Thank You, Australia.

Happy Australia Day, everyone!

After the energy depleting heat and humidity over the last couple of days, Australia Day Monday is turning out to be a cool and grey one in Sydney.  The patriotic pork pie hat one of us was planning to make another one of us wear today is still lying flat on the bedroom floor.  Resting gently on a pillow and blankie that are going to be getting a lot more use today.

Plans for a day out embracing the sun, the water, barbecues and lamingtons to a soundtrack of great Australian music have been put on hold.  Instead, quiet music is streaming from my ipad and my kindle is sitting fully charged in anticipation for a day on the sofa reading, reflecting and trying to stay away from the Australia Day online sales (which seem to have gone global this year).

This Australia Day, my gratitude and love for my country is also an ode to my adopted city, Sydney.

I love that I'm never far from the water, wherever I may be relative to the pulsing bridges and motorways that somehow get us all from A to B, often with detours and drama, but always onwards to the B...  The water calms and strengthens me whenever I gaze at it.  No matter what my frame of my mind when approaching it, I leave in awe of a greater presence that has guided me well through life so far.

I love that your festivals and concerts cater to Australians of all ages, tastes and attention spans.

Epsecially on days after a less than optimal night's sleep, I adore the multitude of ways in which you enable us to enjoy our morning coffees.  From rustic cottages in the middle of urbania,

to soon to be opened and keenly anticipated converted 'facility blocks' like this one that happens to be across the road from my work.

I love that while I can walk the streets of Sydney and have a strong sense of the past and the people who toiled to give us what we effortlessly enjoy today, I can also be caught up in the frenzy of global retail, even if it is only as a window shopper.

And as an aside on the global shopping point, I am deeply appreciative of our efficient and friendly postal service.  That we don't have to worry too often about things going 'missing' and that our fellow Australians in regional centres get their post and parcels in a timely manner.

But most of all, I'm most grateful today for the space we have in and as Australians.  The intellectual space to dream and create without political repression.

The physical space to explore and experience the new.  Immediately.  Unfiltered.  Safely.

And the personal space to be both Australian and human.  To be united in grief and also tolerant of individual religion and sexuality.

Thank you, Australia.  For everything.

Friday Fashion. Remembering Dubai.

Sometimes, when you're underwhelmed with the prevailing winds of fashion, you just have to go it alone and sail off on your own.

Bangle - Lovisa.  I'm on a roll with $5 finds there right now.

Currently at SSG Manor, we are embracing blue and bold prints.

Blouse- Uniqlo, pencil skirt - J Crew.

Preferably worn together.

Toddler SSG wearing legging as pants.  He's only just young enough to still get away with it.

It was Toddler SSG himself who set the forecast.  He was happy with the blue striped T I chose for him yesterday but not so much with the khaki shorts I'd chosen for him.  Instead, it had to be his crab print PJ leggings.

Despite the heat, he wore them all day.  As he played hop scotch, as he ran across the back of the dinosaur in the play area, as he climbed the fridge (don't ask...) and out in the garden as he watered the plants.

In other news, the SSG bedside table has been reunited with an old friend - L'Artisan Parfumeur's Premier Figuer Extreme. 

Technically, though, its official place of residence is on the second shelf from the top of the built in wardrobe.

I have Strawberrynet to thank for my new bottle of perfume.  They recently had an extra 10% off promotion in honour of Australia Day for Australian orders which meant I no choice but to buy it.  And a backup supply of my favourite soap.  I also scored this free CK mascara which I haven't tried yet.

It's Friday afternoon and I'm feeling like a bit of an armchair trip somewhere, to get into that long weekend frame of mind.  How about Dubai?

I bought my first bottle of Premier Fig in Dubai way back in 2012.  It was at Bloomingdales at the Dubai Mall.  I'll always remember the way fragrance defined Dubai for me on that trip.  Heady citrus, amber and wood noted perfumes would waft past me on a regular basis as immaculately dressed locals sailed past me.   Because everyone seemed to sail rather than walk or run.

Perhaps it was the obsession with creating an oasis in the desert that gave everyone a fluidness to their movements.  No one ever rushed.

With the temperature regularly hitting an inhospitable 40C or higher, life was best and most comfortably lived indoors.  Where you barely heard the traffic 20 or so floors beneath you as it swarmed down six plane carriageways alongside the slightly Star Trekian trains.

There were man made tributes to water everywhere despite the desert location.

And luxury was often not too far behind.

One shopping mall featured a Hermes exhibition in much the same way a western shopping centre might use a forecourt for the performance of Five Seconds of Summer or the young Justin Bieber.  Only with much less chaos and visible security.

High tea was literally taken at high altitude and with plenty of champagne on hand.

Gold tones highlighted everything from furnishings to mosaics.

And there was always something jaw dropping to look up at.

 Something that made me smile was seeing how much Dubai embraced American institutions.

There was a Bloomingdales that out Bloomied anything I've seen in New York.

A Magnolia Bakery more spacious and inviting than its big sister back home.

 And a Dean & Deluca where you didn't have to jostle with crowds for a table or service at.

Melbourne has also left its mark in Dubai in the shape of a Brunetti's.

Complete with an impressive bank of espresso machines.

And Paris.  It's a city that can't help but leave its mark on every other big city around the world. 

 Its fashion, its food, its particular aesthetic. 

And in return, the rest of the world has now united with Paris in a stand for freedom of speech.

All this remembering of favourite trips and cities and given me the travel bug again.  Something to think about over the weekend.

Take care and have a lovely Australia Day!

Mailing List Maturity. Reese's New Film.

I made a New Years resolution several years back which involved removing myself from as many mailing lists as I could.  An extension of this was to not add myself to new lists each time I discovered a new etailer.

The theory being that with much less tempting junk coming through to my inbox, I'd spend my time online more constructively.  Googling useful things, reading newspapers, blogging - anything that didn't tempt me to buy more stuff that I didn't really need or have a use for.

It may not appear as much from the blog, but I have become more mindful in the way I shop.  While I'm sure I've missed out on all sorts of promotions and bargains, I'm buying only what I need, when I need it.  I've figured out a short list of go to sites for my various needs and rarely stray from them.  It's all very sensible and efficient which are my biggest priorities when shopping these days.

Though I sometimes wonder if I'll ever slip back to the good old days.  When slick ad campaigns seemed to forever know just what it was I needed in my life.  That fifteenth pair of flattering, of the moment jeans.  The twentieth perfect dress for work.  This hour's iconic handbag......
I don't think that time will be returning anytime soon.  This email managed to slip through my net (via the net ... boom tish) today and while I did click on to 'Shop Pants....' I found 5 pairs of perfect pants that are perfect .... for someone else.  I couldn't justify a single pair for my body shape, lifestyle or any appreciable difference to the pairs of black trousers I already own and which already serve my very well.  I don't feel virtuous, maybe a little old and a citizen of fashion Siberia but at the same time, I don't feel as if I'm missing out on anything by not updating my collection of black pants.

Some would call this growing up.  I've just written five paragraphs about it.  But that's a blogger for you.

I just heard on the news that Reese Witherspoon has been nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Nick Hornsby's film adaptation of Wild, Cheryl Strayed's memoir of a life defining hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.  I remember reading 'Wild' and am sure I reviewed it somewhere on the blog but can't find the post.  For me, 'Wild' was one of those books I had to read in the one sitting.  I'll be looking out for Reese Witherspoon's film when it gets released locally.  While the themes of self discovery that Strayed wrote about were so tangible to me from her writing, the landscape she described is like nothing I've ever seen myself so I'll be looking forward to the film for that, and Reese's acting.

Glebe. 'My Salinger Year'. A Report From My Kitchen.

The whole aim of summer weekends, as far as I can tell, is to spend as much of them outdoors as possible.  And the earlier you can start out on the Saturday morning, the better.  There's the benefit of a touch of coolness to the air and a bit of shade to go with the morning sun.

We crossed the ANZAC Bridge to take a walk around Glebe as tourists in our own city.  Bicentennial Park at the end of Glebe Point Road offers a stunning view over Rozelle Bay.  How can it be this tranquil so close to the city?

It wasn't the time for trying to answer to that but rather to just walk and soak up the peaceful and restorative energy that seemed to waft off the water and settle in the shade of the trees that were everywhere - waterside, at the parks and along the streets of beautifully restored terraces and glamorous new high rises.

Glimpses of old technology central to the dockyard past of the bay still stand tall on the water's edge, a striking landmark for the weekend runners and dog walkers getting in their morning exercise.

The ANZAC Bridge and the beginnings of the city skyline provide a link with the present as you walk down the streets lined with regal 19th century houses and art deco apartment blocks.

But modern times call for modern comforts and Glebe Point Road was buzzing with cafes open for Saturday morning coffees and brunch.

We stopped in at Il Cortile, a beautiful Italian cafe that does rich, strong coffees and are also famous for their pastries.

Another great Cotton On Kids T on Toddler SSG.

Toddler SSG and I didn't have room for pastries but we did enjoy our coffees in the cheerfully decorated area behind the main counter.  It felt like we were sitting in a sunlit  piazza in Italy and it was a challenge pulling ourselves back to inner city Sydney and the need to get a move on before the traffic got too crazy. 

By the afternoon, any pretence of good manners were abandoned on account of the heat.  Icy cold soda water was drunk straight from the bottle in the cool shade of the front verandah.

And it made perfect sense to pad around in bare feet to make most of the coolness of ground damp from the careful watering of pot plants.

Siesta time rolled around and while Toddler SSG slept, I made significant progress with last month's photos for our Project Life scrap book.  Washi tape and scrapbooking were just made for each other.

And then (dessert for) afternoon tea and a good book lured me to the sofa under the airconditioner.

If you've been following my Weeknight Book Club posts, you might recall that I haven't had the greatest luck recently with new books on my Kindle.  I've hit one of those rough patches where books I've downloaded on the strength of great reviews and my personal love of the author haven't guaranteed an unputdownable read.  With the price of some downloads being practically the same as if I'd purchased hard copies, I've tried to finish every book I've downloaded rather than abandoning them after the second chapter.

Fortunately, my luck has turned and I've got nothing but praise and passion for 'My Salinger Year' by Joanna Rakoff.  If you haven't already read this book, you are in for a treat.  It would be a perfect choice for the Australia Day long weekend.  I had trouble putting this down since starting it Thursday night.  So yes, I made the most of every long afternoon nap the weekend afforded me.

Thoughtfully elegant writing, the irresistible pull of its New York City setting and the reflections of a seemingly liberated, intelligent woman of the nineties who still managed to be controlled in a variety of ways by the men in her life.  I'll admit right here that I haven't read nearly as much Salinger as I should have but my lack of knowledge of his work was no barrier to my appreciating his skill and his influence on American culture.  Rakoff references his work in such a way that ingnoramuses like myself have enough clues in her prose with regard to what a particular Salinger work was about.

'My Salinger Year' is Rakoff's memoir of her time as an assistant to an agent at 'The Agency' which represented such authors as JD Salinger and Judy Blume.  'The Agency' is stuck in a time of carbon copies, type writers, index cards in a world where the printed word was everything.  The internet was treated with suspicion and the arrival of a photocopier and a single computer terminal to the office were revolutionary in their impact on the way 'The Agency' functioned.

As the title suggests, much of Rakoff's work revolved around 'Jerry' Salinger - his image, his loud telephone calls and the need to protect him from his fans who thought up ingenious ways of trying to get their letters and requests to him.  There was a standard form letter Rakoff was meant to send letter writers but something inside her made her deviate from the script and personally reply to some fans, with unsurprisingly negative outcomes.

The New York City of 'My Salinger Year' is that of the late nighties, the social milieu that of young university graduates trying to make it in the competitive world of editing and publishing where maybe, just maybe, these young graduates could one day have their own work published rather than having to subsist on the meagre wages of an assistant for the rest of their lives.  It is not the glamorous life of Manhattan but rather that of those struggling to make ends meet in the neighbourhoods of Brooklyn where the edginess is attractive to artists who rail against normality until some grow older (and possibly a little less idealistic) and change their expectations of life and ironically aspire to the life of suburbia they rebelled against as teenagers.

But the subplot that kept me turning the pages related to Joanna herself.  Would she really stay on with Don, the boyfriend who thought nothing of making her pay all the rent on her meagre wage because she had a 'better credit rating'?  Who glibly accepted the rental of a freezing cottage without heating or a kitchen sink?  Who openly ogled and critiqued other women in front of her?  His conflicted life as a fighter and rejected author gave him an irresistible allure to Joanna.  So irresistible that she broke up with her solid and reliable college boyfriend to take up with Don. 

Why is it so easy for others to see how bad relationships for us?  Why do we choose not to listen when strangers advise that 'your boyfriend really should be taking better care of you' when called to your cottage after it nearly exploded because of faulty heating?

Some questions are too big for a Monday.  I won't say anymore except that there is an epilogue to 'The Salinger Years' that is set a good ten years after the New York City year took place.

Before I go, a few updates from the kitchen.

Firstly, Instagram was asking about this home made Tom Yum soup.

The answer is this jar.  It was recommended to me by a Thai friend.  All you need to do is make the soup as instructed on the jar and simmer your desired vegetables and meats in it. I added some kaffir lime leaves, ginger and lemon grass for added flavour.  I served it with pre cooked vermicelli.

And I still hate my Bundt tin.  The one that I used to bake the Lemon Yoghurt Cake  from last week.

I had another go at the recipe this weekend and followed the recipe exactly.  It's a hand mixed affair which is very easy to follow.

It also tastes fabulous but unfortunately doesn't look as much when I bake it in a Bundt tin.  I wonder what I'm doing wrong?  I can never get a cake to depan perfectly with this tin.

It's a question for Google, I think.


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