Tag Archives: shopping

My Writer’s Uniform

For as long as I can remember, spring and fall were usually times to head back to the malls and hunt for a few new items of clothing to refresh the wardrobe.

I would assume that the timing has its origins back to childhood when fall meant “back to school” and spring meant replacing the t-shirts and shorts I outgrew from the previous season. Even though I haven’t set foot in a classroom in years and “outgrowing” holds a different meaning today, the traditions of shopping for spring and fall fashion stuck with me.

But the paradigm of seasonal shopping is starting to shift. With retirement just a few years away, my clothing needs are changing.

I would like to think that until now, for my work life and my social life, I had cultivated a look that struck the right balance between the office dress code, what allowed me to feel comfortable and confident and what pleased me personally.

I developed a uniform of separates I truly loved, that fit me the way I wanted. Through carefully selected long sleeved shirts, sweaters, blazers, dress pants, cotton pants, jeans, shoes, and socks of all colours, it was very easy to mix and match the pieces to achieve a multitude of looks, appropriate for the weather, the occasion, and how I felt on a given day.

I also had on hand the obligatory suits for interviews, weddings and funerals.

Similarly, I knew exactly which pieces traveled better than others, which took the guesswork out of packing for a trip. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour, Misc blogs, Writing

Christmas Traditions, Past and Present

What is it about the holiday season that has us so deeply entrenched in tradition?

Is it the reminder of the eager anticipation we felt on Christmas morning, waking up to see what Santa brought? Is it the feast for the senses throughout the month of December? Is it the reminder of a simpler, gentler time?

Or is the totality of the experience, combining the recreation of old familiar traditions with the new experiences that get woven in as the fabric of our lives changes?

Here are ten such traditions that have formed an important part of the holidays for me over the years:

10. Shopping
I recently blogged about how shopping in December is so much fun, I now shop in November. But in all seriousness, I do have very fond memories of being a store clerk in my high school and university years and how much I enjoyed helping last minute shoppers find the perfect holiday gifts. In those last days leading up to the big day, there was magic and electricity in the air that made time fly, helping customer after customer ring through with their purchases and hurry out the door to their family, friends and festivities. I enjoyed that role of a sort of Christmas Elf so much, things may come full circle as something I might reconsider in my retirement years.

9. Christmas cards
Ever since I was a child, I enjoyed sending and receiving Christmas cards through the mail. As I got older I realized that it was impossible to see everyone over the holidays unless I had my own magic sleigh, 8 reindeer and unlimited time. Sending cards is that opportunity to tell someone that I am thinking of them, even if we don’t see each other that often, as well as the chance to convey my best wishes for the new year. True enough, electronic cards, email and texts can still convey the message so much more efficiently, but I still like the ritual of the mailbox and the “Aww!” moment of opening a card, reading a nice greeting and the joy of the ongoing connection with the sender. Plus, when I find a perfect card that captures an inside joke, makes someone laugh, or strikes the right chord in one way or another, it can be a beautiful thing.

8. Baking
Is there anything that helps to stir up the memories of Christmas past than the sweet smell of baking favourite holiday treats? In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I do find myself puttering in the kitchen more than usual, reviving old favourites to bring to potlucks, parties or to give as gifts. When that sweet smell gently fills the house, it really does whisper “Christmas is coming”. Date squares, pecan squares, butter cookies and rum balls, are just some of the traditional indulgences that I revive annually. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Christmas, Humour, Top 10

How I Became an Early Christmas Shopper

A couple of years ago, in the blog post “The Christmas Trees of August”, I poked fun at the retail sector and how stores seem to be putting out seasonal merchandise earlier and earlier each year.

It is funny how times change.

Here we are, two short years later, and I am finding myself seriously venturing out to Christmas shop earlier and earlier with each passing year.

At the best of times throughout the year, I rarely shop on Saturday afternoons. But in the last weeks approaching Christmas, I also avoid shopping on Saturday mornings as the stores and parking lots get far too busy for me. Then a week later, I will drop Sunday as a possible shopping day. Then a week later, Friday evenings are off the list. A week after that, Thursday evenings are eliminated.

When I only have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to get my shopping done, there are only so many hours to accomplish that.

Then add to the mix the wildcard of snowstorms or freezing rain that can strike at any moment. If they do, some of those prime shopping days can unexpectedly disappear.

What does one do in light of this weird Christmas shopping algorithm?… I started shopping earlier.

Why?

I seem to have a romantic notion of Christmas shopping being a fun activity. Continue reading

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The Rewards of Vending Machines

vending-machinesOn a recent visit to the mall, I noticed a little girl was carefully perusing the contents of the row of gum ball and toy vending machines, with the same intensity I demonstrated when I was shopping for new appliances. She was contorting herself around the machines, checking out all of the contents and trying to predict which items were to come out next.

I understood that this was a major purchase and she was looking for the best value for her hard earned allowance money. That was me 40+ years ago!

After much scrutiny and analysis, she pointed to a machine, put in her coin, turned the crank, opened the plastic bubble and voilà! Pure joy and a huge smile! I could only assume that she got what she was looking for as she was visibly delighted with her prize.

I was reminded of my own childhood and my borderline addiction to those machines. I remember my sock drawer was proudly filled with little gum-ball-machine toys I had collected from trips to the grocery store or the department store.

I don’t think my experience was all that unusual though. With those machines at eye level for a kid, it was so easy to beg parents and relatives for coins, to get something I “positively need, and promise I won’t ask for anything again”… until the next visit.

But what is it about those machines that ignites our curiosity? If common sense prevails, one would think that being able to hold, feel and inspect a product up close to make an informed decision would the more balanced way to go. However the separation of human and product by a plastic window seems to appeal to our sense of adventure.

Or is it because we have become the product of our own life-long Pavlovian experiment since a very young age: put in a coin, get a treat? Continue reading

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With This Many Loyalty Cards, How Loyal Can You Be?

Reward CardsDo you remember the episode of the TV sitcom “Seinfeld” when George Costanza’s wallet explodes from the multitude of items he had filed away in it? Some days, I feel that could be me just from the quantity of reward and loyalty cards I have accumulated over the years.

Just this past week, I was in a rush to leave the house to go see a movie and found myself deep diving through the kitchen counter pile of flyers, lists, receipts and other miscellaneous orphaned items, to look for my movie loyalty card. Fortunately I found it in time, despite the needle in the haystack factor.

I have loyalty cards for airlines, hotels, department stores, grocery stores and pharmacies. I have cards to earn me free coffee, free pet food and free dry cleaning, to name a few.

As you can see by the stack of cards in the picture, I am a member of a multitude of loyalty programs, but frankly I am not as loyal to them as they may think. I confess, I have been seeing other stores behind their back.

Out of all of those cards, only two of them are always in my wallet. Maybe five get rotated in and out of the wallet regularly (…when I remember to). The rest, I try to keep as organized as possible by placing them all in a business card keeper (…when I remember to).

Talk about a house of cards, Continue reading

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A Relaxing Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Oban Inn GardenWith the Canadian dollar in its weakened state against the American greenback, Canadians might be looking for travel options closer to home. In that same fluctuation, Canadian destinations become more affordable and more attractive to our American friends. A unique travel option for both to consider is Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Located in Southern Ontario, along the shores of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake was the original Capital of Upper Canada from 1792 to 1797 and the location of several battles in the War of 1812.

As Niagara-on-the-Lake had been on our bucket list for some time, John and I decided to check it out in August of last year, in time for the famous Shaw Festival. Regular readers of my blog know that we have a voracious appetite for theatre and we were absolutely delighted with Shaw, a theatre company that draws its inspiration from the works of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries.

Upon arrival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, we checked in at our new home-away-from-home, the Oban Inn. The staff at the front desk ran the operation like a finely oiled machine, always greeting guests as they were arriving or leaving, generously offering tourist information on the fly, while still maintaining the calm and serenity of the Oban Spa vibe. Our room was spotlessly clean, very comfortable and very quiet.

After our long drive from Ottawa, we were starved. Our first stop was the Oban Inn’s beautiful dining room for dinner. I had already called ahead to ensure that they were well equipped to handle a gluten sensitivity, and the serving staff was indeed well-prepared.

Our first Shaw festival theatre experience was a winner, right out of the gate, with the legendary musical, Sweet Charity at the Festival Theatre. We were charmed by Julie Martell’s sweet portrayal of Charity, and were mesmerized by the gorgeous costumes, sets, lights, songs and dance. The entire company was impressive in that performance and kept us wanting more.

Oban Breakfast

Our breakfast tray at the Oban Inn dining room

Our Tuesday evening concluded with a special treat at Il Gelato Di Carlotta. Their wide array of tasty gelato won us over immediately. Even though we could get a few different scoops in one cup, there were just too many flavours to try in one visit. We concluded we must return… and we did! (Note: gluten-free cones are available)

Wednesday morning we returned to the Oban Inn’s dining room to start our day with a simple yet elegant breakfast. The big picture window overlooking the garden offers a beautiful view and a lovely opportunity to slowly open one eye at a time as the caffeine kicks in and the brain cells engage, gently easing into the day rather than the hustle and bustle of the daily grind back home. We were starting to feel the vacation vibe setting in.

We decided to take a stroll down Queen Street and check out the shops. We were very impressed by Continue reading

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New Year’s in New Orleans

Even though our Ottawa winter was heralded with warmer than usual temperatures and no snow by the time Christmas rolled around (a fairly unusual occurrence), John and I packed our bags and headed out for a winter escape (planned several months ago) for a bucket list destination: New Orleans, Louisiana.

The beauty and the majesty of the mighty oaks in front of the Oak Alley Plantation

The beauty and the majesty of the mighty oaks in front of the Oak Alley Plantation

After a fairly easy-going travel day (thank you Mother Nature!) we arrived at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, happy and reassured to find our luggage made it as well. The uneventful travel day was especially sweet since it was New Year’s Eve and because we had made it with plenty of time to spare to take in the festivities. I admit I was mentally prepared for the possibility of spending New Year’s Eve in an airport due to weather, mechanical or logistical issues like missed connections, but in the end everything worked out! YAY!

Our first destination was the Court of Two Sisters Restaurant in the French quarter for a special dinner to ring in the New Year. It did not take longer than for the appetizers to arrive to fully appreciate the great things I had heard about southern hospitality, given the kind, warm and attentive nature of the team that greeted us with open arms. What an amazing way to start a vacation! We then decided to take a gentle stroll to burn off some of the calories, and to take in the merriment and festive spirit that was in abundance throughout the French Quarter. We concluded the evening in Jackson Square, a great vantage point to take in the brilliant fireworks show and traditional dropping of the fleur-de-lis to ring in 2016.

Our chilly New Year’s Day began with Continue reading

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