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Taking Stock in May

Aggghhhhhh.  I had written a fairly long post here and it JUST DISAPPEARED. [insert swear word here].  I don’t know what happened.  It was there – and then it wasn’t.  So annoying!  I have no idea what I even wrote.  So I have to start again.  Sigh.  And, of course, what I wrote before would have been BRILLIANT to the point of being genius.  Now whatever I write will be rubbish!  Double sigh.

Anyway, moving on… What I had been saying, before I was rudely interrupted by computer tomfoolery, was that one of my favourite blogs is Meet Me at Mike’s, created by the very talented Pip Lincolne.  It’s a great little blog, with lots if inspirational ideas and good stuff.  In fact, the blog’s tagline is “Good Stuff for Nice People”.

One of the regular things Pip does is have a “Taking Stock” post, where she lists the things she is doing that month (or week, or whatever), the things that are inspiring her and the every day stuff that is making her world go ’round.  She’s even kind enough to have a prompting list you can copy and paste.  And you know I am lazy and need that kind of help in my life.  I pretty much wish that life could be one long list that someone else writes for you, and you just have to fill in the blanks.  Even better if they let you fill in the answers with a pencil.  That way, if you make a boo-boo, you can erase it and start again.  I’d probably go through a lot of erasers.

So, my “Taking Stock” list for May…

Making : A mess.  Always.
Cooking : Lots of comfort food.  It’s cold and I am sick of eating salad.  So, soups and polenta and porridge are the go.  I am trying to avoid making cookies…sigh.
Drinking :  Tea.  Always tea.  But a lot of Passionfruit and Hibiscus tea.  Because it is      delightful.  I don’t normally do “fruity” teas.  They smell wonderful but taste pretty insipid.  Like watered-down cordial.  But this tea is fab.  It does, unfortunately, smell a little bit like cat pee.  But it tastes delicious.  You should try it.
Reading : I just finished “The Good Mayor” by Andrew Nicoll.  It’s bloody delightful.  One of the reviews describes it as a book that “makes you want to go out and fall in love” and, indeed, that is very true.  I don’t read romance novels (AT ALL) because – hello! – I’m bitter and twisted, but this one is different. It’s quirky and funny and heartbreaking and, oh, just read it already!  I couldn’t put it down.  You won’t be able to either.
Trawling : Job sites, sadly.  Times are a-changing.
Wanting : A steamer for my clothes.  I know – pathetic.  But some of my clothes are very tricky to iron and I don’t end up wearing them much because I dread the inevitable crease-fest.
Looking : Home-decorating books and magazines and websites.  My house does not reflect this, but one day it shall.  Oh yes!
Deciding : Whether I should get rid of my bead / jewellery-making stash.  I need to de-clutter and figure out exactly what I want to do, craft-wise.  But I know that as soon as I get rid of it all, I will need/want it.  Such is the life of a hoarder…
Wishing : I could win the Lottery.  The big one.  The one where I could buy my family and friends houses and set everyone up for life.  Money can’t buy happiness but it can go a long way towards taking some worry and stress away.
Enjoying : My guilty pleasure is Catfish.  The TV show, not the actual fish.
Waiting : For a family announcement.
Liking : Hiking.  Ooh, that rhymed!  I am very unfit and hurt for days afterwards, but I do enjoy getting out and walking in the sunshine and fresh air.  Exercise doesn’t have to suck.  I’m not going to be scaling Mount Everest any time soon, but I am liking trekking around our local landscape.
Wondering : Why I am like I am.  But I cannot afford more therapy so I will have to figure it out on my own or just quit wondering.  Embrace the weirdo that is me!
Loving : My family and friends.  I am so blessed.  A lot of people have come into my life that I am so grateful for.
Pondering : Life, The Universe, and Everything.  And also why I can’t stop thinking about food for three whole seconds.
Considering : Taking up yoga.
Buying : Home maintenance stuff.  My house is falling to pieces.
Watching : I’m a bit obsessed with Russel Brand this month.  So I am re-watching a bunch of his DVDs.  I mean DVDs with him in it.  I don’t mean I broke into his house and stole a load of his personal DVDs and then watched them.  That would be weird.
Hoping : That things will be ok.
Marvelling : At how beautiful, wise and loving my nephews and nieces are.  They never cease to amaze me, and give me hope for the future.
Cringing : At how much Income Protection insurance costs.  When you have pre-existing conditions, you basically have to pay double what everyone else does.  So I get to have a kidney problem, mental heath issues AND a huge insurance fee.  Awesome.  Two thumbs up.  As soon as I decide to drop the insurance, I know I will get hit by a car or attacked by killer bees or something.
Needing : Better exercise clothes.  I tend to do the baggy-pants-and-baggy-t-shirt combo and I generally look like a bag lady.  A sweaty, wheezy bag lady.  I am not confident enough to wear the tight, workout gear everyone has these days.  But I should probably try to be – it would give me more incentive to actually get my butt into gear.  So I can get my butt into the trendy gear, so to speak and look less homeless.
Questioning : My life.  What the heck am I doing with it???
Smelling : The lack of perfume on me.  I have run out of my favourite scent – “Butt Naked” by Somethin Special.  Terrible name but I love the smell of this perfume oil.  I always get complimented on it and it’s just a happy, yummy scent. It’s got top notes of strawberry, cherry and coconut, which is just delightful.  Plus it is not tested on animals, which makes me very happy indeed.
Wearing : Warmer clothes.  And Pants.  Ugh.  I hate pants (trousers, slacks, jeans).  I did just buy some cropped, linen pants which I actually don’t hate.  They are very comfortable and I don’t feel like a lumpy, dumpy sausage in them.  In fact I feel rather nautical.  If I wear them with a blue and white stripey sweater, I feel downright jaunty!
Noticing : How people don’t say “Bless You” when you sneeze anymore.  It’s so rude.  I just say “Bless Me” when I sneeze now.  Cuts out the middle man.
Knowing : I have a LONG way to go before I am an adult.
Thinking : Way too much.  But not about the right stuff.
Admiring : Sarah Michelle Gellar.  She just seems like a decent human being.  A great Mum, and wife, and she doesn’t get caught up in all the celebrity nonsense.  Plus, y’know, Buffy kicks arse!
Getting : Lots of bills.  Man, they are all coming at once!  Pretending they are not there does not help.
Feeling : Anxious.  Lots going on.
Hearing : At the moment I have Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels” in my head. Constantly.  That’s probably because I keep playing it. Constantly.  Don’t judge me – it’s a good song.  I miss the 80s.
Embracing : Wearing glasses.  I am trying really hard to remember to wear them.  Most of the time they end up on my head, like a hair band, rather than on my face.  But I’m trying…

So that’s me for the month.  Lots happening and lots to think about and worry about.  What are you up to in May?  Any big plans for change or transformation?

Thanks for dropping by – and DO check out Pip Lincolne’s great blog, Meet Me at Mike’s – you’ll get lots of inspiration and ideas 🙂

 x

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Op-Shopping 101

It’s a known fact that I enjoy op-shopping (thrifting) just a wee little bit.  If by a “wee little bit” you mean “more than ANYTHING IN THE WORLD!!!!”

If op-shopping was an actual job, I would be quitting the one I already have and preparing to have an awesome, joy-filled career.

In the meantime, here are a few tips and tricks if you are a newbie to op-shopping, or just one of those people who doesn’t really understand it and thinks everything will be stinky and gross and smell like old people :

  1. Be Prepared to Rummage : Op shops are not like regular stores – everything isn’t always neatly set out in sizes and colours with multiples of everything.  This is half the fun – you never know what you are going to find.  I know some people hate that.  They want to walk in and walk out with the item they wanted within minutes.  They do not enjoy the chase.  They are missing out on so much.  You have to be prepared to rummage and look through lots of racks and explore.  I personally think it is best to not go in with an exact “want” list in your head because, chances are, you won’t find what you’re looking for.  Just enjoy the search and see what treasures you can unearth.
  2. Wear sensible stuff : What I mean by this is you should wear easy-to-remove clothing items so that, when trying things on, it doesn’t take you forever and you don’t get hot and gross or annoyed.  Don’t wear button-up things (unless they are also easy to just pull off over your head) or pants that need belts.  In fact, avoid trousers if you can.  A skirt is a better option because you can pull things on underneath them.  That way, you don’t even have to get undressed or risk the dreaded op-shop curtain fling (that scary moment when someone yanks open your changing room curtain to “see if anyone is in here” – happens all the time, makes me want to punch people) when you’re sans clothing.  Ideally, a skirt and loose-fitting top works best – then you only have to get half-undressed at any given moment.  Wearing a dress means you have to take it all off if you’re trying on another dress.  But, then, I have been known to try things on over or under whatever I’m wearing.  It’s up to you.  Just go for simple and comfortable and easy to pull on and off.  Same goes for shoes, obviously – don’t wear things that have straps or buckles that need undoing.  It just makes the whole process more laborious.
  3. Where to go : When you’ve been op-shopping for most of your life, you learn the best places to go, and the places to avoid.  I have certain shops that I always frequent because they are cheap, clean and always have great stuff.  In WA, I really like Good Sammy’s.  They have the best prices (which are generally consistent across all of their stores) and they are organised well.  They have regular sales too – 50% off days which apply to all recycled clothing (as opposed to particular colour-tagged items).  I live in hope of those 50% off signs – they make me so happy 🙂   I find Good Sammy’s to be excellent for dresses, shoes and handbags, as well as for books, knick-knacks and other household items.
  4. Don’t Haggle : Op Shops are usually run by charities, who have to make a certain amount of money each week in order to remain viable. Their stock is already very cheap so please don’t ask for a discount of any kind, or haggle, or ask for the price to be reduced if you have bulk items.  Just don’t.  It’s rude.  If you don’t want to pay $3 for that cute little top (that is probably worth $25 new), don’t.  Walk away from it and look for something else.  I am the biggest cheapskate out, but even I won’t ask for a price to be reduced, regardless of condition of the item.
  5. What to buy : Obviously, buy what you like but don’t get caught up in the :Ooooh, it’s so cheap!” frenzy that sometimes affects us all.  Yes, you may be able to buy 15 black t-shirts for under $30, but do you really need to?  Find the one you like best and buy that one.  Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean you need it.  It’s not a bargain if you don’t wear it.  Keep a look out for designer items you might be able to sell on Ebay, if that’s your thing.  Don’t buy items that require something else in order for you to wear them eg a sheer dress that needs a slip underneath it.  Sure, if you have a slip that would go perfectly underneath, then cool, but if not, put the dress back on the rack and keep looking.  It’s not very clever to buy something that costs you $5, if you then have to go and buy something to go with it that costs $25.  It’s false economy, and the chances of you ACTUALLY going out and buying the extra item are pretty slim.  Trust me, I know this.  I have learnt my lesson.
  6. Don’t shop hungry : As I said before, op-shopping is generally not a quick expedition, where you’re in and out in two minutes.  It takes time to rummage and try things on plus, if you’re lucky, you will have several op-shops in a row in one place, so you’ll be there a while.  Make sure you take some water with you so you don’t get dehydrated (shopping is thirsty work!) and it’s a good idea to have a little snack with you too – some muesli bars or a handful of nuts or whatever.  You make better decisions when you’re not hungry or thirsty.  You don’t want to go home with a pair of lime green stretch pants just because your bloody sugar was low and you momentarily lost your brain.
  7. Know your colours : It makes life easier if you know what suits you and what colours look best with your complexion.  You can scan past a whole rack of stuff and dismiss what doesn’t fit in with your ideal.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new colours once in a while but, generally, you should stick to what works for you and makes you feel good about yourself.  For instance, I love yellow and mustardy colours, but I know I look like death-warmed-up in them.  They make me look like I am about to be violently ill or have some sort of plague.  I avoid them.
  8. Donate : There is a universal law that what you give out, you get back.  So donate your unwanted clothes often.  Have a good sort out and drop stuff off at the op-shop.  While you’re there, you might as well have a look round, right?
  9. Don’t discriminate : Go thrifting in lots of different places.  I know one particular op-shop that is situated in a less than salubrious suburb that has the BEST stuff.  Sometimes the “posh” towns have crappy op-shops.  There’s no guarantee that postcode equals quality – not in this case anyway.  Some of the smaller, slightly dingy shops in out of the way places have really neat stuff and, because it hasn’t been picked over by all and sundry, you can often find a bargain on some quality items.
  10. Don’t be snooty : Within reason, everything can be washed and disinfected.  I draw the line at buying underpants, but everything else is fair game.  I’ve bought some lovely kitchenware and mugs, Tupperware and cutlery from op-shops.  It just needs a good scrub and some hot soapy water.  A lot of the stuff hasn’t even been used – you can tell by looking at something if it’s lived a hard life.  Use your discretion.
  11. Take a buddy : I personally am happy to shop on my own, but there is something to be said for taking a like-minded friend along.  My cousin and I thrift together often, and we have a pretty good system.  Usually this system consists of me finding awesome things for HER to try on (because she is super skinny and fit and can wear anything) but we always have fun.  It’s good to have a second opinion on items you’re not sure of.  Someone who can shake their head and say “Um, no….” when you try to squeeze into that crushed velvet boob-tube.  If the other person knows your size, they can be on the lookout for things you may not have spotted as you trawl the racks.  A buddy can also guard your changing room for you and stop people barging in, or hold the curtain closed for you if it’s a tad on the not-wide-enough side.
  12. They have new stuff too!  Thrift shops sometimes also stock brand new items.  They get bulk amounts of “reject” products, ie things that haven’t sold somewhere else.  There’s nothing wrong with them, they’re just excess stock.  You can get undies and socks, clothing, and other items brand new, but at a fraction of the normal cost.  I must admit to buying my undies from my local op-shop quite often.  They’re $2.25.  I refuse to pay $10 or $12 for a pair of undies.  They’re a nice fit (I hate undies that ride up your butt!!!) and they are good quality and long-wearing.  I’ve also bought one of those new-fangled bamboo pillows at the thrift shop for about half the price of one in the regular stores.

So, there’s nothing to it, really.  Just go in with an open mind and find some treasures.  And be prepared to walk away with nothing and be ok with that.  The hunt is half the fun.

Happy thrifting everyone 🙂

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Blogging Challenge – Day Thirteen : What’s Inside My Fridge

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My fridge is not the world’s most exciting appliance.  It is usually half-empty and, at times, contains very little in the way of actual food items.  I tend to wait until I am almost entirely out of groceries before I buy any more so I don’t double up or have lots of wastage.  I HATE wasting food.  It annoys me and makes me feel bad.  I am one of those people who cuts up slightly withered and sad vegetables for soups.  I try not to over-buy in the first place because I am just one person, and even I can only eat so much.

At the moment, because I am soon to move into my new house, I am trying not to buy too much stuff, especially frozen items.  The less I have to take with me, the better!  So my fridge is a little bit empty – it just has the basics – and I shop a few times a week, which is not very cost-effective but, for the moment, will have to be the way it is.

So, what’s in my fridge? :

  1. Cheese.  I am planning on reducing my cheese intake by about a million percent once I have moved.  I eat way too much and I am not supposed to actually eat much of it at all.  Currently, I have feta, colby and parmesan.
  2. Tofu.  Another staple.  At the moment it is silken firm tofu, because I want to make tofu burgers but, at other times, it will be firm stir-fry or marinated.
  3. Soy milk.  For tea!
  4. Rice milk.  It’s kinda gross but I am trying not to have too much soy.  I use rice milk in my porridge.
  5. Baby beetroot.
  6. Carrots.
  7. Lettuce.
  8. Cucumber.
  9. Spring onions.  Which reminds me, I should throw those out – they’re a little bit stinky and I don’t think I can even salvage them in a soup.
  10. Chocolate – not mine.  It’s been there for a year or two.  I should probably chuck it.
  11. Apples.
  12. Half a lemon.
  13. Leftover risotto.
  14. Jar of minced garlic.
  15. Jar of minced garlic and ginger.
  16. Sauces. A variety!
  17. Olives.  Actually, more truthfully, it is a jar with two olives in it.  I don’t know why it is still there and why I didn’t just eat the two olives.
  18. Eggs.  Well, a carton with one lonely little egg in it.
  19. Tin of tuna.
  20. Probiotic tablets.
  21. Sundried tomatoes.
  22. Synthetic erythropoietin injections. It is used to treat anemia, which is a side effect of renal failure.  I haven’t had to have the injections for about two years now.  I should probably ditch them.  I keep forgetting.  And yes, I will dispose of them thoughtfully at my local pharmacists’s.  They are nasty looking things (the injections, not my pharmacists).  I didn’t enjoy having to have them.  They are quite big needles and I had to inject myself in the tummy.  Not pleasant, but you do what you have to do!
  23. Sesame dressing.  Because I am addicted to it.
  24. The freezer is full of frozen vegies and long-forgotten wedges of quiche or other things I have made and, um, forgotten about.  There’s also Lebanese bread and some icy poles I made in the Summer which didn’t taste very nice and I didn’t eat.  Disappointingly, there is no ice cream.  This makes me more sad than words can express. *sighs*

And that’s it, really.  I’d like to say it’s overflowing with fresh fruit and veg, but I find I can’t eat it quick enough before it goes off, so I tend to buy it as I need it, rather than wasting any.  I go to a nice local market that sells really good quality produce and it costs half as much as the normal supermarket.  I will have to find a different market once I move, or make the trek down to my usual one (it’s worth it).

Hopefully I will be able to report, in my new house, that my fridge is full of lots of healthy fruit and veg with nothing I should be ashamed of (or have to hide in the back so no one sees it).  My plan is to be “good” and leave me comfort-eating (read : cheating) behind me.  That’s what new starts are for, right?

May your fridge, your life, and your heart always be full and blessed with plenty!
Thanks for reading.

🙂

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When I Have My House

House-buying is hard.  It is scary.  You have to deal with sharks and idiots and your own self doubt and timidity.  You have to worry about money.  You have to worry about making bad decisions.  You have to fight your fear of being locked in and stuck in a situation you fear you can never get out of.  You have to fight the urge to crawl into bed for a hundred years and not come out until the world is less scary again.

But, on the plus side (and I am really trying to find plus sides in my life right now), you get to have a home.  Your own home.  It will be a struggle and new worries will pop up now that you are responsible for everything that goes on within those four walls.  If stuff needs fixing, you have to get it fixed – you can’t just call the property manager and get them to sort it out.  But, by the same token, you can get whoever you want to fix it and WHEN you want them to fix it.  You don’t have to wait three weeks to have a leaky tap sorted.  Granted, you could also be a grown-up and learn how to fix a leaky tap yourself but let’s deal with one thing at a time here!  Baby steps, people, baby steps!

So, this morning, feeling a little overwhelmed and stressed, and sad about having to leave my little rented house and the lovely suburb that has been my haven and my security for the last three years, I started trying to think of all the things that I should see as positives.  And there are lots of them, if I just take the time to really look (and not be such a party-pooping, down-in-the mouth pessimist).

  1. I will have my own home.  I never thought I would accomplish this.  Fifteen years ago, I had about $1000 to my name.  Now I am buying a house.  I have worked hard for this.  I have saved and scrimped and been a total tightwad so that one day I might be able to buy myself a little house that is all mine.  I’m allowing myself a little bit of pride about that.  It’s a big deal.
  2. Having your own place means you can paint walls bright purple if you want to.  I don’t want to, but I can if I want to.  And nobody can stop me.
  3. No more rent inspections.  Hallelujah!
  4. I can get pets!  I get to be crazy old cat lady after all 🙂 Finally!
  5. I can knock as many holes in the walls for picture-hanging as I like.
  6. I can knock out walls altogether if I like.  Although I should probably get a professional to do that.  Not just start swinging a sledgehammer about because I’m bored and there’s nothing on TV or I’ve watched too many episodes of Masters of Flip.
  7. I can have a beautiful garden.  Or let it all die and just have weeds if I like.  It’s my house AND my garden.  I can do what I want.
  8. Nobody can tell me I have to move out.  Except maybe the bank, if I forget to pay my mortgage.  Or my hoarding becomes a real issue and the council condemns my place and tells me I have 30 days to exit.  Don’t laugh – it could happen.
  9. I don’t have to worry about spilling stuff on the carpet, or marking the walls, or breaking stuff.  I don’t plan on doing those things, but if they DO happen, no one is going to get cranky except me.
  10. Because it’s a two-storey, my craft room will be upstairs.  So all my mess and junk and chaos can be contained on one floor.  The ground floor will be neat and tidy and look like a grown-up lives there.  This is my plan.  I’m not very good at following plans, so we shall see how this one pans out.
  11. Financial security.  Nothing is certain in these un-certain times, but equity is something to hold on to.  And I don’t want to be still renting when I am 80, because rents will be like a bazillion dollars higher than they are now and I will be a crazy old cat lady pensioner.  As it is, I will be paying a mortgage until I’m in my 70s.  Which is a little scary.  But I am trying not to think about that right now.  It makes me hyperventilate and feel a bit sick.
  12. I will have an actual spare bedroom.  Not just a couch.  My Mum can come and sleep in an actual bed when she stays.  I can have my nephews and nieces over to stay.  Friends can drop in and stay the night.  I can be a proper hostess.  I can also just hoard more stuff in the spare bedroom.  Let’s not kid ourselves – you know there’s a very real possibility of it happening.
  13. While I’ve been fretting over the thought of being locked in to a mortgage, I should have been calmed by the thought of never having to move again if I choose to stay there long-term.  I hate moving.  It’s the pits.  I’ve moved four times in the last 9 years and also moved three libraries – I’m so over it.  After this month, I never want to see another packing box ever again.  Or at least for a good long while.
  14. I can start decorating properly and figure out what my style is.  I can experiment with colour and designs and really make this home my own.
  15. I can discover a new neighbourhood.  While I am going to miss South Perth dreadfully, I am going to get to know a new neighbourhood and maybe find some awesome spots to walk and eat and catch up with friends.  Maybe there’s some nice parks.  Maybe they have cool shops.  Maybe I will have really great neighbours. I don’t know the area well at all, so I am going to try and be brave and get out there and see what’s what.  And I have a car – I can always drive to South Perth if I am having withdrawal symptoms.
  16. The house will be all mine.  Did I say that already?

So, there’s lots of positives.  I know I am lucky to even be able to purchase a house at all and I am trying to remember that.  Because not everyone is so blessed.  I’m lucky to have always had a roof over my head, whether it be a rented one or my own.  Coincidentally, the roof in the new place has some issues, and I will have to sort them out otherwise I might NOT have a roof over my head but, I can do that.  Because it’s my house and my responsibility.  Roof and all.  See you in 30 years 🙂

Life-affecting books (that aren’t The Alchemist)

Life-affecting books (that aren’t The Alchemist)

(NB : I wanted to call this post “Life-Changing Books” initially, but then I thought that was probably over-doing it a little.  So, I have gone for the less grandiose title.)

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There are LOADS of books that people recommend you HAVE TO READ.  “It will change your life!!!” they exclaim, clutching the book and thrusting it at you with a mad glint in their eye.  These type of books always leave me a bit cold.  I have tried to absorb the same life-altering information that is contained in their pages, the way everyone else does.  But I find myself sighing a lot and rolling my eyes or just not GETTING what it is that I am supposed to get.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, is one such book.  I get the theme and the meaning of the book and the whole self-understanding and enlightenment and whatnot.  But it’s just whatnot to me.  Maybe I’m not very enlightened.  And I have to say, many of the people I’ve spoken to who’ve read the book and LOVED it, are probably some of the least enlightened people I know.

Then there’s The Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle) which my GP actually recommended to me to stop me stressing and worrying and being mental.  And don’t get me started on Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert). I tried, I really did.  But, bloody hell, I just wanted to smack her.  I did watch the movie and actually found myself crying my eyes out, sitting on the floor eating a tub of ice cream, so it must have connected with me somewhere along the line.  But as something I would alter my life with? No. I should probably try reading it again – maybe I am ready now… I don’t dislike Elizabeth Gilbert and I do listen to her podcasts so maybe it’s time to have another crack at her writing.

There are other books which have made an impact on my life.  Books that actually changed the way I did things, or thought about things.  Books that simplified or amplified my life.  They may, or may not, have been best-sellers and they may not be found on any self-help shelf.  But they are books I return to again and again for help or inspiration, guidance or just plain solace from the world.

What Not to Wear by Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine is an example.  I know you’re smirking right now.  You’re thinking “Pfft!  It’s hardly a book one counts as essential reading!” but I think you’d be wrong.  Sure, it’s hardly literary, but it DID help me dress better and for my figure, making it easier for me to find clothes that I look ok in.  I know what suits me now and what will make me look like a sack of potatoes.  I know what to cover and what to flaunt (although, I’m not much of a flaunter – still having trouble avoiding covering EVERYTHING up).  I know that baggy clothes make me look baggy.  I know that A-line skirts are my friend.  I back away from bias-cut dresses as though they were the anti-Christ.  I seek out V-necks and waist-cinching outfits.  I was able to hide and disguise my too-large-for-my-frame boobs because I knew how to dress them (and now, after my reduction surgery, I know what to wear to suit my new size).  It may sound silly, but it made a difference to me and my life.  It took away a teeny bit of anxiety and gave me one less thing to worry about.  Dumb as that may seem, it made life easier.

Simple Abundance : A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach is another book I have returned to time and time again.  I think I just enjoy reading it and pretending that my life could be authentic and beautiful and organised.  It talks about things that make life happier and more fulfilling, daily inspiration for creating your own sanctuary at home and at work.  It let’s you feel ok about still loving cute stickers, fairy tales and pretty notebooks and things that make you feel better, even if they’re considered childish by others.  It reminds you to be grateful, most importantly, and to hold your loved ones with both hands.  It talks about solitude and renewal and the power of a quiet cup of tea.  It may be out-dated in some ways but I still like to flick through its pages from time to time and escape into it. One day, I WILL have beautifully arranged linen closets with little sprigs of lavender and I WILL create a private space with a shrine for meditation that gives me strength and a place to be and just breathe.  Maybe not right now, but someday I will do more than just read about those things.

Another title that really helped me when I was desperate for guidance and help is The Loss of a Pet : a Guide to Coping with the Grieving Process When a Pet Dies by Wallace Sife, Ph.D.  I have spoken about this one before, when I loss my dear little guinea pig, Roderick, a few years ago.  I was so heartbroken and distraught and honestly didn’t know how to get through it.  I had lost other pets before and it is always traumatic, but Roderick was a little beacon of light in my life at a time when I was seriously lost and sad and, without him, the world seemed a much bleaker and lonelier place.  This book helped me to just acknowledge and accept my feelings as being perfectly OK and nothing to be ashamed of.  It let me grieve in a way that other people did not and gave me comfort.  Some psychologists I work with think it’s a terrible book – it has some old fashioned ideas (according to them) and talks about the stages of grief which is apparently an out-dated idea and not one that is currently practiced or supported.  Well, I’m not a psychologist (duh), but I know the book helped me, and I would recommend it to other people if they were grieving.

Still on the subject of our furry friends, Inside of a Dog : What Dogs See, Smell and Know by Alexandra Horowitz is a fascinating read.  Ever want to know what your dog is thinking, why he’s doing THAT and what he really needs to be a happy, healthy member of your pack?  This book is for you.  Written from a scientific-but-loving point of view, the book tells you everything you ever needed to know about the psychology of our canine buddies. Be prepared to change some of your annoying habits though (not everything is your dog’s fault – in fact, pretty much everything is your fault) and keep receipts if you like buying cute, little doggy outfits.  Trust me, you WILL be returning them.  And feel very, very bad about how you’ve made poor Fluffy/Toby/Jethro/Killer feel.

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I have loads of crafty, arty, creativity-oriented books.  Some I keep forever and refer back to, time and time again.  One such title is Card Art : Innovative Card-Making Designs by Stephanie McAtee and Emily Falconbridge.  When this book came out, it was difficult to buy craft titles that were different, that didn’t have the same old “Let’s stamp and emboss to make a card…” ideas that we’d all seen a million times.  Card Art has lots of ideas for using recycled bits and pieces, altered images, every day items and even discarded projects for creating awesome, unique cards.  I was so inspired by it and still am today.  It just encouraged me to think outside the box a little and be ok with imperfections and messiness, two things which, I think we can all agree, are pretty much staples in my life.

Another title on the crafty front is the wonderful Pretty Little Things by Sally Jean Alexander.  Pretty little things indeed, the projects in this book are so delightful and make me want to go out and make something IMMEDIATELY.  Sally Jean is a master of soldering, collage and all things vintage-inspired and beautiful.  She also has a lamp in the shape of a goose who watches over Sally’s studio.  That in itself is enough for me to call her my guru.  I did try my hand at soldering after first reading this book.  It didn’t go well but I am determined to give it another try again someday.  This book will inevitably be my inspiration again.

Yet another art-oriented book is The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery by Karen Michel.  I was excited to see this is my local 2nd-Hand bookstore recently and I picked it up for a bargain $5.00.  I have borrowed it from my library (back in the days when I borrowed books from libraries…until I learnt that I wasn’t responsible enough to bring them back on time and had to ban myself) many, many times and so having my own copy is pretty fab.  Karen leads you through lots of different methods of altering images (hence the title, duh) and using them on cards, collages and more.  I have used this book to inspire me to make some projects of my own and it has been a great help.  It’s another “step out of your comfort zone” kind of book, which I think we all need from time to time to shake us out of our usual safe routines.

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Onto a different topic now, with Dreams : Signs of Things to Come by Quentin Watts.  I think I have discussed before my unfortunate tendency towards having nightmares.  I have them a lot.  Always have done.  It is disturbing and downright terrifying at times, but I have had this problem since I was a child and have learnt to deal with it in my own way.  Something that helped me a great deal was Quentin’s book and radio show.  Being able to figure out what the cryptic messages in my nightmares meant has saved me many an hour in therapy.  It always helps a lot towards breaking through the terror that is experienced when having a really bad dream.  If you can wake up, write it all down and then work through it, it really does make a difference, and often means you don’t end up having the same dream over and over.  I have lots of dream-translating books, and some of them are pretty rubbish.  Any that make dreams out to be prophetic and predictive get the boot from my collection. Dreaming of a man holding an ice cream and wearing a chair on his head does not mean you are going to marry a dairy-goods baron and open a furniture store together.  It just doesn’t.  But it probably means something else is going on in your life that is making you dream silly things.  Or, you could just be craving ice cream.  Or your subconscious mind might be giving you a gentle nudge to remind you that your dining chair is about to break and that YOU REALLY NEED TO GET IT FIXED BEFORE SOMEONE HURTS THEMSELVES.  Probably Aunt Gladys, who is rather large due to her love of ice cream.  Anyway, Dreams is a good book (and so are Quentin’s other titles) and worth a read if you suffer from SDS (Silly Dream Syndrome) like I do.

Another book I have to mention is He’s Just Not That Into You  by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo.  I know, I know, it was all hyped up and made into a movie and just another fad.  But, actually, it’s pretty awesome.  I wish I had read this BEFORE I started dating.  It would have made things so much easier.  Or, at least, would have given me a better understanding of why things happen and why guys act like they do, and how to have some idea of whether they really like you or if they just want to get in your pants.  I think because it is written by a guy, it just makes more sense and seems more candid and truthful.  The follow-up book, It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken, is also really good and actually helped me a lot.  It’s kind of like having a super-supportive friend who will also give you a slap in the face when you’re being an idiot.  I recommend both books.  You should read them whilst consuming vast quantities of ice cream, on the couch, in your pyjamas.  Mandatory.

In a similar vein, Rebuilding : When Your Relationship Ends by Dr Bruce Fisher and Dr Robert Alberti, is an excellent tool for helping you through a break up.  It’s easy to read, makes a lot of sense and I know lots of people who have been helped by this book – it was recommended to me by a friend who had been through a nasty divorce and I, in turn, have recommended it to others.  It’s not rocket science, but sometimes you need someone to actually talk you through the whole break up process and work through the feelings you’re experiencing and all that unpleasant stuff.  And sometimes you can’t afford a therapist ha ha.  So a book is the next best thing.  Possibly even a better thing, because you can cry and be weepy without having a human audience.  And it won’t judge you for wearing pyjamas or eating ice cream which, as we have already discussed, is an important part of the process.

So, there you have it, just a few titles that I would highly recommend you check out.  Maybe they won’t save the world or lead you to enlightenment, but they’re pretty good just the same.  Immediately after posting this, I will remember other titles that I should have included but, as it is late, I will leave it at that and save any additions for another day and another post.  Happy reading 🙂

(PS : I have written about some of my favourite novels before HERE)

100 Things to Do If You’re Sad (a Stolen Idea)

100 Things to Do If You’re Sad (a Stolen Idea)

Warning : big cheat coming up!

I gained a lovely new follower this week, Natalie, from The Girl in the Little Black Dress (Natalie’s Lovely Blog).  It’s always nice to have a new follower.  Let’s face it, I am eternally surprised and grateful if I have ANY followers, but gaining new ones is pretty cool, each time it happens.

Natalie posted her “100 Things to Do If You’re Sad” list earlier this year.  It’s awesome.  I was going to kind of steal her idea and write my own list, but I am a.) lazy and b.) afraid of whatever bloggy karma might strike me down if I do such a thing.  Besides, Natalie’s list is pretty perfect as it is.  It is kind of annoying to me that she is half my age and yet seems twice and sensible and wise.  I meet many people like this.  I should stop being annoyed by that and just embrace the fact I am always going to be an idiot.  Natalie’s list would have been amazing for me when I was a teenager, and probably still works for teenagers and young people today.  So I’m going to leave it alone and just re-blog it here.
Don’t worry, I will tell her I’m doing that.

I’m sure there’s a way of reblogging something without actually cutting and pasting it, but I am old-school (translation : not very computer/internet-savvy) and don’t have time to be bothered with such things (translation : there is cheese somewhere that is calling my name and I should really go and deal with that).  With that in mind, here is Natalie’s list.  Read it in awe and amazement.  Laugh a bit, smile a lot, and take it all in.  It’s a great list.  And who doesn’t love a great list? Thanks Natalie!

(And you should check out the rest of her blog while you’re at it)

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(The bee and flower picture is mine – I managed that much today)

                                   100 Things To Do If You’re Sad

1.) Use up a whole stick of Post-Its. Write names, poetry, phone numbers, dates. Stick them around your room.

2.) Drink orange juice. Eat fruit. Buy some soup. I don’t know. Just eat or drink something that makes you feel better.

3.) Put on too many clothes. Several jackets, your favorite pair of sweats and some fuzzy socks ideally. (Sydney taught me this. It works I swear.)

4.) Take a bath. Sylvia Plath said it best: « There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them » (The Bell Jar ). Get some candles, and put on your December playlist.

5.) Look up pictures of dinosaurs. They are so cool.

6.) Watch a French movie. I suggest Amélie or Joyeux Noël or Les Choristes or Populaire. (Subtitles are a thing if you don’t speak French.)

7.) Know that when I was in 7th grade, I was real into purple eyeshadow, and I also thought saying « groovy » was hip with the kids.

8.) Eat a whole cup of ice.

9.) Google photos of skylines. I prefer the New York City one, but whatever floats your boat. There’s just something about all those little lights dotting sky rises that will remind you of other people’s existence, and that reminder will be calming somehow. (Some of those simmering dots are probably having bad days too.)

10.) Roll down a hill.

11.) Put on a dress that makes you feel important. Go downtown and walk around.

12.) Remember that just as the leaves grow back green after winter, so, too, will you overcome the cold. It’s a metaphor – you can and will start fresh. You, too, will be green.

13.) Read the best thing you ever wrote. Be proud of yourself for writing it.

14.) Listen to this song: The Postal Service – Turn Around.

15.) Wear a grey jacket. Put the hood up.

16.) Study the solar system. Outer space is fascinating. Did you know that Jupiter’s rings are made of dust? You, too, can make beautiful things out of dead cells.

17.) Close your eyes and pretend that every bit of your body is melting into the earth. (This is how I fall asleep every night. It’s so nice.)

18.) I know that some days the reminders of human existence (coughs and whispers and tapping toes) will grate on your ears, but they should also remind you that you are existing too.

19.) Apply way too much lotion.

20.) Sit somewhere with a good view of the freeway. As the cars go by, think about how each car belongs to somebody who might like chocolate and rainy days too. Realize that we all might be more similar than you had originally thought.

21.) Make cinnamon toast (Mix butter and cinnamon and spread on toast. Put toast in toaster. Eat hot.)

22.) Put your favorite sweater into the dryer for 10 minutes and then put it on. Go watch The Office.

23.) Find a marker and draw all over your body. On your thighs on your toes on your wrists. Draw butterflies and stripes and castles. It’s real fun.

24.) Put the Pandora Christmas Station on. I don’t care if it’s July. Deck the halls anyways.

25.) Sharpen all of your pencils.

26.) Make an exercise playlist and go for a run. Let the air seep into your skin.

27.) Have a Harry Potter marathon.

28.) Jump on your bed. Throw pillows at the wall. Let it happen.

29.) Listen to your favorite album from start to finish. I would choose Plans (Death Cab For Cutie), AM (Arctic Monkeys), or Mind Over Matter (Young The Giant). Turn the volume all the way up.

30.) Email your favorite author and tell them how they changed your life. Maybe send them something you wrote.

31.) Google Earth stalk Amsterdam or Istanbul or Vienna.

32.) Put a ribbon in your hair. You can’t be sad if you have a ribbon in your hair.

33.) Look at photos from middle school. Self-five yourself for not looking like that anymore.

34.) Put raspberries on each of your fingers and then eat them all as quickly as possible. (Do you get my reference?)

35.) Print a map of your city or neighborhood or wherever, and circle all the places where you were once happy. The park where you ran barefoot on Saturdays. The convenience store where all the kids used to buy sour candy after school. Your first boyfriend’s house. Can you go back to any of these places?

36.) Decide what color you want to paint your future apartment.

37.) Write with a fountain pen. If you do not have a fountain pen, that is probably why you are sad. Go buy yourself a fountain pen.

38.) Make black out poetry.

39.) Take a picture of the sky and tape it to your ceiling. Take a similar picture every day you feel sad and compare the skies. How many are grey? How many are blue?

40.) Go to a museum you have never been to before. Get close enough to the paintings that you can see the brushstrokes (wonder if the artist ran his fingers over the painting once it dried).

41.) Make a mood board and hang it up on your wall.

42.) Take something you are really passionate about and write about it. Type five pages about why feminism, giraffes, or blankets are important.

43.)  Take Photo Booth photos with your cat. You actually don’t even need to be sad to do this. I take about 10 per week. Example below.

Photo du 02-11-2014 à 19.19 #3

44.) Shave your legs and wash your sheets. Then get in bed and try to be sad. Try. Yeah. It’s impossible.

45.) Go to http://www.rainymood.com which plays rain and thunder noises and close your eyes.

46.) Look at your horoscope. Believe it when it says things will get better and that you “are the reason butterfly hairpins and parachute pants have made a comeback” (mine actually said this today. I don’t know what it means, but I’m flattered).

47.) Try to eat a lemon plain without sugar if only to remind yourself that nothing, not even your life and some of the people in it, is more sour than a lemon plain without sugar.

48.) Buy a balloon and write what is upsetting you on it. Let it go.

49.) Drink coffee. Or tea. Put in the perfect ratio of milk to sugar.

50.) Put on a whole bunch of makeup. Look at yourself in the mirror. Realize that you look better without it.

51.) Curl your hair even if you have nowhere to go.

52.) Straighten the curls you just spent an hour twirling. Pretend you are smoothing out your problems. (Note: I recommend only doing this once in a while because it is not ideal for your hair – albeit quite satisfying.)

53.) Make a daisy chain. A really long one. Leave it on the ground in the shape of a heart.

54.) Bake cupcakes for your neighbor.

55.) Cry.

56.) Stop crying once you begin to fear for your body’s water percentage.

57.) Take a sheet of colored paper, (I prefer green for this) and cover it with your favorite lyrics. Tape it above your bed.

58.) Type a note to someone who made you sad. Tell them they’re a horrible person for making you sad. Write it with Caps Lock on. Use bad words if you need to. Then read it out loud. To your mirror. To your cat. Just make sure someone knows how dark grey that person made you feel. And then delete it slash them from your life.

59.) Take your favorite fruit and dip it in your favorite kind of jam. I suggest pears in raspberry jam, but you do you.

60.) Make a mixtape/CD for yourself. Not a playlist. An old-school mixtape. Burn it onto a music playing thing, (is there a word for this? who knows?) and then see #84.

61.) Draw something. It doesn’t have to be good. Just distract yourself. Sketch your thumb. Doodle 200 daisies on lined paper. Trace someone else’s hand.

62.) Paint your nails a color you haven’t painted them in a while. While you’re at it, paint your toes that shade too.

63.) Know that by the end of the day, your blood will have traveled 168,000,000 miles and you will have spoken about 48,000 words. Thats 6,720 times around the world and a book.

64.) Close your eyes and pretend you are where you really want to be.

65.) Write a letter in cursive to someone you love.

66.) Do one of those old-school, green facials. Find a recipe online.

67.) Read Paper Towns by John Green. Appreciate this quote: « That’s always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people want to be around someone because they’re pretty. It’s like picking your breakfast cereals based on color instead of taste. »

68.) Make sure that you have been picking your cereals based on taste instead of color. (Figuratively of course. But I guess literally, too, if thats a problem you have?)

69.) Watch this video.

70.) Make lemon water and drink it chilled.

71.) Pet your pet. (Disclaimer: this only works if you have a pet.)

72.) Call somebody you haven’t talked to in a while. Tell them what you miss about them. Remind them of a time they made you feel whole again. Thank them for picking up the phone.

73.) Buy yourself flowers if you don’t have someone to do it for you. Walk around and wonder if people are wondering if you have a significant other.

74.) Think of the last time you were genuinely happy. Figure out why, and see if you can get that feeling back.

75.) Paint a thing and mail it to someone.

76.) Re-read your favorite childhood book.

77.) Cook a big dinner for your parents. If you are like me and cannot cook, make them pasta and call it a day. They will appreciate the gesture.

78.) Watch one or two or six episodes of My So Called Life.

79.) Fill four pages with stream of consciousness writing. Then read them and laugh at how ridiculous the things in your head are.

80.) The poisonous people are slowly dissolving from your memory. They aren’t as important as they were yesterday, and maybe in a year, you won’t think about them at all. Seven months even. You will find new people to mess you up, and they will be blushing and lovely. Stop responding to empty, grey apologies. They aren’t worth your Sunday nights any more.

81.) Get a haircut. Not anything you’ll regret, just something that will make you feel lighter.

82.) Wear loose clothing.

83.) Wear tight clothing.

84.) Put your tape/CD in your car and go for a drive. To your old preschool, to a bookstore, to the beach.

85.) Buy yourself a new pair of sunglasses for when the sun comes back out. Again, I’m not talking about the weather.

86.) Do what I did once. Make a blog and share your random thoughts with the world. Maybe people will read them and care (thank you for reading and caring).

87.) Make your favorite kind of tea and put it in your favorite mug. Sit on your bed and look through old photographs.

88.) Read some Shel Silverstein poems. I know you have Where The Sidewalk Ends somewhere on your bookshelf.

89.) Read old messages. Laugh about how much things have changed. Chances are, it’s all quite funny if you think about it.

90.) Look up what time it is in another country. Think about what the sky looks like there. Are the people eating breakfast? Is it dark enough for kids to go skinny dipping? Is everyone asleep except for people working the night shift in hospitals and heavy-lidded people in love?

91.) Find a jumprope in your garage. I know you have one somewhere. Jump until you feel like you don’t ever want to jump ever again.

92.) Teach yourself how to yo-yo or juggle or something else cool.

93.) Finally figure out how to make those fancy weaved bracelet things. You know what I’m talking about.

94.) Know that in Rennes, France, there is a man who wipes the fog off bus windows for people so they can see outside. Know that if you sat next to him, he would do the same for you.

95.) Watch Tavi Gevinson’s Ted Talk.

96.) Rearrange the furniture in your room. Maybe you need the blue couch against the wall.

97.) Mix frozen raspberries and yogurt in a blender. Homemade frozen yogurt. Bam.

98.) Email me (natalieslovelyblog1@gmail.com). I check my blog email quite a bit (7-8 times a day. It’s a bit compulsive I admit. I might have a problem.) and am always always happy to cheer you up. I might even send you photos of kittens depending on how bad it is.

99.) Hang black-and-white pictures up on your wall.

100.) Just as traffic lights turn from red to green to yellow and twelve-year-olds start putting on mascara when they turn into thirteen-year-olds and we all start caring less and less about birthdays, the world around you is shifting. Things will change, and they will get better.

Bad Day

Bad Day

It’s been a long week.  Which is a bad sign when it’s only Wednesday.  Work has been frustrating and annoying and hunched-up-shoulder-stressing and I’m tired and grumpy and, frankly, over it.  Lots of unhappy people looking for new jobs and lots of managers not doing much managing, new staff not knowing what the heck they’re supposed to be doing and me, in the middle of it, wishing I was somewhere else. I was so hoping this job wouldn’t be the same as all the others I’ve had, where politics and egos get in the way of people just doing their jobs, and me doing mine.  I hate all the negative stuff.

Don’t get me wrong – I am VERY grateful for this job.  It came at a time when I needed both financial and emotional security and a place I felt I belonged.  And most of the time I do still feel that, but, sometimes, there are weeks when I would rather be just about anywhere else and get that feeling of needing to run away.  Or punch someone.

Punching someone isn’t really appropriate and I would be rubbish at it anyway (I throw like a girl so I don’t see why my punching would be any different).  Running away would be lovely except that I would be running away with nowhere to go and no job to run back to.  Which I kinda need if I am to continue paying my rent and y’know, eat food.

So, punching and running aside, I am trying to come up with some other things that will get me through the week without inflicting bodily harm on anyone including myself.  I am supposed to be on a diet, so eating cake is out (dammit!) as is consuming copious amounts of cheese or cookies.  I am not allowed to fool myself into thinking jelly beans are anti-depressants although they do have roughly the same effect on me…until I realise I’ve eaten a whole bag and then I feel depressed again and start worrying about my teeth and whether I have just given myself diabetes. So, food is out.

I could start holding up score cards as people walk past me, to comment on their outfits or general style.  I could throw bits of paper at them when they’re not looking.  I could go completely old-school and make a few “kick me” signs to stick on unsuspecting backs.  I could pretend I am on a VERY important phone conversation and speak to no one all day (I’d have to say “Uh huh” and “mm hm…” every now and then whilst holding the phone so that they believed I was actually talking to someone) or book one of the interview rooms and pretend I have a meeting.  Then take a nap.  A long one.

I could plait my hair into funky braids, tape them to the top of my head and wait to see how long it takes before anyone notices.  I could write limericks about staff members and send them out in “ALL STAFF” emails. I could go nuts and clean up my desk and tut at people who leave their coffee cups on it.  I could start reading every book in the collection and hand in a book report on each one to myself (which I will then grade harshly and make disparaging remarks in red pen all over it).  I could write a bucket list.  I could find an actual bucket and write lists about it.  I could list buckets I have known and loved.

I could give people “rubbish duty” and make them pick up any garbage outside if they talk too loudly in the library.  I could put some ropes across the library doorway and charge entry.  I would make popcorn.

I could build a fort out of library books and stick a white flag in the top.  I could sit on top of my filing cabinet and yell “You can’t make me come down!”  I could take all the dirty coffee mugs, plates and bowls people leave in the kitchen sink and smash them, greek-celebration style and eat fetta.  I could do a lunchtime poll just like in Heathers or get people to sign a petition where they think they are agreeing to banning nuclear testing or experiments on animals but really they will be signing off on purchasing me a foot-spa for under my desk.  I could walk around saying “Merry Christmas!” to people and see how many reply in kind before they realise it is actually only February.  I could write love letters to people in the organisation and sign them “Your secret admirer across the hall…” and watch the sparks (and disturbed looks) fly.

There’s lots of things I could do to get me through the week.  In reality I have to just get on with things and get over myself, be thankful I have a job and remember it is only two days until the weekend (and my birthday!).  Then I’ll have turning 40 to worry and think about instead.  Yikes.

Happy Hump Day all – hope the rest of your week is manageable, free from stress and, hopefully, leaves you in a better mood than I am in! 🙂