Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas in a pagan/agnostic/Santa-ist household

I hope you've all had an enjoyable Christmas (or other appropriate holiday).

It was never a big-deal time of the year for me, growing up. Maybe it's because our mum didn't bother with presents or Christmas decorations, and I always had to spend hours writing polite cards to rellies in Hong Kong (or anyone else who sent us one - once we got a card from a 'relative' up the coast and to this day none of us know who on earth this person is).

'It's probably because your family isn't Christian', you might say. Well, that argument does have weight. Except my mum was reborn about ten years ago and the only thing that changed was that she started saying grace before meals.

Also, the boy is very big on Christmas and he's a pagan. Although, as a pagan he is at least highly aware of the various ancient religions whose festivals were usurped by the Christian one.

So ever since the boy has been in my life, Christmas has been a big deal. And ever since TLM was born Christmas has been a very big deal. In fact, TLM began searching for signs of Christmas months ago, and was the first to spot any pine tree, shiny bauble or red/green colour combo in any shop we visited.

TLM spent all Christmas morning unwrapping presents and trying them out. So far (partly due to crappy weather curtailing scooter practice) the one with the most play-time is the Harumika fashion design set. She got the starter set consisting of a mannequin, 3 pieces of punk-esque fabric, and a range of tiny accessories. I added a bunch of offcuts from my past dressmaking efforts.
Actually, I think I have probably played with it as much as she has...




...though the photos are of TLM's designs.
I just went to their website and there's a version with legs. I'll ask the boy to get me that one for my birthday.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Breaking a lifetime habit

For years now, I have been intrigued by the possibility of going shampoo-free. At first, I couldn't believe you could simply stop washing your hair, and it would eventually become self-cleaning. And then I thought, what a big con those drug and cosmetic companies have on us all, producing unnecessary smellies that we supposedly need. (Of course, if you use a lot of styling products, maybe you do need to shampoo often - but then it's still a big con and a massive money-maker for those companies!)

Finally, after a lifetime of daily shampooing, and just as my holidays have started, I just stopped.
Well, in actual fact I went three days without a hair wash, and the next time around I am going to wait 4 days (that brings me up to Christmas Day - I should probably try to be fresh for Christmas Day). And after that I am going to try going a whole week without a shampoo.

After that I'm back at work, so it'll be interesting whether I can keep it up under the pressure to still look presentable.

The weird thing is, I was expecting to get the major greasies - but I haven't at all. I reckon my scalp has probably gotten increasingly drier as I've gotten older (thereby producing less sebum) and I just haven't noticed!
It's so cool that I can now save money on shampoo, and not have to worry about adding hair products to my skincare quest.

Monday, December 20, 2010

You know your kid has been watching too much Ben 10...

...when the plumber arrives to fix a leaky pipe under the house, and you have to explain, "No, TLM, not that kind of plumber"*.



*For those without young kids, in Ben 10 plumbers are people with special powers whose responsibilities including protecting the Earth from hostile aliens

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Keeping it Simple for now (Actually a review of REN sensitive skin products)

I trialled two products from the REN skincare range - the Ultra Calm Global Protection Day Cream and Ultra Calm Cleansing Milk.
REN is from the UK - I was attracted to them because they don't test on animals, and avoid using all those bad-rep chemicals that makers of organic cosmetics love to hate - parabens, petrochemicals etc - for the sake of  skin-friendliness. They might be organic too, but that wasn't my focus.

I was quite astonished when, after emailing them to ask whether REN is available in New Zealand, the customer services person offered to ship me some samples - all the way to the other end of the Earth. When they arrived I was astounded that such small containers existed. But I can't complain.

Both products came in tiny plasticky tubes. They shared a herby smell that made me suspicious, but it wasn't a perfume-y smell so I'll forgive them.

Now, if I'd gotten larger amounts, I would have been able to test them on my face properly. As it was, there was enough to either patch test, or to smear sparingly. So sparing smearing was what I opted for.

The cleanser was lovely to use. It left my skin feeling completely un-assaulted.
The moisturiser was just as gentle, but unfortunately was not emollient enough. I could have gone through a couple of those tubelets just in one application, and would have needed a top-up soon after.

So I will stick with my Simple Regeneration Age-resisting day cream with spf, which is similar in gentleness and emollience, but costs $27.50 for 50ml. The REN moisturiser, on the other hand, costs a whopping $111 for a bottle of indeterminate size which couldn't possibly be 200ml. Actually, the REN website displays a 50ml bottle, so if we assume that it only comes in one size, it's, like, 4 times the cost of the Simple product.

Maybe one day, when I am a millionaire, I will shell out for the REN bottle to try over several days, and maybe I will realise that the stuff is actually better than I thought. Until then, I will stick with the thing that is affordable and is good-enough-for-now.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Man's shirt, feminised. Somewhat.

After the fiasco of the last time I tried to refashion a men's dress shirt, it was a very long time before I set to on the other shirt that the boy gave me. This time around, I used a tunic sewing pattern (New Look 6808) to feminise this shirt. I sewed the front down so that it's now a pullover rather than a button-down, omitted the back and front darts (but left in the bust darts) for a loose fit, and used a contrast fabric for the sleeve and neck facings. The  contrast fabric was cut from a piece of skirt material that used to belong to the boy's lovely mum, which I never used because the print is too big for my body size. From the front, I'd say it was a success.

From the side, it's okay - not fab, not hideous.

But from the back I look like man...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Child development by DVD

The Little Madam has thankfully gotten over her obsession with Barbie DVDs - at least for the time being.

The boy has been diverting her with Dungeons and Dragons - the animated series from the 80's(?) - and Star Wars - Clone Wars (ew yuck!).

Then he got her into the first Harry Potter movie, which she loved. She likes the second one too, but gets freaked out at the scene when Harry and Ron drink polyjuice potion and morph into Goyle and Crabb (Draco Malfoy's brain-shy sidekicks).

For a coupla days, all she wanted to watch was my recording of the televised World of Wearable Arts show. It shouldn't be surprising, because it's full of fantastic, whimsical costumes.

And now she's a fan of The Princess Bride. My only criticism of this movie is that there's only one main female character, and she's utterly passive. But it's witty and got scary bits as well as the occasional kissing, so I'll let it go - as long as TLM also watches something with strong female characters in it.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Unaccustomed social activity

It's been quite a busy weekend.
Friday, my workplace had an all-day Christmas do, which entailed a train ride up north to a lovely hotel/park complex where we frolicked in the sun and then had an amazing lunch before napping on the ride home. We had terrific weather, and I only slightly regretted not bringing my togs with me (I still got wet - the naughty swimmers made sure of that).

Saturday morning TLM and I went shopping for a birthday present, to take to a party that afternoon. While there I managed to sneakily also buy a cute tooth-box for TLM's Christmas present for Sunday's party (see below). We also spent a good hour painting a large sheet of paper to wrap our friend's present it. I had at least as much fun as she did. By the time we got home we had just enough time to vacuum the house before my niece showed up for a sleepover. (But it turned out that this was her first sleepover away from her mum, and she ended up going home at about ten. Which meant that TLM was 3 hours late to bed...)

Sunday, TLM and I attended a Christmas party for her Chinese language school. And then I was ready for another nap.

Uh huh honey honey

And tonight I resumed my Googling for skincare and eczema remedies.It's funny that, although I've always been regarded as a somewhat analytical person, I've never tried very hard to research more about my condition. Perhaps I should blame it on my authority-fearing nice-Cantonese-girl upbringing, but I pretty much have always just relied on whatever my doctor suggested. I suppose it's never too late to search and explore the variety of snake oils out there, looking for something that will work until it stops working.

Tonight, I tried smearing some honey on an irritated area of my hand. Right away, it started stinging. But then it stopped stinging, and stopped itching too. And this wasn't even the famous Manuka honey.

I can't exactly smear this stuff on like moisturizer - I'd be covered in insects and stuff as soon as I stepped out the door. But it does give me a new avenue of active skincare ingredients to try out.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Business travel

Today I had to fly up-country to take a training session. It was organised by someone based up there, and presumably all I had to do was turn up with new knowledge to impart.

But because I'm a training-away virgin, I didn't think to check carefully exactly what facilities would be available - computers, yes; broadband connections,yes; lunch and snacks, yes; whiteboard, yes. Whiteboard pens, data show projector, dunno. Would everyone bring their manual, dunno.

She said something about an overhead projector, but I wasn't interested in creating a bunch of transparencies because I was going to distribute a load of printed handouts instead.

"Just you wait - they'll spend half an hour just trying to log in!" one of my colleagues (a seasoned trainer) said.
"Better take some whiteboard pens and duster", advised the training manager, "because you don't know for sure there'll be any up there".
"You should take a laptop and a data show projector", suggested the boy, "so you can subtley show them how to log in without making obvious your low opinion of their technical abilities".

So I packed a laptop, a data show projector, a wad of printed handouts about the size of an Auckland phone book, a couple of whiteboard pens and the office's only whiteboard duster, and packed it into two bags. Then I had to practice walking around with them as though they were really light, so I wouldn't be forced to check them in at the airport.

I reckon the airlines must gotten into trouble with how they show passengers the safety rules or something. Because in the old days no-one seemed to care if you you could look out the window or napped while they showed you where the exits were.
But on my flight out, the flight attendant actually scolded one passenger like a naughty schoolboy, for talking instead of paying attention. Times sure have changed.

Then I got to my destination, got a lift to the training venue, and found out that there was already a data show projector in the room, already connected up to the computer I'd be using. I needn't have packed the laptop and projector after all - I could have swanned about with just my handbag, saving my shoulder muscles much trauma and strain. There were also pens and dusters a-plenty, and no overhead projector to be seen.

p.s. I think the session went well - no one went to sleep, and everyone managed to finish the practice exercises. But they nearly fell over each other trying to leave when I finished half an hour early.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Whiffy and scratchy

Lately, because it is Spring I suppose, I've been really itchy all the time. Well, I am an eczema-sufferer so that's to be expected. But at the moment it's kinda out of control, in a way that makes a burqa seem like a really practical clothing choice.

I've tried taking antihistamines but most of them don't work - some of them make me dopey and drowsy, but none of them stops me from wanting to rip my skin off at inconvenient times of the day.

Tonight, after dinner, I took a tepid bath with a dose of Pinetarsol. On the bottle it says that it will calm and soothe irritated, inflamed skin. What it doesn't say is that it turns your bathwater the colour of stewed tea, and really, really stinks.

In fact, as soon as I lay down in it I started to feel ever-so-slightly ill. After I got out, I developed a headache.
And I'm still a bit itchy (though at least I don't feel like setting myself on fire so that's probably a plus).

So far, the most effective anti-itching thing I've tried is knitting. I just have to work out how to do that in my sleep.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

School holiday heck

Coming up is our first experience of trying to work out how we are going to manage both of us working full time with school holidays. It's only 5 weeks away!

It would be so simple (and actually really nice) if I could just take holidays when TLM has them. But TLM's summer holidays is about 5-6 weeks long. Even if I took a whole year's worth at once, it would not cover her summer holiday. And that's ignoring the upcoming 2011 holidays - Easter (1 week, I think) and three term holidays (2 weeks each).

Of course, we haven't got around to organising anything before now (and when I say "we" I mean "me", because somehow now that the boy is not a house husband, all child-related issues are my issues). The boy says he is going to be ultra busy, and beside he doesn't even get paid leave as he's a contractor, and he just wants to get paid.

Somehow I just assumed that the after school care company did school holiday programmes too, but as far as I can tell they don't have this service in our part of town - though their website is 3 months out of date so I am still waiting to hear back from them. But even if they did, I'd be very reluctant to send her off for whole days away, even for just a few days per week.

Good grief - how do other families do it?!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A working man Part II

It's been maybe three weeks since the boy started his new job. He seems to be enjoying the challenge of doing something almost-but-not-really like what he used to do i.e. project managing the update of state schools' computer networks rather than managing a team of super-geeks in a super geeky IT shop.

TLM is enjoying going to after school care three times a week. To her, it's just like the good ole days at daycare when all she had to do was play.

And even though I stressed horribly about asking my boss to let me leave work early to pick up TLM from school on the other two days per week, and even though I hate having to work at home to make up for leaving the office early - I do enjoy having that extra time with TLM.  She is reading on her own (sometimes - other times she just makes up new stories), inventing crazy dances and teaching herself yoga from a children's DVD.

The one thing we haven't been able to enjoy is the extra income. The boy only gets paid after a big slab of work is completed and it's quite possible he won't expect anything incoming for a few more weeks. Which is hard on our already-meagre finances, because our expenses have suddenly shot up (mainly petrol and TLM's after school care).

Though the boy had a quiet chat with his boss yesterday and it looks like we can afford to have a reasonably fun Christmas after all. Which means I won't have to give hand-knitted acrylic blue face cloths to the rellies for Christmas presents.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

well-fitting trousers a moving target

I finished my test trousers (Burda Nov 2009, #124). They are made from a light-to-medium weight stretch denim which looks a bit like grey flannel from a distance.

I wore them to work - they were really comfortable, and slightly better fitting than most of the shop-bought trousers I have.

But the next time I went to put them on, they were baggy and yucky - big flaps of fabric around the thighs and far two much fabric at the crotch. And I had to yank them up every time I moved, so I didn't end up wearing them to work.

I put it down to the fact that stretch denim has a tendency to stretche half a size to a size after just one wearing. So I took them in at the sides.

Now I don't have to yank them up all the time, but somehow I've ended up with a fit much worse than I had originally. And here's where a coupla pictures is worth a coupla thousand words...

What the heck is causing that almost-camel toe?

Is it because the metal jeans zip iss weighing the fabric down?
Have I just got a fat pubis?
Or do I need to let it out at the inside leg?
Whatever it is, it's definitely a familiar problem I've had with some shop-bought trousers (only not as obvious as here).

Anyway, if you know the answer, please tell me - because otherwise it'll be back to the rip 'n' sew, trial and error method.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A cardigan, kind of

 It's been several weeks since I finished the knitting portion of this cardigan, and I'm still no closer to getting around to adding buttons and blocking the thing.

So here are some pictures of how it looks so far.

The first photo shows you approximately how it will look buttoned up.




The second one is a close-up of the horizontal ribbing on one of the three-quarter length sleeves.
And the third one is how it looks  worn open. As you can see this garment is absolutely gagging for a blocking (and that's not being crude - it really does need a spray and a pinning out i.e. reshaping).

Also, it' much chunkier and less shaped than I expected. If you have a look at the picture that came with the pattern you'll see what I mean. I dunno what happened, I'm sure I was knitting at the right gauge and had picked the correct size to make. Maybe it's the yarn, because I think it was meant for droopier designs.

Anyway, it's good enough to wear and just the right weight for Spring (around these parts anyway).

Friday, October 29, 2010

Disproportionately nice

Since the last skincare post I have tested:

Natio gentle day moisturiser - it was pretty runny, but I would have put up with that if it didn't irritate. Because then I could either find the night cream version or else used an oil underneath it. I had high hopes for this one because their "normal" skin moisturiser was almost, but not quite, non-irritating. Unfortunately the "gentle" one was not gentle enough.


Clarins Gentle Day Cream - it's expensive, but I hoped that would mean it would be genuinely gentle. Plus, I've used their foundation for years with no problem.  The tiny sample pot they gave me to take home was probably worth about $20 (the full size bottle - 60ml maybe? - cost $88)! Alas, I was surprised and disappointed that paying big bucks is no guarantee of skin comfort.


Tigerlily's Itch-be-gone - they sent me a miniscule sample of this after I emailed them, asking for samples suitable for my troublesome skin. I don't think this is meant to be used on the face, but there's not enough to properly test out on my body. Though what I did use, did feel nice enough. It's a locally made product by some guy who started out making soaps for his wife or something!

Skin Food - Another New Zealand product, and one that's found in all New World supermarkets at a super-affordable price. Which is why I've avoided it all this time. I found it extremely hard to believe that something costing only $11 for a nice big tube, could be a good one. I picked up this tube when I went to do the grocery shopping (the boy gets a bottle of wine, I get an experimental face grease...) and tried it when I got home today. I was a little perturbed by the lemony perfume (as I am by all perfumes). But 3 hours and 3 re-applications later (my skin drinks the stuff up like a fish in the desert), there is no sting, no flushing, no itchiness. If it was a little more moisturising, it'd be perfect. Still, it could all change tomorrow. So I shall wait and see...

Friday, October 22, 2010

The latest skincare quest report

It's a hard road finding the right face moisturiser when you've got extremely sensitive skin, a low budget and want to avoid products tested on animals.

I tried Avene (called Redness-correcting light Daytime Moisturiser, or something similar), but that was no good. Plus, I suspect they do test on animals.

I tried Natio daytime moisturiser with SPF15, and while it did a good job of moisturising, it still irritated a little. They do have a sensitive skin product though, so I could go back and get a squirt of it to try out.

I also tried apricot kernel oil, because clevergirl uses it (albeit an organic version). That stuff was fine on my body but not on my face.

By now I was ready to give up and go back to Shiseido Benefience, which was perfect for me until I decided I couldn't afford it any more. Unfortunately, while checking out online beauty retailers to see if I could buy some at discount, I found out that Shiseido does test on animals. So boo hoo, even if we won the Lotto I would still have to continue my quest.

So the next products on my list to try are:
  • Skinfood - it's a New Zealand product which has had good reviews but it's quite cheap and I can't believe that something so affordable can be good
  • Dermalogica - they have a 30 day money back guarantee, but then it is really expensive and something that may have to wait until the boy gets paid
  • Natio's sensitive skin range
  • Ren - something I read about on the 'Net. I emailed them in the UK to find out whether it's sold in New Zealand, and they offered to send me some free samples!

A working man

The boy has a job!!

Actually, it's a contract. But it's a well-paid one, with plenty of potential for permanent employment later. Plus...it's a job!!

On the other hand, he has to start right away - literally, next Tuesday. So we'd had next to no time at all to sort out after school care for TLM. And he's going to be away sometimes because he'll be at sites all over the place.

But then...he's got a job!!


He already has a list of things he's going to spend his pay on, hopefully one of those is a trip to the UK to visit his family because I've never actually met them in person. And taking time off for holidays is way harder when you're a contractor.

But at least he's got a job!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

not tonsillitis

When I got to the doctor's and showed her the left side of my head, she seemed very excited and fascinated by my condition. Obviously it's not something she's come across before. It was the ear that did it really. It was huge, florid and almost pulsating with not-quite-right-ness. She wanted to know all about it (maybe she'd been bored with a morning full of sniffles and sprained ankles - I dunno).

Anyway, a little TMI, so I'll gloss over the details. Suffice it so say that tonsils were examined and deemed healthy, so the infection was therefore of some other sort.

I got my prescription for a big bottle of antiobiotics, a note for my employers confirming I need another day off, and hope that some time tomorrow I will look and feel like myself again.

Actually, today I forgot I was sick on several occasions - I just have trouble turning my head, and my body temperature still goes a bit up and down. I even managed a couple of hours of work - checking and reply to emails and anything else I could manage from home.

And when I get back to work I shall be sure to clean my telephone very, very thoroughly.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

tonsillitus

Overnight, just like that, I developed a tender lump on one side of my neck. The first morning, all my joints ached as well so I knew I was genuinely ill and I hadn't sleepwalked to a bar and got into a fight with the bouncer.

I spent most of that day huddled on the sofa with a duvet, a high temperature and Season 4 of the Gilmore girls.

Today I've been more conscious and my joints aren't aching any more. But my head still hurts and my neck still looks and feels like it's trying to hatch an avocado. Not only that, but it seems to be spreading further around my head - not the face, thank gawd, but if my left ear gets any more swollen it's going to explode. It already looks like it was transplanted from a larger animal - perhaps a rugby-playing elf with a lifelong alchol problem.

The boy's mum is a retired nurse, and she reckons it's tonsillitus. I always thought my tonsils were down the back of my throat, but then, I've always associated tonsils with ice cream so what do I know?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Best. Birthday. Ever.

For my birthday yesterday, the boy got me Season 1 of 30 Rock, which I love but keep missing on TV, and a copy of Steig Larsson's The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. For some reason he thought I was a Larsson fan, though in fact I've only ever watched the movie that was made from his first novel.

TLM picked out a very pretty Oriental-flavoured birthday card, and decorated the wrapping paper too, with some nice domestic scenes (am I worried that she's demonstrating such girlie behaviour? No, because it's balanced by her love for Ben 10 and Clone Wars).

The boy made me my favourite meal, butter lamb, which was followed by a very yummy berry-topped cake from Floridita's.

I was supposed to get the day off work, but as we've a plethora of Librans in the office I offered to work on my birthday and take today off instead.

And what a good choice! The weather was absolutely fantastic, compared to the exfoliating winds and bracing wintry throwback of yesterday. Needless to say, I had a load of washing up on the line as soon as my toast was in my belly.

While TLM was at school, the boy and I went into town and bimbled (apparently an English colloquialism for strolling around town with no particular aim in mind). We bought magazines and read them over lunch at Astoria. Just like the old days.

Also, I bought myself Bill Bryson's At Home. That guy could take a parliamentary transcript and turn it into something funny, informative and clever.

Then, just before we headed back home, we stopped off at Atticus, the boy's favourite shoe shop where I very nearly bought me some cherry Doc Martins.

Yes, I did wear Docs back in the 90's when they were last the hottest of the hot.
And I wonder whether they are the second most predictable fashion statement for 40-something women, after dyed red hair.
But I will wait until next Autumn before getting them anyway, because it's almost sandal season.

Friday, October 08, 2010

un-idle hands

Isn't it always the way - at least with me - that, when I have time to blog I tend to have little to blog about. But when I have stuff to blog about, I'm too busy doing that stuff to blog about it!

I have mostly finished my green cardigan that was knit, unravelled and knit again (in a different pattern). I might even get around to posting a photo. There is still the buttons to choose and sew on, but that may not happen until next autumn now.

Not only that, but I have already knitted the back, front and about a quarter of the sleeves of another cardigan, this time a denim-y look originally designed to be knit in Rowan denim
(from a book called Denim People - much cooler than it sounds). Only I'm using an indigo acrylic because I can't afford to order couple of hundred bucks worth of cotton yarn just for what is, in effect, knit-doodling.

And, I'm about halfway through sewing a pair of trousers! Because, as we get into warmer weather, I have to forsake my skirt-or-dress + opaque tights combos, and instead rely on breezy yet leg-covering trousers for work. I'm making a test pair out of some dark stretch denim (and a Burda magazine 4-in-1 pattern) and I reckon they are going to be okay too.

Again, no pictures. Probably because I don't have a flash and my mirror still needs cleaning

Thursday, October 07, 2010

short term memory loss

Maybe it's just a sub-conscious act of denial or something, but - in the last few years I keep forgetting how old I am.

And the reason why this topic comes up today is because in just a few days I will be 46 (I think...or will I be 47...45?)

I will be only a hop, skip and a jump from the big 5 -0.
Quite scary really, because I am heading right into breastscreening, wrinkle-checking, saggy-baggy territory.

The boy is a few years behind me though.

They do say that you're only as old as the one you feel...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Premature price rises

So I'd been pussyfooting around about replenishing my supply of face moisturiser because I still haven't found the perfect one, but I need something because I'm running out.

So after much Libran indecision I went into Farmers (where there is almost always a sale on - but not today).

Only it's a few dollars more than it was a couple of weeks ago.
And at the pharmacy up the road, it was priced even more expensively.

So what I reckon is this - even though there's a GST (that's VAT or sales tax) increase scheduled for the 1st of October, some retailers are marking up their prices early.

The cheek of it!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The search goes on after all

Around the time my Trilogy moisturiser started to run out, I noticed that sometimes after I used it on my face my skin started to heat up. So I guess it must have developed a sensitivity to one or more of the ingredients. The Xma-Ease was till fine, but it's not a moisturiser so I can't use that on its own.

So...it was time to go back on the search for something to use on my (how inconvenient!) dry and irritable complexion.

One problem I had with experimenting was that if I squirt something from the tester bottle at the shop and put it on my hand, wrist or even behind my ear, it might feel perfectly comfortable. But it might be quite irritating on my face. And there's no way I'll put something new on my face unless I'm at home - in case the new product turns out to be a burn-y, sting-y thing from dermatology hell.

Then I had a Eureka! moment and realised all I had to do was to carry a small, clean pot around with me so I can squirt an untried moisturiser into and take it home for testing.

If I'd only thought of that earlier, I'd have save myself 20 bucks on a tube of The Honey Company sensitive skin cream.
It did save me from wasting money on a tub of Olive moisturiser though. And both of these felt perfectly nice on my hands.

The latest hopeful was Lush's Celestial, of which I was given a free sample to try. By all accounts it's fabulous for dry and sensitive skin, and it's been raved about on the Internet. On day one, I was converted. On day two, I thought I detected a slight, worrying tingle that came and went after I put it on my face. On day three, the boy took a look at my glowing cheeks and said I looked like I'd been over-enthusiastic with the exfoliation (which I daren't do).

Apparently Olay is quite safe. Does anyone know whether it's tested on animals?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

So much for that

I'm talking about the book by Lionel Shriver. I finished it ages ago - had to, because the library only lets you borrow a book for 4 weeks and won't let you renew.

Anyway.

The premise of the book is this. What do you do if you are finally - after decades of dreaming, planning, earning and saving - ready to take the plunge and retire to a life of relative luxury on a beautiful-but-cheap third world country...only to find out that your spouse has cancer and needs the not-quite-adequate health insurance that comes with your hated job?

I was prepared for the book to be depressing, but it wasn't all that. The guy whose life dream was so rudely crushed, whose savings are now destined to be flushed down the black hole that is the cost of American healthcare, doesn't sink into a pit of despair. He rises to the challenge of looking after his wife, who is bitter and angry at her fate; stays in his thankless job under a useless jerk of a boss; and staunchly deals with it. Then he wins.
 
When Shriver (through her characters) talks about the American healthcare system, it's like she did all her research from the Mike Moore movie. Actually, if you're quite cynical about the American way of life and the way it seems to be controlled by the rich and the corporate, you'll be nodding and going "hell yeah!" and "bastards!".

But our hero, the little guy who plays by the rules, well you could say he wakes up.
There's even a happy ending.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Big score and little op shop

It's not actually snowing.

It's just that the dressing table mirror is horribly dirty and if I'd realised just how dirty it was, I would have given it a once-over with some Spray 'n' Wipe or something.

Probably.
So anyway, just when I was considering whether it was worth cutting up 3 pairs of old jeans left to me by the boy, and trying to turn it into some kind of denim jacket that doesn't look like a denim jacket - I found this lovely specimen at an op shop 'round the corner from work.

It's a dark denim and in a non-classic style, which I love. And it only cost $7!

I did have to spend a few hours shortening the sleeves (it took so long because I kept putting the cuffs in the wrong way around). But now I have a lovely jacket for those not-so-warm late-Spring/early-Summer days.

Though it does mean I have to find more non-denim bottoms, because I do not like the double-d look...

Friday, September 17, 2010

shrinkage

The good news is -  the Calvin Klein bootleg jeans that I bought two years ago and hardly wore because they were uncomfortably tight around my generous middle, are now comfortable. I just have to get through the first day right after they've been washed and dried, to allow for normal expansion.

The bad new is - bootlegs don't suit me. (Yeah I know I can just take them in at the sides, but these days even minor sewing projects take weeks to get to).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cheap and cheerful

With our current financial situation, it'd be silly to be a retail snob. While I love the idea of choosing quality over quantity (or just something that lasts over something you'll be cleaning the sink with after 5 washings), what it comes down to is what can we afford.

Which is why I now love the Two Dollar Shop. It's like a miniature department store, which cheap versions of just about anything. Some would say the stuff in there is cheap and nasty, I beg to differ.

For example - when you are looking for paper to wrap up children's birthday presents, doesn't it make more sense to get the pretty stuff that rips easily, than the expensive stuff that's going to be ripped?

And when it comes to knitting, I do love to see and feel the gorgeous yarns at the specialty yarn shops. But hey - I'm not trying to create an heirloom, I just want to feed my addiction and have something wearable at the end of it.  So when I found some el cheapo acrylic at Spotlight that was exactly the right shade of denim blue, I weighed it up against the nearest thing (but the wrong blue and three times the cost), I knew it was okay to go for the cheap one.

That place is also excellent for 5 year old girls who like sparkly stuff.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The late show

Apparently TLM's school is putting on a show, and her class is in it.
The show has a space theme and TLM is...the moon!
I definitely plan to see her first live performance since starting school (not least because the boy had a hand in the props-making).

But there's one thing worrying me. It runs for two consecutive evenings between 7pm and 8pm.

Now that's a great starting time for people like me who can longer stay up late. And it's a great show length for people who are only there to see their own kid anyway. But I think it's a terrible time for a performer whose normal bedtime is 6.45pm...

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Left is left and right is right and never the twain shall match up

Since I re-started my cardigan project, using the latest knitting pattern, I have re-knitted the right front piece twice and the left front piece 2 1/5 times. I never could have predicted that I would have this much problem getting the two front pieces to match.

I mean, when it happened with the first cardigan knitting pattern I thought it was because I was knitting it sideways. But this one is more traditional i.e. one back piece, 2 front pieces and 2 sleeve pieces.  Meditative as knitting is, I lost my cool when I realised that I was in for yet another round of unravelling (thank the gods that the yarn seems to be very forgiving).

If I were to do it all again (and that's not out of the question), I would do both front pieces at the same time. It would require lots more concentration to make sure I increase, decrease, bind off and make buttonholes when they are due, but it would be the best way to ensure they end up the same size and shape (it worked when I tried this for the sleeves).

Maybe I should have stuck to knitting squares and rectangles for a bit longer...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

She's been summoned

Dear Ministry of Justice
Thank you for inviting my mother to attend jury service. She was flattered by this belated gesture recognising her status as a New Zealand citizen who is neither insane nor criminally minded.

However there are several reasons why she is unable to attend:
1. my mother does not speak English well unless she is trying to get a good price
2. she is very deaf and would require every witness to speak at their highest volume - possibly with the addition of a microphone
3. her eyesight is poor, and will probably have trouble distinguishing the defendant from the judge
4. at the advanced aged of 85, I wonder whether my mother is in fact within an acceptable age range for jury duty
5. she won't get a bus to court each day so you'd have to call her up a (taxpayer-funded) taxi every day

Yours faithfully
V

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Men who stare at goats

It was Saturday evening and there wasn't anything promising on telly. So I wandered down to the new-ish local DVD rental shop.

It came down to a choice between two overnights - Date Night or The Men Who Stare at Goats.

Date Night starred Steve Carrell and Tina Fey, both very funny actors (and I am in love with Fey's 30 Rock).

Goats starred George Clooney (among others) and sounded a bit intellectual - just the sort of thing I went for in my film festival-going days.

I was tempted to get both, but we wouldn't have time to watch both before they were due back. Plus, it would cost less to rent just one.

So I deferred to the guy behind the counter.

"Well..." he said, "Date Night's pretty funny, but it's pretty light. The other one's kinda anti-American, and really funny. I liked it a lot".

So even though I've been tending to go for the funny+ lite, this time I went for the funny + arthouse. I didn't know how the boy would take it, but I didn't care. He made me walk all the way down to the DVD rental and if he didn't like it he could lump it.

We both loved it. It's hard to believe it's based on fact - the fact that, during the Reagan years, the US military trained a team of "super soldiers" with mystical powers (you know, fork bending and such like). Actually I really liked the vision, because it was included the belief that we are all part of the universe and everything in it. It also had the idea that you could win a war without actually killing people.
It was also very funny. Not in that laugh out loud, slapstick kind of way. More in a "I can't believe they did this!" kind of way. I wouldn't say it was anti-American as just making fun of the American government of the time.

Oh yeah, and if you think Clooney's yummy, then you'll like that aspect of it too because you get to see him looking alternately older and distinguished, and young and spunky.

Monday, August 16, 2010

homemade and loving it


The one time I took TLM into the yarn shop with me, she made me buy a ball of yarn for her. It was this bright blue and bulky Panda Toto yarn.

Then she made me promise to make something for her out of it.

Then she made me promise to make mittens.

Eventually I found a mittens pattern I could understand, and which didn't require a set of double-pointed needles (which I don't have).

Of course, I didn't have enough yarn. So I supplemented with some leftover silver grey wool from the boy's scarf, plus the pinky purple acrylic left over from TLM's/my scarf, plus two strands of white wool which TLM found in her daycare centre's stash.

The finished mittens are wonky and mishapen and far too big.

But TLM doesn't care.

Out with the ugly, in with the new

So, this is how my cardigan looked last night. I wasn't able to finish it yet because once again I ran out of Paton's Zhivago in green - and the shop didn't have any more. So, with one sleeve to finish and the edging to do, I tried it on.

That's when I realised that the left front is longer than the right front. Maybe that's the risk when you knit a garment sideways. Anyway, that, and the fact that it looks thoroughly atrocious on me, is why I decided to unravel it and start again. This time I will try to make this Berrocco cardigan.

See, one of the things I like about knitting is that it is fairly easy to remake something that went wrong, compared to sewing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Today was the first day of the rest of her school life

We didn't cry.
At least, I didn't. I bet the boy did 'cos he a big softie - he would have done it after I left for work.

As it turned out, there was one other child starting today, and she was someone we knew a little (but hadn't seen since TLM was about 18 months). The other girl just happened to have the exact same birthdate as TLM too, so they pretty much bonded right from the start.

So that was a pretty good start. She was pretty tired at the end of her day though. By the time I got home from work I couldn't get any sense out of her because she was all over-tired and hyped up.

Back in the olden days, first days at school were a little different. My brother remembers me being dressed up like a little princess for my first day of school. All I remember is that I didn't know how old I was, and my teacher's horn-rimmed spectacles scared me speechless.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

High Five

The Little Madam turned five today.

Yesterday she celebrated her Last Day at daycare with cake and a sing-a-long.

On Saturday she has her birthday party, having invited about half of the daycare kids and teachers.

And tomorrow she starts school.

Wow.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

twitchy fingers

On Friday evening I ran out of yarn and had to stop work on my cardigan. And all weekend, during those quiet moments when I'm not eating or playing with TLM or taking my mum out on Pak 'n' Save marathons,  I have felt restless and didn't know what to do with myself.

So the answer would be to buy some more yarn and get knitting again. But what to do when the cardigan is finished - unravel it and start again? Because I'm realising that this is not exactly a cheap hobby, even if I can find sources which are reasonably priced.

However, re-making the same thing over and over again, well that would be ridiculous - like digging and filling a line of holes in the ground (which sounds like a work-for-dole scheme from way back).

Is this a little bit like how smokers feel when they run out of ciggies (never mind the physiological dependency)?

Actually, it's very likely I will be remaking the cardigan, because the sleeves are ludicrously baggy when knitted according to the design. Plus, I never have particularly liked garter stitch...

Friday, August 06, 2010

Holiday Snaps

TLM enjoying the flower beds at Taupo

A picture of Huka Falls which does little to indicate the power of the water gushing through here. I still remember hearing the news about the naked body of a cricket umpire found here, inside a barrel

A  mud pool at Wai-o-tapu. Probably the same stuff they put on you at day spas, but hotter.

The geyser, plus numerous tourists

I think this was at the Champagne Lake. The thing that looks like a fried egg is a blob of sulphurous stuff

That lake at Wai-o-tapu with the plastic-ky green water

Looking out towards the hills from inside the Waitomo Caves tourist centre

Inside one of the Waitomo caves. At times it looked like we were underground at a parsnip farm.

Also inside one of the Waitomo caves. Cool, huh?

This is either the Blue Lake or the Green Lake - I can't tell because it was overcast and both of them were a bit grey...

Something about travel making you appreciate home

We got back home yesterday. In all, we had two and a half days of travelling, two days of sightseeing, and two days of TLM being ill with a strange foot-cramping virus. But the sightseeing days were great and even the travel days weren't too bad either.

The first sightseeing day I've already posted about. The other one, also conducted in heavy rain, was a visit to the Waitomo Caves. We had to drive a couple of hours each way (though there was some lovely scenery along the way to make up for the boring mostly pastures of sheep and cows), and the tour fees were eyebrow-raising, but it was worth it. We visited two caves: the glow worm cave (including a boat ride in the dark) and the Aranui (I think) Cave, which had no glow worms so we were able to wander about  and take pictures of all the stalactites and stalacmites.

The day we left Rotorua was the second sunny day since our holiday started (the first one being the day we arrived). We had more rest stops, which really made for a less tiring and bum-numbing trip. I also wangled a stop-over in Otaki where all the designer outlet shops are.

Though we were away for only 6 days in total, we were all quite glad to be home - TLM missed having her own dark and quiet room, and the boy and I missed being able to watch telly without having the sound turned right down. Though right now I am missing that private thermal pool and the central heating...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A letter to TLM's nanna

At the boy's request, here is a post to tell his mum all about our day today (holiday day 4).

Having lost about a day and a half, I was pretty keen to be out and about today. I reckon the boy was a bit antsy too, though TLM would probably have been quite happy to stay in and play Mouse Trap (her new board game) all day.

First up was a visit to Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland, which is a geyser-y tourist trap between Rotorua and Taupo. The mud pools, as always, were awesome. the geyser was cool too, but it was hard to get a photo of it without also getting an unintentional photo of several gaudily dressed tourists. My favourite was probably the Champagne Pool, all yellow and green, and the smaller pool we saw on the way back which was a fascinating plastic tiki shade of green. It was of course, smelly, as are most areas in and around Rotorua. (You could think of it as an hell-fairy-land - misty and pretty but hard on the olfactories). TLM got plenty of shoulder rides, but managed plenty of walking too - straight-ankled and pain free.

Then we had a short rest back at the motel (Wylie Court - it's a good 'un) before visiting the lovely Blue and Green lakes. The Blue Lake wasn't particularly blue, due to it being overcast and drizzly, but the area itself is gorgeously green and surrounded by tree ferns and covered in mist.

And lastly, before we headed back to our motel unit to soak in our private thermal plunge pool (sigh), a walk around the Lake Rotorua lakefront whilst being stalked by greedy black swans.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Un-touristy sites in Rotovegas

It was a fairly long car ride - about 6 hours with 3 very short breaks along the way - so when TLM woke up puking at 4am the morning after arriving, we thought it must've been carsickness.

But carsickness doesn't make your feet turn out and cramp up arthritically. It doesn't make standing on your feet agony and walking without intense pain an impossibility. So the second day of our holiday was spent at Rotorua Hospital. She was admitted overnight for observation, and I was allowed to camp out next to her bed.

So, sleeping in a fold-out bed in a busy hospital next to your child who is suffering from gods-know-what, is not the most serene way to spend the night. What made it worse was the screams of the poor kid in the bed opposite who'd skied into a large rock and smashed up her knee, and was expressing her disapproval at the temporary withdrawal of her pain medication.

Not to mention the loud beeping of machines and the lights being left on until midnight.*

But TLM finally fell asleep around 10pm, and I dozed on and off all night.

And in the morning she was miraculous as good as new. They couldn't find the cause of this sudden, acute attack of pain-itis and we may never find out. Probably a virus, they said.

Tomorrow, the holiday really starts.

*I don't mean to complain. The hospital staff were wonderful and we were treated really well.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

When I said we'd be sleeping on the side of the road, I was joking

Last night I checked my bank account and was disappointed at the measly funds held therein.
"Oh", I said, "I guess pay week must be next week not this week".
The boy looked at me in surprise.
"What, so, we have no money and we're just about to go on holiday?"
"Um...yes. We'll just have to put everything on plastic and worry about it later" I replied.

But I wasn't able to worry about it later. I started to worry about it right away. The worry wasn't so bad that it pushed out the earworm in my head (the theme song from Barbie - a mermaid tale), but it was bad enough that my mood the next morning was pretty grim.

I still had to pay our overdue car registration too.  And the phone and Internet bill was due while we would be away. And I only had a hundred bucks to last us until next Wednesday so maybe it was going to be a really short holiday.

Then one of my workmates reminded me that we get paid on Wednesday night, not Tuesday night.
Well, that could have saved me a heck of a lot of anxiety.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A chance to rest, relax and get sick

Only four sleeps to go until our holiday - hooray!
But I'm already getting a scratchy throat that needs frequent clearing. This is just what the boy predicted - that I'll get so run down that by the time I have some time off my body will just give up soldiering on and succumb to the nearest virus.
But who knows, maybe a couple of soaks in a private geothermal pool is just what I need to sweat it off again...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Slytherin scarf - photographic evidence

Well, here it is. The boy's Slytherin scarf. Weeks of dedicated knit and purl went into this, along with 4x100g skeins of forest green merino yarn and 2x50g skeins of silver grey wool yarn. It's knitted in the round, so that's a double thickness you're seeing, totalling about 4 1/2 feet worth of slythering, cosy goodness.

I toyed with the idea of doing tassels at each end instead of fringes, but that's possibly a bit overly feminine.

Monday, July 19, 2010

cardigan girl

It took several weeks to finish, but I did. I haven't gotten around to taking a photo of the boy's Slytherin scarf yet, but I will.

In the meantime, I have been working on a bright green Sonnet cardigan, a freebie from the Knitty website. What it's really got going for it is that, in theory at least, the knitting pattern works with any gauge.

And the main reason I chose this pattern was because the yarn I'd already bought didn't seem to work with the cardigan I really wanted to make, Trina, a freebie I found on Ravelry. I couldn't seem to get the right knitting gauge and will probably have to look for a thicker yarn for that one.

I hope I don't finish before we go on holiday, because we are bound to have quiet evenings while we're away - and it's too expensive to buy more than one garment's worth of yarn every coupla months.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My traitorous health needs

I wouldn't be a very good ambassador for New Zealand. I don't like rugby, don't drink beer, can't wear wool and am a bit iffy about dairy products.

In fact, if I had to shop locally-made only and eschew all foreign-made products, I would probably be in big shit.

Because New Zealand doesn't produce cotton, acrylic, linen, bamboo, rayon, tencel or any of those other itch-free fibres. Nor does it (as far as I know) produce soy milk. So I would live out my life scratching and hoiking. Not a pretty picture, eh?

And my GP pooh-poohed all those eco-friendly enzyme-based laundry powders, because they are not very safe for sensitive skin.

I know it's not very PC to say so, but thank goodness for man-made substitutes (even though I dearly wish I could take advantage of those cuddly merino yarns).

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A holiday's a comin'

I dared to ask the boss for a week off early next month...and she let me have the time off!

I was so happy to get her emailed reply that I clapped my hands like a little kid and hopped about in my seat. Then I emailed the happy news to the boy and left work for the day.

So it looks like we are going to spend some time in Waitomo, home of the famous Waitomo Caves (glow worms and blackwater rafting - that's all I know about it). None of us have been there before, so it should be exciting for all of us. It's just a matter of finding some accommodation which is reasonably priced, warm and comfortable, and - preferably - has a separate bedroom so we can send TLM to bed without having to sit in the dark ourselves for the rest of the evening.

Hee hee hee...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A head full of knits

It's definitely an obsession, this knitting hobby thingy I've adopted. For some reason, once I sit down to put together some rows of Slytherin colour, I find it very very hard to stop.

I have already printed out half a dozen patterns for cardigans and jumpers - though to be honest that was partly because my printer ran out of colour ink and I mistakenly replaced the black and white ink instead, and now I have to use up the old black and white because I have already removed the seal from the new black and white cartridge.

The big plus is that, when I had to take my mum to a hospital appointment, the thought of being in the waiting room for up to three hours was not as stressful as it would have been if I did not have a bagful of forest green merino yarn to work with. It also means that I can be work on a garment even if I only have ten minutes spare - something that was pretty much out of the question when I was the sewing queen.

Of course it's only a matter of time before the lack of reasonably-priced non-wool yarn, a fashion swing away from home knits, and a surplus of over-sized chunky knits in my wardrobe drives me away from my new-found past time. But until then, it is my way of zoning out and that's gotta be a good thing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

stranger danger

Something happened to me the other day that has made me re-consider my fashion choices.

I was walking to the bus stop in the morning. It was, as usual for this time of year, cold and drizzly - so I was forced to abandon my lovely winter coat and instead wear a dark blue waterproof parka (men's size M) over a merino & possum fur cardigan. There was a dress under there somewhere too, as well as my trusty opaque black tights and my super-comfy (but slightly school-girlish) flat black shoes with criss-cross strap.

And a man leaned out of his car window on the other side of the road, and said "Hey where are you going?". He may have said "baby" somewhere in that sentence. If he didn't then it really sounded like he meant to.

Of course, I turned around and replied "why do YOU want to know?" and carried on down the hill.

But I do wonder whether he thought I was a little girl.

And by the way, I finished the pinky purple scarf. TLM has already worn in twice, even though I have yet to tidy up all the loose bits of yarn hanging off it. Next up, a Sytherin scarf for the boy!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Too hot to handle

So this morning TLM and I had chores to do in the local shopping area, and then for a treat I took her to MacD's for a hot chocolate.

In any normal cafe she'd get a fluffy (warm milk fluffed to look like a bland cappucino, plus marshmallows). But she wanted hot chocolate this time.

So I ordered her one, and a soy latte for myself.

TLM was very patient, waiting for her treat to arrive - it was pretty busy in there, even in the McCafe.

Then it arrived, and  TLM decided she was "not sure about" the dark swirls of chocolate sauce on top.
So I scooped it up and disposed of it (into my mouth).
Then she decided she wasn't sure about the drink itself.
So she ate the accompanying marshmallows while I drank her hot chocolate.

Funnily enough I got the impression that they'd put soy milk in the choc drink rather than in my latte - which explained TLM's lack of enthusiasm.

At this point I should've just taken her drink back. But no, I ordered her a fluffy instead. Just so she would have a drink she was sure about, while I tried to finish her hot choc and my latte.

Then the fluffy arrived. It burned her mouth. Who'd have thought that anyone could possibly serve a  drink that's designed for littlies, super-heated? It was really, really hot - healthy and safety kinda hot.

So then I had to ask for some cold water for her poor scalded lips.  And that's the drink she was sure about.

Not much of a treat for her really.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I'll be the one in the Pumpkin Patch scarf

So I bought a crochet hook and a ball of pinky purple (Pumpkin Patch colours!) yarn, with the idea of teaching TLM to crochet. Then it turns out that I cannot remember how to crochet. I can produce a simple chain, but that's it really.

However I can remember how to knit and purl. So TLM agreed that we should add that pinky purple acrylic yarn to the existing "stash" (i.e. one skein) of pinky purple bamboo yarn, which I'd bought to teach TLM to knit with (I had this idea that we would have one ball per project), and I'd knit the whole lot into something pinky purple and wearable.

Now, I haven't knitted since the 80's, which is the last time hand knitting was trendy (really - there were even television ads featuring himbos with knitting needles). But I do recall going to university in a hand-knit sweater dress from the House of Violet, and no-one fell over laughing at me.
And the upshot is that I have become hooked on knitting. I have been knitting every spare moment at home, since last Thursday. And now I'm inspired to knit up a storm in cotton and bamboo.

One ball of acrylic yarn and one skein of bamboo does not a scarf make. But it might be enough to make one those snug-fitting collar thingies. And I plan to put 2 buttons on it at differing widths, so that the pre-schooler and I and take turns wearing it.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Good old husband-finding skills

TLM first expressed the desire to learn to sew when I let her go with me to Spotlight, and she found a Dora the Explorer sewing machine. I managed to get us both out of there without buying (or promising to buy) said sewing machine. But every time she saw me with my well-used quick un-picker (i.e. seam ripper), she'd say "I want to sew something!".

And that, my dear readers, is why I have decided to teach TLM to knit.
Actually, it's because knitting needles aren't sharp like sewing needles.

But now that I've cracked open the blob of silky bamboo yarn (in a girly mix of purple and pink) and busted out the slinky knitting needles, I'm thinking that I should have searched for "crochet needle" on TradeMe instead. At least with crochet you've only got one implement to handle, and it's not very long.

So far I've let her occasionally start a stitch or pass the yarn the over, but I refuse to let go. Because, despite that fact that I intended the whole project to be a TLM DIY - I can just see myself re-looping them stitches over and over again...

Monday, May 31, 2010

The upside of being sick

  • I get to experience being cared for by the boy, who is an excellent nursie
  • There were no complaints when I decided to watch the whole of Season Two of Gilmore girls over three days (I've been sick since Thursday, but hardly conscious enough to watch telly until Saturday)
  • It's nice and warm in my living room, but nasty cold outside, so I didn't mind being stuck at home
  • by this afternoon, I was well enough to play Junior Monopoly with TLM - which I don't usually get time to do if I've been working all day
  • and hopefully, the boss will see to it that I can take a few days off to get out of town for something fun with the family
The cold has, as predicted, moved chest-ward (ho!). But at least it's left my brain.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I told her so

We are way overdue for a holiday - well I am, anyway. We haven't been away since Christmas 2008/2009, and that was only for a week.

But could I get a long weekend off work? Not on your nelly, because the place I work for is in the middle of a big project to launch a new database and website and there's tons of work to do.

And now I have the mother of all colds - hopefully not as terrible as the affliction which put me out of action for a month last winter - but certainly bad enough to keep me in bed for two straight days. For a cold! It's now working its way to my chest, so even if I make it in to work tomorrow, my workmates will still need to keep at least a metre away from me at all times.

And if I don't make it back to work tomorrow, then all I can say to my boss is,
 I TOLD you I needed a break!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Believably busy

I suppose it's to be expected when you work for a non-profit organisation, but at work there's just far too much to be done and not enough person-hours in which to do it.

So when my mum gets a pay-immediately demand from the power company which whom she has a direct debit arrangement, and wants me to ring their call centre to sort it out, there's only one thing I can do.

"Mum, I'm so busy I haven't got time to piss!" I protest. 

And even though I'm saying this is in beginner's level Cantonese, I'm pretty sure that a born and bred home-villager would have said it the same way (but with added cussing).

But it's almost true, you know. And she believes me.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

The movie, which we watched on DVD recently, was great. It's kinda predictable to present classic heroes as tortured souls, and they've done that with Holmes. But, according to the boy, Holmes was in fact a tortured soul in the original novels.

Actually, the relationship between he and Dr Watson is very, very reminiscent to that between Dr House and his friend Wilson.

Hey, both pairs have the the initials H & W! I wonder whether the creators of House were being really clever.

The other thing about Holmes, which I didn't know from my limited exposure to old Sherlock Holmes movies, is that he is keen and talented boxer. This is good for the box office because guys like a bit violence and girls like a bit of a six-pack. And again, this is apparently a feature of the original character as per the novels.

The movie has a villanous black magic practitioner, which the boy and I always like to see in movies, as well as a super-clever female thief, whom I suspect was included to prevent it from being a boys-only story.

Oh, and the scenery is fantastic. It's sorta like Blade Runner gone retro (seeing as it's set in Victorian London) - all industrial and ugly and beautiful at the same time.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

UFOs coming out of my ears

Once upon a time my workplace made us do personality tests, supposedly to help our team leaders work out how to make the most of our respective strengths (and avoid our respective weaknesses).

I was horribly disappointed to score low in "creativity", but at least I could console myself with my high score as a "completer".

So why on earth do I have so many unfinished sewing projects (UFOs, but don't ask me what the "O" stands for - it's just standard sewist slang as far as I can tell)?

There's:
  • the Chanelesque jacket - I made the fitting muslin, but didn't go any further. I've been thinking maybe it needs a hood (or an entirely different neckline) to avoid it looking like a failed Chanel jacket or - almost as bad - like a jacket that doesn't belong on my body
  • the Burda tunic dress I made last winter, which I decided to refashion - so far all I've managed is to unpick the baggy puff sleeves and stick pins in the armholes
  • the too-long and too-small tunic dress which I bought off TradeMe - I chopped the top of it off and cut a new (and wider) neckline and torso into it. It is currently full of pins
  • the merino sack dress, which I wore to work anyway - before I remembered that I still haven't fixed the small hole I found in the sleeve. Plus I really want to add circular patch pockets to the sides for a bit of interest, but I will probably never get around to it now
  • the tweed skirt (which came with the matching jacket that had the hole worn in a stupid place), which I mean to shorten and re-do the waist seam on. It is still stuffed into a big zip-up bag full of other potential refashions (not mentioned here)
If I ever get a couple of hours of free sewing time, I will be so undecided about how to use it that I'm likely to just go for a walk in the hills instead!

A couple of thumbs-downs

The other day I was in the pharmacy (the only other place I go during my lunch break is the public library), and the retail assistant (the very same girl I mentioned in my previous blog post) gave me a sample of a Dr Haushka Lewinn bio oil and a Dr Haushka Lewinn face moisturiser. She raved about the oil, saying it was supposed to be very good for ezcema-prone skin. Then I nagged her about my need for moisturisers so she gave me the other.

FYI - sad to say that neither of the above were a big success for me. The body oil promised to have a soothing effect on my delicate skin, but it wasn't any different than if I had used leftover cooking oil (well maybe better-smelling). The moisturiser was a stinger.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Home is where the pharmacist is

Anonymity can be a good thing when you go shopping, especially if you are the sort of person who buys a lot of stuff from pharmacies. I'm not even just referring to relatively embarrassing items like  condoms, tampons and haemorrhoid cream.

I go in a lot for my prescription medicines (for my allergies etc), but I'm also a frequent visitor because of my skincare experiments. Plus - I don't know about pharmacies elsewhere in the world, but the pharmacies in NZ are chock full of pretty things. Things like luxury toiletry bags and Disney-character shampoos for kids, and then there's the more usual stuff like fabulous perfumes and creams and so on that are like poison to my skin...and yet so attractive.

Anyway, yesterday I went to my local (pharmacy) for some non-soap hand cleanser, and today I went in for some antihistamines. The girl who served me said, very cheerily, that I ought to move in.

Normally if someone tells me this, then I know that I am becoming far too familiar for comfort. And I don't go back because now I'm too self-conscious about it.

But this time I just said that I'd only move in if she gave me a 10% discount for being such a prolific customer. And she did.

I have no intention of packing my bags and moving into the shop (it's too close to work).

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Extracurricular education

I've been thinking about it for quite some time - signing up The Little Madam for Chinese language classes. One of the obstacles was the fact that I didn't want to pay the tuition fees (which aren't actually that much at $50 per term).

But mostly it was fear of having to commit to more parental volunteering.

My brother just happens to be the something-or-other coordinator of the Chinese school, and his kids go there too of course.  TLM loves their company and wants to go, 'cos she'll be in with the big kids. So tonight I put my stake in the ground (as they say at work) and told him to go ahead and sign 'er up.

The deciding factor? Frankly I'm embarrassed that our half-Chinese daughter has learned to speak Spanish (from watching Dora the Explorer), but can't understand anything my mother tells her.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

We might have a winner - Trilogy and xma-ease

For several weeks now I've settled on Simple moisturizer - not because it does a great job, but because it doesn't hurt my face when I put it on.

But I recently tried some potentials from this little skincare boutique (called Earth 127 or something, the latitude or longitude of New Zealand I think it means) - the woman who sells the products makes her own lotions and potions, and she uses natural ingredients etc. The "natural" label is usually a warning sign that it will make my skin sting. Don't ask me why, it just often does. And sure enough, her day cream did make my complexion glow in a not-so-nice way. But her "rich" moisurizer didn't. The only things I didn't like about it were it's strong smell (frankincense perhaps, but I'm not sure) and the fact that it didn't moisturize the eczema-ry bits so well.

Then yesterday I got a couple of other samples from a health shop right next door to the Kumfs shop (where I have my expensive school shoes on layby) - one was xma-ease for the eczema-ry bits, and the other was a Trilogy moisturizer (it's NZ-made and possibly even from Wellington).

These two were a good combination for me - absolutely zero irritation and plenty of moisturisation. Not all day moisturization, but minimal flakiness through the day, and that's pretty good for me.

So I went back to get a tube of xma-ease, and might go back and get the potful of Trilogy too. But first I've got another sample of moisturiser to try, from the lady at Earth 127. When I told her what I thought of her samples, she gave me another one to try and promised to make something up for me if that's no good. Talk about good customer service!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

More space AND more cash

Only about three years after we stopped using them (and about a week before we gave them away to the nearest op shop), I sold TLM's old high chair and buggy via Internet auction.

The high chair which was an upmarket Chicco Polly, went for a mere $41 - which is still better than seeing the boy haul it to the Dump Shop i.e. give it away.

The buggy, a MacLaren (not the racing car brand), was subject of a surprising last-minute bidding war. On Saturday the highest bid was a humble $11.50. Twenty four hours later it had climbed to a peak of $148! While that's just a fifth of what we paid for it new, it's still way better than the alternative (yes, the Dump Shop).

So now I have money to put on my shoes lay-by, AND we now have a free corner in the study AND a couple of feet of unclaimed space in the hallway.

The house looks almost big enough to live in now.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Today the world is much noisier...

...because I got my ears syringed this afternoon.

Yucky yucky, you're saying to yourself. Well, yes the stuff that came out of my aural cavities did resemble worm casts (or miniscule poos). Better out than in, I say.

Suddenly I can hear whirrings and rustlings and whisperings and sound of my jeans brushing past each other at the thighs when I walk. TLM, who is normally just loud, is now head-splitting. And when the boy says naughty things whilst walking away (to test my hearing), I can react with mock shock at his dirty mind.

The nurse who performed the syringing - the evacuation, you might say - was lovely and completely un-freaked by the amount of stuff that squirted out. When she'd finished, she announced that she could see right into my ear canal.

"Right through to the other side?" I joked.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The (retirement) Village

Today my brother, my mother and I went to inspect a retirement village that my mother is thinking of wait-listing herself for. It's one of those establishments which has: apartments for people who want to live independently but have access to lots of other old people; assisted living apartments for people who want someone else to worry about the housekeeping, heating and bill-paying; and rest-home apartments for...well, you get the idea.

It was the independent apartments she was after, and the display apartment we looked at was really quite nice - modern, reasonably spacious and low-maintenance. It's appeal to my mother was that it looked just like a "normal" apartment.

Then we went to visit a friend of hers, who has recently moved into one of the assisted-living apartments. It's a studio, so everything's crammed into one cosy room plus bathroom. This friend doesn't have to worry about power bills, vacuuming or cooking - the former two are included in his living package and the latter is sorted by the closeness of several small eateries nearby.

I haven't talked to the sales lady yet, but it appears that either you get the larger apartment and mostly look after yourself, or get loads of help but live in a cupboard.

And I think my mother is going to want the bigger living space AND the lotsa help.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Need shopping advice? Listen to Auntie Violet

If your body shape is an apple (I prefer to call it a wide-waisted hourglass), you can buy skinny jeans to fit your waist (rather than your hips) and the end result is a very nice pair of straight jeans!

It is utterly possible that you can pay $30 for a lovely tween skirt suit from an op-shop and spend another $25 getting it dry-cleaned, only to find that the fabric is the fibre-equivalent of rabid fleas. If the itch weren't enough, you might still find a previously unnoticed tear on the back of the jacket, which is somewhere you'll normally never see a leather patch.

You can spend big bucks on a pair of low-heeled, well cushioned and super-supportive black shoes which a) go nicely with your black tights and skirts, and b) will be perfect for those 50-min walks home from work - and then realise  they look EXACTLY like school shoes.

The big advantage of shopping where the customer service is terrible, is that you won't fee any obligation whatsoever to buy something from there.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

black out

I'm currently labouring on a task which is both boring and requiring a high degree of attention - the worst of both worlds, really. So when my computer sputtered and went dark this afternoon, I was only a teensy bit annoyed.  Sometimes enforced breaks are all the breaks you get.

We figured that the power outage must be limited to our block, but the boy rang up and said it was out at home too. Apparently he'd just missed out on getting his vital beer lifeline, as the lights went out just as he pulled up at Pak'n'Save. Apparently alarms were going off, traffic was all over the place and rioting was surely imminent.

I wondered where our civil defense kit was, because it would've been handy to listen out for updates.

But after half an hour my colleague gave me permission to go home (not that he had any power to say yea or nay).

And by the time I was home the power came back.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Exploring her Indian heritage

TLM does not, in fact, have any Indian genes. But from the way she's decorated our clothes-airing frame, well...it reminds me of the inside of my friend Vinod's car.

This is what she likes

This one of the many gaudy trims that TLM loves so much. So I got her to find me a white t-shirt, and I hand sewed the trim onto it. Actually I had to sew it on twice, because when she wore it to daycare the next day kids kept snagging their little fingers in it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

At last, a novel I want to get my hands on

Lionel Shriver's We need to talk about Kevin is one of my favourite novels, and one of the few which I am happy to re-read multiple times. Not because I have a special interest in high school shootings, but because I was fascinated by how she portrayed something that people never admit to - having ambivalent feelings about your own child.

And now she's written about about a guy who decides to put his life dream on hold, for the sake of his cancer-stricken wife, So much for that. Time passes, the man's bank balance dwindles and his wife is still going to die. Like Kevin, it sounds like a really depressing read. But I'm convinced I am going to love it, because I myself am often tortured by the conflict between pleasing oneself and doing the right thing for someone else (it might be a Chinese thing, I dunno).

Though it might be a while before I am willing to shell out up to $30-40 dollars for my own copy. I'm so very used to borrowing from the library (even if it means waiting a few years for it to become available).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blame it on the doona

I've just finished reading a book about skincare by Hugh Molly & Garry Egger, called Skin Fitness Safe and healthy skin care. I borrowed this from the library because it looked current and sounded sensible and down to earth. But now that I've read it, I get the feeling these guys are veering into crackpot-dom.

Basically, the authors - both Australian doctors - say that many skin problems are caused by overheating and over-cleaning of skin and hair. This appealed to me, because it suggested that I could save money on heating, soap and shampoo and improve my complexion. The before-and-after photos are promising - and all those people had to do was stop using their doona (that's Australian for duvet or comforter) and wash less often.

What's confusing though, is that the authors constantly refer to the Australian climate - which most of us think of as being hot and dry (except for Sydney and Darwin which I know can get hot and humid). What about people in far more temperate New Zealand, especially those of us who are living in uninsulated wooden houses and need to drape ourselves over the column heater night after night in mid-Winter?

There is nothing in the book which allows for non-Australian climates, which is a real shame. They suggest that you go to bed with just one blanket and maybe add a second one for winter. If I had to get through Winter with just two blankets, I'd never sleep (and my feet would freeze off). And nowhere in the book does it say what the ideal temperature is for one's bed.

So, while the ideas are worth thinking about, I won't bother trying to implement them. Unless I move to Australia.