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In 2019, after three long, hard years, I regained my personal power. I hadn’t even noticed it was missing.  In hindsight, my dad’s death in 2015 rattled me far more than I realised at the time.

In 2019, I found my way again. And as we close out the year, I’m feeling strong. As I told my darling niece recently, I finally feel like the person I’ve always wanted to be. It hasn’t, as Pete pointed out recently, made me more likeable. I’m more vocal and opinionated, and often angrier about everything from climate change to social justice. But I refuse to be piss-weak anymore, because I’ve realised how important it is to try to be an instrument of change, rather than simply waiting for higher powers, governmental or divine, to effect change for us.

I also realised this year that, whilst I’ve always had an incredibly supportive family, by some miracle I’ve managed in my mid-50s to surround myself with like-minded girlfriends who are both powerful and empowering. You know who you are and you know how much I adore you. Thank you for uplifting me and enriching my life, and for helping me be a better person.

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt in 2019 has been this: at all costs, protect your personal power. Defend it against those who would try to take it away from you, either directly or indirectly, intentionally or otherwise. It takes practice, but learn to devalue the importance of other people’s opinions of you. Even more importantly though, defend against the BULLSHIT that your own brain will throw at you, which can be far more insidious and evil and damaging. Be alert and watch out for it constantly – especially if you’re prone to anxiety like I am. Get your mental racquet ready and when you see it coming, lob it straight out of the court.

In 2019, I learnt to like myself again. I made imperfect, noisy attempts to live more sustainably, to build community bonds, to get more deeply involved with charitable causes. I tried as hard as I could to better understand the lives of others, which necessitated lots of reading and a steep learning curve. It proved to be the perfect antidote to first world privilege.

Stay strong, dearhearts. Wishing you great happiness and personal power in 2020! ❤️

A friend mentioned recently that her daughter was saddened by what she saw as a widespread sense of apathy about environmental issues.

“I have an idea…” I said “Let’s have a sustainability working bee! We’ll get together and mend things and swap clothes and anything else we can think of!”

Over the course of a couple of weeks, the idea evolved into a fully planned out day. As I mentioned it to friends in passing, the number of eager participants grew, and so it was that 19 of us gathered together at our house yesterday for crochet and beeswax wrap making lessons, sewing projects, good food and great conversation.

I’d made a stack of cloth napkins, lace vegetable bags and crocheted dishcloths as gifts…

We served up a big cheese platter, smoked salmon, freshly baked baguettes and chestnut flour brownies. My darling friend The Norsk Nymph provided incredibly delicious gluten-free treats. I was having so much fun that I completely forgot to take photos of any of it except the brownies…

We set up the clothing swap in the hallway, which worked brilliantly! “Swap” is probably a misnomer, because our system was: donate anything you DON’T want, take away anything you DO want. All the leftovers have now been stashed into t-shirt bags for donation to the Salvos.

Maude gave crochet lessons to anyone who wanted to learn – I’d been to Reverse Garbage and the Salvos to source used hooks and donated all of my half finished balls of cotton…

Meg’s first attempt (in green) was seriously impressive!

I’d ordered a stack of beeswax sheets for the occasion and Pete taught everyone how to make their own wraps. He’s the world’s most patient man, according to my friends…

We put my sewing machines to good use and mended Cake’s vintage chenille bedspread and hemmed Ilaria’s too short dress into a top. Pete and I used a pair of old jeans to reupholster Bernie’s office chair…

The Norsk Nymph asked for a bespoke yoga bag, which came together in minutes from another pair of old jeans (it’s a basic reworking of this bag)…

I gave pilates instructor Meg a different yoga bag that I’d made earlier from an old umbrella skin…

Jenni was very happy to turn her old t-shirt into a bag. The sleeves then became a water bottle holder and a polishing rag…

I, on the other hand, was delighted with this gorgeous bag that she donated to the swap – it was the perfect size and shape for a crochet bag!

Perhaps the quirkiest request of the day came from Tara, who wanted a crocheted Christmas hat for her brother’s snake. Maude was happy to oblige! Tara was thrilled, but disappointed that she had to wait before trying it on as the snake had just shed its skin and needed to be left alone for a few days (she’s promised to send a photo when it finally happens!)…

Our Sustainability Working Bee was as waste-free and low carbon as we could make it – we used hard plastic glasses that I’d bought from Reverse Garbage in the late 90s. They get pulled out whenever we have a gathering of more than a dozen people. I figured out yesterday that a small melamine cleaning cube will scrub permanent marker off the plastic, which meant we could write names on them…

Our cloth napkins have now been in use for two whole years and they’re still good enough to use for guests (granted, my standards aren’t overly high – I’m happy so long as they’re not too stained). The napkins wash easily and line dry in a flash – no ironing required…

Finally, our newly installed solar energy system meant that even though it was 34°C yesterday and the house was full of mostly menopausal women, we were able to run the air conditioner on eco mode and still be off the grid! Yay!

The day before the working bee, I emailed my friends and asked them if they’d be interested in adding a charitable component to the day. I suggested that if everyone donated a couple of gold coins, we might be able to raise enough to fund a Kiva loan (US$25)…

And because I have ridiculously generous friends, we actually raised enough to fund four loan contributions!

It was truly such a memorable day, and I’d urge you all to consider getting together with your own friends and neighbors and starting something similar! Even if you’re not particularly crafty, just swapping clothes rather than buying new ones will reduce your carbon footprint.

It’s also incredibly rewarding to see the knock-on effects from an event like this – for example, we have several friends now discussing renewable energy with their partners. After yesterday, I think we’ll all look at our possessions a little differently, thinking twice before discarding or donating, and more importantly, before buying new.  And hopefully the younger folk who were here will have left feeling a little more optimistic, knowing that some of us really are trying to live more sustainably.

Let’s keep the momentum rolling towards a greener future! 🌿💚

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. ♥

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