Saturday, August 27, 2016

Motherly Advice...How to tell if someone is wearing thrifted clothing...

Lanvin $1500+
Vintage Stella McCartney $180

Vintage Gianni Versace on Etsy $500

My jacket $25
Are you an Op-Shopper? A Goodwill fan? A Vinnies Vogue Bogan?
Shopping for clothing at second hand stores can be thrilling and save you a lot of money, if you go about it the right way. Done slap dash, with beligerence and a bad attitude, it's depressing. But approached with an air of adventure, a good imagination, and a vision of what you want, you can do very well indeed.
I'd like to share some secrets I have learned about dressing Pre` Mode Aime` or in pre-loved fashion. I think I'm something of an expert in this area, to the extent that nowadays, no matter what I need, I check my favourite local Op Shop first. The only exceptions are underwear, swimwear and shoes, all of which I think are better purchased 'new'. My daughter adores vintage shoes though, so we all have our line in the sand, I guess!
It's funny actually. I have one circle of friends who are avid supporters of local thrift stores, or Op Shops as we call them. The term 'Op Shop' stems from the fact that these stores are an Opportunity to score a bargain. And when you look at it that way, Op Shop is kind of a cool name for them!
I have another circle of friends who wouldn't be caught dead in an Op Shop. It's Designer label all the way for them. And when one asked me recently if my fabulous bag was Hermes, I just smiled and said 'what do you think?'. I'm actually not sure whether her decision was yay or nay, but she smiled and nodded knowingly, so what the! I know for a fact, she would have shrivelled up and died, if I'd told her where I'd actually bought it from! Her hand would have recoiled, her nose would have wrinkled, and she would have pulled a face like she'd just stood in something nasty. It does make me laugh!
So the camp, at least where I live, is pretty equally divided. And it has nothing to do with who has cash to splash, and who doesn't. I have friends who are struggling, who still have the latest in everything from Pandora rings to Louis Vuitton bags (perhaps that's why they're struggling??), and friends who have plenty of money, who still love the thrill of a genuine bargain. Go figure.
So here we go....
The first hint is...
Because the fact is, that you cannot tell if someone is wearing thrifted clothing. And anyone who says they can, is fibbing.
You can tell if someone else's taste is not your own, that's for sure. But I have met many a lovely lady dressed in a $2000 outfit, that I wouldn't been seen dead in, and many an even lovelier lady, kitted out for under $50 head-to-toe, who's ensemble I would have killed for.
You can also tell if someone doesn't care how they look. And I guess that's their own business, so we should mind ours. Everyone has different priorities.
But overall, there is no way of knowing that somebody is shopping d'occasion (French for 'second hand', and doesn't the French version of that phrase sound so much nicer!). So don't even go there.
You see, it's about research, and not only knowing what suits you, but what is currently stylish or conversely, what is perennially stylish. It's a little bit about being 'on trend', to coin an oft used phrase, and a lot of being soignee`, and bien dans sa peau...or 'elegant and well groomed' and 'comfortable in our own skin', for we uninitiated folk.
So here's my second tip..
I confess I follow a few fashion bloggers. Now this is not because I imagine myself to be a fashionista, and nor do I wish to be. BUT, these ladies have their finger on the pulse of what's hot and what's not, and if you want to be a successful thrifter, and look your BEST, and not just OK, then it helps to know what's out there in Retail Land. Yes, even from Designer Land. It follows then, that from that immense pool of  stuff out there, you might then decide what suits you, and what might be worth going on the hunt for.
For example, colours and accessories, as well as bag shapes, jeans colours and styles, jacket shapes, boot heel heights, and fabric prints, are all cyclic.
Animal prints come into and go out of fashion with ridiculous regularity. So much so, that leopard print, for example, is just about considered a perennial neutral these days, and may as well be treated the same as black, white and camel in stylish wardrobes.
This years slouchy tote bag trend, is next years boxy clutch purse, is the following years Japanese Hobo bag. So hang on to your favourite bags, they'll come back into style for sure.
Following fashion trends early in the season by window shopping either at your local shopping mall or online, means you can get first dibs at any similar looks at the thrift store or vintage fashion retailers. My favourite to get ideas on what the fashionistas are up to this year, is Net-A-Porter. I've taken screen shots of many a favourite there, and snaffled a look-a-like bargain within days, at my local oppy. Check out my cream satin jacket at the top of my post, and the corresponding designer ones from which I drew inspiration. I wasn't looking for the exact same jacket. I was shopping the look.
1. If orange is the rage, and orange suits you, then let the thrift store be your first port of call to supplement your wardrobe for the new season. If orange (or insert current colour du jour) makes you look ill, as it does me, then perhaps you inject citrus into your wardrobe in other ways. An amber necklace, real or faux, bright orange sandals and bag, or some fun retro beads over your basic black.
2. If a certain shape of jacket, blouse, jeans or pants is being revived, then check the thrift store for that too. Who would have thought that Bomber jackets would come back into vogue, but there they are all over Net-a-Porter, with many a designer name attached, for all to see.
3. Think creatively when you're looking. Dresses can become blouses, mens shirts can become dresses, a shirt a little too small to be a shirt for you can become a jacket over a cami. Jeans can become shorts or capri pants or be embellished in new 'on trend' ways (distressed, bejewelled, embroidered, bleach dyed), cardigans can be dyed and trimmed with lavish ribbons or lace and French knots or Bullion roses, Fishermans and Argyle sweaters can become vests, bags, iPad covers, cushions and footstool covers.
4. Most fabrics can be dyed to a colour you prefer, and some garments are worth buying simply for the luxurious fabric, buttons, embroidery or other embellishments. I bought a 60s wedding gown a few years ago. Not because I was particularly enamoured with the style, but because it had several metres of vintage Venetian lace and Silk Shantung in it's construction. I paid $60 for it. The lace alone is easily worth ten times that much in todays prices. I still can't bring myself to pull it apart, but I do ultimately have plans to turn it into a pair of slender evening pants, and a fabulous jacket.
 Similarly I purchased another vintage wedding gown last year, because it had a Bustier top covered in daisy themed Guipure lace, and a frothy Cinderella style skirt made from miles and miles of organza and tulle. Again, the fabric alone in this dress would have hovered around the $600-$700 mark. I made my daughter a knee length tulle skirt from the underskirt of that one. We dyed it baby blue, and she wears it to the theatre or ballet when we go, with a thrifted 60s baby blue cardigan a la Kiera Knightly as seen below. The whole ensemble probably cost us $30 and she turns heads, for all the right reasons, every time she wears it.
When shopping for something similar to a style you've admired online or elsewhere, ask yourself what it is that appeals to you. Is it the colour? The shape? The combination of accessories? The fabric? Try to pin down exactly what it is you like, so that you know where to start your hunt.
And remember that simple separates, made from luxury fabrics, will always be in style.
Which brings me to my third tip....
Seriously. If you're paying 10c in the dollar, on the original retail price of your thrifted goodies, go for the decent stuff. Pass up the chain store items, that others have realised weren't worth the $10 sale price, and learn to recognise good fabric, quality workmanship and natural fibres.
Head to your local haberdashery, and really look at the silks, the linens, the brocades, and the cool and comfortable rayons. Feel them. Notice the difference between a pure linen and a linen blend. The fine weave and drape of a silk, over a polyester. The weight of a double georgette or silk chiffon, over a less expensive one. Look at the wools and wool blends and see how much classier they look, than polar fleece and flannelette, however comfy those fabrics may be. Check out the Ponti knits and the Microfibre suiting and feel how much thicker, more durable and luxurious they are over lycra and cotton knit fabrics. Take note too, of the colour trends and patterns. Overall I'm personally not in love with prints of any kind, but things like gingham and polka dots are fairly perennial if they're the right colour (for me, anyway!). These little nuances are what makes the difference between looking carefully kitted out, and just thrown together.
The only exception I make to this rule, bizarrely, is with handbags and wallets. I know, I know. Everybody says to buy genuine leather. But honestly, my daughter and I are so rough on our handbags and wallets, tossing them on the floor of the car, squishing them under dance bags and grocery bags, and generally disrespecting them, that it would be criminal to bother. Not only that, but we both agree that the cutest bags and wallets, are not necessarily leather. We have leather look-a-like, wicker, fabric and beaded bags that we adore. That said, I do have a few leather bags, and I love them. But not for day to day use. I'm pretty fussy with bags, full stop. They must be neat, structured, and tidy looking. No hobo bags for me! Know thyself. Just because it's a bargain basement, op-shop price, doesn't mean it suits you!
If you're going to talk 'quality', you have to mention Vintage, and well, who says what is vintage these days? Vintage seems to have taken on a life of it's own. Genuine vintage items are happily mixed with modern Boho and Johnny-come-lately designer label Wiggle dresses, and nobody knows, or cares, which is which any more. For sure though, if your vintage dress looks good on you, and it's stood the test of time over 20, 30, 40 years, then I guess it falls under the umbrella of 'quality' in it's own right.
Once you know your linen from your cotton blend, and your rayon from your nylon, you'll start to appreciate that garments made from natural fibres, or quality modern fibre mixes, look better, wear better, and can look more lush and expensive, than their lesser counterparts.
And finally....
Connoisseur: to be an expert judge in matters of taste....for you.
I am at an age, where I know what suits me and what doesn't. I also know what I can carry off in the course of my usual day, and week, and no longer bother too much what everyone else thinks.
For example, as much as I love the idea of dresses, I've come to realise that dresses are not my thing unless they're ankle length artsy tunic style things, that I can gussy up with a drop dead gorgeous necklace, Art Deco brooch, or fabbo scarf, and wear it with eccentric brogues, boots or sneakers in metallic colours. So if I see a dress I really love, usually because of the colour or the fabric, I ask myself if it's worth buying it and turning it into a top, a scarf, a vest, or a tote bag. Dresses, per se` are not my thing. Note to not buy dresses, however fabulous.
The same goes for coloured garments or garments with a print. As I mentioned, I'm not fond of prints, and plain neutrals are usually my choice for all occasions. BUT, and there's always a 'but'...I'm in the process of making myself a Summer jacket, similar to one by Dolce & Gabbana (a favourite of mine). Here it is...print and all...
I spotted the fabric below, the very morning after admiring this gorgeous little number above, on my Net-a-Porter email, and falling in love with it, but not with the price tag of $3,150.
I think it's close enough, and a simpler little jacket to make, cannot be imagined. I'll line it to give it some body and structure. I know that D&G used tulips too, and this is poppies, but hey...the colourway is so similar, who cares? This fabric is actually a quilters panel, so again, use your imagination, and keep your eyes peeled and your mind open!
What are your preferred wardrobe colours? Do you like prints? If so, do you prefer florals, geometrics, vintage style prints? Do you lean towards the tiny print, or the oversized graphic style like my poppies? That's the sort of silly nuts and bolts stuff you need to know about yourself, whether you're op-shopping or not. That's what prevents you from making mistake purchases that look good on the hanger, but perhaps not on YOU.
I am a connoisseur of what suits ME. Do you know what looks best on you?
I'll share some of my more recent op shop purchases over the next few days. I'll show you where I found inspiration, and how you too, can beat the retailers at their own game.
Have you made any fabulous Op Shop finds lately?
Remember that Five Star Frou-Frou is now a never ending linkup, with a feature each and every time I post.
Todays feature is from Lynn at Quaker Hill Farm. Lynn's mouthwatering post had me longing for blackberry season here. We call them mulberries and for the first time in 40 years, I have not one, but two mulberry trees bearing little hard green fruits, waiting to ripen into plump luscious berries!
....Love ya, Mimi....

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Homespun Year....1 minute projects....Dancing Ribbons...

Here's a quick and easy project for you to make for the 3-8 year old in your life.
All you need is thrifted bangles, or ones rescued from the depths of your own jewellery box, and several spools of brightly coloured double satin craft ribbon.
Cut lengths from your spools of ribbon that are about your arms length.
Tie them to the bangles in contrasting strips.
That's it.
Let your little sweethearts pretend to be Olympic Gymnasts. Fun!
A reminder that Five Star Frou-Frou is now a never ending linkup, with a featured blogger and post each and every time I post!
You can find the linkup here.
Todays feature is my namesake, the 'other' Mimi, who has a fabulous blog on fashion for we 'more lovely for longer' ladies. I love her posts at In My Prime Time and this one on colours for the coming season, is a goodie.
I do love those elegant neutrals at the bottom right hand corner, but confess that the pinks on the top row caught my eye too!
To everyone who has been linking, stay tuned for your features over the next few days!
Love to all!
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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Motherly Advice....A few of my favourite things....

I must still be a kid at heart.
The Winter colds and chills, and evil wind here, have got the better of me and I'm feeling less than chipper. You know the one. Sandpaper throat, scratchy eyes, heavy eyelids and the need to alternately snuggle under covers, and lay cool cloths on ones forehead for relief. Gotta love Winter in the Tropics. We sunlovers are never really ready for it!
Funny thing though, when I'm under the weather, I'm stupidly comforted by my trinkets and treasures, much as I was soothed by a cherished doll and a blanket as a child. Perhaps it's about caring for ourselves when we're not feeling the best. What do you think?
I wear my Three Graces cameo, seen above, with my comfiest woollies and a pair of pearl earrings, and curl up with a French Earl Grey tea and a book that allows me to nod off easily.

My daughter brings me my vintage hand mirror and matching clothes brush, so that I do not have to move for tending to dry lips, nor to whisk toast crumbs from my lap. She's so sweet and thoughtful.

When I do have to venture outdoors, as I will very shortly for the after school pickup, my vintage Aurora Borealis brooch, as big as the palm of my hand, will prevent my warm scarf from being whipped from my neck in the wind.

And the simple fact that these delightful oversized Chrysanthemums, are the exact hue of my iPod on my desk, makes me smile. Silly, I know.
What are your favourite things? How do you cheer yourself when the sniffles strike?
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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Insourcing #33....Eating well and healthfully on a budget....

I've heard it said often that it's hard to eat healthily on a budget. One is forced to purchase less expensive cuts of meat, and make lesser protein choices, to meet the constraints of the portion of family income allocated to groceries. This can be even more difficult when food allergies are involved.
Well, first off, let me say that we eat gluten free in our household. We don't have any other restrictions however, so this post is not for families who are dealing with multiple allergies or dietary restrictions.
We do however, loosely follow the menu plans of a well known weight loss guru here in Australia, primarily because we find the menu choices are well suited to our preferences. The plan focuses on quality protein, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and very little in the way of convenience foods and sugary treats. We love it, but for a family, it can be a pricier way to eat.
Over a period of time though, we've found ways to slash our food budget even when following this plan, and incorporate some of our previously 'less healthy' choices, seriously modified, so that they too, can be included.
An interesting point for the budget conscious, is that we've found that often, weight for weight, it is actually less expensive to buy fresh, than tinned or pre-packaged foods, that we'd always considered 'healthy'. That was a revelation.
For example, let's take spicy salami like Chorizo, sliced deli meats like Pepperoni, and mince based meals like rissoles, burgers and sausages.
These are all considered inexpensive family foods as you either need little of them to make a meal, as in Pepperoni on a pizza, putting a patty in a bun for a burger, or tossing Chorizo through a salad or pasta dish. The fact that they're high in fat and salt, is what makes them so tasty, but these factors mean they're also not that good for you. Weight for weight, they are also not always that budget friendly if you do the maths. In terms of filling hungry tummies, protein wins hands down too.
I make my own sausage/spicy meat patties, seen here below, and served on a slice of gluten free bread that's been lightly sprayed with olive oil, pan fried, and settled on a leafy salad, they're as good as any fatty, over salted, unhealthy salami. I hasten to add, that this is not genuine home made salami, which is a far more complex item to replicate. This is simply little rounds of well spiced and seasoned meat, that are a very acceptable replacement when salami is called for.  Here's the recipe, Nanna style, in four sentences....
Home made Spicy Sausage (Salami replacement)
Combine leanest beef or turkey mince, with 1/2 teaspoon each Smoky Paprika, dried garlic granules, dried onion flakes, dried Thyme, dried red chilli, a pinch of Cayenne Pepper, and a pinch of salt. Add a generous grind of black pepper. Place the seasoned mince between two sheets of Baking Paper, and roll very thinly with a rolling pin. Dip a round scone (biscuit for my U.S. friends) cutter in flour and removing the top sheet of baking paper first, cut the mince into little rounds. Re-roll the leftover mince as you go, or simply flatten with clean hands, and keep cutting.
This yields an astounding number of these little thin patties (at least as many as you'd slice from a knob of salami or chorizo), and they can be frozen between the sheets of baking paper, then tipped into a ziplock bag for easy storage once frozen. To use, you simply remove them from the freezer, and pan fry them from frozen, as you would Chorizo, salami or any other deli meat. They are less expensive, infinitely healthier, and moist, flavoursome and succulent over a salad, topping pasta, between slices of bread, or atop a salad as seen below. They're also excellent served as Burger chain style cheeseburgers on a small bun with pickle and tomato relish. Scrumptious!
A healthier choice and a further great budget saving on deli meats, can also be made with my poached chicken or Annabels meatloaves.

Whole flat field mushrooms, oven roasted, are a great vegan or vegetarian option for the same type of meal, and again, a meal like this one, served at a café` (where you've had to wait up to 45 minutes for your food) would relieve you of at least $12-$16 of your hard earned cash. All well and good if you have it, but if not...well....
I allow 8 field mushrooms per serve for this one, as they shrink with roasting. We love this for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner, and it always leaves the crowds begging for more. Here's that recipe...
Roasted Field Mushrooms with Herby Ciabatta and vegetables
Make a marinade of olive oil, juice and zest of one lemon, one small red chilli deseeded and sliced finely, a pinch of Sumac (a citrusy Middle Eastern Spice), salt and pepper. Marinate the whole field mushrooms for up to 30 minutes, while your oven preheats to 175C fan forced. Roast the marinated mushrooms on a lined tray for 20-30 minutes, then serve atop a salad of rocket (arugula) and tomato wedges. Spray a slice of Ciabatta or other bread lightly with olive oil and pan fry, pressing flat with a spatula to brown well, and serve with the mushrooms, topping with home marinated feta cubes.

Protein is protein, provided you replace a lean protein with a similar one. So when our diet gurus menu plan called for lamb fillets and there were none to be found, they were replaced with easily sourced (and significantly less expensive weight for weight) Pork leg steaks. Similarly, when the menu plan called for Wraps, and we know from long hard experience that the gluten free Wraps are....well....a word that rhymes with Wrap...we replaced that carb with a small quantity of one that is more palatable. Therefore, lamb and salad wraps with minted yoghurt, becomes pork steak and pasta salad with a sprinkling of fresh Parmesan.
Pork, Pasta and Parmesan Salad
For each three persons, allow two lean pork steaks, pan frying these for 6 minutes on one side, 2 on the other, then setting aside to rest for a couple of minutes while you assemble the rest of the salad. Cook pasta spirals (just a small handful per person) to al dente`, and cut up two lettuce leaves and 10 cherry tomatoes per person, slicing the cooked pork into thin slivers while you're at it.  Toss well with fresh parsley and sliced shallots, adding the Parmesan as a garnish. Serve with a fresh lemon wedge on the side. Lip smackin' good, I tell you. 

We eat (and the diet guru recommends) a lot of chicken breast. Fortunately we love chicken breast so this is not a hardship in any way, but finding new and inventive ways to serve it can be challenging. When the guru called for chicken baked in tinned tomatoes and Mozzarella, and we had no tinned tomatoes or Mozzarella, I knew I could do better.
Italian Chicken with Vegetable Medley and Cherry Bocconcini
Cut one chicken breast in half lengthwise to yield two thinner fillets, and allow one fillet per person. Line a baking dish or pie dish with diced vegetables (I used celery, capsicum, and onion), and top with the chicken fillets. Embellish with more capsicum and cherry bocconcini, and dust with Oregano, Thyme and Basil. Bake in a preheated 175C oven for 25 minutes.

Watch out...shot coming up of one kitchen bench that has NOT been carefully've been warned....

I top this one with my Roasted Field Mushrooms too. You can never have too many yummy oven roasted mushrooms, I say!

Often a high protein snack is called for, and tinned tuna and tinned or smoked salmon, seem to be a repeating theme for breakfasts, lunches and snacks. Rather than buying the tiny single serve tins of tuna and salmon, you may find as I have, that buying salmon fillets and pan frying them, again weight for weight, is a good option. I regularly snap up fresh salmon when it's marked down, or on special, pan fry it immediately upon getting home, and store it in sealed containers in the fridge, for a ready addition to scrambled eggs, to have on toast or as a snack salad as seen below, where I've combined just one third of a freshly pan fried Salmon filet, with rocket and avocado for a delicious mid afternoon snack that leaves a Tim Tam and a coffee for dead. Well for me, at least.
You might be surprised to know that my two fresh salmon fillets, snapped up at Aldi yesterday for $6.50  for a 500gm tray, work out to be far less expensive than those tiny tins of salmon at $2 for 125gms. Weight for weight, that's $1.62 for 125gms fresh salmon, as opposed to $2-$3 for the tinned. An eye opener, right? And before you get all squeamish about buying marked down salmon (or anything for that matter), what do you think happened? Do you really think that one minute it was 'fresh' and the next minute it was 'off'? Please. These things are dictated by the 'use by' or 'best by' date. To be on the safe side though, it's always good policy to cook or freeze them immediately upon getting them home. Common sense, friends. Common sense.

And of course, when we've been sooooo good all week, and eaten healthfully, exercised and generally behaved ourselves, if we're going to have a treat, it's gonna be a good one. Like my home made berry jam and home made clotted cream, on a piece of gluten free toast. Yum. Lavish and mouthwatering and infinitely better than any bought treat. Sorry. It's the truth.
Now all of this looks like an expensive option, doesn't it? It might surprise you to know that my budget, for all meals and snacks is $65 per person, per week. So if it's my husband and I and our daughter is away (as she is for a week soon), I'll spend around $130. If she's home it's closer to $180. But remember, that's ALL meals and snacks and treats. It's a healthy diet, serving restaurant quality meals (or at least up market café` quality) meals, filled with good quality protein and lashings of fresh fruit and vegetables, AND it keeps us trim (well, trim-er than we've been in the past!), and energetic, rather than slow and sluggish. It's worth spending that smidgen more just for that alone.
This week, I can say that if we'd eaten out for each of the meals I've served, as we would perhaps on an overseas holiday, we'd have been looking at a bare minimum of $135 per day for the three of us, or $945 for the week. And that's a very conservative estimate. When we've been overseas, we've had days where we'd spend twice that depending upon where we were.
If we'd eaten similarly but used convenience foods and processed meats, I'd have spent around $45 per day for the three of us, or $315 for the week, and again, that's a very conservative figure.
By eating at home, replacing one good protein for another, but doing so with an eye to the budget, and as always, preparing as much as possible myself, as well as replacing out of season fresh produce with ones in season, I've spent just $178. No it's not a rock bottom figure, but it's pretty darned good.
That's a saving on an 'eating out' budget of $767, and a saving on a 'convenience food' menu of similar quality, of $137.
It just goes to show what a difference choosing wisely can make to the budget and your health. Certainly comparing a quantity of tinned or processed food, with a similar quantity of a like-for-like fresh food, can be a real eye opener in itself!
Be creative and see what healthier options you can come up with for your family menu and budget. You might surprise yourself!
Just a reminder that Five Star Frou-Frou is now a never ending linkup, with a featured blogger each and every time I post.
Todays featured blogger is Nicki over at Sweet Parrish Place. Nicki is a talented DIY-er and in the spirit of making do and making things your own, I thought it appropriate to feature her fabulous Pallet Bar....
Do pop over and visit Nicki. Her blog is full of clever ideas! Thanks Nicki!
Love Ya,
Mimi xxx