You can tell a lot about a woman …

.. from her handbag. That was the advertising slogan of the very popular Australian brand Glomesh in the 1970s, when they brought on board a swag of popular women of the era such as Jackie Weaver, Renee Geyer and Jenny Kee. Each iconic woman’s advertisement featured a photo of her Glomesh bag, freshly tipped open with its contents artfully spilled to reveal aspects of the owner’s personality. The ads certainly reached me, an impressionable teen in the midst of feminine/feminist awakenings, with the full-page ads in women’s magazines like Cleo and Women’s Weekly.

And I soon became an employed young woman, and could afford a handbag. And I bought a Glomesh (in addition to the one given as a 21st birthday present, as you did in those days), but I soon also discovered Oroton, another Australian brand that, coincidentally, had included mesh bags as part of its staple. And lovely Oroton bags have been my guilty pleasure since, even though I suffered a 30-year ownership gap between the 1980s and 2010s, when purchases were overlooked for practicalities of survival and raising children.

IMG_1355But recently I seriously re-entered the handbag stakes, and have enjoyed owning my second Oroton tote, which can hold a serious load.

And this has brought on the oft-repeated question asked by many men, including Mr JB, to many women:

“What the hell have you got in there??”

Well, in the spirit of solving an entirely unnecessary mystery regarding the practicality or otherwise of women’s personal possessions, here are the contents of my Oroton so you too can tell a lot about me – and probably every other woman, ever. This is yesterday as it came out of the car after a three-day road trip to regional WA for my mother’s wedding (yay!):


Of course, it needs an inventory because I suspect there are some translations of a cultural, age and gender-specific nature required. Here we go, roughly left to right:

  • Self-help book helpfully offered by friend, as yet unread, but I’m sure will be helpful in due course.
  • Work iPad.
  • Top returned by mother’s friend at last minute in shopping bag, after I left it at her house, and I couldn’t get into suitcase already in the car.
  • Lovely notebook, a gift from former colleague, titled ‘Bloggers I met and liked’ (of course it was empty when given; boom boom), used for jotting ideas and other things that need to be remembered.
  • Aids to Gynaecological Nursing: A complete textbook for the nurse (1949), an impulse buy from the secondhand shop visited while exiting the regional town.
  • How to make money on ebay (2010) – see above (and specifically for Brownie).
  • Pair of leggings, in case I found time to slip into something more comfortable sometime during the journey home.
  • Wallet, contents of which remained thankfully enclosed for this exercise.
  • Cheap clutch, brought as a hopeful antidote to a fuller handbag for the wedding (not realised), and whose job was to contain mainly jewellery, perfume, tissues and ear plugs.
  • Clear nail polish, for those days I give a shit about my nails looking noice.
  • iPad charge cord; should be in the car, and will be tomorrow.
  • iPhone earphones.
  • Blondie and Brownie’s bowties from the wedding of the year.
  • Assorted jewellery from clutch (above) including world necklace, subject of much admiration and deservedly so.
  • Tag from sock three-pack, accidentally shop-lifted in my enviro bag from Target last week, so I can take it back and own up to my illegal activity.
  • iPhone in Otter case – what would I do without the glass protective case and rubber casing!? Well, I’d be replacing my phone glass for one. Repeatedly.
  • Medicinal zip-lock bag which, apart from antihistamine tablets, consists entirely of various combinations of ibuprofen, paracetamol and codeine as back-up to combat headaches and/or neck/back pain. Handy.
  • Extra glasses cleaning cloth, rescued from clapped out key ring pouch.
  • A few assorted sanitary products because old habits die hard, even though I am an empty vessel, surgically speaking.
  • Hotel ’emergency kit’ comprising nail emery board and cotton wipe.
  • Sunglasses case (containing actual sunglasses).
  • Work magnetic name tag, because I never know when I might need it.
  • Second and third glasses cases, containing actual glasses. I think.
  • Pawpaw ointment, which is basically just petroleum jelly. I checked once. About 10mg per small 25g tube, pretty ineffectual. But it feels nice.
  • Two perfumes, because – well, just because. Scents suit feelings and places and occasions and you just never know.
  • Ear plugs aplenty, and a random spare button in mini zip-lock bag.
  • Nail file. Indispensable must-have.
  • Assorted Band-aids
  • Fast food scented wet wipes. Hoard with gusto.
  • Sachet of sugar – probably an accident waiting to happen, so will remove to the kitchen cupboard.
  • Bigger zip-lock bag of goodies containing assorted paper clips, safety pins, bobby pins, spare mini-emery board, AAA battery for those moments you need one (like a laser pointer for presentations).
  • Car keys. Simple. Including video shop tag, and grocery shop points tag (really).
  • Pink lady apple, still waiting to be eaten after four days and holding up well.
  • Spare fast food serviettes. Hoard with gusto.
  • Missing chubby lipstick from make-up bag – hooray!
  • Spare pens. Indispensable must-haves. Writing happens everywhere.
  • Trusty USB, the only one that hasn’t resulted in a ‘This disk is write-protected’ message in five years. I love this USB.
  • Work promotional item torch – shines Open Day 2015 when you press the button a-la the Batman sign in the sky of Gotham City at night. In a crisis of darkness, I will also be able to advertise my workplace; excellent.
  • Dental floss; no explanation required. Nonetheless, as my friend Kellygirl the dental hygienist used to say, “Only floss the teeth you want to keep.” Wise words.
  • Another ’emergency kit,’ this time silver threads and golden needles, or something vaguely similar.
  • ‘Quick drying pre-moistened wipes’ lens cleaner. I have three pairs of glasses, don’t you know.
  • Another cloth lens cleaner, courtesy my GP’s practice. Three pairs of glasses get smudgy. A lot.
  • ‘Well-used’ (aka filthy) make-up bag, originally a promotional item from my preferred make-up brand. Be thankful I’ve spared the individual contents of this as well, most of which haven’t been used since 2011, with the exception of the lip liner, occasional lipstick, concealer for a particularly aggressive blemish, mascara annually (just exhausted 2016’s allocation), and of course the hitherto mentioned absent chubby stick.
  • Comb; teeth not too close, not too wide – just perfect for curly hair.
  • Not one but two tubes of indispensable moisturising cream. $2.95 per tube, all I’ve used for 35 years, give or take. Don’t know how the extra one snuck in, probably from the bathroom bag. I’ve got them lying around everywhere.
  • Little tissue packs. I never seem to be organised enough to have just one packet open and on the go, there’s always two, or three, in various stages of emptying. But just as well, because TISSUES ARE ESSENTIAL, if not for me, for Mr JB or Blondie who never have any on their person when they gets a hayfever attack. Ever. Grr.
  • Spare unused tissues, man-size, from Mr JB’s car. You never know. See above. They’re clean, really.
  • Two hair cloths – red and white. But the colours aren’t important. Getting the bloody hair off my sweaty neck when it matters is what’s important.
  • Video shop rental special docket, now expired, because TOMORROW ONLY! was a week ago.
  • Heel shields, although the jury is out on whether they’re worth the effort. I just feel I should have some as back-up.
  • Unwashed plastic fork from last week’s lunch, wrapped in serviette (that’s why you hoard them) and forgot to stick in the dishwasher to reuse next week.

What’s missing? A water bottle, another indispensable item for Straya. And of course it fits. Everything fits. Stuff ALWAYS fits. That’s what makes a great handbag. And a great brand. And a slightly hoarder-oriented woman.

Australian conversations: the washing machine repair man

So the washing machine repair man arrived to sort out the clunking and scraping that mysteriously began during a wash yesterday – which wasn’t coins or rocks or marbles on the inside of the drum. Five minutes later he was out of the laundry and at the kitchen bench:

bra wireWMRM: “Done. It was a bra wire. I’ll get the receipt book from the car. $80 thanks.”

Off he went to the car.

Blondie: “Ooh, bra wire, how embarrassing!”
JB: “No, not at all – I bet it happens all the time and he’s seen it before. I’m just glad I can finish my washing.”

Back comes Mr WMRM to write his receipt on one side of the bench, while I write a cheque from the other.

He is around 45 with piercing pale eyes and a no-nonsense kind of Germanic attitude punctuated at odd moments with a half smile. Odd.

WMRM: “So I was lucky, the end of the wire was just poking out through one of the holes, and it was out quickly.”
JB: o O (yeah, nice 80 bucks).
JB: “I didn’t even think of that. And I felt across the drum too, to see if it was a coin or rock or marble or something.”
WMRM: “It was right up the front. Most people reach in towards the back.”


WMRM: “It’s not a bad idea to keep bras in a special bag.”
JB: “I do usually. It’s just this is an old bra, so I was cheating.”
WMRM: “Well, there was only one wire, so you might want to keep a look out for the other one.”
JB: “Um, it only had one wire *wince* that’s why it’s an old bra.”


JB: “And that’s probably enough information, isn’t it.”

WMRM: *odd smile*

How embarrassing.

Hospital Haiku

red_rose_heart-4794-300x225Irony drips in
here. A happy occasion
nine years ago when

uterus and blood
produced life. But not this time.

[Image courtesy Natural Fertility Info]

Fun with sugar

Well if that isn’t a blog post title reeking of Donna Hay, nothing is. Consider this my nod to food porn, flaccid though it may be.

On Tuesday afternoon the planets aligned for me and Brownie to finally put together the gingerbread house given to him at Christmas.  This is what we were aiming for:

Exhibit A:

As the resident engineer-in-training, he was in charge of ensuring that all the structural elements were intact and ready in order of assembly when the ‘glue’ – ie, melted sugar – was ready:


Exhibit B:





.All I had to do was melt the sugar. I’d forgotten how hot liquid sugar is, especially when you dip your finger in the spoon to have a quick lick (luckily it didn’t get to my mouth):

Exhibit C:





It’s actually quite difficult to apply melted sugar as a wall binder when it’s just at the toffee stage. Especially when the engineer is now frightened of the sugar and doesn’t want to hold the walls together, let alone organise the roof to have eaves, having seen his mother yelling and stomping with a burnt finger, and applying said sugar haphazardly with one hand. But we got there, kind of.  And fortunately my, “this looks about right” icing recipe worked well, and the engineer and I had a great system going when it came to applying the M&Ms on the roof, sort of:

Exhibit D:


Note the architecturally interesting roof line. Note the absence of chimneys, visible in Exhibits A and B (they succumbed to ‘taste testing’ prior to building). Note the carefully angled photo. That’s because the other side ended up like this:

Exhibit E:



Not quite a cake wreck, but something to be proud of nonetheless, don’t you think?

My Top 10 lists

You either love ’em or you hate ’em, but Top 10 lists are popular these days, so here are my top 1o lists:

  1. The shopping list – an eternal favourite, never quite complete, which you never quite know until you get home without the milk/lentils/Vegemite/castor sugar. However, disappointment and frustration can somewhat be mitigated by using just gorgeous shopping list stationery. Two of my favourites – Remo’s fridge magnet and pad with helpful memory prompter (right), and, from the 1980s, Sandra Boynton’s clever little ‘Chopin Liszt’ (couldn’t find an image anywhere!)
  2. The Christmas present list – begun in earnest about September, edited and reviewed about November 30, and then scribbled and rewritten frantically on 23 December, just to make sure. Try not to add a $ column; I used to, but have now abandoned it as I just get depressesd.
  3. The Christmas card list – this one’s just come back into vogue as a reaction to the separation of church and state good ol’ fashioned card writing from the online social media circus that allows us to say “Merry Christmas”- and in only 15 characters too, enough left over to tweet a link to my blog with the remaining 125 and upload a pic of the Christmas tree on Facebook and did you see The Digital Story of the Nativity on YouTube it was really cool and Tumblr’s the one to watch — where was I?? Oh yes, getting out my pen and writing cards to the special people on this list who may only hear from me once a year, but it’s Christmas,  goddammit, and we’re all full of love and my thoughts are with them; that is, if I have their address, and extra time after the present shopping. So don’t take it personally if you haven’t received a card, it’s early days in a Back to the Future kinda way.
  4. The dreaded ‘To Do’ list – oh, my notebooks are full of them. It’s a subset of its own: there’s the renovation to-do list, the cleaning to-do list, and the work to-do lists (blog post lists, chargeable hours lists, tax document lists); even the gardening to-do list, which seems a bit silly as you’re not going to have your notebook outside to check items off the list with mulch-encrusted gloves.  But this is a real one from a clean-up a few years ago – and notice the diagonal line, a healthy sign of list completion!
  5. The New Year’s resolutions list – the last one seen was as recently as 2009.  Most of it is still waiting to be achieved. Achieving my new year’s resolutions is going to be one of my new year’s resolutions … next year.
  6. The calendar list – this is a fairly new arrival on the scene, for all those busy parents who now not only have the option of individual columns for each family member, but can also make lists within the columns with nifty little stickers that say things like, “Piano,” “Dentist” and “Play date”. They never seem to have stickers for “Euphonium,” “Gynaecologist” or “Big night out” so you can see who they’re pitching at. I received one of these as a present this year (although I confess I’ve been buying them for the past couple of years) and, by coincidence, it’s a Boyton calendar. With stickers. And a fifth column, which I like to call ‘Other’.
  7. The holiday list – now divided into four columns to ensure all parties of the household are accounted for, although the kids pretty much need the same things which wastes a column, unless you use that now-vacant column to put in all the things that are for the whole family – like iPods and toilet paper.
  8. The ‘just in case’ list. This is not a favourite of mine.  This is the list you make when you have to remember details just in case they a) are needed for future medical purposes, b) are needed for future insurance purposes or c) are needed for future legal purposes, possibly as a result of the outcomes of a) or b).  I have one of these too, from a particularly nasty time in 2009 that involved four hospitals, three ambulances, an RFDS flight and a great potential for the unintentional spread of misinformation. So I recorded everything according to who was affected and treated over a 30-day period. Don’t call me OCD – but at the time I would have answered to “that anxious, stressed-out and exhausted mum over there”.
  9. The wish list! This is a real thing in our house now, thanks to my friend Julie. How many times throughout the year do you see or hear about something and think “I’d love that for Christmas”, or your child/spouse/ significant employer says “I’ve always wanted one of those”.  Well, when you/they do, nip over to the printout you’ve stuck on the fridge/filing cabinet with the handy table courtesy of MS Word and write it on the wish list! Then, come little or big Johnny’s birthday six months later, or at Christmas, you nip back to the list and see that he wanted a Star Wars: the Force Unleashed DS game, or Bluetooth, or hopefully something under $200. Problem solved!
  10. Rounding out the top 10 list is this top 10 list because, frankly, I didn’t think I’d be able to find 10 lists I use and can demonstrate. But I have. And that’s a bit revealing.  Hmm, there’s an idea for a list: top 10 things I’ve revealed about myself on this blog …

[And I’ve just thought of two more: the Santa List for True Believers, coming soon on Brownie Talk; and the, ahem, To All The Men I’ve Loved Before list, Julio Iglesias style.  I’m not the only one, right?]

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