The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Manager? Me?
Who says you have to be a guy to be a Techie? The day has come that I've dreaded for a while. No - it's not menopause. I'm not about to become a grandmother (at least, I hope not), and I don't owe a back tax bill. No, the day I'm talking about is the day they make me a manager.

I don't know why I dread this promotion. I guess it's because I've had so many bad managers in my life, and I don't want to be just another bad manager. I've worked for women who felt threatened by me, men who thought I was their personal whipping boy, and managers, who, quite frankly, didn't know what they were doing. And those were the decent ones.

I want to be a good manager. One who stays ahead of the game. One who can perform strategic planning and manage a budget. One who knows how to boost "team" morale and can get the most out of her subordinates, without making them feel like subordinates. What makes this a difficult thing for me, is that I am managing young men who are the same ages as my sons. Instinctively, I want to be a Mom to them, and I'm having to watch myself.

For instance, one of my guys got engaged this past weekend. I wanted to send an email out to everyone to announce this. I also thought of throwing a party and wanted to ask him if he and his fiancée were going to pre-marriage counselling. I did ask whether or not he was going to have one of those interminably long engagements. I was also going to glue those little bride and groom figurines to his computer monitor and attach a big sign that said "You're a Man now," but I figured that was probably going a bit too far. I'll have to settle for treating my department to lunch. That's my BOY!

After all, I've had lots of practise managing young men. I had four of them who had to be regularly corralled and kept out of mischief, if not kept out of jail. They had chores to do (they did them irregularly) and classes to attend (I had to practically kidnap them and deliver them to the school door.) In short, I've had years of practise of being a nag, and I'm not about to lose my momentum. In fact, I would consider my ability to prod and nag to be one of my more highly developed traits. Just ask my husband.

But I get things done.

I think that women often make the mistake of thinking that because they are in management, they have to act more like men. They are usually deluded into believing that this means acting like a blustery dickhead. It usually also means being loud. I will not be a loud dickhead. My work and results will speak for themselves. I'll attend more high level meetings and do more public speaking (things I'm good at), and I will not stoop to being a Bitch. I'm just going to be myself, which means juggling ten things at once and motivating people by giving them huge guilt trips.

Guess there will be a little bit of Mom in the management me after all.
posted by Melanie O. at 6:38 PM - 6 comments
Monday, April 24, 2006
My first bra
I remember when I knew I needed more than a t-shirt to cover my budding womanliness. I was 11 years old and just entering Middle School. I was wearing my favorite Easter dress (in fact, it was my only Easter dress) and I noticed two bumps on my chest where I used to be relatively flat. My first intinct was to go and tell my mother that I thought I needed a bra.

My mother's response was, "well, if you think you do, we'll go shopping." And we did. I think we went to K-Mart for that first bra. A saleswoman approached us and my mother explained why we were there. The saleswoman saw me and suggested a "training bra." I turned up my nose in disgust. I knew I was too womanly for a training bra. We tried the training bras. They were too small.

Vindicated, I progressed to the bras with A cups, and they fit perfectly. I came home with two bright fuschia (this was the 70's after all) bras that no doubt showed through everything I wore, but I didn't care. I had two bras! And they weren't training bras! I was so excited by my new adornments. It meant I wasn't a little kid any more.

I wore A cup bras for two years until they started to feel uncomfortable, so, back to the store we went, and I tried on the B cups. They were too small. I tried the C cup bras. I was 13 years old. I wore a 34 C bra. Do you know what happens to 13 year old girls with C cup breasts? 13 year old boys see them as nothing but walking boobs - with bra straps that need to be snapped as they walk by. I had more boys try to "cop a feel" over the next few years than is humane. Nowadays, girls are smart enough to have boys like that brought up on sexual assault charges. Back in the '70's, we girls grinned and beared it and a few of us developed a strong left hook. Some of us had older brothers to beat up the boys at school who were getting "too familiar."

The bra they should buy for 13 year olds.

I didn't have an older brother, so I became a bedroom recluse. I read voraciously. I read every classic bit of literature in the house, plus the Oz books and The Water Babies. I read the Encyclopaedia Britannica and The World Books. I read the Swedish-English dictionary. I read my mother's college art major books.

I don't think my mother saw me until the year I graduated from high school. I still wear a 34 C bra. I'm still barely over 5'1" tall. I blame the bras. They stunted my growth. They're also why I'm so well-read.

posted by Melanie O. at 7:03 PM - 4 comments
Sunday, April 23, 2006
The County Fair
NC STATE FAIR Every culture seems to have its own version of a harvest ritual. Some people burn effigies to signify the death of life and to prepare for the renewal of the earth. Some people hold feasts of thanksgiving. Some have the annual slaughter of the goats in preparation for winter. And some people hold fairs.

In North Carolina, in October, the annual State Fair is held, which is a conglomeration of arts, crafts, agriculture, and Carnies. There is nothing else like it. You can see the world's biggest pig, the world's largest alligator, have someone guess your weight, and eat an emu burger. From colonial crafts demonstrations to the largest pumpkin, new and antique farm equipment and the Right-to-Life display, it's a slice of Americana.

Australia has the same ritual, except they are called "Shows" instead of fairs. I don't know what the etymology of "show" is. I am assuming it's because people show off their craftwork of the past year. Dan and I decided to attend the Royal Easter Show every other year. The Easter Show is New South Wales' equivalent to the State Fair without the Native American dance exhibit. It's also just as crowded and just as expensive. They have the same rides that you see at American fairs that are painted with really garish portraits of people on them. You can also see the lumberjack show. In fact, save for the accents and names of the regions here, it's just like "home."
NC or Oz? Only Melanie knows for sure.
This year was an "off" year, and we didn't go to the the Royal Easter Show. This year, we went to see my mother-in-law's knitting submissions in the craft exhibit at the Campbelltown Show. The Campbelltown Show is a town-size fair held at a small horse track out in Macarthur, near where we own our house. It's a lovely spot, and very country. It's the kind of place you can go and play such games as: Spot the First Person with a Full Set of Teeth, and Whoever Spots the Most Number of Overweight Teenaged Girls with Singlets on in Cold Weather Within 30 Minutes, Wins.

To be fair, the Campbelltown Show is actually a lot more fun than the Royal Easter Show. Because it is so colloquial, people actually stop and talk to you about their exhibits. They'll tell you about their cats they are showing and actually let you pet them despite your germs, they'll show you their radio controlled aircraft, and advise you on the best fertilizer to use for your roses.

At the Show, we watched an Angora goat shearing up close (the sheep obviously had been snubbed this year), a beekeeping demo, a poisonous snake handling demo, and we talked to the parrots on display. The women making bobbin lace were more than happy to tell me about the history of their craft and let me handle their lace. To top it off, my mother-in-law swept all categories that she had entered her knitting into - although, to be fair, she's had more than 60 years to perfect her technique. There's probably some woman in the Macarthur District who can't wait for my mother-in-law to stop knitting as she typically wins the ribbons every year.

I didn't get on any of the rides this year, even at the "bargain" price of $5. I think that's a sign of real middle age. Next year, I'm going to get on the Alpine Bobsled just to wind the clock back a few years, and hope that I don't have a stroke.

Dan and I topped off our visit with an old fashioned steamed hot dog. It was the first hot dog I've had since moving to Australia, and it was pretty darned good - just as good as I remember.

People often ask me if I get homesick being so far away from North Carolina, but I have to say, there is no country on earth that comes closer, than Australia. I miss my family, but if I have to live so far away from them, this isn't a bad place to be. No matter it's April instead of October. Once you've been to the Campbelltown Show, you realise that life's pretty good and people are pretty much the same, no matter where you go.
posted by Melanie O. at 7:09 PM - 2 comments
Friday, April 21, 2006
Family reunion
FAMILY REUNION CIRCA 1950My youngest son is getting married, and like a good mother (and a bad mother in law), I tried to get him to wait until after he got his Bachelor's degree before he made such a huge commitment. Of course, I'm not really one to give out that kind of advice, as I got married right out of high school and started my family right away, much to the consternation of my parents. My youngest, however, a devout church-goer, is at the age where he's going to either get married, or make lots of visits to the confessional.

I won't actually be able to be there for his big day, and I feel pretty terrible about it, but with distance and financial constraints, I had to make a decision - either I go by myself back to the States for a week to attend a wedding reception for a couple of hours and then twiddle my thumbs for several days afterwards while the youngsters go off on their honeymoon, or we wait a little while and save for Dan to come with me, we travel at off-peak, and we arrange, with my mother, a family reunion, where we can all meet the new wife, and, in general, drive each other crazy for a week - the purpose being, to remind me why children grow up and move out of the house in the first place - and to take the traditional family portrait photos.

Family reunions are usually a pretty big deal. I've actually never been to one that has been designated a "reunion" - only because we had enough weddings and funerals in the family that served that purpose. So, this will be a bit different. What does one do at a family reunion besides wear a funny t-shirt that says "Family Reunion" and has the date cheerfully emblazoned on it, drink too much beer, overeat, take snapshots and kick a football around?

My ideal family reunion would consist of renting a few rooms at a nice resort for a week; having handsome men in tight shorts give me full body massages every day (my husband of course, is welcome to a busty woman who will do the same for him, as I know he would fall asleep in the middle of it); lazing about by the pool with our Mai Tais and reading trashy magazines; dining on lobster and champagne nearly every night while we watch old classic films like Cool Hand Luke on the large television screen; and lounging disgracefully across our double king size bed until the wee hours.
Mai Tai - one of life's staples
All of this, of course, would take place in an exotic tropical location with enough amenities and interesting sites to see, that we don't get under each others' feet for several days. The older members of the family would receive free Botox and collagen injections, with some lipo on the side, and the younger ones would receive free nightclub passes. A professional photographer named Raoul or Franćois would take the family portraits amongst the backdrop of a tropical garden of delights, and the lighting would make us all look at least 15 years younger than our actual ages. And, to top all of this off, at the end of our sojourn, we would find that we've all lost 15 pounds.

At the end, after the kisses and tears and gift exchanges, we'd fly back to our various destinations, congratulating ourselves on what a fantastic reunion it was. Reality though says, that we'll be eating grocery store bakery cake and deli meat sandwiches. I'll be taking the family portraits with my trusty Canon and there will be at least one fight amongst my sons. The house will become a wreck and we will be stepping on each other in sleeping bags, in the middle of the night when we get up to use the bathroom, which we will fight over in the mornings, for showers.

Heck, it'll be worth it to see my family again. For as much as we annoy each other, we love each other even more. I'll just have to remember to bring my own paper umbrellas for the Mai Tais.

posted by Melanie O. at 8:53 PM - 2 comments
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Easter meditation
Easter seems to be a time of reflection for me. It doesn't matter that's it's autumn here in Sydney, not spring now, and I feel like I should be getting ready for Halloween - my face always breaks out and my body clock always resets itself. It seems like a good time to take stock of my life and see where I am in the scheme of the Universe.

I wanted to attend an Easter service today, because, despite my questioning of everything in life, I am still a believer in the teachings of Jesus. There may be nothing after this life, but I don't care. I want to make this life the best it can be for myself and those around me. I want to add a little sunshine wherever I go. If I can inspire a smile or a giggle, then I feel like I've done a good deed. My husband is usually the recipient of my interactive comedic moments, but occasionally, my workmates bear the brunt of my silliness.

This year, I donned a pair of bunny ears and delivered chocolates to my coworkers. They must have thought "that barmy American. She's at it again." But no matter - I got some smiles back, which of course, will just encourage me and I will have to think of something even more outrageous for next year.

Now my husband and I are watching a bad rendition of The Ten Commandments. I'm sorry, but Charlton Heston will always be my favorite gentile who plays a Jewish hero, whether it be Moses or Judah ben Hur. I can't get into this version of Moses - a violent sort of anti-hero with no sympathy or love for anyone but for people who never appreciated him. Charlton Heston, now suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was the NRA's greatest spokesperson, and I kind of think that if Moses was around today, he would have been a card carrying member, too. [Note: not a political statement - just a poke at the NRA and possibly Cecil B. DeMille] I also like the fact that Charlton's been married to the same woman forever. I can forgive him for making a couple of bad made-for TV movies.

Easter's also a time for feeling homesick. Right now in North Carolina, the pink dogwoods and redbuds would be blooming and the azaleas would be budding out. The days would be getting longer instead of shorter. Daffodils and tulips would be in bloom, and people would be out and about in their shorts. And I'd be in the local Kerr Drugs stocking up on marshmallow Peeps to store over the next year. Stale peeps are one of the small pleasures of life. Their chewy goodness can not be rivaled by any other confection on earth.

The local WalMart would be selling Easter lilies, too. I miss Easter lilies. I tried to put a photo of an Easter lily on our website to link to our Easter devotions - and our director didn't even know what one was. It's enough to make you want to wish you could swear off Charlton Heston movies and Peeps.

Almost. I guess I just need to learn how to deal with the withdrawal symptoms this year. No Charlton. No lilies. No redbuds. I try to look on the bright side, however. As long as they don't get lost in the mail, I should have some Peeps soon.

Happy Easter!

Postscript: as you can tell, if you read the comments to this entry - life isn't always a bed of roses. Some of us wind up with thorns in our asses. We're lucky if we've got a family member or a friend to help pull them out.
posted by Melanie O. at 10:04 PM - 2 comments
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Memories of me - part II
I remember the first time I ever felt the pangs of unrequited love. I was about nine years old and I had just seen a two part television movie: Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, which starred a then unknown actor, Robin Askwith. Robin Askwith was a blonde, mop-topped British actor, who went on to star in such classics as Horror Hospital and bawdy romps beginning with the words: Confessions of a and the occasional Carry On movie. So much for my good judgement of men.

My next crush lasted for years. Decades, even. He was another British mop-topped lad, from Liverpool, by the name of James Paul McCartney. I loved his dark eyes and hair and his full, pouty lips. I kissed his face on countless Beatles album covers. I played all of the Beatles songs over and over until I had the lyrics and melodies to each one memorized. I just knew that one day, Paul and I were going to find each other.

The Beatles Christmas Album - without pen all over itI was crushed when one night, as the family was watching a television special on the Beatles just after they had broken up, my father inadvertently broke it to me that Paul was married. I knew that John Lennon was married - who didn't? Yoko Ono was his personal shadow. But Paul? No! I was going to grow up and marry Paul. I had even sent him a letter telling him that I was a blonde haired, blue eyed 16 year old girl, and would he please send me an autographed photo? I was ten - maybe. And I had dark auburn hair and moss green eyes. I stretched the truth a bit in those days, but where Paul was concerned, you had to be a little bit mercenary.

Instead of an autographed photo, I was issued an invitation to join the Beatles Fan Club, which had not yet become defunct. I think it cost $2.50 to join. For my parent's money, I got some Beatles bio info (duplicates of things I already had, pretty much,) but, for Christmas 1970, they sent me the Beatles Christmas Album, which was a compilation of every Christmas message that the Beatles had issued to members of their fan club since 1963. Thank you Bettina and Frieda! Like any good ten year old does, I set about drawing in beards and moustaches in blue pen on the faces of the Fab Four on the album cover. It would be worth $1,000 now if I hadn't defaced it.

In the back of my mind, Paul always remained my ideal man. I read about what an incurable romantic he was, and how devoted to Linda he was. Every so often, I'd dream about him, and there was Linda, instructing me that if anything happened to her, I was to step in and be her replacement. I was even invited to their farm in Scotland. I always awoke from these dreams feeling lovely. This was my empyrean from which I wished never to leave.

One day, though, Linda did really die, and I felt devastated for Sir Paul. By this time, I was nearly 40 years old and Sir Paul was near to 60. Surely, though, for all of those dreams and all of those decades, it had to mean that the Universe was telling me something, wasn't it?

It meant that I moved in the wrong circles - that's what it meant, because Sir Paul remarried someone else shortly afterwards. I find it ironic, that when Paul was 30, I was too young for him, but when he was age 58, I was too old.

I never did develop any real crushes after Sir Paul. David Carradine as Kwai Chang Kane appealed for a little while in the '70's. And then Pierce Brosnan (mainly because he reminded me of Sir Paul) in the '80's. But adult admiration can not replace childhood crushes. And even though I adore men like Bruce Campbell and Johnny Depp, I've lost the nexus of my reveries.

I wound up marrying a Sydneysider, not a Liverpudlian. But they both have the same dark brown eyes, and, if my husband wasn't so grey now, the same very dark brown hair. They both have lovely full lips, and they share something else - a birthday. June 18th.

Coincidence? I think not.
posted by Melanie O. at 7:25 PM - 0 comments
Monday, April 10, 2006
Early convicts
Culburra Beach 1Sunday. Another glorious day.

On a whim, Dan and I decided to drive down to Culburra Beach to visit one of his best friends from his railroad days. We hadn't seen B. and C. for a while, and the perfect autumn weather was inspiration for a drive. Even if B. and C. weren't home, we were still going to get out in the car, create some exhaust fumes, and enjoy the bright, crisp air.

There's nothing like autumn light. It's sharp and bright and everything looks so amazingly clear. I brought my camera with me and took a few shots. The scenery was spectacular.

Australia has an odd sense of history to it. On one side, it's older than the Himalayas - on the other, it's still a "young" country in the Western sense. If a building dates to the 1780's, it's considered "old" here. Regardless, it has one of the best climates of any place on earth, gets lots of sun, and has an interesting culture that's a mix of European, Mediterranean, Asian, Middle Eastern and Aboriginal - all fused together like a colourful All Day Sucker. In fact, if you discount the poisonous snakes and spiders (which any person with common sense will keep away from instinctively), and keep out of the ocean during box jelly fish season, it's $%@!*& Paradise!

I can't get over Australia's convict history. They used to deport common pickpockets and prostitutes to Australia, thinking it was a punishment! Convicts became wealthy citizens here and it didn't remain a penal colony for long, once word got out.

Looking out across these rocky shores, I try to imagine what those first convicts must have thought as their ship pulled into the harbour. I'm thinking, if they were leaving an English winter, they were thinking: "Hallelujah!"
posted by Melanie O. at 6:29 PM - 0 comments
Friday, April 07, 2006
Memories of me - part I
It's my mother's fault that I love to model lingerie and vintage clothes. Really. (Besides, it's always convenient to blame things on your mother.)

When I was four or five years old, my mother was studying for her teacher's certificate. She was an art education grad student (and a darned good one, too, I might add.) One of the things she had to do was to teach a drawing class using live models. My mother used the two most handy models that she had available: her two daughters.

So, off we went to her university with several changes of clothes, to be the object of the drawing class. My mother set up two stools for my sister and I to sit on, and a changing screen. She had prepared well for this class and acted in the most professional manner. Soon, one by one, her undergrad students came in and sat themselves down in front of their easels.

My sister and I were posed on a little raised platform in front of the class, and that's when the mayhem broke loose. My sister and I, excited to see so many grownups (well, to us, these 19 and 20 year olds were grown ups) got a fit of the giggles, and our adrenalin kicked into high gear. We became, in fact, the Child Models from Hell.

Nyaaah!I recall especially, one young man who sat near the front of the class, who was especially cute, with light brown curly hair. He thought my sister and I were amusing, so that just egged us on even more. I don't think we sat still for more than two minutes, and my poor mother, frustrated, had to chase us around the room and pull us back to sit on the stools. She gave us one or two stern lectures, but we were too full of ourselves and took off again, running around the room. I remember stopping to see a couple of sketches of myself dressed in a pair of shorts. So, was this how people saw me? A little girl with curly hair?

After a while, I became shy about changing clothes in front of a classroom of people (especially with the cute guy in the front seat) and protested that they could see my underwear. My mother kept reassuring me that no one could see my underwear behind the screen, and to change outfits for the next "sitting." I use the term "sitting" lightly, because I don't think we sat any longer than 30 seconds at any given time.

I finally decided I needed to impress the cute guy in the front seat (at the age of five) and behaved like a grownup for maybe three minutes. My poor mother was at her wits' end. It was probably the longest art class she ever had to supervise.

I don't think she was ever as glad for a class to end as she was for that one. Finally, we packed up our clothes and headed home. I think my mother was completely embarrassed. Ironically, I now model underwear. I think there's definitely a connection. Maybe I'm trying to impress that cute curly haired guy in the front seat.
posted by Melanie O. at 8:55 PM - 4 comments
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
My pinup legacy
Son #2 and Son #3There's one thing that goes with getting older that usually applies equally to men and women, and that is, thoughts of death. With the first major illness, the first bad car accident, sometimes, the first wrinkle or grey hair, you begin to realise that you won't live forever. Even Dick Clark, the "world's oldest teenager," is looking his age these days.

With getting older and thinking about one's own mortality, you start to wonder about what you're going to leave behind. What little bit of immortality are you leaving the world? Most of us die in obscurity and only have our descendents to remember us by, and once a couple of generations have passed, you won't have that any more either.

I am thinking that people achieve their greatest heights in an effort to be remembered long after they're gone. What better motivation than to create something so spectacular, that thousands who never even met you, remember you. Thomas Edison will never die. Neither will Adolph Hitler. Not really, as long as they are remembered in some way.

I would have liked to have created something spectacular in my lifetime: recorded a hit record, painted a work of art so beautiful that people weep when they see it, written a best-selling book that becomes a classic, had someone duplicate my likeness in marble. But it hasn't happened yet.

I am, what the writer Henry David Thoreau said, living a "life of quiet desperation." Man is unfortunate in the animal kingdom, in that he recognises his own mortality. Other animals may sense it, and hence their fight for survival, but only man knows it as a certainty and has developed mythologies to comfort himself.

Melanie O.

And so, I am faced with this unholy prospect of obscurity when I am gone. I suppose I may fertilize some grass somewhere, which then may be eaten by a wild rabbit, which in turn may feed a fox and gain me a few extra years on this planet, even if it's in another consciousness. But ultimately, life is short and we are all too soon forgotten. I have struggled with knowing that my legacy to the earth is a poor one, and have had to come to terms with the fact that, like so many others before me and since, I am a bigger consumer than I am a creator.

Son #1 and Son #4Here's where someone is supposed to point out to me that I have created the most beautiful of all things: children. And, in truth, I have four handsome and lovely sons who have given me the highest and lowest points of my life. If, as Thoreau says: "In accumulating property for ourselves or our posterity, in founding a family or a state, or acquiring fame even, we are mortal; but in dealing with truth we are immortal, and need fear no change nor accident," then I will be immortal in this truth. I have four sons. They will pass on my genetic material for as long as nature and happenstance allow it.

In the meantime, I will continue to model lingerie and be the subject of pinup photography and someone's artistic sketches. Perhaps, in a hundred years, in someone's attic, they will discover an old photo or sketch of a woman who looks remarkably like I do now. And they'll wonder: who is this woman? And what was her life like? And did she have a family? And I will be shouting to them from the grave, even if they can't hear me.
posted by Melanie O. at 6:26 PM - 2 comments
Monday, April 03, 2006
The Queen of Fashion
If I was Queen of the Fashion Industry – I know what I’d do. I’d have two lines of clothes for women: a line of clothes for the catwalk models you see in magazines, of which I know few women who match up to that particular body type, and a line for the rest of us: women with curves.

I have nearly given up on buying clothes in retail shops. They seem to all be made for women who are shaped straight up and down – to varying widths – or, at least, that’s how they make you look when you wear them. Large gypsy-type skirts (that should have died when Fleetwood Mac split up), lingerie style tops that make you look half dressed and show off your bra straps to the world, low riding pants that give new meaning to the term “plumber’s crack”, and flimsily constructed things that shrink after the first wash, would all be banned. Instead, designers would be required to study human anatomy. They would be required to design for real people, not dress mannequins.

Clothes will have panels and shape to them. They will not hang in a shapeless mass and get their semblance of structure from a belt. They will show off a woman’s walk and they will show off her chest without getting her arrested. They will be designed to flatter women with hips, or women with boobs, or women with boobs and hips with a bit of a tummy. In short – they will flatter real women.

If you’re a busty woman, they will fit you in the chest and not hang so loose in the waist that you look pregnant. On the other side, if you find something that’s fitted in the waist, the bust will be wide enough that you aren’t popping buttons. If you have hips, skirts will not split when you sit down because you found something that fits in the waist but groans from being stretched across your backside.



Until the day I am made Queen of Fashion, I will keep buying vintage clothes from my connection in the USA. I am convinced that manufacturers spent more time on clothing construction back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Then something happened – it became more about profit and less about fashion. If you want fashion nowadays, you have to fork out Big Bucks for a designer label. And sometimes they’re just as guilty as their cheaper off-the-rack cousins.

Those of us in the 98 percentile would appreciate it if designers would stop designing for the 2 percentile. I am thinking of designing my own line of clothes because of this. It could well mean the end of the fashion world as we know it – at least, in my household.



Postscript: And here's where I shamelessly plug my friend J's online boutique for up and coming Australian fashion designers. Check it out:

posted by Melanie O. at 3:28 PM - 5 comments
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Sunday surprise
Today was a gorgeous day. The kind of day that you wish could last forever: bright, warm, not too hot or cold, with a lovely breeze and low humidity. There were a few clouds in the sky, but nothing threatening. It was a great day to be out and about in Sydney.

For two days, my husband told me that he was taking me somewhere today, that it was a surprise, and that I would love it.

"It has to do with something you love," he said. That could cover many things: antique hunting? A classic car show? Were we going to pick out a dog or cat to rescue from the local animal shelter? Or maybe we were going to an art gallery or museum. The possibilities were endless.

We got into old Hildegaard the Beamer and drove to the railway station, so I figured it had to be something in town. There were heaps of people on the platform and on the train. Maybe a special event was going on in town? I wasn't to know because Dan was not saying anything.

We got down to Circular Quay, and got tickets for the ferry. We were going somewhere on the ferry! Taronga Zoo? Watson's Bay to have lunch at Doyle's famous seafood restaurant?

It was glorious to be out on the water. Little kids were learning how to steer their sailboats in the little harbours along the waterway. They bobbed about like scraps of paper on the wind. Small tourist ships went chugging by with party revellers on board. Everyone seemed to be out on the water today. The sun bounced happily off the waves and the wind blew through my hair as I peered out the window of the Rivercat. About 20 minutes later, we docked at Drummoyne, and I reluctantly disembarked. I loved being out in the harbour on such a fantastic day, but Dan was eager to show me his surprise.

We walked for another 20 minutes, to get to Birkenhead Point. The walk in itself was fantastic. We strolled past large mansions, home to doctors and wealthy businessmen. One such place had been christened "Joie de Vivre." I couldn't have agreed more. Some of the homes looked like small chateaus with stained glass windows and some were patterned after Frank Lloyd Wright's designs. It was an architectural walk of delights.

We finally got to our destination: the Birkenhead Point shopping centre. The centre is a series of old warehouses that have been converted into shops. The brick alleys have been preserved, and three masts stand as a testament to the fact it was once an active port. And then I saw the large banner stretched across the walkway: Mudgee Wine Tasting.

I'm not a wine snob by any means, but I enjoy wine tastings, usually because we come home with a new favorite that we want to enjoy. We eagerly walked out onto the pier where the wine tasting was taking place and stopped in our tracks. The cost to taste wine for the two of us: $30. To taste. Wine. That we may or may not like.

I looked at Dan and Dan looked at me. His heart sank. He hadn't realised the cost involved, and it had taken us over an hour and a half to get out there, via car, train, ferry, and foot.

"I messed up again," he dolefully admitted to no one in particular. I could just imagine his disappointment since he had built up this surprise for so long.

"No," I said. "It was worth it, just to get out on the ferry and see these homes and stroll around on such a fantastic day. And you know how I love to explore places that I've never been to before." It had been fun being totally spontaneous, even though it's not what Dan had planned.

We rode the ferry back to King Street Wharf where we snacked on edamame and sweet potato kusabi at a Japanese style noodle house. And on the way home, I bought a cask of rosé, so we got to enjoy some wine after all. Today was, really, a nice surprise.
posted by Melanie O. at 6:27 PM - 3 comments
Saturday, April 01, 2006
The high cost of sexiness
Dan and I were out shopping today. First, we did His shopping, which consisted of going to SuperCheap Auto Centre and looking at the same automotive items ten times over. First, there were car seat covers. We found one for the back seat of our BMW that we like, but couldn't find the matching front seat covers.

Then we found some front seat covers in an acrylic wool that we liked, but they had no matching back seat covers. We finally discovered some real honest-to-goodness wool pelt seat covers, matching front and back, but they cost five times what the acrylic ones cost. So, we put that on the wish list.

Then Dan found some wheel covers that he wanted to buy for my car. I'm not in the market for wheel covers, but I figure, if he wants to make my little Kia Rio look smarter, he's welcome to do that. So, he bought wheel covers, and not seat covers. Total cost for making my car look sexier: $12.00 (the wheel covers were on sale.) Cost of air freshener for car: $2.

Then we went and did some Hers shopping in town. I keep forgetting how nice it is to shop at the local shops instead of in one of those cookie-cutter malls. We strolled along the streets and peered into little boutique shops, Asian groceries, and bargain stores. The shops in town have a life all of their own. The people who shop in town are different to the people who shop in malls. They tend to be a bit more picky and in less of a hurry.

We wound up going into a lingerie shop, because, well, I don't look like Shelly Winters yet and I enjoy nice lingerie. I was in need of a couple of bras anyway, as they tend to lose their shape after about a year. My intent was to pick up a couple of cheap (ie, under $20) bras. I walked out with one matching bra and panty set, which set me back, after a 20% discount, a total of $60. I couldn't believe it. It was cheaper to make my car look and smell sexier than it was to make me look sexy! Where's the justice in that?

I can't believe I spent $60 on one bra and one matching set of knickers. It could have been worse, however. Some of the bras in the shop ran around $100. Adding the matching knickers would have set you back an additional $25. For UNDERWEAR. And it's not any better made than anything else I've seen. And it would have cost even more had I bought it in a fancy department store.

Next time I want something sexy, I'm going to the auto supply store. I bet that car air freshener is a whole lot cheaper than my Chanel perfume.
posted by Melanie O. at 5:12 PM - 0 comments
Mr & MRS SLUG My husband and I have hit a fitness impasse. We are turning into slugs, and I'm not sure what to do about it. This impasse started out with something as innocuous as job changes: he started driving for longer hours in order to get a bigger paycheck. As soon as I was able to go to work here in Australia, I got a desk job with a one and a half hour commute each way on the train. Needles to say, by the time both of us got home from work, we were exhausted. We had arguments over who was going to cook dinner that night, since hubby would get home a good while before me, but still expect me to start dinner the minute I walked in the door.

In a zombie-like state, I made nice dinners for us (looking back, I'm thankful for a mom and a grandmother who cooks, and for my Home Ec classes - as much as I hated them.) The only problem was, we were eating well at night, and then just sitting down and vegetating afterwards, since we were both so tired. I gained the obligatory ten pounds post marriage weight, and Dan gained more. My situation was made worse when I got put on medication for a health problem. I decided to live with the health problem, and ditched the medication after only two months, when I looked in the mirror one morning and saw a bloated chipmunk looking back at me.

I lost most of that weight, but not the cooking-Sunday-dinner-every-night-married-life weight. Any muscle tone that I might have is a result of the clenching of all available muscles as I endure another day commuting on the train. This can be measured in direct proportion to my blood pressure, which has risen steadily over the past few years.

I thought about joining a gym, but the cost of gym memberships here is astronomical. So then I thought - there's nothing I can do at a gym that I can't do at home. But this is where I always fall down. I get into a good routine for about a week or two, overdo it, my muscles kill me, I have to take a break, and then I am back into my old habits. Why - oh why - wasn't I born an exercise freak? Some people are fortunate enough to get addicted to exercise. Me - I'm addicted to chatting on the Internet - after a day of work that consists of sitting in front of a computer and developing Internet marketing strategies. My gluteous maximus is sucking every available ounce of nutrition that I consume, in order to maintain its predominance in the hierarchy of my bodily structure. J Lo I am not.
Dan has a similar problem. He's developing a large veranda that sits over his toy shop. He's looking less and less like Bob Geldof and more and more like Jackie Gleason. See, I swore to myself that I would look more like Jane Fonda when I'm 60 than Shelly Winters. (Although Shelly had a wonderful personality, she wasn't modeling lingerie when she was 60). And so I am fighting, fighting the effects of gravity and have cut down on my caloric intake to a point that a goldfish would starve - and I am still a few pounds heavier than I would like to be.

I think the writing is on the wall. We will have to get off our butts long enough to burn some calories at the end of the day, or risk turning into slugs. The only upside to turning into slugs, that I can see, is being justified on purchasing a new wardrobe. And maybe I'll want to get out to garden in the rain more often.

Postscript: No sooner did this blog entry get published, then Dan entered the room and said: "let's go to lunch." Sometimes, you just can't win.
posted by Melanie O. at 10:49 AM - 2 comments

About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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