Sunday best: Mostly me

I own so many of the items in today's Sunday best you could call it unimaginative. The only things I'm missing are sandals and the amazing Scosha necklace.

I'm travelling in the mountains right now, so the scarf might actually be feasible for evenings. My ideal weather always includes sunnies and a scarf. Just the perfect nip in the air, but still bright and clear light.


Horses Atelier continues to be one of my favourite designers and I'm so especially happy that they're local. I was sad that their studio sale fell last week as I've been living in austerity to prepare for this trip. I own this dress from way back in a size that's now too big for me. But I keep wearing it anyway and even love it more for the fact that it's even more cocoony now.

Block Shop Textiles is probably familiar to you, but I really fell in love with them over Instagram and knew it was a matter of time before I splurged. I adored the print of this one, but was slightly tentative that the scarf would that "crunchy" cotton (I have an Epice one I love that's like that). But the 25% silk does the trick and it is just gorgeous to feel next to the skin.

Hm. I sort of really want those sandals now.

Products: Diamondback Aqua from Block Shop Textiles | Sack dress from Horses Atelier | 36 from Linda Farrow | The Lip Slip from Sara Happ | Caravan necklace from Scosha | Rose Noir from Byredo | Rider purse from Loeffler Randall | Antigone sandals from Ancient Greek

39

I turn 39 this week. I’m simultaneously not into being 39 and happy about it, if that’s possible. In some ways, I want to be even older because I anticipate getting past certain things with age. With each year, I feel this tremendous letting go of things that used to cause me no end of angst and self-consciousness and self-doubt, and that’s been amazing. At the same time, I feel like I still have plenty of angst and self-consciousness and self-doubt to keep me going. I guess that’s who I am and will be, young and old.

I had an ah-ha moment last weekend. The sort of thing that occurs to you and you want to grab somebody’s arm and declare, I figured the whole thing out! But they would only look at you and say they knew it all along. So I’ll keep it to myself, where it still feels like a Copernican Revolution and say only that I feel good right now.

I feel physically good too. Being a creature who mostly inhabits her mind, I serially underestimate how happy I feel when I’m strong. It’s been a tremendous and planned effort the last few months to become strong and healthy — and to find ways of doing it that truly excited me; not just in a temporary role-playing way, but in a ways I felt I could integrate with who I really am.

I hope to continue all of this in the next 12 months, so that when I hit next year’s landmark birthday I’m strong and happy and don’t feel that tough-to-live-with feeling of being my own worst enemy when it comes to achieving the things I want.

I could go on. I could write a list of places I want to visit this year, lifestyle changes I want to make. I could talk about how much finances still stress me out and how that’s something I want to address. I could talk about my job. I could talk about being 39 and single and that being just grand. I could talk about letting go of people who make you feel like shite, even if they’re the people you’re supposed to be closest to. But that would just be me going on, building sandcastles, then standing back and watching the waves dissolve them.

Instead, I’m going away. I’m going to climb mountains and canoe on lakes. I’m going to travel through mountain passes and stay in railway hotels. I’m going to think a whole lot, but I probably won’t write any of it down — I won’t create distance in myself now by putting my feelings into words and placing them on a page. After all, who needs another confessional, another heart-on-sleeve personal essay, another phony bucket list.

At 39, it’s time to start keeping some soft-formed thoughts secreted deep inside.

A Frame For Life

I'm as fond (nay, obsessed) with interior design as ever. Right now, I'm contemplating a mini kitchen renovation. I'll probably rent for the foreseeable future and, since I can't ever find a building to rival mine, I expect to be in my lovely, little place a while yet.

"Design can be a powerful force. I have never understood why interior design is so often underestimated, misunderstood, trivialised. It is too often dismissed as something superficial, without intrinsic value. An 'add on'. It's a mistake that it is considered a luxury to be applied if there is money left at the end, rather than an integral part of making and shaping new realities from the outset." - Ilse Crawford, A Frame For Life, p. 25


The New York Times recently developed this rent/buy infographic. It's quite illuminating. Apartments in my neighbourhood that rival the size of mine start at around $600k (there are smaller apartments for less and cheaper neighbourhoods, but given how happy I am here, I'm comparing apples with apples). According to the infographic, I could spend up to $1,934/month on rent and still be better off renting. I spend nowhere near this on rent. Pair this with Ben's old post about renting and I'm sold.


My building is also a lot more special than most Toronto condos. I recently sat at the Starbucks across the road and listened to an English woman loudly declare what a communist eyesore (lol!) my building is. But I love this old place; its curved deco wings and generous proportions. Sure, there are frustrations. And because it's a rental you inhibit many small things, deeming them beyond control. This deco grand dame is well past her best days in that regard and rental companies do no adopt the custodian attitude. But I like having a sense of a place that expands far beyond my tenure and this place has that.


Still, I think about little things I could do to my own place to make myself happier. I consider work that most people would think insane for a renter to take upon themselves. But I feel differently. I feel like it's my life I'm investing in, not somebody else's building. And I relish the process of making small improvements. Moreover, I feel that if another person enjoys this place after me, that's a good thing to pass along, not a reason to resent spending. I mean, this is how heritage works, right? We look after things for the short time they are ours but hope that's not the end of them and that they end up in hands as loving.


"We look at a project from physical and emotional perspectives, practical and poetic, individual and social before creating a design that engages us physically, emotionally, subliminally and sensorially, so as to make a place that enhances life and enables us to thrive. A place that people love. You can design the most incredible place and yet it requires people to make it a reality. Buildings and their interiors are made to be used. From the outset, the people who will live there, use it, operate it, adapt and adopt it are as much a part of our understanding of the context we are working with as the financial facts or the physical possibilities." ibid, p.28


I've been reading Ilse Crawford's beautiful book A Frame For Life recently. Confession: I don't normally pay that much attention to the text in decor books. Crawford's approach to interior design is very different from the more cosmetic approach of many designers (and indeed the fully superficial approach expressed in most style-over-substance, consume-consume-consume decor mags).

"I learnt design on the ground. I must have seen around five thousand different interior spaces over the years as an editor, and was struck by how few felt right, no matter how good they looked. In fact often, the better the photograph, the less engaging the reality. So I left magazines. I began researching for myself the idea of interior architecture and design that could enhance life..." ibid. p. 27

Crawford's approach applies just as much to those who rent as to those who own. It applies to those taking on long-term labours of love and those who move fast and frequently, living a life in flux. It applies to domestic and professional and public spaces too. Because, as she would say, no matter how long for or under what legal terms you occupy, the space you're occupying is a frame for your life.

All images via Studioilse.

Mociun custom work

I've long been a fan of Mociun's jewelry collection, but I'd never looked at the custom area of the site until now. I adore these irregular colourful stone (diamond and gemstone) clusters, how they let the gorgeousness of the jewels sing rather than containing them inside a traditional or formal setting.

Pretty in pink

I'm just really into pink lately.


Products: Sweaters 1, 2 | Bra | Necklaces 1, 2 | Powder 1, 2 | Sandals 1, 2 | Skirts 1, 2, 3 | Bracelets 1, 2 | Purses 1, 2, 3 | Earrings | Lipsticks 1, 2

Rosetta Getty

I have an adorable habit of loving clothes designed for tall people — I'm a hobbit who wants to be an elf, I guess. Thankfully, I have an elf friend. These looks from Rosetta Getty fall into my wannabe elf category.

Book report: Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett

I haven't even finished this book, and I'm not rushing to, but I already want to share it. It contains twenty stories written in the first person, rooted in interior and domestic life. They're pensive, self-effacing, amusing and quiet. I'm especially drawn to the descriptions of objects, which are attentive and unabashedly romantic, though still (somehow, wonderfully) unsentimental.

The heroine has hard eyes but a deep soul, reminding me of Kerewin of The Bone People and Jake from Evie Wyld's All the Birds, Singing. Although I recoil from liking art for reasons of relating, I realize I share a facet with each of these characters.

But beyond the character, there's much else to love. The non-linear story-telling puts this book in league with Maggie Nelson's Bluets, or Eimear McBride's much lauded A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing (another book I loved).


But I recognize now I'm just rattling off other books I love. And I think that's something too. Quine wrote about science as a web of knowledge; we place certain facts at the centre of our web and all the strands connects, we build upon it, always operating inside the web that's premised on those basic scientific facts. I love thinking about this epistemological concept applied to art or style or personal taste. Writers including Beckett are at the centre of my bookish web. But all the books I've listed here connect both to him and to each other. And so, to look at one in isolation is to see only myopically what it means to me.


This is also why I'm incredibly coy about recommendations, because the way in which I choose what book to read next is a sort of magical process of discovery and synchronicity. Books may sit a long time on my shelves until they fall into the order of things and become the one to read next, the natural next step in a process that's all deeply connected.

And sometimes this doesn't work out. But often it does. But when it does so well, there's a feeling of a profoundly layered experience, one that's also highly personalized, selfish even. Like the book was meant for me just now, and we're speaking to each other in a secret language that lies beyond the words on the page. This is how I've felt as I've turned the pages of Pond.

The chapter To A God Unknown is - to me - especially a perfect piece of writing. Here's an excerpt:
"... it was possible, unavoidable really, to listen to the storm going around and around, and I knew it was an old one that had come back — it seemed to know exactly where it was and there was such intimacy in its movement and in the sound it made it as it went along and around and around. Yes, I thought, you know these mountains and the mountains are familiar with you also. No — it was not raging, it was not simply raging — I heard no element of anger in fact. How loud it was and yet so fragile, stopping and starting for a long time — it didn't know where to begin, but it was by no means frantic, either, not at all. I moved a web of lather about the roots of my hair and became immersed in the body of the storm; I knew its structure, saw its eyes, felt its past, and I empathised with its entreaty."

Pond can be purchased directly from The Stinging Fly. And, for the record: Stinging Fly has never put out a book I've regretted buying.

Sunday best: Gentle enough

I’ve pretty much stopped wearing makeup altogether the last few months. I’m not sure why but suddenly I felt better without any. I shouldn’t say none - a bit of undereye concealer and cream blush (I like this one by Becca). I curl my eyelashes, but I don’t even like the look of mascara right now. On Friday, though, I stopped into Sephora and on a whim bought this powder from Hourglass and I love it. It just does something delicious and caramelly and blurry to my skin, in a way that I think only I would notice.

I guess I’m going through a sort of rose/gold/biscuity phase because I recently bought the A.P.C. purse shown here too. I was recently mostly immobile for a few days and went on a Netflix binge and online shopping spree. It probably didn’t hurt that it was called a rose half-moon purse. I mean, it’s like they thought, what words should we use to make Jane want to buy it.



If I had the money, I’d pretty much buy everything here. You’d think I must always feel that way about Sunday bests, but some are more hypothetical; there’s more fantasy versioning of self than reality in them. But this is head-to-toe something I’d wear. I’d feel like it was special, but everybody would just see me in another black dress, which is kindof my thing already.

I’ve been running a lot, trying to strengthen after my injury, and am finding it makes me feel a bit detached from everything, like I’m moving through it but not of it. I feel unhinged, but in a way that’s probably something like solitary happiness. I’m not sure if I’m worried that I don’t really feel connected to others right now. Maybe I’m just healing and need to stay soothed and it’s just my thing to only trust myself to be gentle enough.

Products: Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder and Brush from Sephora | Dagmar Magdalena dress from Net-a-Porter | Linda Farrow aviators from Matches | The Gomelsky watch from Shinola | A.P.C. Rose Half-Moon Bag from Nuji | Petersham Cut-Out Lace-Up from Russell & Bromley

Inspiring women: Erica Van Horn

My favourite book that I've recently read is Erica Van Horn's Living Locally. It's one that I've pushed into other people's hands since, e-mailed friends about, quoted randomly on Twitter. Essentially, it's a diary recounting beautiful daily banalities - the weather, walking the dog, conversations with neighbours.


But Van Horn is, to use the local parlance, a blow-in and her entries are tinged with that sense of unpeeling a new country, while also clearly belonging there and knowing its rhythms. In a way, it captures my favourite thing about being an immigrant — the feeling that you're both sides of the glass, looking in from the outside, but seeing your reflection as if you were at once in both scenes. As well, it captures that peculiar quirkiness that is rural anywhere, but particularly rural Ireland.

"Living Locally selects entries from a daily journal written over five years about rural life in and around a farming valley in Tipperary, to the north of the Knockmealdown Mountains. With needle-sharp observation and in plain words, Van Horn makes remarkable what might otherwise have gone unrecorded: the familiarity of neighbours, of animals and of weather, the regularity of the patterns of transaction on roads and in nearby villages and towns, and, from an outsider’s perspective, the unfamiliarity of speech and custom. What results is a human geography whose immediacy recalls earlier local and rural records and enquiries, such as the diary of Francis Kilvert in the Welsh Borders in the 1870s, or Cecil Torr’s recollections from his Dartmoor village, Small Talk at Wreyland. In common with these is a concern with both the colloquial and the vernacular, and the strangeness found in such a concentration of repetition and usage." - Colin Sackett


But this still isn't the full story. Because Van Horn is no movie-ready American dropped in a madcap Irish town. It took me a while to realize that she herself is splendidly at home in this place because she's a little madcap herself. And I mean that in the best possible way. So for all its outsideness this is also a story of utter belonging, even in moments of stunned or exhausted bemurement at the language or the weather or the government. There's a oneness with it. And that's the part I love the most.


A random entry from her book:
"January 6 - I went back to the library today to return the books I took out just before Christmas. When I walked in, I was greeted by the same elderly woman with whom I had had a chat that day. She was returning her books too. We had both been looking at the table of recent acquisitions. She told me that she found it terrifying to think of going through the Christmas period without a supply of reading material at hand. She had brought her elderly sister with her that day so that she could take out four books on her card and four books on her sister’s card. All of the books were for herself. Her sister was blind and deaf, and sat quietly nearby during this conversation. I asked if she could have just brought her sister’s library card and not her sister since the sister obviously couldn’t look at or read the books. She said it was good for her sister to get out. She said “She is listening to us now even though she can’t hear it.”

Links:
You can buy Living Locally here.
And you can visit Van Horn's own shop here.
You can follow her blog too.
You can see Erica Van Horn's home here in Image magazine. Also, the source of the pictures included above too: Photography by Mark Scott.

Max Snow & Antonio Mora

Two artists that I have recently become obsessed with. I love how their work dovetails - not perfectly, but nonetheless captivatingly.


Max Snow's work is available at The Line.
Antonio Mora's work is available at Citizen Atelier.

Sunday best: Early June

I love these days we've been having, both warm and cold. And when I leave the house in the morning, there are goosebumps on my arms, but by the end of a walk I can feel the drowsy sting of sunburn on my neck. When summer hits in full force, I'll chase the shade and the deep cool of ravines. But the last few days have me crossing into the sun and pulling patio chairs out from under umbrellas.


My neighbourhood is transforming before my eyes. Stores are moving in across the road and the long-vacant office tower has been converted into condos. I look at it all and feel part of it though I am the same. And my place is the same. But sometimes I guess change is active and other times it happens around you and you and your life are changed because of it.

Occasionally, I feel antsy and restless watching other people's lives change. I wonder if I should be moving and shaking in ways that would make better stories for the telling. I wonder if I'm building towards things I want or just coasting. And from the inside I can't tell the difference between slow and steady and stuck.

But on perfect early June days, it's enough to have coffee outside and to lay my head back and feel the sun on my face.

Products: Gypsy Water by Byredo | RMS Lip2cheek - Modest from Net-a-Porter | Talitha Tara Kimono from Matches | Frame Denim Forever Karlie jeans from Net-a-Porter | Ring 1 & 2 from Wwake | Petal Slide Sandal from Loeffler Randall