Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas "Time"

Three or four years ago - I think...


Albert Einstein famously said "The only reason for time is so everything doesn't happen at once."

And yet at Christmas time, more than any other time of the year, it feels as if everything is happening at once.

That garland on the tree? I bought it in Maine, across the river from where I grew up and suddenly I am in grade three again, and we are colouring a Christmas scene across an entire chalkboard in dusty shades of red and blue and green and yellow and I cannot believe how beautiful it is and how wonderful my grade three teacher, Miss Read, is to let us have a picture we've done stay on the chalkboard for three whole weeks instead of wretched math problems.

Then I'm six and fighting with my grandmother, who is staying for us for Christmas for the first time because my grandfather is dead, and she thinks the tinsel garland ought to be hung vertically, when everyone (at least my father and I) know that it must be hung horizontally. We are both in tears by the end, for different reasons, and she is the bigger person and acquiesces, though it feels a hollow victory to me and I try to be extra nice.

A glass of sherry and her dog Happy...
 


That stocking hanging on the mantle in the basement this morning?

same crazy hair!
 

It's in my hands when I am one year's old and there is still the old stain of an orange I left in the toe for too long, concentrated as I was on my chocolate orange.

The Christmas of the Barbie Camper mixes with the Christmas of the air hockey game. There are all the boxing days in Hampton, and some in St. Stephen, and the year my older cousins got a pool table which I thought made them the luckiest people in the world.  I discover The Chieftains and Elvis Costello singing "The St. Stephen's Day Murders" and always think of my cousins.




There are the years my mother cooked, then me, and soon enough I suppose, someone else. I am forever thirteen in my mind, hugging a giant stuffed Pluto with delight, then I am a mother and watching my children vibrate as they waited to go down and open presents, just like Margaret and Patrick and I did.



There's my dad's best friend Johnny Walker getting a race track for Christmas when he was in his fifties (I was so impressed!) and us playing it again and again all Christmas Day night while the grownups drank rum.

There are Christmas Eve services and the love I feel for those people in the small church, who only weeks before had watched me be an angel in a pageant or mangle my verse from "A Visit from St. Nicholas" - why'd I have to get the "As dry leaves that before a wild hurricane fly" verse anyway?

There is the Queen, Christmas Candy, dirty dishes, the goose. My mother is thirty, then fifty, then gone. We are sledding, it's a green Christmas, it's a blizzard.

I'm lying under the tree, bereft that it's over. I'm opening paper advent calendar doors, lighting advent candles, almost sick with anticipation. Barbie and I are singing Holly Jolly Christmas on the radio, Joanne and I are sliding on New Year's Day. I am caroling after a gift exchange at Anne's.

I am a mother and there are videos and handmade ornaments and "Baby's First Christmas Ornaments".





There is the great Battling Tops tournament in St. Martin's at my Great Aunt's. My grandfather in Port Elgin has a table top tree and I am secretly horrified. There are books and sweaters and fudge and Smarties towers that become banks after Christmas. Someone has made us mittens. Someone gave me scratchy pajamas. Mostly, I want toys and later, a boyfriend.

My mother is dead and my dad spends Christmases with us and one morning he sleeps so soundly that my five year old son thinks he's passed away in the night. Later, there is a Christmas morning in the O.R. while the kids wait at home to open presents. Then I am in Saint John at a hospital with my grandmother on Christmas Day and she holds my hand and can't speak much and I am scared because she is supposed to speak A LOT.

It's all there and more. We exist together, these memories and I, and they can overwhelm me and make me sad and they can make me smile with delight.

2015


That time is a construct is a thing of wonder to me, and yet I feel it in my bones. Every cell in the body of that small girl cuddling the stuffed animal above has changed since that Christmas morning many years ago and yet I have all of her feelings and I can slip back into that morning as easily as I slip into my evening's bath. She has never left me. I am not visiting the past I feel, but opening another door in my mind. We are all there together, in the present.

As a great philosopher named Dr. Seuss once said:  Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.

Some of those hands are here in 2015, some exist within us. Both are real.

I wish you the loveliest of Christmas and holiday "times" this year and wish nothing less for you than a blessed and healthy 2016 for you and your loved ones.

xoxo wendy



 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Mix and Mingle and Sparkle and Ruminations on Style (or my lack of interest thereof)


Some wonderful posts by Kim at Northern California Style and Jennifer at A Well Styled Life made me think about this post.

I haven't bought much this year, clothing-wise, but I always do like my shoes. And while an expensive shoe is no doubt a thing of beauty and longevity, sometimes you need something else. Sometimes you can only afford something else.

My dress this holiday season was black.

Boring huh?

But I added some accessories, and most of the sparkle came from my shoes.

It seems that over the last few years, I have allowed my inner disco ball to have its day. This morning I lined them all up and kind of went "huh, that's a lot of sparkly shoes."

The red ones were $30 at Payless and make me feel like Dorothy!


Perhaps I do not need any more sparkly shoes.

On the other hand, a pair of sparkly shoes in the dead of winter is a fine thing: a conversation starter, something to look at under the dinner party table, something that makes you stand out, for good or bad. When my toes twinkle, I twinkle.

At one point, I considered ridding myself of some of these things, and yet I loved them, in spite of it all. In my book, loving something is a sign that one should keep the thing even if they aren't perfect or tasteful. I can think of dozens of things I would part with before I could completely eliminate sparkle in my life. And while darling Jennifer helped me realize how best to present myself to the world now that I am in my fifties, a sparkly party shoe will always be in my closet. It seems my shoes are the Iris Apfels of my closet.

I have learned many lessons this past year: that like is best with like, that creativity and bravery are valued by me more than anything and that I don't have enough to say about clothes, especially when compared with those who genuinely have a flair or budget for it. I like clothes, I just don't care enough it seems to work at, and it is work for me, as I am not a natural. A few nice pieces of clothing are swell, sure, but it doesn't go much further than that for me.  I much prefer to see what others do there and admire from afar.

Shoes on the other hand, are a different matter. I love my shoes. And I love variety in my shoes and boots. None of the shoes in the picture above were expensive (save my old Donald Pliners) but they are comfortable and I love them.

Over the past year I have struggled to keep this blog interesting and I suspect at times I have failed. When I started blogging several years ago, it was a way to get back into writing and truthfully, the fashion blogs were what I stumbled upon first. But really, I wasn't particularly good at it and I spent more money than I cared to in order to keep up. I am not a fashionista and the effort to try and be one was not satisfying for me.

I will always admire the style of others, but to be my authentic self, I must admit that while I like to look nice, I am not all that comfortable sharing my blah outfits of the day! :-) And this is no critique of others for their love of clothing and their beautiful style. We are all unique, and our interests  should be celebrated.

I am even contemplating a moratorium on clothes shopping for awhile, and simplifying things further.

So I hope you will stick around as I muse on other things (and the odd pair of shoes), including creativity, bravery, family, and all the goodness in this old world.

xoxo Wendy

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

An ode to the Christmas Card and other types of card




There was a time when everyone sent Christmas cards, wasn't there?

I can recall being a wee lass and waiting for the mailman to arrive (ah the heady days before Community mailboxes) and the delightful thwack! as a small stack of white and red envelopes, many festooned with seasonal stickers, came through the mail slot and landed on the floor.



It seemed as if most of the cards were from people I didn't know (my parent's old university pals), but I didn't care. Many were from neighbours from across our small town, for in those more formal days, people sent cards to their friends, or it least my mother and her friends did.



Some of those cards contained thick handwritten letters that shared the highlights of their year. Others had mimeographed notes inside (remember them!) - the iconic "Christmas Letter", with a small signature at the bottom written in the perfect penmanship of adults who had grown up in a time when fine penmanship was graded.


I miss those days. Each year I find myself sending fewer and fewer cards. Sure I hand-deliver cards to my friends, but somewhere along the way I've lost addresses or I talk to them weekly or monthly on Facebook and it feels as if the Christmas Card is superfluous.

And yet...

There is something inherently delightful in taking a moment to choose a fine card, or box of cards, and writing a small personal note that wishes the recipient the happiest of Chanukahs, the merriest of Christmases, good cheer for the coming year. Those fine sentiments warm our hearts to send and receive, and they are like sprinkling fairy dust on our friends and neighbours.

This post is mine to you. And if I had all of your addresses, I would send you a real one!



And speaking of cards, I got my new author business cards this week. It was very exciting! I have seen a rough draft of my book cover, and I am about to get into the editing with my editor. No final date yet for the release, but things chug along at their own pace and I am grateful.


The fellow who did the design was aces and is currently working on my website!

Have a happy rest of week! Will write more on the weekend after my annual Christmas dinner with lip-synch battle attached (because it wouldn't be Christmas at my house if we weren't singing and dancing!)

xoxo Wendy
 

Monday, November 30, 2015

November kicked my butt, literally...



Happy end of November! It flew by and left me in its wake...

I know I have been busier in my life, but it has been awhile!

November in the writing life is NaNoWriMo, where thousands of writers worldwide endeavour to get 50,000 words on paper (the approximate length of a short novel).

Happily, I achieved my goal, and was rewriting a book that is giving me no end in grief, and as of the end of November, I have probably written 80,000+ words. Phew.  I'm not saying they're 80,000 amazing words, but they are on paper and that's the first step!

I also had my very first colonoscopy in the midst of all of this. And a terrible cold. At the same time.


Why'd I get a colonoscopy? Well my dad had colon cancer in his late sixties, so my doctor and I felt a baseline was in order.

They are not fun, but here's the thing:

1) you get to spend a lot of quality time in your bathroom, which reminds you of odd jobs someone ought to be doing and gives you a lot of reading time. During the day in which I drank the dreaded goop I managed to finish a novel, so hard to complain.

2) your bowels are your friend. So I got to talk to two lovely doctors about them (the doctor and the intern) and sort of felt like I was in an episode of Grey's Anatomy. And thankfully, all is well down below and I don't need another one for ten years. Surely within ten yours I won't remember the goop. It's like childbirth, right?

These guys were kind of like my two doctors and I was definitely over-acting....

 

Really, my horrible cold was much worse than the colonoscopy, all things considered, and the inconvenience is worth it in order to have piece of mind.  And there are many good videos you can watch in advance so there are no surprises. I highly recommend the one with the undulating psychedelic colon. Someone put a lot of thought into making that video and they made the prettiest and most mesmerizing colon ever!

What else is new in my life? Well, I am in the throes of Christmas shopping, still writing madly and counting the days until my son comes home for Christmas (for the record, it is 19 days).

I have also begun "The Watching of Holiday Movies". So far we have done Die Hard and Love Actually, which makes me realize that Alan Rickman is really Mr. Christmas...

How about you - what have you been up to? Do tell!  Anyone else ever had a colonoscopy?

xoxo wendy
 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris



We can never understands the minds of those who can so mercilessly and so easily take the lives of others.

We can only respond with love and empathy and hope for better days ahead.

Paris is the city of my heart. I love it unabashedly and I love the people who live there. Parisians are often accused of being rude or cold or unsentimental. They are none of those things.

The images of last night - the terror, the anguish, the unstinting heroics, the sports fans leaving the stadium spontaneously singing Le Marseillaise - are etched in my soul today.

Many of the locations were mere blocks from where Barry and I stayed in September. We walked those neighbourhoods and adored them. We will do so again. And like my friends and other favourite city, New York City, Parisians will not be bested.

But today they can use our prayers. As can those who commit these acts of atrocities. Peace on Earth.



Je suis Parisienne.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Those Marketing Families who get me every time...


Tis that time of year again.

You know: the one where the big corporations develop compelling marketing campaigns that make us want to buy their products.

Doesn't everyone want to be more beautiful, look more ravishing, dress the best, and have meaningful family moments all at the same time? I know I do! :-)

The kind of marketing I am most vulnerable to this time of year is marketing that portrays happy families. I grew up in a relatively happy family, and my parents gave good Christmas, but we didn't live in that big old farmhouse surrounded by horses and dozens of cousins (although I did get to visit such a world when I visited my friend Nancy!).

The first time I remember being "gotten" by the marketers was those Folgers coffee ads. You know the one - Peter the son sneaking into the house and surprising his family at Christmas, making the coffee...

I am particularly susceptible to it this year thanks to my son being away at University.

 


Damn, that makes me teary just looking at the still!

But this year, Lands End has been able to push all of my buttons. Have you seen their catalogues?

That beautiful extended family, home to see Grandma and Grandpa, who are the new kind of Grandma and Grandpa: hot!





Ah the beauty! The joy! Thumb through the catalogue and you will find yourself yearning to be invited to the fake grandparent's house (Look - it's Barry and Wendy, in from Canada!) If Canadians succeed at sentimental hockey and Tim Hortons advertising, then Americans own Thanksgiving and Christmas - or at least their marketers do.

You all know I love Christmas. Always will. I do find myself in that weird in-between season of life - grown-up children, no grandchildren, which makes Christmas fun, but perhaps not as magical as it was when my kids were younger. And this week is the anniversary of both of my parents' deaths (convenient of them in some ways, cruel in others) that makes me think of happy families and cozy Christmases.

So hats off to you Lands End. I have discovered I need a fire engine red cashmere pullover and tartan scarf. I need to make twice as many desserts as we can possibly eat. I need to make my son make me coffee as soon as he arrives home in December.

And we say we are immune to marketing...

How about you? Any advertising attracting you these days?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Gloriousness of a Decorating Book that speaks to you...


Happy Halloween!

Here is the truth: I suck at Halloween.  I pretty much gloss over the whole event, and in our neck of the woods, we only get 6 or 7 trick or treaters, so that's easy enough to do!  I will shower them with the little chocolate bars I've bought so I don't eat them all.  My willpower is very poor these days, although I am a faithful visitor to my treadmill...

Anyway, come late fall I start looking around for a few books to ask for from the big man (Barry, no Santa, although they are interchangeable really). This year, three books top my list:

1) Modern Mix: Curating Personal Style with Chic & Accessible Finds by Eddie Ross



I follow Eddie on Instagram and I love him!  And I have thumbed through this book at Chapters and I love, love, love what I've seen!

He has such an eye and he just bubbles with joie de vivre!  This is an expensive book (in Canada) but worth every penny I think.  I see this as a bit of a bible for the likes of me!

2) French Chic Living: Simple Ways to Make Your Home Beautiful by Florence de Dampierre                              



I just got back from France as you know and I still miss it.  I adore France. And when I saw this book at my local book shop, I knew it would be on the top of my list this fall!  This book is beautiful, from the pictures to the little "secrets" and tips.  I swoon just looking at the cover....

3) House Beautiful's Pink


                              

I am definitely in a pink mood these days.  I adore the colour and used sparingly (or daringly!) it can be such a wonderful thing in a home!

To be honest, I did scan through Ellen DeGeneres' new style book, but it wasn't for me - too modern - although there are beautiful pictures and she definitely has great talent in renovating and decorating houses!

Finally, if you didn't buy it last year after I slagged it to death, Novel Interiors by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti still tops my list for a book that I turn to again and again and again!



How about you? Any home d├ęcor books on your wishlists this year?  Do tell!

xoxo Wendy
                          








Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Some thoughts about our new Prime Minister


By now many of you know that Canada has a new Prime Minister. For those of you who do not, he is young (not yet 45), has three small children and an accomplished, beautiful wife, and is the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau.



Prime Minister Elect Justin Trudeau


Three years ago, he was an object of derision, a man few Canadians felt to be "ready" for such an important post.

But people are not black and white. They are not caricatures. They make mistakes, but they are not their mistakes.

And the ruling government forgot two crucial things:

1) people get tired of you after ten years; and
2) people like to hope for something.

Time will tell if Trudeau will suffer the same fate as President Obama, swept into office on a sea of hope and optimism, only to be dashed against the rocks later when he could not achieve all he'd hoped to achieve.

People have chinks. People can be stupid. And I hope that Canada will allow Prime Minister Trudeau to make mistakes and not simply toss him aside when he does so.

It is not easy being Prime Minister. It's not easy being human. We voted him into office (well enough Canadians did), now we have to try and help him.



The future, whether in Canada or the rest of the world, belongs to those who recognize that we are all in this together, and that while running for high office has its perks, it is also one of the loneliest, difficult jobs one can have.  

History is the ultimate judge of our politicians, but it is also a judge of us. He cannot make the changes we asked for without us standing with him.

Good luck Mr. Prime Minister!

#CAbi Girl Inspiration:

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sweater Weather


I am a sweater girl in the winter.

I own few blouses, for a variety of reasons, and always prefer knits - so comfy, so forgiving, so perfect for the winters here.

And this is the fall and winter of knits.

I got started on thinking about sweaters over at Wardrobe Icons, where Laura has been obsessed by what she calls 'jumper dressing' and there was nothing I wanted more this fall than something by Joseph, which of course the budget would not allow!




But never mind, there are jumper dressing options available at many price points, plus don't we all have many pullovers and cardigans in our wardrobes just waiting to be paired already?


This Joe Fresh knit dress is cozy when worn with a cardigan or jacket and at $35 on sale, a deal.

I also picked up this navy skirt from Joe Fresh for $17 and it looks wonderful with my navy cashmere T-shirt from J Crew.

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I also found this long knit skirt from a local shop and I truly adore it:



It is a wool-mohair blend and looks great with my riding boots.

Of course we can always dig through our closets:



Gosh, you can see my t-shirt bunched up under there...
 And I am dying to wear a black cashmere skirt from White and Warren that I found new with tags on ebay for $30 in May!


Just add tights!


I love this cozy sweater dressing and hope it lasts a few more seasons, although I am pleased I managed to purchase some great finds for a song.

So yes, perhaps the Joseph dress (or something else by this wonderful line) is in my future, but in the meantime, it has happily inspired me to search for cheaper options today.

How about you? Are you sweater dressing?

do tell!

xoxo wendy





 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!



Hi all!

We are having a delightful weekend here. Dear son is home, and while he is busy beavering away at an assignment today, it is wonderful to have him home.




 

We had a delicious dinner yesterday and were pleased with one of the cousins was here to share it with us. Lots of fun!
The biggest hit was a dish I actually made for my son who is vegan. It was Nigella Lawson's roast stuffed pumpkin with a tomato-ginger sauce. Divine!

I have much to be thankful for this year. My family, good friends, my breakthrough in publishing. Most of all, I am thankful for my health and the realization that we can always learn and change. Some of those learnings are precipitated by mistakes, some by happy experiences; both are equally valuable.




I wish all my Canadian friends a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, and for the rest of you, a peaceful Monday!

Oh and one more thing: Go Jays!


down, but not out....



xoxo Wendy

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The joys of travel, the perils of over-packing, and the happiness of returning home


Is there anything quite as nice as going on a trip?




The answer is yes: returning home! 

I have been back for a week and apologize profusely for not checking in earlier.

I've been busy catching up on housework, writing, exercising and generally enjoying being home again.

I also had to immediately swap my summer clothing for its fall cousins; when I left on the 20th it was 24C, when I returned it was freezing!  Now it seems to have settled into something in between.

I think it is hard to encapsulate a trip, and those of you who follow me on Instagram know I was a frequent picture taker (and an unabashed fan of the quality of the photos my Samsung smart phone took!).

you don't need an Instagram account to see these, just go to : https://instagram.com/wendymacknight/

Highlights for me?


Stopping for that first glass of rose at the St. Regis, our tradition.



Living in a Parisian neighbourhood for almost a week.

It is a completely different experience when you live in an apartment, go to the same Boulangerie each morning, the same marche, the same cafes. We stayed in the Marais arrondisement and found it absolutely delightful.

Our apartment was also topknotch. We originally found it through Air B&B, but what I liked was that the property was owned by a management company that had several lovely properties. It was clean, comfortable and quiet. And oh-so-charming!


The view out our window into our charming Passage...
 


On more than one occasion on this trip I thought of chucking everything
 to move to Paris to run a flower shop!


A garden in our neighbourhood


A stumble-upon for us was a new restaurant right around the corner: Le Mazenay. Only open for four weeks, the food was amazing and the server, delightful. We had planned to go another night, but tourist things detained us. Very inexpensive and very good!

I also loved having lunch at Ralph Lauren's flagship store off St. Germain. It was as exquisite as it could be - food, service, atmosphere conspired to make you feel like Ralph's guest. I am sure he looked in the guest book for my name after I left...




Before we went to Ralph's we visited Ines de le Fressange's store.  Charming, but way over-priced in my opinion...



We did little in the way of museums this time, but we did manage to hit the Pompidou finally. What a great space!  So much to marvel at!!!

Mostly though, we walked. And walked. And walked. And then walked some more. I can happily report that those Naturalizer boots were the bomb. They saved me.

Funkiest place we visited? Deyrolles, home of all things taxidermy:



As for the rest of my packing. Sadly, I overpacked. Two of the three dresses and one skirt were never worn. It was simply freezing most evening and I had no desire to freeze my knickers!  Live and learn I say....

Our shopping was somewhat limited by time, interest and money, but I did manage to find some fun shoes and boots for a cheap price that I loved, as well as a Stella Foret white silk-mohair pullover.


Next we headed to Bruges. I had driven through Belgium en route to Holland several years ago, but  staying in Belgium was a treat. People were so friendly and the countryside was gorgeous! Bruges was like stepping out of the 21st century into the 15th. In fact, the hotel we stayed in, Martin's Relais, was originally five merchants' houses combined and it was exquisite.


They upgraded us to a suite at no extra charge (we did not ask for that) and our room overlooking the canal (and the swans, how I love swans) was movie-set worthy.


We walked the cobblestone streets, rode them in a horse and carriage and took a boat ride along the canals.

The food was good (though no France) and I would go there again in a heartbeat. My favourite tourist spot there was The Historium, which recreates the day in the life of a young man in 1435.


Our view
 

Four hundred year old homes around every corner
 


And the canals...


In the Carriage.
We couldn't stop saying "horses, horses, horses" as we clip-clopped our way through Bruges


Merlin


I expect heaven will look like Bruges, and be decorated by Ralph Lauren


Back to Paris for one more night and one more hotel. Hotel Notre Dame is central, overlooking Notre Dame Cathedral, and whimsically decorated, but noisy, and the night we were there, the Brasserie below had a band, which made it difficult to sleep. So while I thought it lovely, I'd recommend this hotel only to deep and easy sleepers!

I never get tired of Paris...







Truly, it was a magical experience and a wonderful place to share our 30th wedding anniversary!  We are already planning #35, which I think may be a Rhine River Cruise if we can ever get dear son through uni. Will keep you posted!!!!

How about you? Up to anything exciting?

xoxo wendy