Monday, August 31, 2020

Quote for the day: A different perspective

"That ordinary life is an admirable thing in itself, just as imagination is an admirable thing in itself. But it is much more the ordinary life that is made of imagination than the contemplative life. He who has seen the whole world hanging on a hair of the mercy of God has seen the truth; we might almost say the cold truth. He who has seen the vision of his city upside-down has seen it the right way up." ~~ G.K. Chesterton, Saint Francis of Assisi

Monday, August 24, 2020

From the archives: A crazy kind of gratitude

I found this in Frederick Buechner's memoir The Sacred Journey, where he remembers a hungry, cold, wet supper during his infantry training. Just before this he has been talking about St. Francis of Assisi and his Canticle to the Sun--"the madness of throwing away everything he ever had or ever hoped to have for love of the creation no less than of the creator...."

"With a lurch of the heart that is real to me still, I saw suddenly, almost as if from beyond time altogether, that not only was the turnip good, but the mud was good too, even the drizzle and cold were good, even the Army that I had dreaded for months. Sitting there in the Alabama winter with my mouth full of cold turnip and mud, I could see at least for a moment how if you ever took truly to heart the ultimate goodness and joy of things, even at their bleakest, the need to praise someone or something for it would be so great that you might even have to go out and speak of it to the birds of the air."

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Intentional Thrifter: The Joke's On Me

 Thrifting has its unexpected side.

I bought this longer-style sort-of-stretchy white shirt yesterday, from the women's shirt rack. When I looked up the label, I found out it's from a men's collection! I should have guessed that from the buttons on the wrong side, but the sort-of-stretchy thing fooled me. Oh well, I won't tell if you won't. (Update: we also discovered that it was a you-paid-how-much?? shirt, so we're going to try to resell it. If nobody bites, I'll wear it.)

Yes, this is the Same Skirt I bought previously, from the Same Place, but three sizes smaller. So now I have a striped skirt that I altered, and a striped skirt that was that size to start with. One of them will probably get made into striped something else.

Remember this personal-size teapot and cup?
The same store had another one, for a dollar. Mr. Fixit thought I should get it so that everybody can have their favourite tea in their own
(Says someone who's wishing for the no-visits era to be ancient history.)

We also found a picture we had liked before, and it happened to be on its half-price day.
And two 1970's Glasbake pans, for $3 each.
Good heavy-duty stuff, and in great shape.

It was almost as good as a yard sale.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Why Five?

Here are the questions for this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge.|

 Answer on your own blog, then hop back to From This Side of the Pond (click the graphic) to share answers with all the other world wide webbers. See you there!

1. Five years ago this month hubs and I relocated from New Jersey to the Palmetto State. What were you doing five years ago this month?

The biggest event for me that month was what didn't happen: it was the first August in almost two decades in which I was not preparing to homeschool anybody. We had two Squirrelings still living at home, and the youngest was getting ready to start ninth grade, which meant acquiring things like backpacks and and running-for-the-bus sneakers. I had also just published my first book, and that had taken a slice out of me, so I was refueling by doing a lot of reading.
2. What was the last 9-5 job you worked? Tell us about it.

During my first year of marriage (which mostly consisted of pregnancy), I was doing "floater" work at a university: temping in whatever departments needed office help. One of the human resources people had me come in a couple of times a week to handle her typing, make overheads, and book space and order muffins for meetings. We got along so well that she offered me a permanent part-time job, but I turned it down (I  didn't want to make her have to find yet another temp while I stayed home with the baby). On my last morning there, I was supposed to come in and take minutes of a meeting, but I phoned in to explain that I had a two-hours-old baby and didn't think I could make it.

3. Plead the fifth, high five, take five, it's five o'clock somewhere, or the big 5-0...which number five phrase relates to your life in some way currently? Tell us how.
'Well, Jack, and where are you off to?' said the man. 'I'm going to market to sell our cow there.' 'Oh, you look the proper sort of chap to sell cows,' said the man; 'I wonder if you know how many beans make five.' 'Two in each hand and one in your mouth,' says Jack, as sharp as a needle. 'Right you are,' says the man.

Thanks to Jack and the Beanstalk, "to know how many beans make five" has become a synonym for "to know what's what."

This year I'm not only less certain how many beans make five, but whether they're still going to be in my hand the next time I look

4. During this season of spending so much time at home, what distractions get in the way of being your most productive? Or have you been extra productive since this whole thing started?

Productive in terms of...? Yes, I did a couple of extra computer-related projects I had been putting off, but other than that, about the same. It's not the actual distractions that get in the way as the apparently common problem of 2020 brain fatigue: see #3.

5. Give us a list here of your top five anything.

I'm tempted to write a list of the negatives, "top five things I haven't done since March that I'm annoyed that I haven't been able to do." But ahem, I'll go on from there.

Top five favourite things I've thrifted since the stores reopened:

This little teapot that has its own cup underneath
Floral scarf
Book I've wanted to read for several years
Floral vintage-vibe purse (I like flowers)
Pink coat for chilly weather.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

The Nature of Thrifting (Part Three): Taking Sides

It's National Thrift Shop Day.

There are some annoyed people out there who feel it's wrong-handed to dump on limited-budget fast-fashion shoppers, and who blame that situation at least partly on the gentrification of thrift stores.

Let's pick that apart carefully.

Yes, thrift stores went through a change. I've mentioned before that, years ago, I'd walk into the Salvation Army store and things wouldn't even be priced. The woman behind the counter decided what she thought you could/should pay for the pants. A little strange, and sometimes reversely discriminatory (people with little money don't always look like it), but that was it. Then the old stores closed, and new ones re-opened in shopping plazas and places further out; the price of the pants became fixed, and, often, higher. The new locations and higher prices, as well as the rival for-profit stores, did somewhat change the customer base.

But as most people do realize about charity-based thrift stores, they do not exist primarily to give people with low budgets somewhere to shop, although that is one of their benefits to the community. They exist to raise money for their organizations, and/or to provide training and work/volunteer opportunities. If a thrift store decides to brand itself as a "boutique" to attract new customers, that may not help someone who just needs pants, but it may also be a matter of survival for the store. The rent has to be paid, and those of us living through 2020 can hardly be unaware of how little it takes to push businesses, including non-profits, over the edge. 

Thrift stores, in spite of the predicament they've been put into of having to figure out what to do with the mounds of donated stuff, are nevertheless proud of their ability to help "green" the planet a bit. If people can be encouraged to use some of the stuff that already exists instead of feeding the corporate sausage machine, that's a good thing, right?

But, the argument goes on...and I'm trying really hard to see the logic in this...the thrift stores haven't "done their job" (whatever that is) for people under financial stress, and so these same people are not only entitled to buy fast fashion, but should buy fast fashion.

Sorry, I'm not buying it. 

Does that argument not sound demeaning to you? More of an us-and-them thing than we had going in the first place? Me, I''m privileged to thrift a good cotton t-shirt...but you, you go buy the piece of new rayon junk. And never mind what the factory conditions were for the women who sewed the shirt, or what that gigantic order of shirts did to make the planet a bit worse off. 

I'm all for not judging where people buy their clothes. How would I know where you bought yours unless I asked? How would you know where I bought mine unless you asked? If you can travel to one store or another easily, that might even outweigh (to some extent) the benefit of, say, ordering something ecological online and having it shipped; or having to travel a long and inconvenient distance to a thrift store. I used to live next to a discount store, and it was very handy.

But supporting fast fashion, and bashing thrift stores, as a way to support human rights? 


Take it from someone wearing a pair of one-dollar jeans.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Three-Dollar Thrifting

One of the thrift stores near us has a dollar rack, for things on their last week in the store. This morning I found a pair of black jeans there, just my size and definitely a Good Thing because I was thinking at least one of my current pairs of jeans would soon need replacing.
And that seemed to be it for that trip; even Mr. Fixit didn't find anything he could use. On my way to check out, I thought I heard a little over-here voice from the scarf rack. I didn't see anything interesting at first; then it popped out at me: a great big lightweight scarf/shawl, in an entire garden of colours, for two dollars.
The world of thrift can be an amazing place sometimes. Little voices and all.

In the Middle of a Wednesday Hodgepodge

Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog, then hop back to From This Side of the Pond to share answers with the universe. Here we go-

From this Side of the Pond

1. August 12th is National Middle Child Day...are you a middle child? If not, where in your family do you fall in terms of birth order? Do you hold true to the typical characteristics of oldest-middle-youngest-only child? (a quick list can be found here) Elaborate.

Oldest daughter of an oldest daughter of an oldest daughter. My fate was predetermined.

2. Tell us about a time you felt like (or you actually were) in the middle of nowhere.

Any time you feel seriously lost in a strange place can feel like nowhere. When you're a child lost in a store, that's big enough to feel like nowhere. When I was about thirteen, I went with a summer youth program to watch the Toronto Blue Jays play Kansas City (they lost), but after the game I got turned around and couldn't find the right bus. There were a LOT of buses in that parking lot, and who's going to remember the name of whatever company owned the bus? I had visions of living in the Exhibition Place parking lot forever (this was a few years before they built the Skydome). All of a sudden one of the names did look familiar, and there was everybody just lining up to get on the bus. My hour of panic turned out to have been only a few minutes.

3. What's something you're smack in the middle of currently?

A longterm book project which is starting to come near its end.

Also, helping our youngest Squirreling funnel her belongings from this Treehouse to her new place.

4. What's a food you love to eat that has something delicious in the middle?

Stuffed shells with ricotta-spinach filling.

You thought I was going to say chocolates?

5. Share a memory from your middle school days, or junior high if that's what your school dubbed kids somewhere between grades 6-8.

I thought I just did that...anyway, those aren't years I usually want to spend much time revisiting.

Okay. Regional French contest, third prize. Polaroid picture at the end of the day. The trophy was supposed to go to my school, but they didn't want it, so I kept it on the bookshelf for the next thirty-seven years.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

Last week I promised to post a picture of the thing I was waiting for in the mail. Here it is:

These are the Fierce Wisdom bracelets from Fierce Lynx Designs in New Brunswick. If you have spent any time on the Vivienne Files website, you will have seen Fierce Lynx bracelets mentioned there. I chose them to honour the spirit of some family members who are no longer with us. (I didn't mean I honour spirits, just their spirit.)  They're also one of my favourite colours.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Fall Clothes: From the Ground Up

 Season(s) covered: September through November 2020

The planning process: I posted earlier about starting to think about fall clothes, here and here. Along with many other people, I am looking at a fall with few opportunities for trips, outings, or occasions. At this point, even a casual run into the public library is a no-go, and eating inside a restaurant seems to be reserved for the brave. The outfits shown here are as my-real-life as I can make them.

Where I'm shopping: Most of the clothes were thrifted unless otherwise noted (because we are able to access thrift stores).  Some of the accessories and jewelry came from antiques malls or markets (because ditto).

Would I really wear a skirt to Food Basics? Yes, I would. Next?

Colour Inspirations:

This scarf (from the antiques market)

And these apatite-bead bracelets (from Fierce Lynx Designs in New Brunswick)

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Chocolate Wednesday Chip Hodgepodge

Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog, then hop back to From This Side of the Pond to share answers with all your friends and likely a few random strangers too.

From this Side of the Pond

1.  What's happening where you live in terms of schools opening? How do you feel about it?

They're opening, but everything's extremely complicated. My kids are post-high school, but if I did have younger ones and if I weren't already homeschooling them, I'd be very frustrated. 

2. What's something you still do 'old school'?

Read books.

Wash dishes in the sink.

Listen to CDs. (Mr. Fixit plays LPs.)

3. August 4th is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. Will you/did you celebrate by baking a batch? Eating a batch? Nuts or no nuts? Homemade or store bought? Soft and chewy or do you prefer your cookie to snap when you bite into it?

If you search this blog for "chocolate chip," you will find quite a few recipes. Neiman-Marcus cookies are a special favourite, but I made some this week with Bisquick that turned out really well. If you're trying them, these are my notes: I added another half cup of Bisquick, because it seemed to need it; and I cut the vanilla in half. Also, I melted the butter instead of softening it, but that was an accident.

4. What are you starved for?


You thought I was going to say cookies?
Frog and toad, willpower, and microservice architecture –

5. Anything new and interesting on your August calendar? What is one thing you're looking forward to this month?

I'm trying not to look forward too much. A lot of days, now is far enough.

Oh, I know: something that's in the mail that's supposed to get here tomorrow. I'll post a photo on next week's Hodgepodge.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Quote for a Sunday: In good hands

"'The sea may kick up her heels a trifle,' said Mr. Pipes.  He scanned the blue expanse all around them.  'A blow could follow a calm such as this....However, no sense our worrying over the future; we are in God's hands, my dear, not some storm's.'" The Accidental Voyage: Discovering Hymns of the Early Centuries, by Douglas Bond.