Archives For December 2012

Small Stores, Big Scarves

December 30, 2012 — 19 Comments



I’m coming very close to the end of my year-long Mall fast, and I’ve already talked, at length, about the continued appreciation it’s given me for thrift stores. In addition to fostering my love for all things second-hand, it’s also increased my appreciation for local and independent retail vendors. You’d think, given the fact that both my parents are small-business owners, this appreciation wouldn’t need any fostering. After all, those very parents run a second-hand bookstore (White Rabbit Books), and Mom also co-manages a family flower/gift shop that my Opa and Oma started years ago (Vanderburgh Flowers and Gifts). But when your parents do something, it can sometimes stop seeming important or cool, because they’re your parents, and they’ve done it all their lives. But this Christmas brought it all back home again.

While this outfit is comprised almost entirely of thrifted items ($5.99 skirt, $4.99 shirt from Salvation Army, $0.75 Ralph Lauren belt from Bibles for Missions), the real star in this ensemble is my technicolour dream scarf. This scarf was a gifted to me by Mom, and available from Vanderburgh’s.




This scarf, combined with my own experience in shopping for Christmas gifts, is a shout-out for shopping local and independent. As I set out to do some gift shopping for the recipients on my list, I was prepared to suspend my Mall-ban. If any of my Secret-Santa draws wanted something that could only be found the Mall, I would have fought the crowds and made the trip. Lucky for me, no one placed any such item on their wish list. Thus, my 6’8 Dad received a new sweater from Gilbert’s, a Hamilton retail landmark; my friend’s new babe is now decked out in an adorable ensemble from Mon Petite Chou down the road; my Mom-in-law received some goodies from Ten Thousand Villages, and other aromatic soaps and such from Vanderburgh’s.

While I did pick up a few items from large chains like Best Buy and Marshall’s, those trips highlighted how much more enjoyable my small-shopping was by comparison. When you shop at smaller, independent stores, you’ll often meet the owner of the business, which means they’re excited about what they’re selling you. They have a personal, vested interest in your satisfaction, because that’s what keeps their business afloat. They’re people like my Mom and Dad, who are basically the best ever. I realize this is starting to veer into Preach-ville, so I’ll wrap it up with this: you get nicer stuff and meet nicer people. If that’s not enough to entice you, take a good long look at my scarf: it has reindeer on it, you guys.


On Christmas, I discovered that my secret Santas followed a similar shopping pattern. I came home with a beautiful throw, new reads, and the cutest salt n’ pepper shaker of all time, all from independent retailers (Oh! I also finally got some Tom’s, and they feel like slippers you can wear in public, which is what I’ve always wanted in shoes).

That overly-jubilant expression in the last photo is largely attributed to the post-holiday sugar high from too many treats. But when the snacks run out, and I inevitably crash, I’ll have my rainbow scarf to get me back out in the snow, like an excited golden retriever. Or reindeer.

Jingle All the Way

December 24, 2012 — 15 Comments



What am I going to do when Christmas is over and I’ll have to come up with titles for my posts that aren’t just pulled from Christmas songs? Ugh. That’s future Julie’s problem! For now, all I have to contend with is making sure I don’t overdue it on the cheese tray this year, and hope we sing my favourite carols in church. It’s Christmas time, ya’ll! So let’s get festive!

Over the course of this year, I’ve thrifted things because they’re closet staples I can wear over and over. This is not one of those things. This is one of those things I know I’ll only wear once or twice, but the sheer joy it brings me over those few days is will worth the $12.99 price tag. This wool Eddie Bauer plaid jumper from Talize is just about the most Christmassy thing I can imagine wearing, and hereby signifies my shift into FULL CHRISTMAS MODE. I’m only seeing things in the following colours: red, green, or SPARKLES. So without saying too much more, I encourage all of you to bust out your holiday duds and suds, and start Binging the night away. We’ve only got a few more days left, so go! Jingle all the way!



But one tip from me to you before you hop on a sleigh ride of any kind: do wear a coat. Otherwise you go for “cute and windblown”, but end up with something else entirely. Baby, it’s cold outside.


May that expression float in your heads alongside visions of SO MANY sugarplums. Merry Christmas readers! May your days be merry and bright!

Christmas Party Hop

December 22, 2012 — 11 Comments



I did it, you guys. I survived a marathon of Christmasing. Cousin parties, potlucks, festive feasts, and high school reunions have eaten up my December weekends (…or have I eaten them?). I played host a few times, guest a few more, and I now find myself with an overwhelming amount of gratitude for the family and friends in my life. (What is this sappiness? It’s not even Christmas yet! Sheesh!). The success of these various events often hinged on the same things: Good food (IE: cheese, cheese, and cheese); beverages that made me feel warm and cozy (eggnog + rum, and my new favourite Sangria recipe); and the ability to walk into my closet and pull out a bevy of festive frocks for each new occasion.

Today, you’re looking at the dress I wore to play host. This particular gathering brought together all of my husband’s former college roommates (and, more recently, his baseball team).  The origins of this evening go back nearly 5 years, when two of Matt’s roommates got some really sweet deal on a giant roast, and threw an impromptu “Family Dinner”. The tradition has morphed a little over time, and this year Matt and I provided the turkey.  Well, Matt provided the turkey. I provided booze and boardgames.


This dress is a mom-find, scored at a $0.99 Salvation Army sale, and offered to the daughter with the highest dress size. I was perfect for a dinner party, chiefly becayse it’s loose on the tummy. While the colour isn’t a traditionally festive tone, it pairs nicely with some cranberry lipstick. With my dress already ready to go long before the event itself, I was able to spend the week prior time thrifting for other dinner party goodies. First, I came across those groovy art-deco sparkly Christmas trees above. Next came a punch bowl big enough to take a bath in, followed by some  lovely toile table runners. I’ll admit I originally picked these up for a friend who loves all things toile, but they looked too good on the table to part with (hey, my Christmas spirit has limits).


The last item I thrifted for this party was this glorious board game. Ya’ll already know I’m a tad obsessed with 90’s pop culture, so taking this home for a paltry $5 was a no-brainer. As I suspected, THIS GAME IS AWESOME! It’s like playing college Jeopardy in 1997. After we all ate our weight in stuffing, we split into boy/girl teams to give it a try. I’ll admit, I sort of assumed victory was in the bag. I mean, 50% of my blog content is an ode to the 90s. However, while the girls team did perform admirably, we were thwarted by a series of “Events” questions. While we agonized over questions about the 1996 presidential election, the boys ran away with the game after a sweet streak of questions about Full House, Toy Story, and the Simpsons.

I also have to highlight one more particular question, as it ties in nicely to my very thrifty theme. Mid-game, I landed on the “Sports” category. That area is even worse than events, so I just assumed it was a lost cause. However, this particular question had something to do with an Australian golfer, and almost immediately, a light bulb went off in my brain. You see, a few months ago, I thrifted a belt strictly because it had a shark on the buckle. As I Googled for more information about this shark logo, I discovered it was the mark of an Australian golfer by the name of Greg Norman. So, when I responded to the question with a confident “It’s Greg! Greg something! I know from my belt!”, jaws dropped in collective disbelief. I don’t play sports, I don’t like sports, and I certainly don’t make a habit of retaining sports-related facts, so me talking sports is the equivalent to Snooki talking 18th century literature. Sadly, I only got as close as “Greg Norris!”, and all the Party of Five questions in the world couldn’t catch us up to the boys.

While I lost the game, I still think I came out a winner. If a dollar dress, a giant sangria bowl, and two sparkly Christmas trees aren’t enough to ensure I keep up my thrift game well into 2013, the slight chance that it may ensure I win more board games pretty much seals the deal.

Merry Christmas!

This Warm December

December 7, 2012 — 37 Comments



For those of you who know me in real life, or have been reading my blog since the beginning, you’ll know I’m pretty big on Christmas. Like, schedule a holiday photoshoot with all my friends and add fake snow big. Come December, the lights come out, the cider starts brewing, and the Christmas music playlist gets two sizes too big. Now, I’ll confess something here: While I do, from the bottom of holly-and-ivy-lovin’ heart, love Christmas, I also hate winter. Hate it with the fire of 1000 suns (which is an ironic way to put it). That hatred is partly why I distract myself with tinsel and Bing Crosby.

However, I recently thrifted an item of clothing that has me warming, just slightly, towards those frigid five months we call the Canadian winter. That item is the sweater dress you see here. A few words on this dress: This dress is Ralph Lauren. This dress is cashmere. This dress has real leather elbow patches. This dress came from the Salvation Army for $11. This dress retailed at an original price of… $425.99!!!! (I think that’s the first time I’ve ever bolded anything on this blog. That’s right, I love this dress so much I’ll commit typographical sins on it’s behalf).


I’m going to go out on a limb here, and call this the greatest thrift find since that lady found that Jackson Pollock. And so, for that reason, I’ve concluded that maybe winter (even without all the Christmas bling) isn’t so bad after all. The moment I put this on, the ugly white snow on the lawn didn’t seem as imposing, the bare branches appeared friendlier, and the temperature moved from soul-crushing to pleasantly brisk. I could never wear this dress in the summer, and that gives winter one big cashmere-covered point.



Egg nog and carols and Dasher and Blitzen will still soften the blow of the cold winter days ahead, but after Santa has dropped off all his goodies for the year, this Ralph Lauren will take care of the rest.


P.S.: I recently refreshed my blog layout! More importantly, you can now get your daily dose of thrifty goodness by typing in No “wordpress” needed. Stick that in your stocking and call it a Christmas present.

Play by Play

December 2, 2012 — 8 Comments



Earlier this fall, we took out my parents for their 35th anniversary. Since my whole family is sort of the worst at birthdays and other Hallmark milestones, we made sure to plan something well in advance. My eldest sister Robyn came up with the idea of dinner at a show (The Matchmaker) at the Stratford Festival. Stratford is a beautiful town in Southern Ontario, mainly recognized for its Shakespeare festival and spawning the Biebs.

I love the theatre. I really do! Every time I go, it feels like a very special occasion. I have a certain level of respect for it, even: it sort of demands that one dresses up. This event was the perfect time to bust out the two new thrifts. The main player in this outfit is this vintage dress ($6.99). The inserts almost look like leather, and it’s just my kind of cut. The supporting role is this vintage London Fog trench coat ($14.99). Both items felt sufficiently classic and dramatic enough for a night in front of the stage.


The other thing a trip to the theatre always does is reopen the long-repressed drama geek inside. I never was a leading lady (well, maybe one time, but I was more a leading man – I’ll get to that) but my life has been peppered with moments on stage that I’ll always look back on with a misty lens.

My first performance was a tall one – I was cast as Mary. As in Mary: the mother of Jesus. I should add, though, that every other girl in the kindergarten was also cast Mary. Right before my Christmas debut, I overheard another girl profess something called “stage fright”. I hadn’t heard that term before, but I had a feeling it would get me off of the stage. So, I told my teacher I too had “stage fright”. She then made a promise that if we made it through the performance, she’d give us fuzzy stickers. So, we trudged our terry cloth hinnies back out there for an adorably-bad performance of Feliz Navidad. However, I never got the stickers. So I didn’t really learn anything about conquering stage fright, but I did learn a healthy distrust for teachers.

My next big break didn’t happen until grade 7. But what a break it was. Our school put on a play called “Hans Bronson’s Gold Medal Mission”. The plot centred around a vain, money-obsessed Olympian from somewhere in Europe that produces Schwarzenegger accents. I wanted the role of the plucky, pretty reporter who teaches Hans to stop being a big jerk and love Jesus instead, but since we don’t always get what we want, I ended up as Hans.

Thankfully, The teachers in changed Hans to Hannah, but I still had to talk like Arnold and tape fake muscles inside my windbreaker. Sadly, my teenaged self destroyed any and all photographic evidence from this event, so I don’t have any visuals (GDCS alumni, consider this a call for photos!). But the good people of Youtube have provided a clip of a school (much wealthier and larger than ours) performing some numbers from this gem. Their performance is totally amazing because—for reasons I can’t fathom—they cast a GROWN UP MAN as Hans. Which somehow makes it SO MUCH CREEPIER. That dude must live if fear that any woman he meets will eventually dig this up, and be like “Hey, uh…why are you singing with all these children?”.

Oh, and I have to mention the lyrical rewrite that came out of this, courtesy of some boys in my class. The original lyrics to the main number went like this: “Hannah Hannah Bronson / She is so brawny and strong / Hannah Hannah Bronson / Our nation’s great favourite gal”. The rewrite? “Hannah Hannah Bronson / She is so scrawny and weak / Hannah Hannah Bronson / Our nation’s great favourite geek”. OUCH. MY FEELINGS. Man! Kids are the worst, am I right? Put this scenario in 2012 TV land and you know I’d be hit with a slushie. Drama geeks: The original gleeks.


The only other story-worth role I’ll share with you today should really be told by my older sister Robyn, but she doesn’t have a blog so too bad. In the 9th grade, my high school mounted a production of Pride and Prejudice: The Musical (because whenever I read Jane Austen, I’m always thinking: “This could use more musical numbers!”). Robyn, in her final year of high school, longed for the leading role of Elizabeth Bennet. She’d spent the last four years working her way up the drama ladder, so she was overdue for a leading role.

But another very important factor in her quest for the spotlight centred around her main crush at the time: Brandon. Brandon was a shoo-in for the Darcy role. For one, teenage boys don’t usually flock to be a part of the school play (which is stupid, because they could meet tons of girls). For another, he was really, really good. Me? I just wanted a part, any part.


The cast list went up a few days later. Brandon was cast as Darcy. Robyn snagged Elizabeth, and I was cast as Kitty Bennet, Elizabeth’s flighty sister. It was the BEST possible outcome. I was thrilled to have a role in which I could wear pretty Jane Austen dresses instead of track pants, and I could also squeal and giggle anytime my sister and her crush were on stage together. Well, kids, in something out of Taylor Swift video, those two crazy kids FELL IN LOVE FOR REAL! Isn’t that the best? Robyn and Brandon, as Elizabeth and Darcy, started dating later that year, and they’re now married and parents to three beautiful girls (and my guess is their bound for two more to complete the Bennett family).

Thus, when my nieces are old enough, I can tell them I witnesses their parents’ first awkward kiss, because it was on stage during a dress rehearsal, and I ran out of hair and make-up to make sure I saw it (…is that weird?).


Three years of head-tiltly cast photos.

While there were a few other fun memories in my theatre career, none of them really warrant a retelling. I did get to play a wolf in a production of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, but those photos have gone the way of Hannah Bronson. While I might miss the camaraderie of a cast and curtain-call applause, I can still channel that dramatic spirit any time I want, with some red lipstick and a long trench. After all, all the world’s a stage, right?