Teatime and Uncluttering.


I've read through and tried out several decluttering books and programs:   Flylady, Marie Kondo, and most recently, the Uncluttered course, by Joshua Becker.   These have all been immensely useful.   I view my downsizing process as a sort of onion:  I peel away a layer, discard what isn't useful, and keep what is.   I try to creatively re-purpose things.   For example, I have a beautiful lidded Wedgwood powder jar, that, until recently, held my java jig coffee filters.

So I peel away a layer, and then I live with what's left for awhile.   Sometimes it's a day, sometimes it's a month.  Then I find I'm ready to remove the next layer off the onion.   Sometimes it's easy, and sometimes I get stuck.   When that happens, I will walk into a room at random, and think, 'what bothers me in here?'  I might pull open a drawer and purge three small things, or I might sort out half a closet.

This weekend, I tackled a kitchen shelf full of china serving pieces.   It's a shelf hidden deep at the back of a seldom-used lower cabinet - but it's been nagging at me for a few weeks.   I went through the things, and this morning, I sent in an 'offer to buy' to Replacements.com.   I struggled a bit with this decision, so I'm going through my thought process here...

As of this writing, I have three beautiful china sets: a set of Wedgwood 'Angela' for six, a set of white-and-lavender Wedgwood Queensware for twelve, and 'Winter Greetings', by Lenox, also for twelve.  

I have enough fine china to have thirty people over for a four-course fancy meal.

I have a lifelong love of china dishes.   My grandmother used to let my sister and me play with an antique toy china tea set, whenever we visited.   When we got our own sets for birthday one year, I was beyond thrilled.

All of my china sets were gifts:  my grandmother bought me the Queensware set.   She bought me the white Angela set on a visit home to England.  The Christmas china was something I saw, loved, and my family gradually gifted me with pieces over about five years.   A few years ago, my mom gave me the lavender-and-white Queensware tea service, shown in the photo below.

My grandmother and my mother both, have at least 3-4 fine china sets each, that they never use. There are, literally, entire sets - plural - of Wedgwood and Lenox that nobody in the family has ever eaten off of.   NOBODY.   It's mostly tucked away, out of sight, in cabinets, for a day that has yet to come.    There are enough dishes that we could probably have a state dinner for 200 people, and everyone would have their own, beautiful place setting of dinner plate, salad plate, and soup bowl.   At the very least.

I don't understand this, and yet I do, this love of collecting china...

1. It's beautiful. My mom has a set that is gold-rimmed, with little violets, that I used to take out of the cabinet (when she wasn't around), and sigh over, as a kid.   I suggested, on a recent trip home, that she should get it out and use it, and enjoy it.   She looked at me like I'd grown a second head.

It's being saved, 'for good'.

2. It's ladylike, in every sense of the word:  fine china symbolizes an advance in social status. My grandmother can trace her lineage back to the late 1400s, and just about everyone worked as housemaids, gardeners, shepherds, and farmers. My grandma was always a freethinker who was eager to break out of the constraints of 'class' and even gender, that surrounded her, growing up in rural England in the 1930's and 40's.

Is there anything more ladylike than sipping tea or coffee out of an exquisite little cup?

As I sat and thought about this, I realized.. if you want to "move up" in this world, there are a couple of things that have to happen, for you to have truly 'advanced', socially:

1. You use that fancy china. Live it. It means acknowledging that you 'deserve' to use that china.

2. This means you have to have to be willing to spend the time on it:   transferring the food from pan to serving dish to table.   And having to care for the china - washing up, and drying by hand, because it isn't microwave or dishwasher safe.

In England, that 'social advance' used to mean having someone to do it for you.

Now I've lived in places without a dishwasher, and I don't mind spending the time washing and drying my china plates and cups.   I get a kick out of having my meals on fancy dishes.

But I resent taking perfectly hot, just-cooked food, out of their pans, putting it into the 'middleman' dish that cools it slightly, then putting it onto my plate.   Luuuukewarm.   Yech.

Then having to wash a set of pans AND a set of dishes that don't include what I ate off/out of.

And the tea services?   I am an avid coffee and tea drinker, but unless I take that extra step of heating up the teapot, it just makes my beverage cooler, before it ever gets into my mouth.   

My conclusions about fancy china:

If you have beautiful china that makes you feel happier, posher, or your food more appetizing, USE IT EVERY CHANCE YOU GET.

Keep what is useful. Figure out what is not, or why it is not, and then go from there. Can you repurpose it? No? Then let it go, so someone else can enjoy scooping their now-lukewarm casserole out of that lidded dish.   
So them's my two cents.   What about you?  Have you found things like this in your home?

Making a DIY Flamenco Blouse, Part One


INC International Concepts 100% Cotton Blouse, thrifted.

This blouse was an impulse buy from a favorite consignment shop.   I luuuurved the corset-like shape.  The fit is just about as perfect as I can ever get, off-the-rack.   The fabric is crisp and lightweight.   I really dig the minty hint of steampunk.

I bought it, hung it in my closet and proceeded to ignore the heck out of it.   

A year later...  I pulled the blouse, intending to list it on eBay.   As I was taking measurements, a little lightbulb went off in my head....

I have these pictures on my flamenco fashion Pinterest board:

Oscar de la Renta, NYFW  Spring 2009
Found via Pinterest. 

Why not make myself a flamenco blouse, to perform in?

For those of you who don't know... flamenco dancewear can be quite expensive.   To find really good quality pieces, you have to order from overseas, or find it secondhand on eBay.   You can have pieces custom-made in the U.S. - but if your seamstress doesn't know to sew for flamenco dancing, you can wind up with a pricey sub-par disaster.

I'm always looking for ways to make my costumes harder, better, faster, stronger.... on the cheap.

I put the blouse on and did some choreography, to make sure the blouse wouldn't crawl up my torso.   It stayed in place, so it's a keeper for dancing.

I don't know how to make ruffles, but I found this excellent tutorial for a clown costume.   This type of ruffle lends itself well to flamenco wear.

And I already have lace.  I pulled my laces out of storage, to compare with the blouse:

I set myself some criteria:

1.   I must use what I already have, because I am packing to move. 

2.  I am not spending any additional money on this project.

3.   This has to be something I can do easily, by hand, and not totally obsess over this.

I have three different types of lace,   Up close, none of them are a perfect match to the blouse, but onstage, they would be great.

#1 Floral Print, with a shadow stripe.
#3   Floral pattern with a dainty border.

I didn't get a clear photo of #2, against the blouse.   

Option #1 was too shiny for the blouse, so I put it away.  I have a flamenco dress that I might refresh with this lace.

I was down to Options #2 & 3.   I tried draping the lace against the cuff to get an idea of how it might look...

Looking at the blouse, #3 is on your left (actual right sleeve), and #2 is on your right.
Close-up of Option 3.   This draped easily and well.
Close-up of Option 2.  This did not drape as easily.

As you can see, #3 lends itself to folding easily, so that is the one I chose.  

I spent some time experimenting and pinning the lace.  First, I folded the lace exactly in half, lengthwise, and used the flower pattern to set my gathers:

When I pinned the cuff to the blouse, I didn't really like how it looked.  Kind of 'meh'.   I tried folding the lace lengthwise, in more of a 3/4 ratio.   I thought this looked much better:

The lace has been folded more in a 3/4 manner, and it works better .   But I want a longer cuff.   

I spent an hour on this today, and I have other things I need to do, so I've shelved this for the time being.   I plan to pick it back up later this week.   I know I want a longer lace cuff - this blouse is for theatrical purposes, not everyday use.  

 There are two more things I plan to try:   I'm going to use two separate, unfolded, single-layer ruffles, one on top of the other, possibly using the #2 lace on the inner layer.    I am also going to try putting a small layer of soft white netting fabric in betwen the layers, at the seam, to make the lace stand out a bit more, and give it movement.

Another idea is to sew both lace layers to elastic, as slip-on, stand-alone cuffs, that I can pin to the sleeve for shows, and remove to wash the blouse.

I seem to think there might be some white cotton eyelet lace trim somewhere in my home.   I'm going to see if I still have it.   I think I may have donated it earlier this year.

So that's it for today!  Stay tuned for Part Two!

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Source:  Giphy

Here is how I've been goofing off.    Here are some interesting links that caught my eye...

1)   I recently had an epiphany while folding laundry:  I wash JC's jeans on permanent press and throw them in the dryer.   I wash my jeans on a gentle cycle and hang them to dry.   Why?   Because I'm terrified I'll never find another pair of 'perfect' jeans again.  Point of fact, I am this way about everything in my closet.   I perennially overshop in search of a Holy Grail clothing item, and agonize that it isn't perfect - that the item - and myself, by extension - is not going to measure up to some barely-clarified mental standard that I hold in my own mind.   I settle for something that doesn't quite live up to my imaginary standard, then re-shop the same thing again and again and again, because there are too many choices, and I'm not satisfied with any of them.

Whereas JC just puts on his jeans and is satsified with his own hawtness.

I enjoyed this TED talk by renowned author and psychologist, Barry Schwarts, speaking about The Paradox of Choice, and how choice makes us less happy, and more dissatisfied.   At 12:10, he talks about jeans, which made me laugh.

2)   I am a huge fan of Joshua Becker, of Becoming Minimalist fame.  I'm currently reading his new book, The More of Less, and taking his 'Uncluttered' course.   It has been extremely helpful in paring down excess out of my closet, and my home.

3)   Okapi makes leather bags that are stunning and unique.  According to their site, these bags are "entirely handmade in South Africa from locally sourced materials... creating honest and sustainable job opportunities and skills growth locally".    I am obsessed!   Alas, they are out of my price range at the moment.   A girl can dream.   Maybe Santa will be good to me, down the road.

4)  Every Monday, I hop over to Miss Minimalist, and read her Real Life Minimalist series.   I really enjoyed the sense of peace and tranquility that this week's featured minimalist exudes in her words.

5)   I've written about my own experimental foray into capsule wardrobes, which didn't really go as I had imagined.  But I still remain fascinated by the concept.  I recently came across this wonderful blog by a lovely Australian, Mademoiselle.   She consistently puts together these lovely capsule wardrobes, season after season, and she always looks fabulous and put together.   I can only fume in a grudgingly admiring silence.  


2016 has been a year of sweeping changes.   Here are all the things that have happened since my last post:

 1)  A few days after my last post, there was a shooting in JC's building.  It happened in downstairs, in a restaurant in JC's building.   This establishment had been running a drug operation  pretty much since they got their liquor license, about 18 months prior.   We were upstairs watching TV when we heard bursts of semi-automatic gunfire.   Multiple weapons were fired, and several people injured.   Nobody was killed.   Legal proceedings were started to evict this business, and there has been a hearing.   JC and I attended.   If a decision has been handed down, the residents are not yet aware of it.   

The restaurant itself  is slowly dying off, because of the combined efforts of residents, city government, and increased police presence this area.   But we are all hoping that the legal decision will be made soon, and that this restaurant will be evicted.

2)  I did three weeks of the Tracy Anderson eating plan.   I lost four pounds.  The stress of it damn near drove me crazy.  I went off the plan and eventually regained the weight.   

 Halfway through Week Three, I was walking home to JC's from my parking garage.   For two blocks, I could smell pizza.  Sweet, sweet, mouthwatering cheesy tomato goodness, wafting through the air of downtown Atlanta.   

I thought to myself, "I could kill someone for a slice right now." 

 If you had pointed to that homeless guy sitting on the corner over there, and said, "Hey, go kill that guy and I'll buy you some pizza", my only question would have been, "You wouldn't happen to have a Swiss Army knife on you, by any chance?"

I went off the plan, and by mid-May, I had gained the weight back.

I realized that if I'm going to lose weight, and keep it off, and still have friends who don't think I'm a total asshole, there has to be a balance of a salad every day, and a small splurge once a week.  Without chocolate, I am impossible to live with.

I got back on the better-eating wagon a week ago, and I've been regularly working out for about three weeks.   I have lost five pounds since Memorial Day Weekend.

3)   Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis (hip-centric) and Elemental Body Alignment System have been truly life-changing.   

 I do not receive any monies or other reimbursements for recommending either of these programs.   These are simply my own experiences and opinions.

 I'm halfway through the second series (workouts 11-20) of Metamorphosis.   It has more variations of leg-raises-and-presses-while-doing-planks than I ever dreamed existed.   I have also used more variations of swear words and phrases than I ever dreamed existed, gasping and wheezing my way through the workouts.

That being said, Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis has been, hands-down, the best body-shaping series I have ever done in my life.

I have been doing EBAS since October 2014.   I cannot recommend this system enough.  I am more flexible than I have ever been in my life!   I started out with a once-a-week class.   These days, I take class every week.   I occasionally do the video, but mostly I spend 10-60 minutes a day, doing the stretches on my own, while we watch TV.     I very rarely have any back pain or discomfort. because of these stretches and exercises. 

4)   In other news:

I am moving out of my condo later this year, because the owner wants to re-take possession.   I've been downsizing my things - clothing, dishes, furniture, books, and tchtotchkes.  I am only taking things that I absolutely love, with me.

Where will that be?   Well.  I don't know.   JC is in the middle of a career transition, and there is a slim possibility that we may end up relocating to another city, or even overseas.    Most likely, we will remain where we are.  Win-win, either way.

In the meantime, Sugar: The Musical wrapped up.   It was a fun show, with a great cast.    It was refreshing to be in a show that I wasn't also directing.   Even though this was an unpaid show, I learned a lot, which made it very worthwhile.

My flamenco teacher / theatre partner added a new program to her syllabus:   a series in which you choreograph your own, full-length solo flamenco dance piece.   I chose farruca, and I've had two lessons with her, so far.   Every lesson, I bring in a new piece of choreography that I've created, and we go over it, smooth it out, clean it up.     I love this work so much!   It is one of the most rewarding things I have undertaken.

We're also working on our next show, in January 2017.    I'll post more information about that soon.

As always, I am working on my eBay store, adding more listings.

I hope you are having a great summer!   What is new in your neck of the woods?

Here is your gratuitous music break:

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