Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Canadian's guide to jackets: the quilted layer jacket

This is the ninth post in my 'A Canadian's guide to jacket' series. 


THE FORECAST: Clear but slightly windy spring evening. 12°C

THE OCCASION: Late-evening gym session

THE JACKET: Lightweight quilted down jacket 

When worn on its own, this jacket has a sporty, downtown vibe. It's my favourite for walking to and from the gym because it's virtually weightless, yet warm enough to keep tired muscles from cramping up. Bright, neon colours play up the athletic angle and break up all the black.

Jacket - Lole
Shirt - Lululemon
Gloves - Winners
Hat - Gymboree
Leggings - Wilfred via Aritzia
Boots - Aldo

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Canadian's guide to jackets: the rain parka

This is the eighth post in my 'A Canadian's guide to jacket' series. 


THE FORECAST: 0°C. Freezing downpour, windy. (a.k.a. the WORST)

THE OCCASION: Anything that absolutely requires me to be outside, rather than curled up under a blanket on the couch

THE JACKET: MEC Gortex rain parka

I keep this jacket around for the weather I dread the most: wind whipping up icy particles that sting every exposed bit of skin, before melting into a permeating dampness *shudder*. The jacket is old and kind of ugly, but it's functional and waterproof. (I spray it twice a year with an all-weather protector). I layer my quilted down jacket underneath for added warmth. 

The one thing that puts a smile on my face is my Kamik Flora rain boots. I discovered the brand when researching alternatives to Hunter boots. They're Canadian manufactured, 100% recyclable, and surprisingly warm. I've only owned them for a year, but they seem built to last. Plus, I get compliments every time I wear them!

Jacket - MEC
Jacket - Lole
Hat - Gymboree
Gloves - Winners
Jeans - Forever 21
Boots - Kamik via SoftMoc

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Canadian's guide to jackets: the down vest

This is the seventh post in my 'A Canadian's guide to jacket' series. 


THE FORECAST: Sunny and showing the first signs of spring, but still chilly. 5°C

THE OCCASION: Visiting a cabane à sucre for the first maple toffee of the season

THE JACKET: down-filled quilted vest with a faux-fur lined hood

Staying warm starts with the torso and down vests are perfect for those in-between seasons days. But, rappers wearing down vests kind of ruined things for me for a few years. To bring this look into 2015, I wore it over slim-fitting layered shirts, and added tall boots and a cozy infinity scarf. In shopping for a vest, I'd suggest looking for genuine down fill, a snug fit and a detachable hood. There's no need to spend a bundle: this version came from a consignment store.


Vest - Mexx via consignment
Scarf - Suzy Shier
White shirt - Guess
Striped shirt - Lululemon
Jeans - Forever 21
Boots - Ecco

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Canadian's guide to jackets: the peacoat

This is the sixth post in my 'A Canadian's guide to jacket' series. 


THE FORECAST: Mildly cold. 0°C

THE OCCASION: Walking over to meet the in-laws at a nearby restaurant

THE JACKET: mid-thigh length wool peacoat

Preppy and polished, peacoats seem to go hand-in-hand with the east coast, collegiates and autumn weather. It may have been displaced by the cocoon coat this year, but the peacoat is still an iconic addition to any wardrobe. This coat fits easily over a suit, and I think of it as a shoulder season counterpart to the wrap coat.

Peacoats can be found everywhere and are often discounted at the end of the season. I look for wool fabric, interior lining and fun details or colours, but this isn't the type of jacket I'm too fussy about. In fact, this one's a hand-me-down from a friend. If you already own one and it's feeling a little blah, try replacing the buttons, sewing on some trim, or adding a lapel pin. 

Jacket - Zara, hand-me-down
Headband - Handmade by a friend
Scarf - Winners
Gloves - Winners
Jeans - Forever 21
Boots - Ecco via Winners

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Canadian's guide to jackets: the layered jacket and vest

This is the fifth post in my 'A Canadian's guide to jacket' series. 

Previous posts here: down-filled parkafur coatcar coat, wrap coat


THE FORECAST: 0°C at midday, but dropping to -10°C as the sun starts to set

THE OCCASION: Playing tourist in your hometown

THE JACKET: lightweight quilted down jacket + quilted down vest

Like Pinterest and the foldout cupholders in Porter planes, I didn't know how much I needed this insulation layer jacket in my life until I had it. It was a Christmas gift from a family member working at Lolë. A true workhorse, it can be worn on its own or layered under a coat or vest for extra, downy warmth. Sometimes I'll get home and just keep it on for a while to ward off chills. It's light as a feather and very squishy, so it's great for travel. You can get similar ones at most outdoor stores. Spend the money. You won't regret it. 

A down vest lets me add or remove layers as the temperature changes. I've found both of my down vests at thrift and consignment stores, so you may not need to pay full price if you don't mind shopping secondhand.

Earmuffs keep ears from burning when it's not quite cold enough for hats; the scarf's mostly for decoration.

Jacket - Lolë
Vest - Eddie Bauer via thrift store
Leggings - Wilfred via Aritzia
Shirt - Guess
Scarf - RW & Co.
Gloves - J. Crew
Boots - Blondo
Earmuffs - Mall kiosk

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Canadian's guide to jackets: the wrap coat

This is the fourth post in my 'A Canadian's guide to jacket' series. 
Previous posts here: down-filled parka, fur coat, car coat



THE OCCASION: Work meeting across town

THE JACKET: Thifted, brand unknown

Looking professional in winter comes with its own set of challenges. How do you not look like you're bundled up for recess? Is it possible to get a blazer to fit under a coat without the armpit grip of death? When I travelled to Europe for work a few winters ago, I realized I wanted better outerwear for criss-crossing town between meetings.

For this type of coat, I looked for a heavy wool fabric, longer length (for tights-clad legs), roomier armholes...and a style factor. I found this Canadian-made, pure virgin wool coat for about $30. A self-tie fabric belt creates an hourglass shape and is adjustable to however many layers I'm wearing underneath (I recently lent it to a pregnant friend entering her 3rd trimester, and it was perfect). It's deceptively heavy, but makes for an awesome blanket for long car/plane rides.

I've dated this coat to between 1968 and 1984 based on the union label (there's no neck label). It's fully lined in a silky purple fabric, and has the markings of good workmanship. The sleeves are a tad short for me, but it was a worthwhile trade-off at that price! I added the decorative silver buttons down the front and on the cuffs myself. 

This coat is tricky to accessorize. I think colourful leather gloves would be better than my brown ones here, but I don't own any. I tend to wear it with light-coloured pashminas rather than a scarves. And I'm never sure about the footwear. If I'm not walking far or going to be outside long, I'll wear office pumps. But in this series I committed to footwear made for walking, hence the tall brown nubuck boots. 

Coat - Thrifted (also here)
Boots - Geox
Gloves - Winners
Pashmina - street vendor

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Canadian's guide to jackets: the car coat

This is the third post in my 'A Canadian's guide to jacket' series. 
Previous posts here: down-filled parka, fur coat



THE OCCASION: Car errands


This coat was a lucky score from a family member who used to work for Lolë and got a great employee discount. Its warmth rating is lower than my down parka, so it's ideal for transitioning into and out of the coldest months of the year. A streamlined shape and less bulky fabric make it my go-to outerwear when I'll be ducking in and out of heated cars and buildings. 

For this type of jacket, I look for water-resistant material, easy zippers, a non-bulky hood, well-placed pockets, and roominess for layers. I'd recommend sticking with a quality brand, but trying to shop the end-of-season sales. The black colour acts as a canvas for colourful hats and scarves (skimp) and won't be ruined when you accidentally brush up against a dirty car. Touchpad gloves (splurge) let me check my phone without freezing hands, and aren't too slippery on the steering wheel. My shearling-lined boots make sure my feet never get cold. I love that this style isn't too clunky. I hate walking around a store feeling like I have kettle bells strapped to my feet.

Jacket - Lolë
Jeans - Guess via Winners
Boots - La Canadienne
Hat - Barts via Tommy and Lefebvre
Scarf - RW & Co.
Gloves - J. Crew 

Sunday, March 08, 2015

A Canadian's guide to jackets: the fur coat

This is my second post in my 'A Canadian's guide to jacket' series. 
Previous post here: down-filled parka


THE FORECAST: Cold, -20°C, and dark from an early winter sunset

THE OCCASION: Formal/semi-formal

THE JACKET: Burkholder

I bought this coat for $125 second-hand for reasons that are equal parts ethical and financial. It's by a storied Canadian brand, Burkholder, which was founded in 1901 but went out of business around the turn of the century. It's exquisitely made, the material is in excellent condition, and it's even monogrammed on the inside! The coat is made of two different types of fur (one otter, another I can't recall) and has leather detailing. When I bought it it had a faint musty smell I was convinced was just from the store. Unfortunately, it still lingers (lesson learned). When I plan to wear the coat, I air-fluff it in the dryer with a dryer sheet and that works temporarily. On the plus side, this coat is weighty and unbelievably warm. It's a very traditional style, so I wear it for formal occasions, like winter weddings. 

I suck it up and keep my head and neck bare but wear leather gloves for warmth. On my feet, I'll usually wear these wedge boots and change into indoor footwear after. 

I also wore it for a 'snobby rich'-themed Halloween get-together (at a winery, natch).

Coat - Birkholder via thrift store
Tights - Winners
Boots - Ecco via Winners
Earrings - Avon
Gloves - Winners

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A Canadian's guide to jackets: the down-filled parka

As a Canadian, outerwear is a huge part of my wardrobe. A steady rotation of jackets, footwear, hats, scarves and mittens throughout the year ensures we stay warm, dry and able to enjoy whatever weather is thrown our way. I can't tell you how often I've been asked the question, "How do you stand the cold?!" 

Ottawa's not even as cold/windy/rainy/snowy as other parts of the country - looking at you Northwest Territories/Newfoundland/British Columbia/Manitoba. But we get our fair share of crazy weather, and it's not uncommon for an entire closet in an Ottawa home to be devoted to jackets alone. 

Over the coming weeks in this series, I'll show you what types of outerwear get me from the depths of winter right through to breezy summer evenings. It's all paired with footwear made for walking miles. I'll point out where - in my opinion - it's worth splurging vs. saving, all while looking for that tricky style factor. I'd love for this to be a conversation - leave your comments or questions below, or email me!

Now, let's get real, people. 


THE FORECAST: Cold. -27°C but feels like -36°C with the windchill.

THE JACKET: Quartz 'Nadine' 

If you skimp on outerwear for the coldest of days, you'll regret it. That being said, I found this jacket for 50% off at an end-of-season sale. It's manufactured in Canada and contains 650-fill down. The outer layer is more waterproof than my previous puffer-style winter jacket. A fur-lined hood stays up on windy days. Big pockets are accessible by mittened hands. I picked a neutral colour and sporty style since I hope to keep this jacket for years.

This jacket is on the shorter style, so I wear long underwear and fleece-lined articulated bike pants to keep my legs warm. My boots are by La Canadienne and also manufactured in Canada. They're fully lined with shearling and waterproof on the outside, with a sturdy rubber sole for slippery sidewalks. I wear SmartWool socks underneath for super-duper warmth. My Marmot Randonnée mittens were also a splurge, even at 30% off. They're made from waterproof, breathable materials and feel so luxuriously soft inside. I love them! I can layer thin merino wool gloves underneath if I'll be outside for a long time.

My hat is a cheapie from Joe Fresh's kids line. I have a fleece-lined skull cap or a balaclava I can wear underneath for extra warmth or skin coverage. Sometimes I'll layer a fleece neck warmer under my wool scarf to make sure the wind doesn't find it way through to my bare neck (brrr!)

Then I'll plug in to a great podcast, throw on a backpack and set off for work!

Parka - Quartz
Hat - Joe Fresh 
Scarf - Winners
Mittens - Marmot 
Boots - La Canadienne
Socks - SmartWool
Pants - Mountain Equipment Coop

Monday, March 02, 2015

Waldorf couscous and chicken salad

 "Maybe I can put off going to the grocery store ONE more day." Raise your hand if you can relate. Slim pickings from the fridge, freezer and pantry turned into this couscous and chicken dish, modelled after a Waldorf salad (recipe is my own). I wasn't planning to put it on the blog, but it turned out to be so yummy I had to share! It's healthy, fresh-tasting and also super-easy to make. This recipe serves four.


To prepare the chicken:
Whisk together 2T olive oil, 2T walnut oil, 2T lemon juice, 1T regular mustard, and salt and pepper. Pour over 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and marinate for several hours. 
Remove from marinade and cut the chicken into 1" strips. Sauté over medium-high heat until no longer pink. (You may not need to add much - if any - oil to the pan because of the residual marinade). 

To prepare the dressing:
This is the part where my recipe gets a little embarrassing. I'd bought a spinach dip that wasn't very good, so I'd been trying to find other uses for it. I scooped out half the container and watered it down with a little milk. Then I put it back in the fridge for about 20 minutes to set. That's it. That's the dressing. If you have plain yogurt or sour cream on hand (which I didn't), I'd suggest using a spoonful or two of this as well. 

To prepare the couscous:
Cook 1-1/3 cups dry couscous according to package directions. After fluffing with a fork, add 3 apples (I used empire), cored and cut into 1" pieces, 4 stalks of celery, sliced, 2/3 cup of pecans, coarsely chopped, and 2/3 cup raisins. Add chicken and dressing and toss gently to combine. Serve at room temperature.