Havana- Part 1

Havana- Part 1

Stepping onto the plane to go and work in Havana on a movie for 5 weeks was exciting and terrifying at the same time. I met a coworker, the Costume Designer, at the airport in Toronto and we boarded our plane. She had three large bags of vintage clothes she was bringing for the film. I had my enormous bag stuffed to the brim because I needed to survive for a month and I knew that snack bars and toiletries were scarce in Cuba. When we landed in Havana we experienced something straight out of “Midnight Express”. We were immediately pulled aside by security, once we snatched our bags off of the carousel. The Cuban guards were yelling at us in Spanish and pointing for us to go into a back area. Neither one of us spoke the language. They started opening our bags and going through everything. They kept saying to my coworker in English. “You cannot bring to gift… you must pay.” We kept saying we were working on a movie and none of the clothes were gifts. Of course we didn’t have our visas yet because we were told by production that we would acquire those once we actually came into the country to start work. It was scary and confusing. After two hours of being held in the back of the small airport I remembered I had printed out the crew list which had contact information for our Cuban Producer and some of the Cuban crew. I pulled it out and gave it to the guards. They looked at it and then snapped their fingers at us to repack and zip up our bags. I was so relieved. As I was zipping my bag, one of the border guards that had been yelling at us approached, with a huge smile on his face, and said quietly to me, “I want to be an actor.” It was so hilarious after our ordeal that I suddenly felt relaxed and had no animosity towards him. I gave him the universal thumbs up and we were allowed to exit. It was not the way I had wanted to be introduced to such an incredibly beautiful and complex city but it is one for the record books. It was night as we exited the building to meet our patient driver who had been waiting now for three hours for us. It was hot and muggy as we sped through the empty streets that had the smell of gasoline mixed with the salt of the sea. I thought maybe it was the old car we were driving in, but later, realized that this is the way Havana smells. There are so many old cars on the road it has created a smell of an automotive seniors center where cars cough and chug along with the help of young, innovative home mechanics, who will use anything to keep their original family cars on the road.

There is something to be said for a country that does not have a single MacDonald’s or Burger King.  It’s wonderful. Havana sits in a time warp.  Everything sort of stopped in 1959 or more aptly was reborn, depending on who you speak to.

The Cuban revolution, lead by Fidel Castro, began on the 26th day of July 1951. Within the last five years, President Obama famously visited Havana, in his efforts to finally mend relations between the US and Cuba, but since Trump has come to power, it all seems to have gone awry. It makes me sad since the people of Cuba are the happiest and kindest, most generous, people I have ever met and its history is like no other place I have been. Americans are missing so much by not being allowed to visit this complicated country, but then, the selfish side of me doesn’t want to share this amazing place. I do fear that once things open up it will destroy the innocence and beauty. I also know that the people deserve better but do not assume that everyone wants change. Some people are fearlessly loyal to their government and system and are also wary of what could happen if everything opens up. I think the smartest thing they have done in Cuba is to not allow anyone who is not Cuban to own property. If you are a foreigner you can only buy a home or estate in Cuba if you have a Cuban partner and the property has to be in that persons name.

There are signs everywhere signifying the Revolution. The Museum Of the Revolution is fascinating and is in the Palace in Old Havana. There are bullet holes in the marble walls as you go up the steps inside. You will also find many photos and tributes to Che Guevera.

“Ernesto “Che” Guevara was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, activist, guerrilla leader, diplomat and major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular culture.”

This is a picture of my desk that I used at an old police station where we were shooting for a few days.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba

I could not believe our luck as we pulled up to the famous Hotel Nacional de Cuba, where Frank Sinatra honeymooned with Ava Gardner. Johnny Weissmuller, who played Tarzan in movies, used to famously dive from his third story room overlooking the Olympic size concrete swimming pool. 

 The hotel also entertained politicians like Winston Churchill and Jimmy Carter and actors like Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich.  In December of 1946 the Hotel also hosted the famous  Havana Conference which was a summit of mobsters run by Lucky Luciano and attended by all the notorious mob bosses of the day and was recreated in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather Part II”.   This was going to be my home for the next five weeks and it was a dream come true.

The Tropicana, which is the nightclub at the Nacional,  had performers like Eartha Kit and Nat King Cole, who were not allowed to stay at the hotel, because they were black, but were hired to sing  to sold out audiences.    There is a bust honoring Nat King Cole today outside the Tropicana. 

I was thrilled to be in a place that is an Art Director’s dream come true.  The 1950’s are preserved in Havana.  The cars are meticulously taken care of but if you open the hood you see makeshift parts that have kept them running.  Wire coat hangers, spoons, forks or anything metal  is used.  They have not been able to get new parts for decades because of the sanctions against them from the United States.  There are some newer European cars but the majority of people can’t afford them so they have to keep their old American made cars running. You are not guaranteed ,that when you hire a car, it will make it to your destination without breaking down.

Out front of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba

The architecture in Havana is in a Baroque style but is also Cuban.  Open balcony’s with barred windows and huge rounded columns are common.   In the suburbs of Havana you find homes that were built in the 1940’s and 1950’s and are still decorated with original ‘50’s furniture.  The mornings are a symphony of roosters greeting the dawn.

The Malecon is along the coast of Havana and stretches for 8km.  It began construction in 1901 during temporary U.S. military rule.  It is a broad esplanade that has a seawall protecting the roadway from a ,sometimes, tumultuous sea.  It is also a social gathering area for people to walk  and sit and play music.  You can stroll along the sea wall into the area referred to as Old Havana. 

The Malecon

Old Havana is Cuba’s capitol and it is filled with vintage cars, enormous museums and cobble stoned, narrow streets ,with shops and open air restaurants. 

 There is lively music everywhere and some of the best Spanish guitar players you will see playing on a corner. After speaking to many musicians , the one thing I came away with was an intense sadness. Guitar players in Cuba can’t buy strings. Most of the guitars are still using ancient cat gut strings and if they break one then they are out of business as musicians.

I decided that anytime I visit Cuba I will bring along packs of strings.  I handed them out to the street musicians and saw grown men cry to get something  so essential to their careers. A tiny gesture that makes a huge difference in someones life.   Music is a huge part of their culture.  The talent you will see from a busker on the street is mind boggling.

Some badly placed maracas
Old Havana

Old Havana has a central area called Plaza de la Catredral which is named for the stunning Catredral de San Cristobol.   It is an open square in front of this Cuban Baroque cathedral where there are many outdoor cafes and restaurants to sit, have a coffee or a drink and have a bite to eat.    The square is also filled with music and colorful locals who are entertaining you or selling you something. 

You will also find line ups of retro cars from the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s.  All of these cars are for hire and some are just taxis.  You can get a taxi for 6 Cubanos , which is a Cuban currency that has a floating exchange rate. Its bizarre and it is the luck of the draw if you get a good rate.

The rates seem to correspond with the American Dollar but my Canadian dollar was never factored in and is worthless in Cuba. As a matter of fact you have to buy Cubanos when you land but you can also use your credit card in hotels and most places will take American money.

I went to the old Ernest Hemingway haunt La Florida, which, from the outside does not look that impressive but the interior is dark wood and elegance. A lively band plays at the front while they serve delicious Daiquiris, which was apparently Ernest’s drink of choice at the time.

La Floridita

You can sidle up to the bar beside the bronze statue of Ernest sitting in his favorite seat at the bar.

La Floridida
Having a Daiquiri with Hemingway

Cuba also has some of the finest rum in the world. And ,of course, everyone knows that the best cigars in the world are Cuban. One of my favorite drinks is the Mojito. It is rum, lime, soda water and sugar and mint. A delicious and refreshing drink for a hot day. I had my fare share over the month I was in Havana.

The art in Havana is also everywhere. There are original paintings hanging in the streets of Old Havana alongside the outdoor vintage market. You kind find everything from old typewriters, jewellery, cameras and books pre-revolution and post revolution. I think the prices have gone up recently because the Cubans are aware how precious some of these antiques are.

There are also many restaurants called Paladars. The government has allowed people to get a license to serve food in their homes. Some of them are in huge old mansions that are crumbling around you with a fading opulence of another time and place. Families of enormous wealth, at one time, now trying to survive, still living in the ancestral home with cracked Spanish floor tiles as a reminder of how things used to be.

I went to a Paladar in Old Havana and the food was delicious. It was logistina, which is a Caribbean lobster, with fragrant seasoned rice and free Mojitos. The tiny laneway beside the house was decorated with Christmas lights and flowers. It was hidden away and the man who owned it chased my friend and I down and begged us to follow him for a tasty and cheap meal. He just happened to show up at the right time because we were starving and ready to sit and eat. We could see the apron of his wife cooking our meal in the kitchen as we sipped on our Mojitos.

At the Paladar- hours before disaster struck

The food was amazing and we thanked them as we left with a full stomach. What I need to warn you about is the danger of having a drink with unpurified ice. We had at least three. This is exactly what happened to us. Hours later I was feeling a bit off. I managed to get back to the Hotel after work but entered to find my friend projectile vomiting across the room. I joined in! Then it was none stop fun for the entire night. I really don’t want to go into the gory details but we also plugged the toilet. I was so dehydrated my hands were cramping. The hotel maids came in the next morning and were horrified at the pasty white grub creatures they found and immediately called the Dr. who rushed over with injections for us both.

I have never been so sick. I would suggest asking your Dr., prior to going somewhere that may have bad drinking water, to give you a prescription in case you accidentally have bad ice like we did. You will be cured in 24 hours instead of going through the three days of torture that I went through. Oh well, live and learn, and the next time I visit I’ll be a little more cautious.

Some of the most beautiful, generous, happy and kind people that I have met in my life are Cubans. They share everything because they have very little. There is no jealousy or ambition to have more than your next door neighbor. I have seen this rarely. You see it everywhere in Havana.

In my next blog I will talk about Havana from a working perspective and the people of Havana. I also will explore one of the more fascinating historical hotels… The Riviera … which was owned by gangster Meyer Lansky and was built in 1957. It is a virtual time capsule of ’50’s design, art, furniture and cool. Stay tuned readers!

A Love Letter to Devon

A Love Letter to Devon

Once upon a time there was a man named Isaac Singer that purchased a house in 1871 on beautiful lush grounds where he added gardens, tennis courts and bowling greens.  He bought it as his private residence with the money that he made with the invention of the Singer Sewing Machine, which still stands today as the standard for the modern sewing machine.  He lived from 1811 until 1875  and then this stunning house was rebuilt it in the style of the  Palace of Versaille, by one of his children, Paris Singer.

This breath taking property is named Oldway Mansion and sits in Paignton, Devon England.   Oldway Mansion was purchased by the Paignton Urban District Council in 1946 and was used as council offices and then marriage ceremonies till 2013 and since then it has sat empty.

I strolled around the massive home in the mist of a light rain with patches of fog rolling along the tennis courts and gardens. 

There is a statue with the head of a woman and body of a lion protecting the steps going up to the back of the house.  I’m not sure who it is.  Perhaps a member of the royal family?  I can’t tell. 

Vintage faux leopard coat over a Zara jumpsuit

What I can say, is that this hauntingly beautiful estate sits empty and rotting.  It is the saddest thing to see such a lonely empty historical landmark deserted and ignored because of a lack of funding.  I know that local historians are gutted to see it just sitting there like a discarded pearl at the bottom of the ocean. It seems no one can come to an agreement with what to do with the enormous estate.  It should be reopened to the public as a museum, if nothing else.  One can only imagine what it was like when it was a private home with parties and dinners and events.  I peered through the windows and snapped some shots of a ghostly interior trapped in a time warp of opulence.  A grand piano sits alone in a vast room.  Parkay floors are faded and stained but the windows still have curtains and the style of the room hearkens back to a period of decadence.   

I yearned to go inside but there are bolts on the doors and no one is allowed.

Crumbling brick and dead leaves are starting to collect and if nothing is done this symbol of the 1800’s will collapse. 

Oldway Mansion

Chard, Somerset – Courthouse – circa 1640

I visited another amazing private residence in Devon that was built in 1640 and, originally, was the town courthouse.   The judge was known as “the hanging judge”. It is a thrilling monument to the times with its turrets and lovely courtyard. 

Old photo circa 1920’s of residence

There is a ghost who has been there for centuries. One day an old woman knocked on the front door, which resembles the entrance to one of the castles on Game Of Thrones, and said she had lived there as a child in the 1920’s. She brought along an old photo of herself on a tricycle out front of the place, gifting it to the current resident. He brought her inside so she could revisit her childhood dwelling and she immediately asked if the female ghost was still there. And.. yes.. she was, still entertaining and watching over his children as she had watched over this woman so very long ago. It seems this spirit loves children and therefore they are the ones who have the gift of seeing her.

The original entrance

The courtyard

The back grounds are meticulously taken care of and the flowers are in full bloom.  There is  Ivy clinging to the walls and framing this idyllic English garden. 

Moving back to the courthouse.

There were many hanged in the Gothic brick building with its heavy wooden door and concrete stair case. 

the door leading up to the courtroom

I pleaded with Val to come into the old courtroom at night and we were terrified at the top of the stairs to see a mannequin dressed in period clothes at the back of the room.  A dark specter watching over its ghostly tenants.   I almost pee’d myself when Val’s blood curdling scream rang out and she scramble to the door in a desperate attempt to escape.

A mischievous tenant and keeper of all things spooky stood at the foot of the stairs giggling. A practical joker of the highest order.

I took some photos where I caught a large orb.  They were zipping around so quickly it was difficult to catch them on film.  I could definitely see them when the light flashed in the darkness. 

It was cold and ominous and the light through the giant windows cast shadows on the concrete floor and ceiling.  

The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I retreated to the warmth of the main house where there is always laughter and music and great food.  I’ve been fortunate to have been invited for more than one Sunday roast and the host does not disappoint.  Big thick slices of roast beef and home- made gravy, from scratch.  Cheese topped cauliflower, parsnips roasted in Madagascar honey, a  perfectly crispy roasted chicken and deliciously crunchy, yet, melt in your mouth, roasted potatoes. 

To top it all off, the dessert was fresh berries with clotted cream and a sprinkle of sugar.  A feast for a King or a Queen or a couple of Princess’s.   At least I felt like one, when I visited this incredible house and it’s owner.  Whatever the atmosphere has been over the years in this ancient place, I can say it is filled with love and happiness now. I doubt it has always been.

Dunkeswell

A stunner of a sunset in front of Val’s house

I photographed the old church and cemetery near Val’s place in Dunkeswell. I wanted to share some of them with my readers in case any of you decide to make the trip. It just such a beautiful place.

Tubbys Diner at the WWII Airfield – Dunkeswell

Val took me for breakfast one morning in an old hanger at a WWII Air Force Base. It was called Tubbys and there was one large gentleman cooking in a small kitchen in the back of the hanger.

He whipped up a great hearty British breakfast of eggs and ham, baked beans and potatoes and toast.

Yummy breakfast

One thing I did a lot of was eat on my trip. The old myth about Britain not having good food is seriously a myth. I had delicious food everywhere I went… even Val’s house… because she makes a mean Chicken Fajita, that cannot be topped!

Val admiring her meal

If I want to shop, while in Dunkeswell, I go to Exeter where there is a mixture of the old and the new. Top Shop and Zara and other fashionable stores are mixed with small bakeries and vintage shops. There is always a pub or restaurant to stop and have a drink or a bite.

I think the most heart felt thing I can say about anywhere I have been in the world is the connection to people that you meet. In my case I am fortunate to have a friend that always makes me laugh and is the best travel companion you could ask for. She selflessly goes to the most touristy, cheesy spots and shows just as much enthusiasm as I do and she deserves an Academy Award for that. So my hat is off to Val and her laugh and her wonderful Devon. If you are looking for a peaceful, lovely holiday I suggest Devon, England. You will not be disappointed.

LoNdOn cALliNg

LoNdOn cALliNg

London is a city like no other.  Its fashion and music history for starters.  Lets start with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. They changed music forever. Everything that was mod and mini came from London.  The birth of punk fashion came with Vivienne Westwood’s and Malcolm McLaren’s store. They capitalized on the safety pinned youth that were poor and had created something out of necessity. The real punks couldn’t afford to buy clothes from the shop that stole their fashion. The irony.

I started my trip to London in Camden Town. My friend Val and I stayed in a cozy little Airbnb that was within walking distance to Camden Market. It was a two level apartment that I mistakenly thought we would have to ourselves. When we arrived there were men’s socks draped across a radiator. Our upstairs room had men’s briefs on display at the foot of our bed. Our hosts slept in the bedroom beside ours. It was hilarious. I don’t think he quite had the whole hosting thing down. Still, we could walk to the market and the apartment was clean despite the socks and undies… and the sand paper towels they gave us to bath with were horrendous but it was all manageable.

Late night incognito on the streets of Camden Town

I love the quaintness and small town feel by the market.  The cobble stoned streets through Camden Market wind their way through stalls of fashionable clothing, cutting edge bondage looks and great vintage.  There is the “Mod Store” where the gentleman who owns it walks around in his authentic mod suit spewing a wealth of knowledge regarding the clothes he sells.  “This is from a London based designer who only made a few pieces… very rare.”  “This sequined flag jacket could have been made for Elton John.”

Then there is the beloved statue of Amy Winehouse in the center of the market. She lived in Camden Town and her house still has offerings of flowers and poems and gifts ,displayed across the road and under a tree, from fans who miss her. She was incredibly talented and incredibly tiny with her massive hair. I wish I’d had the opportunity to see her perform but she’s gone and the closest I will ever get is posing beside this bronzed Amy.

Beloved Amy Winehouse in Camden Market

There is an array of foods from around the globe in Camden Market and always somewhere to stop for a pint or a cocktail.  I spent two days just wandering , eating fantastic coconut based Indonesian curry from a stall on the first day, and having delicious Mexican on the second day. I ended up purchasing a dark red burgundy velvet waist coat that I found in a steam punk store.  I’m not sure what inspired me other than the fit was perfect and I felt a bit like David Bowie when I put it on.  I also found a vintage satin DKNY coat that would not allow me to leave it behind.

From there I traveled to Brighton where I immediately started singing “We are the mods, we are the mods, we are, we are, we are the mods” from “The Who’s” epic film “Quadraphenia”.  The film was shot in Brighton forty years ago.   I love The Who and I love that movie. It is a gem of great music, fashion and art and it features the lovely seaside town of Brighton.   I sat at an outdoor pub and drank pink gin and lemonade… refreshing and deceivingly innocent until you stand up after a couple.  Gin is not a drink I normally partake in but for some reason I drank a lot of it in the U.K.  I also discovered Espresso Martinis… a delicious blend of coffee and chocolate with vodka…  and something called a Porn Star Martini… a fruity mango based elixir with vodka and a shot of prosecco …both delicious and deadly… and I blame my mates Val and Angela for that obsession.  It became my mission for the rest of my trip to find cocktail lounges that could make those two drinks.  I was successful in my hunt and have had a couple of Espresso Martinis in my own home since I’ve returned… a full blown lush.

Val and I… another round

Brighton reminds me of San Francisco with its hilly streets and sea front.  The boardwalk is spectacular and still has rides on it that look like old -timey fairground rides.  The weather was a bit chilly, although it was sunny all day long, but even the heartiest of Brits was not giving in to the lure of the sea in May.  I have seen people swim where it could not have been much above 50 degrees and I turned blue just watching them, but not this time.    I went to see a Canadian band called The Sadies from Toronto and they blew the roof off the sold out show which was packed with enthusiastic guitar nerds and drunken dancers … myself being one of them… and afterwards everyone spilled out onto the streets to find the next libation.  My friends and I went to a wonderful place called The Bohemian where we drank my new fav, the Espresso Martini, that came on a concrete chalice filled with dry ice.  It was a drunken Game of Thrones moment for me.

The Sadies playing Brighton
Memories of Joe Jackson
Impressive makeup in a shop



Next, we made our way to my best mate Val’s farm house in Devon. A gorgeous British countryside with narrow hedged lined roads that wind up and down from one small hamlet to the next. I was introduced to clotted cream on scones with jam and probably gained five pounds in a week. It was worth it. Thank god for Spanx. There is nothing that compares to the English breakfast or countryside. Gorgeous. We visited a donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth. The grounds were immense and well kept. They even had a large maze you could run through, which reminded me of The Shining. I wouldn’t want to be there on a snowy day in the winter. The rescue donkeys were lovely and approachable. One had the most beautiful and peaceful face as we scratched her ears and whispered affections to her. I also hung out with Val’s rescue ponies and her son Will, a handsome young lad whose title is Will Of Fartingdom.

Will of Fartingdom
Vintage faux leopard coat over a Zara 1920’s inspired dressing gown and a pony
The happiest donkey in Sidmouth

Next, Val and I headed to Carnaby Street back in London and home of the birthplace of the swinging ’60’s. There was a time this street was filled with mods , punks and skinheads. It has always been the epicentre of fashion and culture in London’s West End. I tried to envision these early days as I walked the street. Now Carnaby Street is a tourist attraction that has fashionable “chain” stores that you would find in any mall. The boutiques seem to all have gone by the way side. There are some nice cafes and pubs to stop for a drink but the best thing is that it is bordered by the timeless Liberty department store.

Carnaby Street in a vintage silk DKNY coat bought in Camden Market

I didn’t purchase anything on famed Carnaby Street because I could find any of the stores back at home offering up the same fashion.

We headed over to the famous and iconic Liberty Department Store. It is known for its luxury designs and fashions. It first opened in 1875. Its famous mock Tudor front was done in 1924. It has continued on in its history of championing eclectic designs and has the enviable reputation of housing the most forward thinking and highly covetable fashions.

We made our way into Liberty and passed through a spectacular perfumery. It was heavenly, with so many different scents. I was tempted to buy something original but my pocket book was not having any of it. We made our way up the wide stair case to the second floor where I experienced a wave of envy seeing some of the most beautiful and original dresses hanging, evenly spaced, on racks, in order to give you time to process each and every one…. and once again … in my case, realize that they are all out of your price range. There was something so regal and old about this store, the creaking heavy wooded floors and large mirrors, and the highly fashionable staff. Just making the trip inside was worth the pain of not being able to buy anything. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t try something on… and I did. I tried on a pair of Stella McCartney sunglasses! We stopped for tea at the restaurant on the 2nd floor and recharged our phones. I had a couple of poached eggs, bacon and toast with some fruit on the side, and , of course, some tea. It was completely full and we shared a table with an older couple. There was lively chatter and the brightly lit room was elegant, even though it was filled with shoppers.

Stella McCartney sunglasses

Val took me to Kensington High Street where she grew up not far from Kensington Palace. It was the home of the 3 storied Kensington Market that was demolished in the early 2000’s. I was sad to hear that it had closed down and remember buying some cool bohemian trousers there in the 1980’s. Freddy Mercury even had a stall there at one time. There was just so much cool fashion and history everywhere you looked.

The church bells rang out for long periods of time as we walked past famous landmarks. These streets are well groomed and wide and the mansions spectacular. We walked past the house of Jimmy Page… well.. the castle of Jimmy Page with it’s turrets and stained glass, as we made our way to Kensington Palace.

Jimmy Page’s house

Kensington Palace was lit up in the dusk and the “no photos” signs did not stop me from snapping a quick one at a distance.

Kensington Palace

Living there must be such a public affair and I don’t think I could handle that much attention… not for all the money in the land… which is apparently what they have. I prefer a quieter and more private existence. As Val and I walked the deserted streets she reminisced about a childhood growing up so close to the palace and playing near Kensington gardens , and it’s large pond, feeding the ducks and the swans. She told me a story about herself, as a small child, meeting John Wayne in front of her house ,because he was coming to visit her next door neighbor, who had worked as a crew member on one of his films. She had no idea who he was but her mum did and the word spread that John Wayne was on the street. She also had no idea that she was growing up in a place that was steeped in so much history and was in the process of creating more. We don’t recognize that sort of thing when we are kids. We are just living in our moment. I wish I’d had that kind of history instead of growing up in a brand new suburb in Ontario. I dreamed of castles and Princes when I was growing up.

A late night kitty looking out off of Kings Road

When I think of England I think of moss and ivy covered thatched cottages and stain glass windows in enormous castles and over flowing purple Wisteria falling off of houses and fascinators and mini skirts and The Beatles and The Who and The Rolling Stones and afternoon tea and Double Decker buses and the Royals and one of my closest and dearest friends… Val…. and that would keep anyone coming back over and over again…….

Thanks readers… I hope you enjoyed this post and there is more to come from my trip to the UK!! Stay tuned. All photos featuring myself were taken by the multi talented Val Miller.

Colon-SOS-copy

Colon-SOS-copy

There has never been anything that has instilled such intense fear in me than the time leading up to my first colonoscopy.  I could not wrap my head around the fact that there was going to be a camera shoved up my arse, for approximately a mile, while I was only sedated.

It didn’t matter how many people told me, it was really nothing, and  that, I wouldn’t feel it,  I was simply overwhelmed with panic. 

As the days grew closer I was thinking of drastic measures to cancel or delay the procedure… forever… giving way to visions of myself accidently driving the truck off the road into a ditch on the way to my appointment or seeking out a friend whose baby was projectile vomiting with the flue because adults always catch that shit. 

I knew, however, that I was not going to get out of it.  The day before, as I was preparing to take the pre-procedure, poison-powder mixture, for “expelling” anything that might be lingering in the colon, I called the Dr.’s office to confirm that I would be showing up.

I was greeted by an odd recorded message. 

“The office is closed and will not reopen at this time.”

I was really confused.  Later that day I watched the news in complete disbelief to hear that the Dr. who was to perform the dreaded deed had been found MURDERED!!

Now, this is going to sound horrible, but, I actually felt  complete and total relief … followed by a horrible sense of guilt thinking that maybe I’d, unknowingly, made a deal with the devil when I had prayed for something……ANYTHING …. to stop my having to go to the clinic that day, which lead to a pang of fear, thinking I could actually become a suspect in the slaying.

This is how my insane mind works.  My usually lazy and dormant ego kicks in when something horrible happens and that voice in my head says, “You made this happen.”

Unfortunately, even murder, was not enough for me to avoid having my colonoscopy.

My appointment was rescheduled and, this time, instead of a half hour drive to the clinic, I would have a two-hour drive.  I decided that, I would no longer use my strong psychic powers to de-rail things,  given what happened to the last Dr. When the time arrived,  I drank the horrible concoctions the night before and spent a few hours in “my office”.  I had thought about driving into the city a day early and staying with friends, so I would be close to the clinic,  but who would do that??  I had to be in my own home sweating and pooping.

When we were babies pooping our pants gave us an immense sense of pleasure.  I remember cradling my nephew in my arms and saying to my sister, “Oh look he’s smiling at me!”  And she responded, stone faced, “He’s pooping.”

As adults we have all had the horrible “shart attack” and it is the most humiliating , embarrassing and awful moment.  My friend, Julia, told me her father used to say, “I just squitted.”  That made me laugh out loud.  The complete surprise at what you have done, combined with the task of hiding the paint ball splatter on your bum, as you dash into the nearest washroom is the worst.    Anyway, for me, it has happened in Mexico, Cambodia, Cuba and Greece.  The unpurified water is a killer.  Maybe I’ve had more incidents than the average person but, what can I say,  I like to travel and I’m too trusting.

On my two hour drive the following day to my appointment I was clenching… the whole time… I had not anticipated the likely hood of an accident prior to my arrival.  It was mortifying. 

With the two hour drive, I had to leave earlier than most so it made sense that my body might not be ready. 

Next time I will bring along an emergency change of clothes. 

Once I arrived they whisked me in right away.  That was such a relief because I was starving, , terrified, and a bit cranky. 

OK, here is the good part.  I told the nurses to give me the ultimate dose of sedative and they did.

I have no memory of anything other than waking up and letting a fart the length of the song “American Pie” and I am not kidding.    I was taken into the recovery area and placed behind curtains where I  proceeded to have “contests” with the other victims.  I believe I was the winner.

My poor partner arrived early to pick me up, and was in the waiting room of the unholy stench.

He said he had never experienced anything like it and next time he will be waiting for me outside in the car. 

I realise this post won’t be for everyone but, honestly, you will all have to experience this at some point in your life and I’m here to say, it’s really not bad at all.

I know… I know… you won’t believe me but I have another one coming up and the only thing I’m dreading is the night before because I won’t lie… that part sucks… but the actual colonoscopy is a piece of chocolate cake. 

Party on readers!

Die-It

Die-It

I hate diets.  I’ve never been good at them.  If you know a kid who is being put on a diet or encouraged to diet please do whatever you can to dissuade them.  Get them on a healthier lifestyle and not on a die-it.   

In the past I tried the “only eat eggs diet”or … as I like to call it… “the continuous fart diet”, and the “only sip olive oil diet”, the fasting with oil, lemon juice and cyan pepper… that one almost killed me…. The Jenny Craig, The Aitkens… the “drink shakes that taste like sawdust diet”, and finally the Keto. I think any “diet” is not going to work if it’s a “diet”. As soon as you are off of it you will gain all your weight back. You must find a healthy way to maintain your sanity and be satisfied with what you are eating. Exercise is the key but sometimes things like Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, and other painful conditions, stop you from getting what you need. I find swimming, yoga and walking are always a pretty good way to get some necessary movement without jarring the body too much.

These days I try to avoid sugar, alcohol and cigarettes. I’m also not eating much pasta or bread.  It’s not easy because food has always comforted me in times of stress.  Eating a whole carton of Ben ‘N Jerry’s or Baskin Robin ice cream was a given when I was feeling depressed.  I still watch my husband eat a whole bag of chocolate chip cookies, in one sitting, but I know I have to refrain.  I don’t have a lot of self-discipline where sweets are concerned.  It takes a lot of effort for me to pretend that they are poisonous and that he will turn blue and clutch his throat after getting crumbs all over the couch. 

My friend Beth told me that Cher never weighs herself because she has kept an old pair of jeans in her closet and , throughout the years, has gauged her body by her ability to still get them on. I find that soul crushing. Trying to squeeze into an old pair of Wranglers… they didn’t have stretch jeans when I was in High School…. Would be akin to a mental anguish torture device. Lying down on my back and, sucking in everything as hard as I could, would still, not achieve beyond ankle level.

Being called  “fat” (by my sister) growing up stuck with me.  I will always be a fat person inside no matter what my outer appearance is.  I work hard nowadays at accepting my body and embracing every roll and every wrinkle and strive to dress to enhance my shape in a positive way.  It’s not easy.  A mantra of “you are beautiful just the way you are” is easy to say, but to really accept, is almost laughable.  Especially if you grew up in my house. 

I have never judged other people’s body’s for their shape or size.  I have only admired.  I’ve met beautiful women who are a size 20 and beautiful women at a size 0.  I honestly think there is beauty in all of us, however, I have always been super judgmental of myself.  I cannot see myself through an unemotional eye. 

I would love to be 3 or 4 inches taller, but I think I’m shrinking, so it’s not going to happen and, I accept what I have, so the glass is always half full.  Especially if it’s a wine glass. 

I like to drink wine and have the occasional cocktail. It’s funny that I can’t consume like I did in the old days. I used to be able to down a whole bottle without suffering too horribly the next day… but now … it is a head-achy, pasty, puffy, foul mouthed monster that surfaces after a night of over indulgence. If that happens, I usually give up all consumption for at least 3 or 4 months. Currently I am having the odd night out where I drink but still trying to keep a lid on it. I also drink loads of water.

I have to say giving up sugar has been difficult but I do feel so much better. I feel less anxious and not as run down. It was worth it for me to make the effort. I do have a tiny bit of sugar when I drink white wine but I always buy the lowest sugar content and tend to make spritzers. I don’t drink red wine anymore because it gives me heartburn and bad headaches. Oh my god! I really sound like a geezer now.

I don’t beat myself up if I have the occasional pizza or plate of spaghetti on a night out with friends.    If I gain weight, that’s cool, as long as I am not feeling sluggish and tired.   That is a signal to me that I have to do something in order to feel good again. 

My favorite type of person is the one who is confident.   I am in awe of friends who exude happiness and vitality no matter what. They draw people to them. I grew up in a house that was soul crushing so I am still working through all of that in order to become more confident in who I am. Some days are good and some days are bad on this roller coaster of life.


My goal is  to age gracefully, and of course , make a statement, and continue to maintain a sense of humor.  I have a great example in my mother in law Margaret who is the picture of health and beauty. She eats right and exercises daily. She’s awesome. If I can manage that, the future is going to be OK.

No more Die-It’s for me!

Thanks for reading! 

Have a great day. 

Poke My Eyes Out Please

Poke My Eyes Out Please

There are some things that should never ever be revisited in my opinion.   Some things that make my skin crawl at the memory of “going there.”  For example; mom jeans.I cannot believe that fashion designers thought this was a look that deserved to be seen again.  I cringed  when I saw them reappear in stores in 2016.  When they were introduced originally,  I’m not sure if it was comfort, or just a sudden need to change things up in the 1980’s , but I have never thought they were flattering to anyone.  A rounded, high-waisted, pot belly container with puckered front pockets, encased us and fell to a tapered leg.  When they first arrived on the scene, I actually combined those with “Earth Shoes”.. the anti -heeled shoe that encouraged a bizarre duck-walk, (supposedly good for the spine), and thus,  a fashion sex repellent was invented.

I also remember wearing, pale violet, high waisted, corduroy “elephant pants”, which were tight up to the bust line and then fell straight to a really wide leg, and at my height of 5’4”, I was a walking drawing of a rectangle.  Carefully making my way through the hallways in High School, with a really wide gait, to prevent the legs wrapping around me and depositing me on the ground like a freshly stuffed Burrito. I secretly knew this wasn’t my best fashion moment.

It takes wisdom and a developed eye to see the whole picture when you look into a mirror.  When I was younger I saw the clothes only ,and not the whole package.  In those days we didn’t have cell phones with instant cameras and, if we owned a Polaroid , the film was so expensive we took photos of our friends on special occasions.  Rarely photos of ourselves.  

I don’t want to be biased here because  men were not exempt from bad fashion ideas either. 

I do not miss the “Kiss” boot or platformed high heel shoe for men.  The chunky Frankenstein shoe that transformed a man’s gait into that of an Andalusian Dancing horse should have been designated for rock bands on stage only and not boys in Highschool trying to be cool.  NO one could be David Bowie except David Bowie.  I remember going on a date with a boy who took me to the movies and when he parked the car he changed out of his sneakers and put on a bright red pair of platforms to go into the Theatre.  I was horrified.  (He, of course, couldn’t drive in them because they were four- inches high. )  When we walked in the building he was greeted by a giant, grand, staircase down to the cinemas.  He bravely took the first step, tripped up, and, with his wobbly legs, ran full speed, flailing, completely out of control down the stair case, nailing the landing only by flipping onto his knees and bowing at a passing couple. 

Needless to say, that was the last date because I could not stop laughing.  We can be so heartless at that age. 

I think I have a much more compassionate outlook these days.  I try not to laugh when I see a young man whose pants hang belong bum level with the crotch sweeping the pavement as they shuffle along.    It’s not my thing but I get the need to feel cutting edge, especially when you are young, even if it looks like you are carrying a full load in your pants. 

There should always be creativity in fashion and I am definitely drawn to that.  I love seeing vintage combined with futuristic looks.  Currently, I love a classic little black dress, designed by Maggie London, which is form fitting and has an illusion collar.  It’s beautiful.  I love a parachute skirt with a corset waist combined with  a white blouse, combat boots and a leather jacket.  I love some of the Steampunk and Victorian jackets that you can find in Goth Stores. 

I love a good pair of jeans with a rock and roll tee-shirt.

But please  burn the mom jeans, elephant pants and Frankenstein boots because they make me want to literally poke my own eyes out.

As an aside, there are some extremely tall, thin, women who look fabulous in an elephant pant. I am super jealous.

Have a great day! 

Mr. Rhythm

Mr. Rhythm

A dear friend passed away this week.  Andre Williams.  He was a legend.  He was the most complex man I’ve ever met.  He had an explosive personality and his talent as a performer, writer, and producer influenced generations.  He was an R & B singer born in Alabama and raised by his Aunts after his mother died when he was just 6 years old.  He ended up finding his way to Detroit in the 1950s and was first recorded at Fortune Records in the 1950’s.   His hits included  “Bacon Fat, Jail Bait, Greasy Chicken and Cadillac Jack”.  He co-wrote “Shake a Tail Feather” which was a hit record and made it on the Billboard Charts.  He co-wrote Stevie Wonders first hit, “Thank you For Loving Me”.  He moved on to Chess Records in the 1960’s and produced Ike Turner ,as well as many others, along with releasing more of his own material. 

I met Andre later in his life when he recorded the album “Red Dirt” in 1999 with The Sadies , who were both on Bloodshot records at  the time.  It was released in 2000 and remains one of my favorites.  In the studio he would tell the guys… I want it to sound like this…. “da da da da…dadadadadada”.  They knew exactly what he meant. 

Andre Williams, after being homeless for a time in the ‘80’s ,with a nasty drug habit, had returned at the end of the 1990’s and he did not look back.   

The Sadies maintained a life long relationship with Andre and toured Europe in 2006 with him which included playing The Roskilde Festival in Denmark and playing at a Hospital for The Criminally Insane all in one week. An unforgettable time.

Along with his music, Andre Williams knew how  to dress.  He had so much style and owned more clothes than anyone I have ever met.

I have fond memories of Andre descending our stairs in a fire engine red suit where everything matched and he beamed as my eyes popped out of my head and my jaw hit the floor.

He was in a red jacket, vest, shirt, pants, belt, shoes and topped off with a red Fedora and a big flashy smile.

The next day he would be a vision in mustard… or green… or yellow.    He always matched and took such pride in his appearance. He was the real life version of Super Fly in the wardrobe department… only cooler.

Being a white Canadian girl from the suburbs I had never met anyone like him.  He charmed every woman he ever met.  He said some very provocative things but was always a gentleman.  He had a way of getting inside of you and melting your heart. 

I can’t believe that he is gone and I also can’t believe he made it to the age of 82.  He roared through life full steam ahead.  He did not believe in taking things slow.

We thought he was invincible and would always be around.  Some people seem bigger than life.  He was one of them.

Thank god he left so much music behind for us to listen to. Thank god for Andre’s voice and spirit and words. He was never one to shy from controversy as you will hear in his lyrics. He was a real revolutionary. So, my homage  to Andre Williams is to pass on the gift of his music to you. If you have never heard of him…. Google him…  seek out his recordings and enjoy one of the greatest of all time. 

ICONS of Style

ICONS of Style

It was recently International Women’s Day and so I’ve been thinking about who I admire in terms of style. My fashion icons. Some of my style icons will always stand the test of time. Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe. Audrey for her capris pants and ballet flats and her waif appearance. Grace Kelly for her incredible perfection in a dress, a suit, or slacks, making beauty look effortless and easy. Greta Garbo for her fashion forward sensibility in wearing a man’s tuxedo pant and white shirt. And Marilyn for oozing sex appeal in everything she wore. Those nude backless dresses with tiny crystals covering the naughty bits are incredible. Also, the Marilyn in slacks with a kerchief on her head and sporting a pair of cats eye sunglasses was so cool.

I am also drawn to creative women in rock and roll and the arts. Especially those that are daring, with an ability to defy the sands of time to remain exciting and vibrant at any age.

Deborah Harry has the classic beauty of a Marylin Monroe. I mean, she could wear a paper bag and still look gorgeous. I especially loved her, in her most simple, in jeans and a tee-shirt. I love to wear a good rock and roll tee and some great jeans with a leather jacket. It’s really one of my favorite combinations.

Another icon for me is Poison Ivy from The Cramps. The body suits and leopard patterns and hot pants and high boots. She is a walking, guitar slinging, pin up girl. I love her confidence because I can’t wear the short shorts or bra’s without sending the masses screaming and poking out their own eyes, so I really admire her and love her look.

I love Cindy Lauper for her ability to be a crazy explosion of colour in a crinoline and combat boots or transform into a 1950’s telephone operator with yellow hair.

Lastly the muse of the Rolling Stones the late Anita Pallenberg. She was so interesting. When I think of her, I think of hats, sunglasses, boots, belts and jewellery. She also loved to wear fur. Not politically correct at all but she didn’t seem to give a shit. She embraced change and did not cling to things gone by. She was a strong woman who lived life the way she wanted to. She was beautiful up until the day she died at the age of 75.

OK, I lied. I just thought of the late Edie Sedgwick, the muse of Andy Warhol. With her striped boat neck tee shirt and black tights and her short blonde, pixie hair, dark brows and large earrings, she was the picture of cool. I have embraced that look throughout the years. It’s kind of a classic that never goes out of style.

There are a lot of others that I didn’t mention like the ultimate chameleon Madonna and, of course, the current queen of creative fashion, Lady Ga Ga but I wanted to talk about the icons that I have admired for a long long time. I’m also not twenty.

Whoever you admire and whatever you are wearing I hope it inspires you to get out and have the best day possible.

Till next time!

Torture Me Beautiful

Torture Me Beautiful

It’s Academy Awards weekend and, in honour of that, I decided to do a little old school beauty practice.

There have always been beauty secrets and regimes to keep us looking youthful.  My mother never used soap on her face because she said it was too drying and took the essential oils out of her skin.  She used Ponds Cold Cream Cleanser.  At night she would smear it all over her face and then wipe it off with a wash cloth.  I remember her looking shiny, sitting on the couch, watching Ed Sullivan. She used it in the morning as well before applying her makeup.  She didn’t use face makeup at all, only eye shadow, mascara and lipstick. She also penciled her eyebrows a little to make them a bit darker.  

Joan Crawford was the original diva in terms of a strict beauty routine. 

She also used the Ponds Cold Cream method but she was mostly famous for her ice water splashes.

I have decided for the purposes of this blog to try out her beauty methods for 5 days and see what happens.  Hopefully I do not end up removing my protective epidermal layer exposing  a pulsing, vein throbbing, mass that used to be my face.  It could happen if I’m too heavy handed on the exfoliation with a rough washcloth and a numbed frozen face. 

I could also end up resurrecting my connect-the-dot pimple phase from high school which will leave me house bound.  At least it is winter and looking outside into the desolate tundra of my farm I think there is no better time for this experiment. 

Day 1

I awoke and filled a large bowl with freezing water and then added ice cubes.  I let that sit for a couple of minutes just to make sure it had achieved its ultimate torture temperature.  I then splashed my face with this water 25 times, which is supposedly what Joan Crawford did every time she washed!  At the end of my 25 splashes there was water all over my bathroom mirror, counter and floor.  The worst part is the fact that I had no feeling in my hands, and a slight brain freeze, like the kind you get when you drink a slushy too fast.

I then applied a vat of Elizabeth Arden’s Perpetual Moisture 24 Cream all over the block of ice that was now my face.  I was surprised when it absorbed into my skin.   My skin did feel more alive and not just sitting there on my face asleep… like it usually does… so there is that.

After suffering through today with the splashes and creams I’m ready for tomorrow.  Oddly, my skin feels kind of dry and tight.  It’s not what I expected.  I’ve got my sleep mask to put on over, yet another eye cream, and I’ll awake tomorrow with another ice splash.  I think she must have been a Sadist.

Day 2

Beauty is no fun. I have repeated the routine from day 1. I’m wondering if I will get used to this by the end of the week and look forward to it.  If this ends up becoming part of my daily routine I will eat my…. dinner.  I’m not good at punishing myself.  I haven’t really noticed any difference in my skin. 

DAY 3

I have to admit I am sort of enjoying the splash today.  I like the feeling afterwards.  It’s still really horrible on my hands, to submerge them in arctic water, but it is a great way to wake up.

I’m not looking forward to tomorrow because I’m going to do Joan’s hair wash.  She also liked to finish off her showers with freezing water.  I don’t mind the arctic dip at the Body Blitz Spa because afterwards you can drop into the hot tub, and it feels really great, but I don’t have a hot tub and my shower is on a different floor than my bath and this is getting too complicated.  It’s also winter, so the last thing I want to do is douse myself with freezing water.  Maybe I should do the snow roll instead?  No… a better idea is to pass on this step altogether.  My skin is feeling pretty soft today.

DAY 4

Joan liked to rinse her hair with 6 raw eggs, adding some red wine or rum to dilute the eggs a bit.  Seems like a waste but I’ll try it.  I’ll use the cooking wine.  Actually, I’m sober right now, so I will use whatever is collecting dust in the liquor cabinet.. not the Bailey’s though because that would be a sticky mess, and I’d be too tempted to make French Toast.  I’m only going to use 2 eggs since I don’t have thick hair like she did.  I’m a bit nervous about this one because my hair is currently coloured and needs a lot of moisture.  Perhaps it will be nourished with the mayonnaise mask.  Ewwwwww!  The smell is so horrible.  I swear if I apply this mask and start craving egg salad I will barf.  My hair is fine and so this could be a big mistake.  I think that the oily texture of the mayo will give me a grease cap and probably won’t rinse out.  I’ll try it at least once.  I have some organic real mayonnaise without preservatives so it is probably exactly what Joan would have used.  I’m not sure what order she did this so I’ve chosen to do the mayo mask first… then I’ll wash that out with shampoo and then I’ll apply the egg wash.  I feel like I’m making Spanakopita minus the spinach and phyllo.

 I was right about the mayo mask smell and I’m forced to put a freezer bag over my head to keep from gagging. I will not post a picture of this because, like Medusa, you will all turn to stone upon the sight of me. Next up, I jumped into the shower and tried to get the goop out of my hair.  I did a shampoo twice and then added the slimy cold egg wash.  I allowed that to sit for a good five minutes and then rinsed that out.  It was horrible.  My hair actually still felt dry even when I was submerged under water!  How does that happen?  I tried to get a comb through it but it was tangled from the egg rinse so I had to use some conditioner.  I guess that is cheating but I had no choice. My hair was a “rats nest” as my mother used to say. The conditioner worked, thankfully, and I combed it out. I used “Lottabody Setting Lotion” because my next move was to pin curl my hair into one of Joan’s curly styles when she wore her hair down.  In later years she would always have an up-do but I’m going for the more difficult style.  If it bombs then I’ll use a turban.  I have this crazy attachment for my blow dryer that is a big cap to recreate an old school hair dryer.

Finally ,after several clumsy attempts, I am all pinned up for the reveal tomorrow and sitting under my portable dryer; cooking my head. 

DAY 5

It’s Academy Awards night and I’ve got some work to do.

Joan had a very distinct makeup application.  She was all about the brows and the lips… and boric acid.  Seriously.  She put boric acid, mixed with water, into her eyes to keep them white and bright.  Maybe that was to also keep the hangover eyeball in check… who knows… but I will not be attempting that.  I’ve only got one good eye. 

First I need to comb out my pin curls and I’m having a flashback to when my mother gave me a “Toni Home Permanent” and the rollers were too tight.  I ended up looking like a dandelion before the wind catches it and it becomes bald. 

I’ve combed it out and the result is not horrible but I wouldn’t leave the house like this.

I’ve also applied the exaggerated makeup and, if I’m honest, it’s really scary.   I’m not a professional makeup artist so I have done my best to get the essence of Miss Crawford.  My lips look a little more “Joker” than Joan.

It would have been hard to be Joan… so obsessed with her appearance.  I can’t imagine the difficulty she must have had with aging. 


So how did my 5 days pan out?

I will say that there is a possibility I’ll use the Pond’s for a little while longer, partly because it’s not expensive, and partly because it’s been around since the 1950’s, and it doesn’t seem to be causing any breakouts.  It also doesn’t seem to be drying my skin like I originally thought. I like the calming effect it gives my skin after I remove my makeup. It is a tad greasy at first but it dissipates.

I also hate to admit that I may continue…at least for a little while.. with the dreaded ice splash because it wakes me up and my skin looks vibrant after.

As far as the hair routine, I will never EVER try that concoction again.

We have great products nowadays that will give you the shiny hair that Joan was so desperate to achieve.  I’m picky when it comes to my conditioner and shampoo. I usually have Frederic Fekkai on hand. I’ve tried most of his products and they work for my hair type. Recently my hair salon sold me some Goldwell conditioner that is specifically meant for coloured hair. I have only used it a couple of times but I like the light texture and the results. So, Joan’s home made recipes for the hair should stay in the kitchen where they belong.

Joan Crawford was a movie star and she knew it. She lived each day like she was on the cover of Photoplay Magazine. I doubt that she ever left the house without full hair and makeup. I can’t imagine her running to the grocery store in tights, a sweatshirt and a toque on her head which is one of my routines. She had access to hair and makeup experts but I really think she did a lot of her own maintenance. She worked hard at being beautiful and who knows how much of it was just her great genetics and how much was due to her diligence in using freezing cold water and slathering creams on her face and neck for hours at a time. I give her credit for her absolute commitment but I just can’t spend that much time torturing myself.

Besides, there is one thing that we have and Joan did not ….  Botox!

Happy Academy Awards night!

I’ll buy flowers any day!

I’ll buy flowers any day!


If you are smugly sitting at your desk admiring the giant floral arrangement that your partner has sent you today then this blog is not for you.  If you are drenched in expensive perfume that your honey bought for you then this blog is not for you.  If you are generously passing around the box of expensive truffles, prefaced with, “They are from my Boo Boo”; this blog is not for you.

This edition is for all of us who have dreaded Valentine’s Day since kindergarten.  The days where your mother sent you to school with a handful of Valentines for your class mates and somehow they all ran out before you received one. 

A bizarre contest to see who is loved the most.  I’m not sure if, with age, I became enlightened enough, to see today as a trap for consumers to spend copious amounts of money or if I decided that it was bullshit because of the those who are single, lonely and excluded. 

Either way I do not buy a passage on the Love Boat on this day. 

I will admit that there was a time where I wanted a seat on that boat but I was young and insecure.  Now I know the only person that really needs to love me is me.  I should be sending myself flowers today because I am deserving.  I’m suddenly hijacking my own blog.  Interesting. 

Anyway, why would my partner have to prove he loves me on this particular day with a gift?

We have Christmas for that. 

Here is what history says about the beginnings of Valentine’s Day.

“To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.”  The History Channel.

Can’t get more romantic than that.  Well, at least things have changed over the last thousand years or so.  I guess I would prefer flowers and a card to a skinned goat hide.

I don’t want to sound too preachy or self-affirming here but I just don’t want any man or woman to feel crappy today because they are not getting a Valentine.

One year I actually made my partner feel guilty for not buying into this tradition.  I saw other women in my circle receiving  jewellery and gifts and I admit that I was feeling jealous of the attention they were getting.  I’ve got to be honest, it was not my best reflection. 

The following year, while he was on the road, he called me on Valentine’s Day and asked me to look in my “Donnie and Marie” album carrying case, where he had stashed a card and a bag of cinnamon hearts.   I was stunned and felt weirdly guilty.  I immediately ripped open that bag of hearts and bit into one… cracking a root canal tooth in half.

After an emergency dental trip, where I lost that tooth completely, it stands as a hilarious reminder to me that I don’t need a symbol of love in my life…and Valentine’s Day is dangerous…. there was a massacre you know.

If I want something for myself then I buy it and it makes things so much less stressful. 

And it’s always been too much pressure on the designated “giver” and “receiver”.

So, hold your head high on this day of hearts and flowers and know that you are loved no matter what. 

It’s also cheaper to go out and buy yourself flowers and chocolates tomorrow! 

And for those of you that love to express your love with hearts and flowers today then Happy Valentines Day. I’m giving my Alaskan Malamute steak and my parrot some cashews so I guess I am celebrating my love and appreciation to my furry and feathered family.

I Spy With My Googly Eye

I Spy With My Googly Eye

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with glasses my entire life.  When I was three years old my parents noticed my left eye was turning in.  They also noticed I couldn’t see a kitty that was across the road from my house.  In those days treatment for a lazy eye was in the experimental phase.  I was fortunate in that my parents found a top eye surgeon who was researching this affliction at Sick Children’s Hospital.  I remember going for yearly visits at the hospital and he was a, soft spoken, kind man, whose medical flashlight was in the shape of a red dog.  The light came out of its smiling mouth.  I loved that flashlight. 

So, the prognosis was definitely a “lazy eye” and the treatment, although making sense, could have been found in the dungeons of The Tower of London alongside the “merry widow”.

It was the practice of forcing the patient to wear an unsightly patch over one eye… and in my case… for seven long, cootie filled, years.  When I was three I had little tiny blue cats- eye glasses which my mother proceeded to tape up.  The thought was, by covering up the stronger eye, it would force the weaker one to straighten itself out and become functional.  My mother’s choice of using white surgical tape on one half of my glasses was questionable. 

It was my clinical freak stamp that shaped my early years ensuring that I would most definitely be treated like a leper.  I remember hearing the kids in kindergarten whispering … “she’s a cripple”.    I was actually hyper active, at that age, and constantly running through the school yard occasionally running into a pole or a wall.    After a while the kids in my neighborhood just got used to me wearing a patch and ignored it…. Then we moved.

When I was six we moved from the city to the suburbs and into a big new house.  My patch and I had to make new friends and it wasn’t going to be easy.  Our house was on a new street and there were other houses still being built.  I remember a lot of giant mounds of dirt to play on and only one other completed house across the road from us.  It was the summer and my little sister and I played around our house by ourselves.  On this particular day I had grabbed a couple of towels and tied them around our necks so we could be Batman and Robyn.  I was Batman and decided to climb up the drain pipe on the side of our garage door.  Robyn kept a lookout on the driveway.   As I scaled up the pipe; a spider monkey with one eye, I lost my grip and fell like an over ripe apple off a tree and splatted on the driveway.  Robyn ran into the house yelling for my mother.  My mother came peeling out of the house to find me lying face down.  My glasses had broken, my nose was bleeding and my eyebrow was cut.   She scooped up her super hero and ran into the house.  I remember screaming when I saw all the blood as she tried to get things under control in our bathroom.  My mom realized she had to get me to the hospital so handing me my towel bat cape and, grabbing my sister, we piled into the front seat of her car.  I don’t remember much of the hospital visit other than it hurt like hell and I left with four stitches in my eyebrow and a sucker. 

I was to start school a week later.  My first week in my new school I had my replacement cats- eye glasses, my surgical patch, and one evil slanted black stitched Frankenstein eyebrow. 

The other children were literally cowering in the corners of the room when I entered.   I terrified them.

I eventually won over a couple of girls because I played the pity card.  I let them be Annie Sullivan to my Helen Keller.  They loved feeling like they were helping out someone who was less fortunate and way less attractive than themselves. 

I also managed to make friends with the little girl across the road who, on our first meeting blurted out, “What’s wrong with you”, and then never mentioned it again. 

Other than hearing things like “Wow that kid got hit with a snowball in the eye” in the winter I someone managed to survive my pirate years.

My last trip to my eye specialist, Dr. Crawford, was when I turned fifteen.  He only specialized in children with eye problems and I had out grown him.   I remember sitting across from him as he told me I didn’t need to wear glasses anymore or at least until I got old.  My eye had straightened out and the patch was long gone.  Up until that point in life, my sister had always called me “four eyes”.   I honestly didn’t know who I would be without my glasses.  I cried with gratitude and also for the loss of the Dr. I had known since I was three.  I have never forgotten him because he finally gave me equal footing when I entered High School and that is huge.

I put my glasses in a drawer at home and did not look back.  I didn’t anticipate the naked feeling I would have without them and eventually realized that they had actually become a security blanket for me, so that was weird, but it did not make me want to ever wear them again.

Cut to 30 years later and my long-time boyfriend sat across from me in a dimly lit restaurant.  “Pass the salt… googly eye.” 

That’s right, my left eye had started to wear out and was turning in again especially in bad lighting or after a couple of glasses of Pinot.  I had gotten old.  Dr. Crawford warned me it would happen one day but it seemed like only yesterday.  Luckily for me, glasses have become extremely chic and fashionable and there is no longer a stigma attached to wearing them.   You can spend as much money as you want on your perfect frames.  Designer frames are like art on your face and you can also find some really great cheap readers.   No longer are glasses just for correcting your eyes.  They have become accessories.  I finally have my security blanket back! I’ve actually got two…one pair for reading and one pair for driving. I never dreamed that young people would buy fake glasses just for fashion. Hilarious.

Times change and perceptions have changed towards people with glasses… wearing an eye patch?… not so much.    If I had to do it all over again I would have demanded to wear a black patch and changed my name to something Piratey… like Blonde Beard… on second thought… that is waaaaay too accurate these days. 

Arrrrr matey.   

Lady Aristocrat in a Hat

Lady Aristocrat in a Hat

I really love vintage everything. I can’t remember the last time I had a new piece of furniture. Maybe back in my early college days when I used to shop at IKEA. I would buy something in my first year and have it assembled by graduation. My friend Bev taught me to have an eye for quality vintage. Her spaces harken back to old Hollywood and are filled with Art Deco figurines and lamps and big, soft, curved velvet, couches and matching club chairs. Any starlet would have loved to have fainted on one of her leopard print chaises lounge’.
I grew up in a house in the suburbs that was filled with the most modern furniture of the day and it was the 1970’s. Wall to wall burnt orange shag broadloom and gold and avocado velvet wallpaper. A chartreuse silk 8-foot-long couch that no one was ever allowed to sit on except for Christmas. A smoked glass round kitchen table replaced the old Formica and chrome one. When we finally sold my parents’ house I was able to acquire the 1950’s matching cracked glass ball lights and some old vases. A couple of the best 1970’s swivel chairs were a bit damaged but I just couldn’t toss them out. My mother hated anything old. She wanted everything brand new and, of the best quality, but she also didn’t want to replace anything, so when she finally moved into a senior’s apartment the house remained a shrine to the ‘70’s. My sister and her family were living with my mom at the time, and she took the things that she wanted, but my sister, like my mother, loves to have new things and isn’t as attracted to the past as I am.
One of the things that I took was a collection of hats that my mother had worn since the 1940’s.
My favourite hat was lost when my car was stolen in Toronto, it unfortunately, had been in the back seat. It was a 1950’s wide brimmed black silk and straw hat. I wore it all the time.
I still mourn the loss of that hat more than the loss of the car. I have my mom’s swirled velvet turban style hat in chartreuse with a matching hat pin which I love to wear on St. Paddy’s day.
The sixties and ‘70’s brought on a new and bigger style of hat. I’ve got a giant beige straw beehive style hat with brown netting, a silk flower, and little velvet balls adorning it. I remember going to a wedding with my parents and my mother’s head wouldn’t fit in the car with the hat on so she slumped forward, like a dead body, rather than remove the hat that she had spent an hour perfecting. My sister and I had little white lace combs hair sprayed onto the top of our heads. I remember my wispy baby hair being teased and lacquered to secure the hideous adornment.
Nowadays, I love my hats and I wear them as often as I can. When I was in England I went to a few antique markets and found some lovely art deco velvet hats and a straw saucer style with black and white feather’s around the brim. Britain is a great place to still find some vintage hats for a good price, even with the exchange. Some of my hats are strictly for weddings and outdoor summer parties, but others I will wear as often as I can and I will pair them with modern looks so I don’t look like I’m going to a costume party.
I really wish ladies and men’s hats would come back into full fashion like they were in the ‘40’s and 50’s and 60’s. I think this generation is missing out on the glamour of days gone by.
Chanel’s little black dress topped off with the fashion forward look of a Haute couture hat is a timeless standard of beauty and art in my opinion.
Wearing a hat can change everything about an outfit. I love the Royal family for continuing the tradition of wearing statement hats to every occasion. I’m not too sure if I love all the fascinator’s out there but I admire the creativity. I love that the Kentucky Derby also embraces the glamour of hats and the women who attend spend months picking out the perfect topper to their summer dresses.
In the days of the Rat Pack, Las Vegas was the place to be seen and everyone dressed for it. It’s sad that nowadays it has become a sweat pant wearing, slot machine pulling, buffet hunting crowd, just looking for a big win. You can see some great shows there but I don’t think people are dressing up to attend like they used to.
There are loads of sites online that sell vintage hats like Etsy and Amazon UK. I usually find something there, and get my British pal Val, to order it for me and then mail it to me. I’ve never had a hat shipped directly to me from the UK site. I hesitate because I don’t want to have to pay any duty on something that I didn’t spend a lot of money on.

I hope I’ve inspired some of you to give the fashion hat a go. Hats are fun and can hide a really bad hair day!