The Pursuit of Beauty (or why are we afraid to age?)

It is very easy to get caught up in the media hype of what is beautiful and how to age (without really doing so).

I have been thinking about this for some time; Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube are exploding with videos, articles and hints on how not to age, or how to hide ageing so it looks like it’s not happening cdb07eb6c8f0e83cb57a5511a8bdda55--makeup-mistakes-look-older

I have an age spot…on my face (shock, horror) and more coming. I live in Australia, my parents were migrants from Europe, there was never too much sun and only the redheads wore any sun protection; so it’s not surprising that at the age of 55, my skin is starting to show the result of this abusive past. My best friend wants to book a session for some “work” and has invited me to have some work done too… do I need it? Do I want it?? age spot (not me)

TBH, a little voice in my head is saying to go and do it, the age spot is not small, although it’s not too dark at the moment and it’s on the side so I can ignore it quite successfully 🙂

But, I know I would feel good if it wasn’t there…

My arms, back and decolletage are all peppered with freckles and moles (and curiously loss of pigment in certain spots). My skin is just one part of me, I think I look okay most of the time (hey, we all have our off days!).

My main issue is that I am trying to be happy with myself. What am I telling my children when I have stuff done to my face? That the pursuit of perfection is ongoing and that contentment with oneself is unattainable? This is not the message I want them to absorb!

I am carrying too much weight, I have mentioned this before. I think I have reverted to the shape I am meant to be, in some ways my body shape has gone back to when I was a little girl. I spent 40 years slim and envied, I never thought about my weight or what I ate, I lived my life, had babies and a career, my body has served me well. Now I am healthy.  I have done circuit training, boot camp, weight lifting, jogging etc etc with little effect except spectacular muscle definition. My blood pressure is fantastic, my cholesterol is okay, my blood sugars are fine. I am active and apart from a nurses back (with its sequelae) I am in okay shape, I am just too heavy- but who decided that? I have often said I have a Germanic build, lots of upper body strength (just perfect for digging in the fields) and I am quite similar to about half of my Dutch cousins (the other half are slim and tall). Maybe, this is the weight I am supposed to be?

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I am the shape  between 24.9 and 30 on this picture and it doesn’t alter much no matter how much exercise I do! So I continue to strive for contentment. I probably won’t get the stuff done to my face,  are always other things I would rather spend my money on (like fabric, sewing machines, sheet music, cycling gear……sigh)

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It’s time for me

Today is Sunday and after a hectic week, it’s my time.

Not going to church, just taking it easy.

Breakfast in bed with a new novel

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and in attempt to find a wrap dress that fits me and also looks good, I am cutting this one out after the fabric has dried from its pre-wash

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The fabric is a light grey cotton knit with random dots that I bought from Spotlight.

It is very warm for Autumn, my daughter is out with friends and my dear son is going to the footy (Aussie Rules), so I will be at home in the peace.

Bliss.

Laundering

I know…ho hum, who writes a blog post about doing the washing?

Well, I guess that must be me.

As household chores go, I don’t mind doing the washing. The reward last longer than the next person in the clean kitchen, or the next pair of shoes worn inside the house onto clean floors. Yes, at least with clean washing, you have a day of enjoying the experience of wearing nice-smelling clothing and a whole wardrobe of clean stuff to choose from 🙂

As most of you know, I am living in a rental property at the moment and the design (or lack of it) of the laundry is a sobering experience. My current laundry is little more than a very big cupboard off the passageway, with a trough/cupboard and nothing else.

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Without any cupboard space apart from underneath the trough, I usually keep a lot of washing stuff on top of the dryer. I don’t mind this, but there is no bench space at all and with a rotten back that is a problem. I hand wash quite a bit of my summer clothing, mainly because the fabrics are light voiles dyed in India and the colour bleeds excessively. Hence I hand wash each piece separately rather than hazarding a lot of cross-clothing discolouration.

What to do? I have done the whole bending down to the floor with a second bowl thing and my back just can’t take it any longer, so I have resorted to the bathroom sink.

IMG20180303073255.jpgYes the bowl is small, but it is perfect for these light, filmy pieces and the heaven of not having to bend down and up all the time is just luxury. Not too much water is used because of the small bowl which is an added plus and I don’t get weighed-down by a huge laundry basket full of clothing, because (you guessed it), the washing line is not convenient to either the laundry or the bathroom.

I don’t use a dryer much, with the weather here, most of the time it is unnecessary. I will use it in winter just to take the damp off line-dried washing before I put it away (mainly thick items like jeans and towels), but really, the dryer is just a nice luxury.

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I quite like the position of my (fold away) washing line, it faces south-west, which means it is shaded for quite a lot of the time in summer, this, plus hanging my coloured clothing inside-out means that fading is not really problem. I am not so sure it will be that great when the weather turns autumnal though, I wonder if it will be a problem trying to dry thick items.

Reading through this post, I wonder why I even thought to write it! Boring is the word that comes to mind and I don’t blame you if you switched off a while ago :0

Rest assured though, I am unlikely to blog about the next chore that comes with laundering; ironing (though necessary, especially for a seamstress) is one chore from which  I derive very little pleasure, so I won’t be boring you with that one!

Cheers 🙂

Walking amongst the dead…

cemeteryI have been in my new place for 6 weeks now, that went very quickly. All is going well and the children (young adults) and I are happy (they have mentioned that specifically!).

I have done some gardening (even though it’s a rental), explored the suburb (I like it) and get some joy every day by walking through Perths main cemetery to and from work. I think the world is divided into two kinds of people, those who like graveyards and those who don’t, I am definitely in the former category. I have been fascinated by cemeteries, funerals and grave goods for years, ever since going to Gin Gin cemetery as a teenager and seeing the devastation an epidemic can wield over a small community (Gin Gin ).

Studying Anthropology both at university and informally has only deepened my liking for the fascinating subject of the customs associated with death in different cultures.

Karrakatta Cemetery is the biggest in Western Australia, it is HUGE. I thought it would be full, but there is a load of space for everybody once they leave this life. The amount of money that families spend on honouring their dead loved-ones is truly eye watering. The size of the monument doesn’t seem to have any relationship to the status of the person for whom it was erected, (although a number of famous Perthites  of the past seem to be well-represented by large monuments). There is an ordinary gentleman who has been honoured with (I presume) a life-size statue of him, there he is looking benevolent, leaning one hand on a tree stump, all carved beautifully in marble.

The relatively-new Mausoleum is pretty fancy and is the final resting place of mainly Italians, a throwback to the way people are buried back in the old country. I don’t understand mausoleums, I suppose like most things, they have come about because of necessity (though what the reason is I don’t know), but I don’t really warm to the idea of a body not being disposed of, merely “kept” in its place (for the future???).

There are plenty of pretty ordinary areas in the cemetery, but there are also some really beautiful parts. Ferns, rose gardens, lawn areas, open-air chapels etc etc, it is really a place to relax in and collect ones thoughts (especially after a challenging day at work).

One of my work colleagues is mystified by my affection for graveyards. She finds them scary and very unappealing, my son will walk though the bushland adjacent to Karrakatta, but avoids the actual cemetery saying he thinks it smells strange (does it really?). As an ex-Palliative Care Nurse, death involves many emotions for me, but fear is not one of them.

The place is full of Little Ravens. I don’t know why they live there (there doesn’t seem to be anything edible for them), except that they are largely undisturbed and can do what they want. With gay abandon, they pull the flowers left at the graves, out of their receptacles and seem to scatter them about. Real or fake ,it doesn’t seem to bother the ravens what sort they are, the birds just seem to enjoy playing with them.

Really the only off-putting thing I find about the place is its poor signposting and the ability for sensible people to get hopelessly lost (yes, I regard myself as sensible), even the map is only marginally helpful at getting one on the right path. When I mentioned the organisation (or lack thereof) of the place to one of the multitude of gardeners, he rolled his eyes and told me I should talk to the designers who dreamt it up 100 years ago! He implied that working there didn’t necessarily mean he found navigating his way around any easier than the general public.

My Mother is nearly 88 and in very good health, I hope she stays around for a few more years; we have discussed what to do when she (as she puts it), “Pops her clogs”! She hasn’t dealt with Dads ashes at all, they are sitting in a box in her wardrobe and my brother and I have been told to get rid of them when she dies (thanks Mum!). Since I now live close to the so-called “dead centre” of Perth, I have been talking about a double plaque for her and Dad in one of the rose gardens (as they were/are their favourite flower). This suggestion seems to have some approval (both from Mum and my brother), so that is probably going to be what happens. I think it would be nice to go and sit by them and bring them both up to speed about what’s happening with the family. I know of course, that the ashes are not them and will be just a memento of the two people who gave me and my brothers life, but still….

Question:

What do you think of funerary rites, graveyards and death, do they give you the creeps like my work colleague, or are you more like me with a fascination for all of it?

 

Flogging a dead horse?

When do you call it quits on a favourite garment? Do you patch and refashion until there is little left of the original?

My son went on a school trip in Year 9 and spent 1500 Yen on a yukata from one of the hotels he stayed in. It is his preferred lounging around the house clothing (how appropriate!).

Seven years later it has been ripped and repaired on countless occasions and the last mending job I was a bit lazy and just used iron-on mender… unsurprisingly it didn’t last.

So, the dilemma was do I patch or does it get cut up for dusters?

Because it is sooo special to him, I decided to bring out the big guns and do a decent repair job this time.

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I initially started darning by hand, but gave up fairly quickly as the fabric was so fragile, you may be able to see the glue that was left after the iron-on mender fell off, it made the fabric very stiff and unyielding. Anyway, I decided to patch and darn…

This was my first attempt using my free-motion foot and I found it quite challenging, still it did the job and the end result is a very stable patch.

To cover the unsightly mess on the outside, I decided to go with a Japanese theme and so embroidered my son’s name in Katakana (alphabet). The attempt was to emulate the use of lettering in Japanese art, a bit like this…

 

251r53f (This lettering is Kanji alphabet and my son’s name doesn’t really translate, so Katakana was used) and this is what we ended up with

katakana Huw his name only has three letters (phew!).

So, here we are, the final result. Unfortunately, the navy fabric is a knit (pilfered from my stash), so there was a bit of stretching when it was sewn to the yukata, but he is pretty pleased and I am just glad it’s over. finished yukata

 

The plan is that he is going back to Japan at the end of his undergraduate degree, he plans to teach English for year meanwhile honing his Japanese language; after that who knows- the world is his oyster 🙂

Busy, busy, busy and a book!

So my husband and daughter have gone on a road trip down the coast for beach, fish and bush. School has finished for the year and the long stretch of summer holidays is upon us.

I am home with my (nearly) 21 year old son and it has been interesting. The dynamics are very different when the mix of people at home changes 🙂

I am sitting here munching pepernoten ( two days late!) and having a cup of tea, it is nice to relax after a hectic weekend…I have given myself a long list of jobs to do while the home population is halved and I am probably insane for trying to get it all done, but hey?!

The front garden is tidied (although the marri tree is dropping leaves like there is no tomorrow), I am tilling and composting the vege garden and then leaving it fallow over summer. Summer used to be our most bountiful season in the backyard, but our neighbour decided to chop all his trees down and now our backyard is too hot to support any plant that needs a lot of water…it is a pain really, I miss growing stupendous lettuce and artichokes and my asparagus has just been pathetic this spring 😦

The Christmas tree and decorations are up, Mum’s art bag is completed (thankyou little Pfaff for sewing through 8 layers of upholstery fabric like it was butter!!!) and presents wrapped (to avoid snoopage by recipients)’ finally menu planning for the day has begun in earnest. As there will be five nationalities represented, I am going all-out ethnic! It will be an interesting menu and very unlike the usual fare found at an Aussie Christmas lunch (prawns and crayfish, ham and cold chicken, salads etc), I am going to try and make pirogi for the first time, they don’t look difficult, but we’ll see…does anyone have a good recipe, I am thinking pork (it is my favourite meat)?

Meanwhile, I have read a very evocative book. Do you ever continue reading books where you dislike all the main characters? I usually put them library returns bin pronto; not this one…

275982 This novel centres around a young teenager who has grown up in a very dysfunctional home, she ingratiates herself into a spartan Christian sect and what ensues could be inconsequential in the everyday, but isn’t within the rites of this group of extreme Protestants. The novel is takes place in the present and in flashback to 1969 when Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon. We know that there is something different about her face in the present because people find it difficult to look at her, but we don’t find out what it is until the end. This description gives away very little, mainly because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who might have a look at, my advice is to persist past the “unlikeability” of the main characters- it is worth it 🙂

I have a big pile of books to read over my holidays, 26 wonderful days off work!!! Watch this space, there will be no (repeat, no) reports of boredom from this happy little Vegemite 🙂

Cheers.

Fitting, fabrics, funky dolls and fabulous fruit

I recently spent a day doing a fitting workshop presented by Connie Crawford (http://www.fashionpatterns.com/), she had been brought for a tour of Oz by the Australian Sewing Guild (http://www.aussew.org.au/) which I am seriously considering joining.  Not to put the workshop down, but I came away a little disappointed and intimidated, everything was made to look very easy and it was all interspersed with hard-sell of said presenter’s products. The one thing I did want to buy was her pattern for a basic blouse block, but due to luggage weight constraints, she had limited stock and quickly sold out of my size 😦

Now I am not known for my patience in regard to sewing. I wanted a block and I wanted it yesterday!!! Fitting woven bodices has been an issue for me, I think partly because I just can’t quite accept that I am no longer the lithe, slim twenty-something I used to be. If the truth be told, I probably delude myself when it comes to measuring waist, bust and hips and consequently have issues with garments being too tight across these areas. At the workshop, we were measured by expert seamstresses with no emotional baggage regarding me at all. The measurements were there in brutal black and white (and it was a sorry sight let me tell you!).

So, I came home with measurements, a fair idea of how to fit (using Connie’s method) and no pattern to work with.

I searched through my pattern hoard and found a couple that looked like they might be malleable for some plastic surgery, but I then thought to myself, “I have a truck load of sewing books, there must be something somewhere I can use?”.

I ended up using a book my friend Janene gave me. It belonged to her mother and was published in the late 1950’s (we think).

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Janene said she thought I would appreciate the book more than she, so I was it’s grateful

recipient, it even has her mother’s name still on the cover 🙂

The book has very simple drawings, fairly typical of the no-frills books of the time, it also has a chapter on pattern-making and from this I made my block. I had heard of the mathematical method of pattern-making which supposedly gives you true-to-whatever-size garments and this seemed to be a version of that system.

P1030567 this is the pattern I ended up with (with muliple modifications because I am ridiculously reluctant to follow instructions carefully and mistakes were made P1030571. After said modifications were done, I ended up with this tremendously alluring garment block in a touching shade of “old sheet pink” P1030572

P1030573 Whoever thought such sexiness could be attained with just a few hours work (and yes, I said “hours”)? Despite it’s obvious lack of appeal, the thing fits very well, I still need to tweak the location of the bust dart, but on the whole, this is what I will be using to make tops and blouses in the future.

P1030575 These are my latest fabric purchases.

I went into Potters(some info here: https://bscperthwa.wordpress.com/category/fabric-stores/ ) to look for some spotted cotton jersey (to make another Tiramisu for work) and instead found linen in a stunning selection of colours. I knew exactly what I wanted to make with the putty-coloured one

P1030577 I have loved this skirt/pants thingy since I first bought this book P1030578

here it is in both guises P1030576 (skirt to pants with a few strategically-placed buttons- clever eh?).

I adore Japanese pattern books and have a few here at home, it is the fresh minimalist look, the natural fabrics and the gorgeous bodies modelling the designs (ahem- yes I know, they look different on a 51 year-old short and stocky woman, but hey, give me a break please?).

Okay, now for the funky dolls.

My beautiful niece’s youngest daughter was diagnosed recently with leukaemia. She is still little more than a baby (not quite two years old) and everyone is devastated with this awfulness. We all know that she has a good chance of recovering, but it is also true that she has about three years of treatment ahead of her and that her chances of developing another cancer when she is older are increased. It all looks pretty grim at the moment.

I bought these dolls some years ago as presents for my daughter, but she wasn’t that keen (we both love Kokeshi dolls, but these were a cutified version with did not appeal to her), I think they are gorgeous. Info on Kokeshi dolls can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kokeshi  These dolls have a little compartment underneath which holds a small scroll upon which you can write a message. P1030580 Lauren will get the boxed one and her big sister will get the one with pigtails (because she likes pink). I need to think of something to write in each of them and although both girls are a bit young to appreciate the thoughts, I know their lovely parents will treasure them, I just hope the message isn’t lost in the translation from English to Dutch.

Finally, fabulous fruit! The season for mulberries has been stupendous this spring, I have given away kilos of plump, juicy goodness and even made a batch of mulberry jam. Now my favourite lunch in this muggy, warm weather is prunes in cold yoghurt. I know prunes get a bad rap, but I have always like them and swamped in yoghurt they are just delicious. One problem…no prunes 😦 Off down the back to pick a bowl of mulberries and my lunch is set 🙂 P1030581

Off to tuck in now, see ya!