Saturday, November 13, 2010

Itsy bitsy teenie weenie scarlet polka dot bikini

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I began swimming in earnest at the beginning of the season. I was swimming in a chlorine intense pool in normal beach swimmers but even so, less than two months later, I was somewhat shocked to discover that the chlorine had eaten through so much of the fabric that it was totally transparent. Previously, I hadn't really bothered to swim in proper lap swimmers. Partly because I never really swam often enough for the non chlorine resistant fabric to be a problem and partly because, well, they tend to look something like this.

The classic staple of the swimmer's wardrobe.
Or the ever-flattering all in one boardies ensemble.  Call me vain, but I like to do my exercise looking half decent. After all, I may run into someone. Someone important.
Newer on the scene, the lowest drag, most advanced and most unflattering all in one.
Interestingly, this very modern style looks very similar to some of the earliest racing swimsuits of our times. The photo below shows professional Australian swimmer, vaudeville and film star Annette Kellerman, who was arrested for wearing a "revealing" swimsuit similar to this one in 1907.

Annette Kellerman
Being somewhat buxom and a bit of a fashion freak (I like to have matching swimmers, goggle and cap), can present a challenge when purchasing swimwear. Especially of the chlorine resistant kind. I mean, when was the last time anyone saw a racing swimmer with E+ cups? Lap swimwear tends to be built for speed not support.

But I saw this as the ultimate challenge. How to combine functionality, practicality and the overwhelming importance of aesthetic. In other words, and not to be daunted, I saw this as the perfect justification for combining my love for swimming with my love for buying and my love for fifties fashion and bright colours. Having ruled out racing one pieces as uncomfortable, uninteresting or just plain ugly, my quest for the perfect fashion-forward  and functional bikini began.

My search began, quite naturally, on the internet. Racing swimwear styles of today may not suit my body shape, but surely, swimwear shapes of the fifties might get me closer to the mark. And if you're talking swimwear and the fifties, then all roads seem to lead to Esther Williams.

In racing swimmers and swimming cap - Esther Williams
However, as to be partly expected, the only swimsuits I could find were  either entirely functional (and not really suited to my body shape) or glamourama film styles (frequently made of sequins or cotton or other non water-friendly fabrics) which weren't at all practical. Sigh.

Promotional film shot
However, I did come across this cool site while I was looking at Esther Williams retro inspired models. Which led me to some other sites like this one. The retro look is alive and kicking but how to combine that with my other requirements like functionality, support and chlorine-resistance?
Classic Fifties Style Bikini Swimsuit Cherry Pink
Which got me thinking. Maybe I was approaching this back to front. Maybe I should  go with a lap swimmer brand and look for a pattern which fit my stringent fashion requirements.  Like cherries, or gingham, or stripes or polkadots? Weren't polkadots somehow synonymous with bikinis anyway? And nothing says retro like red and white polkadot.

So while I was looking at fifties swimsuits, maybe I should check out the origins and the popularity of the bikini itself. After all, even though the string bikini option may not be appropriate, I could get some fabric ideas on what to look for in my dream lap bikini. The modern bikini was invented by French engineer Louis RĂ©ard in 1946 and named it after Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, the site of the Operation Crossroads nuclear weapon tests in July that year.

Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in Dr No
 It became incredibly popular in large part thanks to iconic movie scenes such as the one starring Ursula Andress in the Bond film Dr No and the song "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini" which was first released in June 1960 by Brian Hyland and became a number one hit on 8 August 1960 in the U.S. and made the top 10 in numerous other countries.

So, a retro-ish fit, bikini style, polkadot chlorine resistant fabric with built in support would be ideal for my lap swimmers. With a white or red cap and matching goggles. But where to find them?

And then, one day, sitting at my local pool after my swim in my transparent swimsuit and feeling really really annoyed about the total dearth of decent lap swimwear available I happened to notice a catalogue for a brand called Funkita - which seemed to be full of really cute fabrics and really cute styles. And there on page 17, I saw them for the first time. 2010's take on Bikini Atoll, Ursula Andress and Esther Williams.

Built for comfort and for speed.  And very very cute. My very own itsy bitsy teenie weenie scarlet polka dot bikini. Thank goodness that the fifties are back in fashion again. xx

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And familiarity breeds contempt. Apparently.

Sometimes all you have to do is go away for awhile and then come back. And then things you never really noticed, or just took for granted, take on a significance and assume larger than life proportions in a way that they never really did before.

I come from one of the most beautiful parts of the world. A place where hills run into the sea and the sky swoops down to meet them. Yet when I was a child, I thought eucalyptus trees were boring and my coastline was uninspiring. After many years away, I came home, to get my life back on track and sort some things out. I have to confess that at first I had extreme misgivings about it. I like my bars and my coffee shops and my loud music. Being stuck in the "bush" wasn't my idea of fun. But every so often, my mother would try and drag me out on some bushwalk, to see some local sites, and to admire a view. And ever so gradually, after a series of these expeditions, I began to "see" my world through the eyes of those more appreciative of my natural surroundings. These pictures were taken on a day of sight-seeing with a couple of French tourists we had met and befriended. The photo below shows a deserted beach called North Smoky Beach, just to the north of the beautiful Smoky Cape Lighthouse.

View of North Smoky Beach, to the north of Smoky Cape Lighthouse
 And here is a picture of the beach just to the South. I am not sure if this beach is called South Smoky or not. The beach isn't patrolled so swim at your own risk but it is populated by dolphins, surfers and the odd whale.

View to the south of Smoky Cape Lighthouse.
 Endless golden sand, blue water and not a single person in sight. And just around the corner, after a really wonderful bushwalk, you can find your way back to Trial Bay, where the old Gaol stands as a formidable reminder of the transgressions of the past.

Trial Bay Gaol, looking north.
We finished our walk at the main beach at South West Rocks. There is a small bay, called Horseshoe Bay, which is decorated with stands of wonderful Norfolk Pines. It is very popular amoung holiday makers and children but I prefer the primitive rocks and choppy surf of South West Rocks main beach, stretching along the circumferance of the Bay. Main beach is also where I first learned to scuba dive, and watching the surf crash against the rocks that I'd explored underwater brought back fond memories, as well as funny ones.

Main Beach looking directly north. You can see the gulls sunning
themselves on the rock to the right.
An ex boyfriend of mine from England had always been impressed by the sheer vastness of our skies and this shot captures that perfectly, I think.

Main beach at South West Rocks, looking south back towards Trial Bay Gaol.
And we weren't the only ones enjoying the sun. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a few sea eagles, surfing the air currents in a lazy fashion, and hovering, wings half open, before plunging into the surf.

Haliaeetus leucogaster  (the White Bellied Sea Eagle - Australia's second largest bird of prey)
Even the seagulls had decided to kick back and relax. Sunning themselves. Waiting patiently for leftover bits of fish and chips.

Gulls waiting on a rock at South West Rocks Main Beach
 The weather was perfect. And we made a day of it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

September, Spring and the first Swims of the Season

There is something almost mythical about Australian fascination with swimming laps in summer. And with spring well and truly here, I have decided to kick things off in style and plunge headfirst into a new exercise regime. I love swimming. The first dive into the pool at the beginning of the season is always painful but the  endorphin rush makes it so worthwhile. I am making a concerted effort to swim more regularly and for longer than ever before. I aim to do five times a week and increase my sessions by up to 250-500m a week depending on how lazy I feel.  It's week three of my routine and I have lost over two kilos as well as feeling fantastic. Today will be the first day that I swim 2000m so I am feeling a little anxious but nothing ventured nothing gained, right?

Classic Australian outdoor chlorine pool
I have been swimming in an outdoors, barely heated (22degrees - ouch!) pool that is heavily chlorinated. But although the swimming makes me feel great, I have to confess that the chlorine of the pool does absolutely nothing for my hair or my nails. I have to redo my nails almost every day because the chips are so bad. And we all know chlorine and hair have never been best friends. Loads of leave-in conditioner is the only way forward! That or try and swim in a saltwater pool. If I get the chance, I'll always go for a saltwater pool over a chlorine one. I don't like chlorine. I like salt. And wherever possible, I swim outside as I love the feeling of the sun on my back. The saltwater is soo much more refreshing, as well as being great for my skin. And, it gives your hair a lovely summery curly look if you don't rinse it out but just scrunch and dry. Beach hair, without the sand! Of course, you need to remember the leave-in conditioner and regular treatments.

Andrew Boy Charlton Pool with the Queen Mary docked behind
In a recent trip to Sydney, my quest for the perfect saltwater swim led me to two of Sydney's most famous pools. The Andrew Boy Charlton Pool on the edge of the Domain is probably my favourite pool. Plus it's outdoors and heated so the experience is just balmy. I attempted the 2000m for the first time at Andrew Boy Charlton. It may have been the distance, or the fact that I had already done a cicuit class earlier that day but in my final 50m I developed a cramp in my calf that was so excrutiating that I had to be fished out of the pool by the lifeguard. To all my other phobias I can now add "spontaneous spasms of the lower body". Apparently there is nothing you can do about cramps while swimming. Except hope that you don't get one in the deep end of the pool.

The quitessentially classic Bondi Icebergs

My experience at the Icebergs was also fairly humiliating. I was flat sitting in Bondi for a friend, about 1km from the pool so naturally I took the opportunity to try it out. Bondi Icebergs. The most beautiful pool in the most beautiful place in the world.  I am strong swimmer and didn't think a little cold water was going to scare me off. Even tho I know that the sea water is cold in September, nothing prepared me for the physical reaction my body had to it. My entire chest seized up, my lungs constricted and I couldn't breathe. After a few metres floundering around, gasping for breath, I managed to drag myself back to the edge of the pool, in a state of quasi-hyopothermia.

I guess that's why they call it the Icebergs right?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

the power of coral

and red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue..i can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too.

So I am feeling a little guilty about the fact that it has been about a year since I last blogged. "Dear Father, it is three years since my last confession..." But I suppose if I'd thought about the blog at all during the last year, I would most likely have deactivated it. So in some ways it's good I just forgot about it because revisiting last year's thoughts, moods and actions can be fairly entertaining. For instance, my scrapbook obsession has well and truly passed.....but I do still paint my nails every three or four days. And ummm, did I mention my latest infatuation is colour, colour, colour?

This is very similar to the colour that I bought but
mine is a little more orange and has more shimmer
Last night I painted my nails a shimmery coral, which is a pretty ridiculous colour but it goes with my pink watch that I bought at St Vinnies for $2.50 and my bright yellow plastic bracelet, if bright clashing colours can ever go that is... I even have a hot pink flash drive and matching phone cover.  I blame it all on that Mulberry bag in crinkle patent CORAL leather I bought coming back from France in 2009. I mean, it's the kind of bag that inspires, demands, yells for a crazy kaleidoscope of clashing colours. So gradually, over the last year, coral has been slowly but surely infiltrating its way into my wardrobe as a staple, starting off with a second hand tee-shirt and culminating with the purchase of a bottle of shimmery coral nailpolish at my local chemist for $2.50. I do quite like the colour because it's quite orange but with enough of a pink tone to look okay with my skin tones. If you are after the orange sherbet look though, Chanel does a to die for and Revlon does a really nice bright matt orange. Once you've straddled the black is the new black barrier and crossed over to the colourful side and decided yes you can paint your nails orange even if you have fair skin, the possibilities are endless.

Mine are almost identical to these ones but mine are coral!
I have also developed an obsession with wedges. I stole my sister-in-law's patent black ones for a night out about a year ago and the lust affair just took off and went wild. Next stop were a sporty black pair in canvas with white heels and black and white stripey feature. Tres cute. But you can imagine my ecstatic reaction when I found a pair of ratafia coral wedges in mint condition in a second-hand shop in Canberra. Price point - $3.50. Like seriously, how could I not??

To round out the ensemble, a pair of sunnies is fairly essential. Having tried without luck to find sunglasses of any sort in coral, lest I get too girly, I opted for red sunglasses over pink ones. And although I have multiple sunglasses in different colours, sizes and shapes, my current ones look like this (my friend lent/gave them to me and I haven't given them back.)

From Orbison, Warhol, Reservoir Dogs and through to today,
the Classic Wayfarer (in fire-engine red here) has never really gone out of style.

Decor a la Mediterranee...

I have recently begun researching interior design styles because I am in the process of designing my apartment for the very first time and I really want to do something that is a little bit different and quintessentially me. I am moving away more and more from sterile white and stainless steel towards splashes of colour and wrought iron. A basic aesthetic that comprises minimal Orthodox Catholicism with the faded exuberance of Havana following its heyday thrown in for good measure.....

I have been looking at Mediterranean inspired decor in particular. Throughout the different Mediterranean countries (Greece, Italy, Morocco and Spain) and regardless of colour palattes, there is a strong emphasis on wrought iron. So as the centrepiece of the master bedroom, I've decided to go for a romantic iron bed, complimented by a few elegant austere touches.

Depending on which country you're veering toward, you can think in warm earth tones such as brown, red and splashed of emerald green (Spain and Morocco), or you can head more towards sea blue and white (Greek Islands). For a climate which is sun-saturated and centred around outdoor living and the sea, the blue and white option suits me better. To avoid looking too sterile, I won't be painting the walls or furniture white but off-white through to beige. The odd coloured highlight should round it off nicely.

Thick white unscented candles are pretty essential for any Mediterranean interior. Preferably beeswax and hand-made (if you don't mind forking out a little extra) the benefit of candles is that they cast a really lovely soft glow at night. Think soft white-washed tones of cream through to beige for your walls.

Wall mounted sconces like this are relatively easy to find and not too costly. I like picking them up at garage sales and auctions if I can.

After I have the essentials done, it's basically a matter of selecting a few key wrought iron points of interest and styling the rest of the apartment around them. I stumbled across a really fantastic clock at an auction (but you could easily copy the design and have something like this custom-made) which I'll probably put in the spare room. You could also go for hanging pot plant holders or a little side table, a mirror, any number of articles, big or small, to bring the smell and feel of Greece into your house. I don't want my apartment to look too kitsch so I'll probably stick with a few basics and then bring some other styles in.

This is a beautiful feature which I would love to have above an antique dresser in a spare room. I'm thinking of mounting it just above a ceramic vintage hand basin and pitcher I have in deep ocean blue.

I saw this and had to get it. Kitsch schmitsch, it reminds me of all the things I love about summer. Warm sun on the skin, new romances and bright red nail polish on my toes.

If you can't find something like this, you should be able to get it made relatively inexpensively. It would also be easy to transform into a balcony feature if you don't have the space or a backyard.
And for that classic Mediterranean touch, who can go past scarlet geraniums? xx

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Whimsical nature of wants and can-dos....

Unfortunately I can't show any pictures because I am on a dial-up connection, photos will be uploaded in a few days. But I felt like writing anyway.

I just looked at the dates and realised that I haven't been on my blog for almost a month. I haven't been near Facebook or Twitter either. I am so disconnected that I didn't even know about Brangelina breaking up 'til my mum (weird cos she never reads those magazines which just proves how out of it I was....) told me. My sister just told me that they're still together. And so the wheel keeps turning....

Meanwhile, I've spent alot of time in the country, walking,
eating tangelos and navels from our fruit orchard, juicing more tangelos, making homemade LIME cordial, being seriously introspective and getting into the groovy world of scrapbooking. HA! I feel like I'm back in preschool or something. I'm really excited because I am going to a craft shop in the next day or so to buy a whole bunch of really cool stuff like eyelets and string and bits'n'bobs. I'm going to print out a tonne of colour photographs for the books - and.......I have come up with an ingenious way to bind the covers in cloth.

As I become older I have begun to realise that frequently in life you need to teach yourself new skill sets. The difference between me and someone who can knit or bake great shortbread or lemon pickles is that they went and learned because they wanted to. It actually isn't that hard to acquire new skills but for some reason the older you get, the less willing you are to do anything you haven't already mastered. I know I am anyway. Less willing. Did I mention that I used a compass and a protractor for the first time since about grade 6 today???

Anyway, on a scale of 1 to 10 scrapbooking may not seem like an adventurous or courageous endeavour but it's a first step and I can say that I have had to learn a whole new set of skills. And it's fun. Plus it's kind of cool to make something from beginning to end. At least that's what I tell myself every time I wreck something up or glue my hands together American Pie styles anyway. That, and how useful these skills will be when I need to give fantabulous home made cards to friends and family.

After all, we are looking at the undisputed meat carving champion of the family (and this because I spent about 6 weeks carving leg ham one summer in my youth). Anything is possible, so never look a gift skill in the mouth.

Ironically, I read the bio of the author of the scrapbooking manifesto. And yes, she is a lawyer. What is it with lawyers hating their job and needing some creative outlet like playing the guitar badly and making quilts to feel validated?? Oooops, not so fast, singing and drum lessons are on my list of things to do in addition to quilting, jewellery making and taking Arab lessons.

Or maybe it's just about getting a little older, a little more adventurous and charging off full steam ahead a little more on your own.

Does this mean I'm growing up at last??

With this in mind - things I really want to do when I get home:
Start photographing my subjects
Get into my other writing

That's all - xx

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe...

I saw this little rock garden outside the old butter factory at Bellingen last weekend.

Although it is undeniably kitsch it was also so cute that I had to take a picture, particularly in light of my recently renewed infatuation with docs worn with frills and furbelows. I mean seriously, how could you walk past African violets and army boots??!
Originally I'd headed up to the markets to buy some hand-made leather sandals - the ultimate perfect for everything variety. Real classic sandals that have been worn by everybody from Roman senators thousands of years ago up to and including Angelina Jolie on the red carpet at Cannes.

I was in bad mood because I hadn't found anything and to top if off it was the annual Blues Festival, which meant all the prices had been raised and all the food was expensively mediocre. Being asked to pay tourist rates in your own back yard rankles a little.

In desperate search of something to buy, I tossed up and refrained from:

1) a fifties skirt made from a re-used fifties patterned sheet - it was super cute and a mickey mouse design but two sizes too small. I almost bought it on the grounds that I could use it for a photo shoot but was shouted down by mum. (Actually I did sneak back to buy it anyway, but someone else had beaten me to it by then.)
2) numerous pagan icons and jewellery (too much jewellery already plus I still need to reconcile the whole pagan/Christian Jew thing)
3) a huge mosquito net for my bedroom (can not POSSIBLY justify it plus it would look silly in my apartment) and
4) numerous silk panties - fifties burlesque style - sigh.

On the upside I bought:

1) a bar of hand-made exfoliation soap (black mud and mountain ash) and,
2) about 300 prs of socks at a sock stall.

Fast forward to 1 decaf skim flat white (why bother) and a vegetarian turkish bread sandwich for $16.50 (more expensive and nowhere near as good as Potts Point.)

So when I saw the boot and the violet it cheered me up. Particularly when just around the corner in the same building was the leather shop with, yep, my dream sandals. (Piccy to be posted following pedicure...)