#amonthinthelife- Day 1

For something to do, and in an effort to blog more, every day for the month of March I am taking a photo, posting it on Instagram and sharing it with you. It’s a month in the life of bookgrrl. They’re going to be a snapshot of March, with a brief explanation- I cannot promise highly stylised photos, but they’re intended to give you a sense of my life.

View this post on Instagram

Wilson's #amonthinthelife #ballarat

A post shared by Steph (@stephmcg71) on

Wilson’s is a fruit and veg store in Ballarat, and a pretty good one to boot. There’s a small delicatessen, and a section selling spices, gourmet condiments, dairy and lots of local produce. Saturday’s can be pretty crazy there, but I was lucky and didn’t have to wait too long at the registers.

 

Being mindful- 2013 scorecard

At the start of 2013 I resolved instead of having specific goals, to be more mindful. This mindfulness was to take form in a variety of facets over the year

  • Watch what I eat, keeping track via an app on my tablet. But it also means, savoring and appreciating what I have, and trying not to multitask (read, check my phone, go on the PC) while I eat.

This one came in fits and starts. The monitoring of my food via tracking did fall by the wayside, but towards the middle of the year I invested in a fitbit to monitor my steps and calorie expenditure, and at the end of the year I had enrolled in the Michelle Bridges 12WBT program.

I have found this to be a great incentive for focusing on my food, trying out new recipes and being more accountable for what and how I eat. I will admit that since Christmas it has been a struggle , but I am exercising more and feel all the better for it. My kids have also been very supportive along the way, with Miss BG throwing herself enthusiastically into the role of personal trainer. I think it was just an excuse to get a whistle to blow :).

  • Spending less time in front of a PC mindlessly surfing and being constructive with my time at home and at work

Once again a fits and starts kinda thing. Admittedly working full-time on Ballarat has meant more time at home and more time with the family- also with everyone wanting the computer it can mean less time for me! I have had to be more constructive with my time, especially keeping on top of the dreaded laundry (which is never an easy feat in the depths of a Ballarat winter), and I haven’t been blogging as much.

  • Finishing what I start

There is a great sense of satisfaction in this task, and I think finishing off a couple of craft projects that had been hanging around for ages were one of the highlights of my year. I am currently halfway through knitting a cardigan, which is my only craft project on the go, rather than being one of a myriad of unfinished items. I have projects lined up to do, but I am determined to do one at a time.

However if you read the next item, I wasn’t always entirely successful. I also started a MOOC about the Hyperlinked Library and did not see it through. When I initially registered for this I hadn’t envisaged it would coincide with a job change and a move to full-time hours and it was a ball I had to drop. The lesson is to know what you can achieve and to be mindful of what to accept to do.

  • Reflecting on the day, by taking a photo a day #2013PAD and by extension, a photo of what makes me happy #365happy. So no matter how flat or craptastic I may feel, I will always have at least one thing to feel good about.

This exercise was a struggle for me, for a number of reasons. I would get to the end of a day and feeling flat and uninspired, would take photos of my home life. Home did indeed make me happy, but it felt I wasn’t spending enough time there! Commuting was taking a toll on my home life and I was finding no joy in work. Retreating to my online life wasn’t helping and after a while the pressure of documenting part of my day online and trying to be happy about it was too much and I stopped. I took photos when I felt like it, blogged when I felt like it and felt much better. I learned you can still reflect upon the day without sharing it with the entire world of Flickr or Instagram, and that it’s okay not to be happy every day.

  • Be mindful of where I shop, shopping at local supermarkets, butchers, and fruiterers rather than Coles or Woolworths.

I am lucky to be within walking distance of a local IGA and a good butcher. There is also a great fruit and veg shop in Ballarat and with the exception of a visit to a Woolworths in Leongatha and a visit to Coles around Easter, I didn’t visit these stores all year.

BUT I did visit Kmart, Target, Myer, Big W, Dan Murphy’s , Bunnings, all of which are owned by either Woolworths or Wesfarmers. The duopoly that exists with these two entities over nearly all aspects of our shopping is really scary, and it is something I really need to continue to be mindful of.

Christmas was also different this year. Instead of a mass of toys for the kids, they got

  • something to wear
  • something to read
  • something they want
  • something they need

They got presents from the rest of the family and there were also chocolates in their stocking, but it was different to last year.

We spent our first Christmas at home, and not on the road travelling from one family to another, and that was peaceful and relaxing. The kids loved the dinner, mainly because they could scoff all the miniature Yorkshire puddings they wanted!

Other things I did try to be mindful about were about what I read. I took part in the Australian  Women Writers Challenge for 2013 and once again immersed myself in excellent women’s fiction. I think though my favourite book for this year was Tracy Thorn’s autobiography, and she is English :). I have avoided using Amazon this year, and my local library, Readings and airport bookstores have been getting more of my custom!

On the whole it has been an interesting exercise and a great way to learn more about yourself. I am hoping that 2014 will bring more mindfulness in other ways as well!

Post Christmas Op Shopping

I don’t do the post- Christmas sales, as a rule. Having worked on the other side of the counter as a uni student, I can honestly say shopping is not a therapeutic experience for me. But, as I left the house yesterday in a bit of a lather and jumped in the car, I found myself driving down the street to the centre of town, parked the car and emerged an hour later with a couple of bags of stuff. All. For. Me.

I was looking for a pair of jeans, standard blue and a pair of flats in a nude colour. I started off in the Red Cross Shop and emerged with a pair of flats (black) and two dresses. Ok, not exactly jeans and nude shoes, but they were there and I know I’ll wear them…It’s also a case of pot luck with op shops and charity stores, and you honestly don’t know what you’ll find!

Post Christmas opshopping

Each item was $12.95, which is a bit on the pricey side, but I had seen both dresses in the shops this season (retailing around $50 each) and the shoes had hardly any wear on them. If I had bought these brand new I would have been looking at over $200 combined, so it was a saving :).

Heading across the street to the local shopping centre I finally scored a pair of jeans in Rivers ($8) and ended up in Target for a pair of shoes ($30).

My Christmas money spent, I wanted to stop off and enjoy my purchases with a coffee, but sadly all my favourite coffee spots had taken a well-deserved holiday. Plus I also had to do what I originally came out to do, which was the weekly grocery shop :P.

Pop Up and Get Down!

This was a weekend of handmade goodies here at home

Ballarat had its first Pop Up Shop at the Backspace Gallery, just behind the Art Gallery. It finished up today, but Miss BG and I went along for a look see yesterday.

It was to great to see local designers and artisans displaying their wares! Miss BG fell in love with a dolly and I could not leave without this Tardis ornament

http://instagram.com/p/S9YTWAHThA/

We then headed across Camp Street to the Get Down market to see even more local wares and the added appeal of vintage apparel

http://instagram.com/p/S9Z2tmHTis/

On Sunday I did some more baking for Christmas, this time panforte.  This is a new recipe, but Mr BG quite enjoyed it late last night with a glass of port while we were watching the second season of Game of Thrones on the PC*.

*As an aside, this would have to be the most amazing show HBO has ever done!

Ho ho home!

After a 500 kilometre-round trip involving two Christmases, lots of presents and not enough alcohol, I’m home.

Home is full of laundry to be washed hung out and sorted, dishes to be put away and toys to be sorted, but it’s also home to a cat that is glad to see us, and a bed that isn’t too soft or too hot, but just right.

I also received some good news about my beloved phone which had finally been repaired after two weeks, after a bounce test failed.

I have also, thanks to being on the road for the past two days, managed to avoid much of the madness of the post-Christmas sales. After having survived 7 Christmases as a retail chick in Myer, I am immune to the siren call of stocktake sales. Plus, after having to brave shopping on Christmas Eve, the last place I really want to be is back in a shopping centre again. Besides, I’m saving my shopping dollars (or Euros) for other ventures and places :).

Op shop finds- Vines Rd Vinnies, Geelong

image

The local shopping strip near my parents’ house boasts two opshops, a Uniting Church shop and a Vinnies, which is huge, and where my mum works as a volunteer. Mum and I popped in, originally to score some knitting needles, and came away with a stash of clothes for the little BGs.
Master BG scored a pirate t-shirt and shorts for the princely sum of $3, while Miss BG is now the proud owner of 3 tops for $4.50. The knitting needles were thrown in for free :).

House of Fun

An interesting  building has been given a new lease of life by a friend of mine. The Big House Collective sits in Sturt Street and was a beauty spa, before falling vacant. Sitting back from the street, it looks a bit out of place between the chemist and a real estate agent’s office.

Kelly Davies, with the help of a few friends, has transformed the Big House into a eclectic mix of vintage furniture, books, homewares and clothes (oh, the clothes!).

There are plans afoot for a cafe to be installed, as well as gallery/exhibition space. The last school holidays have also seen felting classes held at the Big House, which have yielded some interesting results. They have also started offering life-drawing classes which should prove to be a hit :).

The Big House is at 614 Sturt Street, Ballarat. Pop in and say hello! They are open from Tuesday – Sunday 10am-5pm.

Miss BG pretending to be scary monster gnome at the Big House

Vintage a-Fair

The Ballarat Vintage-a-Fair was held at the Brown Hill Hall on Saturday, with proceeds from the $2 door entry going to Child and Family Services (CAFS) and the RSPCA. I managed to escape from the house alone to have a wander in vintage heaven.

The hall was crammed full of stalls, some from shops, both local and from afar, and some from people selling off their wardrobes.

There were frocks, dresses, pantsuits, coats, suits and jackets, tweed, silk, satin, taffeta, polyester, wool and chenille,  pucci-inspired, polkadots, stripes and plain. There were also fabulous accessories of stockings, shoes, pearls, sparkly jewellery and hats.

There were a few ladies who were dressed to the nines in vintage apparel, including Nicole Jenkins who was available for consultations on vintage clothing and for a talk on vintage clothing. There are some photos of some pretty ladies on Finding Femme’s blog.

I managed to snaffle an olive-green tweed jacket for $15 and swooned over several other items, but was hampered by lack of cash- it was cash only and the ATMs were back in the centre of town. Next time I’ll be more cashed up, or hopefully the venue may be a little closer to town :).

At any rate, the Fair was a win for all the Ballarat fashionistas and the lovely organisers of the day :).

H is for…

Hamleys

When you have children, your radar becomes tuned into different things. You’ll go to cafes where you can fit a pram, or a restaurant where there’s a kid’s menu/play area. On holiday, your plans involve playgrounds and spaces that your children will enjoy. On our one day of shopping in London, we went to Hamleys.

I had never heard of this place and it was in Regent Street, just down from Oxford Circus. Not only that, Hamleys is celebrating its 250th anniversary.

Think of Toy Story 5- sorry, 5 storeys of toys, where staff are nice and talk to your children like real people, where there are computer games to play with and a giant Buzz Lightyear made entirely out of Lego. In fact they had an entire floor devoted to Lego, Meccano and all things that little boys like to put together, pull apart and leave on the floor for parents to stand on in bare feet.

The girl’s themed floor was awash with pink, and not only did they have lots of crafty stuff, but there was a mini-stylist, where you could have your hair styled (for 15 pounds).

Miss BG purchased a doll’s teaset in a little case, and Mr BG walked out with Toy Story Lego. It was all bought on the proviso that it be small enough to fit into the suitcases, so the Buzz Lightyear Lego man had to stay in the shop.

It was much better than going to Harrods where you have to carry your backpack and the crowds are far busier. We arrived around 10, around opening time for most stores, so it was nice and quiet.

Having accomplished this task we went to Trafalgar Square for…icecream!

G is for…

Greenwich

On the first Sunday of our holiday we visited Greenwich with my parents and brothers. I didn’t know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised.

Greenwich is a pretty part of London. The Georgians certainly appreciated the appeal of open expanses of land. The National Maritime Museum sits perfectly in its position and from the hill you can truly appreciate the symmetry of its design.  The park has a timeless quality, even with the City in the background.

We headed up the hill to the Royal Observatory, where we had the obligatory photos taken along the meridian line.

As always we had to queue for these, but the English as I have learned are very experienced, very patient and most of the time very good natured about it! As a museum,  the Royal Observatory is quite amazing, very informative, free, and has lovely gardens. Not only that, you have to climb up the hill to visit and you have something for the whole family (for the little BGs, a hill is great to run down!)

We visited the Greenwich market  for lunch, where my parents had spicy sausages, I had a felafel and some of us (not looking at anyone in particular) succumbed to Portuguese donuts, which looked suspiciously like Spanish churros except thay were filled with chocolate or caramel sauce. I have a sweet tooth, but I would have had no teeth after those.

With the kids getting antsy, it was time to head back. We took a ferry back to London Bridge to catch the no 43 back home.

Gap

Thanks to my lovely brothers, the kids have had a fair sprinkling of Gap clothes sent over. This was the first time I had a chance to shop for the kids myself, and I limited myself to a dress and a top for Miss BG and jeans and a top for the young Master. Mind you, I could have gone slightly crazy, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that Gap had been open in Chaddy for nearly a week and I could always pay a visit closer to Christmas.

For myself, I bought a pair of cropped black pants, in which I feel tres chic!