Poolside Pina Colada Smoothies. Urban Decay and Sephora In General.

I'm checking in from the pool this evening.

Impossibly blue Florida skies setting off pain box coloured terraces.

Where this was the view to my right.

And this was the view to my left.  There's nothing like a bit of strategically placed Missoni for Target and a non alcoholic pina colada smoothie to get you feeling all summery.  It's that combination of vibrantly coloured patterns, brain freeze from the smoothie and then nibbling at the fruit that came with the drink.  Logic dictates that they should all spell summer yet in the routine of life at home, you'd be hard pressed to remember the last time you actually experienced all of the above in a non holiday context.  We don't enjoy life between holidays as much as we should, do we?

The kaftan was a great thing to pack for this trip.  It hits just below mid thigh on me and is billowy enough to cut it on the piazza as well as by the pool.  It dries really quickly and hasn't crinkled or had its colour run on me yet.

If we can head back indoors for a moment (I actually fell asleep on a deck chair, fortunately one under the shade), there's lots to see and discuss there.

The idea of a large, central water feature in the front room is starting to grown on me.  That sound of trickling water is very soothing and it seems to fill a room with the happy sounds of life.

Still not sold on sweeping staircases and baby grands.  They look lovely in context, and that context wouldn't be SSG Manor.

Yesterday's shopping excursion too me to the Florida Mall which is about half an hour in traffic from the resorts.  It's meant to be very popular with tourists but to be honest, the Premium Outlets seem to have the tourist market covered between them.  The Florida Mall is currently undergoing some major renovations and if you're used to the big Westfields, you might not be too excited about what is essentially 'just another shopping centre'.  Still, it does have the benefit of having branches of many of the big US chains that you may be in need of a visit to for a massive stock up.  Like the outlets, hotel guests have the opportunity to obtain a discount coupon booklet from reception that would usually cost $5. However, the discounts and offers are not as good as for the outlets and not all stores participate.  I used one coupon from the book.

Victoria's Secret was my first stop and I'm done and dusted in the smalls department for a good couple of years.  It's too easy.  Get your size, look around, see styles and patterns you like, find your size in a display drawer (the always have at least one of your size) and pay.  Or, you can use the fitting rooms if you want to make doubly sure.  I love their idea of having a store issue T shirt you can wear over a new bra to make sure everything sits as it should.


Drat.  My picture of the VS cuff not uploading.  Will see if I can get it to work later.  In the meantime, think gold with rhinestone bits in the style of Wonder Woman.

And here it is, the technology came back.

It was gift with purchase day and I received this cuff which I am sure has magical powers that'll turn me into Angel material the moment I snap it on my wrist.

Got two because I never, ever want to run out of Luminoso ever again.

But that wasn't even the most exciting purchase I made yesterday.  Look, it really does exist!!!  Milani's reformulated Luminoso baked blush.  Many moons ago, it was called plain old Luimnous and had a pressed powder formulation.  Luminous became known as the duplicate of NARS' Orgasm but for fraction of the price.

The Milani baked blushes retail for $10 USD each and a google search tells me that Australian online retailers are selling them for around $15 AUD.  In my opinion, they are a serious contender if you like NARS colours but may find the shimmer and colour intensity a bit overwhelming.  Luminoso is an even closer to the big O on skin than its predecessor.  It has even colour pay off and blends easily.  It lasts all day and through the heat.

On the shimmer spectrum, I'd place it on the milder end with no visible signs of actual glitter chunks which reviewers have noted in some NARS shades.  In the pan, Milani blushes do look like those little Bourjois pots but are a superior product in my eyes.  I find that the Bourjois blushes tends to look chalky on the skin and are a bit patchy to apply.

Be warned, the packaging looks a little more flimsy than the competition but it does have a chamber beneath the blush proper that stores a brush and mirror.

And then I discovered Sephora.  Where I managed to talk myself out of buying a Clarisonic (where would I honestly find enough alone time twice a  day to use it properly?) and several cute travel kits.  Just as I was about to congratulate myself on leaving the store with only a small purchase of essentials (see later), I walked past the Urban Decay counter and what looked like 200 different shades of 24/7 glide on eye pencil.

These pencils retail for $20 USD a pop and are available through Australian etailers for $35. What I like about them is how soft they are to apply yet how rich and deep the shades are.  The line doesn't budge and there were at least four different browns from which I could choose.  I've often been underwhelmed with pricier eye pencils as they've either not been quite the right shade or else too hard in texture to quickly and easily (what I need most from my makeup, besides performance - don't half ask for much) apply.

So I bought two.  And will likely forever turn my back on my old favourites from Maybelline and Models Prefer.  Both of which were great in the colour and ease of application departments  but not quite as much in the durability stakes, often disappearing from my lashline at the six hour or earlier mark.  I bought Corrupt, a deep brown from the Glide On range and Lush from the Velvet range, that's another more blackish brown.

I don't know why I even thought I could walk out of Sephora without a Naked palette, especially given how much I like their eye pencils.  I picked #2 with the help of a sales assistant and it comes in a tin box that I'm hoping is toddler proof.  These retail for $54 USD with the Australian online price through third parties looking to be around $89.  I have seen UD in Myer on George Street but they don't seem to be making it available online through the Myer site so I can't comment on the official retail prices in Australia.

It's going to be interesting when Sephora opens in Sydney later this year.  I'm hoping that the pricing will be as competitive as what the press were promising when the news first broke.  I also hope that they don't dilute the product as it crosses the Atlantic (I think we might be aligned to the US rather than European arms of the business) and that we get everything that's available here in the US.  The staff at the store I visited were even more excited than I was with a few mentioning colleagues that had volunteered to be part of the first team to head out to help establish the Sydney store.

Another interesting find was Sephora's own house make up label.  It's major in the breadth and depth of what they offer.  There were at least 20 shades of the Contour Waterproof Eye Pencil and you could even buy half sized pencils in most of the shades.  These promise 12 hours of wear and only cost $10 for the full size.  I bought them because the $16 L'Oreal Silkissme that everyone's been talking about were sold out over at CVS.

If I were to be completely honest with myself, I only needed to buy these and not the Urban Decay pencils.  They are just as much of a dream to apply with a thick, almost gel liner consistency.  They dry off quickly and really last the 12 hours and beyond.  And by last I mean look exactly like how you applied it first thing in the morning.  None of it budged on me and that was after putting sunscreen on over the top and going for a paddle in the pool.  I was even more impressed at how easily it came off with makeup removing water (Bioderma's micellar water, a travel essential and well worth the $$$).  The shades range from glitter to matte and my test shade was #12, Cappuccino which has a fine glitter to it.

Sephora is going to change the landscape of cosmetic retail in Australia. It's going to be one of those stores where you'd be hard pressed to leave empty handed because from what I've seen, the nicely priced range perform even better than some of the current big players in the drugstore market over her.  And those big players seem to be getting more expensive relative to the high end brands over time.

Do you have any of Sephora's house makeup?  Hits or misses in your book?

Going back to Milani, I found this Illuminating Face Powder that is another hit for me.  It was $14 and actually illuminates rather than embalms in a film of chalkiness.  It also hasn't dried my skin out which the last illuminating powder I tried did.

Before I go, as this post turned out to be all about shopping, an update on the prepaid Travel Card.  It's worked really well in the US where there are ATMs and EFTPOS machines everywhere, sales staff even wear EFPTOS terminals around stores.  I've been able to use it everywhere and it's much less of a stress than trying to keep large amounts of cash safe.  I'll definitely be using it again on the next trip, whenever and wherever that may be.

Talk soon.

The Early Hours On Portofino Bay. The Outlet Report.

Ciao from Portofino via Orlando!

Where dawn looks a little different from how it does in other parts of the city.

Rose gold sunlight slowly brings elegantly painted terraces out of the darkness.  The colours of the Mediterranean predominate and the skyline isn't dominated by the Magic Castle or a rotating Universal Studios globe.

Meanwhile, from inside, crazy Australians look out at the rising sun from their hotel room terrace dressed like this.  That's right, I didn't factor in an outdoor walk across the piazza to the gym each morning.  So I had to make my Qantas PJ top my improvised tracksuit top.

Holiday metabolism kick started (and boy does it always need a huge one when I'm in the States), it's another brisk trot across the piazza as the boats gently bobbed in the water and the bell on the door of Sal's Grocer tinkled as I opened it.  I'm not kidding, it really is this surreal every morning at Loew's Portofino Bay.  This is as close to 'Eat, Pray, Love' as a girl's going to get this close to the theme park capital of North America.

You'll be relieved to know that Sal's sells Raisin Bran and Borden's Fat Free Skim Milk which seems to be my official Floridian breakfast.

Personally, I like my milk on ice.  Actually, there isn't any other way to have it in my hotel room.  The room fridge is one of those fancy ones with intuition.  It knows exactly what is in it and also reacts the moment anything gets moved by having the item billed to one's room account.  I didn't want to take any chances by toppling anything over as I popped my milk in so I've been keeping it cold in the ice bucket.  It really works.  

McGyver would be so proud with all the thinking outside the box I've been doing here on Portofino Bay.  I've made the coffee machine make a cup of tea with a teabag.

By the time I'd finished getting myself organized for the day, Portofino Bay was making itself look even more beautiful under the fully risen sun.

I know, I know.  You want more shopping less hotel amenities.  Will this photo of the shopping arcade inside the hotel suffice?  Perhaps not.  Thought as much.

Anyway.  The shopping.  Of course it began at the outlets and in hindsight, that's where I think it should all have stayed.  But more on that in the next post.

It's heading into winter in the northern hemisphere and the clothing for sale reflected this.  Most of what I bought was for Toddler SSG for a change as I basically bought everything I could possibly have needed for myself on the last trip.  The dollar has dropped against the greenback a fair bit in the five months since I was last over so I tried hard (!!) to be as objective as possible as I could with each purchase.

Which is why it's just as well I don't have a toddler daughter as well because these photos from the Ralph Lauren kids outlet would've materialised into actual purchases.  Does anyone else find themselves occasionally having these odd and idle 'if I had a daughter / son....' daydreams when they're out shopping?  Right, probably is just me. I suspect you're probably more invested in the here and now or wrangling two or more children or all of the above.

My toddler daughter daydream panned out as follows.

Yes, that is a faux fur gilet next to those denim shirt dresses....

Polo shirt dresses with a ruffled hem and equestrian motifs.

And my favourite, hot pink and jade green puffer vests with more equestrian motifs or princess crowns embroidered at the nape.

For those of you who have actual toddler girls rocking any of these this season, know that I am cooing from over the internet on your behalf.

Not that shopping for Toddler SSG himself isn't coo worthy.  It is, just in a different way.  It's all about sturdiness and functionality.  Though I do like how even toddler boys are not above a bit of vanity in the way they like their trousers cut.  Here we have a pair of camel straight legged cords and a looser fit pair of jeans.  I also found him some puffer vests and winter jackets but the girls' ranges take the cake for being the cuter to photograph.

It's all about the shoes for Toddler SSG.  We're going a bit retro with these Adidas Dragons.

And a bit more fashion forward with these Nike Jordans.

The day in shopping and work related business attended to, it was time to rest those Birki clad feet down by the water and wait for the boat to take us down to the Universal CityWalk for dinner.

I had my George and Amal Clooney moment on the boat, looking backwards over the water to the hotel.

Minus the hoards of fans and papparazzi, obviously.  Which made it all the more relaxing.  The boats depart every 20 minutes from the hotels along the water and hitching a ride each evening to dinner has been my favourite thing to do whilst I've been here.

Not so great photo of the parks and theme restaurants of CityWalk from the boat.  Every sporting institution in the US seems to have their own official restaurant here - the NBA, NASCAR...  you name it.  

CityWalk is basically a huge collection of eateries and amusements to keep visitors entertained after a day at Universal Studios.  

While it is family orientated, there are quite a few bars dotted along the water to keep the adults entertained.  And you know what?  Even late in the evening, everyone is perfectly well behaved and parents feel very comfortable having their children out that late in the thick of the nightlife.  

Yes, it is touristy and loud but it's a great idea for anyone who wants a bit of a buzzy way to end a big day out.  The hotels tend to be very, almost eerily quiet and dark in the evening and even a boring nonna before her time like me actually preferred to be out in the noise of CityWalk before turning in for the night.

The restaurant mix is a smart one of spendy, mid range and take away.  Having eaten nothing but cereal and cold sandwiches all day, I decided to go for a white linen option and found myself at the bar at Emeril's Orlando - one of the chain of Emeril Lagasse, an American celebrity chef with the whole business empire of books, television shows and restaurants behind him.  Emeril has restaurants across the country but I'm linking to the menu for his Orlando Emeril's for the purpose of the reviewing what I ate.

There's a very fancy wine list which won an award this year but I stuck to what I know best.  And it was good.  Very good.

The size of American main courses always defeats me.  So I decided to order two entrees to save room for dessert.  The staff were very accommodating about this which was a lovely gesture given how busy they were on the night with tables going the full three courses plus drinks as a matter of course.

My first entree was a duck taco ($6) with a chipotle slaw and tomatillo salsa.  It was a bit of home with the memories of Peking Duck shared with family whenever there was an occasion to celebrate.  The duck taco was perfectly balanced flavour wise and I like how they were light handed with the lime sour cream.

My main (second entree) was the New Orleans barbecued shrimp with a petite rosemary biscuit ($13).  I couldn't fault the prawns or the biscuit but the sauce was on the salty side.  That being said, the rosemary biscuit was perfect for soaking up and balancing out the sauce.  But for me to notice the saltiness as a lover of a soy on my sushi and sea salt on my tomatoes is a bit of a concern.  Still, it was a 'lighter' dish which suited my aim of not leaving dinner feeling like a sack of potatoes.

And this extravaganza was dessert.  The waiter informed me that Emeril's Banana Cream Pie ($10) is the chef's signature dish so there was no question that I had to order it.  I've never had the cream pies often mentioned in American cookbooks and I'm happy to report that I'm now a fan.  Almost as big a fan as I am of red velvet cheesecake which is proving elusive in these parts.  The closest thing to cake you seem to get at the food courts is cinnamon pretzels and cookies.  I have two more days in which to track down my red velvet cheesecake and it's going to happen....

Back to the pie.  It wasn't as rich as it may appear.  But then again, I did eat around the chocolate shards (not a big fan of chocolate decorations, the chocolate always seems to taste a bit fake in this context, must be something they do to the chocolate to give it a pliable yet hard finish suitable for garnishing).  The crust was light and not too firm or buttery.  It was filled with generous slices of banana (probably a whole smallish one per slice of pie) and the cream filling was almost mousse like).  Swirling your forkfuls of pie through the caramel sauce gave each piece just enough added sweetness.

My sleep wake cycle is out of whack today.  It's around 2am here but late afternoon in Sydney.  Hope I can get back to sleep and get into Florida time by the end of today.  I'll be back with more from Portofino Bay very soon.

Take care.

Nearly On My Way. Pappa Rich, Chatswood.

I made it.

I'm at the airport, checked in and past customs with everything I think I needed.  Three hours of solitude are ahead of me before the ridiculous number of hours on the plane and as crazy as it sounds, this is my favourite part of a trip.  The unwinding time before the actual business of being overseas begins.  A time to decompress from the stress and busyness of the weeks leading up to departure date mixed in with the excited anticipation of what is ahead.

I packed as light as I could and I'm dressed for comfort in dark colours (hides the food mishaps) and sensible flats.  I'm still in love with that Missoni for Target scarf so it had to come along on this holiday with me.

Dramatics over the first world problems of doing work trips with a little one to take into consideration aside, it's been a lovely weekend.  Cups of coffee have been taken at leisure by the front window of our favourite cafe as we've watched Saturday morning Sydney wake up.  Walkers clipping along at a brisk pace, the first buses of the morning pulling in at the bus stop and tradies stopping in for a fried breakfast before meeting the first client of the day.

Rhonda (as I can't help calling Toddler SSG thanks to this CO Kids hoodie) has been out and about making the most of this glorious sun.  He's been helping with the laundry and running that mower of his across the lawn.  And sharing apples under the shade for afternoon tea.

We went out for lunch on Saturday to Pappa Rich in Chatswood and I can't recommend it highly enough if you're looking for a place that's both family friendly and surprisingly relaxing to lunch at on the weekend.  Pappa Rich is a bit of an empire in the Malaysian street food scene.  I believe the chain did originate in Malaysia but it's now grown to include several branches in Sydney and there's even one in my hometown of Perth (which is a bit of a Malaysian Chinese stronghold).  The menu includes a wide variety of dishes many Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese people would've grown up with eating at their local kopi tiam (coffee house).

For my mum and aunty, the menu at Pappa Rich brought back fond memories of their childhood and they spent ages agonising over which dishes order for lunch.  The Chatswood Pappa Rich is a few minutes walk from the main strip of shops and malls of Chatswood and as a result, it's less chaotic and noisy and I really did feel as if I was back in Malaysia eating at a hawker's centre.

Space and a secure children's play area.  What more do you need to be an instant hit in pram heavy Chatswood?  Be warned though, while the play area is gated off and secure, the only play equipment inside it that works are two houses.  So you might want to bring along a few favourites from home.  The acoustics are good so it never got too noisy in the restaurant despite the play area being popular and the alfresco area having its front awnings completely open to Archer Street.

But onto the food.  It all exceeded our expectations.  It was all fresh with authentic flavours.  Serving sizes were generous and they were also beautifully presented.  Staff are numerous and very helpful, regularly updating if there could be a delay with a dish you've ordered.  The ordering system is based on your filling out tickets which are picked up by runners but you can also order the old fashioned way.

Apologies in advance but I haven't been able to link prices and full details of each dish from this post to the Pappa Rich website.  I'm blogging from a flight lounge and the internet is a bit temperamental.  They do barista a mean coffee though.

The Mee Goreng had a wonderful smoky flavour from a very hot wok.  You need that squeeze of lime juice over the top of it.

Roti in Sydney (or Chatswood at least) will probably be forever compared to Mamak as the gold standard.  The Pappa Rich version is less oily and a bit crisper.  I actually prefer it.  We had our roti with both dahl and chicken curry.  I was team chicken curry whilst my mum and aunt were huge fans of the dahl.

The open kitchen looks out onto a colonial themed dining room with plenty of dark wood shuttered windows and lush pot plants.  This might be a casual dining restaurant with a high turnover of tables but it has such a relaxing ambience to it, parents of toddlers could almost pretend they were living their pre children lives on vacation somewhere in Singapore.  But then again, that could just be me.

The Hainan chicken rice came with a serve of slightly vinegary bean sprouts which I've never tried before.  This is the ultimate comfort food and the chicken was very tender with just the right amount of flavour.  You must try this with the side dish of dark sauce drizzled heavily over the rice and chicken.

Pappa Rich's nuggets and chips come with a tray of sweet chilli sauce and Kewpie mayo.  Not just a hit with the kidlets.

I know.  Chinese people ordering nuggets and chips at an Asian restaurant.  But hear me out.  The nuggets aren't your average option from the deep freezer.  The breast meat is tender and the batter light and well seasoned.  Even my mum ate one.  Chips?  We were dining with a toddler and every table featuring a little one had this guilty little secret somewhere among their dishes of choice.  Pappa Rich are very relaxed about the leftover situation.  They're generous with takeaway containers for toddlers who end up sleeping through lunch.

For dessert, we shared a mountain of shaved ice under the ABC mix of creamed corn, black jelly, rose syrup and condensed milk.

And a slab of toast.  Nigel Slater maintains that the British do toast best but kopi tiam toast comes a very close second.  The bread is light, not Vietnamese bread light nor French baguette light but Malysian light.  It's just a bit dense with a bit of a bite to it when toasted.  When you combine it with a thick layer of butter and sugar, you're closer to home with every bite you take.

I finished off my meal with a coconut slushie, from the Pappa Rich special drinks menu.  It was Good.  There's slivers of coconut flush mixed through finely shaved ice and 'Goldilocks just right' coconut milk.  This is my way of getting on this coconut water bandwagon everyone seems to be riding right now.

And, that's all the news that's fit to print from my neck of the woods.  Thanks for whiling the hours away with me.  We're just about ready for boarding.  Don't be jealous, I'll be thinking of you from my deck chair.....

Take care.


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