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:

 

 

  

 

 

 

The Skating Rink

             One of the best things to enjoy about winter is skating.   In fact, years ago you wouldn’t have been considered Canadian if you didn’t like skating, my generation having been raised on hockey and a daily dose of outdoor exercise.   If you were a true Canadian, you never missed watching Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights.   I admit I haven’t skated in years and thought to take it up again in retirement, but my last Bone Density test was not good, so I fear my skating days are over.   Watching the neighbors kids  through my kitchen window is the closest I have come to the sport lately, and although I might have been moaning about having to do the dishes by hand at least I had a pleasant scene to gaze upon, especially after school when the spotlights were glowing, and the flurries flying.    Still, I was wondering, what if I built my own skating rink?   I have such a big square rectangle of a back yard, that it seems a shame to waste it.    

Skating rink

       Now that the neighbors have moved, I seldom see any children playing outside in the winter or in the summer either.   When I first moved to this subdivision there were always games of street hockey after school, now everyone is inside on their video games.   I grew up skating on the farm.    There was a low spot behind the barn which made for an excellent skating rink when it was flooded.   Here is a picture my mother painted of it, complete with the family dogs.   My brothers and cousins would sometimes go to the pond at the back of the farm to play hockey, but it was a long way to walk, there and back, in the cold.  Hockey on the Pond - AMc

Although skating was one of my favorite winter activities, I was not thrilled about having to wear black skates.   They were hand-me-downs from my brother, but my mother probably figured it didn’t matter as who would see us, way out in the country,skating (me)

But even at age six I knew that black skates were for boys – girls wore white skates, for figure skating.    By the time the arena was built in town and free skating hours were held on Sundays, I had a pair of white skates as I simply refused to go otherwise.    The best thing about skating in the arena was the music blaring from the loudspeakers, but it was the sixties and we had the Beatles and other groovy tunes.    While cleaning out the basement a few years ago I found the diary I got for Christmas the year I was eleven.   We had a skating rink at school that January, courtesy of some long forgotten but dedicated teacher, and practically every day the entry is the same – “went skating at lunch hour”.   Re-reading the diary, I seem to have been obsessed with skating, but maybe I had nothing else to write about – our lives were simpler and more uneventful back then.   By the time the February thaw came I had given up on both the skating and the writing and the rest of the diary is just a series of blank pages.

The winters were colder too and longer, at least it seems so in retrospect.   I remember my cousin and I once skating over the fields when we were teenagers – there was such a hard crust of freezing rain and ice on top of the snow that the whole farm was our skating rink that weekend.      

My dad remembers a few years where the winter was so cold and the ice build up so thick that it was possible to skate on the river.   That would be  dangerous now, and probably was then too.   My mother lost a childhood friend, a teenage boy who fell through the ice.   She was to go with him and another friend that day, but she didn’t have any skates.   My dad saved up $5 in the Depression to buy his first pair of skates.      

Skating must be in my genes, as my maternal grandmother hailed from Holland, where she remembered skating on the canals in the winter.    Dutch Inheritance - AMcWhile every small town in Canada has an indoor skating arena, there are very seldom any outdoor rinks anymore, and by outdoor rinks I mean big community rinks, not just a small square of ice in someone’s backyard.    Occasionally someone’s attempt to build a backyard rink gets shut down because of zoning bylaws or neighbors complaining about the noise, but kudos to the brave dads who attempt it, as they are the ones standing out at midnight in the freezing cold flooding the thing every night.   

Being outside in the fresh air was always part of the fun, layering up with double socks and mittens and thick scarfs around our necks and faces…..and then coming in hours later with red cheeks and frozen fingers to warm up over hot chocolate.    Some winters are just not suitable, it’s too mild or rainy, or just not cold enough – you must have a consistent spell of below freezing weather….the old six weeks of winter thing.   We did not even get our first major snowstorm this year until January 19, so this has not been the best year for making ice, but we are now in for a prolonged spell of below freezing windchill weather, so why don’t we have more outdoor rinks?   I see parcels of empty land here and there around town and think now that would make an ideal skating rink.   It seems to me that it wouldn’t be that expensive to build a temporary ice rink, and think of the fun the kids could have.   We have splashpads now that cost $150,000 instead of swimming pools.   You can skate in an arena where ice time is rare and always scheduled, but there’s nowhere to play a pick-up game of shimmy.    Many larger cities have skating centres, like Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto.   You can skate on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, but the weather is much colder in our nation’s capital.   If I’m ever in New York in the wintertime I would risk falling and breaking a hip just to be able to skate at the Rockefeller Centre – but first I would make sure I have travel insurance!       

skating rink

Having a backyard rink would be fun for the adults too.    I’ve often thought a skating party would be nice idea for a New Years Eve party, for all ages – the music – the outdoor lights – a bonfire – hot drinks – good food.    Chili and potato soup, or lobster Newburg and champagne if you want something fancier.    I used to talk sports with one of my work colleagues, who was a real hockey fiend.    Every year I would joke, “Bob, do you think this is the year I will have a skating rink?“ and he would reply, “If you build it, we will come.”     

I still have my skates – they are in the basement somewhere.   Am I brave enough to take a spin?  I wish I had a rink outside my back door….  

Song of the Day:   Joni Mitchell – I Wish I Had a River

Beverage of the Day:  Hot Chocolate made with imported Valrhona French cocoa….at $20 a box it’s expensive but worth it and not at all bitter as dark chocolate can sometimes be. 

hot chocolate

Gourmet Hot Chocolate

Snow Day

          There’s nothing nicer than a snowstorm in January, especially when the early morning news is telling everyone to stay home and take a snow day, and the local radio station is listing the bus cancellations, and school and business closings.   There’s no second guessing, should I go out or not, when they start telling everyone to stay off the roads.   When I was working, I dreaded winter as I had a long commute – it might be bright and sunny when I left home but by the time I got to work in the snowbelt region it would be a raging blizzard.    If you didn’t go in, you were home safe but sorry as you would inevitably feel guilty about leaving your colleagues with a skeleton staff and/or a 24 hour shift.   When I worked in a small rural hospital if it was an exceptionally bad storm, the staff who lived in town would be collected by snowmobile – no need to stay home, we will come and get you!    Many a snowy night I drove home in whiteouts over unplowed country roads where I was the only fool on the road.   A friend of mine once ran into a pack of wild dogs/coyotes on her drive home – they must have been disoriented in the blizzard to have come so far out of the bush and refused to get off the road.  After I changed jobs, it was even worse, as there was no backup staff or plan.   I only remember my workplace being closed once due to snow and only then because my boss had wisely but reluctantly made the decision…..but that was the year we had a snowmageddon and the national guard was called in to deal with all the stranded cars on the highway, many of whom had been there for over 24 hours.   I did not even get a snow day as I was called in to cover a shift near where I lived for someone who couldn’t get in.   It always amazed me how busy we would be on those days, and how many people would be out and about during snowstorms, even when they were telling people to stay home.   Of course, there would be the expected increase in emergencies – car accidents, heart attacks, pneumonia and such, but then there would be the others.    I reached the conclusion that there are people who just do not like being stuck at home during a snowstorm, they must be out and about…to the grocery store for milk, the library to return books….any excuse will do.    Personally, now that I am retired, I am grateful for the opportunity to stay home when the weather out there is frightful. 

snow

Who doesn’t recall the excitement of an unexpected day off school when you were a child.   I think we remember them because they were so few and far between.    Last year there were about ten days when the buses didn’t run here and another five or so when the school was closed altogether.   Snow, fog, freezing rain, some of which never even materialized but the school board must make the decision at 5:30 in the morning and there are liability issues.   I remember one year our rural bus was cancelled for several days.  We made snow angels, built snow forts and snowmen, played fox and the goose in the pristine whiteness and had hot chocolate (the real stuff with cocoa and milk) when we came in from playing, and usually grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch.       

My dad would plow out the lane-way with the front-end loader on the tractor but basically we were snowed in until the county roads were cleared, which was never a priority for the township.   My ancestors went to church in this old cutter when the roads were impassable.   

sleigh ride 3 (2) I guess you could say the one horse open sleigh was their backup plan!   (This picture is from the 1940’s when my dad still had the big Clydesdale horses).     

Wreath with snow

The month of January can be quite pleasant, once all the stress and merry-making of Christmas is over.   The days are quiet – it’s a good time for personal reflection, journal writing, and soup on the stove.    You don’t have to socialize if you don’t feel like it, you can read and watch movies and putter around the house with no agenda in mind.    You can bake and eat with no thought of exercising off those calories.   It’s much too cold and icy to go out, although you might be brave enough to shovel the driveway if no one volunteers to do it for you.  It’s a time of year to be savored.    All is white without, all is warm within.   You can go to bed at night and listen to the wind howl and be grateful for hearth and home. 

gingerbread house

While a snow storm can be a blessing in disguise, a forced stop to our constant whirlwind of activity, if the storm goes on too long cabin fever can set in.    I tend to feel a bit claustrophobic if the driveway and street aren’t plowed out after 24 hours.   I want to stay home but I like the idea that I can get out if I need to.    Of course, if the hydro or heat goes out or the pipes freeze that is a whole other story…..not fun at all.   And if the winter drags on too long into March that can be depressing indeed.  

So, what are the ingredients for a perfect snow day – comfortable clothes, but you don’t have to get dressed at all if you don’t want to, stay in your PJ’s.   A nice pair of thick socks is a requirement and you must have a stack of books or magazines.   I always have some books on reserve for just such days.

Snow pictures - AMc

A cozy chair in front of the fireplace or in front of a window where you can watch the snow softly falling is ideal.   Add some soft pillows and a comfy throw, plaid is perfect. 

A cup of spiced tea is lovely to sip while you read…and if you get sleepy while reading, simply move over to the couch for a long winter’s nap.   But first throw something in the crock-pot so you can awaken to the delightful aroma of homemade stew.    If you feel like baking, chocolate chip cookies or brownies are always a good choice and much appreciated by the neighborhood snow shovelers.    I always enjoy watching the kids on the neighbor’s skating rink from my kitchen window while I do the dishes, twirling around in their colorful Nordic coats and scarfs like a real-life Gap ad.    Somehow the weather is seldom too bad for a game of ice hockey.  Sometimes there is even night skating under the spotlights, the flurries falling, the slam of the puck against the boards, he shoots, he scores.  After supper, it’s movie time – and popcorn and hot chocolate.  Later you can watch the storm highlights on the evening news and be glad you are not out in it – and so, to bed.   Tomorrow all will be sunny and bright like a winter wonderland…..and regular life will resume, refreshed by this quiet moment of winterlude.  

Quote of the Day:                           

Brew me a cup for a winter’s night.
For the wind howls loud and the furies fight;
Spice it with love and stir it with care,
And I’ll toast our bright eyes,
my sweetheart fair.     (Minna Antrim)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Song of the Day:  Snow – from White Christmas – Bing Crosby & Co.                                                                                                                                                                   

 

2019 Bucket List

 

Red Bucket        It is a universal truth that New Years resolutions tend to get broken, sooner or later, so most years I don’t even bother making them, thus saving myself some grief.   How much more pleasant to make a Bucket list of things you want to do, versus things you think you should do.    It’s all in the attitude….plus Oprah says if you write it down, it will happen….that fairy godmother vision board thing.

Add to My Library

     This was my sole New Years resolution last year, and I kept it…but as I love to read, it was no great hardship.     I had de-cluttered my house the year before and given away a lot of books I was no longer interested in, only keeping what I truly loved and found inspiring.    After discovering the bookoutlet website last spring I ordered from them four times over the course of the year, including 15 books at their Boxing Day sale, 13 of which I gave away as Christmas gifts.     Their sales are 30% off already bargain prices.    About half of these were books I had already read but wanted copies of because I wanted to re-read them someday, the other half were new.     Nothing makes me happier than a big box of books arriving in the mail.     And of course, the big Rotary book sale with 30,000 volumes is coming up next week so I can add to my stash.    Now I am in need of a new bookcase ….

book outlet

Start Writing Murder Mystery

This is a tough one, because Santa did not bring me a plot for Christmas as I requested….or even anything remotely resembling a plot outline, only a very vague idea and two rather sketchy characters, but I hope to have a first draft done by next December.    I know that is overly ambitious, but I am looking forward to it and hope it will be fun.   If it isn’t I’ll quit.  Maybe I won’t be able to write fiction, but I won’t know if I don’t try.    Of course, I will probably have to neglect my blog, but I don’t have many followers anyway and I had already said in my one-year blogging anniversary post that I was going to cut down to two posts per month and/or try to do shorter posts.    If I’m still blogging regularly, you will know it’s not going well.   On second thought, maybe it would be easier to start with something smaller….a short story….or maybe a Haiku poem?  

Agatha Christie books

Spend Money on Fun Stuff vs Things

I haven’t worked for two years and have no plans to go back to work, but I have continued to pay my insurance and license fees in case I decide I want to go back to work.   Does that make sense – no!   So last November in a fit of courage, I faxed in my resignation letter to the college, thus saving myself $2000 annually, which I decided I would spend on fun things I might not otherwise do or buy, like the Christmas musical theater tickets I passed up because they were too expensive.  It will be my fun bucket fund – kind of like an incentive/reward plan to make a big decision a bit more palpable.  After all it was my livelihood for 40 years, so it was not an easy decision to make.    Although every time I talk to my former work colleagues it gets easier.   I don’t want to spend the money on one big thing or trip which is over in a week, so I intend to sprinkle the year with smaller delights – mostly  experiences, not things….unless they are books of course.    I shall become a millennial….in spirit only (no plastic surgery planned).    

Walk Every Day for Thirty Minutes

Inspired by Linda, my blogging sister at Walking Writing Wit and Whimsy, I started walking again a few weeks before Christmas, after an incredibly long break.   Our winter hasn’t been too bad, so I’ve only missed a few days so far.   I have noticed I have more energy and sleep better.    Of course, Linda has a lovely park with fat friendly squirrels, Harry the Blue Heron, seven swans a swimming, ducks unlimited and cardinals and birds to look at while she is walking……and I just have my neighborhood.   Currently I have a lovely curbside view of discarded Christmas trees.    But as I walk with my IPod, it will give me thirty minutes of music as well, (I miss listening to music during my daily commute).   I don’t have any specific mileage goal in mind, just to walk when able, aiming for maybe 5 days a week…when it’s not too cold or too hot or raining.    Linda’s nature pictures are so lovely that I am reminded I need to buy a new camera too, as my current zoom lens is broken.       

Renovate Kitchen

This has been on my list for awhile.   I even emptied out the bottom cupboards a few years ago down to only the bare essentials, (which was still a lot of stuff), in preparation.    I know what I want in my head but hate the thought of tackling another project.    I have PTSD from some of the past renos…but it must be done…certainly it will be worth it…….if only to get the dishwasher fixed.    I went to Lowe’s in October and looked at cupboards, just plain beige cupboards with glass windows, and maybe a bead-board pattern for the bottom, which would suit my older style home, and there were rows and rows of them…..so much choice.   The guy told me to come back when I had some measurements…time to get the tape measure out.    I hope it turns out the way I envisioned it (I’m counting on you, vision board).  

Kitchen

I also need to stop wasting money on kitchen stuff.   I went into the dollar store last week for Yardley’s English Lavender Soap ($1.25/bar) and came out with a set of red Rachel Ray plates.     At $3 a plate who could resist and they would be useful for a Christmas buffet….once that dishwasher is fixed.    I do not need any more plates.  I have 4 sets of blue dishes now.   I could open a B&B or a tea shop with the amount of china I own.   

Paris salon

Host a Virtual Literary Salon

I already started this last week, (see intro The Literary Salon link), and the first book up for discussion is An Unwanted Guest (see blog link).   I read so many good books, it’s a shame not to share them.    

What’s on your Bucket List for this year?