• The one in which I talk about bras

    stella mccartney stella lace plunge bra

    Currently mooning over…

    They say most women are wearing the wrong bra size. You’ve probably heard it a million times; I know I have. Like ‘tailor your cover letter’, it’s something I know, and understand, but it took a long time to truly CLICK.

    Thanks to Reddit’s A Bra That Fits, I’ve been re-educating myself. I’ve never been properly fitted in my life. For one, budget meant I never went to the kinds of places where they had professionally trained staff – and those kinds of stores intimidated me to hell anyway. Add to that the fact that I barely needed a bra at all and there was just no point. I muddled through and congratulated myself on being able to get away with not having to spend tons on pricey bras, unlike my chestier friends.

    But recently all my bras more or less reached the end of their usable lives at once. I figured, let’s do this right!

    Reddit was right. I needed a smaller band and bigger cup. And as it turns out, shape is really important! Lots of styles just won’t work for me. There’s really nothing to it but trying a bunch of brands and sizes, as they’re all so different. (I think that Stella McCartney just might be my holy grail brand … but wow, they are NOT cheap. For now, I’m making do with other brands until I can jump on a sale or bring myself to shell out.)

    To be honest, I’m still on the hunt for the honest-to-goodness perfect bra, if it exists. Realistically, it’s a crapshoot. The odds are terrible. Consider all the variables: width, height, spacing, projection, firmness, fullness (and that’s across both vertical and horizontal planes)…

    But having a pro fitter actually in there with me, sizing me up and bringing me specific bras that she thought would fit well, was life-changing.

    Fun fact: I’ve been putting them on wrong forever. See, I assumed bras should just FIT and if not, well then they’re the wrong size – you shouldn’t have to manipulate yourself to fit into a bra. But no, the scoop-and-swoop technique is for real. In Japan, they even had a step-by-step diagram in the changing room of the bra shop I went into explaining exactly how to scoop and swoop.

    Even more galling? T knew ALL THIS TIME and never said a word. Duh, he said, you’ve basically just been using them as nipple covers (um, yeah! That’s all I needed!)

    In short: my husband knows more about bras than I do, and wearing bras that fit is rocking my world.


  • Outlander-style time travel – Yay or nay?

    With the TV series Outlander – based on Diana Gabaldon’s series – starting this month, I thought it was prime time to talk about time travel (as inspired by Steph on Twitter)!

    The foundation of the story is that protagonist Claire accidentally falls back through time and finds herself in 1700s Jacobite Scotland. Not the most peaceful of times to be alive – but on the upside, there’s a strapping Scottish lad by her side.

    (Minor spoilers follow)
    It later turns out that Claire is one of a small group of people who can travel back and forth between their own time and certain periods in the past. They have to be at specific locations in order to do so, and the process is both painful and dangerous; there’s no guarantee it will go well. Yet after managing to return to her own, safer time period, she later decides to risk travelling back to the 1700s to look for Jamie.
    (End spoilers)

    So, specifically within the Outlander context – would I do the same if I faced the same choice today?

    I’m kind of leaning towards no. Love is hunky dory, but I am a realist. I’d be unspeakably miserable in a more primitive time.

    I love food. I’m also a rather picky eater. Potatoes may be my favourite single food item, but variety is the spice of life. No offence, Scotland of the past, but I would never willingly choose to subsist on your cuisine.

    I do not like to rough it. I like indoor plumbing. Motorised vehicles. Modern communications technology.

    I enjoy the miracles of modern medicine. Birth control. Painkillers. Healthcare.

    I like gender equality – we’re not there yet but things have certainly been a lot worse in the past. I like voting and wearing what I want and cursing and working.

    While modern society has its fair share of problems, the one thing I do appreciate is the rise of professional work. I was not made to do physical labour. I am great at sitting at a desk and doing things on the internet, and very little else. No way would I have done well even 100 years ago.

    That aside, I’m looking forward to seeing how the TV series unfolds. I suspect the voiceover is going to drive me up the wall, but we’ll see…

  • Friday Five: Take these things and shove ’em where the sun don’t shine

    What’s been bugging me lately:

    Rising prices

    Now you can’t get a six-inch sub at Subway for under $5. Even the cheapest subs are now $5.70. DISLIKE.

    Mexican food poseurs

    You all know how passionately I feel about Mexican food (specifically, its absence here). I wish I could ban coworkers from uttering the names Mexican Cafe or Mexicali Fresh in my earshot.

    Winter

    I feel bad complaining, knowing most of you guys live places where it snows. But I don’t care. Given how cold our house is, I reckon it evens out (even T is wearing multiple layers indoors and complaining about the cold, and that, I can tell you, is a rarity). Who needs four seasons anyway? (Not that we really get four seasons in Auckland; it just starts getting colder and wetter around May or so.)

    Technical debt

    I was recently introduced to this term. You know how building anything involves choices and compromises – after all, you can’t get anything that’s good AND cheap AND fast? And how building, tweaking and fixing software creates a many-headed monster over a time? Yeah. I’m over it. Where’s our technical fairy godmother and her magic wand?

    Humans being shitty to other humans

    As we all know, there’s been a lot of spectacularly bad news happening this month. It makes me so, so sad. That’s about all I have to say on that front.

  • What qualifies as a hobby, anyway?

    WHAT COUNTS AS A HOBBY NZMUSE

    I’ve been thinking about how identify ourselves – both internally, and to others. Even in those past few years when I picked my guitar up maybe once or twice a month at most, I still liked to think of myself as a musician.

    What qualifies as a hobby?

    Are you a reader if you don’t have time to read more than a book a month?

    Are you a muso if you only dust off your instrument every other week?

    Are you a skiier if you only hit the slopes once in a season?

    Are you a (hobby) photographer if you still don’t feel at home in manual mode?

    Are you a baker if your cakes are hideous (but taste amazing)?

    Are you a runner if you only ever run a couple of kilometres at a time?

    For example, hiking seems to be the new thing now that we’re in our mid 20s. I go along to be social, and because sometimes we see cool stuff – waterfalls, sweeping views, etc. The workout is a bonus (mixing it up is fun, especially since I don’t really push myself when I go running). Going tramping with friends forces me to push my limits; if I keep this up I might actually have rock hard legs one day.

    But I don’t know that I would call it a hobby. I mean, 90% of the time when we’re out in the bush, it’s not particularly fun. It’s an exercise in light pain – lungs and thighs on fire, sweat pooling in every crevice. Some of them are now doing overnight and multi-day trips, which I stay well clear of.

    On the other hand, those among us who were really into music growing up have slowly drifted away from our instruments. I assume that’s because maintaining a certain level of skill takes a LOT of time and effort, and as we get older we have a lot more on our plate.

    I’d always planned to replace our stolen gear, but the cost is putting me off – will it really be worth the outlay? Will we play enough to justify the cost? Wouldn’t that $2k or so be better put toward a house fund?

    What counts as a hobby? Is it about investing in equipment? Is it about the level of enjoyment you get out of it? Is it about reaching a certain basic level of competence?

  • Tuesday Tunes: My life soundtrack

    One of the best investments we made while travelling was a Spotify subscription (see what else we couldn’t do without here). Road trips require music, and Spotify provided our soundtrack to the USA.

    We rolled across the country in a pure time warp – one heavy on the 90s grunge, pop and not-so-gangsta rap (Will Smith, yo). Listening to tracks that I hadn’t heard in years stirred up all sorts of memories, reminding me how powerfully evocative music can be, and how strongly I associate some songs with certain people or periods of time.

    The soundtrack to my life would have to include:

    Recall: Long hours lying on my bed, caught up in the rapture that is John Frusciante’s effortless golden licks and Anthony Kiedis’ smooth vocals, combined into one sublime package.

    Inextricably linked with Year 8 school camp – forest walks, French toast, canned spaghetti and evening team games.

    Basically sums up every one of my childhood crushes ever.
    So I look in your direction/but you pay me no attention/do you?

    The perfect song to listen to on repeat when trying to get over one of those painful crushes.

    My ex introduced me to Blue Oyster Cult, for which I am very grateful. (And T introduced me to this related SNL skit, which is entertaining in a stupid, slapstick way.)



    One of my good friends back in the early years of high school and I bonded over our love of music. She adored both of these songs, and everytime I hear either track, she instantly springs to mind. She was a performer, while I was more of a supporting act. I was so shy that when we were discussing ideas for what we could do for the school talent quest, I couldn’t even play the song I’d written in front of her. I recorded it at home, handed her the CD the next day, and then basically ran in the opposite direction. (She liked it, we played it, and it was freaking magic, if I say so myself.)


    Calls to mind another of my good high school friends (whom I would dearly like to reconnect with; alas the friendship failed to survive the tumult of teenage hormones, jealousy, and general boy-girl related misery. Friendships of the opposite sex can work marvellously – but this crashed and burned spectacularly). In particular, one text message: ‘What the fuck is even flow about. Don’t get it’. Because that’s the kind of text we used to send each other.


    One of my best friends is big on Pearl Jam, though I couldn’t say why I associate Black in particular with him. But damn if this isn’t as close to a perfect song as you can get. The subtle guitar work. Vedder’s tortured voice. That final line: ‘I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s sky/But why, why, why can’t it be, can’t it be mine?’ gets me every single time. (Smooth is also pretty close to perfection, though I think it’s a little too abstract.)


    The song T and I listened to non-stop (for some inexplicable reason, we just couldn’t get enough of it) the summer we first started to spend time together.


    The song I listened to nonstop while working weekend shifts at my first full-time job.

    Best movie love story ever. THAT IS ALL.

  • Things I wish American PF bloggers knew about New Zealand

    tawharanui lagoon 2When I blog about something, unless I add a disclaimer, it’s usually the norm. I’m aware most of you guys are American and so I try to present a generally accurate picture of things for your sake, ya know?

    I often find myself clarifying the same kinds of things over and over with incredulous American readers, such as:

    Yes, we really do pay rent weekly. This is the most common frequency. I’ve only ever paid fortnightly rent at one house – and I’ve lived in a LOT of places. People pay rent through automatic payments. Cheques are so last century. While leases with fixed terms are getting more common, there are still rentals to be found with periodic tenancies, which are open-ended. Moving out usually requires 2-3 weeks notice.

    Sometimes we get paid weekly, too. It’s more common in call centre/hospitality/trade type jobs. Temp jobs also tend to pay weekly. This is apparently something a lot of immigrants struggle with. If your income source is the government – e.g student allowance, student loan (living costs), or a benefit of any kind – you will also be paid weekly. And if you were wondering, yep, student loans and allowances are all administered by the government (though I suppose there’s nothing actually stopping you taking out personal loans elsewhere to boost your income while studying). Loans cover your tuition fees and remain interest-free as long as you stay in the country.

    Apartment living isn’t big here. Most people rent houses. And the people you live with are flatmates, not roommates (unless you actually share a room, maybe). You do find apartments in the CBD and the odd block further out in the suburbs, lots of which were part of the leaky building wave of construction. In an effort to lift standards and stem the housing shortage, the new rule for Auckland apartments is a minimum of 35 square metres. But breaking down the ‘shoebox’ perception that’s already established will take a while, and changing a whole culture even longer.

    Things (everything?) cost a lot. Food, for one – as a commenter pointed out ages ago, we don’t have subsidies or tax breaks on food – so no, I really can’t get our grocery bill much lower. Cars – that’s why we tend to drive really old cars, and you’ll still see a fair few late 80s Toyotas and Mazdas tooling around on the roads. In the cities, property affordability is WAY over the 2x income guideline, or whatever the benchmark is (it’s so irrelevant that I don’t even know offhand, and can’t be bothered looking it up) – think 4-6x. We don’t have the security of 30-year fixed rate mortgages. Also, the general quality of property is dire. Count yourself lucky if you have insulation. Last winter we found a mushroom growing through the carpet in the hallway by the laundry room.

    If you missed it last year, you might also like Living in NZ: the ultimate post.

     And if you have any more questions, ask away and I shall answer…

     

     

  • Friday Five: Things I can’t get enough of

    Payday

    If only payday could be every day. Alas, next week marks my last payday for the year. When’s yours?

    Putting money into savings

    I transfer my whole paycheque into savings every month, then transfer out money every week thereafter as needed (rent, groceries and the other big expenses are all weekly) – so actual savings transfers only occur when I have extra income. And damn, those feel good.

    Chips

    Fries, potato chips, veggie chips, prawn crackers, corn chips … doesn’t matter what it is, I lose all self-control around them. It’s not pretty. But it’s worth it while it lasts…

    Books

    Especially when I’ve just made it through a challenging read (cough Anna Karenina cough), there’s nothing like rewarding myself by devouring the equivalent of literary fast food. Best found on the recently returned shelves at the library.

    Running in the breeze

    One foot in front of the other. The sun on your back, warm and familiar, but not oppressive. A light wind that keeps you from sweating. Light shorts and a tank. Bra-less, if possible. This is about as free as you can feel while outside and clothed, IMO – and it’s glorious. End with a masochistic sprint – deliriously lovely in that brief feeling of near-weightlessness, terribly painful when you’re forced into a premature stop, wondering if you could even manage a sub-20 second 100m today and knowing you wouldn’t dare time yourself.

  • On age and how others perceive you

    I’ve always been touchy about my age, and how old others think I am.

    This stems back to a time when I was introduced to someone my parents knew, shortly after we moved to New Zealand, and just after we built our house (to my best recall).

    “How old is she? Seven?” he asked.

    I was in fact nine, and deeply insulted.

    At 16 I got my first ever job. I worked in a cafe, mostly clearing tables and washing dishes. My coworkers thought I was in my early 20s.

    Somewhere along the way, I’ve gone from looking young for my age to looking older. I think the glasses probably contribute. That, and my weirdly prematurely wrinkly forehead.

    It also apparently stems from the way I conduct myself. “You’re so not Gen Y!” I was told earlier this year (said in a tone that suggested being Gen Y was on par with being a Nazi or an animal abuser).

    Confidence is not one of my inherent qualities. I second-guess myself at every opportunity. I doubt my skills whenever faced with something new. I secretly think most of my work is terrible and that I’m a fraud. As I told my best friend the other week when we enlisted the help of a security guard to boot the people occupying our seats at Coldplay, if it had been me plonked down there and some other people had come along suggesting we were in the wrong row, I would be instantly convinced that I was the one who’d made a mistake (even if I wasn’t) and leap up to check.

    But apparently I manage to carry off the illusion of confidence at work, which suits me just fine. In a generation where people are staying at home and at university longer, I think I’ve got an edge, having been independent from 17 (somehow I’ve become the go-to person on all things adulthood in my circle… housing, work, cars, etc). And I suppose I’m lucky in that I’m not an assistant drone at the bottom of a corporate ladder. I have a lot of autonomy, relatively speaking, and being constantly wooed by PR types on a daily basis has probably inflated my sense of power.

    Is looking older than you really are a bonus in the workplace?

    I think this can actually be a advantage. People are more likely to take you seriously if you look 35 as opposed to 15. As we all know, appearance counts for way more than anyone likes to admit (and that includes everything from your wardrobe to the pitch of your voice).

    On the other hand, that can lead to higher expectations of you, and pressure to deliver what you might not be able to carry off. Pull it off though, and you’ll be a rockstar.

    I’ll probably be regretting this when I’m 40 and staring into the mirror wondering where I went. But in consolation, I did recently get carded at a bar (annoyingly, I didn’t have my ID on me at the time). I still have it … sometimes.

    Do you look your age? Do people normally guess your age correctly?