Thursday, October 31, 2013

Always have something beautiful close at hand...always...


Always have something that feels beautiful close at hand.

For me, things that feel beautiful and luxurious can be:

Solid, heavy, smooth, like the beautiful paperweight my husband gave me for Christmas a few years ago that sits on my desk, or the silver pen my daughter gave me for Mothers Day, that sits near the computer.

Soft and silky, like Johnsons Baby Lotion, or my faux fur rug, or the baby pink yarn I'm using to crochet a rug for a new baby in the family.

Flowing and floaty, like the op shopped $1 real silk scarf I have tied to the handles of my handbag.

Glittering and bling-ey like the red ballet slipper keyring my daughter bought me at a fundraiser. It has Swarovski crystals all over it and makes me smile every time I pick up my keys.

Thick and glossy, like my stash of Vogue magazines snaffled at a garage sale recently for 50c each.

Organic and authentic, like the bamboo bristle and wood dishwashing brush I got last week.

What speaks luxury to you?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Luxurious passwords make you smile!

Todays idea is one that will make you smile, but it really is effective.

We all have passwords for so many things these days.

Why not change them, or some of them at least, to reflect your luxurious life outlook.

I've just changed some of mine to something that I think reflects my idea of living luxuriously for free.

Some suggestions (without giving mine away of course), might be:

The name of a favourite or dreamed of holiday destination and the year you'd like to visit it again.
A favourite pastime like 'Balletandtheatreeverymonth4me'.
The name of a luxury car you admire or want to own and the year you'd like to own it.
The name of your favourite luxury designer bag, scent or makeup.
A reminder to yourself like 'Dressupforme247'. In other words, make an effort to look nice for yourself all day, every day.
A goal like 'weigh64in6'. Or weigh 64 kilos in six months time.
Even something general like 'ilovediamondsandpearls', is fun and just makes you feel a bit spesh.

Go on, laugh.

But just try it.

I bet it makes you smile every time you type it in.


How badly do you want it....adding flavour when you're salt free....

Wow, this has been a really difficult one for me.
I pride myself on my healthy eating habits and we are very much a 'cook from scratch' kind of family, so we don't have too many nasties in our diet.
But my new found resolve to be salt and sugar free is a real challenge. I'm aiming for no added salt in my diet at all, and as little added sugar as possible. It's hard!
To be honest, the sugar has not been so bad. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, and on the odd occasion where I want a sweet treat, I'm happy with a handful of blueberries or a banana.
The salt is a different matter. As someone who loves to salt everything, and who loves salty snacks like Brie on crackers, and who has been known to salt a restaurant meal before even tasting it, it's an imposition to say the least.
But I'm remembering to B strong, as per my post on the letter B the other day. I've also had my moments where the devil on my shoulder has said things like.. 'you've got to B kidding' and 'don't B silly, a little salt won't hurt', but I've steadfastly ignored him/her. Little blighter.
So here's a list of things I'm discovering really help lift the flavour of a dish, without the addition of salt.
1. Fresh herbs are the number one way to add flavour and enjoyment to a meal. Things like mint, coriander (cilantro), basil, chives, rosemary, lemonbalm, lemongrass, spring onion (shallots), and thyme are all saviours on a salt free diet. Don't be frightened to use them outside of their normal recommended recipe variations. I've added basil to stir fries, mint to lamb burgers and thyme to Thai food and the world did not implode. And just cooking with fresh herbs is a sensory delight.
2. Lemon and lime juice. Fresh or bottled, it doesn't matter. Either of these are a fabulous replacement for salt when you need a bit of a flavour boost.
3. Spices are brilliant too. I can't resist a dash of ground Cumin, Coriander, or dried herbs to any dish I cook. They just add an extra depth to the dish. The Asian and Middle Eastern spices like Turmeric, Star Anise, and Garam Masala (which is actually a blend of spices and means 'top of the shelf') are all worth trying.
4. Don't forget a bit of heat to add interest too. Chilli, Harissa, Pepper, Cayenne...they're all brilliant.
5. There's good reason why there's onion and garlic in nearly every modern day dish. They're second to none in adding a bit of yum to whatever you're cooking.
6. Tomato paste, semi dried tomato, and sundried tomato can all give things a bit of a boost too. Just make sure the tomato paste does not have added salt.
7. Vinegar of any kind is salt free too. So, feel righteous in passing the Balsamic, Red Wine Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar or good old White.
8. Braggs, Soy Sauce, fish sauce or Tamari. I hadn't ever given much thought to whether Soy or Tamari (which we buy for The Diva as she is gluten sensitive) had added salt, or any salt. Due to their salty flavour, I just assumed there was salt involved. But no there isn't. Braggs is a new addition to our pantry, discovered at the organic supermarket recently. It's close to Soy Sauce in flavour but way saltier. The best way to dispense Braggs is in a spray bottle, lightly misted onto your food. It's a great alternative overall.
9. Oil helps carry flavour to the taste buds, so often you'll find a dash of extra virgin olive oil or really good butter, will be all that's required to elevate a meal to tasty. That's why sour cream or natural yoghurt work well too.
10. And finally, it should go without saying that using FRESH produce over frozen, canned or preprepared, will always give the best flavour result overall. Hands down. And the best fresh vege for adding a bit of a salty flavour sans salt, is celery. Yummy and good for you!
Enjoy the real flavour of your next meal....salt free.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Each day is a little life....the humble dishwashing brush makes my day just a bit nicer....

Well, someone has to do the dishes around here.
I got fed up with the scourer thingy on the sponge thingy on the hollow handled put-detergent-inside-it-so-you-don't-have-to-fill-the-sink dishwashing brush, falling off. They didn't used to be like that. They lasted. Now it's a week at best and the glue has come unstuck and the thing is a mess.
So I bought this one today.
It's so nice, I find myself looking for things to wash. It has an earthy, smooth wooden handle that matches my kitchen bench as seen above. The bamboo bristles are all kind of stiff and scratchy in a good way. It works brilliantly.
Especially now that I have a cake of original Aussie Sunlight Soap on a little wooden platform next to the kitchen sink and I brush the bamboo bristles across the soap and use it to clean the dishes.
 Sunlight soap carries so many happy childhood memories for me, as it does for many Aussies, that the scent of it can't help but put a smile on my face. But it has to be the real deal. The one found in the cleaning products aisle, not that imposter in the toiletries aisle.
The real one comes in a navy, red and lemon box with the distinctive Sunlight graphic on it. The soap itself has a little kewpie doll person stamped into one side, and the words 'so gentle' and 'so mild' next to it. On the opposite side is proudly stamped 'Made in Australia'.
When we were kids with snowy white blonde hair, Mum would wash our hair with rainwater and Sunlight soap. We always had the prettiest, shiniest locks of any family in the neighbourhood, so there must have been a method in her madness. Certainly no-one these days would dream of washing their hair with Sunlight Soap!

Monday, October 28, 2013

How badly do you want it..the letter B and how it's changing my thinking...

Who do I want to be?
How can I be the active, fit person I used to be?
How can my relationship with my husband and children and grandchildren be better?
How can I be that person that always makes wise food choices?
I am going to be that person. I've promised myself.
I recently stumbled upon this pretty Victoriana childrens illustration for the letter 'B'. It's accompanied by a boy and a book and perhaps other items starting with B that I can't see. Nonetheless it's quite beautiful.
I've printed this B out several times, and stuck it on mirrors and windows around the house.
Next to each B, I write a reminder to myself in permanent ink felt tipped pen. It washes off easily with a microfibre cloth.
I make sure I'm quite specific about what I need to do to 'B' in my personal journal, but abbreviate them for display.
B Strong by walking with weights
B a water drinker to hydrate my body and moisturise my skin
B a vegetable and grain lover to nourish my body well
B Healthy by making good food choices
B Active by walking 30 minutes twice a day
B Energetic by playing with the dog
B toned by doing my crunches and lunges
B slim by following my plan of action
B relaxed by doing Yoga
B more flexible by stretching for 10 minutes twice a day
B happy by spending 30 minutes doing something I really love
B caffeine free by drinking herbal tea
B sugar free by doing without or using Stevia as a replacement
B salt free by doing without and learning to enjoy the real flavour of food
B a Dancer by joining a dance class
B a Gardener by digging a new plot for my herbs
B a local shopper and walk to the shop
B proud when I look in the mirror even if I'm not perfect by a long shot
B a smart shopper by frequenting the organic food store not the supermarket
B proud of my new healthy habits
B proud when I walk an extra kilometre each day this week
Who do you want to B?
Can a few 'B's help you get there?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Every Australian Home has....

A verandah from which to watch the spectacular sunsets....
I'm forever reading that every French home has this, every Italian home has that, so I wondered...what does every Australian home have?
Here's my list.
A cake of Sunlight Soap. The original square cornered one with the kewpie doll stamped into it.
A bottle of pink Johnsons Baby Lotion.
Johnsons Baby Powder.
Jacquard bath towels.
A possum in the roof.
A nesting magpie.
A bearded dragon lizard.
A Eucalypt tree.
A gravel path.
Kiwi black boot polish and a wooden brush to use it.
Flying ducks or metal peacocks on the wall.
A copy of The Castle, Muriels Wedding, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Lantana, and Wolfs Creek, as well as Baz Luhrmanns magical three, Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge.
A bottle opener that has a souvenir handle.
A souvenir spoon from a small town whose name celebrates it's Indigenous heritage.
A tshirt proclaiming survival of a theme park ride or tourist attraction.
A fake gold nugget or some Fools Gold.
Half a packet of water bombs from last Summer.
Teatowels with a map of one of the States on them.
Steel wool with pink soap embedded in it.
A ball of string and a packet of elastic bands at least five years old in the third drawer in the kitchen.
A plastic Australian Flag left over from Australia Day celebrations.
An ANZAC badge.
A Legacy badge.
A Remembrance Day Poppy.
A flyer advertising a Melbourne Cup lunch.
A Lotto ticket.
Plastic shopping bags in a sausage like dispenser.
A Pie Plate with a recipe for Berry tart on the inner bottom of it.
A wind chime.
A shrivelled half a tomato in the door of the fridge.
An iconic Aussie album whether it's Slim Dusty, John Farnhams Whispering Jack or Cold Chisels Breakfast at Sweethearts.
Boxes of stuff that no-one can bear to throw out, either under the beds or under the house.
An aluminium teapot with a coloured anodised lid and a knitted teacosy.
Bushells tea.
Dandelions and bindi prickles in the lawn.
Kookaburras and crows in the trees.
A bottle of Dettol antiseptic.
A Bic pen with either a yellow or clear barrel.
There were many, many others but as they were other peoples contributions, I won't list them here.
What's in your Aussie home?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Best Lemon Soap...and the winner is....

Hands down...Sunlight Soap is the cheapest, most comforting, has the best memories attached (Nannas washing, clean hair when we were kids), longest lasting, and most versatile. I make my own laundry detergent with it and love how it makes my washing smell so fresh.
But very drying on skin.
Most lingering scent, most lemony fragrance, most moisturising, well, really best ever lemon scented soap....L`Occitane. If I had to choose a soap to use for the rest of my days, it would be this one. It's fresh, crisp, smells like lemons should smell and is just so luxurious and decadent, I can't wait to use it again. It's also the most expensive at $17 here. But soooo worth it. I'll leave my next bar of L`Occitane out to harden for a couple of months so it lasts longer.

This one smells yummy and I love it's very authentic Aussie label. But I've decided I'm not a fan of exfoliating soaps. Too scratchy for me. Pretty scent though and well priced at about $4.

The Diva loved this one as it lathers beautifully and is very gentle. But the fragrance doesn't linger for long. A good one if you prefer a more subtle scent and the moisturising properties of goats milk and a good buy at $5 for two bars.
I'm off to shower with L`Occitane...and spritz with their Lemon Verbena scent afterwards.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Each day is a little lemon scent....

I love the scent of lemons. So fresh and clean. And what is day to day life without beautiful scent to surround us? From scented soap to shampoo and laundry detergent. I want it all to smell good.
Here's a selection of Lemon scented soaps I purchased on my travels today.
They range in price from $1 a bar, to $17 a bar.
Which one has the best lemony scent?
Which one has the creamiest lather?
Which one leaves your skin feeling softest?
Which one evokes the strongest memories?
Which one has the scent most like a Lemon?
Which one has the scent that lingers on the skin the longest?
You guess and let me know your thoughts.
 I'll give you my thoughts tomorrow.
I have no affiliation with any of these companies. It's just an experiment I'm conducting because I love lemon scented soap!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How badly do you want 1....

I made Sarah Brittons Life Changing Bread recently. This photo is my version. Sarah's photo and fab recipe are here....
I love it. It's gluten free, super healthy and I adore it with Macadamia Paste, which is like Peanut Butter only a zillion times better.
Strangely, this bread has changed my life.
I love it and it's earthy flavours and texture so much, that I have felt motivated to extend the healthy living to many other areas of my life. See my post here...
....on my new motivation to exercise. Read that post for context on what follows here.
So here was my morning:
Get up when the alarm goes off at 6am. Do not grumble..much. Struggle into bike pants and one of The Musician Husbands old shirts. Do not look in mirror. Try to touch toes with fingers or knee with nose for ten-ish minutes. That's the closest I'm getting to 'stretching' at this point.  Nearly give up the whole idea because I hate exercising before breakfast. Resolve to keep going now that I'm up. Drink a large glass of water...forget iced...I detest iced water. Eye off the coffee pot lasciviously. Get out Bircher muesli astutely prepared last night. Curse that I didn't use the million percent full fat but very yummy Coconut Yoghurt instead of the skim milk runny stuff. Eat it anyway. Squint at the sun as I exit the front door. Walk up the hill. Jog around the corner to the second house. Stop because I'm winded...crikey...who knew this would be so hard. Decide to walk briskly, swinging my arms instead. Stop that after ten minutes because it makes my dodgy shoulder hurt. Walk briskly, jogging for ten steps every 100. Feel proud until I stumble on a rock and hurt my ankle. Limp home. Promise self to do better tomorrow.
Now the bit I liked. My DIY Asian bathing experience.
Put the plug in the bathtub but don't turn the shower on, or get wet just yet. Stand in tub and scrub all over, with glycerine and raw sugar scented with Sandalwood. Glycerine and sugar make the best ever spa style body scrub. I scent mine with different essential oils depending on how I feel. West Indian Lime is another favourite, as is Jasmine Absolute or Frangipani Absolute. Turn on the shower now, and allow the tub to start filling (assuming you have one, if not, ignore this bit). Shave legs and underarms. Wash hair with Dove moisturising shampoo also liberally scented with essential oil. Condition hair with Dove conditioner, scented with the same essential oil. Next shopping trip, I'm trying that Clairol Herbal Essences Coconut one just because I love the scent of it. Sit in the tub with the conditioner in hair. The tub should have a couple of inches worth of water in it by now, so soak feet and toes, and use the last of the body scrub to give self a mini pedicure. Rub the very last crumbs of the scrub into hands and nails, pushing cuticles back as I go. Cuticles are really soft and easy to groom due to all the lovely oil and warm water. Cleanse face with home made Goats Milk soap for more sublime moisturising. At this point, on alternate days I'm going to slather my face in a masque, whether it be a bought one or a pantry one of Oatmeal and yoghurt or White Clay and Vanilla Soy Milk, and just soak for a little while. After the masque has worked it's magic, rinse off and rinse the conditioner from nicely scented hair. Get out of shower/tub, towel off and get dressed in a pretty summery top and some light summer jeans. Smooth hair with smoothing balm, and allow it to dry naturally. I have curly hair (contrary to my profile!) and the smoothing balm tames the frizzies. When hair is dry, pull to side in a ponytail and affix a large silk rose on a hair pin to glam self up. Do not apply makeup, just Queen of Hungary Water Toner, and DIY facial serum scented with Neroli and Jasmine Absolute, followed by Aloe Vera Gel. Brush teeth to the count of 120 with Colgate Optic White toothpaste. This is one of the few commercial products I've bought that really lives up to it's reputation. Awesome stuff. Yes, I could add Hydrogen Peroxide to Baking Soda and brush with that, but come on. The penny pinching has to stop somewhere. For me, it's Colgate.
Look in mirror as per instructions in other post. Not all bad if a bit flushed and shiny looking. Will do it all again tomorrow. With pleasure.
I wonder when I'll look different. I feel different already!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Living five star at home...

Each day when you make your bed, do the following:
Fold a bath towel or bath sheet in to a neat square by matching up the corners carefully.
Place the squared up towel on the corner of your bed or vanity.
Fold the two top layers down and square the point up with the opposite edge to create a pocket.
Into the pocket, insert everything you need for your bath or shower this evening.
For me, that's exfoliating gloves, facial serum and cotton ball for applying toner, a lavender scented towel sachet with ballet pink ribbon embellishment, deodorant, and body butter.
In the shower or tub recess, I keep my favourite supermarket shampoo, liberally scented with Sandalwood essential oil. Just because I love it. Sometimes I'll use Jasmine or Frangipani Absolute too.
 I use my own home made Goats Milk soap exclusively for facial and body cleansing. That is a true luxury and one recipe I will share with you very soon.
You don't need money to live Five Star. You just need imagination.
Keep it up. will know you're broke.

Each day is a little life....eavesdropping...

So, there I was, minding my own business, sunning my limbs at Noosa on the weekend.
Noosa is a premier beach holiday destination in Australia and home to some of the loveliest white sand beach in this part of the world.
So, there's me, slasher book in hand, slowly crisping myself to a golden tan, when I hear the strains of Beethovens Ode to Joy.
Yes, just a few paces away, nestled in the foliage surrounding a patch of lawn just large enough to house 50 guests standing around in black tie and evening wear, is a string quartet.
They're warming up the crowd for the impending arrival of the bride.
The Diva and The Musician Husband congratulate themselves on finding such a winning spot for the family, and The Diva proceeds to Pirouette and Grand Jete` her way across the sand as the next piece is one she danced to for her Concert just a week ago. And very pretty it is too. As is she, although my brain struggles to reconcile the surfer girl in Mambo bikini, with the ballerina gracing the stage last week!
It's late afternoon and there are several weddings in progress along the Noosa foreshore. Each with it's own little secret patch of lawn, and white sand just steps away with safe and gentle sea lapping the shore. An outcrop of rocks is a few steps further away, and another newly wed couple are clambering there, posing for that special shot. Unlike other rocky outcrops, this one is very safe, and free of crashing waves, likely to knock an unsuspecting bride from her feet.
I've loved being a bystander at weddings ever since we lived opposite a pretty Catholic church in my early teens. Saturdays were always spent, chin cupped in hand at our front windows, watching the endless parade of brides arriving hourly. The organ would play the Bridal March (variety on that point was unheard of back then), the bells would peal, the happy couple would drive off in their beribboned car, and another bride would arrive.
Late Saturday afternoon was always spent trying to rescue petals of confetti from the church steps as confetti had not yet been banned from celebrations at this point.
The Noosa bride had no confetti, no bells to peal, and no organ to play the Bridal March.
But I loved eavesdropping on her wedding all the same. From a discreet distance of course.
Blissful indeed.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wallow in luxury for the price of a drink..

I enjoyed this mocktail, spending several exquisite hours soaking up plush, for just the cost of the drink.

My husband and I enjoyed this sublime coffee and petit fours for less than the cost of a pizza.

This incredible sunset was enjoyed with just a glass of champagne and a bowl of crudités and aioli.

And these camellias came with tea in English Bone China and fine antiques and linen.
You can't live Five Star Frugal, unless you're willing to seek out luxury and abundance in other ways.
So go on. Put on your heels, your best five star face and hair, and an ironed dress and heels and see where it takes you.
Shopping Malls and suburban cafe's do not a luxury make.
Loitering in five star hotels costs nothing although it's gracious to at least order a coffee. Take a book or a glossy magazine and picture yourself waiting for Johnny Depp. You'll be less likely to be asked to move on.
Many antique stores now multi task and offer delightful teas and exotic treats within. I love that. It's like degustation on a movie set.
And sunsets and sunrises are always free. Drag yourself away from your usual routine and soak them up with a coffee or a sparkling wine.
Expect more from your life.

Confessions of a Dance Mum....Concert Recital Survival Tips for the Newbie....

It's that time of the year for most Dance Studios.
The culmination of a long years' hard work.
The Dance Recital...or as we call it here 'Concert'.
Many a new Dance Mum wonders what the blazes she's got herself in to for the first few rounds of Concert. It's busy, crazy busy. It's tiring. And it's expensive. Dancing, I think, is only third down the list from Dressage and Tennis in terms of investment of money, if you're into it in any sort of half serious way.
I didn't dance as a child, so I was hellishly unprepared for the roundabout of rehearsals, costume fittings and last minute notices saying 'Babsy MUST even up the ends of her double satin bows in her hair for 'Swingin' on a Star', and needs new shimmer tights for 'It's a Hard Knock Life! Also...more makeup!'.
They're kids, not warriors or child courtesans, right?
Here's a few hints and tips that have lessened our load over the years.
1. Budget for dance concert. Now this might seem painfully obvious, but most families I know, just don't do it. This means a horrendous outlay, just weeks before Christmas in most cases. Depending upon your dance studio, most costumes cost between $50 and $150 each. So if Babsy is engaging in most styles of dance ie. Ballet, Jazz, Tap, and perhaps Contemporary, Hip Hop, Lyrical and Musical Theatre, and a Special Interest item like a Comedy Cabaret one or the Can Can which doesn't fit any of the other categories, you're up for anything from $450 - $1500. Don't' laugh. You know it's true. So for most families, it's the Fantastic Plastic at this time of year AKA 'whacking it on the Credit Card'. Not this little black duck. NOOOOOO way. It's a direct debit into our Costumes account, from January 1 onwards for us. No matter whether it's $10 a week or $50 a week, it means the money is there.
2. Budget for additional expenses over dress rehearsals and performances. Yes you can get all righteous and take all your own food, and in fact we mostly do these days as The Diva and I both eat gluten free due to sensitivities. But it's hard to not cave in to a decent cuppa or some hot chips, and that might mean for 5 or 6 days or nights in a row. There's also parking expenses as many performance venues are in city areas, so toss those into the mix. And usually you'll want a photo or two taken by the pro photographer so factor in $10ish per shot there. Realistically, you're looking at anything from $10-$50 a day, and that's conservative.
3. Be organised. Don't be the Mum racing around trying to find size 5C ballet shoes, the day before concert. Give yourself time and source these well ahead of time. With any luck, you can source some of your costume extras on eBay or in the second hand boxes at dance supply stores if you get in early enough.
4. Don't spoil it for yourself. Don't watch every single rehearsal. Leave some surprises for Concert night. If you've seen it all before, it's not nearly as exciting.
5. Make sure your dancer gets plenty of rest. Most kids have at least one meltdown somewhere along the way, but early nights, where possible, make a difference for all of you. And that means early nights for you too!
6. I've found the cheap $2 costume bags to be utterly useless. A sturdy garbage bag is far more durable and keeps your costume clean and tidy. We find the scented pink ones perfect for this purpose. Cut the handles off neatly, and no-one even realises that they're in fact rubbish bags.  The stiff black ones used for larger rubbish collection are great too, but not as pretty. You can of course, make your own from recycled sheets or fabric. All you need is two rectangles stitched together at the sides, and along the top, leaving an opening for the hanger neck to poke through.
7. A mesh lingerie bag is perfect to loop over the hangers for accessories and shoes. It keeps everything together, and you can see what's inside.
8. Attach a photo of your dancer in costume to each hanger as a reminder of what's inside the bag, and how it's to be worn. A list of everything contained in each costume bag and lingerie hold all, is useful as a checklist at the end of the performance for all dancers, young and old. Replacing a hand made fascinator at the eleventh hour is not usually something greeted with enthusiasm or grace by the costume seamstresses.
9. Take low GI snacks. And make sure they're white or have as little colour in them as possible. For two reasons. You don't want your dancer on a junk food high, and if they have a spill, you don't want stains on your costumes! Rice bubble bars, plain risotto (in insulated containers), apples, green grapes, nuts and seeds, plain rice crackers and yoghurt in squishy pouches, are all good choices.
10. Take a deep breath and enjoy! It's magical to see your baby up there doing their thang. Have a ball and make sure you get a DVD! It's a moment in time that you'll never have again and you'll want to relive it in years to come.

How badly do you want it?

Early to bed, Early to rise, Makes you healthy, wealthy and wise.
Thanks to Pinterest, here it is... my new motivation to exercise.
The author of the following is unknown.
"Set your alarm for 6am. Don’t groan when it goes off and pull the covers over your head, get up and start your day. Put on a baggy top and running shorts. Go downstairs and pour yourself a nice big glass of ice water. Cut up some fruit and mix it in with yogurt. Add some home made muesli. Now go outside. Stretch for 10 minutes. Skip for 5 minutes. Jog for 10 minutes. Run for 10 minutes. Walk back. Lay out a towel on the ground and lie down on it. Do 50 crunches. Yes, they hurt, but they are 100% worth it. When you’re done, get in the shower. Use a nice smelling shampoo and matching conditioner. Shave your legs and wash your body. Exfoliate your face. Get out of the shower and let your hair air dry. Look in the mirror. Do you like what you see? If you do, good for you. Do this every day and you will continue to love yourself. If you don’t like what you see, do this every day and pretty soon you will. Being lazy might feel good at the time, but being active feels better in the long run.
How badly do you want it?"

Friday, October 11, 2013

Random Retro Recipe in a sentence....

From a magazine clipping of unknown origin in my Mums scrapbook. Possibly around 1970's vintage, from an Australia magazine of the time, such as New Idea, Womens Weekly or Womans Day, which were all full of tips for busy housewives.
"A lovely starter to please the fussiest of guests, can be made by simply halving and removing the pip from an avocado, and filling the hollow with a good vinaigrette."
My Favourite Retro Vinaigrette
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon each of salt and sugar
1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper
Pinch of Cayenne or Paprika
Combine in a jar with a screw top lid. Shake vigorously to combine well, and serve immediately. Excess can be stored in the refrigerator, but should be brought to room temperature if the oil has solidified, and shaken again before use.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Confessions of a Dance Mum... Part 1... Do's and Don'ts....

We dance. When I say 'we', I mean 'she' and I get to go along for the ride. Or is that the sway, or the swing, or the Grand Jete`?
Here is an introductory list of some do's and don't of dancing that I've learned in the last ten years:
1. One must volunteer. A lot. Ones' chances of having any inkling whatsoever of what the heck is going on, are greatly improved by volunteering to perform such mundane tasks as cooking the sausage sizzle, sewing beads and sequins to shiny lycra stuff, gluing things to things (said 'things' being stuff like beads to headpieces, feathers to bustles, glitter to shoes, and texture to backdrops), acting as bouncer at the backstage entry so as to prevent 500 Mums being backstage, with no paying audience to watch the kids from the front, and making mercy dashes to the pharmacy for Ice Spray, panadol, sick bags, jelly beans and strapping for ankles.
2. When one is volunteering, one must zhoosh oneself up a bit. Dance is all about the glamour and ones' child does not appreciate one turning up in ones favourite 3/4 denims, tattered and imminently comfortable and suitable for a 10 hour stint on ones feet type Birki sandals and tshirt emblazoned 'I HEART PARIS'. No. One must wear designer type gear and the latest in cute, strappy sandals even though ones' feet will be killing one after flopping around in these for aforementioned ten hours.
3. One must always be smiling and accommodating when volunteering. Even when it's 1pm in the blazing heat and another Dance Mums' little one can't decide whether they want Tomato Sauce or BBQ Sauce on their sausage on bread, and there's 35 other Dance Mums with their kids waiting for a Saus-on-bread queued up behind them. The words 'Hurry thyself up for this be not a life changing decision' must not pass ones lips.
4. One must learn fifty different ways to feed a starving Dancer backstage during dress rehearsals and concert, lest one have to abandon one's hard earned parking space, only begotten by arriving three hours early to the venue, to source sustenance. Therefore one must learn to make fried rice appetising even when stone cold, sushi appealing when at room temperature, and fruit salad in it's own juice in a plastic tub, sound like a feast fit for fairies.
5. One must derive ones own sustenance from caffeine in a can, and whatever the Dancer will not eat.
6. One must turn a blind eye, and the other cheek, when one follows the Dance Teachers instructions to the letter regarding number and placement of bling on costumes and not fret when one arrives to find that every other Dance Mum has clearly been up all night with the glitter, sequins and crystals, fixing these items to any vacant spot visible on costumes. One must not listen when ones little Dancer hisses 'SSSeeeee!' as an admonishment for not doing same as instructed by Dancer the night before.
7. One must carry breath mints, lipstick and mini perfume on ones person at all times. Preferred method of carriage being in ones bra. This ensures that one is sweetly and delicately scented and ready to kiss ones dancer when dancer exits the stage, so that Dancer doesn't say 'Pee-yew Mum, you stink'. Yes, well Mum just ran down three flights of stairs and back up again to retrieve the headpiece and tights that Dancer left behind in the dressing room, and which is required to facilitate the quick change side stage.
8. One must grin like an idiot the whole entire time that ones Dancer is dancing, whether for performance, rehearsal or exam preparation. Failing to smile, or even simply looking blank, results in ones Dancer rushing over and asking 'What's wrong?'. How does one say 'well, if I see one more Pirouette or Ronde de Jambe today, I'll scream'? One does not. One simply grins gaily, and embraces ones Dancer, assuring her that she is the most beautiful thing in the world and one's brain simply switched off for a nanosecond.
9. One must like ALL the other Dance Mums. One must not involve oneself in catty sessions on merits of other dancers or the parents of other dancers. Ever.
10. One must prepare oneself to forever be running out at the last minute for something. This will not be ones' fault as one is ever the organised Dance Mum. But ones Dancer will suddenly grow out of Pointe Shoes the day before concert. One's dancer will lose one tap shoe. Ones dancer will forget to mention that she needs fishnet stockings, or fingerless gloves, or a nude bodysuit.
We love dancing. Yes we do.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Home made French inspired Bralette with bandeau ties and frilled straps.
Fabric: Recycled bedsheet, offcuts of continuous curtaining, thrifted lace.
Home made French Knickers, also known as Tap Pants.
Fabric : Recycled bedsheet, recycled doona cover, recycled ballet ribbons and vintage buttons.
Leg openings left loose in preference to elasticised in the Coletterie instructions.
Time to make: 3 hours, including downloading the pattern, piecing it together and taping it, cutting it out, then cutting the fabric, sewing, and embellishing.
Cost: Nil.
More to come.
Live the Dream.
Shhhh.....they'll never know you're broke.

I want it all!

Paris. 2008. Riverboat luncheon with my beloved.
I want that.
I want the good life, but I don't want to spend all my time working to pay off a credit card, or earning a living in a high flying, and equally high blood pressure inducing job.
I want the nicer things in life but don't want to eat sausages and noodles for a week just so I can afford them.
I want a beautiful home, and I want to swan around in it, dolled up to the nines. Every. Single. Day.
I can do it.
Watch me.

Making lingerie from sheets...Yes you can!

We made this set of bra top and French knickers yesterday. We chose to use this set of instructions and template from Project Twenty Two...

They were both cut from a burgundy bed sheet that we no longer used as it didn't suit the bedroom décor any more. A pink quilt cover has been relegated likewise, to the sewing basket, and was used as the second toning colour in our French knickers. The lace trim on the bra cup is offcuts of a remnant of continuous curtaining, that I grabbed for a mere -60c at the local big name haberdashery. I love the remnants bin. You find the best stuff there for next to nix. Especially fab for projects like this that only use incy wincy bits of fabric.

I used ecru lace trim on the edges of the bra cups after zigzagging the edges, to save having to hem. Lace and binding cover a multitude of sins. I got a whole card, probably about 20 yds/m of it at the thrift shop a while back for just $2.50. This will be worn as a pyjama set, so in preference to traditional bra elastic and fastenings, we attached the bra cups to a bandeau which fastens at the back in a flat knot (we'll replace that with little pearl buttons and buttonholes I think).

This photo is not to show you the underside of my sewing. It's so you can see the pretty frilly straps.
For these straps, black elastic was resurrected from the bottom of the sewing box. I used long strips of sheet, cut on the bias, and attached using the 'stretch and stitch' method to get the frilly effect.

Matching French knickers were made using the Coletterie Madeleine Mini free-to-download pattern...

....which The Diva and her friend patiently printed out, matched up like a jigsaw, taped together and cut.

I ignored the elastic instructions, preferring to simply thread elastic through a channel for the hips, and leaving the legs plain so that they're more like a traditional French Knicker.

The little bow details were fashioned from scraps of ballet slipper ribbon which we have in abundance thanks to The Divas dance exploits, and little polka dot buttons from the bottom of the sewing basket. They sit on the sides of the leg.

All in all, The Diva and I are thrilled with such a pretty first time result, and you can bet we'll be making more and sharing as we go.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tutu much....

I was recently asked to design and make some costumes for The Divas' school dance troupe.
This was the prototype. This one is not perfect, and the subsequent costumes were finished properly and had other accessories added, but this gives the general idea.
A Geisha Girl Ballerina look was requested, and this was the idea I came up with.
A red tulle tutu, covered with a Chinese Brocade overlay which purposely doesn't quite meet at the back. This is to give the illusion of a bustle and is enhanced by the addition of a bright red, oversized Japanese Tissue Lame` bow. I manufactured the bow by simply drawing a half metre length of the Lame` through a brushed bronze buckle with inlaid diamanté. A fluffing of the bow and neatening of the tails was all that was required to make a rather gorgeous, doll like embellishment.
The teacher and the students were thrilled with the costumes, which elicited gasps of admiration from the audience when all 22 of them marched, in doll-like fashion, on to the stage.
I love making costumes, and I never thought I would. In fact, when The Diva started dancing at the age of 2 1/2, it was the one thing I vowed I would never do. I was happy to hand over the money for someone else to do all that fiddly stuff.
But that was back when Mr A, who has Cerebral Palsy, was still living at home and my days were a blur of work, home, Mum/carer duties and chauffeur duties, as well as tutor, confidante, and sometime sports fan, whilst still fulfilling many of the same roles for The Diva. There was no time for anything as frivolous as making costumes.
Mr A has now been living independently for 3 1/2 years, a milestone we only registered recently when filling out some fairly routine paperwork and what a whirlwind it has been. He's as happy as the proverbial pig-in-mud, he has a fab team of carers and things pretty much run like clockwork.
The Diva is older too, and can fend for herself in many areas that would have required my time and energy way back when, and I find myself with time to dream and imagine.
So this is my creative outlet. Costume design and making is not bound by the same rules as day to day garment sewing, and you can really let your imagination run wild. It's a lot of fun.
I don't know what the next project will be, but I'm looking forward to the challenge.
Is there something you've vowed you'd never do, and then found yourself doing and loving, somewhere down the track?
Do share....

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The lesser known Notre Dame...

I snapped this on an overcast day in Paris, in 2008.
It's the rear of the Cathedral Notre Dame, and how pretty it is.
No-one tells you that whilst the façade of this notable building is impressive, the back is just as much so, for different reasons.
There's a well tended garden, lawns, statuary, leafy trees and pretty paths.
I've often tread the lesser known path in life and found it beautiful.
Have you?