A sock-themed road trip

This month I took a road-trip vacation with my best guy in our new(ish) car. We drove from Toronto to New York City to visit friends, then on to Cape Cod, Boston, and Vermont. Then it was home via Montreal (to shop at Simons, of course) and  a stop at my brother’s cottage north of Kingston, Ontario.

Being the first road trip we’d done in a long while, I was excited at the prospect of not having to worry about packing efficiently for a plane trip. While I did pack 7 pairs of shoes (!), which was ridiculous even for me, I did resist the momentary temptation to tote along my sewing machine. But sorry, sewing, you ain’t got nothing on knitting when it comes to traveling. So I packed up my trusty Wise Hilda’s Basic Ribbed Sock pattern, a couple of skeins of sock yarn, my metal double-pointed needles (with a weird worry as to whether they would let me cross the border with metal knitting needles, until I remembered I wasn’t going on a plane), and hit the road.

By the time we got to Vermont, I had a nifty new pair of wool socks. And I almost managed to make them exact copies of each other, stripes-wise — totally by fluke, of course; doing so on purpose would require far too much forethought and planning for measure-once-cut-twice me.

Ribbed socks

Sock Selfie

Fun fact: the state of Vermont has a law against any billboards along highways. (Not so fun fact: the state of New Hampshire kinda scares my Canadian sensibilities with their LIVE FREE OR DIE motto on their license plates. Surely there is some room for discussion if it came down to it, no?)

Fun Vermont fact #2: Vermont is the home of the Darn Tough socks company, which has a lifetime guarantee on their socks. How could I resist buying a pair, especially after just having heard a radio program all about companies who offer lifetime guarantees and the crazy returns they have to accept, including weird stories about Darn Tough Socks? They aren’t as nice feeling on the feet as my own hand-knits, but my hand-knit socks will last maybe 18 months before there’s a big hole in the heel. (I must learn how to darn socks and completely solidify my reputation as a prematurely elderly person.) A lifetime guarantee for socks is pretty freaking radical. Perhaps it would be more fitting if Darn Tough moved their operations to New Hampshire. “GIVE ME HOLE-FREE SOCKS OR GIVE ME DEATH” could be their motto.

Darn Tough socks

By the time we were on the road back to Toronto, I had begun work on another pair.

Basic Ribbed Socks in progress

Upon my arrival back in the T-Dot, I noticed a preponderance of extremely well groomed male tourists in my neighbourhood, and was puzzled momentarily until I remembered we are proudly hosting World Pride this week. There are tens (hundreds?) of thousands of visitors and locals all having a wonderful time celebrating love and diversity. I am so, SO happy to live in a city that practices not just tolerance, but real inclusiveness. There’s absolutely no place like home. Happy Pride! And come visit Toronto sometime — it’s an incredible city!

I <3 TorontoWorld Pride Toronto


Hair Extensions: Vanity Karma Bites Me in the Ass

I didn’t know.

I almost never say those words. I pay attention. I know stuff. If I don’t know, I find out. I research the shit out of things. I once spent a week compiling a chart comparing every tiny specification of three different dishwashers I was considering buying, from how many decibels it ran at to how many streams of water showered the top and bottom racks. So last summer when I was thinking about getting hair extensions, I did some research to find out how they worked, how long they last, what kind of hair they use and where it comes from, etc. There was an article in Canadian Living with a before and after picture of a woman who had gone to the very same salon I was thinking of using. It looked great! What I didn’t realize was that the article really should have had ‘before’, ‘during’, and ‘after you take them out’ shot. I had no goddamn idea just how much damage my own hair would sustain after 5 months of wearing these extensions.

I have super-fine hair; the kind that is so tiny and thin that it breaks easily, grows really slowly, doesn’t hold a style, and naturally there is very little of it on my head so it’s often flat and stringy. But I had gamely spent the last 10 years growing it painstakingly to the point where it was a little past my shoulders. And I thought that putting extensions into it would be the perfect way to add volume while waiting out another 6 months worth of growth of my own hair. I was so wrong.

I was dreading taking them out, as I had been really enjoying looking ten years younger and my self-esteem was generally through the roof. But it was time, so yesterday I removed them. The extensions were held in with small metal rings: they pull a bit of your own hair through the ring, place a clump of hair extension in the ring as well, and then clamp the ring shut close to your scalp. (Here’s a pic I found through Google image search of what that looks like.) As it turns out, I’d estimate I lost about 50% of my own hair in the area where the extensions were (the whole lower half of the back of my head, as well as the lower half of the sides of my head). I used to be able to put it into a ponytail and while that ponytail wasn’t too thick, it was thick enough to stay in a clip and evenly hung down. Now?–there’s so little hair it won’t even hold in the same clip and the ‘ponytail’ is a small, scraggly collection of uneven hair.

Here are my Before, During, and After You Take Them Out shots. I’m heading to my hairdresser today to have it trimmed and shaped, but I know she ain’t got no miracles waiting for me on her hairdressing cart.


A week or two before getting the extensions, on a good hair day.


Several months before: a shot from the back (taken in Ghana–a whole other blog post)

"During" - with extensions

“During” – with extensions


After – complete with up-all-night-crying-periodically face.





Please forgive me my wailing about this first-world, vanity-inflicted problem. Things could be way worse. I could be living in Syria. I could be a chicken or a pig on a factory farm. I could be a factory worker in China or Bangladesh. I could be unemployed and homeless. Still, I feel devastated.

So let me be a lesson to you, kids. If you’ve got fine, thin hair, do NOT get extensions, unless you don’t mind wrecking your own hair.

Just a note about where I had them done, in case you are in Toronto and were considering doing this. I went to Doll Bar. They were friendly and did a good job on the extensions but they certainly were not up-front about how much damage could be done to my hair. I interviewed them twice before taking the plunge, once on the phone and once in person, and specifically asked about damage, and they really down-played it. “Use the micro-link extensions,” they said. “They do a lot less damage to your hair than the fusion [glue-in] ones.” Presumably I’d be entirely bald at this point if I’d used the glue-in ones. Thanks for the tip, ladies.

Anyway, perhaps my slightly cynical tone here misrepresents how incredibly upset I am. At this point I really feel like staying in bed and not leaving the house for a really long time. I feel embarrassed, both for the way my hair now looks and feels and for not having known. And embarrassed for having been vain enough to get extensions in the first place. And yes, I will eventually suck it up and get over myself, but please give me a few days to cry my eyes out before then.

Got any good advice for growing out a really bad haircut?

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

How does your garden grow?

Well thanks for asking. In fact, it kicks the shit out of all the gardens on my street. 😀garden_May2013

My front yard, May 2013. It was quite an attraction to passers-by. Sorry about the crummy iPhone photo with poor lighting.

I know this because lots of people stopped for a closer look, to take pictures, or to exclaim how big the tulips were. I sat on the porch accepting compliments with a cheshire grin like a proud mama with a lazy secret…

I didn’t lift a finger all spring. All of the plants are perennials, so they come back on their own every year. The forget-me-nots (the little blue flowered plants) are annuals but they reseed themselves and fill in any available space.  Of course I did spend time the last two autumns planting lots of tulip bulbs. I love tulips. It’s like hiding your own Easter eggs…you plant them in the fall, and by spring you’ve forgotten where/what you planted so all kinds of colourful surprises pop up all over the place. It’s more fun than a middle-aged gal can handle.

These were the most amazing tulips in the garden: Simple Pleasures brand "El Nino" bulbs.

These were the most amazing tulips in the garden: Simple Pleasures brand “El Nino” bulbs.

Above is a picture of the packaging for what turned out to be the most amazing tulips I’ve ever seen. (I keep the packages for reference in the spring.) They were about 3 feet high, had huge flowers, and were the most amazing blend of colours, kind of like a painted watercolour. I want to get more of these but I forget where I bought them. It might have been from SweetPea’s garden shop on Roncesvalles Ave. in Toronto or Sheridan Nurseries in Etobicoke. Full disclosure: I have no affiliation with this tulip bulb company or these garden centres whatsoever.

My other not-so-secret secret is that I’m not a very committed gardener. (Well, ok, I did dig out all the dandelions.) Now that it’s June, the front yard is a bit of an overgrown dog’s breakfast — with some actual dog’s shit from irresponsible walk-by dog owners thrown in for good measure. For two weeks in Spring it’s the nicest garden on the street, because years ago I got excited about gardening in early spring (when everyone gets excited about gardening), bought all the plants that were in flower at the moment, and threw them in the ground. Didn’t plan for “year-round interest”, as my very talented gardener mother-in-law would say.

So I’ll take my two weeks of glory, and accept the fact that I have to pull dog poop and tossed pop cans out of the overgrowth the rest of the season.

Some of the plants in the garden include: phlox, pinks, creeping thyme, forget-me-nots, golden spirea, bleeding heart, dogwood, woodruff, hostas, and not yet in bloom: irises (dwarf and regular varieties), purple cone flower, goldenrod, sage, gayfeather, and other stuff I’ll forget about until they show up like a forgotten easter egg. Oh, and the tree is a young Linden, with a dying Lilac tree on the left. It’s more than half-dead this year…don’t know why. Will have to ask someone who actually knows about gardening.

Fabric shops in Toronto

Why are they all a jumbled mess?

Most of the shops along Queen and Spadina are dusty, dim, crammed-to-the-rafters kind of places. The selection is great, for the most part, but when you’re feeling a bit like you need to keep one eye out for mice while you’re looking for a great print for a new sundress, that’s a bit, um, off-putting. Part of me likes the jumbled flea-market feel of some of these shops: you know, no pretension, no wondering whether you’re paying more for the ‘ambience’, blah blah. But I’ve been yearning for a, well, prettier place to shop for fabrics where I can find a little inspiration. Do you know of any such fabric shop that I should check out in Toronto? And please don’t send me to a quilting store where everyone is encouraged to sew some kind of mimsy apron, or where they only carry patterns that cost upwards of $20 and only feature dress designs for librarians. (Sorry, librarians, I know you can be a cool lot.) You know the ones I’m talking about.


Photo from BlogTO. This is one of the more spacious showrooms. And no, this definitely isn’t how I want to shop for fabric.

Last month I went to Portland, Oregon for a conference and came across a very pretty fabric shop downtown called Josephine’s Dry Goods. I’d like to post some pics of the interior of the store, but I was asleep at the switch and didn’t think to get my camera out. Unfortunately they haven’t got many pics even on their own website. But it’s a light-filled, spacious place, with fabrics laid out so you can see them, and plenty of gorgeous garment samples throughout the store for inspiration. We could really use a place like this in Toronto.

A shot of Josephine’s Dry Goods by Amy Hodge

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the inexplicable fact that there aren’t any stores within 10 km of Toronto’s so-called ‘garment district’ — where there are scores of fabric stores — who carry patterns. WTF?  Business opportunity, people!