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Who is your best friend?

While some may answer that question with  ”my spouse”, “my mother” or a friend’s name – if you’re a Fashionista you need to be best friends with a tailor or seamstress. If you are fortunate enough to shop in very nice stores they will provide alterations for you (usually included in the price). Those talented with a needle and thread may wish to attempt hemming and small adjustments themselves. The rest of use must choose from malls that have  a shop or two that offer alterations. Those stores may be hit and miss – or may be fine for sewing buttons and replacing a zipper – but you really need a seamstress or tailor when you want your clothes to fit “just so”. Experiment cautiously, one garment at time or ask your friends or a shop owner for recommendations until you find someone who does a great job and you trust.

Red threads by Gutermann

In the olden days people’s clothes were bespoke (my new favourite word) or made to fit them. There weren’t stores with pre-determined sizes that you had to fit into – clothes were custom made to your body. It was only in the last 100 years or so that pre-made clothing was even available. Today, finding a garment that fits you off the rack is practically an accomplishment and something to be celebrated! Most of us need things tweaked to get the perfect fit – a waist nipped in – sleeves shortened – the bust darts let out, etc. Those small fixes are the things that can make a garment go from fitting you okay (good)  - to looking like it was made for you (preferable).

I knew I had found a great seamstress in Ranka Dabic, owner of Fine Threads in Jackson Square 905-667-1113 (near the Sheraton entrance) when she had me try everything on, mark both sides of the garment (we humans are lopsided) and was able to alter both mens and ladies wear expertly. This was confirmed for me when Oprah was in Hamilton for a speaking engagement earlier this year – and her team asked Ranka to alter Oprah’s dress!  Quite an honour and Ranka says they were a very nice group of people to work with!

Shop around until you find someone good and your clothes will never fit you better. A good shoe repair shop is another gem, and perhaps another blog topic!

Big Bamboo!

Why Big? This miracle grass is sustainable, regrows without replanting and is the fastest growing woody plant on earth. It can be grown without pesticides and herbicides, so its organic. It is strong, durable, soft and smooth. It both dyes and drapes well. It can be eaten (bamboo shoots), drank (beer, tea, wine) and used to make furniture and flooring. You can use bamboo to make toilet tissue, coffee filters and even biofuel. It has insulating properties, so will keep you cool in summer, warm in winter. The two Pandas at the Toronto Zoo eat bamboo as the mainstay of their diet, going through approximately 10-15 kilos daily of the 50 that is offered to them. The bamboo incidentally, is air shipped by Fed Ex in a refrigerated container from Memphis, Tennessee!

( Pandas love bamboo and eat large amounts daily

So what’s new, Bamboo? Its BREATHABLE! This may be more of interest to my female readers who experience sweaty nights, but bamboo sleepwear is becoming more popular and easier to find. Nationwide one of the first retailers I knew of to carry bamboo sleepwear was Soma (in the Chico’s family of stores).  I recently bought some beautiful soft mint green bamboo pyjamas at Ecomystic  (136 James Street South) in Hamilton made by Yala.  The store has a nice selection of bamboo and organic cotton items. I slept very restfully and the pj’s breathed nicely!  I’ve also purchased bamboo footless tights, a bra top and V-neck T shirts (that are great for working out) made by C’est Moi at Dakota Mae in Westdale.  There are lots of other items in the C’est Moi collection. The bra top came in very handy when I need to get an MRI (your own clothing can be worn as long as there is no metal in it). Of course, now that there are bamboo pyjamas and clothing, sheets can’t be far behind! Yes, I’ve seen a few sets on my travels and I’m eager to try them.

In Asian countries bamboo grows easily and it has been used to make houses, bridges, hats and musical instruments for centuries. Bamboo’s long life makes it a Chinese symbol of longevity; in India it is a symbol of friendship while in Vietnam “bamboo is my brother” – according to a proverb. Around the globe certain varieties of bamboo are being planted in North America.  Maybe someday you’ll be bathing in a bamboo bathtub, pedalling a bamboo bicycle or buying your grandchildren a bamboo skateboard. Meanwhile, enjoy all the things this new/old plant has been providing to earthlings for thousands of years.

Banish the Bed Head!

I consider myself fairly lucky that my hair is quite straight. It doesn’t respond too much to humidity and it generally behaves. This is when I take good care of it, blow it dry and touch it up with a straightener. If I let it dry naturally, or it gets wet between shampoos, it has a life of its own and gets “wings” and “horns”. Especially when I’m sleeping. You can picture it – that’s why they call it “Bed Head”.

Wake up with un-lined skin when you sleep on satin pillowcases

I found something that helps greatly with bed head and has the added bonus of making your face look better too! OK, maybe not your face, but the skin on your face! Its satin sheets! By satin – I mean silk, silk charmeuse, cotton sateen or good old fashioned satin microfibre (i.e. polyester,  but its not my fave). Turns out these slightly slippery fibres when used as pillowcase material keep your hair smooth, your hairstyle in place and help prevent creases in the skin while sleeping. If we spend up to one third of our lives sleeping, we may as well sleep on sheets and pillowcases that don’t mark our skin or ruffle our hair. Apparently legend has it that Hugh Hefner likes satin sheets, but maybe for another reason we won’t get into here …

If you’re like me you already have a few nice sets of sheets and don’t really want to buy silk sheets – they can be expensive and warm as they don’t breathe as well as cotton. The solution is to buy or make just pillowcases that coordinate with your existing sheets.  You don’t have to display your silk pillowcases on the front of the bed, you can tuck them in behind the pillow shams.

I purchased silk charmeuse pillowcases in a soft gold neutral colour that go with almost anything  at Bed, Bath and Beyond in Oakville (my new favourite store). They are actually the ones “as advertised on TV”. The sales clerk there led me to numerous options, unlike some major department stores where you may get a blank stare when you ask for satin pillowcases. I find my hair looks better when I get up than it did when I went to bed!

I’d love to know if you try satin pillowcases – drop me a note or comment. Did it keep your hair smooth? Your face unlined? Another good option for unwrinkled skin upon awakening is to sleep on your back (but not if you snore). Then you’d be disturbing your partner…  Bonne Nuit!

Summer do’s and don’ts for Women

OK Ladies, summer (such as it is) is here!  You didn’t think I’d only pick on the men did you? Here are a few of my suggestions for looking  your best while staying cool this summer.

DON’TS

1. Wear low cut tops, especially at work. No-one appreciates seeing “the girls” in a business setting – they are highly distracting. Pay attention if you serve the public, you may be bending over a desk or counter and giving customers an eyeful. If the top or dress you have is low cut in front, invest in a camisole or wear a thin sleeveless T underneath. Or button a sweater or jacket over top. One of my pet peeves is showing bra straps. I don’t like them, enough said. Thank you.

2. Wear clunky white running shoes with business attire. I can’t believe I have to say this, but I saw it again last week (within an hour of the black over-the-knee-boots spotting, read on). OK, we get it – you commute to work and your tired tootsies can’t handle the uncomfortable shoes you wear during the day, but there are so many other cooler options than socks and shoes: ballet flats, non-athletic sneakers, deck shoes, moccasins, low heeled sandals, espadrilles. You can walk in comfort and be stylishly cool at the same time.

3. Wear pyjamas in public. Again, I can’t believe I still see this everywhere. Hamilton where is your shame? From north to south and east to west, there are Hamiltonians wearing their pyjamas in public. They may be taking the dog out for a quick walk – or picking up a fast coffee at Timmies – or dashing into the corner store. But if you have opened your front door and walked out it, you aren’t in your living room any more! Please wear underwear and clothes if you are in public and save your adorable PJ’s for your next pillow fight or sleepover.

DO’s

1. Check the mirror before you leave the house: That flowy light coloured sundress (a definite DO and I’ve seen so many of you wearing dresses lately!) could be see-through and no-one wants to see your undies as cute as they may be. Wear a slip if necessary, or nude skin toned panties.

2. Adjust your makeup: If your makeup routine is the same day after day, season after season, its time to  adjust! Since we usually get a little sun-kissed despite daily SPF usage, try peachy pink or coral shades for lips and cheeks. Ditch the heavy lipstick colours and slick on a gloss or my favourite, a tinted lipbalm with SPF from Burt’s Bees. Waterproof mascara is great for hot days – it has good staying power and lasts through unexpected floods, crying at weddings and general sweating.

3. Dress seasonally. Gone are the days when white was only donned between Victoria Day and Labour Day. Whites and creams can be worn all year round, it is the material that determines the season, not the colour. Again, stick to natural fibres for the coolest clothes – cotton, linen or hemp. (Silk, although natural, tends to be a bit warm for summer.) Conversely, black can be worn in the summer – but please, not in the form of over-the-knee-boots which I saw last week! If you like to keep it dark, get some black sandals or a black pedi.

Thanks Ladies, for letting me have my say – have a stylish summer wherever you are – and remember, looking good is the best revenge if you happen to need it!

 

 

Summer do’s and don’ts for Men

Men, this column is for you! Summer arrives on Friday and although the season is short, it can be filled with fashion challenges. You may have a vacation to pack for, a wedding or Stag & Doe to attend, BBQ’s with friends, a romantic date with your girl … and you still need to look fresh for work when its 35C degrees in the shade. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

DO’s

1. Bust out the summer clothes – lighter colours and fabrics will keep you cooler and help your skin breathe. Look for linen, cotton, hemp, bamboo or a combination of these fibres. Avoid polyester blends – they tend to keep the heat in. If your office dress code calls for suiting – there are nice options available in lightweight wool. Complete your look with a crisp white shirt or some nautical stripes and a skinnier tie. Seersucker and pinstripes are timeless classics. The Bay has many great options for men and some excellent sales.

2. Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen - hats are cool! And they keep you cool! And protect your precious head from sunburn. Sunglasses protect your eyes and prevent squint wrinkles. The right frames for your face can make you instantly cooler. Use plenty of sunscreen and re-apply after swimming or two hours sun exposure. If you do not like to use sunscreen (some do not like the chemicals they contain), wear long sleeves and pants and seek shade. A sunburn is dangerous and never attractive.

3. Cover the tats. Pretty or not, most tattoos do not have a place at work.  Wear long sleeves – your co-workers will think you are such a fashion piece!

DONT’s

1. Wear the same thing over and over – have  some fun with your clothes.  Summer colours are brighter, styles are somewhat more relaxed. Swap your winter “uniform” for something  that says summer. Capris and shorts are OK. Lose the socks. And never wear socks with sandals.

2. Let it all hang out - sorry guys, but we ladies don’t like gnarly, dry feet, excess hair of any kind or the shirtless! There is no crime in having a pedicure to prepare your feet for summer – yes, someone is prepared to offer this service. Get thee to a spa! If you are the hirsute type – the same said spa probably provides waxing. And really, we don’t want to see  you shirtless unless you are in reasonably good shape and we are all at the beach..

3. Wear Flip Flops – unless you are at the beach, in the backyard or on vacation. Its my personal pet peeve, but I don’t like men in flip flops. I think it looks sloppy and unprofessional. There are so many sexier summer options to flip flops – try deck shoes, canvas or leather non-athletic sneakers or some espadrilles.

If you need some advice with an outfit, or someone to help you shop, I’m available. Send me a photo and I’ll offer you some free on-the-spot advice. Text your message or photo to 289-244-8774. Have a fashionable summer!

 

Lifetime Warranties

Price Pfister Kitchen Faucet

I googled Lifetime Warranties as I began this blog.  There are a number of companies who provide lifetime warranties for their products, some of the more famous being Tupperware and Tilley. As it turns out, lifetime generally means the lifetime of the product, not the human being’s lifetime who bought the product. Shucks! I’m not sure how long a bathroom tap is supposed to live, or a bath tub tap & shower assembly or a kitchen spray faucet but clearly 7 and 14 years old is not too long! Here’s my story …

My recent  move has left me challenged for hot water in both kitchen and bathroom. Three visits from various plumbers and heating technicians have produced hot water to the sources – but the taps and shower head were failing to deliver it properly. Result: scalding or freezing in the shower, and low flow of cold water only in the kitchen.

Frustrated and not wanting to spend more money on the problem –  I turned to the huge folder I keep of product information and warranties. I found the warranties & parts lists for the taps and shower assembly and the manufacturer’s customer service phone number easily. Or you can take a picture of your fixture with your cell phone and match it to ones online. Google Images also has countless photos of practically everything and I found my bathroom taps and their name easily. (My son showed me these things – cool!)

A couple of quick toll free calls to the Price Pfister Customer Service representatives have resulted in shipments of brand new replacement parts for 3 various taps in the house. The parts that were sent are of higher quality than the original parts and consequently I now have plenty of hot water in the kitchen and a sprayer that is free from mineral deposits. Yay! The bathroom shower assembly is also producing plenty of nice, hot water (but NOT scalding).

Last  night UPS delivered (for free) the last pieces I need to fix a leaking bathroom faucet. We’ve even managed to replace these parts ourselves, without the need for a plumber. Pfice Pfister, I’m impressed! Thank you for standing by your Lifetime Warranty. In an age when so many things are disposable, thank you for allowing me to repair my fixtures, rather than replace them.

Everything is working as good as new! I’ve now moved on to the dishwasher although after fourteen years of service to a family of four I’m not expecting too much! And the stove is a Viking original from Eaton’s … Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Why I love Dresses!

Dress by Desigual

I am a new convert to dresses and I’d like to win you over too! Until recently I’d always been a separates girl. When I had an office job I always wore a skirt or pants and a jacket. Dresses were something from the fifties to me – something my mother wore, kind of formal, something you couldn’t move in, something I avoided. Granted, dresses can be tricky - especially if your upper half and bottom half are very different in size. I think dresses have had a resurgence in popularity, partly due to the popularity of the Mad Men series. Banana Republic has done several collections inspired by the costumes worn by the ladies on the show. Vintage dresses were in abundance at the Vintage Marketplace at the Hamilton Convention Centre in April. And White Elephant on James St. North just featured a special collection of vintage dresses brought in for a Trunk show in May. Some of my favourite dresses are from Desigual and preloved.
Here’s why you should give dresses a try!
1. A LBD is your best friend. You can wear it to both formal and sombre occasions. Choose something knee length, not too low cut with not too many details. You will look appropriate and will not stand out in a bad way. The same little black dress can take you from weddings to funerals with the right shoes, jewellery and accessories.
2. A LPD or LWD (little pink or little white) can be your second best friend. Again, the accessories are key to creating the look you want – be it business like or for sipping lemonade in the back yard.
3. Dresses are slimming. Why? Because they form a clean visual line and generally don’t chop you across the middle like some separates can.
4. Dresses don’t need to match anything. In fact – a really great dress often looks greater with shoes or a bag that don’t exactly match. Think same colour family – or opposite the colour wheel for a real pop!
5. Dresses are cool. In warm weather I don’t think anything is cooler than a long cotton maxi dress and sandals. Don’t forget the sunhat, sunscreen and sunglasses.
6. Dresses are feminine. In our North American culture you will never be mistaken for a male if you wear a dress. Even if you are not a “girly girl” a dress can make you feel more feminine, which in turn makes “him” feel more masculine.
7. Dresses are comfortable. No tops coming untucked, belts to unbuckle, pants that are too tight, tops to match to bottoms, etc. Just put it on and do it up and you’re practically ready to go!
8. Dresses are forgiving. They can hint at a silhouette and show a woman’s shape without being skin tight. Dresses can glide over areas that aren’t your favourites.
9. Dresses show your legs. You can control how much, but a woman’s lower leg is a pretty safe way to show a little skin.
10. A jacket over a dress looks business like and conveys a sense of authority.
Oh, and one last reason – they swoosh! Yeah, they move a little when you walk!

For Mother’s Day

The author as a toddler with her mother

If you are among the fortunate majority, you probably grew up with your mother. Or maybe a female relative was like a mother to you. Lucky you! My deepest sympathies for those who did not know their mothers or had them for too short of a time.

She is often our primary caregiver and role model. A person you may wish to be like … or someone you may not wish to be like. Or both! A person who shaped our lives, our beliefs, our faith – almost everything about us. Our mothers!

My Mom was a stay-at-home mother and I always remember her freshening up before my Dad got home from work. She changed her dress, washed her face, put on lipstick. A nice idea!

She made our clothes, and matching ones for our Barbies. She made our meals (Shake ‘n’ Bake, anyone?) and taught me how to bake. Mom taught me how to sew, knit, write thank you letters and do laundry. She wouldn’t let me wear jeans or pierce my ears. She made me take piano lessons and practise daily. She bought me round toe brown oxfords because they were good for my feet. She also bought me these amazing pearlized leather pumps for my wedding day thirty years ago …

My mother – My Friend, Globetrotter, Social Butterfly and Shopper Extraordinaire! Maddeningly self sufficient with energy to spare and in excellent health! I want to be you when I grow up!

Twenty nine years ago I became a mother and its a role I always wanted. I am fortunate to have both a son and a daughter and even though they are adults now, its true what my mom always said – You never stop being a mother! Its one of the strongest bonds between human beings and vital for our survival. It will be interesting to hear what my children think I taught them someday, but truly I probably learned as much from them! Thank you Mike and Shannon for letting me be your Mom!

Contrary to my own popular belief, Mother’s Day was not started by Hallmark Cards – its roots trace back to ancient Greek times. Mothering Sunday has been celebrated in the UK since the 1600′s. It does not need to be a huge commercial celebration. Most of my friends who are moms appreciate time with their grown children – and moms with little ones underfoot generally appreciate some time with themselves! However you celebrate it – enjoy your Mom, your kids and your day!

Happy Mother’s Day! And thanks Mom!

 

 

A relaxed mind

Echo Jaipur bedding

A relaxed mind

A relaxed mind is a creative mind – who was it who said that? Was it Yogi Bhajan or just conventional teabag wisdom … well anyway s/he was right! This past month I did move – not exactly on a whim, but certainly on the fly …  to use a few idioms! Although I had been sporadically packing items not used on a daily basis, I was not ready to move only one week after making the final decision. I was still packing the morning of the move after the truck had been picked up! What was that I said about my mind again?

Right! Being relaxed. Moving involves a myriad of details – from changing utility bills, to letting friends and family know about your new contact info, new patterns to commute to work, adjustments to your new surroundings and so on. And that was only for a move within Hamilton for two adults!  Add to that some temperamental hot water resulting in freezing or scalding showers and no hot water in the kitchen. This too shall pass … However, relaxed I am not.

I’ve also been putting off the inevitable – that even though I’ve moved home and work this month and everything is still not settled and working perfectly, its time to get back to what I was doing before I moved. This includes my regular work, both social and real time networking, and blogging. I only began blogging in the past 6 months and I regularly tell anyone who is interested that this is one of my favourite parts of being a business owner. So I wondered why I’d been avoiding it. Throughout the move I’d been making mental notes to use in future blogs, such as what I did right and wrong during the move;  how most of us underestimate the physical toll of moving; that even if I’m not a “Senior” I can feel somewhat disoriented being in new surroundings and so on …

Its just today when I am too physically exhausted to do any more, its pouring rain and I’ve surfed the net shopping for new bedding for a few hours that my fingers and my thoughts have finally connected on the keyboard. No, I’m not doing nothing, I’m relaxing a bit and my brain now has enough space for some creative thoughts. Coming home from a vacation I’ve noticed the same thing … great ideas start coming forth unbidden.

Keep a notebook or two around so you can capture ideas when you relax … you never know where one will lead!

 

 

Celebrities, spring cleaning and the area under the sink

Katie Couric – Hoarder? Courtesy People Magazine March 4, 2013

 

Believe it or not, organizers don’t have some crazy organizing gene that makes and keeps us organized. We struggle to keep our possessions in check just like you do and celebrities are no different! The March 4 issue of People magazine featured a half page article and photos on talk show/celebrity Katie Couric. Katie recently devoted an episode of her show to decluttering her library which had become a dumping ground for many items. She found it hard to let go of many things because she is sentimental, especially condolence cards.

Although some may question my overall excessive tidyness ( i.e., is she OCD or anal-retentive? Chris Farias, you know who you are!), there are plenty of areas where I find myself challenged. My particular nemesis has been the area under the kitchen sink! It is an assorted catchall for garbage, recycling,  shoe polish, cleaning products, liquor, empties, plastic bags, leather cleaner, rubber gloves, and so on … Having been reminded by a family member several times that “there are people we could hire who could organize this kind of stuff”,  I finally tackled it.

After purchasing some clear shoe boxes at The Home Depot for $1 a piece, I discovered that one of those perfectly fit all the shoe laces, polish and rags. I got a stand up caddy that holds cleaning bottles and a dispenser on the cupboard door for plastic bags. I no longer shudder when I see the area under the sink. Family photos and old negatives – brace yourselves! And desk, watch out, you’re next!

So, if like Katie, you are sentimental and have boxes of cards to sort through -  keep the special ones, the hand written ones, the milestone birthdays, etc. but let most go. If you’ve been hanging on to wardrobes in many different sizes (fat clothes and skinny clothes), keep what fits now. If your weight changes, you’ll want clothes more reflective of the new you. And if you’re like me – they may be neatly stored, but recognize that you can’t keep every cool fashion magazine article you rip out …

Since Spring is no longer around the corner, and has officially arrived, could there be a better time to go through your worst area and see what the best outcome will be? Send me your thoughts! And your photos!