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THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED

A lifetime ago, our darling friend PeteA was wearing a t-shirt that my Pete adored. Generous soul that he is, PeteA literally gave Pete the shirt off his back. My Pete then went on to wear that tee for over twenty-five years – first for going out, then as a work shirt, and finally as pyjamas.

This morning, I turned it into a bag.

It probably has ten or more years of life left in it. And I thought to myself – if a simple t-shirt can survive three decades and two owners and still be a usable resource, then what does that say about fast fashion and single wear clothing?

And on the topic of t-shirt bags…we’ve now been using these for over a year, and in that time, they’ve become our go-to reusable bags.

Environmentally and practically, they tick every box:

  • they don’t require any new resources as there’s always worn out tees in our house √
  • they take just a few minutes of dodgy sewing to make √
  • they go into the washing machine and dryer as needed √
  • they’re perfect for takeaway/takeout because they’re so easy to launder √
  • they’re super strong and carry large, oddly shaped loads √
  • the wide straps don’t cut into your shoulder √

If you haven’t made any of these, I’d urge you to have a go! You really only need to sew the one seam at the bottom as the handles can just be cut and left unfinished, although I prefer to hem them.  There are also lots of tutorials on how to make them without sewing (I haven’t tried it, but this one looks good).

Here are the wee instructions I wrote last year…hope you find it useful! ♥

We’ve just spent three weeks with our friends in San Francisco! And as it was our third visit, Pete and I skipped the usual touristy sights and opted instead to explore the amazing vintage stores and markets during our visit.

Of course, “vintage” meant a visit to Haight-Ashbury…

I keep trying, but Pete’s never let me buy a WWII flight helmet from Held Over Vintage…

But I did score my find of the trip from Decades of Fashion! This 1960’s patchwork suede poncho was irresistible…

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We visited Stanford University in Palo Alto where my niece is studying – it’s full of magnificent old buildings including this ornately painted church…

…and some of the best icecream I’ve ever eaten, made from coconut cream!

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I had a delicious lobster roll at Treasurefest – a monthly market held on Treasure Island, the midway point on the Bay Bridge between Oakland and San Francisco…

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No trip to San Francisco is complete without a visit to Paxton Gate! This completely bonkers store continues to carry everything from taxidermy giraffe heads to rare fossils to quirky souvenirs. Insect chocolate or a dessicated pufferfish, anyone?

I was very taken with this knitted dissected pig but didn’t buy it…

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On our second weekend, we bravely explored the Alameda Antiques Faire. Sprawled out on the military runway formerly used by Mythbusters, it boasted over 800 stalls, no shade and no running water. We bought very little, but it was a huge adventure…

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We arrived the week before Halloween, which led to a mad scramble for costumes. The nice thing about the celebration in the US is that there’s no requirement for it to be gruesome or spooky – it’s really just an excuse for fancy dress. I found a Jack Skellington onesie in the thrift store (op shop) for Pete, and a mad hatter’s hat and bowtie for me – each piece only cost $1. My armadillo shirt cost a bit more, but not much. And in case you’re old like me and can’t figure it out, my friend Dan with the green hair is dressed as Billie Eilish…

It was difficult though to top the Ghostbuster’s outfit she’d made (and yes, that IS Bob Ross in the background)…

I’d toyed with the idea of a unicorn head, but decided that $30 was too much to spend on an outfit that I couldn’t bring home…

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SF always has the most amazing street art, none more glorious than the Women’s Building in the Mission District…

We also wandered through the Clarion Alley Mural Project off Valencia Street…

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We ate a ridiculous amount of excellent Mexican food…

…and spent time baking in Dan’s fabulous kitchen…

Lovely Obi Dog Kenobi kept us company for three weeks – I resisted feeding him for the first two days but was baking him his own meatballs by the time we left…

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Let me conclude with a funny story – we had surplus baggage allowance on the way home and I had this brilliant idea to bring kosher salt back with us. It’s often specified in recipes for smoked meats, but you can’t buy it easily in Sydney. And yes, I KNOW I have a lot of salt, but it’s slightly different and the “experts” all maintain that it clings differently to the meat yada yada. So I picked up a few boxes at Safeway for under $3 each. These didn’t fit into the suitcases, so we packed them into a separate box.

When I picked the box up from the luggage carousel at Sydney airport…dodgy looking white crystals trickled out in a steady stream from the corner of the box…

Thankfully, we declared it and border patrol let us through. We laughed the whole way home – it was an hilarious ending to a truly wonderful holiday! ♥

I penned this post on Thursday 10 October 2019, which was World Mental Health Day. It’s taken me a few days to be ready to share it here. x

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If you’re following our blog for a while now, you’ll know that I have an amazing life, filled with loving relationships and creative passions.

What you might NOT know is that I also have GAD – Generalised Anxiety Disorder. It waxes and wanes with life events (menopause is wreaking havoc at the moment) and on occasion, it’s tipped over into some pretty savage clinical depression.

Until recently, I’ve always seen my anxiety as a flaw, something that I was simply too weak-willed to manage. I didn’t talk about it very much. And then I started to see anxiety manifesting in the next generation of my immediate and extended family, and I began to understand the strong genetic basis behind my anxiety. And I realised that I needed to talk about it more openly, so that I could reassure those whom I love that it’s NOT a flaw. It’s NOT something to beat ourselves up about. It just IS. Once we learn to be a bit kinder to ourselves, it becomes much easier to manage.

As it’s World Mental Health Day, I thought I’d share that with you too.

If you’re an anxious bunny like I am, then I offer you my empathy. I understand waking up with a knot in your stomach for no reason, or overthinking a minor event into a catastrophe. I know that feeling when the worrying gets so overwhelming that you lie in bed and wish you were dead. Honestly, I get it. But I urge you to be kind to yourself – so much has been written today asking others to be kind to folks with mental health issues, but very little has been said about the need to be kind to ourselves.

In a way, having anxiety is like having poor vision – it’s not something you’ve caused or have any control over, it’s just the way you’re made. And like dodgy eyesight, it’s something you can compensate for. Find what works for you – for me, exercise, meditation and a supportive family unit keep things relatively even keeled – but understand that the anxiety is probably going to flare up again at some time. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean we’re weak or stupid or not trying. In fact, I think it means the exact opposite. We’re POWERFUL, because we’re dealing with stuff that so many people can’t even begin to understand.

Years ago, I had a friend whose young son had cerebral palsy (she’s still my friend, and he’s now a strapping teenager). He was high functioning and attending a normal infants school, but he would go completely crazy at 5pm every day. She couldn’t figure out what was happening until a paediatrician explained to her that kids with CP have to work very hard to hold themselves physically upright – something that able-bodied children do instinctively and easily. So by the end of each day, he was completely exhausted and just couldn’t keep it together anymore.

I use this analogy a lot for anxiety. When my anxiety is severe (and please don’t worry, it’s not at the moment), it’s like my cup is full to the brim (not in a good way) and any little thing can cause it to overflow. When this happens, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to function as usual – something that folks with calmer dispositions do without thought – and sometimes the effort of maintaining “normality” completely wipes me out. The difference now (as compared to most of my earlier life) is that when this happens, I try to be kind to myself. I don’t self-flagellate or criticise or get angry at myself. I just try to ease up my hectic schedule, get lots of rest, and wait for it to pass. It always has.

I’m feeling a bit anxious and exposed for having written this, but I hope it helps someone who reads it. If it does, then it was worth it. ♥

A story in two parts…

Part 1: Potts Point Vintage

If you’ve been reading along for the past couple of years, you’ll know that we’ve been trying to reduce our environmental footprint. And since watching The True Cost, we’ve tried to source our clothes secondhand wherever possible. Now that’s easy to do for everyday clothing, but what about the big wedding we have coming up next summer? It’s much harder to buy evening wear and suits secondhand, but we wanted to try nonetheless.

Thankfully my friend Anita, who is a style goddess, put us on to the wonderful Arnold at Potts Point Vintage. If you live in Sydney and love vintage clothing, do yourself a favour and pay him a visit. His shop is a glorious Aladdin’s cave of immaculate pieces from the 1920s onwards.

On our first visit, Pete came home with this bespoke suit, tailored in Italy in the 1970s from exquisite Ermenegildo Zegna wool. It cost us $249 and the jacket fits him like it was made for him. In present day dollars, the fabric alone would have been worth $2,000…

The following week, we dragged Small Man in to try on a black wool suit that had been too small for Pete. Again, a perfect fit and this one didn’t even need hemming! It was handmade by a tailor in Sydney several decades ago. All of Arnold’s suits are thoughtfully selected, carefully cleaned and in great condition, and his prices are extremely fair. Small Man’s suit was just $129…

It was almost too much to hope for a hat trick, but Big Boy was so impressed with the suits that he and Monkey Girl popped in the following Saturday. He found the most gorgeous formal tuxedo – made by Rundle Tailoring in Newcastle between 1992 – 1996 from Australian cool wool in a panama weave (with silk lapels and stripes).

Bronwyn Rundle very kindly provided us with the information (she was able to identify the suit from the label) and mentioned that some of the ladies who might have made the suit still work for their company. Rundle Tailoring continue to make their suits locally – one of the few Australian companies to do so. They’re definitely worth supporting if you’re in the Newcastle area and looking to get something custom made!

Despite being as old as he is, Big Boy’s tux looks brand new and fits him perfectly with absolutely no alterations needed. Arnold had just $145 on it, which is the price to rent a tuxedo for one night.

As you can imagine, we’re pretty excited by all this (as is our new friend Arnold). We honestly didn’t think we’d find secondhand suits that would be good enough to wear to a wedding … and we’ve ended up with three amazing outfits far better than anything we could afford new (a contemporary Zegna suit starts at $5,000). If you’re looking to buy a suit (or a vintage fur coat, or a 50s hat, or a 60s evening gown), pop into Potts Point Vintage first. It’s really luck of the draw as to whether or not you’ll find something in your size, but that’s part of the adventure!

Potts Point Vintage
2/8a Hughes St,
Potts Point, NSW 2011

http://www.pottspointvintage.com.au/
E-mail: info@pottspointvintage.com.au

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Part 2: The Opera Coat

It’s funny how one thing in life can inspire the next.

While searching in my favourite opshop for a “mother of the groom” outfit (I’ve found it, by the way, but you’ll have to wait until next year to see it), I came across a badly torn vintage coat in the throw out pile. It was in appalling condition – the lining was shredded and the wool was badly matted. The shop assistant very kindly told me I could take it home if I thought I could do anything with it, so of course, I did.

When I got home, I instantly regretted that decision.

The lining in the sleeves was badly damaged (I suspect they’d been eaten) and there was some seriously gross crap (sigh…literally) in the cuffs which needed a vacuum before I could even go near it. The shoulder pads had turned into matted cotton wool. I removed the sleeve linings completely, then hand washed, then MACHINE washed, then tumble dried the coat. ALL of which are contraindicated, I know, but you didn’t see the revolting stuff that was inside the cuffs…

The wool in the coat shrank, of course. I didn’t dryclean it because a) it was free and b) I wasn’t sure that I could save it. Thankfully, the shrinkage was a good thing because it now fits me perfectly and the bouclé Astrakhan fabric has regained its sheen. (I’ve since found out more about the fabric from the Vintage Fashion Guild website!) I remade the sleeve linings in cotton ticking and then nearly lost my mind trying to figure out how to reattach them properly (I’ve never done any tailoring before). The lining needed shortening by an inch overall to compensate for the shrinkage.

Throughout the whole process, I kept wondering if I should just toss the whole thing in the bin. It was hideously gross at the outset. But the label “Milium Insulated Fabric” and the single button told me that it was a 1950s opera coat. Milium was an aluminium-backed lining introduced in the 1950s and only around for a decade or so. And I kept thinking about what an interesting life this coat must have had, and how I didn’t want to be the one to throw it away.

After five hours of unpicking, washing, more washing, drying, relining, restitching, hole-mending, and defluffing, I stepped back and took a look … and as if by magic, this incredibly glamorous coat suddenly appeared…

It’s now 100% clean, gorgeously retro and I believe it’s 60-70 years old. I’ve quite literally rescued it from landfill, which makes me incredibly happy!

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Are you a lover of vintage clothing too?
If so, please tell me about your favourite pieces! ♥

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Have I mentioned recently how much I love Kiva?

I’ve been micro lending through this wonderful organisation for over ten years now (here’s the post I wrote in 2009). Kiva provides small loans to people who might otherwise be unable to access funds. We lenders contribute in lots of US$25 – it’s really very small scale.

I say “lend” because even though we don’t earn any interest, the principal is repaid whenever possible. (Kiva doesn’t charge any interest, but its field partners do to cover operating costs. The amount of interest charged is carefully monitored by Kiva).

Over the last decade, I’ve lost a tiny $1.04 in currency exchange and had no loans default. The average lender ends up with a default rate of just 1.70%. To be honest though, I really don’t care if folks can’t pay it back – the goal has always been to help, not invest. According to the Kiva stats page, I’ve lent to individuals and groups in 16 countries, with a focus on women.

The best thing about the system is that I’ve been able to lend far more than I’ve actually put in, because as the loans are repaid, I’m able to re-lend the same funds. My most recent loan has been to a Cambodian group who wanted to buy a filter to access safe drinking water. They needed just US$225 and I was one of their nine lenders.

Microfinance has had some negative press over the years. In its early days, it was touted as a solution to poverty, but it never ended up achieving those lofty goals. What it does do though, is make a significant difference to individuals who need just a little help to make their lives better.

If you’re interested to find out more, please visit Kiva.org. ♥

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