Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I <3 Montreal Theme Week: Le Germain

My phone camera kind of let me down here - which is too bad because the Germain has just updated its rooms - and they are really fine.

The website, while vaguely irritating, has some lovely, professional-style photos to review.

We stayed in a deluxe room with king sized bed - which managed to be large enough for the 3 of us with room to spare. Like 200 sq. ft. to spare. I wished I'd brought my yoga kit (though I improvised, you'll be happy to know). One must, after walking up mountains all day. (And eating all night.)

The service, location and atmosphere in this place means it's money well-spent. We used to stay here years ago (but the former room design, while nice, made everything feel very small). Our regular place was all booked up so we ended up back here and, gotta say, I think it will be my new regular place (as long as they continue to offer room rate specials / reasonable $ - the regular rates can be steep).

Here's a view of the bathroom (shower) visible from the bedroom - don't worry the blinds close:

M made me promise to post a pic of the mini-bar, which she loved, though did not sample from:

I needed to show the closet, because I really like closets:

The sitting area:

The king sized bed (M got her own cot):

Monday, September 28, 2009

She's Grrrrreat!

The title of this post could apply to either the writers of the awesome blog desiretoinspire, or to one of the great designers they have recently profiled: Diana Kellogg (get the pun?!).

My mother, who was an interior designer in the '80s, recently noted that my design posts always show photos with a common element: long windows, a certain quality of natural and artificial light and warm wood against starker textures. I think I should try to branch out but really, I can only be gripped by what grips me. Stay tuned, though. I'm working on it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Moxie Girl

I came home from errand-running to find M looking like this:

Apparently, she is having no difficulties finding her own brand of sartorial creativity. I don't mean to brag, but isn't this some serious style?? She chose every piece of this clothing in the store (except the crazy shirt that was a gift). Those ray ban rip-off sunnies are her latest conquest, from Chinatown. And she tied that scarf up by herself.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Inside Job

Y’all know I’m a fairly organized woman. I love categories, loathe clutter and I’m possessed to make things streamlined a) in a wasted effort to control the world and b) because I secretly want everything to be perfect and lovely like the inside of a design magazine.

You can see how this might backfire continually given that I live with other human beings who don’t necessarily believe it is a punishable offense to touch walls or pin up posters of Selena Gomez all over the freakin’ place. (I know, I know. The crosses I bear.)

This is a long, vaguely off-point preamble leading you to the substance of this post: my latest realization that, seriously, I must shop my closet – not because of the recession (which I am very concerned about, naturally, but entirely sick of discussing), but because it is neither disorganized nor lacking for fabulous pieces. And yet, somehow I manage to repurchase the same freakin’ sweater every year. Go figure.

We read a lot of posts advising us to organize ourselves for maximum efficiency. They are particularly prevalent at this time of year. I’ve been looking them over and appreciating their content and thinking good point and see how much better that is all fixed up. I’ve been rather occupied by work stresses lately and by the new school year (as a parent) and by the latest renovation thing I have going on in my house (a continuation of the plaster work that started this spring). Lord knows, I have neither time nor extra disposable funds to apply to new bits and baubles.

What is it with me and the neither/nor thing today?

Savvy bloggers advise that we should organize because, in the absence of clarity, we are likely to wear the same thing all the time. Also, there’s potentially tons of crap, going unused, taking up valuable real estate and masquerading as stuff you might one day wear again, . Here’s the thing, I love everything I buy (even if, a few years after purchase, my tastes change) and I’m not a crap-keeper. You look in my closets – ok I have encroached upon M’s but she will be the beneficiary someday! – and things are neatly folded according to colour and denier and time of year. How is it that I still manage to wear the same 6 pairs of jeans and 8 tops (with a few little jackets thrown in for good measure)?

I look at Sal and Wendy and Jennine (to name but a few) and I’m blown away by their creativity. Seriously, you seen a Sal photo post lately? That woman has shoes for everything. And she wears them!

It occurs to me that this is not rocket science. I have clothes. I bought them with the same sassy taste I apply to my day to day dressing. I routinely read lots of magazines and blogs. I have a good eye and I’m nervy. What’s the problem? Fatigue? Apathy? Laziness??

Here’s what I’ve decided (but don’t hold me to it – in addition to the qualities listed above, I’m wishy-washy):

  • Every week, I’m going to come up with one new way of styling the same old stuff .
  • I’m also going to wear one thing not currently in circulation, even if it means I have to move the stuff on the far side to the middle (and mess up my colour progression).
  • If I can’t find a use for that, ahem, crazy – if fantastic - item x I bought with the understanding I’d wear it semi-regularly, I’m going to put it up for sale on Laws of General Economy (though that is quite a time-suck, though a worthy one) or give it to a friend or put it on the front lawn for trawlers.

Who’s with me? Do you think your life might be enriched by a small, creative kick in the ass?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I <3 Montreal Theme Week: Simons Says

In addition to the jasmine perfume, I did a small amount of stealth shopping at the flagship Simons (Mansfield and Ste Catherine) - a mere hop, skip and jump from our lovely hotel.
Scott had to do a bit of work so M and I spent 20 minutes "browsing" and we managed to get a bit of stuff for each of us. This is particularly surprising, not because we had 20 minutes (plz!) but because Simons doesn't do kid's clothing. Nonetheless, my daughter managed to find a few things! As you know, M is quite a tall girl, so managed to just fit into the following:
  • White wool legwarmers. Yes, I tried to get her to go for the grey but no dice.
  • A stripey red and white cotton camisole (xs). We've been pinning the as-tight-as-can-be tightened straps till she gets a bit longer (or vaguely less modest). In truth, it's fine unpinned. She wears it over a t-shirt anyway!
  • Asymmetric slate grey wrap sweater (xs). This is designed to tie at the waist if you're a grown up, but on her it hangs like one of those drapey sweaters we all own and love. We roll the sleeves a little and, presto, she is very avant garde chic. Note: Simons is known for its knits - bien sur, given the northern clientele it designs for.

And for me:

  • A sleeveless knee-length cardigan-cum-dress/tunic thing, in dove grey. I've worn it once as a dress, belted, with boots. In the winter I see it with a variety of interesting shirts underneath or sweaters over top. Pls. stay tuned. I'm sure it will make its way into photos.
  • The same freakin' cardigan I seem to buy every year - in a similar colour, what's worse. This one distinguishes itself by being ultra soft but machine washable, slightly stretchier than my other (merino and cashmere versions), a bit more vibrant blue than the standard issue and a smidgey longer. And I was freezing, out for the day, and the thing (like many objets at Simons) was incredibly well-priced at $39.00. Look, I know, it doesn't make it ok. Why didn't I ask Scott to bring me my sweater from the hotel (where he still was)? Why didn't I walk up the block and get it? Why must I buy this sweater year after year?

No really. Why?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I <3 Montreal Theme Week: Pretty Purchase

While in Montreal, we did very little shopping, but a girl has to buy something at Holt Renfrew after lunching at the chic cafe.

I realize I'm a bit of a perfume addict lately. This is the last bottle I will permit myself to buy until I finish one of my other ones. (Fortunately, that won't take long!)

I'm not big on Estee Lauder - it just seems frumpy to me, brand rejeuvenation notwithstanding. But this bottle is a thing of beauty and the scent it contains is absolutely beautiful. It's very elegant lady meets urban lifestyle. And, oh, look: another floral scent with a chypre subnote.

Hmmm, I don't mean to be boring, but if the scent fits...

Brief Update on yesterday's post (sorry if y'all thought that thing was a vibrator when you opened the post at work): I haven't filled the portable atomizer with any particular perfume yet because they're all my babies and I can't commit to giving one special attention. Seems like a totally useful purchase so far...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thing I Love

I love scent, as you know, but I'm always sad when it fades midday and I have to live out the rest of the afternoon, like, fragrance-free. Note: I don't believe in slathering oneself with perfume - that's just inconsiderate. So, in order not to smell 6 times too strong for the first 3 hours of the day, I'm naked for the rest of it. It's so wrong.

I've thought of bringing a couple of bottles to work but my stuff isn't cheap (only have $ for one of each) and I like to spritz first thing. I also don't like mixing scents throughout the day. None of my faves come in sample sizes, at least none I've been able to find, so I've felt kind of between a rock and a hard place.

Only I could speak of this dilemma like it's some sort of crisis.

But the peeps at Lothantique are on my wavelength:

I swear, this is SFW - as opposed to NSFW!

They've come up with this great travel atomizer that even works on spray bottles that don't open - you know, the kind that formerly necessitated using a funnel on, in order to benefit from said gadget. And it's only $17.00. It comes in 3 colours - the chicest by far being the silver. It looks just like a slightly oversized bullet vibrator so you can even shock people when you use it. (No worries though, the pink and black ones are completely PG-looking.)

I just bought one, based on its apparent-practicality, and if it works as well as the floor sample at my fave store that sells everything, then I think a whole bunch of people know what's coming their way at Xmas. The ones who don't read this may be entirely shocked at first glance, however :-)

And yes, I did just use the X-word in a sentence.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mini Administrative Update

It appears, given the pace of my life these days, that I am only able to respond to your comments (which I LOVE) once a week. I do reply to every one - pls. just check back on Mondays if you're interested to see... Kxo

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sugar Coated

You may recall that I made my first batch of caramel, a few weeks ago, on a wing and a prayer and (nonetheless) it worked quite well. My next batch, crafted with a candy thermometer, didn't really set because - I thought - the thermometer was defective (which led me to remove the mixture from the heat prematurely).

Last week, I made the latest batch, pure candy perfection, with a new thermometer which - initially - seemed to be as defective as the last. Expensive and defective. As the batch simmered, so did I, till it occurred to me - in a moment of clarity - that my problem wasn't the thermometer, it was my perception of the way candy cooks.

The recipe I've been using, one which yields excellent results and for which I am very grateful, nonetheless suggests that the caramel should boil at 248 degrees for 15 minutes. What it really means to suggest is that caramel takes 15 minutes to get to 248 degrees - whereupon you better get it the fuck off the heat stat or you're going to have peanut brittle.

Maybe y'all know this, but just in case...

Here are a few shots of the tasty results of my fortuitous epiphany:

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Based on how entirely irritated I am by TIFF, Toronto's artistic "claim to fame", I can only guess that I'd want to hurt everyone all the time, were I to reside in NYC or LA. Seriously, if I see one more up-and-coming actor, pallid hipster, woman of a certain age with fanny pack or red carpet line up I'm going to throw something. And I've been avoiding Yorkville!

In university, I worked the main box office of the Festival (as it was then called) before it was computerized. Lord, that was one hostile environment. People who have queued for 5 hours - only to discover that they didn't get any of their top 10 choices - usually aren't so friendly. That used to happen constantly.

Having said all this, yesterday I had to go to Holt's to return a recently-purchased mascara that seemed off. While I was there, this envy-inducingly wealthy out-of-towner (you know the chichi travel shoppers by their exuberant brand of extravagance) spent $300.00 on Chanel products. That was in addition to the 6 other (big) HR shiny pink shopping bags on the floor beside her. I should mention that, unlike international women of means, I have no business in Holt's. The sales assistant sensed this, to my chagrin.

I found myself wishing to be a chichi rich American on holiday during TIFF on a shopping break between lunch and an afternoon show.

So I did what all good reachers do; I bought nail polish.

Really expensive nail polish.

Note that I do have nice nails, if I say so myself, though they never even see the likes of OPI because I'm usually too cheap to buy anything that doesn't come from the Revlon sale bin.

Mind you, I've been lusting after matte grey varnish since I saw it in a magazine last month. And Revlon doesn't make it!?

Just finished applying it / letting it dry and I have to say that it goes on so much better than the cheap crap. Is it possible, with nail polish, you get what you pay for?

I do love this new colour and I feel Parisian wearing it. Whatcha say - would you wear dark grey nails? Would you pay $24.00 CDN for the enjoyment?

Friday, September 18, 2009


As a brief respite from the Mtl. posts, here are a few photos Scott took recently:

M gives you some of her "no I won't comb my hair to look pretty in a picture" attitude - maybe that's why I feel so much like someone's boring mother here...

A chance for you to observe just how insanely blond my new hair is

A rather meh shot of me modeling the asymmetrical skirt purchased for $19.00 (down from $119.00) about which I posted a few weeks ago.

I'm frankly opposed to trashing myself in my posts - what on earth could be the point? And yet these shots really aren't cohering for me. I see how I should have worn a heel to lean me out a little (wouldn't have been comfy walking though, since I wore heels the day before). The tucked in shirt has a tendency to shorten my waist and highlight my ample chest - like, to the max - which is yet another reason that a little heel would have helped.

Having said that, not every outfit is the cat's ass. And I have been promising clothing photos...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I <3 Montreal Theme Week: Ain't No Mountain High Enough

It's was M's greatest ambition to touch the Montreal cross (visible day and night from the summit of the Mountain). Somehow, it never occurred to her that it might be a) huge and b) fenced off. But that didn't take the edge off her pleasure at seeing it:

M actually took this photo...

It was quite a production getting from Westmount (last post) to the cross. Down one mountain we'd already climbed (natch) and up another. Fortunately we had this crazy, kind of fancy meal in a cafeteria, to sustain us. There's nothing like bunny-sized dessert to keep you going.

After the cross, we witnessed this truly awesome view:

All I can say is a) it's stunning and b) it really looks just like that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I <3 Montreal: New Religion

Kids always want what they don't have, which is why I hankered after athiest parents and my kid wants to check out church on her vacation. Enter L'Oratoire St. Joseph.

Built on the crest of Mount Royal (this century!?), the basilica is one of the grandest I've ever been in. And I've seen every church going in Western Europe. Just read online that the dome is the 3rd largest in all the world.

Legendary healer priest, Father Andre, seems to have been the premier fundraiser of the 20th century. He started with a tiny chapel and, after restoring thousands of sick believers to health (in the name of God, of course), he had the means to build with opulence of the sort that I only associate with Catholicsm.

We had to line up for a view of Father Andre's preserved heart in a fancy jar, something that both horrified and thrilled M. We had to wait for her to look at it 4 times... She also lit a candle in the special candle hall in memory of our dog, who died when she was three.

After a while, we left the church for my kind of religious experience - a trip along the summit of the Mountain in what I consider to be the world's best neighbourhood - Westmount. Every Canadian playah has a home here. Some manses are ludicrously close to the road (like peer in the windows close. Don't judge, you'd do it too...). Others are decked out in so many security systems you'd think the President lived there. Actually, most ex-Prime Ministers do live there.

This hood comes with the kind of view I lust over. I am mystified by its complicated-meets-utterly-simple beauty. Really, more than any cathedral, it is proof of the existence of God. (Note - more shots of the view to follow in another post...)

The Church:

Lovely view of the parking lot (and us, and the seminary behind us).

The centre staircase is for worshippers, who pray on their knees at each step.

Someday, this kid's going to look back and wished she'd occasionally combed her hair. Good thing she's cute anyway.

Yes, it really looks like this - in every freakin' direction!

These peeps are going for the Casa Loma look.

Look, rich people - they have kids who play basketball in the driveway! They're just like us!

Monday, September 14, 2009

I <3 Montreal Theme Week: A Walk on The Plateau

Just north of downtown, and east of the Mountain is an area known as the Plateau. The eastern side of it is predominantly French, the western part (moving towards the Mountain) historically anglo or bilingual Jewish. It's a fabulous merging of lively, old-world cultures - and new urban sensibilities - which, for decades, has led to innovation in music, art, literature, fashion and food. Mordecai Richler was from this area, as is Michel Tremblay. Both novelists, one anglo and Jewish, the other French and Catholic, have written uniquely and from their own cultural perspectives about, effectively, the same square mile. I can't say how much I love that.

When you walk along St. Laurent, a main thoroughfare actually known as "The Main", English and French cohere seamlessly. People move from language to language, from deli (some of the best in the world - some say better than in New York, gasp!) to bistro, from the underground to the mainstream. It's got a kind of energy I've rarely experienced anywhere else. And when you add in Quebec's distinct brand of ice-cold-freezing-scary winter, it gets somehow even more lively. It's like Montrealers, born or bred, are wired to enjoy every layer of human existence. When you visit Montreal, you fall into the mix.

We went to L'Express for dinner on a Saturday evening. It's institutional bistro (for want of a better way of putting it), always packed. There's no sign out front (though I seem to remember there is an inlay in the cement saying "L'Express"). I guess you either know it's there or you don't.

Before we ate, we took a little walk...

Everywhere you go, you will see people eating on tiny balconies. They take the weather while it's good here.

Being a row-house resident, I am always partial to a street like this...

Et voila, L'Express!

Cool lamp I liked at a design shop up the block.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I <3 Montreal Theme Week: Atwater Market Afternoon

Atwater Market is located beside the Lachine Canal in Southwest Montreal. For years I've been hearing about it yet I've never managed to get my ass over there. My loss!

We walked there from our hotel on Mansfield. It took about 45 minutes and the day was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. Late summer in the northeast produces a incomparable quality of daytime light, in my opinion. Maybe it's the angle of the sun? I don't know that the photos capture it but they will have to tell the tale.

The walk down Atwater towards the market:

You can see the market building from the train when you're coming into Mtl:

You can also see the Canal...

This shot looks from the Canal back towards the market and Atwater - you can't really see it but the Mountain is ahead.

Now for the food!

We ate liberally from numerous stalls scarfing food as quickly it was handed to us. While I didn't get any good shots of the flower stands, they were incredibly numerous for a northern market and the product was unbelievably fresh and beautiful. What struck me most, other than the tremendous quality of everything, was the abundance of flowers.