look and you will see

Today I took myself off to see the Impressionism to Expressionism art exhibition at the Musée des Beaux Arts. I really enjoyed it and amongst the Cezanne, Matisse and Kandinsky learned about an artist that I was only vaguely aware of, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Interestingly, in 1933, his work was branded as “degenerate” by the Nazis and in 1937 over 600 of his works were sold or destroyed. I came home and spent some time on line looking at more of his paintings and that way, extended my enjoyment. I am posting a couple below. In ‘Female-artist’ from 1910, the girl looks as if she could be from 2015 with what she is wearing, the way she is sitting. The ‘self-portrait with a pipe’  is one I found online that I really like.

female-artist kirchner                            15616 self portrait kirchner

The museum was busy, full of young and old enjoying the art, some just looking and others in deep conversation about what they were seeing. It is a reminder that there is so much to do in our city if we just make the effort. There was, however, a lady who must have arrived at the same time as I did, as we were more or less in step, who  really spent no time looking at the paintings, she just went from painting to painting and photographed first the painting and then the write-up beside it. I watched her for a few moment in her quest; she didn’t really seem to take time to absorb anything.

Driving home I thought about her and it reminded me of tourists who are totally intent on taking photos of all they see but not spending much time in the moment. Yes, I often think after travelling that it’s a pity I don’t have many photos and could probably be envious that they are the ones going home with a great album of where they visited, but still don’t really get it. I keep seeing writers and lifestyle commentators saying ‘live in the moment’ and they have a good point. We need to enjoy our time to the fullest as we do things, whether it is looking at art, eating something delicious or being with people we appreciate. Not that I am overly purist about this – I just signed up for Instagram a few weeks ago, so I don’t think sharing is all bad. While at the museum, I also looked in on an Andy Warhol exhibit and there I did take a photo of something which amused me that I wanted to share. In a copy of Mademoiselle Magazine from 1960, he illustrated a diet! Really?


Two thoughts – first, he needed to make a living as a young artist before his grand fame just the same as everyone else and second, we women are still checking every diet and trying to emulate the thin models we see. It’s time to be happy with our bodies (full disclosure that I am presently on a diet trying to lose 10 pounds!!) So, as the French say ‘avec tout ce qui change, tout reste le même’ or with everything that changes, everything stays the same.

Posted in thoughts and people | Leave a comment

smart style

Every year at this time there are lists in all the fashion magazines of which trends we should be following for the next season.  Minimilast, Safari, Boho, you name it, there are options. That’s a good thing since we all have a different style and can look great sticking with what makes us feel good.

What do I want to wear?  I have my own criteria and so should you. It’s about being stylish, comfortable, unfussy but most of all in my comfort zone. For me, that encompasses lots of black because it makes me feel put together and I imagine it looks slimmer. I like a tonal look head to toe, should it be black, white or another neutral. I do like print, but I am picky about what I like and if there is one thing for sure, prints are very personal and each of us could choose a different print and all would be right.

As is my habit from years in fashion, I follow the designer fashion shows every time new collections come out. I enjoy seeing what creative things are produced, which new designers are making their mark and how the trends are somehow built up from an assortment of angles. The challenge is how to buy black, black and more black and not feel as if I am wearing the same thing day after day.  Since I know the silhouettes that suit my shape, so that doesn’t change too much. A good way to do that is by changing the textures and for Spring/Summer ’15 I covet all the lace, open knits and tone on tone embroidery that’s being shown, which will allow me to stick with what I know but still feel refreshed.

These are runways from Louis Vuitton,3 looks from Chloe,Alberta Ferretti and Roberto Cavalli:

vuitton2chloe 2MARC0057

chloe 3feretti1cavalli1

Once that idea has formed, how do you pull it off? I sure don’t have the budget to buy designer clothing so I have to be creative. How about what’s on sale right now after winter? Zara (or your favorite store) is a great place to dig for some things that will work to wear now and then wear later once the deep freeze abates and spring arrives. Here’s what’s on sale now at Zara or zara.com, all marked down and just the look I want:

zara1         zara4                   zara2

So buy a few magazines or look online at vogue.com, harpersbazaar.com or any magazine you like to read and think about shopping wisely so you looking your best and feel stylish and current without looking like you are trying to be trendy, which doesn’t work for anyone over 21! If you want to look at the designer shows, you can go to http://www.style.com and click on fashion shows.

Posted in style and wander | Leave a comment

Cibo Italiano

A couple of nights ago I got home after a busy day with no food prepared. It’s cold, winter is setting in and soup seemed like the best fast idea. To put together a good Italian minestrone took just a half an hour and then some cooking time – brown some onions and add all the vegetables you like, being sure to include a can of kidney beans to make it a meal and with some good vegetable stock (chicken works too)  an serve with some freshly grated Parmesan and a chunk of good bread and a glass of red wine – heaven!


‘Cibo’ is Italian for food. Lucky for me, I married an Italian. My Italian mother in law always said that you can make good or bad food with the same ingredients, and it’s so true. Perfectly ripe tomatoes with creamy mozzarella, add some basil and you have an effortless and delicious lunch.  I am taking about well-prepared simple ingredients. Each region of Italy has its own traditions and style of cooking that changes with seasons to reflect what is fresh.  In summer, you can make a meal of antipasti at room temperature and  in winter there’s osso bucco, scaloppini Milanese and melanzane parmigiana (eggplant), all with easy to find recipes on line. I am a big fan of online recipes for cooking, so that I can look at the ingredients, the method and then change it to suit my larder. Don’t try that with baking, though, where the quantities on the recipe need to followed exactly to turn out a good treat.

il  latini

In Florence, there is probably my favourite restaurant anywhere, Il Latini. The beautiful old building houses communal tables with wine that you pour yourself from a carafe and are charged on an honor system ; a delicious array of food that just keeps coming until you tell the waiter to stop; the excellent surprise when you get the bill and it’s way less than you thought it would be. The wine and produce comes from their own farm, fresh and perfect. I just tell the waiter to bring you food (I say no pork for me, so you can specify your tastes) and then eat until you are satiated. I have never made it past the pasta course, but see people eating large cuts of meat with gusto. To describe the food and the experience – first, antipasti which vary each night but include a barley salad with olive oil, cherry tomatoes and oregano that I have tried to recreate at home with some success, then pasta served family style and if you want, fried zucchini blossoms – beyond delicious. They have a good website, so if you get to Tuscany, make the effort to get there. There are 2 sittings each night at 6 and 9 and be sure to reserve. I am now dreaming about that food! http://www.illatini.com/

Italian food conjures up visions of families and friends eating together, delicious fresh food that’s made with care. It makes me feel content and as if I belong, notwithstanding the fact that I usually eat more than I should. Food should of course be about what we are eating, the taste and the presentation, but also about the way it makes us feel – like we are home.

Posted in house and table | Leave a comment

There’s always somewhere to go

Last week I was lucky enough to spend a week in the Caribbean enjoying the endless warm days and reading a few books, which should have been a lovely relaxing vacation. But I have to admit, since I am not working, I felt like a bit of a fraud taking time off – off from what, I say?  A friend’s take on my guilt was ‘didn’t you work enough years in your life to deserve a vacation?’ and I suppose she is right. Don’t think I didn’t enjoy the week. I love to travel, whether it’s sightseeing, a cultural learning experience or the beach and the hot weather that comes with it. There is a lot to enjoy. For me, anticipation and planning is a big part of the enjoyment.  Where travel is concerned, the preparation is a good experience in itself.  I enjoy the time online, looking for the best routing, investigating the hotel reviews and then finding a good deal. Where will we eat and what kinds of food will we find? All of these things give me great pleasure.



Wadi Rum desert, Jordan

What is it that makes traveling such a draw? There are such beautiful, awesome things to see, really awe-inspiring, like the desert at Wadi Rum in Jordan and the veld while on safari near Hoedspruit in South Africa, both vast and ancient  places that made me realize just how we are briefly passing through. Mostly though, travel is all about the people. The list of places I like the best are all about the people I find the most simpatico – India, where the locals are warm and spiritual and a business associate made the effort to take us to an amazing temple en route to our next appointment. A place where women working in factories for small wages work in brilliantly coloured saris with jasmine in their hair.



I loved Cambodia, where the tuk tuk driver adopted us after one ride and was there whenever we came out of the hotel. When we came out of the market and looked around, another driver didn’t try to get our business, instead somehow someone called and our guy popped up, ready for the next stop.  In Italy, a country where even the old taxi driver flirts with you and you feel charmed. Then there are the places where I would not mind if I didn’t go again – China, where our cultures are so different that I feel little warmth from the locals and Bangladesh where I felt uncomfortable, but then maybe being a woman didn’t help.

Every time I return home I start planning the next place I will travel, whether it’s a trip in close by in North America or a faraway place. Sometimes it’s a place I have been often before but love to visit again and again and sometimes it’s a new adventure, but one thing is for sure, there’s an airplane in my future.

Posted in style and wander | Leave a comment

what’s next?

There are many lifestyle blogs by either (very good looking) millennials and a ton of mommy blogs, fashion blogs and cooking blogs, but for a 50-ish lifestyle, not much.  We need to discuss the everyday concerns of women who are one of the first generations of us who mostly worked outside the house and now find that a stage is coming to an end and what’s next.

I am right there at that point. I have always worked, always been brain busy and have fitted in my life around it. Some things have been done better than others but I managed somehow to turn out two decent, caring, smart young adults who I hope I have given the tools for happy and fulfilling lives and still be in my marriage of 26 years, even if there were times when it’s been a rocky road.

There were a few commentaries I noticed this September:   One was a great movie that any parent in our time can relate to: Boyhood is a coming-of-age movie by Richard Linklater which was shot intermittently over an eleven-year period , showing the growth of the young boy to adulthood. In it, Patricia Arquette’s character looks back at marriages, relationships and her kids going off to college and says: ‘is this all there is?’ She struck a cord with me. We work, we raise our kids, we look after our parents, we try to be good wives and friends and somehow we need to be careful not to lose ourselves in the process.

The other was a comic in my local newspaper by Sandra Bell-Lundy call Freedom 56. An excellent, funny and real look at where our lives are once our kids are going off to make their own lives. The link is below, please have a look – you will love it!



Whether we are 49 or 56, we need to be more than the sum of the things we took care of and we need to find a way to be our own people. We need to take our successes and failures and look ahead to make sure the next years are fulfilling.  If there are things that have made our lives frustrating, can we cut those out? Find the way to take stock now and see what you want to keep and what you want to do. How do you want to spend the next 5 years? Are there people you would be happy to never see again? If so, can you lose them without making your life more complicated? Obviously, there are constraints. We are not all financially able do anything we feel at whim and we still have many responsibilities, so we can’t just walk away without bearing the consequences.

But there are some of the things we can just do with what we are all given – time, attitude, the will to change. Sure, take up jogging or clean out your closet, but what about real change? For example, few years ago I decided that it was time to expand my network, to enrich my life. With some effort and some luck, I can honestly say that there are now friends that I have made in the last few years who add so much to my life. Nothing will replace my old friends, but new ones add a different perspective and new laughter and insights. Actually, I will keep making that effort because it has given me so much and hopefully I can add something to the lives of others, too. Just take the first step – there are good people out there.

Now I need to take re-asses once again and find things to do that I enjoy – I don’t know what, but I’ll keep you posted.

Posted in thoughts and people | Leave a comment

wear what feels good

As we get older, the hope is that we have developed our own style and know what suits us. The problem is that many people don’t know how to change their clothing choices to suit their changing bodies and faces, with the result that women over 50 often look either like they are wearing ‘old lady’ clothes or conversely like they have dressed out of their daughter’s wardrobe. Shopping with my 20 something daughter earlier this year, I took a pair of (slightly) ripped jeans to the change room and tried them on. She thought they looked great and I must say from the waist down, not too bad. But not when I looked up. Oh no! The jeans were ripped and my face has got to the stage that it too looks ripped – the face and the jeans just didn’t work together.

Alexandra Shulman, editor of  British Vogue, is quoted in the Daily Mail UK  a few years ago as giving her style rules. They include  know your shape, keep it comfortable and be kind to yourself. A great article from a woman who’s raison d’etre is style and fashion.


There is no reason why you can’t wear current fashion that fits into your style – I sure do. I spent the last two summers in printed soft pants and dressed up or down depending on the top I wore and either heels or flats to make the outfits appropriate.  I particularly wear a lot of black (maybe too often, but it’s my comfort zone) and a printed pant let’s me wear pattern but not so that I feel it overwhelms me.

print pant

The only thing is, find the version that suits you. I am quite short (5’4″ when I stand up straight), so as much as the wide leg versions often have the best prints, they are best left to the tall. I pick the ones that have a leg that tapers to the bottom.  I looked like and felt like my best self and was confident and comfortable and looked good. Actually, I will find a way to keep wearing that trend all winter; it works for me.

Dress to make yourself feel good but never leave the house without a final look in the mirror. I sometimes see someone wearing something that really doesn’t work and think first that they didn’t look in the mirror and secondly that I am lucky to have people who love me and are quick to offer an opinion. While I don’t dress for my husband or my children, if they comment, it does make me look twice and sometimes, they are right and sometimes I ignore them.

Posted in style and wander | Leave a comment

tea time

If bread makes you fat, how do we  enjoy delicious food and still fit into our jeans? I make it count. Don’t waste even one calorie on something you don’t love to eat and when you do eat what satisfies your taste buds, enjoy every bite.


One of my current favorites in Montreal is Le Cardinal Tea Room. When I grew up in South Africa, our regular weekend outings were a drive to somewhere scenic for afternoon tea and scones.  I still love the whole process and Le Cardinal delivers. Drinking tea  out of a beautiful assortment of china cups in a pretty Victorian inspired space with chandeliers and tons of atmosphere makes you feel like you are part of a special club. To go with the tea there are English inspired perfect cucumber sandwiches, scones and shortbread cookies which are all delicious. They have a facebook page,  https://www.facebook.com/cardinaltearoom . You should try it (and let me know when you do).

tea time

To add to that, my daughter and I had tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC and voila! I was inspired. One sunny weekend this summer found me inviting a group of girlfriends to tea. I enjoyed setting the table, preparing a selection of treats including scones, strawberries and cucumber sandwiches. Everyone relaxed, talked to friends and met some new people and a good time was had by all. Next time, I am going to make that shortbread.

Posted in house and table | Leave a comment