Thursday, February 03, 2011

Just a Little Taste

The first month of the new year and month number 5(!) in my apparel diet comes to a close. Somehow I made it through the Christmas shopping onslaught only to be detoured by the new year sales. Yes, it is true. My non-shopping journey ran out of gas this month and I had to refuel. A number of factors contributed to my moment of weakness.

1 - Somehow I managed to stain or shrink three of my cardigans this fall. The loss of these wardrobe staples has left me recycling the same four sweaters for the last few months. I was definately starting to feel the grind of my fashion rut.

2 - The sale sign at Jacob was too great a lure for me to resist. Especially since all the cardigans were 50% off!! Point number 1 reinforced.

3 - My sendentary chunkiness has persisted and finding something that doesn't bunch, tug or pinch has been a challenge. Since I don't want to spend my days accentuating the negative it was difficult to spend every day feeling less than attractive. Not being able to buy anything to fit my current state was only increasing my stress.

So I caved on day 138. Into Jacob I went and I promptly bought three new cardigans in teal, burgundy and cinnamon. And I never felt better. The experience was a perfect shopping oasis in my desert of denial. I don't have a stitch of guilt about the process, especially since the price tag for the entire affair was less than $70!

But here is where the revelation comes. Shopping really has an addictive vibe for me. While I was bemoaning the loss of my mall mojo last month, the minute I paid for my sweaters I feld calm. Restored. Since that day I have wandered into more stores than I had in the previous months combined. I find myself actually considering a good spree with helpful ideas such as:

"it doesn't really matter if I shop or not"
"the prices are so good right now" and
"I really want a pair of skinny jeans."

This is how the backslide starts. My one sip of consumption and my brain is ready to go for it all. I have to remember to stay strong. I can do this. One day at a time ... in a really great sweater!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Frost

Jack Frost took his time to paint the window on a frigid January morning.

And now it is time for hot chocolate and a warm fire.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Shutter Eye

In really sad news, I need to get a new camera. I LOVE my camera. It is a great mix of automatic and basic programmable controls. It has a manual macro setting that I absolutely adore that has helped me capture some lovely florals. It is compact and easy to take out for the night without having to take a large handbag. It takes great sunset photos. And it is blue!

I don't want to get a new camera but I have too. The functionality has been on the decline for months. After three years of intense usage my poor point-and-shoot has hit its limits. The buttons don't work. The toggles are stuck. And, most recently, I black spot has appeared in the lens. If only one thing was going wrong, I could endure. But this collective failure has made my camera a non-responsive device too often for comfort. So I need to get a new camera.

The challenge has been to find the right replacement. The Boyfriend (no, wait The Fiance!) was kind enough to find a possibility. He picked up a new model Sony and brought it home for a trial. I figured that staying in the Sony family might be a good idea since I have been so pleased with my current one. The new Sony has a wider lens which makes taking shots of the two of us together a breeze. A very important feature for all our trips together. The sweep panaroma setting is a new option for me and it is tons of fun. I'm sure trying it out in any season other than winter would have been very exciting.

The camera is quite light but with both setting dials on the back I found it hard to manoeuver between functions. I tend to change my settings A LOT in the course of shooting so an awkward setup for doing this was not going to work. On top of that, the camera did not have a manual macro setting. I had to rely on the internal system to determine when to use the macro and I could not get it to focus when and how I wanted. This was a deal breaker. This particular Sony is not the one.

I had my sights set on a point-and-shoot Nikon. If I was to enter the SLR realm then Nikon is my brand of choice so I figured it was worth checking out the coolpix line. The s8100 version received great online reviews for being an enhanced automatic with an excellent zoom and setting dials placed separately with one on top of the camera and a quick pick on the back. A small switch made it easy to go to video mode, a feature I thought might actually make me use more video.

This camera did have the macro setting but in the store I could not get the detail I desired. Although it was on sale, I decided to delay taking one home for a trial. The pop-up flash is located in the exact spot where I usually rest my finger so that would become annoying fast. The weight balance also seemed off and I just could not get it comfortable in my hand. I have always been a tactile purchaser with my cameras so this option was shelved as well.

This week I came across a Panasonic Lumix camera and it has become the new front-runner. This camera was purchased recently by a friend and he raves about it. The cost is a bit more (almost $400) than I wanted to spend but that seems to the rate for the new brand of advanced point-and-shoot styles. The Lumix has the same features as the Nikon but with a much better body design. A soft curve on the right side makes it easy to hold and the flash is placed on the front. The wide angle lens is there along with a 12X zoom. A manual micro and quick video switch are also in play. And it comes in blue!

So maybe I have found the right combination in a new camera. If I can swallow the price point I might pick one up and play around for a bit to see if the inside is as convincing as the packaging. Afterall I really do need a new camera!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

One Hundred and Twenty-Two Days...

... that is the count at the end of December. I decided the mini-cheat in November wasn't going to derail me so I've kep on the non-shopping wagon since then. The one thing that I have realized is that shopping is like a language. If you are not using it, you will lose it. I'm losing my ability to shop!

I don't crave it anymore. My store time has become very practical. I finally have a sense of wat it feels like to be some of my non-shopping friends. It feels like stores are bright and stuffed too full and kind of annoying. It feels like fashion has taken a nasty turn this season and the idea of stifting through the racks is really asking too much. My goodness, what has happened to me?

The worst case of my new condistion came during the holiday rush. Normally, my natural shopping brings me into the stores often and I am immune to the Christmas crazies. I know what I want and I know the best way to navigate the crowds to get it. But this year was different. This year I had not been inside a shopping mall for a month when I went out trying to get last minute gifts for neice and nephew.

It was a nightmare. The shelves were picked over and I had no backup plan. The congested hallways were suffocating. As I wandered from store to store I grew more and more lost. I had forgotten how to shop!! All I could see were the people in my way. All I could feel was the draining lack of achievment. It was unpleasant to say the least. I hated it. My once cozy environment had turned against me. I gave the stores my cold shoulder and now I am cast out to fend for myself just like any other fairweather shopper. What a change!

The one saving grace is this month of losing my consumer powers was that I got to do some shopping for a very special purchase. I was shopping for my wedding dress. And at a completely unexpected time - I found one! So I guess I haven't lost my touch afterall. Rather my energy was channelled for couture rather than consumption and that is not a bad place to be afterall!!

Note: This is NOT the dress!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cuba Libre

It has been a tough couple of months. Heck, it's been one hell of a year. Securing a new career position has been my full-time job this year and finally it was done. So when The Boyfriend said that going to Cuba was a good plan, I couldn't really disagree. And so the odessey of moving from one career to the next has come full circle to the Caribbean. I got the news in January about the initial contract. We went to Cuba to celebrate. Sometimes life really is grand!

The first evening walking along the beach.

Kayaking fun on the ocean. Drink in hand.

Ahhhhhh ... Sunshine!

Visiting the old town of Havana. An amazing and beautiful place.

See, happy and refreshed now.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Ninety Days ... Almost ...

The apparel diet continues to the end of month three. That is 90 days of NO new clothes! Well, almost.

The truth of the matter is that, by the strictest definition of the rules, I cheated.

But in my defense I feel that I have two good reasons for my transgression.

One - I had just been notified that I was about to get a full-time job. This situation is normally a valid reason to treat oneself to something new.

Two - I was going on a vacation to Cuba. This situation, of course, begs to have something new.

So I cheated. Sort of ...

What I got is the bikini in the picture on the right. Something new, special and vacation appropriate. It covered all the bases with on targeted purchase. And really, when you think about it, isn't a bikini more of an accessory than apparel? OK, it totally isn't but it is not like I went out and bought a new dress.

So this is my confession. At the end of month three, I have a tarnished record in my apparel diet. I cracked under the pressure of my context and I shopped. And you know what? I'm so glad I did. I love this bikini and I worked the hell out of it on vacation.

I also bought the sunglasses this month, but they really ARE an accessory so I'm in the clear on them!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Garden Gone

"I love the fall. I love it because of the smells that you speak of; and also because things are dying, things that you don't have to take care of anymore, and the grass stops growing."
- Mark Van Doren

As the fall moved into its dreary days I let the gardens go. I didn't feel up to spending a wet day in the mulchy backyard. And as the days got shorter I found myself with little daylight to work in the garden after work. The weekends were busy and I stopped paying attention to my green labours. I had cut the herbs weeks before. The cucumber had stopped growing. The day lillies were turning into limp yellow strands slumbering on the earth. Only the tomatoes soldiered on. Now crawling across the neighbouring trees to support their 9-foot height, the tomatoes grew. Until the morning when the temperature was more than they could bear.

"The third day comes a frost, a killing frost.
- William Shakespeare

Finally, I found some time to deal with the garden. In a gift of unseasonable warmth and sunshine I spent the day cutting and clearing. I dug out the wilted annuals that my mom and I had planted in the spring. I clawed out the weeds that had enroached into the dirt due to my negligence. I raked the away the leaves and scraped the dirt back into protective piles over the sleeping bulbs waiting for newxt year.

In the backyard the task was long. I had to say goodbye to the gigantic green hosta that had sprung up as a surprise only to dominate the right side of the yard. I had to remove the dead hibiscus that I somehow killed over the season. I emptied the mint pot to find the soil had become a bundle of mint roots wrapped around each other in a circle. And I had to remove the tomatoes. The great green giants were toppled! But one little plant did not want to say good bye. Somehow a purple annual that my mom had bought was still in full bloom and clinging to the edge of the flowerbed with an incredible will. I thought about keeping it there, letting it live out its last few weeks ...

... but I hated the idea of the snow taking it in a slow tortuous death through frost bite. Instead I ripped it free and sent it to its composty grave with the friends it had summered with all year.

In the end, the yard looked much like it did when I moved in last April. A barren space just waiting for some love. I reset all the stones along the border and cleaned out the debris. I raked the dirt to make sure all the day lillies were covered for their winter rest.

Now I can leave it with peace of mind. I have done my work. Now I can turn my attention to planning for the spring ahead and the new projects that may unfold in my garden space.

"If I'm ever reborn, I want to be a gardener — there's too much to do for one lifetime!"
- Karl Foerster

Friday, November 26, 2010

And the Universe Smiled

Today could have been a horrible day. It could have been a sad, depressing, scary, anxious kind of day. It could have been the end of something great and the start of a big, black hole of "OMG! what now?!" Today could have been the last day of my work contract and the end of my paycheque.

But it wasn't!

Oh no! Instead, today was the LAST day of worry, fear, and anxiety. Today was the turning point of a long 10-month road to achieving stability. Today my job moved from the precarious contract stage into the precious permanent stage. Today, the gamble I took when I quit my previous job and moved to Toronto paid off. Whew!

The sigh of relief may have been heard around the world. I signed my offer letter and I felt every muscle in my body relax. The stone necklace of stress that I had been carrying all year melted away from around my neck. The release was instant and in a flash my joy was back.

The world now has a light within it that seemed to have faded away over the fall. It is the light of promise. With stable employment, The Boyfriend and I can plan for some of the bigger things in life. My financial security makes it easier for him to work on his own career transition and we know the rent will still get paid. The position comes with benefits and a pension and lots of other great "grown-up" things that I suddenly find myself wanting. I don't think I can say YAY! enough.

On top of it all, I really like the job. I get to use my skills and work with interesting stakeholders and provide interesting experiences to youth. It is a dream sort of position to be able to do non-profit style work but get a decent paycheque for it. So YAY! again.