbing, and exploring. While we were there, Dad and I climbed Mount Price together.

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Dad on the summit of Mount Price

Just before Christmas 1968, Dad accepted a job with the newly formed Government of the Northwest Territories. He moved to Yellowknife in January while the rest of us stayed in Vancouver until the end of the school year. Our last long road trip as a family took us from Vancouver to our new home in Yellowknife with a side trip to visit Wood Buffalo National Park. Dad’s role with the territorial government involved quite a bit of travel, sometimes to comfortable spots in southern Canada, but mostly by small aircraft into settlements across the Arctic. On one of those trips, he froze his fingertips while desperately clinging to a komatik (sled) as it bounced across the ice and snow behind an Inuit man on a snowmobile.

In the early 1970s, Dad decided that it was time for he and Mom to begin seeing more of the world. With my younger siblings, who were still living at home, they spent the summers of 1973 and 76 exploring Europe. In typical Dad fashion, those trips took them off the popular tourist trail to some more remote and unusual destinations including Leningrad and Moscow.

In May of 1982, Dad retired and in his words, he and Mom became homeless wanderers. Their belongings were shipped to Vancouver and put into storage while they spent most of the following year traveling North America and sleeping in the back of their little Malibu station wagon. After returning to Vancouver and living in a rented apartment for six months, it was time to set off on an even more audacious adventure. Dad ordered a Volkswagen camper van from a dealership in Vancouver to be picked up at the factory in Germany. Rather than flying directly to Germany, they got there via Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, two weeks in China, and the Trans Siberian railroad across the Soviet Union. After picking up the Volkswagen, they spent more than a year living in it and roaming around Europe and the Middle East before finally shipping it back to Canada. Sometime later, while a niece housesat for them, Dad and Mom were off on yet another adventure living in a rented van in Australia for several months. It was there that they survived a head on collision virtually unscathed.

In retirement, when he wasn’t traveling, Dad quickly learned that there’s no end of things to do as long as you don’t want to be paid. He spent three years working as volunteer office manager and treasurer for the Africa Community Technical Service, an organization committed to providing clean, accessible water to isolated communities in Africa. That led to yet more travel as he and Mom spent seven weeks in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania with the director and his wife seeing first hand what their efforts were accomplishing.

Over the years that followed, the Volkswagen van brought them over the mountains to Alberta numerous times to visit their children and grandchildren. Their last big trip was to a resort in the Dominican Republic where they celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. That brought their total number of countries traveled to 67.

Life changed significantly for Dad when Mom began to show signs of dementia. For many years after that he devoted himself to the challenging task of caring for her. As a family, we were deeply concerned that he was burning himself out, but he faced it like another mountain to climb and later, after she passed away in 2014, he was heard to say that those had been good years.

In the early morning hours of Sunday, March 1, while I stood at his bedside, Dad ascended his final peak and caught his first glimpse of what’s on the other side.

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June 25, 1923 – March 1, 2020

At the reception following his memorial service, I was asked if I had inherited my father’s adventurous spirit and I was proud to reply that, yes, I believe I did! Thank you, Dad!

What’s in the suitcase this time?

LogoI didn’t actually think that there was going to be a Fashion Friday post this week. Life threw us an unexpected curve a few days ago when we learned that my very frail 96-year-old father had taken a turn for the worse. He isn’t expected to live and we’re once again on our way to Vancouver.

There were a lot of details that we had to take care of at home in order to clear our calendars and get on our way. Very little thought or planning went into what’s in our suitcase. Thankfully, we travel a lot and packing has become second nature to me. When I looked at the clothes laying on the bed in our guest room, which doubles as my packing room, I realized that I’d automatically chosen mostly neutrals and that everything coordinated so that I could put together many outfits with just a few items. The latter is a very important key to packing well.

We spent many hours on the road yesterday and at one point I found myself thinking about what was in the suitcase. I came to the realization that, for the most part, I’d packed what might best be referred to as comfort clothes. Comfortable, yes, but also comforting. Clothes like my grey and white Breton t-shirt and my tan cords that feel like old friends. I may not be a shining fashionista in the things that I packed, but in these challenging days, I’ll be dressed in clothes that bring me comfort.

What about you? Do you have clothes that you instinctively reach for on days when you need comforting?

Winter at its best

Winter is not my favourite season, but sometimes it’s spectacularly beautiful here on the Canadian prairie.

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With a houseful of grandchildren for the past week, we were very thankful for sunshine, mild daytime temperatures, and fresh powdery snow that made outdoor activities not only possible, but a great deal of fun.

With shovels and brooms, a skating rink was cleared on a pond just outside town.

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Even the littlest one helped out.

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Many hours were spent tobogganing on a hill just three blocks from the house.

By late this morning, most of the family had packed up and left for home. Only our two Vancouver grandsons and their parents remained. If you’ve been following my blog for very long, you may remember how much I enjoy exploring the old abandoned buildings that are scattered across the prairie. Until today, that was a summertime activity, but when I discovered that 8-year-old Nate shares my passion for old abandoned houses, a plan was hatched and off we went to find a few.

Our first stop was an old farmstead a few kilometres from town.

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The last time we were there, the old shed was still standing, but not anymore.

When the sun is shining, there’s beauty even in decay.

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Next, we walked down the field to check out the old threshing machine in the edge of the trees.

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Sharp-eyed Nate spotted this tiny one room house beside the road not far from the old farmstead. I’m sure we’ve driven by it many times without ever noticing it. In the summer it would be completely hidden by leaves on the trees.

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A little further down the road we spotted another old house that we’d never noticed before. We had to walk across a snowy field of canola stubble to check it out.

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Two stories tall with a cellar below, it would have been quite a place in its day. It’s a very solid structure built of logs overlaid with wooden slats. With doors and windows still intact and shredded curtains hanging in some of the windows, it’s in better shape than many of the old buildings we’ve found. Peeking through the kitchen window we spotted a calendar on the wall dated September 1963. Presumably that’s when it’s last residents moved out. I couldn’t help wondering why they left a sink full of dishes behind! If only these old walls could talk. What stories they would tell!

If winter was always this beautiful and this much fun, I might not mind it so much! The last of the family leaves tomorrow morning though and the forecast is calling for much colder temperatures a week or so from now. We haven’t made any plans for a winter getaway to warmer climes, but it might soon be time to look for a last minute deal!

A cardigan by any other name

parmesan sweater“Is this my parmesan sweater?” our 5-year-old grandson asked his mom one day this week when he was getting ready to head off to kindergarten. He meant cardigan, of course!

Photo: Melaina Graham

A cardigan is a great third piece in a Canadian winter wardrobe; a button-up sweater that’s easy to put on when it’s chilly and take off when it isn’t. Most of mine, like Simon’s, are neutral colours that can be worn with almost everything else in my closet, but I’ve been striving to add more colour to my wardrobe, so I bought this one earlier this winter.

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The rich teal of the Deco Cardigan from cabi’s Fall 2019 Collection has always been a favourite colour of mine. In fact, it’s one of those universal colours that look good on everyone. The sweater’s shape and the design of the cable pattern make it very flattering and the cotton/acrylic blend is comfortable and easy care.

Deco Cardigan

Richard usually takes the photos for my Fashion Friday posts, but since this will be the last one of 2019, let’s bring him out from behind the camera today.

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Next Friday our house will be full to overflowing with all our kids and grandkids here with us! So, from our home to yours, a very Merry Christmas! Fashion Friday will pick up in the new year with a 2019 fashion review and some goals for the year ahead.

‘Tis the season

LogoFashion Friday is putting in its appearance much later in the day than usual. In fact, I wasn’t sure that it was going to happen at all this week. We arrived home last night after a whirlwind trip to Vancouver (the second in seven weeks) to assist my 96-year-old father with his move into long term care and to deal with everything in his previous apartment. Though he wasn’t very happy about having to leave the assisted living facility where he lived for the past six years, it was actually exactly what he needed and he seems to be settling in well.

We were thankful to make it home in time to attend the first event of our Christmas season this evening. I was especially glad that I didn’t have to think about what I was going to wear. Last year, I planned my outfits for each Christmas event in advance writing down exactly what I was going to wear including shoes and accessories. It made the season so so much easier that I decided to do the same thing this year. Though I hadn’t quite finished doing this when we got the call to go to Vancouver, I did have this evening’s outfit planned. Here’s what I wore.

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I decided awhile ago that I’d put together outfits for each event this season from what was already in my closet rather than buying anything new. The dark green sequinned top added a festive look to this evening’s simple black outfit. I added an emerald necklace that was my mother’s, sparkly earrings that I bought last year, and a silver bangle.

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One thing to think about when planning an outfit for a special event is what you’ll be doing. Since I would be sitting at a table for tonight’s dinner and the entertainment that followed, what I wore from the waist down was less important than what would be seen above the table. I’ll wear something entirely different when we go dancing tomorrow evening.

How you see yourself

LogoWe were on the way to the city to finish up our Christmas shopping earlier this week when the cell phone rang. It was the call we’d been waiting for for a month and a half. A space had finally been found for my very frail 96-year-old father to move into a long term care facility in Burnaby, the suburb of Vancouver that has been his home for over 30 years. He would be moving before the end of the week!

So here I am back on the road again today heading for the coast (wasn’t I just there?) to clean out the little assisted living apartment where Dad has spent the past six years and to make sure that he’s comfortably settled into his new surroundings.

There wasn’t time to write the fashion post that I had planned for today, so it will have to wait for another time. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this thought.

How you see yourself

Gram’s in nesting mode!

The urge to clean and organize is commonly known as nesting and usually comes upon a woman in the final weeks of pregnancy. I don’t remember actually experiencing this overwhelming desire to get my home ready for a new baby. I worked up until a few days before baby #1 arrived. It’s a good thing that that was back in the day when they kept mom and baby in hospital for several days because hubby was still putting up a wall to separate the nursery from the living room when she was born! I was a bit more prepared when baby #2 arrived 19 months later. Babies #3 and #4 arrived at very busy times in our life (there are long stories behind both of those) when nesting was the furthest thing from my mind.

So, what does all that have to do with anything? The whole family comes home for Christmas every third year and this is that year! Suddenly I find myself cleaning and organizing, decorating, planning menus, and buying ingredients for all sorts of Christmas baking. Yes, Gram is definitely in nesting mode!

It started with the teeny tiny playroom in the corner of our basement that only gets used when grandchildren come to stay. It hadn’t had a thorough cleaning in a long time. I sorted through the old wooden toy box that was lovingly made for my siblings and I by a great uncle of ours in the 1950s discarding broken toys and putting away ones that are too babyish for our growing grandkids. I washed down the play kitchen that our children got for Christmas in the 1980s. Dolls that had been mine and our daughters’ when we were little girls were bathed and their clothes went through the laundry. Then the tiny toy dishes were washed.

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Just as the toys spill out into the rest of the basement when the grandkids are here, my cleaning frenzy has also moved on into other areas. Since we retired, Richard has taken over much of the day to day housework, but I’m attacking those nooks and crannies that don’t get regular attention. Why wait for spring cleaning when the family’s coming home and Gram is in nesting mode?

What are you doing to prepare for the holiday season?

 

I want to age like sea glass

LogoOne of the things that I love doing whenever I’m at the coast is beachcombing; walking the shoreline listening to the surf and searching for shells, driftwood, and bits of sea glass. Sharing that time with my two coastal grandsons is even better!

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Spending time with my very elderly father as well as these two boys doesn’t leave much time for writing about fashion, so this week I’m simply going to share this beautiful poem that was found on a fitting room door in a shop on Sanibel Island off the west coast of Florida.

Age like sea glass

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!