A call to arms.

Oh dear. It’s a Sunday. The weather here in south-east QLD is hot, humid, and very, very wet. There are no children about. This can mean only one thing for DH (darling husband) and me: shopping time!

DH has a problem with shoes. As I see it, he doesn’t have enough. Boots, lace-ups and one pair of thongs does not a happy wifey make. All those pairs of lovely shorts going to waste because bugalugs here doesn’t have a decent set of casual clodhoppers. The red Vans died about a year ago. But he’s still wearing them. They’re no good with shorts. And the white leather sneaker Seinfeld lookalike Nikes don’t count. He’s old enough to know that look died out in the late 80s along with puffy shirts and groomed mullets. And thongs are not appropriate for those casual lunch get togethers with friends at restaurants (this happens more often than one would think).

DH would disagree about the shoe quantity. But I’m a bit sick of him wearing lace-ups with jeans – it’s too much, people. He looks like my grandpa. Who died in 1979.

So today became an expedition. To the shopping mall we went. Apparently so did everyone else, but the Gods of Asphaltia were smiling on us today – we found a carpark first corner, about 20 metres from the entrance to our favourite mall. Huzzah!

This type of shopping often occurs after I have said something like: “that’s it, we’re not spending any more money until the house is finished”. It’s a call to arms. Into the breach we go, debit cards aloft and rampaging.

First stop Myer – there’s a shoe sale. DH complains that all the shoes make him look and feel old. There’s nothing I can say. He’s 53. Thirty minutes later after some strong-arm tactics by yours truly we’ve found him the perfect set of tan boat shoes and we’re off. boatshoes1


My turn next. It’s makeup at 30 paces (and a gift bag, awww) followed by three pairs of shoes for 3 different occasions. And it’s a sale. 50% off, folks. We’re killing it! Stopping briefly to refuel with a salad and a delicious hot cinnamon doughnut (mmm, doughnuts) we continue to work tops for me and finish the day with a triumphal purchase of champagne flutes at 40% off.

Well done, all! A champion three hours spending money. And home to quiet repose.

TV watching may be next, perhaps I’ll make scones with lashings of cream and jam, and we’ll have cups of tea. What a lovely way to spend a rainy, rainy, rainy Sunday.






I’ve been waking very early of late or in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep, and I wonder if it’s because of the ongoing low-level anxiety that writing one’s PhD seems to engender in me. 5 years of low-level anxiety – I wonder how I will feel once I’ve finished? I’ve read that people often feel emotionally exhausted and drained, and are beyond all point of caring about their research when they submit. My main desire is to stop the mental battle between doing my work and feeling like a stupid fraud for even trying. Or my early waking could just be that we live on a busy street and I’m waking to morning traffic noise. Yes. That’s it.

My worst enemy is still my busy schedule, but if I’m waking early why am I not doing a quick read of a research text or other light entertainment? I assume it’s because teaching is SO exhausting that I’m mentally wiped out by Friday. I’m teaching 33 hours per week, and half way through semester I’m feeling somewhat breathless and rushed and racing to the finish line. My private students are doing preparation for auditions, so it’s a busy time of year. There are organizational elements to my work that have always terrified me such as concert preparation – marshalling the troops causes me great anxiety. I’ve the end-of-year concert to plan and eisteddfods to prepare for and singing exams for my students to prepare as well. And that’s just my private practice. My uni work includes a bunch of other stuff that requires careful time management. No wonder my PhD gets pushed to the side! However, last Friday, when I could (and should) have stayed home and studied, I went shopping. Clothes shopping. What does this say about my priorities?! Still, I now have a decent wardrobe and only want for a few more things. Like another pair of black dress shoes, some new sunglasses (both fell victim to Poppy the dog), another black jacket, an opera jacket, more slim-line casual pants…summer outfits…another handbag… (oops, did I say I like clothes?)

So, today I checked my timetable. I have blocked 3 hours for PhD work today and on Friday I have the whole day blocked out for study. That makes it 10 hours this week. Ok. I can do this. Breathe.

My Literature chapter is open, and if I start at the very beginning, I can see there’s a section on Cultural Psychology I need to flesh out. That is today’s job. Yes. How am I going to plan this? Well, in about 5 minutes I’m going to do the following things in preparation:

  • Set my computer to hide FB and email.
  • get out my Cultural Psychology books and open them on the desk;
  • get dressed
  • eat breakfast
  • go to the gym
  • come back, shower, change and grab a coffee.
  • at 10.30am exactly, sit down and begin to read and take notes.
  • 3 hours later, at 1.30pm grab some lunch and prepare Friday’s PhD work.

I presume this is the best way to do this writing jag. Not sure, not really having prepared my study in this way before, although I’ve managed to write much of my PhD regardless. It’s an experiment to see if I can stay to task. If I can do this today and Friday, then it’s my approach for the next 6 months. Because if I can prioritise and manage my uni work, my private business and our finances, I can certainly manage my PhD.

So, breathless and a little afraid, here I go.



Buying “investment” clothes – is it a crock?

Taking some time off teaching and writing and cleaning (it’s called enjoying my weekend), I got to musing about clothes. As you know I’ve lost quite a bit of weight lately, and my more recent purchases prior to the weight loss no longer fit me. I’ve recently had to throw out most of my old clothes, including those I used to wear when I was a young thin thing.

While I still have some workday clothes I am aware of having very few lovely clothes to wear to functions, including dress pants and shirts. Little black dress? Last year I had three good ones. This year: a ten-year-old Table 8 linen shift; and an Esprit knit jersey bought 1 month ago.

Living in humid, steamy QLD means clothes become old very fast. They lose shape, need frequent washing and frequent replacing. Leather goes mouldy, cotton mildewy. In my old life I used to buy clothes almost as long-term investments – I would wear a favourite piece for several years until it fell apart or just became too shabby, but here I can’t – the clothes just don’t last more than a couple of summers. It makes life quite expensive, and I find myself buying a “uniform” of clothing usually consisting of stripy shirts and plain pants, and the occasional wrap dress because at least they’re affordable and replaceable.

Sometimes I dream of being able to buy whatever clothing takes my fancy, including the gorgeous expensive stuff from top designers, but I can rarely afford it. Except every few years. When I buy shoes.

Last night hubby and I went to a do, as we do, and I pulled out my new knit jersey dress and my 5 year old black patent leather Salvatore Ferragamo pumps. They cost me about $AU300 on sale in a wonderful shoe shop in Paris on Rue Capuchin (in Australia 2 years later they retailed at $AU700). I’ve worn them about 10 times a year and this morning I gave them a quick clean and lo – they came up looking wonderful again:


At the time of purchase I called them my “investment” shoes. Hubby laughed, but I was serious. There are certain clothes I buy because I believe they will last a long time, and are timeless fashion. The cost of the shoes means that I spend time looking after them, including regular cleaning, and storing in their original box. With cheaper shoes I am less inclined to do this, but buying these first really expensive shoes has taught me the meaning of quality and care, and they suit most evening clothes. Consequently, my expensive shoes, sober in colour and design, are certainly investment shoes if they can last this long, look this good, and have another ten years of wear in them.

I wonder if men buy investment clothes? Are good Italian cloth suits investments? Should I call them investment garments at all? Because they don’t make me any money, that’s for sure! But I wear these good quality clothes to make a good impression, to look my best at functions where I need to be seen. Which surely makes the purchase of expensive clothing worthwhile, when it can be worn time and again and still look fabulous. Certainly saves the purchase of cheaper stuff year in year out. Except that, darn it, I still buy cheaper stuff year in year out!

I bought new clothes!

I did it. A month earlier than planned, but I did it. I bought new clothes. One of the reasons for this is that I currently have 1 pair of jeans that fit me, 2 Bettina Liano jackets, jocks, socks and shoes. And that’s it. None of my other clothes fit. Not a jot.

I need new clothes. I really really do. When I moved to the bright, hot and sunny climes of Queensland 5 years ago, I bought lots of medium sized cotton shorts and t-shirts, all size 11 or 12. I was  about 6 kgs or 12 lbs heavier than I am now, and on my frame that makes a big difference to my waist size. I didn’t feel particularly large, but I wasn’t the slim me anymore.

Over the last 5 years I added another 5 kgs or 10lbs to my 5’5″ frame, and my dress size slowly crept up from an easy size 10 to an uncomfortable size 12. So when I went shopping for a summer dress at Christmas, I was thrilled to find I was back in a size 10. And none of the clothes I have bought since moving to Qld fit me. They are all cinched in at the waist, saggy round the bum, and frankly they just look too big.

Buying a few new clothes today made me feel really really good. I went in the department store, and I picked out size 10 and 8 clothes (size 8 and 6 in the US) and when I checked myself out in the mirrors, I looked hot. I really did. Normally those appalling lights in the dressing rooms pick out all the sags, folds, creases, lumps and bumps, but today I realised I don’t have too many of those any more! I have a waist, I have boobs, I have a round bum and curvy legs, and I have an hourglass figure again!

I’m looking forward to getting rid of even more fat but I’m so thrilled with where I’m at right now. I’m not super skinny but I’m no longer bulgy. I don’t have much of a muffin top, or back fat anymore. It’s a great feeling to feel so fit and strong, and know that I did this without taking diet pills or medication or starving myself on a really dumb diet.

Today, prior to shopping, I went to a yoga class, and I went swimming, and then I wandered round the mall for 3.5 hours with no makeup, wet hair and in my sad old gym clothes, AND I STILL LOOKED AND FELT GOOD. Funny how making my body a better house for my soul has made me feel happier, huh?!

One for him, one for me, one for her, one for me: Xmas gift buying dilemmas

I’ve lost a few pounds these last 2 months: 14, to be precise. A stone in imperial measurements. I feel MUCH better. Although the last few nights keeping the food intake down has been a real problem. That’s Xmas for you. Anyhoo, so the DH and I need to do some Xmas shopping for the family Kris Kringle and we dash into town in between rehearsals and performance for a Xmas show. We pop into a few stores and of course there are very few people about on a Wednesday night at 5pm in David Jones. Can’t think where they all get to, but in the store they ain’t. This is one of the few times I regret NOT having a store loyalty card, because we may have gone a bit overboard.

I need to buy boy stuff for the brothers-in-law. I’m the shopping lackey on behalf of my youngest son, who knows not a jot about buying stuff for family. He needs to buy a wallet with a coin purse (who knew?) for his 30-something nuncle. Anyway, I’ve decided I’m the shopping QUEEN of hidden sales. I found the most divine wallet for my bro-in-law’s KK, sleek black on the outside, but FUNKY PURPLE on the inside! And a totally cool retro lining! And a coin purse! AND it’s Ted Baker! The price was more than double that of our agreed $50, but I spied a tinge of red on the OTHER SIDE OF THE PRICE TAG. It was 50% reduced! I ROCK!

Then, I call my sister who knows not what to get for her husband and cannot help me one little bit. She says, “he likes Deux Et Machina stuff”. Easy. He gets a funky hipster t-shirt saying “Temple of Enthusiasm” on the back, which describes him perfectly. So this shopping is done within an hour. Not bad. And the lovely staff at David Jones are sooo helpful – which is completely unlike the norm in this type of department store.

But oh dear. What can this be? We’ve stumbled into the Ladies summer fashion section. Oh dear. And I’ve espied something simply divine. A sleeveless cotton frock in stripes of mint, white and navy, gently pleated, with the most divine little waist, narrow white belt and tailored perfectly for me. I HAVE to try it on. DH conspires with me. He is NOT helpful. He pulls out an Australian size 10. That’s a US size 8, I think. I try it on. It fits. Not the it-sort-of-fits-but-it’s-a-bit-tight-round-the-waist, rather it-fits-perfectly-and-I-look-hot-in-it fits. I walk out of the dressing room, DH GLANCES up and says, “yep, you look hot”, then goes back to reading his phone email. “Really?” I squawk. “Yep. Happy Christmas, darling”. Quoth he, glancing briefly over his glasses. “You’d better get it. You look hot”.


Ok. I will. But I’m not entirely sure how we are going to pay for the other Xmas gifts AND the fence AND the tree stump removal at this rate. So it’s one for him and one for me and one for her and one for me: I’m a naughty bunny. But losing those 14 pounds (sounds better than 6.4 kilos) has made a huge difference to my waist line, and it needs to be rewarded. Doesn’t it?

That terrible limbo between clothes sizes

So, all my size 12 clothes are falling off me now. Maybe not literally. I mean, I have to hold up my pants with a belt and a tug, but hey! They’re mostly still working. Hmm. Yet, I’m not at the point where I’m ready to buy a whole new wardrobe. For one, I can’t afford it. And for two, I’m waiting until my size is at the little end of my weight loss. Which means, for now, all my clothes will have to do until next March.

This is very annoying. All my bras are too big! What does one do with DD cup bras when one has miraculously become a C cup? And my trousers are all looking rather shapeless, as my legs must have been not so long ago. Shirts – well, luckily my t-shirts just look neater. I’m just not showing the rolls of fat I was a month ago. Phew.

But this is actually a serious conundrum. I’ve not really kept any of my “thin” clothes, because I’d decided (about 6 months ago) that I was entering middle-aged frump and so best to get rid of them all. Besides, most of them were winter clothes for another, colder climate, and quite out of date, fashion-wise. They had been well worn, too. Off to the charity bin they went.

But here I am now, slap bang in the middle of my weight loss and health regime kick, 6 kilos down and 9 to go, wondering what to do about my wardrobe! Replacement bras are the most urgent item because without a well fitting bra one’s puppies run a bit wild and free. Escaping out of the backyard, so to speak. But I have quite a few regularly worn cocktail dresses bought in the last 3 years that will soon become too large. Argh.

Maybe I should go to Zara and pick up some cheap and cheerful fashion clothes to last me the summer? Maybe that’s the best idea yet. I mean, I don’t really need an excuse to go shopping, but unfortunately because we’ve decided to build a FENCE and buy a DOG, we need to count the pennies. And a clothes buying expedition just don’t cut it. Except for the bras. The sad thing is, I’d basically stopped buying fashion clothes because they just didn’t work on me, so I found a day “uniform” that I quite like (long capri style pants/jeans and stripy tops) and was content with that. Now, though, I see light at the end of the tunnel and I’m reminded that I disliked my body bits BEFORE the weight gain anyway. Sigh.

Still, planning my new wardrobe (if not the space to hang it in) will be FUN. Eventually.

Kicking goals part whatever

Last weekend my friend Cheryl (not her real name) and I went down south for a weekend of fun, frivolity and Sondheim. We certainly had fun! Frivolity was a little short on the cards and so was Sondheim. Sondheim postponed his trip to Melbourne to a more suitable time than the one we had booked but I’m not going back again – can’t afford it. Grrrrrr.

So Friday afternoon after an uneventful flight where I’m frantically trying to finish editing a PhD thesis (NOT my own, sadly), we get to mum and dad’s place. Straight away we have dinner to organise because it appears ALL the family are wanting to get together for a family dinner! Son number 2 comes over after uni for a tete-a-tete about how he might move out of his father’s flat, where he is mightily unhappy, and into my mum and dad’s place to board for 2013. We chat about it: mum and dad aren’t too worried about it and I think are actually looking forward to having him there. They do the strict parent thing, not really remembering that he has been an adult for a couple of years squeezed into a tiny room and forced to be neat and tidy. Son number 2 is generally a creature of neat and tidy habit, so their fears are allayed there. He also listens to music quietly, so that is another bonus. And he can look after the animals when Mum and Dad are away, which is stupidly frequently.

The next task is to tell the Son number 1, who will be forced to financially support his unemployed, layabout, sick father and his girlfriend. I say layabout and sick in the same breath because his dad is bi-polar but won’t get a proper diagnosis or do anything about it, and wonders why he spends six months in bed feeling miserable, and then can’t get a decent job because he has no skills because he can’t finish anything. Sad and annoying, mainly for his Son number 1.

So, it’s a family dinner. I’m thinking that we’ll do a family thing and then that will be it for the weekend, but no. All the sisters bar one turn up, children and animals in tow. It’s a mad house. 5 boys and five dogs under 4 ft. There’s screaming and yelling and dogs barking, my mum yelling at the dogs to be quiet (oh, the irony), champagne flowing and a wonderful evening to be had. Loudly. Luckily it’s all over by about 9.30 when my Son number 2 turns up after work and we’re able to have some quiet time together. Cheryl the friend luckily thinks my family is screamingly funny.

On Saturday we meet her friend in town for a get together, and house auction, and lunch in Albert Park. A lovely afternoon, and my boy turns up to have lunch with us. A tiny bout of shopping fervor, and then it’s Sondheim night. A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. His first solo effort. And a funny thing DID happen on the way to the forum. We’re on the tram, about to travel into town when a young woman has an epileptic fit. Quite a big one. She’s fine, by the way, but it’s 7.42pm and after a long wait for the ambulance there’s no way of getting into town by the 8pm start time. Sheesh. It looks like we’re going to miss not only Sondheim on the Monday, but Forum on the Saturday as well. We dash out of the tram and as luck would have it a taxi is passing by with its light on: available. We fling ourselves into the taxi and zoom into town, making the start of the show with mere seconds to spare, time to buy a program and sit down, gasping with effort and terror and hilarity. And then there was the show. Funny and stupid. Hilarious. Geoffrey Rush and Magda Szubanski and Shane Bourne and Gerry Connolly and Hugh Sheridan and Mitchell Butel.  Nuff said.

Afterwards we grab a drink at Double Happiness, hidden among the laneways of Melbourne, and then home we go. Mum and Dad are away for the night (I thought it was supposed to be for 2 nights, but no, it’s barely 24 hours – funny how she exaggerates).

Sunday is supposed to be a quiet day: a wander through my sister’s new house in Camberwell, a quick wander through an antique market then a drop in at my step-daughter-in-law’s 21st birthday, taking in the sights of Fitzroy as we do. No chance to do that. We turn up at 2.30 and can’t really leave until 5 for the sake of propriety. Father of the daughter gives a highly emotional and challenging speech about his daughter, who has had some serious mental health problems, and we’re all a bit aghast and taken aback, but also embracing this man’s admittance that he was not always there for his daughter in her hours of need (well, he was, actually, but I think he feels he failed). Poor Cheryl. The whole Sunday (well, ok, we rose late), taken up with my family’s issues.

Then it’s home for the next saga. Cheryl is having dinner with a friend and I have to take my son and his girlfriend out for dinner – I have to tell them Son number 2 is moving out and they will have to find an extra $7200 per year to live off. There are tears. I’m aghast. The catastrophising is amazing. There is blame and anger and tantrums and all at the dinner table at a little suburban restaurant. Urgh. So that’s the hard bit taken care of. The Son number 1 will meet me the following day and I will take him shopping (every time I come south I have to spend about $1000 just on my boys. It’s crazy). I go home and mum and dad are up, as is Cheryl, having a nice cup of tea. Well, after Jack Irish is finished the whole sorry saga comes out and there’s more agonising and discussion and I think my poor friend Cheryl will NEVER get to see Melbourne, or, more importantly, do any shopping.

So Monday finally rolls around and by 11am we’re off. And it’s a race from the start. We go to town, Cheryl and I, and we begin by buying EXACTLY the same shoes a size apart. Well, they are such a lovely 2-tone shoe! Then she buys a gorgeous off-the-shoulder shift-dress and I go to meet an old friend for lunch while she continues shopping. I meet Cheryl and my Son number 1 back in town 90 minutes later and we go to the QV centre where I buy some light clothes for summer, then we head off to Melbourne Central and Cheryl finds another perfect dress for the races – she looks exquisite with her new shoes, bag in the same tones, and a divine halter neck brown-spotted cream silk shift dress. I buy Son number 1 some jeans and then we head home for another small family dinner with my boys and the girlfriend. And it’s all ok.

But my poor friend Cheryl. I had been hoping that we would get to some sights in Melbourne, maybe even visit a museum, but no! Not a chance. My family hijacked the weekend. But it was ok: it was hilarious. And Cheryl is a trooper.