Sunday, December 30, 2012

Something I've been wanting to tell you ...

A YEAR AGO: When life, and by extension this blog, really changed!

What a year! I can't believe hubby and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary yesterday! I wish I could show you a fashion flashback series of all the great outfits I've worn over 2012, as some of my fave thrifty fashion bloggers have done, but honestly, it's been such a crazy 13 months that I don't have enough of a repertoire to choose from.

When I was a single hipster blogger, I used to feature a lot of pics
 and tableaux from my boho apartment in Toronto, Canada.

Selling or giving away a big chunk of my stuff before getting married, then immigrating to the UK in the New Year and living there for four months before hip-hopping over to France, has meant the content of this blog has changed a lot in the past year-and-a-bit ... from a Toronto-centric "where to thrift shop" romp full of weekly finds/outfits, thrifty home decor ideas and frequent apartment re-orgs ... to part fashion blog, part how-gorgeous-is-Annecy tribute.

Happy girl, in September.

In the past year, I've come to believe (perhaps out of necessity!) that my blog should be fluid, and change in content as life changes. I hope I've maintained my love-of-thrift-and-vintage core, though, and that the often unfocused posts combining French scenery and personal fashion haven't been confusing or frustrating for you as readers.

The focus may change a wee bit yet, methinks. I've been a naughty girl. Haven't told you something big. But it hasn't been for lack of caring, just caution. In fact, I'm rolling the news out to you, my dear blogging buds, before I tell even my Facebook friends (and I'm not even sure I'll do that - it's a different, and more widespread, community as opposed to this intimate little domain, does that sound nuts?). See, just around the time this photo was taken, in early September, I had some news:

My saviour these past few weeks: a cheapie cashmere-blend dress
picked up at the Sunday market.

If I had shown you this semi-profile photo taken on December 11 when I featured my new Ugg boots (instead of sneakily posting a frontal shot with my belly artfully hidden), the jig would definitely have been up. This cashmere-blend sweater dress found for 10 Euros at the market has proved indispensable to my sanity and my evolving shape.

A few days ago: POP!

Now I'm 19 weeks gone, my 27-inch waist has disappeared (will I see it again?), and I'm popping out so much I can't even wear my "fat skirts" that I used to wear loosely around my hips.

Constant nausea for a good seven weeks, coupled with the illness and death of, and the subsequent mourning for, wee Dinky, made my first trimester pretty hellish - and had a direct impact on the content and frequently of my posts. When I wasn't crying or stuffing a croissant in my face to ward off yet another wave of nausea, I was pretty much parked on the couch watching Downton Abbey, too fatigued to even put on makeup. My fashion sense went completely out the window.

This week: thankfully this green Windsmoor coat found in a
 UK charity shop still fits me. 

Now that I'm into my second trimester, I'm experiencing what is called the glory days of pregnancy, characterized by no morning sickness, increased energy levels and a slightly renewed fashion sense - not to mention a growing awareness of the wonderful (and terrifying) reality of having a wee human developing inside me. The problem now is, What the hell am I going to wear? Nothing in my closet (except for sweaters) fits me. I can't find a maternity shop in Annecy and I'm sure that when I do, a dress will be prohibitively expensive. And the maternity selection at the local H&M makes me want to hurl (why have all the cool sparkly stuff for the 20-year-olds and make the ugly forest green pants for the preggos?). And so, the fashion journey will continue, to Etsy, where I've found a few style solutions for my slowly expanding girth.

A few weeks ago, with sunlight showing my new curves and wearing
 a maternity skirt found in a thrift store. 

I have no great desire to turn this into a Mommie blog, though that could be the inevitable direction. I have nothing against moms or ones who blog, please understand. Just not sure if I want to go there. But I have a feeling French attitudes towards pregnancy, childbirth and raising kids will figure somewhat, and intermix with my reactions to said attitudes. Natch, I'll document my evolving fashion sense and various pregnancy-related wardrobe dilemmas, frustrations and triumphs.  EDIT: Of course, I will **always** thrift shop and continue to show off my finds!!

TEASER: The lady at the boulangerie told me yesterday that French doctors expect pregnant women, in total, to gain one kg per month of pregnancy - that's just under 20 pounds! (So far I've gained three, and my doc isn't harassing me). Attitudes are definitely different in North America, where it's not uncommon to gain 30, 40, and upwards of 50 pounds when pregnant. 

So dear readers, I hope you'll jump on for the ride. Happy New Year! xo

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Annecy at dusk, plus Hermes makes a visit to my wardrobe

I hope you've all had an utterly fabulous holiday season thus far. After my last blog entry, I did in fact snap a few pics of Annecy at dusk on Christmas Eve, just an hour or two before the shops closed at six (and boy, was I wrong: the old town was a madhouse). This is the entry way to the pedestrian area in the old town, which currently houses the Christmas market I featured in my last post.

I just love the lights they string up across the narrow streets in France. When I was in Aix en Provence a good decade ago at Christmas, they did the same thing in the old town.

I don't buy my flowers at this shop as I find them quite pricey, but this flower shop in the old town truly has the most spectacular frontage. In the summer, beautiful floral displays wend their way up the old stone walls, and, as you can see, the loveliness extends to the holiday season.

One of the old churches in Annecy is quite lovely when lit up. A few days before Christmas it had to compete with a kids' ride.

You can just see the gold Madonna at the top.

This is another church just around the corner.

Christmas was a laid-back affair at our place. Hubby got home in the afternoon and we unwrapped pressies, then popped the bird in the oven (didn't eat until 11 p.m. so we'll dress the turkey before pressies next time).

In honour of the occasion, I wore a thick shirt by Ellen Tracy that I thrifted in Canada years ago and have literally worn only once. Since emerald green is the hot colour for 2013, I decided to pop it on with leggings and my thrifted Italian booties.

My legs look like pipe cleaners, but I wanted to give you an idea of how over-sized it is.

The silk is thick and sheeny - perfect for festive holiday garb.

I wore it with a vintage costume ring and bracelet I picked up at a local vintage store - the only one in Annecy. The bracelet reminds me a little of my Cartier love band wedding ring. The ring is kind of industrial looking.

I used to think that this Hermes "How a scarf is born" poster, advertising a 1989 seminar in London about the art of Hermes scarf making, was the closet thing I'd get to a Hermes scarf.

But guess what Santa baby bought me? I've always wanted an Hermes scarf. According to fashion journalist Dana Thomas in her book, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Lustre, Hermes is one of the few luxury fashion houses that's stayed true to its artisan roots and hasn't moved off-shore to produce its goods. Hermes scarves, like mine, are still hand-rolled and printed. I love that that tradition is still intact.

And it just so happens to go with my emerald green top!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Tour of Christmas market and festive shop displays

Who would think it's Christmas Eve day here, what with sunny skies and 12 degree C temperatures in Annecy and surrounding area? I hope you are enjoying your day and preparing for a night with loved ones. My hubby is flying tonight, alas, but he'll be home tomorrow afternoon, so in honour of Christmas Eve, I thought I'd show you around the holiday market that's been in the old town since early December and runs until the first week of January.

The market has stalls whose vendors sell everything from gourmet goodies and handmade artisanal goods to cheap jewellery and local food. Don't let the quietness of the market today fool you. I snapped these around lunchtime, which in France is between 12-2p.m., sometimes even to 2:30, and every one was in the restaurants eating (the restos promptly close after 2, so getting a meal, let alone a snack, is next to impossible until dinner starts at 7 or 8).

This morning, after saying bye-bye to hubby, I went to the butcher to pick up the turkey we had ordered on Saturday. We're not huge meat-eaters (a sin in France), but it's custom for us both to have turkey for Christmas. The food shops were packed. As you may already know, the French take their food, and wine, very seriously. Shops are normally closed Sunday and Monday, but they were open yesterday and are open today not so much that people can run around and buy gifts - no, I'd say the main purpose is so people can buy the food they need for their holiday dinners, which traditionally are celebrated on Christmas Eve in France.

Yesterday while buying wine for our dinner tomorrow night, I said to the gent in the wine shop across the way, in French of course, that I wanted a red to go with the turkey (**dinde** in French), and also a white. When he asked what the white was to go with, I almost said in French, ``Nothing, it's to get pissed.`` But the French wouldn`t understand the concept of a person drinking wine around meal-time without food, so I caved and answered cheese, maybe the turkey too. Sometimes it is **plus facile** to pretend you have fully internalized the French ethic!

Back to the market. SPOILER ALERT: Hubby, if you are reading this, stop right now or one of your pressies will NOT be a surprise (hey, you keep telling me you prefer surprises)!! Yesterday I was thrilled to find, at the stall to the right in this pic, a women (the blond-haired one) from Quebec City in Canada selling ... Canadian beer!!! Yay! Perfect man pressie as hubby loved sampling Canuck beers when he visited. She's there until the 30th so hubby can stock up if he so chooses.

Apologies for the blur in the centre of this and several pics to follow. I took these the other day with hubby and, like an idiot, somehow managed to do what I do every time I use his camera: smudge a finger print right in the centre of the viewer!

I wanted to show you a few of the shops and restos/bars on our street as they are decked out so beautifully for the holidays. Lots of natural greenery and such. This is where we buy our jams.

One of our fave restos, literally a 5-second crawl from ours. Inside the decor is bohemian-chalet-chic, very cosy and welcoming, and the menu is good considering it's in the old town - not so very touristy that it`s utterly boring (fondue upon fondue in the old town is the norm - and can get tired quickly), yet not so wholly French that I can't eat the food (sorry, foie gras isn't my thing, nor are frog's legs).

A touristy shop but I just loved the greenery on the old arches. Parts of the old town were around in the 12th century, but these arches appeared in the 18th century, if memory serves.

Even the rubby-dub bar, where all the old gents go to get hosed (well, the drinks are cheap so we spent some time on the patio in the summer too) is all decked out.

This isn`t very Christmasy-looking, but I had to snap a pic of this wee patio as it looks so pretty and inviting.

Look - even the blue candle holder matches the cushions! The inside looks very cozy, and the menu good, so hubby and I will have to try it in the New Year.

I was going to make myself some squash soup tonight, but souvlaki is calling me, and this Greek place in the old town (for all I know, the only Greek place in Annecy) is open tonight. I used to live in Greek Town in Toronto, and boy do I miss the `hood, not to mention the food. With its blue awning, the place looks exactly like the restos I`m accustomed to in T.O.

I must dash out to buy some artisan-made chocolate for hubby`s stocking before the shops close (hopefully the crowds will have abated by now. My theory is the French are all at home just starting their cooking at this hour). But before I do here`s a peep at a vintage goodie, a gorg multi-hued velvet purse with neat structural shape, courtesy of Etsy, that I found in my box this morning. It`s under the tree and can be a pressie to me, from me. I don`t mind at all that it`s a little beat up and bought it knowing this. Perfection isn`t important to the Grunge Queen, but coolness, colour, texture and items that are just plain different are!

I may add a post-script photo or two when I return as Annecy at Christmas, at dusk, is pure magic. In the meantime, I hope you and yours have the loveliest of holiday seasons, whatever your tradition.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Roman ruins in the rain and thrifted purple coat

I can't believe it, but I don't think I've ever shown you this purple chenille coat I thrifted in Canada years ago. I think it's handmade as there's no tag and a sumptuous hot pink lining. I love it, but I don't wear it often. I call it my Granny coat as the cut seems a wee old-fashioned. Even so, I like the details: the purple buttons, the shorter sleeves, and the slight gather at the shoulder where the sleeve starts. The handbag and gloves were also thrifted.

We went on a little field trip yesterday to the town of Vienne, about a two-hour drive west of here and a little south of Lyon. It is known for its Roman ruins, like this old theatre, which sits smack dab in the middle of the old town. Vienne is right on the Rhone river and I must admit, the gushing brown waters couldn't compare to the crystal clarity of the lake and river in Annecy.

Still, it was a fun excursion. It was a crappy rainy day, not suited to jaunting around outside too much, so we went to the Mussee Gallo Romain (the contemporary building you see here in the background) located across the Rhone from Vienne, which was built around the archeological site of Saint Romain en Gal, a Roman district that existed around the first century A.D. to around 50 A.D. The baths and lavatory are pictured here.

An old Roman road on the site. Note the raised sidewalk on the left! Hey, we know the Romans were pretty civilized. Apparently the sewage pipes ran under the sidewalks (and you can see a good many pipes in the actual museum). The higher sidewalks also meant people weren't splashed by all the muck on the street.

Over the river and a top a hill, you can see the old Roman lookout, presumably.

We did the tourist thing and rented the (English) recorded tour (but read a good many French placards inside the museum). Thursday was the day to go as admission was free, free free! (But normally only 4 Euros).

TIP: In the summer months, the museum powers that be haul out some of the mosaics, which are inside the museum during the cooler months, and place them back onto the floors of their original homes where they were discovered. Only the foundations and the beginnings of the walls of the structures are standing, but I'm sure seeing the mosaics in their original setting would be pretty-awe-inspiring.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Label Love link up: Canadian labels

Thanks to Jo over at Joyatri for hosting a cool round up called Label Love, enabling us vintage hounds to share pics and info about our fave vintage labels. I think she'll have her Label Love party Wednesday, so check it out.

John Hort of Canada is one of my fave vintage labels, which is just perfect as collecting John Hort purses has been a passion of mine. I don't know a hellova lot about the label, only that, presumably, Hort was an actual person. From what I can tell, John Hort operated mainly in the 1960s and 70s in western Canada (Vancouver), producing handmade purses.

Source:  Wladyslaw, Wiki Creative Commons

I had no idea what the little drawing on the label was until I was recently trolling the Internet and found a discussion on a vintage forum. Hello! How could a gal who lived in Toronto for almost seven years not recognize the city's iconic City Hall, fronted by the public space, Nathan Phillips Square, both of which were erected in 1965?

Not sure why a designer who seems to have been based in the western part of the country put a space-age building in the centre of Canada on his label, especially since Ottawa, not Toronto, is the capital of Canada (though many people mistake it for Toronto, and indeed people in Toronto seem to have the attitude that TO is at the centre of things. I say this without malice as I lived there and also thought that - it's such a great city!). Considering that all my John Horts were found in the Big Smoke, the label is apt.

I have several John Hort handbags dug up in thrift and vintage shops in Canada, and I love them for their simple structural shapes and nifty yet understated hardware. As you can see, this cute cherry red clutch (which I gave away to a friend before I left Toronto, wah, I miss it!) is asymmetrical, not perfect. I paid $13 CAD for it in a Kensington Market Toronto vintage shop.

I hung onto this silver evening bag as I thought it would be indispensable - so much so, it seems, that I forgot it and the rest of my vintage handbag collection in Canada when I immigrated to the UK in early 2012. Don't worry: Mommy has them safe and ound, but alas, that fact means I have resorted to showing you old and rather blurry pics taken years ago. This baby was a mere $2.99 CAD and is in mint condition, found at Goodwill in Toronto.

This patent one was also $2.99 at Goodwill but was slightly beat up. I loved the shape and ribbed detail but gave it to a friend who bought some vintage pieces from me before I moved.

I also kept this one as I thought it was so unique, and I spotted it as a John Hort a mile away. It was way more expensive than what I normally pay, bought from a high-end vintage consignment shop in Toronto called Act Two. The chain is long and I love the orange and black combo. I am guessing it's more 70s than 60s.

John Hort apparently won a design award called the Judy Award sometime in the 60s/70s. Some labels have  "Attribution Judy Award" written on the label with a photo of the award, along with "Made in Canada/Fabrique au Canada." I can't find any other info about the company or when it ceased to exist, but I am always on the hunt for different John Hort purses on the Internet - since the likelihood of finding them overseas is pretty slim!

This label isn't as visually interesting, but the company it represents takes a wee slice out of Canadian history. The James Bay Coat and Blanket Corporation (the company's official name, if vintage product listings on the Internet are correct), seems to have been based in Quebec in the 70s and 80s, I'm guessing, and perhaps earlier. A reference to the company on a trade mark Internet site (the only official company reference I could find) indicates that several trademarks expired or were not renewed in the early 80s, so perhaps the company was starting to peter out then.

James Bay, just so you know, is a large bay on the southern end of the historic and very large body of water, Hudson's Bay, in Canada, and it borders the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. Several different Aboriginal communities live on the islands or the shores surrounding James Bay. The first fur-trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company, which would evolve into Canada's oldest department store (and still exists today ), was erected on James Bay in the 1680s.

Source: Google News

The only visual images I can find of James Bay products are not of blankets but rather coats - and very iconic Canadian coats. Most people who are selling them online call them "Eskimo" coats, Eskimo referring to the indigenous peoples inhabiting northern Canada - but the politically-correct term is now Inuit. I found this image, part of an ad, via Google News in the Dec, 18, 1984 edition of The Milwaukee Journal, so we know the coats were still being made then.

Source: Goolge News

As the ad says, the wool blanket coats were handcrafted by "Indian" women (the politically-correct term these days being Aboriginal), meaning indigenous peoples, though it's not clear what group or groups these women hailed from. The coat pictured above had fox-fur trim and sold for $357 CAD, regular price $449.

My fabulous wool coat by James Bay is more retro than Aboriginal, but I love it. I found it for only $10 CAD in one of my fave Toronto thrift shops - I was with my now-hubby at the time, who had flown over two years ago from the UK to see me. He brought me thrifting luck! I am not so sure that this one is handcrafted, like the others, but regardless it's staying in my closet!

This was a long post but I hope it was somewhat interesting! Thanks for popping in.
NOTE: Due to the high volumes of spam this blog is getting, I've regrettably had to turn on the word verification function, something I personally hate as my aging eyes often have difficulty with this function. I tried the comment moderation function for a mere hour and had about 50 spams. To save myself from rocking in a corner, I had to resort to this. I really hope it doesn't piss you off, dear readers, and it does, please accept my sincerest apologies and tell me via email if it's just impossible to leave a comment! xoxo