A year behind me and another ahead.

When the year begins to draw to a close, I start to get a little introspective.  It’s natural to look back at what has happened over the past twelve months, and this year when I peer in the review mirror at my life it’s hard to believe that so much could have happened in just twelve short months.

 

dscf0673_zps92xbbhanHere’s a very short run-down of some of the big things that happened to me this past year:

  • I started a new job in January.  It’s been very challenging and different to any job I’ve had before.  But I’ve learned so much and I’m loving my work.  I work with a fantastic group of people and I feel so pleased with the progress I’ve made this year.
  • I came out as bisexual to my family and friends.  While I’ve known for a long time that I was bi, I had never felt the need to bring it up.  However, when I began dating more widely this year I felt like it was time to tell people.  The reactions I’ve received have been a bit of a mixed bag, and some have been hard to swallow.  But I’m so glad that I’ve been open about my sexuality as I feel that it’s given me more scope to explore it and I’m happy that I’m living more authentically.
  • I had my first (and probably only) polyamorous relationship.  While it was fun and I still care about my ex boyfriend and girlfriend, it simply wasn’t built to last.
  • I was present when a co-worker had a stroke at work and it was one of the scariest moments of my life.  Amazingly, she has now recovered completely and is back at work.  The whole experience made me feel extremely grateful for all that I have, and also showed me how strong I can be when needed.  I always expected that I would be a wreck in an emergency, but when the time came I was frighteningly calm and capable.  I’m proud of how I managed that day and so darn relieved to have my colleague safe and sound.
  • I started online dating and met loads of awesome people (and a few not so awesome ones)
  • I met and began dating my lovely girlfriend, Jac.  It’s been so wonderful getting to know her and I’m excited for all that’s yet to come.
  • I began attending classes at my local gym and met loads of great people.
  • I got an article published in Wellbeing Magazine which touched on two of my favourite topics: yoga and depression.
  • I ran my first craft fair stall in April and then did it again in August.
  • I shaved the side of my head into a sidecut, and I’m still so chuffed with this style.

As you can see, it’s been a massive year for me.  It’s also been a year with not a whole lot of blogging.  I’ve been debating lately whether I want to continue with my blog.  When I first started blogging, I was diligent about posting daily.  Then as my schedule became more hectic, I started posting only on weekdays.  And this year it was my goal to post three articles a week.  But that just hasn’t happened.  My life has gotten so big and so full that there isn’t always time to do all the things I want to.  I sometimes feel guilty when I don’t have a chance to blog regularly and I wondered whether it would be better to just shut down my blog.

 

But I really don’t want to do that.  Blogging has brought so much joy into my life.  I adore sitting down to put together a post and I have met some of the most amazing people through my blog.  So instead of trying to work to a blog schedule and posting a certain number of times a week, I’m going to be a bit more relaxed with my writing.  I’m hoping that this year I’ll be able to put up lots of great posts, but I’m not sure how frequent my posting will be.  But rest assured that I’m not going to bail on this space or the amazing people who continue to visit regularly.  I’ll still be about, living and loving, and I’m going to make a big effort to fill this space with tales of my adventures, funny stories, fashion, advice and geekery.

 

I hope your year has been as full and challenging as mine has.  What did you get up to?

Interview with Jessica from Chronically Vintage.

Although there are so many vintage bloggers, few have captured my attention as firmly as Jessica Cangiano.  Jessica’s blog, Chronically Vintage, is a visual delight of gorgeous photographs and excellent treasures from yesteryear.  Each post is accompanied by a lyrical write-up that is always a pleasure to read.

1940s vintage navy blue dress and hat, cranberry tights, at the Penticton Rose Garden_6

In addition to her stunning blog, Jessica also runs an etsy store, also named Chronically Vintage,  which stocks a wide array of vintage goodies.  Many of the items from this store have been on my wish-list for ages.

Jessica kindly allowed me to interview her about blogging, running an online store and, of course, vintage clothing!

What prompted you to begin blogging? 
My blog, Chronically Vintage, sprang to life in April 2009 at a time when I was going through an especially rough spell on the health front (I’ve been severely chronically ill and partially disabled since I was 18 years old with more than a dozen different chronic medical conditions) and was strongly feeling at the time like folks, and as well as even myself sometimes, were just defining me by my health problems and not seeing me for the full, vibrant person with a plethora of different interests that I was/am. One of those interests that had always been especially near and dear to my heart was vintage fashion and really anything to do with history (especially mid-twentieth century history).
I’d been wearing vintage clothing since I was 15 (I’m 30 now) and studying topics pertaining to vintage for as far back as I could remember, so it seemed like a natural topic to launch a blog about. I’d already been following and commenting on some other early vintage blogs that proceeded mine and I knew that, at the time, it was a niche was a rapid following, that helped to encourage me as well.
I named my blog as I did because I decided it was high time I was defined by my love of vintage, not my medical issues and you know what, it worked! I’ve been “chronically vintage” ever since and the positive changes it’s made in my life have truly been too numerous to ever count. I wrote my first post late one evening in mid-April 2009 and haven’t looked back since! 🙂

– What is your favourite thing about blogging?
There are so very many things that I adore about blogging, but I would say that two of the very top contenders for me are: The challenge and reward of blogging. There have been many times when I came dangerously close to throwing in the proverbial towel on blogging because of my health, but ultimately I each time I decided to hang in there and am so glad that I persevered. I adore writing and the cathartic, creative outlet that blogging gives me, so I hope that I’m able to keep doing so, no matter what challenges (health or otherwise) life throws my way for a very long time to come. The second thing is the friendships that I have made over the years with many amazing, inspiring, caring, and thoroughly lovely bloggers around the world that have come into my life as a direct result of my blog. Some of these folks, even though I haven’t met most of them in person yet, have become best friends and people that I care about deeply. This side of blogging is such a blessing, as well as being a very encouraging reason to keep at ‘er (writing new posts, I mean) year after year.

Black and pink 1950s floral circle skirt, Grey Freddies of Pinewood cardigan in Kelowna (5)
– Earlier this year, you opened your own etsy store.  What motivated you to open Chronically Vintage?
Wonderful question, Vanessa, thank you for asking me about my eponymously named Etsy shop. Having loved vintage for my whole life and been a regular customer of it for more than half that time, the desire to open my own vintage shop was one that sprang to life fairly early on. Unfortunately I live in a small town that – while awesome in many ways – seriously lacks a vintage scene or the customer base needed to, in all likelihood, keep a physical shop in business, so I after several years of toying with the idea of opening an online store, I decided to do so at the start of 2014. Once I set the ball in motion there, I worked like a madwoman, burning the candle at both ends for five months straight so that I could launch in May of this year. I wanted to get my shop up before the sweltering summer heat hit, so that’s why opening in May was quite important to me.
I’m motivated by many things, including my own passion for all things vintage, that of other members of the vintage community, and a desire to see vintage items – which I view as absolute treasures of the past no matter if we’re talking a $10 plastic necklace or a $10,000 ruby ring – hopefully go to great hopes where they’ll continue to be loved, appreciated and preserved for many more years to come.

– Where do you source the items for your shop?  
Though vintage items, especially clothing, is fairly hard to come by around these Canadian small town parts, between local finds (particularly at auctions and from antique dealers), working with a small number of very trusted consignees throughout the province, and traveling to larger cities across Western Canada on buying trips every now and then, I’m able to keep my virtual shelves stocked and absolutely adore the process of sourcing items for my Etsy shop.

– What is the most challenging thing about running your own online store?
For me this a single answer with two equal parts: not having enough energy/positive days on the health front and hours in the day to get to everything in a given day/week/month that I would ideally like to. I put a lot of time into my listings, including using a professional photography set up to shot the images for my listings (I take all the snaps for them myself, which thankfully I can pull on my background as a commercial/product photographer to help me with), and I know that I don’t technically have to do that (and that I could list more items in the same time frame if I didn’t), but it’s of the utmost importance to me that I’m detailed and professional in all that I do with my shop, so I doubt I’ll ever change there.
I try to list new items multiple times a month and have gradually building up my inventory numbers there since opening my shop. I’ve been averaging in the range of 230 – 270 items in stock at any given moment in recent months and look forward to bringing that number up to 300, then 350, then 400, and beyond, hopefully all in 2015.

Edwardian inspired outfit featuring a 1980s does 40s dress
– If you had to pick a favourite decade for vintage clothing and decor, which would you choose?

Always and forever, this will be a two-way tie for me between the 1940s and the 50s. These are the decades that have spoken to me most strongly since I was a very small child and which my own vintage wardrobe is based around. Though I never sugar coat those decades, I do love to celebrate their positive points, which very much includes the gorgeous, feminine, and very elegant fashions that were prevalent throughout both.

– What is your most prized item in your vintage collection?

 

Without a doubt, the most prized vintage items that I own are the very small number of garments and accessories that a dear relative blessed me with that belonged to some of our family members (including her own mom), all of whom lived in Dawson City, Yukon, where my maternal grandma and her family hailed from (my great-grandpa went north for the Klondike gold rush and though he didn’t strike it rich, he loved life in the Yukon so much that he stayed put, raised a large family, and was a pillar of the community until his passing in the mid-1940s). Very, very few people on either side of my family held onto any antique or vintage items, so that makes these pieces all the more special and poignant to me. I will treasure them for my whole life and truly hope I have a child/children or nieces/nephews of my own to pass them along to one day.

 


 

 

I want to extend a sincere “thank you” to Jessica for taking the time to answer these questions.  She’s a very busy woman, so I truly appreciate that she was able to give such thoughtful answers.  It’s been wonderful to have this opportunity to give you all such a warm introduction to one of my favourite bloggers, and I do hope that you’ll pop on over to Jessica’s blog and esty store to take a peep.

5 Fandom Friday: My favourite things about Winter.

It’s more than a little bit ironic that I’m writing this post in front of the blasting air-conditioner while outside it’s a scorching 40 degrees.  Ah well, it’s time to cast my mind forward to icy days and chilly nights and thing about my favourite things about Winter.

 

1. Cozy knitwear

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As a total yarn-a-holic, I can’t help but list knitwear as my number 1 Winter love.  I adore wrapping up in a cozy jumper and a silly hat and braving the elements.  I scour the op-shops months before the weather begins to turn cold so that I have a great collection of jumpers to wear as soon as the first chilly morning hits.

 

2. Layering on the blankets

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Few things make me feel cozier than a pile of squashy blankets to cuddle up under.  When the wind is howling outside, I love to wrap myself in a crocheted blanket to watch a movie or read a book.  And in Winter my bed more closely resembles a nest with all the blankets and quilts I pile onto it.

 

3. Endless pots of tea

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Although you can drink tea at any time during the year, in Winter it’s particularly warming.  I stock up on many different varieties and make endless pots of Oolong, Earl Grey, Melbourne Breakfast and Jasmine White to get me through those cold days.

 

 

4. Night time walks

There is something pretty magical about bundling yourself up in all your coats and scarves and going out for a night time walk in winter.  It sounds a bit mental, but it’s actually amazing.  I like to go at about 11pm, and there is nobody else around.  The sky is dark and the air is just so clear and crisp.  I feel like I’m the only one on the planet and I go home with a head full of ideas and a heart full of happiness.

 

5. Comfort food

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Winter is definitely the season for good food.  One of my favourite ways to warm up is to cloister myself in my kitchen and whip up some serious comfort food. Soups, stews, curries, cakes, cookies and puddings are all perfect winter foods.  They’re deliciously warming, and they leave you feeling happy and satisfied.

 

What are your favourite things about Winter?  Leave your own list in the comments or send me a link to your own 5 Fandom Friday post.

Things I Love Thursday 15/5/2014

It’s Thursday again, and I am so pumped to start my gratitude list.  It has been an incredible week and I am so chuffed with everything that’s happened.

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This week I love:

 

-Quitting my job!  Seriously.  A few months ago I interviewed for this awesome job and I just missed out.  But on Tuesday, I had a visit from the manager to tell me that they had an even better job to offer me.  I’ll now be working full-time at something that is much more challenging for me.  I am so pleased.  It’s not that I hate the job I currently have, but I have been craving a change for a while.  I’m so excited with the way that everything is falling into place.

 

– The Amazing Spiderman 2.  I was pretty impressed with this installment in the Spidey film franchise.  I adore Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy and I was blown away by the Green Goblin makeup effects.  Plus, they seem to have left the door open for one of my favourite Spiderman characters to appear in the next film.  The only thing that let it down was the lame-ass ending.

 

– Early morning kitty-snuggles.

 

– Chicken risotto

 

– Gracebrook winery.  We took Mum there for Mothers Day and it was incredibly lovely.  The meal was sensational ( I had lamb shanks), the wine was delicious and part-way through the meal the waitress brought little bouquets of flowers out to all the mums.  It was such a special day.

 

-The fact that my vet clinic addresses their mail to my cats.

 

– Giggling with my brother.

 

 

– John Waters.

 

– Clara Cupcakes on Twitter.  That lass is hi-larious.

 

– Getting all rugged up and going for night-time walks.

 

– Heart-shaped sunglasses.

 

– Trying out a new brand of eyeliner that turns out to be better than my old favourite.

 

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-Ringo learning to open doors by himself.  He can now let himself in and out of the loungeroom so I can shut the doors when the heater is on.

 

– Flouncy skirts.

 

– The little girl I overheard in church on Saturday, asking non-stop questions about the service.  My favourite one was “Mum, why does Jesus have so many friends?”

Making some ethical changes to my wardrobe.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about my clothes-shopping habits and I’ve begun making a few changes to the way I buy clothes.

A couple of years ago I read a sensational book called To Die For: is fashion wearing out the world? by Lucy Seigel.  The book talks a lot about the social and environmental impact of fast fashion.   It opened my eyes to a whole lot of issues that I’d never been aware of before.

I recently read The 100 Things Challenge by Dave Bruno.  Once again, I found this book to be a real eye-opener about consumerism and our drive to acquire new things.

DSCF9157I’d really like to change the way I shop in order to reflect my personal ethics.  In particular, I don’t want to buy mindlessly.  I really want to put more effort into considering my purchases to make sure that my money goes to businesses that support my beliefs.

There are a few things that concern me about my current shopping habits:

– Firstly, a lot of the clothing I buy comes from retailers that produce clothing overseas in countries with less-than-stellar labour laws.  A lot of this clothing is produced in sweatshops or by home workers who are forced to work in dangerous and degrading conditions.

– I buy a lot of clothing without thinking about where it’s come from and the impact of producing it.  I’d like to start choosing more clothes that are made using more environmentally sustainable practices.

– I tend to shop for price rather than quality.  I find it easy to be drawn into buying something simply because it’s cheap.

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So, what can I do about it?  I’ve come up with a few ideas:

– Buy less.  I have more than enough clothes hanging in my wardrobe right now.  I really don’t need to buy as much as I do.  I’d like to start reducing the amount of clothing that I’m purchasing.

– Buy more second hand.  This is an easy one for me, because I love thrift shopping.  It’s a great way to recycle items that are already out in the world and support charities that run the op-shops.

– Buy better quality items.  I’m going to try to save up to buy better quality items that will last longer and won’t have to be replaced as frequently.

– Choose Australian made items.  I’d prefer to buy items that are made in Australia because I know that workers here are protected by our labour laws.  However, this one is hard to do, because most clothing that is sold in Australia isn’t actually made in Australia.

– Make more things for myself.

– Mend and make do.  Rather than replacing items when they fall apart or break, I should attempt to fix them.

– Upcycle.  With items that are worn out and can’t be repaired, I’d like to try to use them to make something else.  I’ve been brainstorming lately and I’ve come up with a bunch of awesome things to make out of my worn-out tee shirts and linens.

– Buy from independent retailers.  As a small business owner, I feel that I have a duty to support other small businesses.  Even though I have a pretty small budget for spending money, I like to pour as much of it as possible into independent retailers.  I’m trying to buy many items from etsy sellers and small retailers that make their own stock.  This way, I’m ensuring that my clothes have an ethical background and I’m supporting a small business owner.

– Look for environmentally sustainable fabrics.  This can be very tricky, but I’m trying hard to look for clothes that are made from organic cotton and wool, bamboo fabric, hemp and recycled materials.

Although I understand that I’m not always going to be able to stick to these changes, and I’m sure to slip up occasionally, I really want to make an effort to change the way I shop and pour my hard-earned cash into businesses that are doing the right thing.

Do your shopping practices reflect your ethics?   Are there any changes you’d like to make to your shopping habits and your wardrobe?

Rediscovering my inner voice.

I’ve had something of an epiphany and I really wanted to share it here.

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve leaned heavily on other people to help me make important decisions.  At school, I listened to the advice of my teachers and my parents as to which classes I should take.  Ultimately I let them decide which college degree I would aim for.

I’ve spent countless hours reading magazines and blogs, watching films and trying to glean ideas from these sources about how I should be living my life.  I’ve used them as a compass to show me the way, to help me decide on my next step.

Also, I spent nine of the most formative years of my life in a relationship.  From the time I was 17 to the age of 27 I was in a relationship with a man I wanted to marry.  As a result, a lot of the decisions about my life that I made during this time centred around him.  I made a bunch of massive life decisions based on our mutual plans.  At the time, this was what I wanted and I don’t regret making those decisions.

Also, when you’re one half of a couple, your decision-making-process tends to involve a check-before-deciding step.  When we first started dating, my weekend and holiday plans would always be determined around what my boyfriend was planning on doing.  As we became closer and started living together, even things like what I would cook for dinner or which towels to buy had to be run past another person before I could make a final choice.

And now that my relationship has ended, and I’m out on my own, I don’t have to run every tiny decision past another person.  And that’s both liberating and terrifying.

It occurred to me that all the years of consulting others about my decision-making has hampered me in a very significant way: I seem to have lost the ability to hear my inner voice.

My internal voice, that speaks the truth about what I want, has become stifled by years of consulting others before choosing.  To the point where even the simplest of choices is baffling to me.

For the first couple of months that I was out on my own, I felt totally overwhelmed by the task of every day life.  I was paralysed every time I had to decide what I would make for dinner.  My weekends became a minefield, a chunk of blank time that had to be filled with …what?  Before then I’d always worked my plans around my boyfriend.  How was I supposed to decide the best way to fill my time?

 

I realised that I needed to practice listening to my inner voice again.  At first I was afraid.  Afraid that it would tell me something I didn’t want to hear.  That I was useless and stupid.  Then I realised that I’d been confusing depression with my inner voice.  Those niggling doubts and crippling worries aren’t the product of my inner voice, they’re something else entirely.

 

It occurred to me that my inner voice wouldn’t steer me wrong.  She wouldn’t tell me something that I don’t want to hear because she is the very essence of me.  She’s my desires, my needs, my hopes and goals distilled and waiting.  If I need an answer about which direction to take, all I need to do is ask her and she’ll tell me.

 

So I’ve been working hard to try to listen to that elusive inner voice.  As I said, she’d been buried under years of chatter from the other people in my life about what I “should” be doing.  I needed to silence that white noise in order to hear her again.

 

To begin with, I’ve been sitting down each evening and asking myself, “What do YOU want to do?”  And just listening for the answer.  Sometimes I’ll realise that I feel like cleaning my flat.  Sometimes all I want to do is read my book.  I’ll often feel motivated to get in touch with a certain friend or jump on my yoga mat.  I’ve tried to set aside an hour each night to honour what I truly feel like doing.

 

When I’ve been feeling depressed, I’ve been asking myself, “What is it that YOU need?”  I’ll feel a tug in a certain direction: towards journalling, towards calling my family, towards crying, napping, music or cooking.  Ultimately I’ve managed to find that thing that has nurtured my soul and helped me to feel human again.

 

And on the weekend, I decided to ask my inner voice about a bigger decision. I’ve been wanting to work harder on finding a career that makes me beam.  And she’s given me some answers.  It was an exciting moment.

 

If you’ve lost touch with your inner voice, I’d certainly recommend trying to reconnect.  Don’t be afraid, it won’t steer you wrong.  Tonight, sit down and ask yourself, “What to I WANT to do?  What do I NEED right now?” and be open to the answer that arrives.

Raising money to assist the Salvos

This past month, I’ve been touched and saddened by the stories about the plight of the homeless in Australia.  In the past few weeks, we’ve experienced searingly hot weather and difficult conditions. This is bad enough if you’ve got a roof over your head, but it must be practically unbearable for those without a home.  I found myself in tears reading this article, which highlighted the difficulties faced by homeless people in Melbourne during the heat wave.  Many cool public places had taken to telling homeless people to move on, forcing them outside into the heat.  It broke my heart to read about this.

You’d be quite surprised how easily a person can become homeless.  It can happen more swiftly than you’d like to believe.  And it can happen to all sorts of people.  It’s devastating, and the effect and stress it puts on families and individuals is immense.

I’d really like to do something to help out.  No matter how small. So I will be giving 10% of the total of the sales made from my Etsy store in February to the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal.  The Salvation Army do incredible work to assist people and families who find themselves without a home.  In addition to offering emergency accommodation, they provide councelling, legal aid, domestic violence support and lifestyle programs to help people get back on their feet and make a fresh start.

If you’d like to help out, just make a purchase from my etsy store during the month of February.  Of course, you can also make a donation to the Salvation Army by clicking this link.