Archive | January 2014

My favourite work dresses

I love a pretty frock.

And I find dresses so handy for work – feminine, easy to wear, easy to dress in the morning as there is no need to pick pieces that go together, flattering on me.

And here are my current favourites.

Wrap dresses hide a multitude of sins. You can loosen them when you gain a few kilos; tighten them when you lose those kilos. I wear tight sleeveless tops underneath to cover the cleavage that wrap dresses reveal as I find them more flattering than camis. Also I hate how camis hang and how they look like underwear. I never show my underwear. Well, I try. Underwear is for under, don’t you know.

And I love a pattern.

Blue wrap dress:

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Black and white wrap dress:

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Another pattern wrap dress:

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Now another look:

Stretchy patterned dress:

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A bright pattered dress, worn here with a jacket.

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Homage to the TV show, Dallas:

20140131-070930.jpg All padded shoulders (although my iPad is hiding the shoulders so trust me on this), matchy-matchy and geometric design. Take the matchy-matchy jacket off, and it looks like this:

20140131-071116.jpg Much better for our hot summer working days.

Some dresses without much pattern. White dress:

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Blue dress:

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Seven dresses that are on my current high rotation list. I have others. (Have I told you that I have 38 dresses, which is down from 42 when I started my Great Wardrobe Diet and Declutter at the start of 2013?)

Today’s decluttered item = a dress. I am still decluttering, on average, one thing a day. Giving a critical eye to all my dresses for the blog. Mr Sans bought this one for me. It was the first time he ever bought me clothing without me knowing or picking the item. And it was a big win. The material of this dress is now wearing in the way jersey does. And it shows the bulges in a way that is not flattering. So that mean I only have 37 dresses. (Makes up for the recently purchased dress! Lol)

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Reading Down the House – January

Following Dar’s idea of Reading Down the House, I set a list of books to read. Books that had even hanging around the house, patiently waiting for me. Problem is I keep acquiring new books, bought or borrowed. The longer a book stays on my shelf, the less tempting it is to read. Don’t understand why, that’s just the way it is.

Of course, I had to read a book not on the original list. I am a clubber – hip, groover that I am – OK, can’t fool you. I’m down right daggy and staid and in a book club. Our next book is A History of Silence, a memoir by Lloyd Jones. Quite apposite to my holiday this! Jones is a Kiwi and his memoir intertwines the Christchurch earthquake and his family’s history. His family is fractured and all that he has is fragments – are those fragments factual or just false memories and myths? As he traces his family he finds that nothing remains the same forever. (The links to the earthquake clear here.)

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I enjoyed this book – both for what I learnt about NZ and the take of his mother and father’s dislocation from other family members. Quite heart-wrenching!

I really liked Jones’ style, though the narrative structure is a bit disjointed (reflecting the way memories work). Can I share some bits that resonated with me?

…a dash of stoicism that began with a line of sea mariners and farm labourers arriving on the far side of the world to emerge in the from of my father. The stoicism seems to have stopped with him. It wasn’t passed on to his children, and in any case we would have shrugged it off like some foul and soiled garment. No, we don’t waste a moment if we feel our own situation can be made better by screaming and shouting about it.

Yep, that’s me. Pain and suffering is all the better if I can whinge!

Jones’ imagery is original and beautiful. When he visits his father’s home in Wales solitary houses appear “like breakaway republics”. He accurately captures how we see the world at different stages of our life. He describes himself as a pre-schooler whose boundaries were limited by the rubbish bins at the end of the drive when another pre-school aged neighbour broke out of his house across the road. A huge woman appears at the end of his drive. An enormous woman, hair on fire, eyes big and wide. As soon as she shouts the kid starts running on his short chubby legs. I love the ending to this escape: “It’ll be another year before he shows his face again.”

This month I did manage to read several from my list.

Maggie Joel’s The Second-last Woman in England is the tale of a woman hanged for the murder of her husband on the day of Elizabeth II’s coronation. I thought it was based on a true story, but it was entirely fictional. Don’t know why I found that disappointing? What is it about true stories that resonate with us? Even though we know that there are many sides to a story, and novels based on fact can be more fiction that fact, it still has that pull.

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Anyway, despite that, this was a brilliant read. Let me start by saying that except for Agatha Christie, I hate suspense. It is an artificial construct that stops me enjoying the tale, the character development, the language. Just wanting to know what happens in the end makes you read faster and miss so much. This novel solves all of that by telling you the central character is hanged for the murder of her husband. Then retraces why. What had happened to the nanny, the husband, the wife, the wife’s brother, the husband’s sister… Why did the murder happen? And why on the day of the coronation? Great tale! Barrels along at a cracking pace. Don’t be a bore, fetch me another glass of champers. Can’t abide this ghastly sherry.

Opps! Sorry. Stuck in the language of the novel.

Also read Waugh’s Officers and Gentlemen, second in the Sword of Honour trilogy.

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I read the first one here. Paradoxically, I found Book 2 less bleak but also without the humour of Book 1. It still points out the futility of war and the machinations of military life and the hierarchy of English society. Reading this it is easy to see Waugh’s brilliance. (Reading Waugh always reminds me of Clive James’ first book of memoirs when as a first year at uni he kept thinking, “What is this War that they keep talking about?” And if you haven’t read Unreliable Memoirs do so now!) Although I read this before, it was definitely worth revisiting (but will still be leaving my shelf as I declutter old paperbacks). Serendipitously, Waugh makes mention of the New Zealanders in Crete which prompted me to google their input – serendipitous because of my recent visit and new affection for all things Kiwi (except the accent – sorry and opps, no real place for this in a book review.) .

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a suspenseful thriller. An original story and a thrilling tale except I don’t do suspense. No, really, I can’t stand the point of a novel being to work out what happens. I want to enjoy why it happens, the language and style of writing, the character development. But if we are reading for what happens, all this is missed. I made it ’til page 75 before I looked on the Internet to what happened to the girl who had gone, Amy, the wife. Then I became frustrated waiting until they arrested the husband. You know, it is always the husband, don’t you? I can see why this has been a best seller and is being made into a movie, but it is just too Hollywood-movie-unbelievable plot line for me. I can see why most people will, and do, love it. It is a riveting read. If you like suspense. And unbelievable twists. And unbelievably clever but evil and revengeful characters.

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A trip to New Zealand – what do you know?

I am back, dear Readers.

And what a fine time I had. I loved my time in NZ, so much so I plan to go again next January. (Summering in New Zealand sounds such a civilised thing to do.) Sorry Jo, Tassie has been bumped down on my list of places to visit.

I learnt a lot too.

You may recollect that I said, despite its closeness geographically, economically, socially, politically, well dang it closeness in everything, Aussies know very little about our Kiwi cousins. I think this about covers my pre-trip knowledge (something about proximity that may make us blasé about finding out stuff, perhaps?):

  • They have earthquakes. And geothermal activity. Poor Christchurch was badly damaged a few years ago.
  • The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies were filmed in NZ.
  • Rotorua has geysers.
  • They were part of the ANZACS (Hence the ANZACS were ANZACS and not just AACS! Der!)
  • There are fewer people in the whole of NZ than live in the greater Sydney area.
  • Their game of choice is rugby – and they are better at it than Aussies generally. And their colour is black. As a person who doesn’t follow sport, I know that other Aussies will know more about individual sports persons than I.
  • Maoris are the indigenous population.
  • Anyone Kiwi who is famous, we claim, unless they do something wrong, then we say they are a Kiwi, eg Russell Crowe.
  • The Finn brothers come from NZ. And their song “Six Months in a Leaky Boat” was banned in the UK for a time as the Falklands War was on – morale and all.
  • Because of the size of the country, they were able to track and identify the French spies who blew up the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior.
  • Because of nuclear testing, NZ dropped out of the ANZUS Treaty for a while. LOUD CLAPS ALL AROUND FOR THEIR SOUND PRINCIPLES.
  • They invented bungy jumping.
  • One of their Prime Ministers said Kiwis migrating to Australia raised the IQ of both countries. (Ouch!)
  • When I was growing up, everyone who went to NZ came back with the green Tiki things, and I wanted one!
  • And they say “Fush and Chups” and pronounce six as sex.
  • And now, what do I know?

    Well for starters a lot more about their system of government, voting system and history. I am practically an expert now. (Go on, ask me about the early whalers? Or the Maori battalion in Crete in WWII. Or how many houses of Parliament they have.) The tours of the Parliament House and national museum were very enlightening.

    But here’s some other random things I discovered:

  • The air is so much fresher and softer! It smells like a meadow of freshly mown grass with hints of chamomile and wild flowers.
  • There is no quilt of air pollution hanging over their cities.
  • There are no creepy crawly nasties! Do you know how liberating it is for an Aussie to be able to walk though the bush and not worry about being bitten by a snake or a spider? It is second nature for Aussies not to walk in long grass at all. And as an Aussie you wouldn’t walk through the bush without being very observant. And in NZ you don’t have to keep fanning your face to swish away flies! Picnics or just sitting down on the ground in Australia are always a battle with ants. Not so in NZ.
  • The public gardens are amazing!!! On this side of the ditch we should just give up growing hydrangeas. They come in so many colours! And are so big. Both the shrubs and the flowers. My god! The flowers were the size of serving platters! If you only visit one garden it has to be the public garden of Hamilton. Fantasy land! They have gardens from different eras and countries. Look at the garden from Renaissance Italy!
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    Want to travel to another country? Well walk through this walkway:

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    What about their roses?

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    Even Mr Sans, who frankly my dears normally couldn’t give a damn was thoroughly impressed with these gardens. His favourite? The Victorian gardens and the Victorian Glasshouse:

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  • Kiwis are more civic minded than Aussies. Case in point, their public gardens. The Botanic Garden of Taupo is the work of volunteers. Other gardens and parks had evidence of civic pride, eg grand gates erected by people in memory of a family member. In Napier (and I will write more about this beautiful Art Deco town in a later post), buildings were being restored by local business people, and while they might be able to rent the buildings out, given the apparent vacancy rate, they might not. And even with the potential to make money, the buildings were being restored to such a high level of historically accurate detail, not just a quick re plastering and bodgy paint job. It was clear is was about pride rather than a quick buck. The restorations were like a gift to the town! Even the workers in the Info Centre were volunteers.
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  • They don’t seem to have the element of deadbeats that we have. Very little graffiti and hardly any rubbish on the ground. Look at this pedestrian overpass! Can you see what is missing?
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    There’s no cage or high fence over the walkway! Imagine that happening in Sydney or Melbourne! We have to stop dickheads dropping things on cars, or climbing over to do graffiti.

    (Why do you think this is so? Is it their smaller population? Their rather homogeneous population, with only two main groups? Their history? That they don’t have the disconnect that large cities have?)

  • Most of their houses are built from wood. OK, they don’t have termites, which as my current house is wood I live in fear of! But wouldn’t brick be a better insulator?
  • They take more care with their schools. Lovely new buildings going up, well maintained grounds and buildings. Not the decrepit dumps we end up with here.
  • They don’t seem to do trees. As in, the towns and suburbs are relatively tree-less, like the Western suburbs of Sydney.
  • Their telegraph/power poles are made of cement – as they don’t have quick growing hardwood trees.
  • It’s quite cold. Well, for someone from Sydney. Makes for a cooler, more pleasant summer but too cool for swimming for me. Though I did have a couple of quick dips. Except for when it is windy, then it is bloody cold, and it was windy frequently. I took 4 singlet tops and two long sleeve tee-shirts. Wrong ratio. But don’t be fooled, as I was, that the sun isn’t strong. The cool air makes you forget about getting sun burnt. Cover up! Slip, slop and all that.
  • Maori is spoken/written a lot. Wh is pronounced as f. Which makes for some immature Aussie humour about the towns that start with Whaka.
  • Yeah, they do pronounce six as sex, and I know I am immature but it makes me smile. Do you think it is because we are Aussies and are known to laugh at their pronunciation of six that we were put in room 6 in two different hotels? We only ate fush and chups once, with Mr Sans Kiwi cousin. Her son’s sole memory of his stay with us several years ago was our sons repeatedly getting him to say fish and chips and then laughing. Mmm! Do you think immaturity and simple-minded humour is genetic?
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    The impossible!

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    No, not the cloudy sky in summer inSydney. I have no explanation for THAT! Surely not natural, being Aussie an’ all. We have nothing but blue skies and sunny days.

    No, I mean how does a double decker plane fly. Surely impossible?

    Another holiday?

    Not another holiday?

    Yes, I’m off.

    Oh sorry. About to break into song.

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    Leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when…

    Opps. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

    Yes, (tongue firmly in cheek) the only reason I’m a teacher is for the holidays. Jealous? Then change careers.

    Where am I going, you ask?

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    Strange that it is so close but Australians know so little about this place. Up there with South Australia. No, stand corrected. No one goes to SA, and fewer know anything about SA history. Except the Barossa Valley. South Australians must be so happy the Germans settled there years ago. But I digress.

    Anyway, I may be silent for a while. Do they have Internet in NZ? Don’t know that hobbits have much call for it!

    Am I the only person visiting NZ who doesn’t want to go on a jet ski or Bungy jumping or tramping? Anything else to do? I’ll let you know soon.

    Old-school photos

    No, not talking about photos from my school days, but the sort of photo-taking devices used back in the day.

    Do you know how hard it is to get film developed these days?

    “Film?” you ask. “Like from a camera?”

    Why, yes. My decluttering has unearthed three 35mm cameras. Three! Not all at once mind you. I had two living in my clothes cupboard. Then I found a roll of film in one of those old tub things they came in. And then, while looking for something else, I found another camera with film still in it.

    One of the cameras needed a new battery, which I had bought years ago too and which was living in my bedside table. Another was one of those single use cameras one of my sons took to a school excursion 6 years ago. The last one found was a manual one, in the sense that you turned the film in the camera yourself with a little lever. Young whippersnappers will not know of what I speak.

    Older folk will remember how you took a maximum of two shots – no wasting expensive film and development. And the joy of knowing some family always composed photos to cut off heads or blur the shot. And then the anticipation, the angst of collecting the developed photos. Would they be OK? No taking a hundred shots, checking, deleting and repeating the shot until the participants are happy with how they look. And ah, the joy of remembering past events when the photos were as few photos were taken so the one roll would hold a host of memories.

    Anyway, getting the films developed from two of the cameras was one of those jobs I procrastinated and procrastinated. And then it became harder. Not only Kodak has gone. Most of the photo shops have gone too.

    Found a shop and got the film developed. Some shots were over 10 years old. The most recent was about 5 or 6 years.

    Still have one roll to be developed.

    And what about the cameras? I left them with the camera shop. Apparently older folk like the old-school way of taking photos and so are after these cameras.

    So my decluttering of two cameras has not been at the expense of landfill. The single-use one, unfortunately, went the way of disposable items – all plastic and off to the bin. Three cameras decluttered and one lithium battery decluttered from my home!

    Say goodbye to the camera I took on my grand tour of Europe back in the 90s.

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    Bloomin’ in the Heat.

    Just popped out to take a quick shot of two plants around my pool.

    Again, not the most sensible plants to have around a pool, dropping petals and leaves as they do. Still better than a thorny rose vine. But my real reason was, I wanted to experiment with uploading photos via my mac as opposed to using my iPad for taking photos and composing posts. So feel free to ignore this entry. (And if it doesn’t get easier, I am going back to the iPad. Have I told you I luff, luff, luff my iPad?)

    Crepe myrtle

    Crepe myrtle

    Star jasmine

    Star jasmine

    Well, that was easier. Don’t know what all that faffing about was for my earlier post??!!

    Stuff is entering my house!

    The last couple of weeks has seen more things enter my house than have left it. Definitely not frugal and definitely not environmentally sound.

    Oh, OK. I have bought things. But the inactive voice abrogates my responsibility.

    I promise I am not going wild.

    Let’s start with Christmas. After all, I cannot be held responsible for the gifts I am given, can I?

    Christmas gifts 2013

    Christmas gifts 2013

    So what do we have here? A set of Natio products (Australian made, not tested on animals and free of animal products), 2 pairs of Lorna Jane walking pants, 2 Jamie Oliver DVDs, Miss Fisher (readers will know I love that show) version of Cluedo (quite fun and part of my year’s goal to beat my family. My eldest always wins at Cluedo. He is too clever by half, drat him!) and Balenciaga Florabotanica perfume (my new summer favourite). What a haul! From my sons and husband.

    But wait, there’s more!

    Bath rest

    Bath rest

    My darling husband knows I have covetted one of these since I saw it in a catalogue. My one weakness is luxuriating in bubble baths with a book or ipad or both. And sometimes a glass of bubbles. This will hold all.

    Not so lovely but acknowledging my age is this from my husband:

    Glasses

    Drat! I need glasses for reading. But only when the font is very small or it is dark or I am tired. Still, I have always wanted a pair of glasses to look over the top of when wanting to discombobulate people. “I will give you a moment to rephrase that question?” These glasses will add to that look. Pity the first person that asks me a difficult question at work!

    Any more?

    Of course.

    Tea for one!
    Tea for one!

    This lovely pot came from a sweet colleague. It’s my new favourite for my weekend breakfast.

    And now the confessions come. On Christmas Day I had a few to drink. And my sister-in-law had a vintage hand bag. Well, I don’t know if it is classed as vintage but definitely over 30 or 40 years old. A Glomesh bag. When they were made in Australia. Bought on eBay. I loved it so went on line and stupidly bid on one. Then saw another I liked more so bid on that too. And “won” both. (Lesson learnt. Do not buy when you are under the influcence. All restraint goes out the window.)

    Glomesh bags

    Glomesh bags

    I still love the white one with the imitation Bakelite clasp. And the other one? Meh!

    I went shopping two days in a row at two different shopping centres. And bought these:

    So ends the Great Wardrobe Diet!

    So ends the Great Wardrobe Diet!

    A black singlet top, three tops for work, a casual skirt and a casual dress. Yes, I don’t need another dress, but it is lovely and so unlike anything I have. How did I go on the buying in Australia or other countries with sound laws. Sorry, not too good. I forgot about this in the excitement of shopping again, until looking at one designer and seeing all the clothes were made in Australia. Oh yes, I thought, I was planning on looking for this in my clothes. So anyway, bought two tops on special – the pink and orange ones from this range. Perri Cutton. Rest of the clothes were made in China.

    And three pairs of shoes – casual, party and work. I wasn’t going to buy work shoes but when I see a pair with a reasonable heel in a style I like, I just have to get it. All made in China!

    Work shoes

    Work shoes

    Party shoes

    Party shoes

    Casual comfy shoes

    Casual comfy shoes

    And for my goal of sandal-worthy feet, one of these:

    New toy

    New toy

    And as I got the DVDs, I just had to buy the book, another for my collection of 5 other Jamie Oliver cookbooks.15 min mealOf course then you end up with all the packaging:

    Packaging

    Packaging

    And jsut before Christmas, Mr Sans bought a new fan as one of our very old ones died. Kind of a necessity when you live with a hot summer.

    New fan

    New fan

    I need to stay away from the shops for a while! Think I will watch a Poirot or read a book by the pool.

    (BTW, this post has taken me forever to compose. I bought a card for my camera. One of my goals last year was to buy a card, use the camera and learn how to resize photos. I have a long way to go on the last bit. Writing and inserting photos from the iPad, even with the bodgy quality of photos, is much easier. The photos better be worth the effort. If only I knew how to decrease the size! Next time maybe. Please let me know if the photos are OK or too small!)

    New Year’s Resolution: Be a better, more gorgeous, healthier, organised, wealthier, thinner person

    Oh yes, and happier, kinder, less whingy, more erudite, calmer person.

    Basically I want to make everyone who comes in contact with me say, “Fuck, she’s got her shit together.” Or at the very least, “She’s bloody gorgeous.”

    My goals are:

  • Continue to get fit with regular walking, weights and Pilates. OK, December was a bit of a loss with the weights thang but will start again. Tomorrow, maybe?
  • Continue to limit sugary, fatty foods.
  • Continue working on protecting my back with a monthly massage and doing daily stretches. Dang! Haven’t been doing those either and my hip is giving me gyp.
  • Haphazardly and randomly decluttering things.
  • Read down my house.
  • Do my garden.
  • Sleep well. I have worked on this with great focus and improved. For a bit. But easily slipped into bad habits again. Now I am back to being a night owl with insomnia. I am not Margaret Thatcher (heaven forbid) and can’t get by on a few hours a night. So sleep is the thing. Possibly linked to watching less crap on the tele. Why do I think, “Oh, I’ll just watch this informercial again”? Turn the bloody thing off.
  • Get my tax done. I am not setting any other goals until I achieve this. OK, except for all of these here.
  • Get my mortgage down to under half a mil. That’s a reduction of just over $40,000 off the principal.
  • Cleanse my face every night.
  • Remind myself of the Four Agreements.
  • Buy a robotic vacuum cleaner. (I wish I wasn’t a woman of conscience ’cause the thought of a live-in maid of dubious visa credentials is so tempting. I’d give her weekends off and treat her well. A western capitalist pig with a conscience.)
  • Drink less.
  • Have sandal-worthy feet.
  • Go to Bali. Not the bogan, trashy area. A lovely, non-touristy, but-designed-for-tourists-who-don’t-do-crowds area. Sister, are you reading this?
  • Have more picnics.
  • Beat my husband and sons at Miss Fisher Cluedo. Or at least play board games more often than once a year.
  • Make use of my pool.
  • Yep, think that about covers it. No. One more.

  • Eat more fish. Well, try to. Maybe.
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