Christmas… and Hanukkah …and the holidays… no matter how, or what, you are celebrating, it can be stressful and exhausting. Each year I am cautiously optimistic that I will survive unscathed.
As a child I was in a very abusive household and every day I was stressed out, but Christmas time, was even worse. There was disappointment and arguing and too much alcohol and relatives storming off. There was a need to pretend that everything was wonderful when it was not.
As an adult, I decided to make my own kind of holiday and try to smother the oppressive memories from the past. I’ve been successful to an extent and have opened my house to others that have had no place to go on December 25th because they have no family or are far away from them. I hate to see anyone alone during the holidays.
It’s been a lot of fun over the years to bring together people around a dinner table that would normally never meet.
I survive with a little marijuana and some good wine and a big turkey dinner; the result being a lot of laughs and full bellies.
The last couple of years it has been just family and a few friends. If you surround yourself with people that you love, that are not toxic, it will always be a beautiful event.
I go to the same place for New Year’s Eve; wherever The Sadies are playing.
It just so happens they have been at the same venue in Toronto for the last 20 years. The legendary Horseshoe Tavern. It is filled with like-minded people who love to ring in the new year with the best live music. This year was no exception and the opening bands were extraordinary… “Tommy Wade and The Country Rebels” followed by the rocking “Minus 5”. Mary Margaret O’Hara arrived after midnight to perform “The Snake”, backed by The Sadies, and the place was electric!
I feel fortunate that my partner is a musician because it has forced me out on the eve of another decade to dance and laugh and be amongst fellow humans.
I know I could easily stay at home, curled up on the couch, watching television and falling asleep before the clock strikes midnight but there will be plenty of time for that when my old rickety body can’t withstand the excitement. I also make an effort to dress up, even though it seems I’m spending each year in a bar and not a ballroom. I remember my mum when she would go on out New Year’s Eve and she unveiled her best dress and jewellery and embraced all the glamour of the night, so I had a glorious example of how to do it right. I love seeing people dress up for the night. The more glitter and glamour the better! It reminds me of old Hollywood when I see a shiny sparkling head piece and a new year’s horn.
I completely understand that there are people who dread New Year’s Eve because they feel lonely and isolated ,and sometimes, being in a huge crowd can make you feel invisible.
There are no rules for how you choose to celebrate another 365 days on earth and if you want to spend it with your pets in the comfort of your home, that is absolutely fine. I honestly get it.
Going into a new decade, which literally is defined from past decades as “the future”, is a little scary. I also have some questions.
Where are the flying cars that were on The Jetsons? Where are the jet packs and moving sidewalks? Where are the robots…. Oh wait… we have robots. I even have a Roomba that cleans my floors as my cat eyeballs it suspiciously.
Actually, when you think about it, we are destined to be the Jetsons… if the planet survives.
I can’t imagine my grandmother, who was born in the 1800’s, wrapping her head around all the things we have today including social media. She passed away in the 1970’s and we didn’t even have computers then. She wouldn’t be able to fathom the fact that I can video chat on my Iphone , with my pal Val in England… while I’m driving my car. I mean, I can do that if I want to!
The Jetsons cartoon was supposed to be in the year 2062. I predict that there will be all those things portrayed on the show… and more by that year.
I most likely won’t be here to see that. Fingers crossed, there will be a society that cares more about each other and not put $$$$ above human life and the planet.
A society that has been beat up from years of racism and hate and war …that we are experiencing right now… and growing tired of that pattern, deciding to change things to achieve an ideal world that embraces and loves all living things. A society that takes care of one another and sees all living creatures as equal.
I’m an optimist and I think its attainable. I try not to get wrapped up in the current political climate in order to protect my sanity and not destroy my belief in fellow humans but it is not easy to do that when we are constantly bombarded with the fear of total destruction.
I wish there was a button or an app that could let us experience life in another culture; in another country; in another climate where we could see that people are the same everywhere and appreciate that. We share the same feelings and loves and fears, regardless of our skin colour or religious beliefs… or non-religious beliefs… people are people. Maybe that too will be accessible in the future. There are too many people that never travel beyond their own small town and they have no idea what the real world is like. They watch the same news channel that feeds them the same bullshit that instills so much fear and suspicion regarding people that look and sound different from themselves. Peel off everyone’s skin and we are all identical on the inside.
I love traveling and have experienced the fact that, no matter where you are, there is common ground where we people are concerned. Even in the most remote parts of the world, human beings will connect with each other.
So, here’s to 2020, and a promise to make a change to protect the planet and to love your fellow man. And don’t forget to love all the animals that help sustain our world. They are innocent and precious.
Thanks for reading! 2020 will be the best year yet if we can just be conscious and get out of our own way.
I didn’t know what to expect in Sedona Arizona. My in-laws rented a spectacular Air ‘BnB for a family trip, nestled amongst the mountains. It was in celebration of their 50 year marriage. How is that possible without killing each other? I’m only a little over half way there. They are an incredible couple and I could only hope to be as happy as they are after 50 years together.
I knew that in Sedona there were amazing red rock formations and that it is considered a hiker’s wet dream. Our Air BNB was surrounded by them. Every angle was a spectacular view.
I’m not a hiker but I like challenging myself and feeling like I’ve pushed myself physically… usually that involves picking up the pace from the couch to the fridge. My husband’s family are avid climbers and hikers. They are athletic and seek out opportunities to walk and climb and were determined to tackle the “Vortex” rocks like Bell Rock and Cathedral rock. A vortex is an area where there is a palpable energy field . There is a circular magnetic pull that has twisted all the trees at the base of these rocks so they look like licorice twizzlers.
On one trip to a Vortex, I sat alone on a plateau and closed my eyes to meditate. I’ve always been incapable of slowing my mind down enough to be successful at this, but for some reason, at the Vortex, I was able to simply sit and “be”. It was surprising to open my eyes and check my watch and see that I had been there for an hour. I was lost in my breath and the feeling of nothing…and everything at the same time and it was overwhelming.
Tackling a Vortex climb is also not for the faint of heart. I started climbing one but realized it was beyond my expertise and I did not have proper shoes so I conceded to the rock. My sister in-law persevered and made it to the top, which impressed me to no end. She said it was terrifying at a couple of spots and she is a seasoned climber. She also said the strange energy made her feel a little unstable. I am fascinated with the reason for this magnetic pull and some New Ager’s believe it is from an alien force and fully expect the top of a Vortex to open up one day and an alien spaceship to fly out.
Sedona is the birth
place of “New Age”. Everywhere you go in
town there are shops selling crystals and meditation techniques and readings by
psychics. I couldn’t resist and had a
rather lame reading ,which could have been applied to any woman of my age, but
it was a fun way to spend an hour.
We took a day trip to the ghost town called Jerome. It hangs off the cliffs in central Arizona and was originally a mining town full of men, gambling and prostitutes. When the mining industry there collapsed it was abandoned. Eventually people wanted to preserve this town and its history and so they began a campaign to reclaim it as a Historical site and tourist location and it worked. Today you can walk the hillside streets that are home to various cafes and local artisans selling their creations.
There is a historic hotel called the Jerome Grand Hotel where you can pop in and have a cocktail.
It was built in 1927 and was originally a Hospital. It was sold in 1994 and reopened as a Hotel in 1996. It is famously haunted and has been featured on some “Ghost Hunting” shows. It has been structurally maintained as the Art Deco Hotel it is and even has the original sliding cage elevator… which was also the location of the only known murder that took place. It is suspected that , Claude Harvey, the Hospital maintenance man was murdered in April 1935, and his body slid behind the elevator shaft in order to make it look like an accident.
There are many sightings of Claude in the hotel by guests and staff. There are also sounds of children laughing and running up and down the hallways, the smell of baby powder, zinc oxide, flowers, dust, whiskey and coughing can be heard coming from empty rooms. Especially on the 3rd floor you can hear hospital gurneys and wheels squeaking as this was the location of the operating room.
We sat in the beautiful bar and sipped on Martinis and basked in its history. I explored the main floor hallways but you are not allowed to go up to any of the floors unless you are a booked guest.
Someday I’ll go back and stay there for a couple of nights. It’s just such an amazing location and view and I like a place that is a bit spooky.
We ate some food in
town at one of the bistros and walked around looking at some Mexican art. I bought some Día de los Muertos statues. There
is also a great old-time candy store so
I purchased a bag of assorted candies that I remembered from my childhood. It’s
a good work -out to visit Jerome because the streets are so steep that walking
through the town can bring on a sweat and a racing heart.
The other trip I would
recommend is a visit to The Grand Canyon.
It’s not that far a drive from Sedona and it can be done in one
Walking from the
parking area along a path, you don’t expect for everything to suddenly open up to this never-ending massive
crater in the earth that has gigantic rock formations on either side. It left me feeling like I was on a man-made
science fiction set for a movie. The red
colour of the rocks and the way the sun bounced off of them was absolutely
stunning. There were spots where you
could walk out onto a ridge and the whole world was beneath you. Of course, I was wondering how many people
had taken one pose too many and accidentally slipped off an edge. It was exhilarating and terrifying and the
entire time I was holding my breath.
Besides the obvious hiking there are other things to do in Sedona. There is some delicious and authentic Mexican food and ,since we don’t really have that at home, I was excited to get eat some great food. We also hit up a few charity shops and I found some cool, cheap, vintage clothing. I bought a new hat and a lovely silver and turquoise horse necklace. There is an abundance of beautiful silver jewellery. Turquoise is also found in most jewellery shops. It is home to the Hopi, Navajo, Yavapai and Apache peoples, who are the original people of Arizona.
I would go back to Sedona any time and definitely stay at the same place. Next time I’ll bring along some good hiking boots. Happy trails readers!
I had a recurring dream as a child. I would be traveling around the country in my Barbie Dream Camper with my best friend, Cathy, and our boyfriends…. At the time mine was Paul McCartney and her boyfriend was Donny Osmond. I did not come from a family that vacationed. We never went on trips except the occasional tag along with my father, who was a traveling salesman. I remember we once went to Blind River… vacation capitol of Ontario.
No offense to Blind River.
I have always been into history and I love vintage and retro things. I bought my 1960 Pink Rambler after I had a car stolen. It was an incredible ride while it lasted. Eventually my beautiful car was mechanically beyond repair so it sits on my property.
Since I bought my farm house outside of the city I have plenty of space to accumulate old cars and trucks and campers to sit rusting on the lawn; the stereotypical right of passage for those that live in the country. The property already had a stationary trailer so I painted it like a Diner and we’ve used it as a rehearsal space for bands and currently a pop up Vintage clothing shop. Even though the Rambler is not road worthy anymore, I call it “Art”. He will deteriorate and rust and I will become that person surrounded by beautiful rusting and twisted metal.
I decided to finally pursue my dream of owning a camper and began scouring all the buy and sell newspapers and online auctions. I did this for five years and found nothing. The trailers that were listed were too expensive, too far away, or in need of a huge overhaul to have them road worthy. I almost gave up but then a friend sent me a listing that was close by. I went and looked at it and it needed a bit of work but had such potential that I bought it on the spot.
I hitched it up to my truck and towed it home where I would renovate and decorate the interior. Thank god for my supportive father in law, Bruce, who, along with a buddy, put in all the necessary finishing touches to make sure it was leak proof and ready for painting. My little trailer went from bland to wow.
This is what it looked like before
This is what it looks like now
I’ve never been a tiny space person… or at least I didn’t think I was …until I began using my , little tennis ball of a trailer, as a living space for four months during the summer.
I was working on a
television series in the city and no longer had an apartment so my trailer
became my living space during the week and I only came home on the weekends.
It is amazing how we humans can acclimatize almost immediately. I hung my nicer clothes on cupboard knobs and filled my sink with toiletries. I had access to the office and studio at night, which had washrooms and a private shower. All of my clothes were neatly folded on a top bunk… for the first week… and then I was a teenager again. I somehow managed. My Quaker parrot, Mr. Pickles, was living with me in the trailer, chatting away and acting like it was his giant bird cage.
The use of string lights and electric candles on timers made my space magical. I have a good size double bed in my trailer so it is comfortable to sleep.
When the set called a “wrap” at night everyone would be warming up their cars to head home and I simply sauntered across the parking lot to my tiny apartment.
The thought of not being able to go home to the farm depressed me but once I entered my trailer and shut the door I felt like I was no longer at work. It became my tiny apartment where I could sip wine and watch Netflix on my computer. When the season ended and the work was done, I hitched my trailer up to my truck and returned home. Now I could use my trailer for pleasure and not just work.
My partner and I attended a music festival that he was playing
at and we stayed the night, parked beside a little stream. Stepping out into the starry night filled
with music; eventually, stumbling back into our dry and comfortable sanctuary
to sleep was heaven.
The next day, kicking the door open; hung over with curlers in my hair and a smoke clenched in my teeth…..
OK that didn’t happen.
I was definitely hung over and feeling raunchy, but when I flash back to the days where I woke up in an over -heated tent with flies buzzing around my face and a rancid smell, this glamping experience is all the more fantastic.
I am definitely too old to do the tent thing. I love camping and the adventure of traveling to a different part of the country but I want to do it in style. I want all the comforts when I throw open my door and experience nature. I’m tired of staying in crappy little motels.
My little trailer has a gas stove, a sink with a water tank, a fridge and a microwave. I’ve used the microwave and fridge but never the stove.
The whole world beckons me… at least the world within driving distance. Maybe I will plan a trip to the desert or the ocean or the mountains; wherever I go I will be surrounded by vintage florals, snacks and some good wine and the new friends I will make.
You are never too old to realize a dream.
Maybe I ‘ll see you out there in my Barbie camper. Paul McCartney still is not my boyfriend but I’d rather have the trailer… no offense to Paul.
“I’m a gal of means by no means… Queen of the road”!
Imagine the year 1957. You are in Havana Cuba and heading out to the swinging Hotel Riviera to do a little gambling and see an act at the Copa Room. Tonight is the opening night at the club and the featured act is Ginger Rogers.
You arrive in your most glamorous outfit draped in furs and diamonds and pearls. Your date looks sharp in his shark skin suit. There, in the lobby, is the owner, Meyer Lansky greeting his guests as they drive up to the front where the spectacular fountain is lit up in the night.
The historical Hotel Riviera sits on the Malecon ocean front drive in Havana Cuba. It was built in 1957 as a posh resort and was owned by the notorious mobster Meyer Lansky. He spared no expense in his efforts to rival the Hotel Riviera in Las Vegas. Lansky hired two of Cuba’s formative artists, muralist Rolando Lopez Dirube and sculptor Florencio Gelabert.
When I first pulled up in front of The Riviera my heart sank because I had expected so much more, but then, there are a lot of things in Havana that only have a shadow of past glory. Florencio Gelabert designed the white marble sculptures of an intertwined mermaid and swordfish that fronts the entrance and a large sculpture in the lobby , “Cuban Rhythm” that has a male and female dancer. The fountain, long dry ,sits baking in the sun, deteriorating and cracked.
Once inside the main lobby I felt like I stepped onto the set of Mad Men.
Every where I looked there was something else that caught my eye and I appreciate the completely unique creative force that was 1950’s design.
I’ve seen so many reproductions of starburst clocks but this was the real thing.
The original floating staircase was under construction and was off limits so I wasn’t able to see it but I am hopeful that they will be able to restore it to its original coolness.
The 3-D flying cranes art accented a wall leading into the circular bar.
The days of glamorous couples sipping martinis and smoking cigarettes at the lively bar, with the incredible view, is now reduced to curious tourists, like myself, who love architecture and history. If I had my way I’d throw a party there with all of my friends and it would be cocktail dresses and suits that would harken back to a time where the Rat Pack could have strolled past with beautiful girls on each arm.
The breakfast area is light and airy and leads out to the most fantastic pool I have ever seen.
When I walked outside and saw the magnificent three tiered diving platform I felt like I was in a Doris Day/ Rock Hudson movie. I just couldn’t take my eyes off of it and I desperately wanted to climb up and try a swan dive.
It sounds crazy but I got the same feeling when I was staring at the statue of David in Italy. Maybe that makes me a little weird but I was hypnotized by this structure.
The dining room inside the Hotel is equally breath taking in its over the top style. The murals on the walls were painted by the Cuban artist Rolando Lopez Dirube and they are a tropical explosion.
I promised myself that next time I visit Havana I will stay at The Riviera, at least for a couple of nights. I know the rooms are nothing special; a total let down, actually, but I want the experience of swimming, diving, dining in that crazy tropical restaurant, and going to the Copa. It’s still a cabaret with show girls and, not very impressive these days, but the interior is the same as it was when Ginger Rogers twirled her gams for a crowd of mobsters and gamblers.
Even the elevators are cool looking.
If you love history, like I do, you will get a real joy out of seeing all of this original 1950’s cutting edge style. Of all the places I have been, Havana is one of the most interesting. You can’t put your arms around a memory… to quote Johnny Thunders… but you can touch it in Cuba. If you get the opportunity to visit please go. I don’t think you will be disappointed unless your idea of a vacation is 5 star luxury. You won’t find it there but you will find a city steeped in history that has not changed. You will find a people who are open and welcoming. I will always return and I will always love Cuba.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can sidle up to the bar beside the bronze statue of Ernest sitting in his favorite seat at the bar.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!