“Being fifty-something means I’ll keep practising until I get something right.
Here’s my third attempt at book spine poetry:
where they lay.
Empty cradles forever to remain
until we meet again.”
“Being fifty-something means I’ll keep practising until I get something right.
Here’s my third attempt at book spine poetry:
where they lay.
Empty cradles forever to remain
until we meet again.”
Being fifty-something, I’m old enough to decide what Christmas looks like in our house.
And so it came to pass that when I gingerly peaked inside the Christmas storage boxes a couple of weeks back, I saw nothing inspiring.
There were all the usual suspects collected over the years … shiny baubles, hanks of tinsel, tiny wooden nutcrackers, hang-from-the-ceiling foil stars, santas in almost every iteration you can imagine and trails of sparkly tree lights.
This year, I found it all a bit average … a touch tacky, bordering on gaudy.
So I closed the lid and resolved to have a different type of Christmas at our house. Just this year. Because I can.
I’ve been dreaming of a simpler Christmas with thrifty objects, hand-crafted decorations and a calmer, less consumerist approach. I’m thinking re-purposed, vintage, found objects (as opposed to Made in China, plastic, over-priced, mass-produced).
I’m not sure about the real meaning of Christmas, but I’m certain I won’t find it in those dusty old boxes in the storage room.
Most years we spend $30 on a real Christmas (maybe even $50 for a ceiling scraper). This year the family Christmas celebrations have rotated their way to other households and we won’t be hosting a gathering, as such. There will be less action than usual here over the yuletide. It seems over the top to buy and decorate a tree for what will basically just be Mr P and me. Instead, we will do without the mess and the fuss and see that the money finds its way to someone deserving.
As for gifts, we’re only buying for a handful, mostly via Kris Kringle arrangements. I’ve pledged to shop local, hand-crafted, re-purposed and/or vintage where I can.
Wonder Boy (the Economics major) will tell me I’m not doing my bit for the economy. I’ll tell him not to fret … I’ve done plenty over the years, and I’ll make an effort to rev-up productivity in the new year.
Instead of under the tree, we’ll stack our gifts on the fireplace hearth (it’s summer downunder) beneath this: our Christmas mantle decoration I made by over-printing vintage book pages, their ribbons secured to the mantle by my vintage brass lady bell collection.
The closest thing to a tree in our house will be this trio of thrifted pots I dressed up with fallen pine cones and (more) vintage book pages. Post-Christmas I have plans for the pots in the herb garden.
And today I fashioned this simple door wreath from rose prunings from our garden. Not bad for an incidental gardener.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here.
Simple Christmas. Just the kind of Christmas I’m dreaming of.
Because I’m fifty-something and I’m wise enough to understand that Christmas is different for everyone.
And different from year to year.
And because I can.
ALERT: boasty, self-centred, look-at-me post ahead
Being fifty-something, it’s mighty nice to get noticed.
There’s a lot of invisibility in this demographic.
I’m unashamedly excited to have been selected amongst the Top 20 websites for Over 50s.
I’m doubly excited because the judges have actually read my blog.
The gong comes courtesy of KwikMed, a leading US health (care) provider (one of two fully licensed online pharmacies in the USA). Apparently, they’re a big deal.
There I am, happily sitting at position number 18 of 20.
I’m in the esteemed company of 19 other gong-getters and thrilled to be there.
Still … I can’t help wondering how long it will take them to realise it’s just ‘lil old me, blogging away from my messy little office downunder.
I’ll take it while it lasts. Thanks KwikMed … and to all you folk who visit, read, comment, lurk and enjoy my little corner of the interwebs. Yes, even those of you who stumble here unexpectedly (and quite randomly) via a Google search.
Being fifty-something, I love the joy of exploring a well-loved garden even though my own little piece of the great outdoors is much-neglected.
You see, I’m an incidental gardener.
I wish it wasn’t so. But it is.
Most of the year my garden fends for itself, passing from season to season with very little attention. I like to think of my patch as Darwinian, where only the fittest survive. My plants know the drill – adapt to the neglect … or die. Many of them do keel over. Hardier types like the silver birch trees thrive under my laxity, growing tall and strong, and marking each turn of the season with precision.
I know many avid green thumbers who have a solid routine, gardening weekly (even daily) to ensure everything is dead-headed, weeded, watered and nourished. And I can see the results are worth the effort … lush, verdant lawns and flowers in bloom year-round in a coordinated (and perfectly colour-matched) display.
My parents were great gardeners. The Yates Garden Guide was pretty much their bible and they managed to balance fruit and vegie production with a fine (and varied) display of bush roses and some of the neighbourhood’s most spectacular hydrangeas.
My lack of gardening prowess was (I’m certain) a disappointment to them. I remember once, when we were leaving on a holiday, Mum asked who was going to water our garden. I just looked blankly at her … no one ever watered our garden when we were home, so no one would need to fuss over it when we were away. (I suspect she snuck by from time-to-time to secretly prolong the life of our shrubbery with a shower from the hand-held hose.)
My garden is more patchy than Mum and Dad’s ever was – straggly, unpruned roses and overgrown clumps of daisies. There are ferns growing feral in dark corners and clutches of unidentified creepers creeping from paver crevices and sneaking up brick walls.
My garden suffers from a lack of planning … and good timing. I have never managed to get the sweet peas sewn on St Patrick’s Day or the daffodil bulbs in by Mother’s day.
I tend to just wake up one day and decide it’s a gardening day. It’s an incidental urge that happens without reference to moon-based gardening calendars or, indeed, the Yates Garden Guide. Such “incidental” days occur every few months and usually involve a trip to the nursery before wheeling the giant green wheelie-bin-of-no-return to a nominated spot in the yard, ripping out something-that-once-lived and replacing it with something fresh and alive with the promise of blooms and foliage.
Today was one such day. All it took was a sniff of sunshine on a midwinter morning to have me outside seeking out the patch-of-most-neglect.
I didn’t have to search too far. The lavender hedge that lines our front verandah has grown woody, weedy and rangy. It always needs replacing every three or four years (and could well be a season or two behind that already). In fact, the whole verandah needs a makeover … but more about that later.
Today was incidental gardening day, and nothing would get in my way.
Off to the nursery.
Fill the trolley with healthy lavender plants.
Dig out that sad old excuse for a hedge and replant it anew.
My day of incidental gardening is done. All but the lavender hedge will have to fend for itself until the incidental urge to garden kicks in again (in another month or two).
Being fifty-something, I love an excuse to wrestle an ageing kitchen appliance from the depths of the darkest corner cupboard in my kitchen.
No. Really. I do. I wrote about my enlightenment on this topic over on this post: If it Ain’t Broke.
Ever since, I’ve been treating my Breville Kitchen Wizz with fondness and care (and praying that the karma gods acknowledge random acts of appliance kindness when they’re totting up the numbers).
Yesterday, I shared a first with my Breville Kitchen Wizz.
I know … astonishing that, after all these years, we can still find something fresh in our relationship.
In this case, we rekindled our closeness by sharing the challenge of whipping up some home-made hummus.
I’m a hummus fan, but have never made my own (until now). I put that down to not keeping tahini paste as a staple in my pantry.
But I do have chickpeas. In fact, I have a veritable feast of chickpeas since Mr P found them on sale at one of his secret retail haunts and made a bulk purchase.
I figured it was time to invest in some tahini paste … until I got intimate with Chef Google and discovered there are as many hummus recipes without tahini paste as there are with.
Chef Google surrendered his soul with a hummus recipe for which I had every ingredient on hand. I only fiddled with it a little. I promise. No shopping required. No fuss. No expense.
I reckon that’s too good not to share (even though I’ve said before that this is not [and never will be] a recipe blog … my family would mock me mercilessly given my lack of cooking expertise).
Let’s call this sharing a kitchen breakthrough moment (rather than a recipe).
Do with it what you will.
I can chickpeas (drained)
Juice of one small lemon
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon organic cayenne pepper
Wizz it all together (in your Breville Kitchen Wizz, of course) until smooth. Garnish with fresh parsley from the herb garden and serve with sour dough toasts (bread slices brushed with olive oil and lightly oven-baked until golden brown).
There it is … a three-way rendezvous on the kitchen counter: me, my Breville Kitchen Wizz and Chef Google.
The tahini paste didn’t get a look-in.
Being fifty-something, I’ve got a lot photographs.
Not the digital kind (though I’ve got my fair share of those, too). I mean the real shebang, The dusty old printed kind.
I’m shite at cataloguing them into albums (or frames) so they float around in boxes and tubs and tins. They have a life of their own in drawers and manila folders and assorted envelopes.
This one emerged a few days ago from a box of old treasures I was sorting. It got me thinking. It got me thinking a lot.
It was taken on a day we had invited a photographer to capture a portrait of Mr P’s broader family as a gift for his mum.
While the photographer was handy, we organised a quick sitting of our little family unit.
For me, it’s a real depiction of us at a time when we had really just developed into our own family identity.
We’d been married more than a decade. I’d learned to love (really love) beyond the confines of my own family. We’d built a home in the suburbs. I’d known the joy of bringing My Girl into the world, followed by the frustration of secondary infertility. There was a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy, drug regimes, tests and more tests before Wonder Boy arrived to complete our family. To say I was grateful just doesn’t cut it. Our wider family had been touched by the sorrow of stillbirth and I appreciated this gift of new life more than ever.
In the two years before this photo was taken, we had lost both our dads to cancer. I had learned to grieve and to start growing up. I don’t think you ever really start to grow up until you lose a parent.
I had learned about hospital routines, medical interventions, surgery recoveries, survival rates and palliative care.
We had sold our new-build in the suburbs and moved to a 1970s doer-upperer on the edge of a town with a strong rural base. We were chasing space to be ourselves and a good community in which to raise our little family.
I was learning to parent, to renovate, to make a relationship work and to make decisions that were right for OUR family.
Mr P and I were doing things no one in either of our families had done before. We didn’t move far away, but it felt like new territory. We were pioneering a place just for us.
Twenty years on and we’re still thinking and doing for ourselves. We’ve swapped the almost-rural-town for a 100-year old home in the city. It’s a doer-upperer, too. We’ve already been doing it up for more than a decade!
I’ve done a lot more learning about grieving, renovating, relationship-making and decision-making. I’m still stumbling through the parenting gig (even though they’re both adults).
But in my head, I’m still the thirty-something in that photo.
When it was taken, I thought I knew it all. I thought I was all grown up.
I had no idea how far I had to go.
Or how much fun growing up would be.
Twenty years on … I still don’t.
Being fifty-something, I can get a bit cranky (at times).
Like when I had a good old whinge in this blogpost about the current state of bricks and mortar retail. As I hinted, I was looking in all the wrong places.
Yesterday I had reason to look in the right place … and my faith was restored.
As is my wont (as a mostly window shopper), I had been lurking afterhours admiring the window displays at The Flower Dispensary for quite some time. When I stepped inside, I found the beauty was not skin deep. This fabulously styled retail space abounds in awesome – elegant wares, fun stuff, quirky items, fragrant smellies, shiny jewellery, paper-y paperie … oh, and flowers. The flowers!
Owner Lyndal Gubbins has invested her heart and her soul in gathering this collection. Her love of vintage (she’ll tell you it’s a family failing!) is reflected in the shop fittings and the styling – it all blends so well, it’s hard to decipher where the vintage ends and the contemporary begins. And why would you want to?
Truly, I think I could live in this shop.
With her team Michelle and Alice (who take turns on the 3am flower market gig), Lyndal offers a friendly, warm retail environment where you’re welcome to touch and smell and hold … things aren’t bound up in layers of plastic here; they’re real and genuine, like the people behind the jump.
I’ll let the pictures tell the story (mostly … I’ve been experimenting with adding text over images, so stick with me here while I figure out this newest digital frontier).
How’s this for a counter of goodies:
I’ve been searching high and low for one of these stamp sets in lower case (if anyone can track one down for me, Lyndal can):
Nestle up to this nook of nice things:
Brilliant (and great value) Erst Wilder brooches:
A wall of glass:
The latest window display:
Even a vintage typewriter for that genuine old typography on card messages (this photo by The Flower Dispensary):
Oh … and those flowers!
The Flower Dispensary is at 333 Pakington St, Newtown. If you’re in the Geelong region, call in and get yourself some REAL retail love. Yes, it’s alive and well. You just need to go looking for it.
Being fifty-something (and a writer), what I don’t know about procrastinating might not be worth knowing.
My mindful midlife perspective has put the spotlight on a plethora of putting-off practices that can sometimes fly under the radar (unless you’re looking for them).
Here’s a little nomenclature to go with it … a glossary of modern-day procrastination derivations, which you might (or might not) find helpful.
Carefully preparing a list of what needs doing appears (to the uninitiated) to signal an organised mind, a person who gets things done. In fact, the making of the list and the doing of the deeds thereon are entirely different beasts. These two animals rarely occupy the same timezone. (Refer also to: procrasti-planning and procrasti-collating)
Many a batch of banana muffins hides a dark secret. That inexplicable urge to get your Betty Crocker on in the kitchen could be a poorly veiled ploy to avoid another task (for example, tax compilation or ironing). Not sure where to start (or stall) with procrasti-baking? Check out this no-fail muffin recipe on my friend Alex’s Hello From Tassie blog and imagine the horrors you can delay until tomorrow, by baking today.
(No, not what you think). This one is most common mid-week, or mid-afternoon (on a Saturday). You’ll recognise it by the sudden sense that a friend needs your company. You drop everything (anything!) to rush over and check on your pal, stay for coffee, wine, a meal, possibly overnight … whatever it takes to get your mate through. She (or he) always returns the favour in what is now recognised as a chronic condition: “reciprocal procrasti-mating”.
Not just for wankers. A sharp rise in the appetite for this delaying time-devourer correlates directly with the popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Enough said.
This one is easy to diagnose by the excessive ratio of strategising to action. You can often spot the male of the species in the midst of a procrasti-planning episode at Bunnings. Look out for female procrasti-planners in fabric stores, furniture departments or endlessly browsing decorator sites online (some have been known never to return from Ikea). Joint procrasti-planning is a craft practised only by elite practitioners. It requires rhythm, precision and exceptional teamwork not to follow-through with the task. Look for husband and wife teams lazing on sunny decks surveying domestic plots for spots to develop no-dig veggie gardens, imagining rose arbours rising to impress the neighbours or sketching (sketchy) plans for formal parterre gardens. Procrasti-noting is now regarded as an early symptom of full-blown procrasti-planning.
This incremental approach to procrastinating is an easy entry point for novices to dip their toes into the waters of wait-‘til-tomorrow without diving into the oceans of never-going-to-happen. The step-by-step approach works through a series of assertions from “I’m thinking about it” and “I’ve got it on my list” through to “I’m half done” and “I should have that to you tomorrow”. It’s about shifting mindset from “can-do” to “could-do” and “why-do?” and finally on to the supreme procrasti-negating style of “not my department”.
This is the free-form of procrastinating, the interpretive dance of delay. Here, you can improvise your very own, personal expression of adjournment using the traditional steps of dally, dawdle, linger and loiter intermingled with more contemporary moves such as schlep along, scrounge around or chill out. Transforming prolong and protract into an art form puts you one step closer to making the world your stage.
This one is not for the feint of heart. It requires forsaking the mountain of paid copywriting projects in your in-tray for the sake of providing your blog readers with a vitally important (possibly world-changing) article that simply has to be written. This one is my personal favourite.
Now, armed with your procrasti-glossary, go forth and shilly-shally with the best of us.
Being fifty-something, I’m seeking to extend my craft repertoire as fast as possible. (While I’ve got time, right?)
I’m looking for easy, quick, inexpensive craft projects … least-effort-for-maximum-impact.
Yes, I’m lazy.
I’d been thinking about teacup candles for a couple of months, browsing through the odd online tutorial, mostly coveting all that vintage china and moody lighting potential.
A few weeks ago an invitation arrived for my niece S’s 25th birthday celebration – a tea party, a leisurely afternoon of sipping tea and nibbling ribbon sandwiches.
S had stipulated no presents but a hand-crafted-from-recycled-materials-Auntie-type-gift would surely get me around that?
I picked up these two gold-toned vintage china duos at the Ballarat Trash and Trivia Market.
I had already decided to upcycle the remnants of this HUGE triple-wicked candle that Mr P had souvenired from the props department on one of his TV commercial shoots. It’s seen us through several late-night soirees on the deck but its time has come.
I needed wicks and little metal wick holders. There were plenty available online but time wasn’t on my side so after a morning at the farmers market I braved the BIG scary shopping plaza where I knew there was a BIG craft store. (For a mostly window-shopper like me, “braved” is the correct verb here.)
I searched and sought up and down the aisles, eventually finding what seemed like the solo staffer – she was behind the jump, tapping away on a computer keyboard. I explained what I was after.
Still relentlessly tapping, she said: “We don’t stock those.”
“Are you sure? Candle-making is a very popular craft,” I ventured (resisting the urge to add “according to the blogosphere” or “are you sure you spelled candle correctly?”)
“If it’s not in the computer, we don’t have it,” she rebutted, eyeing my vegie-laden shopping trolley suspiciously.
There was no offer of where I might head to find what I needed. No alternative. No plan B.
So this is what they mean by bricks and mortar retailing … a brick wall.
No wonder it’s in its death throws.
Once again, I found myself at the crappy end of crafting … where I don’t really know what I’m doing, I don’t have what I need (don’t even really KNOW what I need) and am not sure what to do with what I need when I do eventually get it.
This is when I often throw crappy, half-baked craft projects into the bottom of the spare room wardrobe, never to see the light of day again.
Not this time.
I phoned the OTHER BIG craft store (an even braver move, because this one is a MEGA-store) to check their stocks.
“Yes, we have a great range of wicks and wax sold separately or in kits. Why don’t you come out and have a look and we can take you through what we’ve got?”
Brilliant. I did.
Unfortunately, there was a gaping crevasse between the promise of the phone conversation and the reality of the instore experience.
Floor-to-ceiling racks of stock but few staff to help me explore it.
In time, I located a customer service desk and was directed four aisles down, where I found nothing wicky or waxy.
I returned and another staffer directed me to another aisle: “We don’t have much but what we do have is in aisle six beside the googly eyes.”
I found the googly eyes alongside curly polyester hair extensions for dollies and tiny wire spectacles (presumably for those googly eyes).
But nothing waxy or wicky.
I braved (yes, braved) the counter and asked the staffer to show me. She was right … beside the googly eyes and hidden BEHIND the tiny wire spectacles was a single row of packaged wick and a solitary packet of wick holders.
“Is that all you have?” I queried.
“We also have these,” she offered, in the next aisle. “These” were kits for making tealight candles. Do folk actually make tealight candles?
I knew right then, that I wasn’t going to get the advice I needed here. This wasn’t customer service. There was no generosity of spirit. No choice. No smile. No apology. No empathy. This was modern retailing at its worst. Without specialist advice from someone who knows his/her stuff, I might as well buy online. I should have left myself a wider window.
I grabbed what the MEGA-store thought I needed and headed for Google.
Google came through for me (doesn’t it always?) with a brilliant choice of bloggers and videographers sharing their tips and specialist advice on making teacup candles.
Next time, I’m going online-all-the-way, including buying my materials, so I sidestep that crappy end of crafting all together.
The end of the tale? I didn’t get my craft on in time for the tea party (that was entirely my own fault). I grabbed some gorgeous flowers for my niece and had a fun afternoon sipping tea and nibbling ribbon sandwiches.
But I have since done the teacup candle deed. And it wasn’t crappy at all (once I got organised). It went like this:
Chopped some wax off that BIG old candle and melted it in nested saucepans (I used old ones, including a fave vintage glass Pyrex one).
I used two bamboo skewers taped together to secure each wick in the centre of its cup.
Poured in the wax and … voila! … teacup candles. Inspired by leftover wax I got adventurous and grabbed a couple of small crystal jugs from my collection and gave them the candle treatment, too. (Getting candle-cocky by this stage.)
These will be keepers.
Next time I catch up with my niece S, I have a lovely present for her, achieved in the most part with the help of Google and the blogosphere. (I’m even guessing she might read about it here first, which would be quite fitting).
That’s the brilliant, non-crappy end of crafting that makes it all worthwhile … giving.
Being fifty-something, I love a giveaway … whether I’m on the giving OR the receiving end of it!
Thanks to everyone who showed interest in winning a copy of Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray in my recent giveaway. And a big thanks to Random House New York for providing the prize.
Given the umber of entries wasn’t overwhelming, I decided to go old school and write a slip for each entry.
I then asked Mr P to draw a winner from the
hat bowl. (Do you like his nail polish?)
Ta-dah! Congratulations to Deb Hadskis. I will send you an email shortly, Deb, so you can reply with your postal address. I will get your book in the mail to you on Monday. Happy reading!
Again, thanks to everyone for your interest … wish I had a book for each of you!