Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Cake

Family legend has it that this (slightly Koonsian) kitty cat vase was delivered to my mother with flowers in it when I was born. It has stayed with me ever since.

Blue silk eighties top - $4 garage sale
Senso suede fringed sandals - $40 Max's Shoes sale last summer
Black linen hammerish/haremish pants - $20 (reduced from $99) Bardot sale
Resin mirrored chunky bangle - $5 Diva sale

That's what I wore yesterday for my birthday yum cha lunch - and it seems wholly appropriate for this post which is one of those Ritual-Display-of-Gifts-and-Sales-Bargains kind of posts wherein we celebrate the decadent and corrupt capitalist system/imminent decline and fall of western civilisation/commercialisation of Christmas etc etc. It is appropriate because it contains not one but two of my Boxing Day bargains, both bought with my Christmas and/or Birthday money.

I think I'll go back and see if there are any more of these left, I think two or three would be even better than one.

This resin bangle has a most satisfying heft to it, and the mirror is all safely under the surface where I can't lose or break it - and most importantly the little dude can't eat it. Unlike the indian bracelets with little bits of mirror stuck on them which somehow fell into his playpen when he was a teething nine month old, the gnawing of which prompted me to make an embarrassingly hysterical call to the Poisons Hotline. Poor Poisons Hotline people, can you imagine the demented calls they get from crazed new parents? I salute them for being able to reassure me that all would be fine, without once bursting into laughter at any point during the call - no mean feat, I'm sure.

This is an awkwardly angled photo of the excellent buttoned leg bits of my new linen pants. I'm especially pleased with these because I dragged out my sewing machine and took them in at the bottoms and made them rather more Hammerish and rather less Carrotish. This is them the day before, prior to alteration and very much in full carrot mode:

I actually bought two pairs of black pants on Boxing Day, from the same shop for the same price (although the second pair were reduced from $130 instead). Two pairs of very similar black pants would seem like a fairly dopey purchase but the second pair are satin and have a sort of tuxedo trouser (well a mutant hammerish tuxedo trouser anyway) tailored styling thing going on and are a nice subtle black satin into the bargain. Which means I'll wear them when the summer ends, unlike the linen ones which will be withdrawn from circulation once the weather gets cooler. See? Method to my madness!

How many times in the history of your magazine reading career have you read some kind of "Packing for Vacation" article which advocates the wearing of swimsuits as an extra item of proper clothing? I will wager it is many. And how many of you have ever actually gone out to a restaurant, cocktail bar or any other civilised grown-up type of place with a swimsuit on as part of your outfit? Bonus points if you teamed it with some kind of artfully draped sarong and heels (as usually also recommended in those very same articles). Throwing shorts on over the top to walk down to the corner shop or back from the beach categorically doesn't count, nor does anything done under the age of twenty or for Halloween.

I am a former surfie chick, an old beach bunny, and have lived in beachside tourist towns for large chunks of my life - yet until yesterday when I took these photos of my new Tigerlily swimsuit ($99 reduced from $189.95 and bought with birthday/christmas money as well) I have never worn my swimwear out and about with heels and statement accessories etc as though it was designed for anything more than lounging and splashing around beach or pool. I am almost prepared to call bullshit on the whole concept - unless you lot provide me with some evidence to the contrary, of course.

The detail on this suit, and the old school ruching and shirring make it a little bit more clothes-like than the average bit of swimwear, but still it's a just a small stretch of lycra unforgiving of tummy rolls and after dinner gut expansion, and (this is crucial) it DOESN'T HAVE SNAPS IN THE CROTCH. Can you imagine trying to struggle out of this thing in order to go to toilet (while drunk, in a tiny nightclub bathroom cubicle). No dignity would be left intact, that's one thing I know.

Here's me trying to look like a disco diva who thinks dignity is highly overrated.

My other big Boxing Day sales bargain (again purchased with my very gratefully received christmas/birthday money) was a new Mimco wallet. My old one was starting to look just a tiny bit worn around the edges so I felt it was time to retire it on at least a part-time basis. I like this new one so much, apart from the fact that it was $60 reduced from $190, it's made from lovely soft tan leather, and I know it will wear in really well. The buckle detail is rather deco too, and it's lined with the same subtly metallic deep purple that's piped on the front there. Yum!

I used to be a bit hopeless with cash gifts, I'd end up spending them on phone bills or things for the little dude, but I've got much better in recent times and take a lot of pleasure from being able to go out and find some lovely bits and pieces which I wouldn't normally buy for myself. The fact that the big sales fall neatly between Christmas day and my birthday is also rather handy...

I do get lots of lovely actual gifts (you know the kind which come wrapped in paper and ribbons rather than in an envelope or cheque), I'm quite partial to the quirky little surprise presents in particular. One of my favourites this year (and they were all favourites really) was this nutty giant plastic onion-shaped onion storer which is either utterly pointless and another sign of the corrupt decadence of western civilisation or a piece of everyday household genius. I'm definitely leaning towards the latter as we always have at least one partially chopped red onion hanging around in our fridge in desperate need of containment and making everything smell oniony. Love it!

A little gift that I'm always so happy to receive is hand soaps (also known as guest soaps). I am terribly set against liquid soap, I do understand why everyone loves it (hygiene, less soapy bits stuck everywhere etc) but I love those little mini baby soaps so much and they have been almost entirely displaced by the encroaching tide of liquid soap. These beautiful italian red poppy soaps come in wonderful packaging, smell divine, look adorable and were sent all the way from Scotland by my mother - all of which makes them extra special. Not too special for washing my hands with though!

And so ends the sale shopping, gift receiving and gift displaying consumerist orgy for another year. I've heartily enjoyed it but I think it's time to get back to my roots and do some hardcore op-shopping just as soon as I can. I can hear those crowded racks of polyester nastiness calling me to come and rifle through them, and so I will - just as soon as I can muster up any shopping mojo whatsoever!

PS. I think this speaks for itself (needs sound):

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Special

Yeojin Bae for Target silk frock - $11.25 on clearance
Senso suede fringed sandals - $40 Max's Shoes sale

That's the little canvas that hangs above our bed, thoroughly schmaltzy but words we live by nonetheless.

Today I'm just a little bit in love with my new camera. I wasn't supposed to get it until Christmas Day but due to the other crappy one conking out once and for all yesterday, Christmas came a wee bit early for me this year. It's a dear little thing, and I think we are going to be very good friends - once I get to know its quirks and work out how to get it to do what I want, as opposed to what it thinks is best!

Look at me frowning away, that's because I wasn't sure whether the self-timer was working on my new camera - I have a whole series of me all cranky-faced with consternation trying to work out if the little clicky noises meant Photo Being Taken or Focus Being Focused (or whatever). I bought this dress almost a year ago - it represents my one and only foray into the world of designer/chainstore collaborations. I still don't really know how I feel about it (and tend to treat it as a dress suitable for chores and errands rather than garden parties and other soirees), although it's a pretty little frock with a sort of thirties-meets-eighties mix of feminine and futuristic, and such a nice print:

The thing is that I have a bit of a prejudice against the Designers for Target ranges - I've been trying to work out where it stems from and I have come up with the following:

1. Seeing (from a safe voyeuristic distance) the hideous and humiliating behaviour of people scrabbling for the Stella McCartney for Target range like a bunch of mad banshees.
2. The almost universally poor fabric quality (Josh Goot, I'm looking at you).
3. The fact that nicer, more flattering chainstore items are always available for similar or lower prices.
4. The fact that shopping in Target is kind of depressing as a retail experience (I'm sure the reason no one has been buying Collette Dinnigan lingerie is that they can't cope with the fluorescent lighting in the hideous Target change rooms).
5. I rarely buy stuff just because of the label, so racks of cheaply made ugly clothing (Zac Posen range comes to mind) are not going to get my heart racing just because it has a designer's name on it.
6. There's always some little detail which gives the game away - with this Yeojin Bae dress it was the belt which came with it. It had some horrible little wooden beads on it and they were all falling off well before the dresses made it to the clearance racks. I use this belt off my eighties silk skirt/dress instead:

I'm only basing my opinions on Australian stuff though, so by all means set the record straight if designer/high street collaborations overseas are a more thrilling proposition!

This my other Yeojin Bae for Target silk dress (also $11.25 off the clearance rack), but I actually wear it as a nightie/thing to throw on when the little dude drags me out of bed at 5am. It's a really thin unlined silk charmeuse, it's a totally bordello shade of pink, it's cut on the bias and it just seems thoroughly unfit for public wearing to me. For swanning around the boudoir pretending to be Alexis Carrington, however, it is the shiznit.

The sleeve detail is a bit glamorous and thirties-ish, but don't I look here like I'm just about to get in a fight with some chick who's made the mistake of stepping onto my turf?

There is a somewhat random element to this post because it's a bit of a conflation of yesterday's post (foiled by camera malfunction) and my Christmas post for tomorrow (which is happening today because we're on the road tomorrow). So now I'm going to take a sharp U turn away from the mean streets and straight into the sweet icing sugar snow drifts of Santaland.

Behold the angel on the top of our tree, made by a very clever friend of mine!

I am feeling very smug and pleased with myself because I have (in the manner of a grown-up and mature lady of the house) made a christmas cake this year. It's not one of those proper ones which takes four days to make and a metric tonne of dried fruit and which can last for fifteen years wrapped in foil in the back of the cupboard, but I'm rather impressed with it anyway.

My mother-in-law gave me the recipe, which is the modified version of one she got from a friend, who lifted it from who knows where. It's probably an old standard known the world over, but it's yummy, moist and insanely easy to make so I'm going to give you the goods. If you're a fruit cake lover (and I know the world is divided into those who are for, and those who are very much against), then I highly recommend you give it a go!

1kg mixed fruit
Optional - 1.5 cups chopped nuts (I used macadamias, but anything will do)
2 cups orange juice
1 tablespoon brandy (plus more brandy to pour over the cake when it comes out of the oven)
2 cups self-raising flour
blanched almonds

Soak dried fruit (and nuts if you are including them) in juice and brandy overnight. Pre heat oven to 130 degrees Celsius. Sift flour into soaked fruit and mix well. Put into large lined baking tin and top with blanched almonds. Bake for two hours in the bottom of your oven. Remove, pour brandy over and then leave to cool. Put into container or wrap in foil. Keep for two to three days before cutting.

And with that I bid you a fond farewell as tomorrow is Christmas Eve and we are hitting the road with a hyper-excited little dude and about three million parcels in tow...

Please consider this a "Happy Holidays" if that's the way you roll.


PS.This is a page ripped out of Spanish Architectural Digest (sorry Auntie Rob, couldn't resist the terrible temptation to tear) which also hangs on our bedroom wall:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Which way should I jump?

Cotton voile floral dress (shortened) - $5 Surry Hills Markets
Mollini grey patent leather shoes - $20 op-shop (never worn)

I haven't worn heels around during the day since we headed north, every day I look at them but the sun shines, and the beach beckons and the high shoes stay restless in the cupboard - until today that is. I wanted a pair of these Chloe knock-offs for the longest time (well really I wanted the Chloes but that was never going to happen), so when I saw them all shiny and new in a local op-shop I bought them - despite that $20 price tag. They are pleasingly high (I'm sure I'm at least 5"6 in them, don't laugh), and seemed sufficiently girly for this fluffy, floaty, floral curtainy frock.

I have the calves of a mountain goat, one of my few true capricorn traits.

That super chintzy print (seriously, it wouldn't look amiss in my mother-in-law's front room) makes it almost impossible to see the details of this dress. The collar/flutter sleeve thing is two lovely tiers and it falls in the prettiest way, coming down to a point in the front.

The print itself is also ill-served by my fiendish camera (I'm getting a new hopefully non-fiendish one for christmas, hurrah!), the colours are much deeper and more vibrant if you are looking at them with your actual eyes while the dress is on my actual person in the actual room with you - scary as that prospect might sound.

I hacked off a massive swathe of fabric to get the length I wanted, and I must admit I was tempted to make a matching scrunchy with the excess (as I would have back in 1985 when chintzy rose prints were in some kind of fashion). Are scrunchies back in yet? Have the cool youths started wearing them on their wrists and sumo buns and whatnot? If they aren't now, then I predict it is mere minutes until they are - or maybe they've already come and gone again while I remained happily oblivious!

Washed silk eighties jumpsuit - $5 op-shop
Tan leather gladiators - $40 Sportsgirl sale

So the floral curtain frock was what I wore this morning for some festive season hijinks, but for the afternoon (spent watching my husband mow our jungle-type backyard, folding laundry, and looking after a sick little dude) I got back to my current default wardrobe setting. It's silk, it's purple and pink, it's got some crazy dye job going on, it's a jumpsuit, I feel really good in it. Sound familiar? This thing is like the ultimate Skylark garment-of-the-moment!

The photos are ultra terrible, so you'll have to trust me that it's actually kind of sexy in a warped way - and it's got all that kooky eighties styling with the double stitching and mysterious flaps and so on, which is supposed to convey that you could maybe actually jump out of a plane in it and live to tell the tale over a campari and soda on the patio! In fact, in this jumpsuit I think you could actually parachute directly onto the patio, while holding a campari and not spill a drop.

Truly horrific photo where all colours are insanely incorrect and that triangle of my chest looks like it's made out of jaundiced sandpaper.

I'll be pretty glad to see the back of this camera come December 25 - it has strange ways of distorting colour which defy in-camera correction (and I'm too time-poor to Photoshop the scariness away). Some snarky commenter over on Flickr pointed out that I had green legs in one of my photos, which was sadly correct - although I'm not exactly sure what they thought they might achieve by pointing it out to me...

Updated to add this almighty piece of colour correction magic from the one and only ENC, who has managed to get that terrible photo up there to look almost exactly the way it should (which is quite a feat considering the whole Pacific Ocean stands between her and the actual jumpsuit):

PS. I ordered this Andy Warhol "inspired" (read: ripped off) t-shirt for the little dude the day before I found the jumpsuit. Seems like there was some kind of pink/blue/purple pop art yearning in my soul for a couple of days which demanded satisfaction - much like the little dude demands "BANANAS PLEASE MUMMY" with hugs and menaces at 5am each morning.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Red and Green and In Between

Leopard print One Teaspoon strapless swimsuit - $30 (new) ebay
Sarong - $1 op-shop
Green leopard eighties pleated skirt (worn as dress) - $5 Bondi markets

The leopard spots are rimmed in gold for extra eighties-ness

We flew back from Melbourne this morning (after a long weekend celebrating the "Festival of Dave", aka my father-in-law's 70th birthday) and almost the first thing I did was throw my swimsuit on, grab my trusty beach bag:

and bolt for the beach. Melbourne may have cool bars, great op-shops, a thriving arts scene and endlessly-fascinating-to-the-little-dude trams, but for a summer lover like me the weather was abominable. After four drizzly days of grey clouds and shivering in the cold I was super happy to feel the sun on my face and the salt on my skin again.

We only live a block from the beach so technically I can get away with just wearing a sarong over my swimsuit (the One Block Rule is an unwritten law of coastal life, frequently broken by english backpackers and sleazy middle-aged men in budgie smugglers), but since that block includes all the local shops I tend to do little errands on my way to and from the water. I might pick up a mango from the fruit shop for the little dude, or some stamps at the post office, maybe a greeting card from the gift shop or batteries for my camera - and when I go into shops I really feel like I should be wearing actual clothes. So I have a little collection of clothes-like things which I throw on for my trips to the beach. This green leopard pleated skirt/dress is chief among them:

Yes, I'm auditioning for a Ramones tribute band.

With a belt it almost passes for an actual dress, and without a belt my torso reaches new heights of oblongitude in it, but the wearing of a belt to the beach (along with statement jewellery, elaborate make-up, heels, and clothing with complex fastening mechanisms) defeats the purpose entirely. I like things which are loose, flowy, and can be pulled off and thrown on the sand in the blink of an eye. Things like the Gonk Suit:

So named because I wore it all the time when I was pregnant and gonk-shaped* with just my little flipper feet poking out the bottom of my mu mu. It's the prettiest gonk suit of all time, with it's fluttery butterfly sleeves and almost handkerchief hemline and it feels lovely to wear (even when lumbering around with the little dude on board). Of course, it too looks better with a belt, but that's just not the point!

I'm almost inclined to wear the Gonk Suit on christmas day, it is rather festive with its red and white print:

Or perhaps I should go with this little number as featured on the front of the Dimmey's catalogue, after all "Christmas never looked so good"!

What do you reckon?

*For anyone in any doubt as to what a gonk might be:

PS. What do you call the garment you wear to swim in? I call them swimmers or swimsuits (and the male version is budgie smugglers), but people also say bathing costume, swimming costume, bathers, togs, cossies and I'm sure a bazillion other variants. What's yours?
PPS. A HUGE congratulations to my little sister and her boy on their engagement this weekend just past - very exciting!