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Archive for the ‘In the midst of life’ Category

One of several sculptures commemorating the 38,000 Irish famine victims who arrived on Toronto's shores in 1847

One of several sculptures at Ireland Park commemorating the 38,000 Irish famine victims who arrived on Toronto’s shores in 1847.

It felt like a day for wandering along the waterfront. I appreciated my encounters with art, nature, coffee and other things on this day after Halloween, this Day of the Dead.

Part of Meryl McMaster's In-Between Worlds series

Part of Meryl McMaster’s In-Between Worlds series

Squirrel

Squirrel

Cutie-pie dog

Cutie-pie dog

 

 

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On Sunday afternoon Todmorden Mills was the site of a precarious convergence of history, nature and thrifting.

The Northern Hemisphere’s cooler temperatures and vivid fall foliage induces people to get outside and, optionally, take photos. I really needed a nature fix. The Don Valley is the closest nature oasis to me. I had scored at the thrift shop on Saturday and also wanted an outfit of the day venue. My humble little Nikon Coolpix is such a sad camera but I put it to the task at Todmorden Mills.

Todmorden Mills currently functions as a museum, art centre and wildflower preserve. The site has experienced several adaptations. In 1795 two brothers were granted land to build the mill. A brewery was built in 1820. The mill was converted to a riding stable in the 1920s. It served as a German prisoner of war camp in the early 1940s. The site was modified and lost direct river access with the construction of the Don Valley Parkway. Jean Gertrude “True” Davidson, former mayor of East York, proposed it as a centennial project and it became a historical site in 1967.

I checked out the Watercolour Society’s art show in the Papermill Theatre and Gallery space. As often happens when I visit a smaller gallery I think back to how I assumed creating would be an essential part of my life and wonder why it isn’t. Flux. A poster reminded me that this space houses a community theatre group. Years ago I had been a member of a community theatre club in York Region and a few members were also involved with this club, The East Side Players.

I was meandering the grounds in several new to me pieces. I had purchased three items at the thrift store the day before. My eye was drawn to a rust and gray tones Sandwich print blouse. It’s somewhat too big but the fabric is lightweight and semi-sheer so I can deal with it. I also spotted a black and white houndstooth scarf. I was also quite pleased to take a black Tignanello clutch with removable strap home with me. In general, I find this brand to is quite good in terms of quality and design.

Also new are my black leggings. I picked these up a couple weeks ago at Winners (TJX Max). This is actually the first time I’ve worn leggings as pants. Yes, I’m late to the party. And, yes, I’m aware that there are very impassioned arguments for and against. I’ve worn them for yoga and fitness and with dress length tunics and skirts before but never with just a blouse. This is a long length blouse and I’m short so it’s more tunic length; nonetheless, I’d be comfortable wearing these leggings as pants with a shorter top. They also work with my old riding boots. Change is a constant; flux is the norm!

In hindsight, I should have removed my jacket while taking at least some of photos.

I’m linking up with Patti’s Visible Monday party over at Not Dead Yet Style.

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A striped tee. An extraordinarily versatile garment that goes with everything. A ubiquitous wardrobe basic.

The original marinière was worn by French sailors so they’d be easier to spot in the waves. It had 21 stripes – one for each of Napoleon’s victories. It inspired Coco Chanel and she introduced it to the fashion world in 1917. It’s gender neutral and has longevity!

Here are a few of the ways I wear my black and cream variation.

Do you wear stripes?

Postscript – I’m taking this post to the party at Not Dead Yet Style.

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Being This, 2012

Being This, 2012

I was at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) on Wednesday evening. Liz Magor’s exhibition, Surrender, engaged me and is still on my mind. Her works explore our dependence on domestic objects and fabrications to create a sense of self.

Being This, detail

Being This, detail

Everything I own fits into a van and I’m still downsizing. I’ve tossed most things and started over a few times and, as a result, I’m not particularly attached to objects nor do I accumulate much stuff. Yet, I’m not a strict minimalist either. Or perhaps I’m a minimalist in training, still refining and building.

I wanted my own greenhouse and studio and, by extension, house. Up until a few years ago I still assumed I would at least have my own home. As my expectations, aspirations and general worldview have shifted I’ve developed an interest in fashion and personal style. In this sense, Magor’s work resonates with me. A relationship with things – a personal style – is part of a sense of self.

2009?

Part of Liz Magor’s Surrender exhibit

On Sunday I briefly poked around the St Lawrence Antiques and Collectibles Market to see what others were looking for or had discarded in their creations of self.

004crHere’s a fun quiz from Sylvia over at 40plusStyle if you want to check your style. I get casual eclectic, which, while not always expressed, does correspond with my sense of self.

I’m linking up with Patti and the Visibles at Not Dead Yet Style’s Visible Monday.

I’m wearing a blue-gray shirt (J Crew, old, thrifted), black tank top (The Loft), gray slightly asymmetrical skirt (Fresh Produce, old), and black/cream pony hair slip-ons (Campers, old).

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On the Waterfront, 1st weekend of autumn

I had an interview earlier in the week. I actually didn’t make it to the interview. An hour and a half into the commute I called and cancelled. An hour and half and I still wasn’t there and this was in excellent weather with no transit mishaps. It was for a part-time research coordinator job at a college. I’ve applied for a number of jobs at the college and universities that are in walking distance of where I live but never anything. On my way back I got a call for another interview. It’s for a campaign manager at a small company about a 10-minute walk away. The interview’s on Monday.

Today’s photos are once again about just being out and about. I went for a walk along the waterfront and took in the Word On the Street Festival. I took advantage of the free admission at the Bata Shoe Museum as part of the Culture Days Festival. I made a return visit to the green roof podium at City Hall. I enjoyed the end of summer/early fall light while running errands.

Joining the Visible’s over at Patti’s Not Dead Yet Style link up.

Poetry Slam

Poetry Slam

Men in Heels exhibition

Men in Heels exhibition

Couple on the green podium

Alleyway with awesome light and a place to put my camera

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It’s been a beautiful late summer week with morning temperatures in the low 20s and afternoons around 30C. Septembers are often about new beginnings and I love this time of year. On Monday I headed out to take a few photos for another outfit of the day post while capturing images from my street before the seasonal changes are too apparent. I made my way over to the Distillery for a coffee as well.

I picked up a striped Henley tunic/dress earlier in the summer. It turned out to be too warm for most of the summer but is perfect for the late summer and presumably spring period. A pair of leggings and casual jacket could take it into October. I don’t wear jewelry very often but it’s something I’d like to start incorporating into my wardrobe more consciously. The necklace I’m wearing is a one-of-a-kind piece that I purchased at a gallery in Tobermory twenty-one years ago.

Sarah, a young colleague at the time, had recently split up with her long time boyfriend and wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. We headed up to Manitoulin Island for a long weekend after the September labour day weekend. We didn’t make it to Manitoulin Island, and I recall likening Highway 6 to the Twilight Zone, but we had an amazing time exploring Tobermory. The Georgian Bay landscape is stark and beautiful and quite a contrast to my current high density, yet well-designed, downtown neighbourhood. We spent time caving, horseback riding, checking out Flower Pot Island, viewing sunken ships from the glass bottom boat, scaling cliffs and visiting the local shops and restaurants. In the weeks following our getaway, I encountered others who had also set out for and failed to reach Manitoulin Island.  Soon after, Sarah  joined her sister in Japan to teach English.

Do you have something that brings back a fond memory? Linking up to Not Dead Yet Style’s Visible Monday.

Flowerpot Island, photo from Bluewater Tourism

Flowerpot Island, photo from Bluewater Tourism

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Yummy coconut milk soap

Yummy coconut milk soap

I didn’t make any new year resolutions. Did you?

There are things that I’d like to see happen and I’ve been mulling over ideas that have been on mind for a while. For instance, having work that pays enough to have my own place and a cash injection that allows for supplies, market fees and plenty of space for soapmaking. I’ve been reading blogs and watching videos and wishing I had enough money to really get my little micro enterprise off the ground and into gear.

One of the blogs I’ve been reading, New England Artisan Soaps, is by a woman who decided to make and sell soaps about the same time as I did. I emphasize the word decided because it took me nine months to gather basic materials. That time was spent on hands-off research. Having a real job and a spouse speeds up the process – she’s made far more soap than I have, gotten to experiment with more materials, and has equipment that I’d love to have – multiple real soap molds and a whole loaf cutter. I’m envious! I’ve been perusing other blogs and videos as well. I’m captivated and inspired by people with working production studios who are making a living at this.

I’ve made one and a half soap batches this first week of January. I need more supplies. I want to order them. I’ve been planning a spring and summer line. I’m looking for venues that could be both affordable and profitable. I’m not sure whether or not I still have an income. If I had extra money I could be spending this time making lots of soap. Instead, I’m starting another new year in the slow lane – not having the funds for supplies, equipment, market fees or space.

What’s a woman to do? I made coconut milk soap and banana milk soap. I got a haircut. I’d really like to make this a turnaround year. Wish me luck!

Banana milk facial soap

Banana milk facial soap

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DSCN2367crI know of two Boxing Day traditions – shopping and walking. I’m about to need a new ink cartridge for my printer and I’m about to need a new battery for my food (soap) scale but I opted for a walk. Yep, enjoying life’s simple pleasures.DSCN2368cr2 What did you do for Boxing Day?

 

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My mother, Leona

Mom & me, summer 2012

Today is Leona’s birthday. She has Alzheimer’s Disease and has been living in a long-term care facility for awhile. Happy birthday Mom.

Photo-0009cropMy mother’s thing was walking. She walked everywhere. That love of recreation and movement is something I inherited from her. The picture of her in the woods is from a hike in 2009. She had gotten to the point where she wasn’t comfortable being around a crowd but out here in the woods she was filled with joy. Skipping, kicking leaves and smiling. At least until her feet started hurting. Her running shoes, she always had numerous pairs of white sneakers, were fine on pavement but not on a trail. We didn’t really do much together but that hike is a nice memory of our last outing.

When I saw her last summer I was startled by how pale she looked. She recognized me as someone she knew but not who I was. I reminded her that I’m her daughter and she asked questions. We sat outside and watched a new patient running back and forth with his daughter. He had been a marathon runner and still seemed to be full of energy. Most residents are much older and much further along in their deterioration.

It was the first time I had seen her since my father passed away the previous fall. At that time, when I told her he had died she seemed to have a moment of clarity. She understood that he wouldn’t be visiting her anymore and I could see the sadness in her eyes but rather than convey her feelings she quickly reverted to her old usual persona of pleasantness commenting that he had had a good life. Towards the end of the visit I sensed that she had forgotten who I was.

Leona was born in New Brunswick. For a few years, in her youth, she had been a teacher. This was before you needed a degree to teach. She had kept a few momentos from that time and showed them to me when I was a child. I don’t know much about her youth – she had skied to school in the winter, ridden on motorcycles and was devastated when a boyfriend decided to become a priest and thought of becoming a nun. She moved to Ontario in her early twenties and shared a flat with her best friend. This is where she met my father. They were next door neighbours.

Al & Leona, September 1959

Al & Leona, 1959

She had always liked going to the beach, this was a fairly regular summer weekend event, and she was an Elvis Presley fan. She wore jeans in the 60’s, one of only two moms I knew that did, told me I could be anything I wanted to be but she basically had traditional sexist values. She worked until she was about sixty, in a factory, and once she retired, now living in a smaller community, she took up lawn bowling, became the club’s treasurer, joined a senior’s group, befriended an older woman in the neighbourhood, started watching soap operas, went on bus trips to the casino and, of course, still went on her daily walks. Mom, I hope you get a chance to go on a walk today.

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It’s now been four years since I returned from my travels, ready to start the next phase of creating a life that was more attuned to what I had envisioned. The idea was to get work and put some money together to start a business. I had many ideas that came out of interests, travels, moves, situation and opportunities that I saw. Most weren`t micro-level enough so I also thought about additional training – old thoughts about landscape architecture, thoughts that aligned with recurring interests in recreation and leisure, and newer thoughts like food or massage therapy. My job search has been ongoing, but, it has been a four-year waste of time. A year and a half ago I finally did get work – a two day a week retail job. That ended before Christmas, just after I had managed to get a seasonal job.

Last summer, I decided to start researching a couple of my business ideas so I`d have some pieces in place in the event I am ever able to act. While doing so I stumbled upon the idea of making natural soap and related products. Finally, a business that could start at a micro level, had potential for a sustainable livelihood and blended values and interests. I was excited! I would finally be able to “do/act”. I`ve learned a lot but most of my efforts have centred on research rather than development. It`s frustrating. My part-time work didn’t provide much in the way of a disposable income.  It took nine months to gather the very basic equipment and supplies I needed to start experimenting. It`s taking a long time to move forward and get a micro-level business off the ground.

I now have an employment insurance claim and I’m eligible for a self-employment benefit program. I went to chat with an employment counsellor about SEBP a while back and found out that you need $4442 in cash or kind to be eligible for this program. I signed up for the info session, which was held last week.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to develop a business plan and start a small or micro business. It provides workshops, access to advisors, networking and provides EI benefits for 42 weeks. I would like to participate in this program but I don’t have $4442. I’m not sure what annoys me more – the fact that at 52 years of age I don’t have this relatively insignificant asset base or that the Ontario government puts this financial barrier in place.

My other potential option is to go back to school for retraining via the Second Career initiative. I’ve been investigating this over the last month or so as well. The training has to be in a field in which there are full-time jobs, i.e., trades, social services, health, and not more than two years. I`ve looked at it from different angles – what`s available at less than a year, what`s something I can get work at regardless of where I live, what programs would I have taken a few years ago and are they still feasible, what will complement the business I`m trying to develop, what will offer skills or knowledge that I could turn into another business, what will put me back in the job market doing something that I like, what`s still open, what`s missing from the college programs, undergraduate degree and experiences I already have. I`ve explored a number of programs and am going to talk to someone at the college in a few days about the recreation and leisure studies program. I`m holding off hitting the Ontario colleges send transcripts and apply/pay processing fees button till then.

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