Thursday, April 30, 2009

3 Photos, 2 Gorgeous Things

No. 857 on my list of fantastic things I get to look at practically daily, while walking to work:

As you know, I live (more or less) downtown and walk through industrial spots and urban neighbourhoods alike. It's not unusual to see beauty and squalor literally abutting one another. Those flowers, for example, were a small patch in a bed of weeds.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Baby, Myself: An Epic

You know, a couple of years ago, I was very strung out. I've always been an intense person, very energetic - almost compulsively so - and I've hovered at the margins of anxiety since early childhood. Some of you will know how exhausting it is to live so fast, always evading the voices that loom large.

Nine years ago, I had M - a person who's been running the show ever since. She arrived on the scene in a fashion that would render the most moderate of women total mush. First, there was the damage to my own body (enitrely drug free home birth, complications, paramedics in my living room as midwife literally scooped her hands into me and pulled my baby out). Thank God the baby scored high on the Apgar scale moments later...

My psyche, fractured by 9 months of constant nausea and vomiting - and a surge in anxiety and depression I couldn't even recognize (so far gone was I) - was not quick to rebound from a trip to Sick Kids two days later, motivated by midwives (health providers with whom I would gladly trust my life again) who observed that M's resting heart rate was exceedingly low for a newborn. That whirlwind trip to the hospital was the beginning of a days-long ordeal during which my baby was poked and drugged and prodded up the yin yang, during which doctors with years of experience advised she might die (though they couldn't say how exactly). I should mention that my aversion to hospitals and germs is such that I chose to have a home birth so my newborn would not be subjected to the very kinds of things she ended up experiencing so fulsomely two days thereafter.

There's some irony for you.

Bear with me as I mow through this "here's how I went kind of nutty" thread by saying that I am tremendously grateful to everyone who participated in the "adventure". The care - from midwives (who were astonishingly capable), doctors and nurses, and in particular from my dear friend Hilary, now a pediatrician with years of emergency room cred - was first rate.

Truly, I can never express my gratitude adequately to Hil - who jumped on a plane from BC - where she had only just arrived 24 hours before - to spend days in the hospital with us, advocating, working with the doctors as they did 3 lumbar punctures on M, keeping me sort of sane though I was practically catatonic. I remember asking her how she thought it was all going to go. (It's still hard to write this, to remember it, a question no parent should consider...) And she told me, which gave me more hope than few other things ever have, that she'd seen many sick babies in her time - held some before they died - and that in her official opinion, M was not a sick baby.

Turns out that M was not a sick baby - thanks to all the powers in the Universe - just a bit different, but it was almost impossible for me to accept that - hormonally unbalanced, physically traumatized by a birth that was so not textbook, hallucinogenically exhausted - worse still, innocence snatched. Never again would I see the world gently, through the prism of immortality. I'd observed the crush and chaos of bringing about life and being powerless for all of that. I was terrified.

Years went by. Early parenting with no family support structures and very busy, unsatisfying, precarious jobs, did not improve my marriage. I loathed parenting. I did not want to be alone with M. She was challenging. She didn't sleep. I couldn't really engage with her. I was compulsive about keeping her away from germs. I had to keep her safe. It was an endless, fruitless effort.

You'd think, having dodged a bullet, I'd have been on cloud nine to "mother", but the more I did it, the less I suited it. It made easy things hard and everything else that much harder. I was trapped by the burden of excessive responsibility. I was trapped by the omnipresent feeling that there was no good alternative. I was trapped by the gut instinct that I would have been better off to have foregone this reasonably common, if profound, life experience. I was angry for having brought it on myself. I was angered by my powerlessness - but I was locked in my brain with it.

Lots of things happened in those years, and I know many of them were very good, but I don't remember much. Eventually, after burning out my brain chemistry on hideous anxiety, sleeplessness, horrible amounts of junk food, caffeine, booze and other mood alterers, I woke up one day and recognized that I couldn't keep living my life that way because it sucked. I know, this whole post is rather drama-plus, but don't wander off now...

I blogged about this part of the story in lots of detail last summer, during Health and Lifestyle theme week. This is where I got really sick, and in my time of reflection (two weeks bedridden) decided that I had to do something transformational. I know, big ideas... But there's one thing you really should know about me: when I finally decide to do something, get the fuck out of my way.

Two and a half years ago, I made some pivotal changes in my attitude which led to huge improvements in the health of my mind and body. Of course, my baby is now 9 and increasingly independent in all ways. I love that. I love the balance in sleeping well (most of the time) and eating well and exercising (which I always did, admittedly) and being vaguely moderate despite my love of all things immoderate. The impact of these changes is a better relationship with practically everyone I know - specifically my daughter (whom I now allow to touch public door handles - joking, sort of).

I'm not going to lie to you. I'm not going to say I love full-on parenting because, really, I don't. I do love my child (irrationally) and I want the best for her. I look forward to seeing where this is all going (though I recognize we are energetically at odds, some of the time, that it may be an ongoing challenge for us). I still panic when she gets a cold, but I'm trying to have perspective.

Recently, it hit me - like a punch - that I have been irrevocably changed for the better, by motherhood. I spent a long time feeling like a movie stand-in, oddly disassociated from the role. (You know how so many mommy bloggers tell the tales of their immediate, visceral affinity for parenting? Well needless to say, I have only ever read those blogs to more effectively imagine what that's like.)

Saying this, I know now that I am not the person I would have been if I had not had a kid, that I am someone who has been markedly challenged - and truly improved - by the job. Not bad gain for the pain. If nothing else, I could run a small country on the efficiencies I've learned :-) Hmmm...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Real Deal

Apparently, by special time offer, at Holt's if you spend $1000.00 you get an Elie Tahari sweater (retail value $298). And if you spend $1500, you get a Tahari line necklace (retail value $450).

Too bad I just spent my whole $1500.00 bi-montly budget on clothes last weekend. Damn.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Crowd Mentality

A few things I've learned from my fashion experiences of late (don't you hate generalizers?):
  • Fashion people eat a little, drink a lot
  • They wear insane shoes - like, those shoes you think are only in magazines
  • They are often extremely young and sporting the blush of youth
  • Or they are rather of a certain age, and looking damn fine due to lifestyle and, ahem, treatments
  • The models are tremendously, otherworldy tall and strangely long-of-torso
J and I enjoyed a moment of commonality when we discovered that we both look amusedly at young 'uns, bitchily chalking up 90% of dewy glow to youth alone. And, likewise, when we see a sexy, yet elegant Lady over 50, we wonder - nay verily hope and pray - that maybe we'll age like that.

The Holt's / FASHION event was entirely, 100%, almost trashily promotional. Not that I'm complaining; the booze was plentiful (though you had to line up like cattle) and it was good. The catered goodies fell into the "savoury finger food" category and the "hipster candy" category.

Maybe it's just me - and I imagine, Marinka - but my hypochondria does not permit me to touch food en masse like this.

For its questionable cow tow to the tony class, Holt's is a beautiful store, worthy of rich people with money to burn and fashion risks to take. This gorgeous, well-displayed Robert Rodriguez skirt, I can't resist:

There was an interesting scheme to part us from our money. It involved Shu Uemura paste-on eyelashes and a truly remarkable eyelash curler. The next thing I knew, I was shooting video of J's makeover and J was having a makeover - which involved fake eyelashes that look awesome (and strangely real).

But that means she was gifted 3 secret pressies!!, one of which she kindly gave to me!!

Here's how that works: You look, you're loved up by great SA's, you buy, you don't look at the bill too closely except to hand it to the ladies at the Lollipop Wall:

You pick a number (on the lollipop) and then you're handed one of these, that shares the number:

Not bad, huh? I got a rather youthful See by Chloe bracelet. It is hot pink plastic hearts with a couple of charms. M's going to love it.

Finalement, here's a shot of the two of us goofing around:

What? There'd been a lot of booze at this point...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rich and Ritchier

On Tuesday evening, my friend Jeannette and I - and about 1000 other chic but shameless TO women - went to a FASHION magazine event at Holt Renfrew. Nicole Ritchie, as it happens, was debuting her House of Harlow line in Canada, hence the media melee in the Contemporary design section on the third floor.

Let me start by saying that I have less than no interest in Ms. Ritchie. Anyone who could stomach being Paris Hilton's sidekick (on TV, no less) is not someone who's earned my fan base. And her jewels, if you can call them that, are pure cheap. Honestly, I don't believe she expects to sell that stuff in this economy.

But she was quite lovely and tremendously composed (if the slightest bit grimy-seeming) holding court:

Note: Her officious security team was absurd about keeping people behind the ropes. One guy - you know the kind with the wire in his ear - was positively menacing as I ignored his rude edict to "step back, Ma'am. Step away from Nicole.") I mean, seriously, it was a room full of tipsy shoppers, sluggish on mini-burgers and candy. What exactly did he think I was gonna do with my camera phone? The woman was there on a photo op!

Nonetheless, a party with a zillion attractive, fantastically dressed, industry people and trophy wives make for an interesting crowd:

This woman was impeccable from head to toe

Here are the toes...

This woman wasn't thrilled by my asking to take her photo.
To the extent that you can see it, she's got awesome shoes, a great bag with a skull on it and, Enc, if you're reading, she's wearing a J-suit

The woman who owns this foot was sweet to tell me her shoe is Fendi.
Um, don't I read Imelda??

Furthermore, Jeannette and I were accosted by the really sexy photog (maybe that's a slight exaggeration):

Get it? I'm being photographed while photographing - oooh, postmodern

Sexy Photog was hilarious, Jeannette an adorable audience

Please stay tuned for tomorrow's post which highlights a) the free drinks b) the food c) the fashion and d) the giveaways.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Food Diary Diaries

A few days ago, I clicked up my online food diary to chronicle (and remind myself) about what I had eaten that day so far. (Note to reader: In case you don't know about my love of consciousness-inspiring list-making - esp. as goes food quality and consumption - read this.)

Imagine my shock and horror on discovering that the site, which had been free to me for 2.5 years, since I read about signing up for a gratis account while reading an issue of Marie-Claire in which it was discussed, had "undergone a renovation". Sidebar: Holy crap, that's a terrible sentence...

Seeing how tech support has yet to respond to me, I'm fairly confident that's code for: Our revenue model was tanking so we decided to cancel all the free accounts, change up the format and make anyone (who really cares) pay for our revamped service.

Now here's the thing. Had I been notified in advance that this reno was taking place - had I been given the opportunity to pay to retain my account - I would most certainly have done so. Sure, I would have done it grudgingly, but that site represented 2.5 years worth of info about my eating habits. For $50.00/year (or whatever it is), I'd shell out.

Instead, I had to scramble for an alternative; I hoped there was an alternative. Given the unreliability of my up-till-then diary, I now know I need something reliable. Imagine my glee when, 10 minutes later, I happened upon FitDay. It appears to have a free model and a "for pay" model, and I'm happy to look at some ads to use the service without charge. The infrastructure is miles better than the site that ditched my info with nary a warning; it's got so much more functionality! Now, I don't know what the old site has come up with since the revamp, but I don't really care. In case you're listening DietDetective: I've got a new friend now.

PS: This shakeup got me thinking about the food diary as a concept, and what it means to me, and why everyone should try it (IMO), so please stay tuned for a post on all that...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Is it So Much to Ask?

Lovely garden that has nothing to do with me - or with pergolas, by Paul Raeside from desiretoinspire

Just got the quote for my souped up pergola. I should disclose that I did rather fancy it up in the design I intend to have constructed the first weekend of May.

The challenge: Even if I rescale, the quote came in so horrendously high, I don't know that I can justify the cost. (Proviso: The carpenter is excellent and very reasonably priced - we've used his services before. This structure just contains a shit load of wood.)

As you may know, we did do the deck and centre landscaping last summer, and a fence the year before. This summer, the non-negotiable and planned improvements are the planting of a new tree (the weed tree there currently is damaged - and it's a weed), the laying of a patio (above which said pergola would reside) and the installation of climbing vines and fragrant flower bushes against one of the side walls (neighbour's garage wall).

So here's the question of the day (and please guess answer, even if you know nothing about hardscaping or garden design; even if you're 20 and living in a dorm): How much would you pay to have a pergola installed? What's the job worth (oh, I know this is impossible to answer objectively, but what's it worth to you?) Do you think I should just live with the rest of the improvements and forgo the "wooden room"?

Do you maybe, secretly hate pergolas - or at least the weird name?

I'm confused.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Toronto Fashion Week: Greta Constantine

Greta Constantine showed at The Courthouse for TFW.

I do quite like this in a "you could wear it - though just barely" sort of way:

Photos by James Kachan

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Soft Focus

Till a couple of years ago, I was one of those people who categorically hated having her picture taken. Seriously - maybe there are 10 photos of M and me in her first 4 years. Back then, I couldn't operate the camera (not that it was fancy), much less bear to pose for it. And you know how intensely stressed and hideous I was back then... Well, unless you know me in real life, you don't. Which is just the way I'd like to keep it.

Anyway, eventually I got a grip on the stress and changed the whole lifestyle and started a blog about my true love (fashion) and the next thing I know, there I am taking pictures. (If I'm going to brag about that new gorgeous thing I've bought, I'm sort of obligated, no?) And then Scottie got me a cell phone for my birthday - which truly, I could care less about but for the pedometer and the built-in camera - and suddenly I was waiting in restaurants, taking pictures. Walking down the street, taking pictures. Going into vintage shops, taking pictures. Doing crazy eye-makeup, taking pictures. You see what I mean...

Somewhere along the line, Scott - who, for his many flaws, has supported my habit completely - went out and spent a living fortune on this SLR camera so that he could take photos of me and my stuff for the blog. Natch, he gets the occasional opportunity to snap "artful" shots for personal use which, in his opinion, justifies the cost completely. :-)

The fascinating thing about good photographers is that they capture what they see. I love this one, taken of me by my husband, because it shows me who I am to him:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cat on a Not Tin Roof

This springtime riff on Dog and a Butterfly is affectionately known as Cat and a Squirrel...

Quick Mea Culpa

Hey Y'all: Just want to apologize for being slow on comment response lately. I promise, as always, I will reply to everyone - it's just taking me a bit longer than is strictly polite, because I'm supa busy and challenged with that work-life balance bullshit. Sometimes this career-gal, working mother, home owner/improver, blog having lifestyle is nuts. I really don't know how Gywnnie P does it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hit Me Where It Hurts

These people are really after me. I can tell I'm going to have to avoid certain key streetcorners with black awnings for the foreseeable future...

PS: Please, someone go buy some spring-gauge cashmere and write about it. OK?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bananas & Cream

So on Good Friday I woke up at 10:45 a.m. (!) to a riotously sunny day with the promise of garden clean up by the fabulous landscape designers - Gardens in the City. They happen to be managing the third phase of our (seemingly ongoing) backyard project, starting at the end of April. Please stay tuned for some fun and interesting updates about that.

At any rate, I was very thrilled by a) the free day and b) the kid-free morning (she'd been at a sleep-over) and c) freedom in general. Natch, I felt compelled to cook.

I'm one of those people who likes to think of herself as a "natural" in the kitchen. Give me a pot and some cream and a few eggs and some ripe fruit and I'll go all Nigella on you. Recipes are so overrated. Until they're vaguely necessary.

To wit:

Almost overripe bananas

Eggs, Vanilla, Cream and Milk (and a pinch of sugar)

Add some phyllo and bananas...

... and voila - Banana Cream Tart

It was most definitely tasty, happy to say, but the custard really didn't cohere the way I was expecting it to. Next time I use more egg and less liquid.

I knew that phyllo I've had sitting in my freezer for a year would come in handy...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Calling All Richies...

You may be intrigued to know that Holt Renfrew is having a 20% off sale on Theory "knit items" on April 17 and 18. In case you're in the market.

(BTW, Canadian friends, is this rather unheard of - Holt's advising about a sale ahead of time? Or haven't I been paying attention? Ah, the economy...)

Another Batch of Goodies

I've put up a couple of new items on Laws of General Economy...

Check out this unique - and fantastic - Susan Harris original:

Susan Harris Design Rough-Cut Linen Skirt

And, in case you're looking for a dress-up / dress-down top, this may be just the one for you (more to the point, it's free plus shipping!):

Nine West Shell

Both of these items fit beautifully, and generously, due to cut and other features you can learn more about at Laws..., if they appeal.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

To The Unfortunate Woman At Bungalow the Other Day...

When the (presumably commissioned) SA at the boutique says over-enthusiastically - but with pinch - "Ooooh, that top is sooooo cute!", the subtext is: on the absurdly svelte woman with the cut arms who bought it yesterday.

Nothing drives me crazy as sales people bullshitting clueless, awkward young girls.

It's so unnecessary.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Atomic Age

I had an inspired shopping experience last weekend (thank you Lawrence) at Atomic on Queen Street West. A curator's dream, this shop full of excellently preserved, cheerful, mid-century modern and pop art pieces was a delight!

In addition to a fantastic selection of housewares (mint-condition, 1960s Swedish plastic carafes, anyone?), there's a beautiful, edited assortment of modernist Norwegian sterling silver jewelry and a capsule vintage clothing collection, mainly from the late 60s and early 70s.

I bought a phenomenal ring that looks strangely like a crown to me (pics to follow).

I also got this top:

Not that I'm any expert, but I suspect this piece is from the 1970s, masquerading as a piece from the 1940s. The fabric and stitching seem more modern than the design. (And the cross-over design has such beautiful drape, it's a joy to wear.)

Whatcha think?

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Garden in the City: Phase 3

If you are one of the 23 people who was reading this blog last spring, you may remember this post. It was preceded by a couple of others heralding phase 2 of the garden project. Ah, those were heady times...

I was very pleased with the results of last summer's landscaping (there was some hardscaping too i.e. a new deck and a path) but this summer we tie it all together.

On the agenda:
  • New tree (honey locust) to replace the weed tree we have loved for its shade but loathed for its general weediness. More to the point, it has a brick growing into the trunk (long story) and it's ceased being safe as it continues to grow.
  • Patio in the back third of the garden - the gated fence allows a car in on the rare occasions when we need to park one there, otherwise it will act as a natural, flat surface for new furniture (yes, that's phase 4, next summer).
  • Modern pergola (sort of like the one pictured below) with built-in benches and sconce lighting. This is the $$ wildcard.

This is not my pergola - yet
  • Rose bushes and climbing hydrangea to round out beds beside the pergola
All of this is slated to occur between now and the end of May.

The part of me that doesn't want to spend money is at serious odds with the part of me that really wants an awesome backyard.

I'm going with the "raise the property value" argument on this one. Photos to follow as things change.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Little Break

I'm going to take a few days off - need a bit of time to deal with a busy time at work and, theoretically, to recharge. Job and life have been so busy lately it's challenging to actually find the time to write - much less think. (You know how I like to say this and then I blog on overdrive...)

(Just discovered that the kid has both Good Friday and Easter Monday off from school - and daycare is shut?! - on freakin' Easter Monday. It's not even a real holiday! I was so looking forward to a day to myself.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Making Space

I'm slowly but surely making my way through the overgrown garden that is my closet - closets, whatever - to restore order (or at least a couple of empty hangers).

Here are the latest offerings...

For La Belette Rouge, who suggested that I offer up accessories:

And, a fitted, cap-sleeve, adorable T dress:

More photos are on the site, so please check it out if either of these is of interest.

(PS All of this is making me want to do some shopping.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Look at this beautiful pillow, handmade by Nicole for M on her birthday:

Not only does it look terrific (complementary but not matchy) on the bed, but it is excellently constructed. And, unbelievably, this is N's first try at sewing!

Thank you N, for this lovely keepsake!

Friday, April 3, 2009

It's Like Going to France...

Or Quebec.

Y'all have access to Liberté "Méditerranée" brand of "High-Milkfat, Probiotic, Ultra-Rich Dessert" yogurt? I swear to God it is the most awesomely delicious stuff I've had since 1984 when I went to Germany (briefly) and, in some tiny village, got yogurt in mini, glass containers with foil tops. And it had cream on the top. Like this stuff does - albeit packed in plastic.

Apparently, by blending methods, the company has managed to eke out 8% milk fat. That's elegant, people. It sticks to the spoon.

I happen to like my yogurt super-high-fat but not sweet, so I mix a couple of tablespoons of the
Liberté Dulce de Leche flavour with some Astro plain (the full fat kind) and it is so delicious. FYI, the Liberté is not at all sweet by modern North American yogurt standards...

It's good for your tummy and it makes you feel all calm and happy.

And right now it's taking all my willpower not to eat the entire container!

Thursday, April 2, 2009


My baby - who turns 9 today?! - just asked me if I've ever heard of a bad kind of crime called "store-lifting".

That's pretty cute, if I do say so myself.

Happy birthday, M!

M at age 7

M at age 8 (she really liked that sweater!)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


As promised, please check out my recent posts on Laws of General Economy:

There's a terrific skirt (M0851):

And a chic day dress (Benetton):

These babies have had a good run in Toronto but they're looking for a new adventure.

Enjoy - and don't forget to leave your email address in the comments on the site if you'd like to bring either of these home.