Bermuda Blues

It’s time for my annual non-travel blog in which I warn of the hazards of travel and extol the virtues of staying home.   I feel it is my civic duty to make those of us stuck at home feel better, so I started this tradition last February with a post comparing today’s airport hassles with The Golden Age of Travel.   While  it’s nice to escape to someplace tropical when the Hollywood version of winter has deteriorated into dirty snowbanks and salt stained boots – sand, sea and sun await only those who choose wisely!    

Bermuda (2)

In this photo, you may see a picturesque cottage on the lovely shores of  Bermuda, an island softly kissed by warm trade winds.   It’s set high on a bluff – there’s a pink sand beach below with clear turquoise waters.   Note the striking contrast between the coral and the blue of the pool and sky.   It looks nice, very nice – everything you would expect Bermuda to be.

While I see a drafty old cottage with no hot water, banging shutters and howling winds, set on a steep cliff straight out of a Daphne Du Maurier novel.

This picture was taken the morning we left Bermuda – the only day of sun and warm temperatures the whole five days.   You never want to go to Bermuda in February – believe me.   It’s not tourist season.   While I knew Bermuda was not as far south as the Caribbean, the travel agent was definitely an optimist.  She assured us the average temperature would be 70ish – golfing weather, but it was really why-didn’t-I-pack-warmer-clothes weather.     

And you certainly never want to arrive late on a Friday, when the proprietress hands you the key to your pretty little cottage and promptly disappears until Monday.   There was no front desk and no restaurant, and it didn’t take long to realize there was no hot water either.   There didn’t even appear to be a hot water tank.   We left a message at the booking office.  (This was in the days before people were instantly available).        

 I’m not that fussy when it comes to winter vacations – give me a pool to sit beside and read my books, and a couple of shore and sea excursions and I’m happy.   Otherwise, pick an island, preferably one not too close to the equator as my hair can’t handle too much humidity.    When you live in Canada, you don’t care where you go, it’s just winter you want to get away from.  

Bermuda pic 3 (2)

We decided to check out the pool but it was hardly pool weather.  As it hovered around 50 F all week the only pool sitting was the huddled-in-layers kind.       

Bermuda pic 4 (2)There was a slightly warmer reading nook up near the Adirondack chairs sheltered a bit from the blustery breeze.   

There was no restaurant onsite, but the cottage had a kitchenette, so we treked a mile or two or five down the road, mopeds whizzing by, to a variety store, where we bought the worlds most expensive peanut butter and some white bread, plus coffee, tea and milk for breakfast…and I think there might have been a bottle or two of wine…Merlot most likely as it goes best with stormy weather.   (This was back in the days when I was able to drink a little).  

The main thoroughfare was like the Indy 500.   Dare step off the curb and you’d get crammed by a moped going the wrong way, but then I’m one of those people who can’t tell right from left.   We decided we weren’t brave enough to rent mopeds so we took taxis or the bus when our cash ran low and we were down to coins. 

Most of the restaurants were closed, but we hailed a cab and found a pub for supper.   The taxi driver informed us it wasn’t tourist season and many of the inhabitants were off-island this time of year.   Really – is that why there’s nobody around?   We had a nice meal, including a wonderfully rich English Trifle, which started my love affair with this dessert, and a very smooth sherry afterwards, (Bermuda is a British island), and thus fortified returned to the cottage immensely cheered – only to find it still had no hot water and there was no return message. 

As I’m one of those people who can’t go to bed without having a hot bath first, I decided to channel my inner Laura Ingalls and set about boiling water on the stove, (being a British island, there was a proper teapot and tea kettle), just like my pioneer ancestors – thus providing me with about three inches of tepid water, enough to wash the travel grime off, but not enough to soothe my cramps.   Luckily, when I travel I bring a whole pharmacy with me, so Motrin to the rescue.  

When we woke the next morning it was still overcast.   Turning on the radio, the weather forecast was for more of the same.   After that came the lost pet report, where listeners could call in and report their lost dogs and cats.  We got into the habit of listening to the Lost Pet Petrol every morning while drinking our coffee.   It was in many ways a charming island.   

Scrounging up enough cash for taxis was a challenge as there wasn’t an exchange place open anywhere and the banks were all closed on the weekend.   Bermuda – one of the banking capitals of the world – go figure.  (Yes, once upon a time there was no such thing as an ATM machine).   The streets of the main town were pretty but deserted on the weekend. 

Bermuda pic 5 (2)

The shopping was pricey and rather staid.   I recall there being a Marks and Spencer-like department store downtown, where I bought a soft mohair afghan in bright pink as a souvenir – which came in handy as the cottage was chilly at night, (blame the British again for the lack of central heating or rather any heating).   It also made a cozy pool cover-up.   

Pink mohair afghan

The wind howled up on the cliffs – so loud I couldn’t sleep.  There was a shutter banging loose somewhere.   It was the perfect murder mystery setting, rich with Rebecca-like atmosphere.   (In fact I think I might put it in my book someday).    

Bermuda pic 6 (2) Manderley

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again….

On Monday when the owner returned, she switched on the hot water, the tank was hidden in a separate building – hallelujah!   Never underestimate the rejuvenating power of a hot bubble bath.   But the weather continued gloomy, (did I mention it was a British island).  

We managed to find a restaurant open each night.   One evening when it was raining, I wore socks with my sandals, a fashion faux pas, but I figured no one would notice – and they didn’t as we were the only ones there.   It was like dining in your own private restaurant.    I tried duck a la orange for the first time, not something I would ordinarily order – but with perfectly crispy skin it wasn’t half bad.   Cherries Jubilee and Bananas Flambe for dessert – popular choices for high end dining back then.        

We took a flat bottomed boat out to the ocean for lack of anything better to do, and watched them feed the hungry fish.   

Tropical Fish - AMc

Tropical fish with a watery whitewash finish – Art by Joni’s mother.

It was either that or some Indiana Jones cave expedition, complete with stalactites and damp claustrophobic caverns. 

Bermuda pic 8 & 9 (3)

Bermuda pic 8 & 9 (2)                                              Where is the underground cave entrance……

We walked the beaches a lot….and talked a lot….solving all the worlds problems and our own, scheming and dreaming in the manner of younger souls.  

Bermuda pic 1 (2)

The sky was pretty in a menacing kind of way (and no it was not hurricane season).

Bermuda pic 7 (2)

It was beachcombing season….

On Wednesday, our last morning I was so overjoyed to see clear blue sky and so annoyed about going back to work with the same pale face that I sat out in the Adirondack chair reading my book and soaking up the sun, sans sunscreen. 

Bermuda pic 10 (2)

It was only for an hour or so before we had to leave for the airport, but I had on jeans with a cute white cotton top with a scoop neck and I didn’t want to get it dirty with greasy lotion The warmth of the sun felt absolutely glorious after five cool and overcast days.    

On the way to the airport the taxi driver commented how nice it was, 80 degrees and the same forecast for the rest of the week.   Really – thanks for sharing.   The plane was delayed by a few hours.  By the time we disembarked in Toronto, my skin was starting to hurt and by the next day it was as crispy as that duck skin, so red it almost blistered, all from an hour in the sun.  Stupid, I know.

Now I’m content to stay home.   However, it wasn’t all terrible – despite the inclement weather, I didn’t come back with a cold the way I normally do, just a souvenir sunburn, and some bad dreams of Manderley. 

(1500 words – next week will make up for it.)

PS.  Book of the Day:   Amazingly I found a classic copy of Rebecca, complete with pretty ribbon, at the January used book sale, a book I have not seen since high school, which begs to be re-read.  

PS.  Quote of the Day:  “There’s nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” (Jane Austen)    Especially true when winter winds are howling – pass the merlot.     

PS.   We might have missed a few things – which way to the Bermuda Triangle?   

Song of the Day:  Gordon Lightfoot – Triangle.

PS.   Have you had any vacation experiences which turned out disappointing?

 

 

 

Easy Strawberry Trifle

Chocolate and strawberries are traditional Valentine’s Day desserts, so here’s an easy strawberry trifle to make if you are craving something light, fruity and not too sweet – and it’s much better than my low-fat chocolate brownie disaster.  As an added plus, it’s not so much made as assembled, requiring only three ingredients, cake, instant custard and strawberries.

Strawberry trifle

Grocery store strawberries are not so good this time of year in Canada, so I mixed them with some strawberry freezer jam from last summer.   (Click here for blog link).   As I use No Sugar Pectin in my freezer jam, it’s more of a strawberry puree than a sweet jam, but you can also mush up the strawberries and add sugar to taste.   

Strawberries For the cake you can use those mini golden cakes from the grocery store or angel food cake, but I had some leftover cake which had been in the freezer for awhile but when thawed it was just as fresh as the day I made it. 

The last time I made this dessert I used French vanilla pudding cups, but this time I decided to use the more traditional custard.   I bought a package of instant custard from The British Shop, a brand recommended by the owner as I figured the British must know their custards (she also told me last year the shop spent $20,000 on import fees).Custard

Just add 360ml of BOILING Water and stir for a minute and Voila – a nice and creamy custard.   (Next time I might add a teaspoon of Vanilla extract as it was fairly bland). 

As I’ve just spent a fairly productive week cleaning out the basement storage areas and reorganizing things, including some old family heirlooms and crystal, I decided to use my  grandmother’s parfait glasses.   

Crystal glasses

I never met my grandmother as my dad’s parents both died before I was born, but I’ve often wondered what her life was like.   She married in 1919 and as an older mom had her kids at 37, 40 and 41 and died fairly young at age 65, after breaking a hip.   So it’s possible these glasses are a hundred years old – maybe they were part of her wedding trousseau?   My mother said they were in the old farmhouse when she got married in 1952.    Or they may even have been from my great grandmother Ellen farther back in 1900, part of a  collection of crystal from the Edwardian age, of which I have several pieces.   I remember my mother using the matching glasses at family dinners along with her good china, but they are so thin and delicate they require hand-washing.   There are only seven parfait glasses left, plus two with small handles which look like they might be hot toddy glasses.   Anyway, I felt they deserved an outing sometime this century!

I crumbled the cake in the bottom, then layered the strawberries and custard, then cake again (I could have used more cake), custard and more strawberries on top.   You can also garnish with whipped cream and a strawberry, but I ran out of room.      

Strawberry trifle

The parfait glasses seem tiny, so I suspect portion sizes were smaller back in the days of Downton Abbey.    The same with plates – compare this new red Rachel Ray plate to the older pink plate from the thrift shop.    

Pink and red plates

The same with supersized restaurant plates.   While it’s customary to want to fill your plate, maybe that isn’t such a good idea anymore? 

This makes a nice light dessert after a big meal.   There’s something to be said for moderation and family tradition, and strawberries in the middle of winter!  

Happy Valentine’s Day!

PS.  For those of you who are mad for plaid like I am, the plaid charger plates are from Michael’s craft store, after Christmas sale – $1.50 each vs regular $8.        (600 words) 

Pink plates and Valendtine's Day

Low-Fat Chocolate Brownies

          Last week’s Books and Brownies blog left me craving something chocolatey and as Valentine’s Day is fast approaching I decided to make brownies.   I’m not one to say no to convenience food if it tastes good, being perfectly content to bow to the expertise of Betty Crocker, but my favorite mix had turned out dry the last few times I made it.   I used to take brownies to work for birthdays and my brownies had always been a hit, the secret ingredient being butter not oil – I was raised on a dairy farm where butter ruled.   It was always a treat getting off the school bus if my mother had made a big pan of brownies, chewy, no icing but walnuts in them, usually still warm from the oven, but even back in the sixties she used a mix.   After a family member was diagnosed with gallbladder problems, I switched to a low fat mix which eliminated the added oil/butter, but then it too was discontinued. 

Brownies

What’s up Betty Crocker?

After wasting more time than I care to admit pouring over low-fat recipes in cookbooks, online and on that food vortex otherwise known as Pinterest, I discovered that both applesauce and strained prunes can be substituted for some of the fat in a recipe.  I settled on one that called for strained prunes, the baby food kind was okay it said.   So I set out for the grocery store which apparently doesn’t even sell baby food anymore as everyone makes their own.   Luckily, the drugstore had an organic line in plastic pouches – they might want to revisit those old glass jars which can be recycled in all kinds of ways.   A pouch held 125ml, exactly the amount I needed, but when I opened it, it tasted so awful, that I decided to use a different recipe with applesauce instead.   The reviews were all good, except for one dissenter, who said don’t bother, waste of ingredients.   Here’s the recipe for Rich and Chewy Low Fat Brownies.   

Brownie ingredients

Ingredients

½ cup cocoa

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ¾ cup white sugar

2 egg whites

¾ cup applesauce unsweetened

  • Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl using a hand mixer. Add egg whites, applesauce and vanilla.
  • Mix all other ingredients in a separate smaller bowl and add to the wet ingredients in the large bowl. Do NOT overmix!
  • Spray 8×8 dish with PAM and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.   Yields 16 brownies.

The lumpy texture was a bit strange, not sure if that was from the applesauce or my failure to read the recipe as I dumped the sugar in with the dry ingredients by mistake.   They baked up alright, a bit denser than my regular brownie mix but the appearance was good, soft in the centre, slightly crusty at the edges and on top. 

The Verdict:   Well they were certainly rich and chewy, but were they good? 

Never having made brownies from scratch before I had nothing to compare them to but they seemed tasteless, kind of like eating cardboard.   Guilty as charged IMO.   The rest of the jury was polite but noncommittal, preferring the slightly safer remark, “They’re okay, but they don’t taste like your regular brownies.”   

I did cut back on the sugar by half a cup to 1 1/4 cups as some of the reviewers had suggested as it seemed like a lot of sugar for a small 8X8 pan.    My chocolate powder was the very expensive French imported stuff which possibly made it too rich.   They didn’t seem sweet at all, even doused in my regular 2 inches of Canada’s favorite icing (see label). 

brownie icing chocolate

They did look pretty on my pink plates though. 

Brownies

But food is to eat!   I hate it when you’re in a fancy restaurant and you order something outrageously expensive off the dessert trolley because it looks good, and it turns out to be disappointing.   Of course not everyone is a fussy  foodie like I am (except that lone dissenter), but I would not have served these to company.   They were mediocre at best – if I’m going to indulge in a brownie I want it to be great. 

Were they even as healthy as promised?  Here’s the nutrition label:

Serving Size: 1 (812) g

Servings Per Recipe: 1

AMT. PER SERVING% DAILY VALUE

Calories: 147.9

Calories from Fat 16 g 11 %

Total Fat 1.8 g 2 %

Saturated Fat 0.9 g 4 %

Cholesterol 3.8 mg 1 %

Sodium 118.6 mg 4 %

Total Carbohydrate 31.9 g 10 %

Dietary Fiber 0.8 g 3 %

Sugars 21.9 g 87 %

Protein 1.8 g

Add in the nutrition label from the icing:

Betty Crocker icing label

Add up the 1.8g of fat from the brownie, but you would be lucky to get 16 brownies out of a small pan like that so let’s round that up to 4g, with the 5g of fat from the 2 tablespoons of icing (again a stretch), and you have about 9g. 

Now compare that to Betty Crocker’s new product, Fudge Brownie in a Mug with fudge topping:

Mug cake brownie

Nutrition Label:

Mug cake nutrition list

You add some water and nuke it in the microwave for one minute.  One pouch with fudge topping also gives you 9 g of fat, and about the same number of calories as the low fat recipe, but better taste, in fact it was so rich tasting I could only eat half of it.   Is there such a thing as too chocolatey?   I know death by double chocolate is all the rage but I much prefer regular milk chocolate over the often bitter darker stuff.   Plus unless you’re baking for a family who ever eats just one brownie?  The mug box has built-in portion control –  not sure how they came up with 3 portions, why not 2 or 4, but maybe the extra one is to stash away for an emergency on days you need chocolate.   So why not let Betty do all the work?   Now it’s back to the pastry board for a better Valentine’s Day dessert…stay tuned.    (950 words)  

PS.  Do you have a favorite brownie recipe or mix?  

 

 

 

Books and Brownies

It’s winter – prime reading season, so time for a round up of some of the best books I’ve read over the past few months.  These are best savored with a cup of tea and a brownie…or two…..the kind with lots of icing.

Brownies

As I’m trying to practice an economy of words these days, I have condensed the summaries.   Click on the link for the full publishers blurb.    The list is in descending order of greatness. 

The Family UpstairsThe Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A page-turning jewel of a book, her best yet.

Libby Jones receives a letter from a lawyer on her 25th birthday,  telling her the identity of her birth parents and also that she is the sole inheritor of an abandoned mansion in one of London’s fashionable neighborhoods.  Young and struggling, everything in her life is about to change.   But others have been waiting for this day too.   Twenty-five years ago, police were called to the house with reports of a baby crying.   When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib.  Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note, and the four other children reported to live there were gone.

Think your family is dysfunctional?   After reading a Lisa Jewell novel they might seem quite normal by comparison.   I find many of her books disturbing in a creepy psychological way – but this is the most bizarre yet.   There’s definitely an art to weaving a story like that, and she’s mastered it in her latest.        

Someone We Know

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

                                                                                                                   

                                                                                                                     

“This is a very difficult letter to write. I hope you will not hate us too much. . . My son broke into your home recently while you were out.”   In a quiet, leafy suburb in upstate New York, a teenager has been sneaking into houses–and into the owners’ computers as well–learning their secrets, and maybe sharing some of them, too.   Who is he, and what might he have uncovered? After two anonymous letters are received, whispers start to circulate, and suspicion mounts. And when a woman down the street is found murdered, the tension reaches the breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their own secrets?

While this is obviously one of those you can’t trust anybody tales, Shari Lapena takes a simple premise, a snooping teenage hacker, and gives it enough twists and turns to make it an entertaining ride.   Having read all of her previous bestsellers (An Unwanted Guest, A Stranger in the House, and The Couple Next Door, I expected this to be good, and it was.   She used to be  a Toronto lawyer – I hope she never returns to practicing law.  

If You Knew HerIf You Knew Her by Emily Elgar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Emily Edgar is a new author and I hope this is the first of many.

                                                                                                                         

The perfect life, or the perfect lie?   Cassie had it all – the fairytale wedding, the stunning home, the perfect husband. But when she arrives on the intensive care ward in a coma it soon becomes clear that she has a secret.   Alice, the chief nurse on the ward begins to feel a connection with Cassie and can’t help but wonder if things are not quite as they seem.  Frank, another patient, can hear and see everything around him but cannot communicate. He understands that Cassie’s life is in danger and only he holds the truth, which no one can know and he cannot tell.

A first time author, Emily Elgar has another one coming out in 2020, Grace is Gone.  She wrote this book after taking a novel-writing course at the Faber Academy UK in 2014.   I enjoyed the medical background, although I did guess the ending.   Still, A for effort and for getting published in 37 countries.  A very auspicious beginning – I enjoyed it so much I ordered her new one.  

Grace is GoneGrace is Gone by Emily Elgar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meg and her daughter Grace are the most beloved family in Ashford, so when Meg is found brutally murdered and her daughter Grace missing, the town is rocked by the tragedy.   Who would kidnap a sick teenager? Who would murder a mother who sacrificed everything?    As the community come to terms with what’s happened, an unlikely pair start searching for answers: Jon, the most hated journalist in Ashford and Cara, the young woman who found Meg’s body. But once they start digging into the past, they will soon realize there’s no going back.

Her second book is even better, much more layered and complex.  In the jacket photo she looks about twelve, but is married and just had a baby so she must be older.   I hope she finds a good babysitter and continues to write.      

I’m wondering why all these psychological thrillers only have three or four words in the title?    I guess they’re trying to sum up the book in the fewest words possible.  

The Shape of FamilyThe Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the international bestselling author of Secret Daughter and The Golden Son comes a poignant, unforgettable novel about an intercultural couple facing a family crisis.   Jaya, the cultured daughter of an Indian diplomat and Keith, an ambitious banker from middle-class Philadelphia, meet in a London pub in 1988 and make a life together in suburban California. Their strong marriage is built on shared beliefs and love for their two children: headstrong teenager Karina and young son Prem, the light of their home.    But love and prosperity cannot protect them from sudden, unspeakable tragedy, and the family’s foundation cracks as each member struggles to seek a way forward. Jaya finds solace in spirituality. Keith wagers on his high-powered career. Karina focuses relentlessly on her future and independence. And Prem watches helplessly as his once close-knit family drifts apart.

A family drama about an intercultural couple, and while it might sound predictable, it’s not.   It’s also immensely readable.

The GuardiansThe Guardians by John Grisham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the small north Florida town of Seabrook, a young lawyer named Keith Russo was shot dead at his desk as he worked late one night. The killer left no clues behind. There were no witnesses, no real suspects, no one with a motive. The police soon settled on Quincy Miller, a young black man who was once a client of Russo’s.  Quincy was framed, convicted, and sent to prison for life. For twenty-two years he languished in prison with no lawyer, no advocate on the outside. Then he wrote a letter to Guardian Ministries, a small innocence group founded by a lawyer/minister named Cullen Post.   Guardian handles only a few innocence cases at a time, and Post is its only investigator. He travels the South fighting wrongful convictions and taking cases no one else will touch. With Quincy Miller, though, he gets far more than he bargained for.

One of his better legal thrillers, but his books often make me wonder about  the US justice system, especially in small sleepy southern towns. 

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true?   Gladwell also revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath.   While tackling all these questions, Malcolm Gladwell (The Tippling Point, Outliers), discusses the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.

This book was such a mish-mash of seemingly unrelated chapters, including the bizarre one on Sylvia Plath, that I was left wondering – what was the point of it all.   Unlike his previous books (Outliers, The Tipping Point), it didn’t seem to have a cohesive theme.    I’m not sure what the type of gas stove sold in Britain in the 1960’s has to to with talking to strangers, but maybe anything related to Sylvia Plath sells.   Why not a chapter about Jane Austen’s romances, or a Bookshop in Paris?  (All references guaranteed to sell a book no matter what).   While it could have used more editing, it was an interesting read anyway, and helped to pass the time (6 hours) in the ER dept with a sick family member.   Sometimes that’s the best thing about a good non-fiction book –  you can read a chapter here or there, no need to stay up late to see what happens next.   

I hope you have enjoyed my winter selections, but you’re on your own for the brownies!   Have you read any good books lately?     (1500 words – most of them not mine)

  

Joni and the Amazing Technicolor Coats

The crowd standing near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a sea of black.   It was Armistice Day in Ottawa and the mood was somber, as was fitting for a ceremony commemorating the war dead.   There was the odd splash of red or gray among the thousands of people huddled on this cold snowy November morning, but this was the reality of a Canadian winter, solemn occasion or not – we are a nation of black coats.      

The vast majority of winter coats come in only one color – black, and one style – big and puffy, as in parkas that are flattering to no one, not even penguins.    They range in price from the cheaper now-defunct Sears version all the way up to the down-filled fur-trimmed Canada Goose brand which retails for $1000 and which has become the latest target of thieves.   Dare to leave your Canada Goose dangling on the back of your Starbucks chair while you fetch a stir stick and you might return to find it gone.

Winter weather is here to stay now, but I’m not worried – I’ve got it covered.   After years of looking, I bought not one but THREE winter coats this year – and none of them were black.   

It had been well over a decade since I’d bought a dressy winter coat, although whether a toggle coat can be considered dressy is debatable, but it was the style in 2008 and it came in red and petite (I come from a long line of leprechauns).   The next year, I bought a red ski jacket with a plaid flannel lining, after seeing it in Oprah magazine.   It too came in red, but a bright candy apple red, not that dreadful orange tone. 

These were both nice serviceable coats, but with our long winters ten years is a good amount of time to get out of a coat.   I was way overdue for a new one – but everything was black.   The coat manufacturers had been playing it safe since the last recession.  

Oh, I understand the appeal of black.  It’s practical.  It doesn’t show dirt.  It’s easy to accessorize.  It goes with everything.  It’s classic and tres chic, as in you can pretend you’re a famous fashion editor and of course, some black is okay as in Twenty Pairs of Black Pants or the LBD – Little Black Dress.   This is by no means meant to be disparaging to those of you who like black and can wear it – by all means do!      

But what if you don’t like black.  Or look good in it?   I find that for many women of a certain age, black near the face is draining, it makes your skin look pale or sallow.   If you are old enough to remember the 80’s having-your-colors-done craze where a franchised sales rep draped swatches of color near your face to determine if you were a Winter Spring Summer or Autumn, then you will know what I mean.     

Summer colors

Summer colors

As a pale Celtic Summer, I knew black was out for me, not even with a scarf for camouflage.  Plus, I find winter dreary enough without being in mourning – I need something colorful to cheer me up.    

In younger years when I was a dedicated fashionista, I did my fair share to support the clothing economy.   Now that I’m retired, I live in yoga pants and casual tops and spend very little on clothes.  I don’t wear most of what I own and it seems wasteful to buy more, so I shop in my closet.   Fast fashion is not for me, I want quality and style.   If the latest trends are lacking I feel it’s my duty to leave ugly clothes in the stores where they belong.   Why buy something, unless you need and absolutely love it?  

I’ve had many winter coats over the years, but only a few I remember.  Fellow Fashionistas might enjoy a historical look at my multi-colored coat collection, beginning in the sixties with purple velvet.  

I’m twelve and still in grade school, but the Age of Aquarius is dawning and purple velvet is groovy.   My coat was short and belted like the style below, and not a crushed velvet but more of a velour.   It was also too big for me but my mother let me buy it anyway. 

Maxi coat pattern

So you want to sew a maxi coat…

Mini skirts were the current thing (uh huh – Cher), and although I loved my Princely purple coat, it was not as mod as my teacher’s long black maxi coat, worn while patrolling the schoolyard during recess and the envy of all the girls.  (We also envied her cute boyfriend – although she was only 19, they were already engaged).   Sewing was popular back then so there were even McCall’s patterns should you wish to make your own.   I would never have tackled such an ambitious project, no matter how alluring the ads in Seventeen.    

Plaid coat 17 and poncho

Maybe start with a poncho….

In the early 70’s, my first years of high school I wore a long corduroy coat in a rich dark brown, double breasted with a belt.Brown corduroy winter coat

The belt came in handy as the coat was too big for me, a size 11/12 when I normally wore a 7/8 or 9/10, but my mother let me buy it anyway.  (I so seldom asked for anything, that my mother was a pushover).  That’s the best thing about online shopping now, you can get the size you need, back then it was just what was on the rack.   Sizing was also different, size 2 or 4 didn’t even exist.   

When I was sixteen, I bought a loud plaid wool coat at Saks because the sales rep told me I looked like the cover of Mademoiselle, a magazine I was not familiar with but went right out and bought. 

plaid coat

Yes it was that ugly – definitely a fashion mistake…

While not quite the same pattern as above, mine had red, green and yellow, and while I love plaid to this day, it was not a tasteful plaid at all.   Even I was surprised my mother let me buy it.   My dad said it looked like a horse blanket.   It was the one and only thing I ever bought there, as it was too expensive a store for us to shop at regularly.   It fit perfectly but I only wore it one year.   By university I considered it too garish and trendy as I had graduated to Glamour magazine by then and something more classic.

camel coat

During university, I found a lovely wool camel coat at the Eaton’s store in downtown Toronto which I wore for the next several years.   A knockoff of the classic wrap style, it was suitable for a student budget and I can still picture myself wearing it over my jeans, striding around campus late for class as usual.   One night I went to a formal with it draped over my long red dress, an evening that started with an argument about whether to wear a wrap or a coat – it was January what was I thinking?

In the early 80’s, the start of my working years I had a long oatmeal colored coat which my mother said reminded her of the 1940’s swing coats.  When I had more money, I splurged on a designer camel wrap coat with a detachable  fur collar, which I still have as what would I do with it?   (Poor little fox, but like Oprah says, when you know better you do better). 

I suppose I could wear it with the collar removed but the coat is so heavy and long it might qualify as a maxi.   As the climate changes, perhaps it will end up in a museum some day, a Doctor Zhivago-like relic of cold winters past? 

Musical Interlude:    (better version by Sarah Vaughn at the end).

I’m not the only one who wore fur – full length coats used to be considered essential on the bitterly cold Canadian prairies where people were known to run from their cars to the house – now replaced by more modern insulating synthetics.    Camel winter coat  It was too expensive and much too dressy a coat to wear everyday, although it did look great with a hat – that was in the Lady Diana years, when you could wear a hat without people staring at you.   

In the later 80’s came a long royal blue wool coat with gigantic shoulder pads.   It too only lasted one season before it was recycled to the thrift shop as it was way too bright.   

The 90’s meant another camel coat, cloth this time, with a dark brown fake fur collar – real fur being out by then.   It was stylish but practical and I wore that coat for years.   All these 80-90-‘s coats were long by the way, because women wore skirts and suits to work.

By the millennium pants were in, and even dressy coats became shorter, what used to be called a car coat.   This was the brown decade.  I had a brown trench coat with a lining for work, not really warm enough for winter, and a more casual brown velour/sherpa L.L.Bean coat with a matching hat and mitts, which was a bit too big but I couldn’t be bothered to return it, as it was a hassle with the duty and taxes.   It was on the cover of the LL Bean catalogue and while cute and stylish, it too was by no means warm enough for our Canadian winters.  I must have stayed inside that decade.  Then came the red coats who overstayed their welcome.     

The decade of drought ensued – the only coats in the stores were black.   I searched for years, refusing all things black and puffy, but since I succumbed to the lure of online shopping, my life has become a lot more colorful again.   

Last year, I bought a beautiful soft blue wool coat at Reitmans, a mid-range somewhat frumpy Canadian women’s chain which has been in operation since 1926.  It was $190 regular, but a steal for $75 at the Black Friday sales.  Ordered a small online. 

Blue winter coat

To Meghan Markle’s credit, she did give Reitmans quite a stylish update when she was their spokesperson before she married Prince Harry.   (Her TV series, Suits was filmed in Toronto).  The coat was very warm too, as some wrap coats tend not to be if they have a silk lining.   It was classic and stylish, and I got many compliments on the periwinkle blue color, even from complete strangers.   Welcome back to Canada, Meghan – you can resume your old job at Reitmans any time!   (My prediction is Meghan will start a fashion label with her designer friend Jessica Mulroney, Harry can be a stay at home dad.  Nothing I’ve heard, just my guess as to why they would trademark the name Sussex Royal).     

I still needed a new ski jacket, so I started looking early this year and was lucky to find a Columbia at a 40% off Black Friday sale at Marks Work Wearhouse, another Canadian staple.    Ordered a small online. 

Red winter ski coat

Red again, but a duller red with a gray fur hood which luckily went with all  of my winter scarves, so no need to accessorize, it was already done.

So, I thought I was finished, new dressy coat and new ski jacket.  

But the ski jacket wasn’t warm enough for walking.  Nor windproof.  That Omni-heat lining is way over-rated.   So, when I saw a $300 gray down-filled Columbia jacket at Sportscheck, I watched for the pre-Christmas sales for 50% off and ordered online.  

gray winter coat parka

It came by Canada Post (so no porch pirates), fit perfectly and went with all my scarves.   I was definitely on roll here, but I also realized I had become one of those shoppers retailers hate – people who browse in stores and then buy online, but it’s not my fault if they don’t have my size. 

Then came the Boxing Day Bargain.   I went back to Reitmans to buy more socks (Christmas presents now marked down to $6 from $20), and there on the sale rack was a gray herringbone tweed wrap coat ($70, no tax, regular $190), just calling my name.     

gray winter coat

Did I need another coat?  No, but it was my size so I bought it anyway.   It’s not warm enough for very cold weather, but perfect for the edge seasons, late fall and early spring.    And a classic – the kind of coat Meghan Markle might wear.   Even the sewn-in back belt was stylish, plus it went with all my red and gray winter scarves.    

After adding up all these great deals, I’m left wondering why anyone would ever pay full price?   I also remembered what fun shopping used to be – when you found something you liked! 

So I now own two dressy wrap coats, one warm (blue), and one lighter (gray tweed), and two ski jackets, one light (red) one for the car and running errands, and one down (gray) parka for walking and very cold days.   It’s January and the Visa bill has arrived.   I dare not go coat shopping for the next decade at least.   

PS.    Do you have a favorite winter coat – style and color?           

PS.  Just for the record, no one observed me photographing my coats on the dining room floor!   My house is dark in the winter and I needed a window,  for maximum light.  Some photos sourced online and from my collection of vintage fashion magazines.   I saved a few from the attic and while looking through old 70’s Glamours I was amazed at how classic some of the styles were, but then I haven’t read a fashion magazine in well over 25 years.  Maybe some of that stuff is back in – I see pants are getting wider again, just when I just got rid of all mine.    (2300 words – sorry)

A better version of Button Up Your Overcoat.

 

 

 

Embracing Winter

It’s here.  Finally.  Winter.  We’ve been spoiled so far with good weather in my corner of Canada, with only one big snowstorm in early November and just  an inch or two since then.   Like much of North America, we had a green Christmas.   It’s been cold then balmy, flurries then rain, zigzagging back and forth like Mother Nature can’t make up her mind.   But now that winter is upon us, we might as well decide to embrace it.    Here are some ways to enjoy the season or at least feel grateful to be hibernating inside.    

To Ski or Apres Ski

Such a difficult question….

Leave the Christmas decorations up.   While you might want to pack up Santa and his reindeer, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy all the twinkly lights for another month or two.    I usually leave my greenery up until Valentine’s Day.

lighted spruce decoration

Leave the outside decorations up too.   Snow on a plaid ribbon looks especially festive. 

winter pine decor with plaid ribbon

If you love the smell of pine, light a scented candle and indulge in some small luxuries like pine hand soap and hand cream. 

pine scents

Have oatmeal for breakfast, with raisins and brown sugar.

Oatmeal

Then go for a walk in your warm parka.  If the seagulls can brave the cold you can too.

Seagulls in winter

Reward yourself afterwards by trying out a new hot drink.   Steep an Earl Gray teabag in a cup of steamy apple cider for a sweet/tart taste. 

Cider and tea mixture

Wear something in a cheerful plaid, preferably flannel. 

vintage plaid flannel shirt

 If you don’t own anything plaid, enjoy your morning coffee in a plaid mug. 

plaid coffee mug

Look out the window at the snow and be glad you don’t have to drive in it. 

Christmas Wreath

Take advantage of being stuck indoors and spend a productive day cleaning out your closets.   Save a scarf for a snowman.   Once you have room, buy a new winter coat on sale, in any color but black.   Winter needs a shot of color.  

Winter coats

If you must venture out, keep warm and look stylish by learning how to tie scarves like the weather forecasters on TV.   I swear they must take a course.  Winter is also one of the few seasons where you can wear a hat and not get stared at. 

plaid scarf and winter coat

Bake something, anything that smells good – muffins, cookies. apple crisp.  Go outside and come back in just so you can smell the kitchen.  

date nut loaf

Date nut loaf anyone?

While you’re outside, feed the birds. 

birdfeeder

Go bird-watching with binoculars.   Hunt for those elusive cardinals with your camera.  cardinals AMc

If you’re lucky enough to get a snow day and the kids are off school, build a snowman or two. 

Have a competition for the best one in the neighborhood.

Snowman

He does not look happy about that sunshine…

Have tomato soup and grilled cheese for lunch – you’ll need stamina to shovel the end of the driveway where the snowplow has dumped a row of boulders the size of icebergs. 

tomato soup and grilled cheese

Make comfort food for supper.  Turkey stew anyone?

turkey stew

January is sofa season.   Watch a movie or read your favorite magazines.  

chair and pillows Victoria

Read a book or two….or sixteen.    Buy enough books for the whole winter so you don’t have to go to the library at all.     

book outlet

Bookoutlet bargains….

We’ve all been hygged to death but comfy PJ’s, warm socks and flannel sheets on a cold winter’s night help make things warm and cozy.   A velour or chenille robe for chilly mornings is great too.    Not sure if I would have paid $35 for a pair of reading socks, but $12 on sale is good. 

Reading socks

What a marketing scheme…

Have cookies and cocoa before bed.

mug and cookie

And to all a good night!    Happy January!     (600 words and lots of pictures)

 

 

 

 

Give Me Shelter

Chances are if you’re reading this, you have a roof over your head and a warm comfortable bed to sleep in on a cold winter’s night.   But what if you were reading this on a computer at the library and after the closing announcement is made, you have nowhere else to go.   Do you join the other homeless people sleeping on the street?   What if you decided to stay right there in the library, which after all is for the Public. 

That is the premise for the movie, The Public, a 2018 entry at the Toronto International Film Festival.    (We have a local theatre which shows TIFF selections the following winter.  It’s nice to see some of these lesser known indie films.  I need to add TIFF to my bucket list).  

The Public video   Homeless

After one of their friends is found dead from hypothermia, a group of homeless people decide to stage a protest and occupy the library in downtown Cincinnati to escape the freezing cold.   Starring an ensemble cast, the film was written and directed by Emilio Estevez, who plays the role of the head librarian.   While the movie is a Hollywood version with perhaps not the best acting (with so many characters there’s not much time for character development), it’s worth a look, if only for it’s focus on such an timely topic.    (see Trailer at the end)

Homelessness is a growing problem everywhere, fueled by the increases in drug addiction and mental illness.   In many cities, rents are high and vacancies few.   Even in my own small city the homeless shelters are often full and they are planning extensions to meet the demand.   When there’s no room at the inn, the city has to cough up money to pay for stays in motel rooms – 99 people in total last year.   Sometimes the shelters don’t have any female beds.  Sometimes they’re not centrally located.   Some have strict rules on drugs and alcohol, some don’t.   It’s a complex problem and one not likely to get better anytime soon.

My first glimpse of a homeless person was decades ago looking down from the window of my hotel room near Times Square.   There was a man rooting through a garbage can and another one curled up sleeping in a doorway.  I remember being horrified.    (I’m reminded of the opening scene of the 2006 memoir The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, (link) where the author is riding in a taxi cab in New York City and sees her mother going through the garbage cans.  If you’ve not read this book it’s a riveting read about her escape from a childhood of poverty, much better than the movie version).    Homelessness used to be a big city problem but now every city and town is dealing with the same issue and the ones you see sleeping on the street are just the tip of the iceberg.   Many times the problem is a hidden one as the couch surfers and car sleepers are not as visible.      

The street people are not so common in my city that I don’t notice them.  Although they seem to congregate in certain areas downtown where I seldom go at night unless to the theatre, I have noticed a few about during the daytime with all their worldly possessions loaded onto a cart.   Once I was at the farmers market and a woman was approaching people outside asking for money to buy food.   I gave her ten dollars but wondered if it would go for food or drugs?   A friend of mine gives out Tim Horton’s gift cards for this reason.  Recently a Tim Horton’s franchise was in the news after posting a notice on the door that patrons were not to linger longer than thirty minutes.  There was such a backlash that it was quickly taken down.  Of course the senior men’s coffee club members were upset, but it wasn’t aimed at them.  It was aimed at the homeless.  They had overstayed their welcome.   I remember seeing one young man, looking like hell on a bender, begging in front of the mall – someone’s son.    Last March there was a middle aged man holding a cardboard sign – Need Money for Food and Rent – at a busy intersection near Walmart.   He was there for weeks, with all the cars driving past him in the pouring rain, and the sad thing is there was a church just down the street which I’m sure must have tried to assist him.   Imagine how destitute you would have to be to resort to that.    Can you help people who don’t want to help themselves, who are just looking for the next fix.   While our Canadian government finances free injection sites and naloxone overdose kits, funded by tax dollars, we don’t even have a Rehab program for those who do want help.    They’ve been talking about it for years. 

Obviously there are no easy answers, but the homeless shelter here is working on solutions.   It has programs which will try to find affordable housing and help with rent and utility bills.   How many people are just one pay cheque away from being evicted?   You can get food from the food bank or the soup kitchen and clothes from the thrift store, but the rent must be paid and a little financial assistance with overdue bills just might keep another person off the street.   A Circles social program has also been started, aiming to break the cycle of poverty by means of personal support for a family or individual.   It’s a small dent in a big problem but at least they’re trying.  

When I returned the DVD to the library, I asked the library staff about their personal experiences.   While not really an issue at my small branch, those who worked downtown at the main branch mentioned them coming in to get out of the cold and using the washroom in the mornings to clean up, (a scene depicted in the movie).   They said there was always a box of donated gloves, scarfs, socks and toiletries for anyone to take if needed.   One even told me they gave someone a ride to the homeless shelter one night as the buses had stopped running by the time the library closed.   In the opening sequence of the movie there’s an old 50’s black and white newsreel, which talked about careers and the role of the Public library.    I’m sure no librarian back then envisioned that particular type of social assistance would one day become part of their job description.   

If you enjoy a movie with a message, you might enjoy The Public, and no matter how good or bad your day has been, when you go to bed tonight be grateful for a warm bed to sleep in.       

PS.  (Be forewarned, there are a few scenes in the movie which some people might find objectionable).             (1100 words)

Trailer for The Public:

 

 

  

 

 

 

Linda Ronstadt – Tribute to a Female Music Icon

Once upon a time in the golden days of the music world, there were female singers who were known primarily for their songs and their voice.   Those were the days my friends.  No gyrating around like a porn star in barely-there costumes and thigh-high hooker boots.   It was all about the music.   

On New Years Day CNN aired a documentary special, Linda Ronstadt – The Sound of My Voice which takes a look back at the forty year career of this music icon, one of the first female rock stars.   Here’s the trailer:

While I was not a big fan back when she was popular, I found the documentary interesting for its take on this trailblazing woman who flourished in what was basically a male universe.  Although I remember her mostly from her 70’s rock songs, her 80’s American standards phase, and her legendary performance in the operetta The Pirates of Penzance, I found her early folk days in LA during the sixties to be the most interesting.   Not yet famous, she toured with the likes of Neil Young, Jackson Browne and Glenn Frye and Don Henley of Eagles fame.  By the late 1970’s she was referred to as The First Lady of Rock and voted the Top Female Pop Singer of the decade, appearing six times on the cover of the Rolling Stone.

She arrived in LA at the age of 18, joined a band called the Stone Poneys, and was on her way after their first hit, “Different Drummer” which was written by Mike Nesbitt of The Monkees.   I always liked that song, but if you listen to the lyrics, it’s certainly an ode to the early days of women’s lib.    The LA music scene was basically a man’s world, but shortly thereafter came an onslaught of popular female singers, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Emmy Lou Harris, Carly Simon and Stevie Nicks.   Of course, even back then, good looks and costumes helped with the performance (think Stevie Nicks floating around the stage in her gauzy creations singing Rhiannon), but can you imagine any of them prancing around the stage dressed like a porn star?    How about Ella Fitzgerald, Barbara Streisand or Julie Andrews?   Linda Ronstadt was a cutie and she wore cute outfits (it’s worth a fashion look back) but she didn’t rely on her looks – her voice was the star.    Eventually she got tired of playing in big arenas and the “rock chick” image they packaged her into (including some racy magazine covers she didn’t approve of), and branched out to different genres – country, old classics, light opera and the Mexican music of her childhood. 

LR didn’t write her own songs, but she had a knack for picking good ones and could basically sing anything, and while Dolly Parton may have called her the Beyonce of the days, IMO there is no comparison.   I am probably one of the few people in the universe who thinks Beyonce is highly over-rated.  An okay voice but no good songs to show for it.   Strutting around in high boots and black leather at the Superbowl does not a memorable performance make – well maybe for the guys.   My Canadian TV station refused to air one of her award show performances (the one with her equally over-rated husband), as it didn’t meet the Canadian Broadcasting Standards for decency on a Sunday night.  Maybe we’re prudes up here in Canada. 

I used to think Taylor Swift was a classy gal, (good songwriter, not so good voice), but lately even she seems to have succumbed to the racy trend.   Is Lady Gaga, ladylike?  Would a real lady sit at the piano in her underwear?   As for Miley Cyrus, Niki Manaj and all the rest – do they need attention that badly?   (It must be difficult to raise daughters and sons, these days if these are their musical idols).   While female singers may argue that it’s their choice and they now have the freedom and right to act as they please, is it a choice or is it just what is expected now.   Show the most skin possible has become the new norm.    Is that how they want to be remembered some day?   I recall  Prince’s brilliant performance at the Superbowl but Beyonce’s skimpy outfits.   Whatever happened to just standing in front of the mic and singing the song in the best voice possible.  Oh yea, that’s just for the guys.  It’s still a double standard folks.    

When is it time to hang it up?   Would you still want to be shaking your booty at fifty even if you’re in great shape?  Are you listening Madonna?  Jennifer Lopez?  Shaina Twain?   The last one is the most disappointing based on the snippet of her Vegas show I saw during the New Years Eve countdown.  Slithering around in a tight leopard skin outfit detracts from the music, unless you’re in a production of Cats, and even then it’s distracting!    Sorry ladies, but past a certain age it just gets to be an embarrassment.   Whatever happened to growing old gracefully?    While you might argue that no one cares if wrinkled old Mick is still prancing around the stage at age 75, the stage moves of the Rolling Stones were never the focus of their show – it was the music.    Personally I think Mick should hang it up too, same with Paul McCartney – his voice is gone – I cringe every time I hear him sing as I am comparing it his glory days.      

LR seems like a grounded, level headed person.  It was interesting to hear her discuss the pitfalls of the business even back then, and why music idols often self destruct.   She’s a class act all the way.

Sadly, she has developed a form of Parkinson’s disease and has not sung professionally for the past decade.   She may no longer be able to hear the sound of her voice, but we can as her music legacy will live on.

PS.  If you missed it, CNN tends to show their specials over again, but it ‘s also available on Amazon and Apple Music.   It’s worth viewing if only for the clothes.   I do wish shag haircuts would come back in style, but those 80’s perms – never!     

PS.  In 2013 she published her memoir, Simple Dreams A Musical Memoir (link) which looks like it would be an interesting read for music fans.  (1000 words)

   

Fame and Fortune – Monday Musings

         I don’t watch many movies anymore, there being a dearth of anything good unless you enjoy remakes and sequels from the last century, but we had our first snowstorm last night which called for a night on the couch with some mindless entertainment – ie. The Golden Globes, the first of the Hollywood award shows.   So in an effort to shake things up here, I thought I’d do a Monday version of Five on Friday – just some random thoughts on fame and fortune from the past weekend.     

Does Meg Ryan ever watch her old movies on New Years Eve?

I see from my five-year diary that I’ve watched Sleepless in Seattle the past three years on New Years Eve.   (Yes,I lead an exciting life).   Before that When Harry Met Sally was a staple of New Years television.   Meg Ryan is in her late fifties now.   Does she ever look back at how young and pretty she was and sigh.   And the fashions – while I was never a big fan of 80’s clothes they look stylish in a retro way and wider pants and bigger shoulders seem to be coming back in.   I always loved her French braid hairstyle in that movie.

Does Brad Pitt find it uncomfortable being the same room with all his ex’s?

Brad Pitt won for best supporting actor at the Golden Globes last night.   He was there by himself and cracked a joke in his acceptance speech about dating anyone he stands next to.   Gwyneth Paltrow (they were engaged once), was there, looking older and plumper, and Jennifer Aniston (they were married for five years), looking great as always, but they were at tables in a galaxy far far away.      Wouldn’t it be the tiniest bit awkward?  Thank God Angelina stayed home.  

How does Jennifer Aniston stay so young looking?

Come on we know it’s not the Aveeno moisturizer.   Maybe it’s the fake tan.  Why do some people age better than others?   Genetics, good bone structure, staying out of the sun.   You can have plastic surgery and botox, but it’s hard to hide a turkey neck.    Aren’t we all a little bit jealous?

Why is it okay for male actors to have wrinkles but not females?

Brad Pitt still looks good with a few wrinkles, but I didn’t see any wrinkles on anyone female.   It must be exhausting having to be so high maintenance.  While we’re on the subject of looks, why are women expected to be turkeys, (flashing lots of leg and breast but minus the neck) while the men can just show up as penguins (throw on a tuxedo)?   More on this double standard in an upcoming music blog.  

Why are there always so many ugly dresses on the red carpet? 

Yes, I know they want to stand out but the red carpet was a sea of strange colors, enormous sleeves, bell hoop skirts not seen since the days of the civil war (Scarlett O’Hara, not Johannsen), and weird criss-cross halter tops.    And it seems skinny is out now.   Even Taylor Swift has gained some weight.  Hardly anyone looks good in leprechaun green (Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift).    You’d think with all that money they could come up with something a bit more classy – think Audrey Hepburn. 

Why is Tom Hanks such a nice guy?

Tom Hanks received the Cecile Demille Lifetime Achievement award.   I was amazed at how many good movie roles he’s had though the years.   Why doesn’t someone like him run for president?  Such a nice decent guy, universally liked – a simple end to divisiveness.     Does Tom Hanks ever sit around on New Years Eve watching Sleepless in Seattle and think, hey I wasn’t bad looking back then.              

Enough about Fame – on to Fortune

How would you spend 70 million dollars?

The Canadian Lotomax is up to 70 million this week again.  No one won, but after seeing it on the evening news, I dutifully I went to the variety store at 8pm on Friday night to purchase my once in a trillion chance.   While not as big as the US Powerball lottery, it’s all tax-free, but how could you possibly spend all that money?    Other than buying the obvious things, vacations, houses, cars, more winter coats (see upcoming blog), giving to charity and those relatives speaking to you, what would you do with the rest?    Chances are I’ll never know.

(Okay, it was seven not five, but it’s only 700 words, and it was kind of fun).

Bucket List – 2020

It’s that time of year – in the with new Bucket List, out with the old.   Let’s recap last years list (2019 link) and see how I did.

Add More Books to my Library:   I added some, but not as many as the year before.  Bookoutlet to the rescue again on Cyber Monday.   There’s nothing quite like receiving a big box of books in the mail.  

Books from Book Outlet

An Unwanted Guest calls for Grace not Perfection….

 I didn’t buy a new bookcase, just removed the glass doors from the old one which made a big difference.   (B as in Bargains, for the big Rotary Book sale is coming up in January).  

Start Writing Murder Mystery:    Well I started – but I didn’t continue.   I wrote a rough outline during two snowstorms last winter, but it was soon abandoned because my plot was too cliché and I didn’t like my protagonists enough to want to spent a lot of time with them.  Maybe a short story?  Maybe a Christmas short story?  Thus giving me 11 months to procrastinate….   (A because I started).       

Renovate Kitchen:   done and dusted, but more work than I expected.  See Once Upon a Kitchen Reno link.   (A plus because it went smoothly and I was happy with the end result).

Kitchen Reno

The After Picture

Spend Money on Experiences versus Stuff:    Tickets for everything seem to have escalated in price, so I decided to reassign the money saved from not having to pay my annual license fees to this cause.   While I did do a few more things that I wouldn’t have ordinarily (Harvestfest Supper), summer theatre, the majority of the money set aside for such fun endeavors went to the electrician, who I’m sure had fun buying a new guitar for his rock band.    PS.  I was good at staying out of the dollar store however, except for a few new things for my kitchen cupboard.      (C for effort, but needs more work/fun).

Kitchen Reno

Dollarama treasure

Walk Every Day for Thirty Minutes:   Who am I kidding?  I failed dismally at this.  It was either too hot, too cold, or too rainy.   The worst wackiest weather year ever.   This will be put back on this years list, as Santa brought me a warmer down-filled parka.    (D minus).   (edited to add: maybe I can return it -the weather has been downright balmy lately).

Host Virtual Literary Salon:   This was fun and gave me a good excuse to write about  books I have read recently and some older ones which made an impression on me.  (see The Literary Salon under Books on my homepage for a list of the books I reviewed.)   (A)   

2000 Goals:

Eat More Low-Fat:   get some new cookbooks and experiment with low-fat recipes – motivated by the gallbladder issues of a family member and the massive heart attack of a colleague younger than me.   Making a few changes in my diet (eliminating salty snack foods and cutting down on desserts) has already made a big difference, especially in my energy level.  

Exercise:   maybe try something indoors like water aerobics, but then I’d have to go from the warm water into the cold air?    I really need to think about this some more…

Home Renovations:    redo bathroom floor (I already have the ceramic tiles, an end of the roll lot, just need to find an installer) and new window treatments (shutters or blinds?) for the two big front windows currently adorned with heavy gold drapes and pull strings.   For anyone who remembers my harvest gold dishwasher, these drapes are equally ancient.  They provide privacy and are in good shape but are ugly as hell, so neither Maria VonTrapp nor Scarlett O’Hara will be recycling these relics.  

Buy a new camera:    I’m still taking pictures with my 2005 digital camera – yes, it’s a teenager at fifteen years and like most teenagers the zoom lens is temperamental.   I’ve done a fair bit of camera research, and initially wanted one which had both the LCD screen and the old-fashioned viewer lens for framing on sunny days, but it’s impossible to find one that’s not too big or too complicated, so I will probably settle for a good old Cannon point and shoot as I’m lazy when it comes to learning new technology.   There’s always the cell phone camera….

Hold A Giant Garage Sale:   (early June)  once I get all that leftover kitchen stuff sorted out from the dungeon where I dumped it last summer.  

Clean out Clothes Closets:    add to garage sale.   I don’t know if people have any luck selling clothes at garage sales, but when I took a pile of perfectly cute though itchy wool sweaters to the vintage store, the owner said they would sell better at a garage sale than anything he could offer me ($6 for three sweaters), so back home they went.  

Sign up for Netflix:    Maybe……I watch very little TV now, and am afraid I’ll be sucked into the vortex of wasting hours watching mindless shows I would otherwise never have heard of.   Maybe Brit box instead?  Any advice?

Write Shorter Blogs:    “Yea, good luck with that.”     (What’d mean, it was only 800 words?) 

Happy New Years!

bells