Wednesday, July 03, 2024

Wednesday Hodgepodge: It's Summer!

 From this Side of the Pond

1. It's a big week in the US of A as we celebrate Independence Day. Do you have any special plans? How will you mark the day? BBQ? pool-lake-beach time? fireworks? homemade ice cream? If you're not an American you can tell us what's happening in your corner of the world on Thursday. 

"Not an American."

But we did just have Canada Day.
I found some vintage magazines at a yard sale.

And we drove to Stratford, Ontario, for ice cream and river views.

2. What's your favorite 'All-American' dessert? 

Chocolate-chip cookies.

(You did say American, not Canadian.)

3. Does that patriotic feeling come easily to you, or are you having to work for it more these days? What's something that makes you proud to be a citizen of your country?  

Some of our great artists.

4. Your favorite 'patriotic' movie? Favorite patriotic song? 

Not sure. OK, how about the 1985 Anne of Green Gables miniseries?

5. One simple pleasure on your July 'bucket list'? 

Potluck dinner with church friends. And fresh cherry tomatoes to make a pasta salad.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

Fun finds from thrift stores and antique markets.  The Japanese (Morimura) sugar bowl was found over two years ago at a local thrift store, and I just found this little vase to keep it company.

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

A Fashion-Revolution-Worthy Clothes Thrifter

I posted these tips on Instagram in April for Fashion Revolution Week, and I'm sharing them here now too.

Part One:

Monday begins Fashion Revolution Week 2024. I’ve been thinking about how to add my two cents into this year’s FRW, and it seems the most useful advice I can give is about how and why to thrift clothes. Thrift stores have taken a bad rap recently, as in many places their prices have gone up,  for a mixture of reasons. Many reels have been shared of crazy overpriced junk items still wearing dollar-store price tags for less than the thrift store is asking, or of empty supermarket jam jars priced at more than the jar of jam. People are absolutely right to find that offensive. On the other hand, if you’re careful and know what you want, you can pass right by the jam jars and other garbage, and come home with things you like and can use—and that includes clothes. Most of my tips for successful in-store clothes thrifting are not that earth-shattering, but I’ll lay out a half dozen of them  in hopes of restoring a little faith in thrift shops, especially the little non-profits who have been getting their share of the recent shade on this, but who really deserve support. I should add the caveat that most of these tips are for women’s clothes; mileage may vary on men's, children's, and infants' clothes.

1. Try to avoid the clothes equivalent of jam jars and dollar store d├ęcor. Instead of complaining that thrift stores overcharge for BigStore cheapest t-shirts, decide right off that you are not there to waste time on those brands (because, certainly, you could go to the BigStore and buy them there if that’s what you want). Since thrift stores tend to price all t-shirts, for example, within a small range, where you are going to get the best bang for your buck is with a slightly better brand. Same price, better quality. I can’t afford new L.L. Bean clothes, but the Bean pieces I have thrifted are almost always keepers.

2. You’ll hear this often: ignore size labels. It’s true, within reason. Sometimes thrift store items have shrunk, sometimes they’ve been shortened or taken in, sometimes you just want a looser fit, or the sizing for a particular company is different than you’d expect. If you can remember to bring along a measuring tape, or you want to learn some of the sizing tricks like wrapping pants waists around your neck (or whatever that is), you can get even better at overlooking the supposed size of something.

3. Watch out for certain bad things that do get past back-room sorters, like broken zippers or peeling faux-leather. While the extremely rich can apparently get away with wearing something practically in rags, the rest of us are probably better off sticking with intact items or at least those that we know how to mend.

4. Shop in places that do a colour-of-the-week, or that have a last-chance bargain rack. You are just as apt to find something you like on the dollar rack as you are in the fancy boutique corner.

5. This sounds too obvious, but if you’re trying to find a print skirt to match a t-shirt, or the other way round, wear the shirt or skirt, or at least bring it along. Store lighting is often strange, and our visual memory can also play tricks on us, so bring something to match and you’ll be less likely to be colour-flummoxed when you get the new item into broad daylight.

6. As @therefashionista taught us, ugly can become cute, too large can be made just right, and good bits can be combined to make new good things. Look for possibilities and potential: dresses can become skirts, shirts can lose their sleeves (or acquire new ones), scarves can become fancy jackets (or can line baskets or wrap gifts).

Those are my tried-and-true tips, but there are always new things to learn. What works for you?

Part Two:

The six clothes-thrifting tips I posted earlier in the week for #fashionrevolutionweek were pretty basic, but they’re enough to get you started. But how to go deeper? It’s not always easy to put what we really do into lists or words, and it’s not even often required. As Edward Espe Brown once wrote about making salad, you mainly have to know which bowl you’re going to use and how much it has to be filled for everybody to have enough. But here we go with some black-belt thrifting strategies, most of which can be used for clothes as well as other things. 

Blackbelt Thrifting Tip Number One: Many of my thrift-store stops are brief, and I’ve learned to look at things FAST.  Doing this means that you have to tune in certain things you want, and ignore the rest. Have a specialty, a favourite, a signature colour or pattern or collectible. This might not be lifelong, and it could change, but at least for this season, keep honing in on a very few visual cues. When I’m looking at a thrift store shelf of books, I ignore the mass-market paperbacks (easy because they have a similar size, shape, look) and zoom in on anything bigger, smaller, older; and you can train your eye to do the same with clothes, shoes, purses. I don’t mean you need encyclopedic knowledge of fashion labels, but more like—knowing what the red-winged blackbird sounds like so that you can pick it out of the other bird calls. If you love pink silk floral scarves, that’s what you watch for on the scarf rack, and ignore all the black and white glittery polyester stripes. The magic of this is, first of all, that it takes a whole lot of other things out of your visual field, narrows your vision, gives you some “astringency”; and, second, that after you’ve bought things this way for awhile, they (not so strangely) tend to work well together.

Blackbelt Thrifting Tip Number Two: A homeschool saying we often hear is that the best book or resource is often whichever one you have on your shelf (or can find in the library), the points of that being that, first of all, whatever you have is probably fine if you just make the most of it, and, second, that you’ve saved the time, energy, and money needed to source something different. This also applies to thrifting clothes, or, more accurately, not-thrifting them. Yes, thrifting is a sustainable choice, but it is not without its costs, including staff and volunteer time, building overhead, and disposal issues (even the good stuff doesn’t always sell). Although I happen to be in thrift stores frequently and enjoy finding clothes there (though, again, I try to practice one in-one out restraint), that’s not going to be the same for everyone, and, to repeat the opening point, the best and most sustainable thing you wear is probably something you already have. Whether it was bought new or thrifted, whether it’s recently made or a sweater you’ve had since college, wear it, take care of it, mend it, launder it responsibly, and (if possible) do a Joseph’s Little Overcoat and turn it into something else useful when its wearing life is done.

Social media posts often list rules for successful thrifting, things you should "always" do to up your game. But as a friend said recently about hockey, what you really need to know is that the puck is supposed to go in the net. In the same way, I've found that most of the "rules" you can lay down about secondhand shopping can be true one time, false the next, though the end goal is the same. "Always shop with a list"--don't go browsing the shirts when you know you need shoes, or so they say. Reality: this may not be the day that there are any good shoes in your size, but you might find a Crockpot instead. "Don't be too specific, though": sometimes I have gone in thinking "purple turtleneck" and that is exactly what I've found. "Always go on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday, early in the morning, late in the evening, etc."--well, we don't go to the same places in the same order on the same day, because, life and weather and other things. Unless you happen to know that a store ONLY puts new things out on Mondays, you're probably better off mixing things up. "The last place you go is always the best"--well, sometimes we go to the flea market, buy something at the first table while the entry-stamp is still wet on our hands, and then don't find anything else for the next two hours. "Buy it now, because it won't be here when you come back"--sometimes yes, sometimes no. If it's not a popular item, the odds are that it might be hanging around for at least a few days more.

About the only rule I can think of that never fails is "be generous." Don't grab things out of other shoppers' carts or otherwise be a thrifting pig. Ask friends or family what they're looking for, and if you see their "unobtanium," send them a snapshot and ask if they want it. Share your good finds with others. And that is how to be a #fashionrevolutionweek thrifter.

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Put down your phone, it's the Wednesday Hodgepodge.


From this Side of the Pond
1. It's National Cheese Day (June 4)...does anyone not like cheese? What's your favorite? Last thing you ate or made with cheese? 

Cheese is good! We are not too sophisticated about it here, but I do like getting a bit of real Parmesan to grate over things--it makes me feel like a proper grownup cook.

2. Last time you were instructed to 'say cheese!'? How do you feel about having your picture taken? 

Not fond of it.  Too many bad memories of school pictures.

3. What's your travel packing strategy? Are you typically a light packer or do you throw in everything but the kitchen sink? When flying do you check a bag or aim for carry on only? 

I don't travel frequently, but when I do, I like to go as small as possible. Here's the story I posted last year about flying underseat-only (and why I chose to go that way). 

4. What is it about people's cell phone habits that you find most annoying? 

Taking videos of live performances, instead of just watching them. I see these whole rows of phones being held up, and I have to wonder...

5. What will be your summer mantra/slogan? 

Enjoy the peaches, summer is short.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

The year is swishing by. Seems the leaves have just come out on the trees, and before you know it they'll be turning. There's always work to do, but we need to make time in our lives for the sunshine. And that is as random as I'm able to get right now.

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Adult Content(ment)

 From this Side of the Pond
1. Growing up, at what age did you think you'd become an adult? At what age did you actually become an adult? 

How do you define "adult?" As in, maybe, a no-turning-back moment?

Probably when I got married (almost 33 years ago), because adulting is not always so much about being able to do it all on your own, as it is about committing to someone else.

2.  What's a favorite item you've bought this year?

I keep coming across fun decorative things at the thrift store and at  flea markets / antique barns we often go to.
But one of the most useful things was this thrifted Pixie Mood convertible backpack.  
Some of the places we shop don't allow backpacks (due to theft and other monkey business), so it's handy to be able to make the backpack part disappear as needed.
Do you see a backpack? I don't see a backpack, I just see a purse.

3. May 28th is National Hamburger Day...are you a fan? If so, how do you like yours? When was the last time you had a hamburger? Besides the backyard grill, what's your favorite place to go for a burger? 

We have hamburgers fairly often, both homemade and fast-food-with-a-coupon. They're not my favourite thing in the world, but I will eat them without complaint as long as they're not all sloppy with toppings.

4.  How have your priorities changed over time? 

I don't even know how to answer that one, so I guess the question isn't a priority.

5. What's one thing on your June calendar you're really looking forward to? 

A Christian women's retreat at a nearby church. Oh, and our wedding anniversary. 

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

On the Rabbit Room website, Lara d'Entremont wrote an article called "Who Defines Beauty?" She recalls the first house she and her husband lived in, which was in an isolated place and so beyond-ugly inside that she found herself constantly scrolling through photos of nicer houses and wishing they were somewhere else. She was, apparently, oblivious to the beauty right around them: a marvelous, astounding outdoor panorama, which she describes in the article. And, even more so: I was reading recently about the English/Canadian artist Arthur Lismer, who noticed at one point that his fellow artists often "stepped right over the foreground"--they liked to paint the faraway vistas, but didn't notice things that were right in front of them. So: we need curiosity, and we need contentment. 

And commitment.

And convertibility.

And, when possible, coupons.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Recording the Wednesday Hodgepodge

 From this Side of the Pond

1. What are you currently juggling in your life?

I don't know that I'm juggling too much right now, at least not compared to some other people I know. Other kinds of circus stunts might seem more appropriate.

2. How often do you buy new clothes? What was the last piece of clothing you purchased?

New as in brand new, or new as in thrifted? Actual clothing or accessories? We are in and out of thrift stores at least once a week, so I have opportunities to buy things there. How often I actually buy anything depends on the season and what I need, though I like surprises too.

The last clothes-related thing I bought was today: a vintage scarf, which will go well with other summer things.

3. What food festival would you most like to attend? 

I can't think of a lot of primarily-food festivals I've ever been to or would want to spend all day at. The Elmira, Ontario Maple Syrup Festival, a couple of times, that's probably it. Maybe you have to be a certain kind of person to gravitate towards rib fests and garlic bonanzas.

4. May is the 5th month of the year. Tell us something you remember about your 5th grade year. 

Fifth grade? Learning to play the recorder in music class (we were so relieved not to have to sing for once); and, I think, crochet in an after-school class one of the teachers led. I still like to crochet, but I haven't played the recorder in years.

5. What are your favorite five words right now? 

Green, because things are. 

Warm, because it is.

Art, because that's mostly what I'm reading about. (Pottery dish bought at a yard sale last weekend)

"On sale," and yes, that's two words.

6. Random thoughts?

I think that's random enough already.

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Imagined Becomes Real: Riffing on a Vivienne Files Wardrobe

In a pair of posts (here and here), The Vivienne Files has come up with another example of a small, classic, neutral summer wardrobe, which can then be perked up by half a dozen bright additions.

The thirteen core pieces are a balance of navy and white. They are mainly casual (I think of shorts as casual), and the dress is hacked from a swimsuit coverup, but there is also a  more expensive sleeveless top for dressier occasions (I assume to be worn with navy pants, although it's hinted that it would also look good with a skirt).

The accent pieces take their colours from a Mark Rothko painting in shades of red and pink. There is an eye-popping set of bright pink linen shirt and pants, plus a pink dress and a couple of tops. 

This isn't too far from the spring/summer wardrobe I already posted here. But if I wanted to create a closer match to the VF wardrobe, say for a trip, how would I do it? Particularly considering that I gave away a large bag of clothes that had seen a few too many better days, so there are fewer things to work with. On the other hand, I just bought a pair of white jeans, and also thrifted a summer top that would work well. So let's do this.

The closest thing I have to a fancy sleeveless top is a fancy sleeveless dress, so that checks off both those boxes. Note to self: make sure the dress in Part 2 is more casual.

Bonus dress, neutral and linen though not navy.

Navy shorts and navy pants: yes, I have those. (I also have an extra pair of dark blue shorts, so that's enough for me--I don't wear shorts much.)

White shorts: substituting white jeans. (And goes without saying: a pair of blue jeans.)

Two navy tops: I have one navy top with same-colour embroidery, and I just thrifted a navy and grey top with some texture.

A pinstriped navy linen shirt: I do have a blue and white striped shirt, not as dark but I think it would work.

White summer cardigan: On this one I might have to split between a white linen pullover (which would work some of the time but not with everything), a navy linen-blend pullover (ditto), and a jean jacket which is okay on cooler days but isn't something you're going to want to wear wandering around the beach town in July, right? Note to self: keep this in mind at the thrift store.

White sleeveless blouse: I'm substituting a white t-shirt.

Striped casual top: Striped t-shirt.

Two accent-colour tops or blouses: Since I haven't completely decided which direction I'm going with Part Two (pink? blue? green?), I'm going to play it safe with a blue t-shirt and a magenta one. Note to self: that magenta t-shirt is not in the best shape, so I either need to thrift a replacement, or choose something else I already have. (Bonus points for this scarf that blends with most of the upcoming colours.)

Navy crossbody purse and sandals: I do have navy sandals, and a large navy purse. But I would also include my white (technically Coconut Cream) Pixie Mood purse. And a hat as suggested.

Navy espadrilles and white sneakers: Loafers with bows, and a pair of sneakers.

Navy and white scarf: I don't seem to have anything summer-appropriate in just those colours; I might have to either thrift something or just go with a brighter scarf (see the t-shirt photo above).

Earrings: something navy, something pink. What else would look good? Silver hoops, for sure.

Accent Pieces, Version One

Let's assume we're going with the pinks and reds of the VF plan. Well, I for sure don't have a hot pink linen shirt and pants. But I do have a vintage rayon blouse and skirt set with pink and purple stripes, so that's close.

What about a more everyday outfit? I have a white linen shirt (which offers another option for that white cardigan I don't own). I also have a pair of navy embroidered pants that go with the top from Part 1.

 Some more brightness: last year I thrifted a FIG Voyage dress in pink and red stripes. 

That leaves two tops, but I already added the white shirt, so let's go with one. If I wanted to keep going with pink, I would include this floral sleeveless top--it's a bit dressy for everyday, but sometimes that's what you want.

Two more pairs of shoes: the VF plan suggests pink and gold sandals, but I'm going to go casual with red pull-on sneakers and dark blue lace-ups.

Another scarf: again, I'm trying to pick out something that might be worn in the summer. Instead of going for something small, though, the best option I have is this large but lightweight scarf that includes navy, pink and white (among other things). It could even work as a wrap with a sleeveless dress.

Another pair of earrings (or other jewelry): Although I love scarves, in summertime I'm more likely to dress things up with necklaces.

The VF plan doesn't add any other bags at this point, but I probably would.

Accent Pieces, Version Two

If I weren't trying to duplicate the VF pink and red theme, I could easily go with blues and greens. I have a green t-shirt dress, a couple of green tops, a purse with green sea turtles on it, and a set of Fierce Lynx bracelets in teal and white. You've seen all those things here before, but here's a photo.

Plus a scarf. (Flea market find last week.)
And all that's pretty much what I was going to wear this summer anyway--it's just a different way to think it through.  I'm going to keep my eyes open for a replacement t-shirt (shouldn't be hard), and a white cardigan or small jacket that could be worn with a dress. Otherwise, we're good to go!

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Wednesday Hodgepodge: May's First Day

 From this Side of the Pond

1. Mayday! Mayday!...when was the last time (or a recent time) you literally or figuratively needed to call for help? Elaborate. 

Watching Question Period in Canadian Parliament yesterday.

2. May Day...when was the last time you danced? Do you have a lot of baskets? What's something you keep in a basket? What's your favorite purple flower? 

Baskets: yes, I think we have quite a few of them, mostly on the small side, mostly yardsaled and thrifted. Some are holding things like bread, pens, dishtowels, and a begonia; others are just sitting on their own.

The flower: that's easy, violets.

3. What's something you may do this month? 

I'm still figuring it out.

4. Do you like eggplant? Quick topic changes lol? If you said yes in answer to the eggplant question how do you like yours prepared? Of the following purple foods, which one is your favorite...plums, purple carrots, purple asparagus, eggplant, acai berries, blackberries, purple cauliflower, elderberries, purple potatoes, or passion fruit? 

I haven't eaten any of those things in forever, except for plums (last summer) and purple potatoes when they pop up in a bag from the Little Potato Co. (but I can't say they're really my favourite, I feel like I'm eating something dyed for April Fool's).

How about some purple grapes in the fall instead? 

5. The calendar turns on Hodgepodge Day...

"Then you have to remember to be thankful; but in May one simply can't help being thankful that they are alive, if for nothing else."-L.M. Montgomery

Tell us one thing you're thankful for today. 

A car that has got us places for seven years.

Artists who do those mysterious things with paint and pencils and stained glass and pottery.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens, the first book in a set of Dickens that my father-in-law gave us. I just finished. Next (alphabetically) would be David Copperfield, but I've already read that so I guess we move on to Dombey & Son.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

I'm reading about English/Canadian artist (and art teacher) Arthur Lismer. One funny thing about him was that he came from a very ordinary, conservative, straitlaced background, and even as a famous artist he had a very ordinary kind of family and work life. He was also on the spot for the 1917 Halifax explosion and recorded it in drawings, which is a reminder that sometimes God asks us to remember and learn from our stories of pain as well as the good times.

In her 1977 book A Border of Beauty: Arthur Lismer's Pen and Pencil, Marjorie Lismer Bridges remembered the experience of camping with her father:

"In about two hours, whenever he finished a sketch, Dad reappeared and made a camp fire. The meal varied according to our supplies--eggs, beans, bacon. Occasionally someone would give us a freshly caught fish, but my father was no fisherman. Even if we were having cold sandwiches he still made a fire and boiled water for coffee. It was not so much that he loved coffee, but that he enjoyed building a fire."

She also wrote:

“[My father’s] restless pencil was constantly in his hand. He never went anywhere without drawing material in his pocket. Whenever he sketched he usually had a group of people watching over his shoulder, but this never seemed to bother him, and he would carry on a conversation as he worked…[While waiting for meals] he spent the time drawing on menu cards, table napkins, placemats—anything that came to hand. To my mother’s horror, he would even draw on the plates, and then quickly wipe them off with a table napkin when she protested. In any ship or hotel dining room the drawings would be snatched up by the waiters and the diners. Some were even taken back to the chef in the kitchen. There must be Lismer drawings in every corner of the British Commonwealth and the U.S.A. Wherever he was, he illustrated the daily activities, or an item on the menu, or the group at the next table. He never seemed to stop drawing. If he was writing a report he doodled in the margins. If he was reading a paperback book he drew in the blank spaces. He also illustrated his personal letters and his crossword puzzle books…”

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Hodgepodge with ModPodge

 From this Side of the Pond

1. What's a skill you think everyone should have? 

Everyone everywhere? That's pretty broad. I could say something basic like "reading," but there are people in places and circumstances where even that's an n/a.

Can I say that I think it would be a good thing if more people (not everyone) had better reading skills, and not just what Mortimer Adler called the basic "I'm literate" skill, but the levelling-up skills that allow us to catch not just the words but the ideas that are thrown at us in a text?

2. Do you have a special place or organizational system for gift wrapping? Do you still buy 'real' cards to send for birthdays, anniversaries, get-well, etc? 

Gift wrapping--I have one bin to collect ALL the used gift bags, tags, pieces of recycled tissue paper, etc., so that's "wrapping central." I don't buy new wrap very often, maybe for Christmas sometimes. I also don't buy buy individual cards very often because they're super-expensive. But I do make cards, or at least improve plainer ones that have come in a pack or from a thrift store. (Sometimes with Modpodge.)

Grab bag of bits and pieces. Somebody had started painting the wooden shapes and then quit.

I used the shapes, the tape, and the floral cutouts to "juice up" some otherwise blah cards for Easter.

3. It's National Banana Day...are you a fan? What's your favorite thing to make with bananas or, if you're not a cook, your favorite thing to eat that contains banana? 

Around here, probably banana bread. We keep finding it for half price at the supermarket, so it's hard to say no to that.

4. Do you believe in second chances? Elaborate. 

A second chance for...what, a career or something? Sure.

Maybe not so much for a hairstylist who shears you the wrong way.

5. What is your idea of fun? 

Realizing that the secondhand bookstore you're checking out also has a second floor.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

It's Fashion Revolution Week, that time when we ask "who made my clothes?" Or when we at least try to do some good for the fashionary planet. 

My contribution is creative thrifting. A couple of days ago I found this scarf for a couple of dollars, that was kind of calling my name.

I pulled out some (also thrifted) spring/summer clothes and had a floor-modelling session.

I love the way the scarf seems to work with everything else; that's when you know something was a good buy.

Linked from the Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.