The cost of contentment

I recently had to go shopping for a dress for my middle son’s high school graduation. Usually shopping is easy for me. I am a pro after all.

So, I cheerfully headed to the mall. I said a chipper hello to the shopgirls in my favourite store. (Naively as it turns out) I picked out a few frocks and skipped back to the fitting room.

Burberry, as the conservative choice.


Nanette Lepore as the traditionally feminine possibility.


 Vivienne Westwood because… well, because Vivienne Westwood.

v westwood

Victoria Beckham for a more modern option.


And Marni because I think I should wear Marni.


Imagine my shock when I got into the fitting room with my size 40 dress and discovered I couldn’t do the zipper up. My sales girl cheerfully brought me a size 42 but didn’t seem to fully grasp why I was not thrilled at the stroke of luck that they indeed had a larger size in the back room, and were able to accommodate my bulk.


Size 42?

How has this happened?

I bought the dress. Porky or not, I still needed a dress. Next I had to make a pit stop at the lingerie shop for some spanx. SPANX. I bought spanx. Needless to say, I was a touch forlorn when I arrived home to my doting husband.

To make it even worse, he got his hopes up when he saw the lingerie bag.

When, later that same evening, I was able to speak about the ordeal – standing next to our bed wrapped in my robe attempting to discreetly slip my Rubenesque figure under the covers without showing any bloated fleshy bits – my husband just laughed it off. He pulled me close and wrapped his arms around my rolly polly waist and declared he knew this would happen. “A happy woman always gains a few pounds,” he said, “I take your dress size as a compliment.” He called it the happiness premium.

rubens body type

What is that? What happiness? What, the joy at now being the proud owner of shapewear? Shamewear. I used to have my own shape, now I have to squeeze myself into a shape shifting device, put on a brave face and pretend my figure is my own.

I feel betrayed by my contentment.



I am a woman with two problems …


This spring has been a busy time for crafting first impressions and I have had to overcome a significant hurdle to my ability to do so with elegance, expediency and efficiency.

First, I was transferred to a new office at the beginning of May. In my last office I set a high bar. As testament to my success one particularly astute colleague took to referring to me as an elegant bag lady. Amazing how some people just get me right away.

Being keenly aware of how important is to maintain my fashionista momentum, I spent the long weekend before my first day going through the closet and pulling together outfits.

  • Skirt-top-cardi-mules-necklace
  • Dress-cardi-kitten heels-earrings
  • Slacks-blouse-cardi-pumps-earrings…

Skirt-top-cardi-mules-necklace Dress-cardi-kitten heels-earrings Slacks-blouse-cardi-pumps-earrings

It was a fabulous way to spend a spring afternoon. I got 8 unique and fashionable outfits put together – then I had to stop.

Second, Alberta called an election. To show solidarity with my political party of choice I laboured to put together a string of stunning orange outfits. I had a lot to work with because, well, because I just have a lot of clothes to work with:

  • 6 orange dresses
  • 5 five orange tops and summer sweaters
  • 4 orange cardigans
  • 3 pairs of orange shoes
  • 2 orange skirts
  • and 1 orange scarf

orange wave

I started putting them together with accessories in affiliated colours. I didn’t even get past the dresses before I had to halt political panolpoly progress.

Why stop you ask? I was enjoying myself. I was getting organized. I was expressing my feelings and using my creative skills. Why stop? Because I had no place to hang my outfits. I literally RAN OUT OF ROOM to pull myself together. It was terribly sad.

This is a recurring theme in my life. Just when I hit my stride and feel able to express myself as a creative human being, the limits and parameters imposed on me by chance and circumstance appear. My closet was clearly designed by a person who envisioned nothing more than hanging 6 of the same white permanent press shirts and 6 pairs of pants in shades of charcoal.

Currently my clothes are packed together in a closets with no air, no freedom to move on the rod and no where to meet their true match. Every morning I face the daunting task of pulling together an outfit in a rush and sans caffeine.

But SOON this will be no more! Last night I went online and ordered a beautiful armoire for my bedroom.


I hope when it arrives all my fashionable problems with be over.


Never again, a gain

My darling gave up cigarettes and took on pringles last year.

To begin with you should know that he is not the average man. Firstly, he is a darling. That much is indisputable. He is intelligent. Stoic. Handy. Loyal. Affectionate. Reliable. Even tempered. Handsome. Tall. Broad shouldered. Considerably above average.

And now, thanks to cheetos and winter inactivity, he is also has an above average waist measurement.

I mean this with all respect. From inactivity alone I too put on 3 or 4 pounds and am finding my dresses slightly more form fitting than I like. But because I am a woman I have been conditioned all my life to avoid snacking in order to preserve my figure. My husband was not indoctrinated with any such waist preservation strategy.

So I, his loyal wife and ally, voluntarily opted to spent a Sunday afternoon shopping with him for new pants.


I don’t even know how many pairs of jeans we looked at. It blurred. In a desperate bid to locate the correct waist size I sorted through more piles of clothes than I did during my entire last shopping trip to New York.


I was never quite sure what to say when he grew more despondent and my flattery became more transparent.

I was tired, he was grumpy.

The whole experience involved the level of frustration and despair usually reserved for bathing suit shopping forays, with the same root issue. There isn’t enough fabric where the damned fabric is really needed.

bathing suit shame

We finally found a pair and immediately fled the mall. As earnest in our need to escape as if we had just robbed the bank, we squealed out of the parking lot and hit the freeway home.


I am not suited to companion shopping. I am a solitary hunter. I want to be supportive, I do. But when I shop for myself it is incidental to my life. Or, more accurately, a constant component of my life. I have never HAD to shop because I always AM shopping. In fact it has been suggested that I could stop – silly really, why stop when I am so good at it? I now realize it was the freedom that made it fun.

My enthusiasm is limited to personal shopping.


I fear that if I am called upon again to join a shopping expedition that my favourite pastime – the casual potential shopping foray – could lose all its joy. Nothing kills pleasure so much as when the freedom to discover becomes a mandated need to locate.

And so, it becomes the age old dilemma of womankind; to support her family or to seek her own fulfillment.

I cannot risk of losing sight of my true passion in life.


Coffeeshop down

In the interest of reducing our carbon footprint and sleeping in for 15 minutes more every morning, hubby and I have switched up our morning commute. Now rather than being driven to my office we drive to his office – which is on the train line and a 10 minutes train ride from my office.

When we came up with the plan it made perfect sense. After all, the drive to his office is 15 minutes, the drive to my office is 40.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans.

First of all, the train platform is not heated because apparently the city is run by people who hibernate and are therefore blissfully unaware of winter. I am having increasing difficultly balancing fashion with warmth.


There is a point those two things become mutually exclusive. That point hovers around -25 degrees Celsius.

Second, the train is like a sardine can. There is  no way I can hold a coffee, my purse, my lunch, my shoe bag and still hold on so I don’t fall on the lurching train.

Sardine train

So this means I don’t get my morning americano enroute to his office/my transit. That is really making it hard to smile as I arrive at work, but I am being a trooper and enduring my coworkers even while in my non-caffeinated stupor.

I thought that I could manage until 10 by drinking a bit of office coffee, at which point I would simply take a two block saunter to Starbucks. But WTH office coffee? W-T-H? It’s bum coffee. It offends me. It is worse than the caffeine headache.

Plus then we had that series of -37C with windchill days. There was no way I was going outside and Starbucks does not deliver (I asked). So I had a terrible choice. Bum coffee all day, or tea.

I chose tea. It may be caffeinated but tea is a poor substitute for coffee, and the only way to make it better is to be stoic. I have gained much insight into the British disposition. Cultural idiosyncrasies explained.

stiff upper lip

Well, today the weather broke. It is a balmy two degrees above zero morning and I wrapped up and skipped off to Starbucks. I joyfully got my americano. It sounds like a happy ending. Right? Nope. In my absence they had become lackadaisical about stocking and had let the whole store run out of my preferred raw sugar.

So close, yet so far 😦

no coffee face


Budget troubles

To counter rumours that I have become an irredeemable princess, I have been looking into way of being more mindful of my finances.

For instance, just this past Tuesday hubby and I had a conversation about spending during which, when pressured to make a guess, my husband estimated that I spend $1000 a month on clothing.

I found that a bit shocking. I couldn’t counter that number because I really never keep track, but I was still taken aback.

Upon further and later thought however, I began to wonder if that was a number he was comfortable with. And if it was a number he was comfortable with, and if I could manage a quick and dirty forensic audit of my clothing related purchases, and if it turned out that I did not spend $1000 per month – was that amount retroactive?

Why, only just last last month I let an Akris Punto dress, discounted at 40%, slip away from me because I was not sure how my husband would feel about  the $945 price tag.

akris 1

Did I miss my chance? Did I unwittingly limit my own horizons and sabotage my own dreams? So many women are self saboteurs after all; we don’t insist on as much as we deserve from the world around us.

You can be sure that henceforth I will not self limit. When I see what I want I will take out my credit card and make my dreams a reality.


I feel more empowered already.

All my fashionable dreams torn asunder

I am so sad. It pains me to even think of my weekend now. I’ll have to wear black to The Barber of Seville, in mourning.

Oscar de la Renta, designer par excellence, has passed away at 82.

Now what will I wear if I ever have tea with the queen?



Or if I ever win an Academy Award?


Or am invited to the university president’s dinner party?


Or the OPERA, what will I wear to the opera now?






Not a good week to be princess

This week has been almost unbearable, and I don’t mean to brag, but it has also been a testament to my inner strength.

First of all, my husband is away so I am all alone looking after the boys, the dog and the house. I had no idea how many times that dog went out to pee on an average day. She might have kidney problems.

On Sunday I almost thought I’d lost one of the boys. That was a couple seconds of anxiety. One time he gets out of bed before 2 in the afternoon – how am I supposed to know?

Monday my son decided we should be heroes and signed us up to donate blood. We took the train all the way to Canadian Blood Services then waited our turn, only to have my blood rejected. My iron levels are not sufficient to allow me to donate blood. I had to sit and wait, reading a 2 year old Chatelaine magazine while my son gave blood, then wait and watch him get a cookie and juice.

Then Tuesday was looking like a busy but doable day until I got dressed. I had to change 7 times because I had an important meeting and couldn’t find a outfit that said ‘intelligent but easy going’. It was harrowing and made me despair for the state of my wardrobe.

When I finally did get dressed and to my desk I sat down, crossed my legs and the zipper on my boots ripped a huge hole in my new tights. I had to walk two blocks to my morning meeting with calves bare to the autumn wind.

Wednesday we got home and the dog, apparently as retribution for leaving her alone, had gotten into the garbage and scattered carrot peelings all over the kitchen in her desperate search for a precious butter wrapper.

(what?)                                     (oh, that)                               (my bad)

who me tessa     my bad tessa     ha ha tessa

Thursday morning I turned on the shower and it just never got warm – the hot water heater pilot light had gone out some time during the night. A cold shower does not set a good tone to a day.

Today is Friday and I am sitting on pins and needles waiting to see what fate befalls me next.

Why, why maybe wifi

You know, I don’t want to sound like a demanding princess, but something has to be done by someone about the quality of my household wireless services.

Last night I thought, for a change of pace, perhaps I should pack up my laptop and sit in the library while I do my online shopping.

You see, usually I sit in the south wing of the house, in the art room. But the art room has very large windows and I get a  bit of glare on my laptop’s screen that interferes with my ability to peruse the dress selection at Saks Fifth Avenue’s online site.

On the north end of the house, in the library, there is only the one set of patio doors and the patio is superbly shaded. There would be no glare and (I thought) all my problems would be solved.

So I moved, and I sat and sat waiting for the image of a Jill Stuart dress to appear. But it never happened and I was left sitting in a lonely library recliner with unrequited dress dreams, credit card in hand without a dress to pay for.  No internet. No Jill Stuart. By the time I packed up and moved all the way back to the other side of the house the dress had sold out.

saks sold out

Apparently the north end of the house is still a dead zone. The boys tell me that is because the router is in the south wing of the house in the media room, and that since there are 4 walls and a floor between that media room router and my library, the wireless does not have the strength to retrieve images.

I had the cable fellows out to fix this months ago, and they just asked me a whole bunch of confusing questions (what kind of modem do you have, where is the router, how do you turn this on?).

Now what was I supposed to do? Just trust Saks and buy any old size two dress I could find? How am I supposed to keep my wardrobe up to date?

This is a serious problem.

If I didn’t work walking distance from Holt Renfrew this could be a real impediment to maintaining my social status.

It’s not a metaphoric closet.

Last week, for reasons I would rather not get into, my husband and I had a discussion about house insurance.

It turns out he is clueless. Loveable, but clueless.

Our house contents are insured for $75,000. When he dropped that bombshell, and I asked him if we had a special rider for my clothes, he looked at me with complete incomprehension. When he recovered capacity for his speech he became yet more incomprehensible, and said “What, you have about 25 dresses right, at about $150 each? 10 pairs of shoes? How much are shoes?”

Tory Burch. Chloe. Helmut Lang. Kate Spade. Isabel Marant. Proenza Schouler.


These timeless fashion classics live in my closet.

This, my friend, is Burberry. BURBERRY. It was not $150:


This, this is Vivienne Westwood. Sure, only her red line, but still, not $150:


You see, I am cursed by the fact that I have remained the same dress size for 20 years. And generally, classic fashion does not go out of style. Generally, classic fashion remains in my closet. I am helplessly timeless.

darcy on stairs

If we have a fire I guess the boys are all going to be naked for a while.