Posts filed under ‘Style’

Style Tuesday: Footwear and Lifestyle

This post has two parts. If you don’t care about shoes and are happy in your ratty old sneakers all day every day, then you’ll have to hold on for Part II of this post which should appear very soon.

Part I: Footwear

I had a fun weekend with my out-of-town guests. Among the many planned activities, we took a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon to stroll around the Byward Market. John’s dad owns an art gallery in NJ and he wanted to see some Canadian art. We stopped into a couple of galleries on Sussex and then Jess and I happened on a lovely new addition to the Ottawa retail market, Wolf and Zed.

Wolf and Zed is lovely – that’s the only word I can use to describe it. It is laid out like an warehouse-style art gallery with stripped down walls and no decorative distractions. The shoes, boots, and bags are displayed along the wall like art.

I didn’t buy anything. There are two reasons. The first is simple: I didn’t have time to have a proper look around and actually choose from the many I would have liked to try.

You will have to wait for Part II of this post to find out the other reason… (cue suspenseful music).

But back to Wolf and Zed:

Most of the shoes are brands that I am familiar with and some I have purchased online in the past. I’m excited to actually get to try before I buy. They have shoes for all lifestyles. These days I’m walking all over the place and I need flats, super-comfy stacked heels or wedges. They had them! And the prices are inline with the online prices which means they even want us virtual shoppers to become their customers.

Shoes at Wolf and Zed are mid-priced to high-end and include Derek’s favourite Campers for men and women (yes, they have men’s shoes too) and gorgeous Frye boots in a few styles I have been after. Like these…

Part II: Lifestyle – coming soon.


September 20, 2011 at 6:15 pm 2 comments

Style Tuesday: First Day of School

September 4th 1979: I woke up early and looked around my room. I glanced at the colourful patchwork quilt on my bed and the huge red styrofoam letters spelling my name on the wall above the headboard. I had a feeling this was going to be a big day – but what was it? Ah yes! Today I was going to begin Grade One.

My mom had set out my clothes the night before. I dressed in my navy polyester pants, skinny belt, and short-sleeve light blue pin striped blouse with a white collar. I went into the bathroom and brushed my straight brown bob, brushed my teeth and headed downstairs to find the table set for breakfast.

My mom and I soon headed out the door for the 10 minute walk to school. She would walk with me the first few days and then I would walk with my neighbour who was in Grade Two for a few weeks until we were all confident that I could do it on my own.

We lined up outside the school. My mom asked the girl in front of me in line what her name was, and introduced us. I knew at that moment that we would not be friends. I was right. Funny… even at that age you know if you’ll “click” with someone.

The bell rang, I gave my mom a kiss, and we marched in two rows into the school. My teacher was Jacqueline. She had a cute bear that we took turns holding during storytime on the big rug at the front of the classroom. We were given five tokens each morning which we got to keep if we spoke exclusively in French. If we were caught speaking in English, we lost a token. Every Friday, we would get to “buy” things from the prize bucket with our tokens. This was no problem for me. I had spent a year in France from the age of two and half to three and a half. French was almost my first language. I had gone to a private school for all-day Kindergarten and we spent half the day (?) in French.

But the kids in the French immersion class spoke French with interesting English accents. And I didn’t want to be too different.The year went on and my spoken French got worse…. until my exchange to France in Grade Ten (but that’s a story for another day).

First Grader

September 6th 2011: Lil D begins Grade One. He too will be in French Immersion. He went to a Montessori where he had one year of really solid core French, not French immersion. He had to be tested to get into the French Immersion program. If you didn’t read it, here’s that story.

Today he will put on the outfit we laid out for him yesterday: long navy board shorts (my choice), and a graphic navy long sleeve tee with a goalie mask on it (his choice). He will eat his breakfast, and we will take his brother to his school. We will then return home and walk the 160 m to the bus stop (I know the distance because the bus company told me exactly how far it was when I asked them to move the stop to somewhere I could see from my front window). His dad and I will watch him board the bus and we’ll wave as he drives off down the street.

And then we’ll get in the car and speed off after him. We’ll park at my aunt and uncle’s house a block from the school and we’ll rush to make sure he gets off the bus and into the right line up. We have no idea who his teacher will be, or where he needs to go. I don’t get to tell the teacher myself that he has a nut and peanut allergy – I have to trust that the school will have conveyed that information from his registration form to the teacher.

We will then watch Lil D walk bravely and blindly into his new school. He will be spoken to only in French (theoretically). He will make new friends and see old ones he knows from preschool and summer camp. Soon (as my friend Stef reminded me last night), he will be comfortable, confident and running the show again, but this morning, he is an anxious and excited boy who has no idea what to expect.

Do you remember the outfit you wore on the first day of first grade? I can pretty much remember each of my first day of school outfits. A particularly strong memory is the grey jeans with matching long grey jean vest layered over a red sweatshirt with a pharmaceutical company logo (conference giveaway billed as a present from a trip) that I wore on the first day of Grade Six.

September 6, 2011 at 10:53 am 3 comments

Style and Fitness Saturday: Swimwear and Skincare

What do you wear to the public pool when you go with your kids? At what age is a bikini no longer appropriate? Where oh where can I find an attractive yet supportive bathing suit for playing with my kids at the pool AND sitting at the beach sipping a margarita on vacation? These are the questions I asked myself last week.

I have one two-piece that I love. It’s three years old and looking a little worn out – though I will continue to wear it since I love it that much.

I was on vacation in Costa Rica a year and a half ago and found a cute little shop that custom-made suits and/or could copy your fav. I couldn’t pass that up! I had two made from the shopkeeper’s choice of fabrics. They weren’t cheap but they weren’t expensive either. They looked okay and fit well, but the quality and support is not nearly as good as the original. In fact, the clasp on one broke recently.

If this idea is of interest to you, I hear that Forbie in Ottawa will do the same thing suit copying, though I think the quality/fabric issue might be similar to the one I am experiencing. Plus, it doesn’t look all that fashion forward, but I’m judging a book by its cover with that last statement.

So, I’ve got one great-looking suit that is comfortable enough to play soccer with the boys on the beach in. I’ve got one copy of the beloved one that is okay, and I’ve got a one-piece that is okay for wearing for short periods of time (it has a metal ring that digs into my hip bone).

Bottom line: I needed another. In the summer and on vacation, I’m in a bathing suit at least a few times a week and variety is the spice of life…

Last week, I went to my favourite specialty bathing suit store, Brio Bodywear. With my proportions (not gonna disclose those here), I had a choice of maybe ten suits in the whole store. Five were immediately dismissed for plainness or ugliness. Two had bottoms that would be deemed obscene in many places, and then there were three.

And the winner was:

Yup - polka dots again.

I love this suit – it’s a halter that has a decent amount of fabric between the cups so nothing is flopping about from side to side. Yay! Not a whole lot of choice, but still came out of there with something great.

So now, I’ve got a great bathing suit but I have a problem; I love the sun but my skin doesn’t love it:

1) Sweat trapped beneath sports bra equals back blemishes. Current attempt to curb problem is Tea Tree Oil Body Wash from The Body Shop.

2) Daily sunscreen on face keeps me from getting too tanned, but the darker sun spots/patches are still showing up a bit – uugh. IPL? I’m told it makes the problem worse of the long fun. Creams? Not sure what works. I’m looking for advice here.

3) Shoulders and decoltee in the sun constantly – burn/tan/freckles. Need to re-apply sunscreen more often. I’m good at putting it on the boys, but I always forget about myself. Not good for my health. Bad Liisa.

4) Coloured hair in the sun equals brassiness. I could go get it toned more often, but really, who has time?

Do your kids wear sunshirts with their bathing suits at all times? I’m on the fence about this…

And now, as I sit here waiting for my sick-with-a-fever almost four-year-old to wake up, I give you this week’s workouts.

Running Rundown

Everything is posted in km. For those of you who only do miles, 1 km = .625 mile OR 1 mile = 1.6 km

Saturday – 14 km run

Tuesday – 11 km run with speed training class – 3 km warm-up; 4 x 600m,30 sec rest, 200 m @ between 4:20 and 4:45/km pace; 3 km cool-down

Thursday – 10 km tempo run – 3 km warm-up, 6 km tempo @ 5:04/km avg pace; 1 km cool-down

Cross Training (I’ve decided to change the title from the previous “Strength Training Stats”)

Monday: Greco Lean and Fit class with Derek

Wednesday: Hot yoga class at Moksha Yoga – not sure about this yet. It was hot and sweaty but maybe a little too gentle… went with my friend Stef; she felt the same way. Was perfect for a good stretch the day after speed class though.

So, back to those initial questions:

Do you wear your beach bikini (if you have one) to the public pool with your kids, or do you have a plain and simple tank style that is more conservative? At what age is a bikini no longer appropriate?

July 9, 2011 at 7:26 pm 5 comments

Style Tuesday: Urban Lifestyle

A few weeks ago I started talking with a man while we were both waiting for something. This happens often (not just men, women too!). This is a trait that I have inherited from Nanny A – starting random short conversations in which I find out too many personal details about an individual in a short time.

For instance, I know this approximately 55 year-old weathered looking guy is a self-employed gas fitter and plumber whose wife likes to wear her nails long (about three quarters of an inch past her fingertips) but gets very irritated when one breaks. He enjoys getting pedicures and manicures and he would never live in an old house where the plumbing and electrical were not up to today’s standards.

In fact, this man cannot understand why his friend gave up his huge new house in Stittsville with a large acreage to move to an old but completely renovated home in Westboro which he purchased for the exact same price as he made on the larger subarban home’s sale.

Everyone’s taste is different and so is their personal style. If it weren’t, the world would be so boring! Lifestyle is no exception; we all choose different ways of setting up our lives within our own personal constraints. We choose to live in an urban, family-friendly neighborhood because it suits our personal lifestyle.

Here’s what we love:

  • Going days without needing the lone family car (both of us working from home helps!)
  • Walking the kids to school and stopping for coffee and errands on the way home
  • Having a “main street” which allows us to run into our friends and neighbours daily
  • A fantastic community centre within walking distance
  • A plethora of parks, bike paths and a beach with a licensed cafe (100 m from our home)
  • Walking to restaurants
  • A vibrant, active, engaged community

Movie night at Westboro Beach - next one is July 8th!

That’s our style. It’s a choice. Occasionally I think about the dollars I could put in the bank if I lived in similar-sized home in a suburb (though with a second car, gas, and insurance I’m not sure it would be that significant). But it never gets further than that. It’s just not my style (or Derek’s).

So to the guy who didn’t understand his friend I say, it’s just not your style… but your shirt is not my style, neither are your long man fingernails.

So, what is your personal lifestyle preference? What do you love about your neighborhood, suburban or urban or country? I think I might like country but Derek could never handle it.

June 28, 2011 at 2:23 am 1 comment

Style Tuesday: Churchill’s Pub in Westboro – New Restaurant Review

What does a restaurant review have to do with style? I don’t know, but this is what you’re getting today.

Friday night the kids and I decided to take Derek to Churchill’s Pub, the newest joint to hit the Richmond Road strip in Westboro, for an early Father’s Day celebration. We usually eat out on Friday nights and we were excited to have a new place to go within walking distance.

We walked in and did a quick scan of the menu. Yes – they have a small kids’ menu! This looked promising as a new regular addition to our rotation.

We were taken through a contemporary pub (with way too many light fixtures – industrial mixed with tudor mixed with Victorian –  yikes!) and seated at a large booth in the back. And it all went downhill…

Derek started shifting in his seat. The booths are hardwood, seat and back, and it was hard to get comfortable.

We ordered:

Derek: Steak of the Day – $23

Lil D: Grilled Cheese and Fries (Kids’ Menu) – $6.50

Lil C: Pasta with Tomato Sauce on the side (Kids’ Menu) – $6.50

Me: Asian Beef Salad with beef on a separate dish (for the kids). – approx $15

Drinks: Draft beer, club soda, chocolate milk, apple juice.

Lil D’s grilled cheese arrived first, about 5-7 minutes before the rest of us got our food. It was grilled cheese on garlic bread and fresh-cut fries. He took one bite and then ate the fries. He was not interested in the garlic.

My salad arrived with the beef on top. I sent it back. Thankfully, I think they removed the lettuce that was touching the beef because I didn’t taste any remnants. My salad, and especially the dressing was otherwise good.

Derek ate his steak smothered in a creamy-looking chile sauce, mashed potatoes and butter-drenched veggies and proclaimed them passable, but after much probing, would not put them into the “good” category.

Lil C took a bite of his pasta, but then proceeded to eat Lil D’s fries, which incidentally were very good, and nothing else.

Now, let me say that the fact that the kids didn’t eat their meals is not necessarily a reflection on the restaurant. Unfortunately, in this case it was. When the server asked if “everything was to our taste”, I told her that garlic bread on a kids’ grilled cheese is unusual, and probably should at the very least be marked on the menu. She wholeheartedly agreed. “Most kids don’t like garlic”, she said.

I asked her to pack up the untouched beef from my salad and Lil C’s pasta.

She brought the styrofoam container (which ended up untouched in our garbage today) and the check and was surprised that the kids’ drinks were not included in the kids’ meal price. I was also surprised that no one apologized or commented or maybe even credited us for the uneaten garlic bread grilled cheese.

Honestly, the worst part of this meal was the price. And this is rarely my sticking point. I am usually the first one to say that I will take the more expensive quality over the more affordable quantity. However, $85 including tip for an average (and I’m being generous) Friday night neighbourhood family dinner with one beer and 2 kids’ meals is too much. And based on the quality of the food and service, I’m thinking it’s not going into our weekday lunch or Saturday night adult rotation anytime soon.

We’ll continue with our other local Friday night summer walking-distance favourites including The Works, Fratelli, The Corner Bar and Grill, and the Cafe at Westboro Beach for now. I saw a sign for the Clocktower coming fall 2011. Hope the food holds some promise. Anyone eaten at the Bank Street location? I know many of you have quenched your thirsts there.

June 21, 2011 at 2:43 am 8 comments

Style Tuesday: The Most Stylish Man in London

I spent a long weekend with my mom in London visiting my brother and sis-in-law. They’ve just bought their first home and are expecting a baby in a few weeks so there’s lots of exciting stuff going on their lives and we wanted to share a bit of this time with them.

I won’t bore you with a complete account of travels, but I will give you some bullety highlights.


This totally wowed me. Everything I ate was delicious and appeared fresh, even the fast food. I guess it has to do with quantities served, but I really wish we could have more appetizing “fresh food fast” options.

Some of the slow and fast eateries we enjoyed:

  • Thursday dinner at the Princess Victoria, a fantastic gastropub around the corner from the happy couple’s home in Sheperd’s Bush.
  • Lunch at Pret-a-Manger
  • Dinner at Spice of India (I think that was the name) on South Bank
  • Dinner made up of yummy odds and ends purchased at Marks and Spencer

  • The Balcony (one of the food courts) at Westfield… This is not your regular mall food  court. I chose Tossed, and enjoyed  salad of mixed greens, roasted tomatoes, sultanas and pumpkin seeds topped with grilled Halloumi (cheese) and dressed with a citrus vinaigrette.
  • Lunch at Heathrow- Chez Gerard, just one of many decent restaurants from which to choose.

Food Lowlight: This ridiculous breakfast served by Air Canada- what you see is all you get (doesn’t quite fit with any food guide or diet).

Mom and I were both starving but neither of us could fathom consuming this.


I really noticed the effect of globalization on shopping on this trip.  I remember thinking that London was so far ahead in terms of fashion, even 6 years ago. While there are definitely a whole lot more stylish people walking the streets of London than those of Ottawa, It seemed that the stores were offering many of the same items that are available to us now at home.

While we didn’t spend much dedicated time shopping we were able to make our small contribution to the UK economy.

Friday: Oxford Street and Covent Garden. We didn’t buy anything cause we were walking the whole day and didn’t want to carry parcels. This was hard.

Saturday: Chiswick area – Mom went to the many baby boutiques to window shop with sis-in-law while my bro and I were selfish shoppers. The prices after currency conversion were less expensive or at the very least equivalent. Got some good stuff at Sweaty Betty, the UK’s hipper version of Lululemon, and I enjoyed the prices at Benetton and another cute UK boutique, Oliver Bonas.

scarf from Oliver Bonas

Purple running shoes from Sweaty Betty

Sunday: Westfield, Europe’s largest shopping mall, is a 10 minute walk from Dan’s house. It is designed beautifully, in fact I found many public and private spaces I visited to be modern, functional and clean in comparison to our Canadian equivalents (not that our’s aren’t good; it just feels like design and beauty are given more weight in building and planning than in our nation’s capital.

Anyway, we walked through the high end section- yes, you can go the the mall and get your Chanel, Hermes, and Prada. And by the time we got through that, we needed a snack.

I loved the food court. It took me a very long time to choose my meal. There were so many great options. If you’re interested, here’s the description.

On our way to pick up England soccer kits for my boys, we ran into the UK London premiere of Kung Fu Panda 2.

We got a kick out of seeing the Panda and Jack Black. People were screaming for Jack Black. Would you scream for Jack Black?

Monday: Heathrow airport Terminal 3.

Paul Smith for Derek

Thomas Pink for my dad

Art/Architecture: Tate Modern. Nice building. Kid-friendly (for future visits). South Bank area of town v. cool.

Performing Arts: Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace theatre! I’m wondering if they do those northern English accents at the show on Broadway? Anyone know?

Last note on the style part of my trip. Friday mom and I did a London Walk of “The Old Palace Quarter“. My reading list is filled with historical novels set in London so this was so much fun for me.

Along the way we met this guy, Beau Brummel.

He was considered the most stylish man in London at the turn of the 19th century. The legend has Brummel influencing London fashion on a daily basis; men would wait to see what he was wearing that day when he arrived for lunch at his club, and if their own outfit was not in keeping with the style, they would go home and change before they went for their own lunches.

Times have changed. This is today’s UK men’s fashion icon:

And this guy appeared in every publication I picked up or noticed others reading on the tube:

I’m already thinking about when I can take my (3) boys to see their new little cousin. London has so much to offer for kids and I look forward to exploring through their eyes next time.

June 7, 2011 at 7:21 pm 3 comments

Style Tuesday: Montreal. The Highs and Lows.

On Friday, Derek and I spent the day in Montreal –  a whole day with a real change of scenery to get us out of our regular routine. The weather was great. We strolled through the Plateau area. We shopped, and ate, and snacked and shopped and ate.

I was so disappointed in my meals. Stop #1 was supposed to be Cafe Santropol. I have wanted to go there for twenty years. I never got there when I lived in Montreal and I had Friday’s route all planned starting there.

We arrived as planned, were handed menus and told to find a table in the lovely garden. We did. And we sat there for fifteen minutes. No one even acknowledged our presence (or the presence of the other table that arrived after us, even after they went up to request service). We were starving so after twenty minutes with no greeting, we just left. I told the waitress who was standing in the corner texting that we were leaving. She said “okay, sorry” and went back to her phone. Uuuggh! Twenty years and twenty minutes and now I will probably never taste one of their delicious-looking sandwiches. I am a woman of principle after all.

So, we headed back to St. Laurent and I could tell Derek wanted to go to Schwartz’s. There is nothing vegetarian on the menu except pickles, coleslaw and fries. I had a pickle and coleslaw (so yummy and sour).

After “lunch”, we went across the street and I enjoyed a blizzard-like ice cream as my main course.

Then, we began the serious part of our trip – shopping!

Derek did his fair share, but this blog is about me so I give you a few highlights (actually just items for which I could find images):

Simple - better price than in Ottawa

Zoa knit tunic; apparently I am the first one to purchase this in Canada... I bet he says that to all the girls

Best shopkeeper: the guy at Johnny Boy. He gave us a ton of discounts and gave us the low down on the sad looking empty stores up and down the street.

Second Clothing Red Jeans: Trendiest purchase - will have to style these classicly for conservative Ottawa

And then we saw this place – YEH Frozen Yogurt and Cafe. Being two sweet tooths, we had to try it out (yes, ice cream and frozen yogurt in the same afternoon).

You walk in and help yourself to one of eight fro yo flavours – all probriotic, 7 of 8 fat-free, one was dairy-free (I think).

You then help yourself to toppings.

For me: A little taste of lots.

For Derek - lots of yogurt with fresh fruit

And then dinner. We were not in the mood for a big meal so we opted to skip our reservation at Le Local and instead stop at Bamboo Bleu on Saint Denis for Vietnamese. The shrimp salad rolls were delicious. The veggies and vermicelli plate had a big chunk of pork in it. I lost my appetite very quickly. Another failed meal attempt.

And we went home.

Shopping good.

Montreal atmosphere and people-watching great.

Couple-time lovely.

Eating bad.

May 24, 2011 at 8:38 pm 3 comments

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