Friday, August 28, 2009

Stuck in the Middle

Black jersey singlet dress - $10 Cotton On
Jeffrey Campbell brogues - courtesy Solestruck
White silk shirt - $4 op-shop

I am so tired tonight I can barely keep my eyes open, partly because the little dude woke me up three times last night asking for a glass of water or a hug, but mostly because I'm coming down off an extreme fairy floss sugar rush. Yes, today was Show Day.

I needed the sugar just to survive the riot of sideshow alley, dodgy looking rides (which are genuinely scary because I know they were all just put up the day before by some guy with a mullet), circus, dagwood dogs (bleurgh), formation dance routines by local talent school students (the spirit fingered jazz ballet of my youth has given way to a sort of hip-hop pole dancing without the actual pole, even for the tiniest little girls), men in giant bouncing kangaroo suits (complete with huge furry testicles), camel rides, laughing clowns, kewpie dolls and all the rest of the weirdly alluring and utterly dubious attractions of the Show.

I actually wore it like this as the knotted version had some unfortunate mutton-ish qualities.

Maybe that's why I wore an outfit which is pretty much the dictionary definition of "plain" - no point in trying to compete with the glow sticks, neon afro wigs, and talent school teens wandering around in orange body makeup and fluoro green leotards.

Once upon a time (in my misspent youth) my friend and I wound up in a Mcdonalds at about 3am while we were tripping, and we got really freaked off by these people in there with strange faces and orange skin, which alarmingly seemed to be peeling off their bodies. Everything about them (eyes, mouths, hair) was too big and they seemed to be glittering and shimmering before our messed up little eyes. We fled the scene and took our poor old brains somewhere less hallucinatory - and then the next day discovered that the Australasian Ballroom Dancing Championships had been held the next street over. So it wasn't the acid at all, they actually were orange body painted glittering freaks. No tripping today (except of the not-watching-my-feet kind), but that orange makeup still does my head in.

I had the sweatiest toes in town today, but sensible shoes are the way to go in any place which combines a sea of humanity with various kinds of animal poo (goat, alpaca, cow, camel were all sighted and narrowly avoided). I always thought I was the only person in the world who wasn't buying the old "every woman must own a white shirt, it is the most versatile garment blah blah blah" thing promoted constantly in women's magazines since the late triassic era, but enough other bloggers have posted about it that I now realise I was just one of many sceptics. I do remain unconvinced by the whole white shirt thing though, for me it says just one thing:

"hospitality job."

Two of the most chilling words in the English language!

I must admit all day I was having flashbacks to my stellar career as the world's crummiest silver service waitress, and the all time lowlight thereof - the Night of the Zoloft Zombies. Which was not at all what you might be thinking, but something far more terrifying than I can ever convey in mere words. I will attempt it though!

The time: 1996
The place: the Imax Theatre, Sydney
The event: a presentation (with drinks and nibbles) for doctors about the newly introduced antidepressant Zoloft, catered by the company I worked for, supposedly the most prestigious caterers in the city at the time.

Sounds innocuous enough doesn't it - what could a bunch of mild-mannered suburban family doctors, standing around a cinema lobby decorated with giant cardboard daisies at 6pm on a Wednesday evening, possibly do that would be so awful?

I still don't really understand what went so horribly wrong, but somehow this particular group of people got so rotten drunk so incredibly fast that they lost their minds and started to literally behave like animals. When we carried the trays of food through the room they mobbed us and were grabbing fistfuls of food, dragging the platters out of our hands, smearing food on walls and floors, throwing glasses, pulling our hair and clothes, howling like maddened beasts.

At one stage I had a woman actually hanging off me as she attempted to grasp at food I was holding, I'm only 5'2 (and at the time was a mere scrap of a thing of about 45kg), and she was on me, hanging onto my back with her arms over my shoulders. I couldn't shake her off, and only the press of the crowd mobbing me stopped me from actually falling over. Finally one of the barmen leapt the bar and dragged her off me. It was a scene straight out of Hieronymous Bosch.

Somehow the publicists eventually managed to herd the beastly crowd into the theatre and the catering company supervisors gathered the remaining staff together amongst the debris to try and rally the troops for the final battle (ie chocolates and apperitifs after the presentation). Half the shift had already walked off the job, effectively resigning rather than continue - the rest of us were a sorry sight, liberally coated in mashed finger food, bits of blue swimmer crab spring roll and aioli in our hair, our designer label white shirts barely white at all anymore. A couple of people had been bloodied, one barman taken to Casualty for a suspected concussion.

The supervisors were a pair of cockney wide boys, tough, fast-talking, nothing-could-faze-them guys who'd seen the world and been around the block a time or two. Yet they stood there before us shell-shocked, stunned by what they'd seen, they begged us to stay for the rest of the shift but they told us if we left we wouldn't lose our jobs, they understood that no one should ever experience what we'd just been through, they'd never seen anything like it. They offered us free booze and extra pay to stay, but in the end the publicists pulled the plug and just got the doctors out of there once the presentation ended. Apparently there was a fair bit of vomit in the cinema, and no one wanted to take any chances with trying to hand out the free Zoloft branded chocolates in case a riot ensued. We got the free booze and extra pay anyway, danger money (oh, and I took home about a hundred bags of undistributed promotional chocolate as well).

I guess the experience did stand me in good stead for toddler wrangling, although the little dude at his most feral is still a million times more civilised than the Zoloft Zombies!


Damn papparazzi!

There is some white be-shirted cuteness afoot too - my little sister's wedding next weekend, complete with little dude in the role of pageboy. It's all suitably top secret for now, but rest assured photos will be posted in due course!

I promise I will iron the shirt and wipe the vegemite off his face before the wedding, so he doesn't look like he's already gone a couple of rounds with a pack of marauding GPs in search of free food...

PS. Sorry about that whole Zoloft Zombies wall of text, catharsis can be very wordy!
PPS. Little dude's t-shirt from Love Police.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Giant Quinkin

Black lame (how do I get that accent in there?) top - $30 Country Road sale (ages ago)
Eighties print shorts - $1 op-shop
Mirrored resin bangle - $5 Diva sale
Black leather Sportsgirl heels - $10 op-shop

The main thing which springs to mind when I look at today's photos is my dire need of a haircut. At the moment it's six parts lank, four parts teen emo sweepover (as seen on the pimply youth who works in our local Kwik E Mart and is bizarrely flirtatious with me, including once actually winking at me while packing my groceries. I assume he does this with all the senior citizens), and all bad.
Just add lank and you too can have hair like a Gold Coast housewife.
Photos courtesy the fascinating world of emo hair blogs.
I wonder if emos will stay emo for the rest of their lives, like old goths, or the ancient withered bodgies and widgies I see wandering around the Gold Coast with their remaining nine hairs carefully brylcreamed into a duck tail. I know that my own eighties coming of age often leads me into uncertain sartorial territory, these shorts being a case in point.
The eighties in Australia was a strange and golden era in many ways - the confidence of the boom years found its expression here in an exuberant jingoism, a mad blossoming of national pride which gave us some great art and some even greater kitsch. Sometimes all at once. There were boxing kangaroos and boomerangs plastered on everything from earrings to underwear, and indigenous design (or more usually, indigenous inspired design) hit the mainstream really for the first time.
It's rare that something I pull off the one dollar rack plunges me into such a sea of fraught cultural politics - the area of appropriation and co-opting of design and art which is quite often spiritually significant to the makers tends to be pretty tricky territory. There are some legitimate indigenous design houses out there putting Aboriginal designs on corporate uniforms (like those for Qantas) and premium homewares, but there are even more dodgy manufacturers ripping off traditional art and whacking it onto tea towels and souvenir t-shirts. These shorts were made by "Toucan Funwear" so I'm guessing more from column B for them - but how do I play it if I just like the print?
I actually tend to steer clear of a lot of Aboriginal art and design because there's a lot of brown going on. That's all down to the traditional use of ochre and the fact that vast tracts of Australia are, well, brown. I'm not known for my great affection for brown, and I'm still not wholeheartedly embracing it, but there has been a slight upswing in my brown tolerance capacity in recent times. Which actually just means we finally bought ourselves a dining table and it's brown:
This is a big deal for us because we haven't had a dining table in many years. Back in Bondi when we had people over we either had to eat in the backyard or at the coffee table. Well, two of us would eat at the coffee table, one person would have to balance their plate on their lap, and one person would have to perch at the computer table - any more than four and the extras would have to sit in the hall or our bedroom to eat their dinner. Now we have a table which seats eight whole humans, this pleases me greatly!
That strange fuzzy artefact is what archeologists call a Toddler Bite. It pleases me not at all.
Three year olds who bite brand new tables might well be in need of a visit from the Quinkins, a scary bunch of spirits with a taste for juicy little kidlets. Well, the Imjim Quinkins (fat, big ears) are the scary guys, luckily the Timara Quinkins (long, very skinny, good at disguising themselves as trees) are around to foil their fiendish plans.
The little dude loves a scary story, and the Aboriginal stories collected by Percy Tresize and illustrated by Dick Roughsey are the best kind of scary - the kind where everything turns out ok in the end. I loved these when I was small, and I love reading them to my own small beastie now. Percy Tresize was an interesting guy - he was fascinated by Aboriginal rock art and catalogued many galleries, particularly in Quinkin country, and collected the stories which went with the paintings. Aboriginal artist Dick Roughsey collaborated on the stories and also illustrated the books in a way which incorporated the traditional figures seen in the rock art galleries, as well as showing us the land those galleries are found in.
Click to enlarge.
The big battle scene is the little dude's favourite, no surprises there.
I found The Quinkins in an op-shop, but I'm gradually tracking the others down from Ebay and our local library. The one I'm really hanging out to get my hands on is The Giant Quinkin - it's the scariest, the illustrations are the coolest and I know the little dude will get a massive kick out of it. I'm already under constant threat of bloodthirsty attack from the pirate/dinosaur/gorilla/imjim hybrid he morphs into for maximum terror effect, once he gets a look at the giant quinkin I think he'll be unstoppable (and my nonchalant slouching days will be over forever)...
PS. This little video is from a current exhibition of contemporary Aboriginal fibre art at Brisbane's GoMA which I have it on good authority is well worth checking out if you happen to be in Brisvegas. Toucan Funwear eat your heart out!
PPS. Just so you don't think I've gone all highbrow on you with the GoMA and the appropriation and whatnot, here's the greatest cultural product of the days of my long lost youth...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Banana Fritters

I think I'd be making that face too if I had to wear that furry vest, although the little dude is in fact giving us his best Scary Grilla face. Never get between that guy and his bananas, consider yourself warned!
I call this look Chocolate Box Chimp.

These furry follies were prompted by the redoubtable Sister Wolf 's call for contributions to her handy guidelines for selecting fur vests, and I have one, and only one thing to say on the subject:
If you are under the age of 5 then wear your furry monkey vest with glee. If you are any age older than that magic number, then leave those hairy horror shows on the rack and flee.
Once again, consider yourself warned...

100% of surveyed mini-simians said bananas are their preferred breakfast selection.

Hope you're having a veritable cornucopia of a weekend, overflowing with fabulousness and base simian pleasures (like guzzling tropical fruit, scratching your tummy, and eating honey ants with a stick)!

PS. Thank you to everyone who voted in my price poll - the results are overwhelmingly in favour of prices persisting, so they shall. Good thing too, everything I've bought lately has cost me a dollar or fifty cents - not saying any of it is any good, but it's all cheap at least.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Grey AA ribbed tank - fifty cents op-shop
Tigerlily fuschia silk skirt - $30 (clearance sale)
Purple eighties jersey cardigan - $4 op-shop
Clear plastic sandals - $2 op-shop

This post is essentially part two of the Op-shop Mission of the Damned series from the other day - a catalogue of failure and dubious purchases and a grab bag of randomness thrown in for good measure.

It's hotting up out there and I need some summer clothes - little dresses, loose tops, skirts, shorts and sandals - I do not need any more jackets. Yet somehow all I ended up with is more damn jackets (and those rather unsatisfactory plastic sandals). How does this happen?

The obvious explanation for my jackety lapse is that I was overcome by a terrible desperation to find something, anything, and therefore justify a morning spent trudging to nine different op-shops. The less obvious explanation is that my thwarted lust for summer colour found its only outlet in this big blocky wad of purple jersey. The even less obvious explanation is that the jackets are eating all the other garments. Perhaps this cardigan was once a cute 80s mini dress, until it felt the bite of a predatory parasitic jacket as it hung on the rack in the op-shop back room, and began its slow transformation...

In the next phase the jacket will develop larger shoulder pads, then the jersey will gradually harden into a stiffer fabric. When the double breasted buttons appear the process is almost complete.

I was told this theory by a wild eyed senior citizen - her perm standing on end, her twin-set torn asunder, she clutched at my hands and whispered to me of the things she'd seen in the back room, behind the ironing board and in the shadow of the tea urn. Tales of chiffon blouses turning into tweed blouson jackets overnight, of embroidered balinese sundresses sprouting brass buttons and pointy lapels, and the unnatural sight of a denim skirt twisting in unholy ways and breaking out in a putrescent acid wash rash as it became a snow wash denim jacket.

I don't know what this 100% cashmere jacket was before it was bitten, it might have been the only fifties frock which would ever suit me or a slinky silk slip dress, but somehow it ended up on the one dollar rack - and I am powerless in the face of the one dollar cashmere...

...even if it does look like something which escaped from the wardrobe of Hillary Clinton or Raisa Gorbachev. Hmm, the Eastern European connection - perhaps this is the jacket which started all the trouble, I'd better go and check my wardrobe right now before it's too late and all my skirts, shirts and dresses have succumbed to the Curse of the Jacket.

If anyone has any styling ideas which could possibly save this from corporate hell, I'd love to hear them. It's a beautifully made jacket and fits me perfectly, but I can not see any place for it in my wardrobe at all.

Apparently shoes are immune to the fiendish bite, because the op-shop racks are still crowded with worn out pairs of platform thongs, bowls shoes and kitten heeled mules, leaving me no option but to finally buy a pair of these glittery sling back sandals. I've been avoiding them for years but they got me in the end. I think you can get these from Target for about $8 so my $2 pair (brand new at least) was only a marginal bargain. I like the illusion of no shoes they give, but their soft rubbery plastic does have a clammy quality which is somewhat disquieting.

Also disquieting.

If anodised aluminium was the Official Metal of the Nineties, then I reckon that the Official Shoe of the Nineties has got to be the mule in all forms (particularly kitten heeled). After I posted about Wannabes last week I remembered another pair I owned, and on reflection I think they might be the most mid-nineties (and arguably least sexy) shoe to have ever existed:

Black nylon satin Wannabe loafer mule slides.

There was nothing that couldn't be made out of black Prada-handbag-style nylon back then, I had skirts, coats, bags, jackets, shoes, tops - everything except my underwear got the black nylon treatment. The underwear was made of bits of elastic and black jersey, of course. It was a grim old time, with all of us (well, me and everyone I knew) wandering around thin, miserable and smelling of ck one. Thank god Tom Ford came along and saved us all from the asexual nylon scourge, perhaps he knows how to sort out this jacket situation before it's too late!

PS. Yesterday I read The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, perhaps you can tell? If you like fast plotted trash then I highly recommend it, and I must say it was very refreshing to read something where vampires were repulsive, monstrous and EEEEEEEVIL rather than all sparkling and stalkerish and supposedly deeply attractive. Actually here's another question for you ladies - what's so appealing about vampires anyway? Having someone/something suck my blood out has always seemed, like, totally gross to me.

PPS. On the subject of out of control plagues, the Sydney Morning Herald had a really cutting edge fashion forward story today about the coming season harem pants. Seriously, haven't they pretty much been and gone out of fashion again now?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bare Faced Cheek

No make-up, wet hair, wearing a towel and looking every bit the freckly, sun-damaged, low maintenance, sleep-deprived 37 year old I am. And I am not even slightly ashamed!

I often feel like a bit of a bullshit artist when I'm taking my photos, with my fringe strategically covering the lines on my forehead, and my panda eyeliner on, and my layered scarves and all the rest - so I thought I'd come clean and share this picture with you (and the rest of the internet). This is what 37 looks like (well, in my house, anyway)!
PS. proper post tomorrow.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Good Fortune


Red silk pants - $1 op-shop
Souvenir t-shirt - $1 op-shop
Grey patent Mollini maryjanes - $20 (new) op-shop

The default shoes to go with the default pants

These red pants are my default op-shopping uniform - I seem to wear them every time I'm in the mood for a rummage. No idea why, but I often op-shop when I need a pick-me-up, so maybe I choose my happy pants when I'm feeling flat, a kind of personal feng-shui?

Exotic view of our blender reflected in the mirror!

I haven't bought anything for myself for an age, just little dude stuff, but I went out today (29 degrees) with strict intent to find summer clothes for me, me, me. Of course since I went op-shopping with something specific in mind, I failed miserably and the red pants brought me only the tiniest smidge of good fortune. The first commandment of op-shopping (and parenting for that matter) is "Thou shalt keep an open mind and have ZERO expectations."

Please note strategically placed mini-hand.

The little dude has a fine array of souvenir t-shirts, I only have this one but I do feel like a bit of a fraud walking around in a shirt from somewhere I've never been - this shirt commemorating a trip to Southport Lifeline rather than the gorges of China. Then again, I've never been to the 1960s either, but it didn't stop me buying this souvenir silk scarf ($3) from that bygone era - a time when airline souvenirs were obviously a cut above the tube socks and eye masks my husband brings home from his LA jaunts these days.

Waratah & bottlebrush.


Sturt's Desert Pea

Even in watercolour silk scarf form Australian wildflowers are spiky and bold, with their vivid reds, purples and yellows. A far cry from soft pink full blown peonies, but lovely in their own prehistoric martian sort of way. I think this scarf is probably destined to be a cushion cover, because I don't wear a lot of red, but I always have little touches of really intense reds around the house. Some of my favourite things are cushions and table runners in this distinctive chinese peony print:

If you know where the peonies grow, please let me know.

I already have three or four cushion covers in this print (seen most recently here) and when we got our new dining table a couple of weeks ago my husband commented that we needed a few more to put on the bench seats. I sadly informed him that I'd looked everywhere (including online) and had failed to find even a hint, not even the fabric itself. He just looked at me and said "Ah well, it will turn up." with supreme confidence. I'm not sure what message he sent out to the universe, but what do you know, these three cushion covers showed up in an op-shop for fifty cents each. Another one of those spooky op-shop moments!


Where there is red there must be gold, in this instance these leather eighties flatties - continuing my slightly nana-ish slip-on loafer theme ($3). I really need some sandals now (that sounds slightly insane, but really summer is here), but I think I can still eke some wear out of these shiny little critters before the heat gets to full surface-of-the-sun levels!

We can never have too many Dr Doo (tm little dude) books, especially for fifty cents.



I think those two pages sum up exactly what I love about my op-shop treasure hunting missions - I never know what oddities I'll turn up, and how those odd and bods will fit into the nooks and crannies of my house and life. The little dude loves to come on my rummaging travels too ("Can we go to the toy shop mummy?!", one day I suppose he'll find out that there are actual toy shops where the toys aren't mostly missing wheels or heads and come in nice shiny boxes), I wonder if he'll grow up with the op-shopping urge and be one of those blokes you see at garage sales carefully examining old sprinkler systems and vinyl records and half built airfix model planes? Is op-shopping genetic, are you first generation (like me) or do you come from a long line of scavengers and treasure hunters?

PS. How cool is Clark?!