Sunday, October 31, 2010

God Hates...

Best sign I've seen from the Rally to Restore Sanity:

(H/T The Daily Dish).

Happy Hallowe'en!

If you haven't already, don't forget to sign up for my Nanowrimo writing group! The sign-up sheet is here and closes tonight. Those of you in other time zones may have started your Nano journey already, but, to keep things simple, I'll be kicking off the writing group on 1 November US time!

LOML, Mark, Mum and I spent the day out at Lake Travis, flying our kite and lazing in the sun.

My new saddle-bag got its first official outing, too.


Me and Mum.

Our well-travelled thrifted picnic basket.

There were nine or ten of these birds circling overhead - and golly, were they huge! A metre wingspan at least.

See you tomorrow for Nanowrimo!

Wardrobe Rehab Project Step 1: Culling

Following on from my post a few days ago outlining my Wardrobe Rehab project, here's the first step (look in the right hand side bar under 'popular posts' for the rest of the steps)

If you are like me, your current wardrobe is stuffed with so many different things and has such a mix of colours, styles, prints that it isn't always conducive to quick, easy and chic dressing. Therefore, the most important step on the path to an amazing and organised wardrobe is culling it down to a manageable size, with only things in it that look good on you, are in good condition and you wear.  To decide what stays and what goes, I recently did a huge cull. These are the steps I followed.

DIY Wardrobe Cull
1. I tried EVERYTHING in my wardrobe on. I took a morning out and hauled all my clothes into the living room (I find it easier to do these things when watching the 400th re-run of friends) and tried them on in front of a mirror.
2. I sorted my clothes by type and tried them on in order (tops, jackets, dresses, skirts, short and pants) to make it easier.
3. I made five different piles in the living room (you can imagine the mess) one for clothes to keep, one for clothes to sell, one for clothes to give away, one for clothes for DIYing and a final one for clothes that needed altering in order to keep.
4. I was ruthless about every item's wearability. I asked myself:
  • When was the last time I wore this? If I hadn't worn the item in the last 6 months (taking into account the season) I probably wasn't going to wear it again. I let myself keep a small number of 'sentimental' items as well as expensive basics, but most things I hadn't worn went out, particularly cheap items bought on a whim or on sale.
  • Does this make me feel attractive? If you look at yourself in the mirror and what you're trying on doesn't make you feel your best (wrong shape, colour or style), maybe you should get rid of it? If it doesn't make you feel good you'll be much less likely to wear it.
  • Does this fit properly? For each item I checked the fit by lifting my arms, sitting down, bending over etc. Bum crack or too much boobage is not a good look. I got rid of things if I had grown out of them, even if I liked them (oh the pain!). The likelihood of me being the same size I was when I am 19 again? Ummm slim to none. Perhaps you're different and you fluctuate in size, in which case you could allow a bit more flexibility here. 
  • Is this item out of date? Some fashions and prints will date very quickly and if you haven't worn it because it reflects a trend that has passed completely, you'll not wear it again soon.
  • Is this item worn out? If the item isn't in good condition and is ripped, stained or stretched, don't hang onto it unless you are committed to fixing the problem.
  • Does this need altering? If something doesn't sit or fit quite right but is well made and of good quality, see if you can get it altered or alter it yourself to make it more wearable.
5.  Do the same for shoes, accessories and underwear. Anything you haven't worn or used in a while or is in bad condition needs to go. Underwear needs to be comfortable and supportive (and cute) to be kept. Ditch any even slightly worn out tights and scruffy looking shoes.

Once you have done this properly, you should have left in one pile only things that look good, fit well and make you feel good. This is the basis from which you will develop a successful and gorgeous wardrobe.

What to do with the other piles you made?
Clothes to sell - for items that are of high quality and good condition, sell them on ebay, to your friends through facebook, take them to a clothes swap or sell them at a market or car boot sale.
Clothes to give away - for things that are a bit worn out and not worth investing your time in selling - bag them up and take them down to your local thrift shop or give to a friend/sibling. Try not to throw anything away in the bin because clothes can so easily be reused and not end up in land fill.
Clothes to DIY - I love having a bag of things that I can play around with and experiment various DIYs on. Make sure if you keep things that you have some idea of what you're going to do with them (refer to the rest of my blog for ideas!) and make some time to do it, otherwise they'll probably sit behind the couch collecting dust forever.
Clothes to alter - for those things that need a bit of tweaking to work perfectly, make time to get them to a dressmaker or to borrow a friend's sewing machine. Again, make time to do this and if after a month or so it hasn't happened - add these items to the selling or giving away basket.

I know it's hard to get rid of clothes you like, but if they aren't and won't be worn its best to remove them from cluttering up your wardrobe.  You can always give them to a friend or sibling if they are expensive - or put them in a box marked 'to give to my daughter one day'. Don't we all wish our mum had kept those amazing outfits she wore wear 30 years ago? I also kept a small number of items that shouldn't have made the cut because they meant lots to me - including a red cape jacket, a printed maxi dress, and a gold and black fitted mini dress, all of which I loved to bits in their day and couldn't part with.

I actually repeated these steps three weeks after the initial cull, because it was much harder than I thought to be unsentimental about items I hadn't worn, and the second cull allowed me to be even more bold about what I would and wouldn't wear.

Once you've done this all, congratulations, you have completed one of the hardest parts of the wardrobe rehab project and are well on your way to an effortlessly amazing wardrobe.  I've included a few pics above of the chaos of the cull when I did it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

All Hallows' Eve Eve

If you haven't already, don't forget to sign up for my Nanowrimo writing group! The sign-up sheet is here and will be up and available till 31 October.

We have yet another visitor from New Zealand this weekend - our friend Mark! We took him out and about in Austin today, and tonight we're all heading out to a Hallowe'en party. My costume is less than imaginative, but I'll take some photos anyway! It's strange to live in a country where Hallowe'en is a widely observed celebration rather than something on the fringe - we had friends in New Zealand who celebrated it in a big way, but that was certainly not the norm. I love it. Any excuse to dress up and eat sweets!

LOML contemplates a second pair of boots. Slightly less subtle than his first.

We stopped off at the trailers down South Congress for an icy drink.

I would love to know if the Popeye flavour has spinach in it.


Looking at the city from the other side of Town Lake.

Stevie Ray Vaughan presiding magisterially over the park.

DIY Inspiration - Tuxedo Dress

Would love to add a cute little skirt, in feathers, tulle, chiffon or silk, to a blazer or long line cardigan.
Net-a-porter / The Satorialist

DIY at home - photo display

So I don't usually post home DIYs, but thought I would show you how I decided to display the postcards I collect whenever I go travelling. Made some vertical wall hangings using some twine, and pegged the postcards on. Used a phase book on the bottom to weigh down the twine. So easy! And could work very well with pictures.

Pulling Onions

"Once upon a time there was a peas­ant woman and a very wicked woman she was. And she died and did not leave a sin­gle good deed behind. The dev­ils caught her and plunged her into the lake of fire. So her guardian angel stood and won­dered what good deed of hers he could remem­ber to tell to God; ‘she once pulled up an onion in her gar­den,’ said he, ‘and gave it to a beg­gar woman.’ And God answered: ‘You take that onion then, hold it to her in the lake, and let her take hold and be pulled out. And if you can pull her out of the lake, let her come to Par­adise, but if the onion breaks, then the woman must stay where she is.’

The angel ran to the woman and held out the onion to her; ‘Come,’ said he, ‘catch hold and I’ll pull you out.’ And he began cau­tiously pulling her out. He had just pulled her right out, when the other sin­ners in the lake, see­ing how she was being drawn out, began catch­ing hold of her so as to be pulled out with her. But she was a very wicked woman and she began kick­ing them. ‘I’m to be pulled out, not you. It’s my onion, not yours.’

As soon as she said that, the onion broke. And the woman fell into the lake and she is burn­ing there to this day. So the angel wept and went away."

--Grushenka's fable, from The Brothers Karamazov

Friday, October 29, 2010

"I am but dust and ashes."

I hope you've enjoyed a week of Halloween-themed posts. Death, monsters, ghosts, vampires. It's been quite a week.

I started the week with some thoughts about how Halloween allows us to collectively process our fears about death. I think this is particularly important for children.

The picture here is Aidan, age 10, dressed in his Halloween costume for this year. He's going as the Grim Reaper. I'm not too keen on the costume. It's kind of freaking me out. But he's excited about it.

Interestingly, Aidan is the child of mine that has the most death anxiety. It hits some kids particularly hard. Many of you parents can tell stories of the day your child first "got" what death was all about. You're tucking your kid in at night and she asks, "Mommy, are you going to die one day?" What can you say? You can't say no and you don't want to say yes.

This is a pretty predictable developmental milestone. The moment in our cognitive development when our powers of abstraction get to the point where the concept of death finally comes into view. It's scary and unsettling. Most kids get over the realization fairly quickly. A host of psychological, cultural, and religious defense mechanisms quickly swing into action to repress the onset of death anxiety. But for some children the process is prolonged and difficult and often incomplete. The anxiety leaks into adulthood.

I think Aidan might be like this. In this, he'd be a lot like me. So while his Halloween costume freaks me out, I get it. He's going to become Death this Halloween. And in doing so he'll externalize his fear and get some mastery over it.

Again, this is one of the functions of Halloween. Even for adults. Halloween is a collective form of memento mori. It reminds me of the old Hassidic saying:
Everyone must carry in their pockets two pieces of paper which we are to read from time to time as the need requires:

In the one pocket it shall read, “For my sake were the heavens and the earth created,”

and in the other pocket, “I am but dust and ashes.”
Halloween is a collective moment when we remember that we are "but dust and ashes." And, as the biblical witness suggests, this realization is not morbid but is, in fact, a healthy aspect of spirituality and faith.

In light of this, here is my final Halloween week meditation. It is a chapel talk I gave a few years ago on Halloween. It is a meditation on the spiritual value of Halloween as memento mori:
I like talking to dead people.

The trouble is, in today’s world the dead aren’t around much. It’s hard to find them.

This is why I visit cemeteries. I enjoy visiting cemeteries because I feel like I need to converse with the dead. I find it an important part of my spiritual life. The dead tell you things the living do not.

My favorites cemeteries are the Cities of the Dead I saw in Uruguay and Argentina. I got to visit them a few years ago on an ACU-sponsored trip. In South America, for those who can afford it, the dead are put in “houses” along streets. Over time the houses accumulate and what is produced is a whole above-ground city with street after street of houses for the dead.

These cemeteries were great places to find the dead. But in modern America it is harder and harder to find the dead.

Why is this? Thanatologists say that the modern era is characterized by “the pornography of death.” That is, the subject of death is considered to be morbid and inappropriate talk for polite company. Death is risqué and not for public viewing.

But it wasn’t always this way. We used to live with the dead. We were born in our homes and we died in our homes. Our dead bodies were viewed in the parlor of the home. The wake was in the home. We were buried next to the church or on the homestead property, in a family cemetery. And our cemeteries were next to our church, a building which also functioned as our school and the town hall. In those days, children played among the dead, church assembled with the dead, and the body politic deliberated with the dead.

But eventually the funeral industry took over. We began to die in hospitals. Our bodies were not taken home but to the “funeral home.” Cemeteries began to be displaced from the center of spiritual and public life, planted not at the center but on the edges of town. Tombstones were replaced with markers level with the ground so you could drive by and not know, not see, that the dead were close. Eventually, homemaker magazines noted that the parlor was no longer being occupied by the dead. So they reclaimed it from the dead by calling it the “living room.”

And so the dead were finally forced out of our homes, out of our lives.

And it began to be harder and harder and harder to find and talk to the dead.

But there has remained one lone failure in the communal hushing of the dead. There remains one exception to the hegemony of the living.

For there remains one public ceremony, one night a year, where the dead can walk the night and ring your doorbell.

Tonight I get to talk to the dead. And I look forward to it every year.

To invite the dead I'll decorate my frontyard to look like a graveyard, complete with tombstones that say RIP. This will make the dead feel comfortable to approach. And I'll decorate with caskets, not coffins. Modern coffins, during this era of the pornography of death, look like rounded, spaceage capsules. Coffins don't conform to the contours of the body, thus hiding, euphemizing, its contents. The dead prefer caskets, those elongated hexagons. Narrow at the top, wide at the shoulders, and tapering down toward the feet. Caskets take the shape of bodies. They know what they contain. So, only caskets, no coffins, for me and the dead.

Ready now, I'll welcome the parade of the dead to my door.

And the dead will come to my door as ghosts, spirits, and skeletons.

I’ll welcome the mythic dead, those vampires and zombies and mummies.

I’ll welcome the newly, gory dead with their blood and gore and detached limbs and misplaced eyeballs.

And I’ll welcome Death himself coming in the shape of movie murderers, those Hollywood incarnations of the Grim Reaper, the cold killer who cannot be escaped in slasher movies...or in life.

The dead will walk tonight. And it’s the only time we get to see them in modern America.

Which is why I consider tonight to be one of the most spiritual nights of the year.

Happy Halloween.
--ACU Honor's Chapel, All Hallows Eve, 2007

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Here's a few pics of my trip to rome. Beautiful city, and so lovely to get away from the crowds and into the little laneways and streets. Soo much eating and drinking of wine - loved the pan fried courgette flowers stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and anchovies in the pic below. The weather was beautiful, I lived in gorgeous leather shorts purchased off Iris of Fashion Zen's store.

Playing silly burgers

If you haven't already, don't forget to sign up for my Nanowrimo writing group! The sign-up sheet is here and will be up and available till 31 October.

You can't come to the States without going out for a really good burger. I took Mum to Burger Tex 2 on Guadalupe today for the best burger and fries I've found in Austin so far. I always over-fill mine with salsa and sauce and make a huge mess, and today was no exception.

DIY for the Southern Hemisphere - Shorts

For those of you going into Summer, DIY yourself some scalloped or lace hemmed shorts like the lovely Jessie of The Velvet Bow did. In both cases she made the shorts out of trousers, which is the best way to go! Soo pretty! See here for my tutorial for lace hemmed shorts.
Image: The Velvet Bow

DIY Inspiration - Embellished Collar // Cut Sleeves

Two of my favourite DIYs in the one image - genius!
Image: Pixi Market via Knight Cat

DIY Inspiration - Alexander Wang Dress Pants

Love these pants found on Knight Cat (one of my favourite blogs for sourcing images) by Alexander Wang. Very cool. Next time you wear belted trousers, attach the belt through the two front loops, leaving the back pulled high around your shirt (or bare skin). Put the belt fastening at the back.

DIY Lip Print Shirt

This lip print shirt, found on Anywho, is so cute and such an easy pattern to DIY. I am going to do one using  lipstick (or even paint?) and practice my kissing on a thrifted shirt to create the pattern.
Image: Anywho
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