Feb 29, 2012

Outifit Algorithms. Models Prefer. Goodbye Again, Sydney.

Honestly, I empathise with the fash pack as they prepare their luggage for the Paris RTW shows over the coming weeks.  As a mere mortal, I've been struggling all day with my packing for London.  It got to the point where I had to leave the house for a swim to regroup and refocus.  I also had a large coffee and a banana at the pool for good measure.

I'm back now, ready to resume my technologically assisted packing.  Beginning with these scales.  Not for me, the bags.  Chances are I won't be going anywhere near them for many weeks after I return home.  It's all good, I'm well within the free baggage allowance.  Speaking of baggage, my friend and gorgeous reader E helped me get my bag back from Qantas super fast.  I owe her big time.  Can you imagine having to replace all your travel essentials in under 24 hours?  It's a thought best avoided.

I've been checking the weather periodically on my iPhone as well.  Thank goodness the maximums are mostly double digit and the minimums positive integers.  In lieu of blogging last night, I was plotting an outfit algorithm - the goal being the most wear from the minimum number of items.  Year 12 maths does come in handy later on in your lives, doesn't it?  I've still got it with the numbers.  I had a dress rehearsal this morning and all the outfits work as I calculated they would.

I'll be straight with you.  This trip's packing is distinctly comfort over high fashion.  I will be doing so much walking, high end heels are going to be a waste of space.  Instead, I'm bringing two pairs of Campers - flat and heeled.  Freshly polished today, I think they'll cover most occasions whilst being kind to my feet.


Instead of packing an improbable evening dress that will either be too warm or too airy for dinner, I'm channelling Sarah Jessica Parker.  She recently wore a biker jacket over her Oscar de la Renta for an amFar event.

Jacket - Burberry, tights - Coles, boots - Bally, poncho - Missoni, dress - Metalicus.

I'm skipping the white gloves as evening wear (though they are good worn to bed over Vaseline to prevent chapped hands) and wearing my black Burberry biker jacket over my crush proof and comfy Metalicus dresses.  I've even thrown in a pack of Coles opaque tights for good measure.  And my Missoni ponchos from Gilt.  I wonder if 4 pairs of jeans is excessive though....

Whilst I won't be putting any of the local models out of a job in London with my wardrobe, rest assured I'll be up there with the best of them in the make up stakes.  With these Models Prefer products from Priceline.  I got them when I subscribed to that new Priceline Clubcard.  The mirrored compact is going to be hard to lose in the depths of my handbag.

The Kohl Pencil in Matte Black ($8.99) is a winner.  Its texture is a bit hard but it a true black that lasts all day and comes off easily with cleansing oil but not during yoga, fortunately.

The Ultra Lipgloss Pencil ($9.99) is going to be my London lip colour.  Kiss & Make Up is a shimmery pink with a hint of orange.  It applies smoothly and has reasonable lasting power.  Best of all, no lip pencil required.  I just need to remember my sharpener.

Good news, everyone!  I'm bringing my laptop with me to London so I'll be able to blog a fair bit whilst I'm away.  Fingers crossed I've not left the power adaptor I need on my desk.

Take care and see you at the other end of my marathon flight.  Fortunately, I've a stop over in Dubai and I still have my Dirhams from December.

Feb 27, 2012

Home Without Baggage. Brunetti, Carlton.

I've been to Melbourne and now I'm back.  Just me, not my checked in baggage.  All the self check in baggage scanners at the Qantas terminal in Melbourne's domestic airport crashed yesterday.  Fortunately, the human scanners still worked so the hundreds of us that were flying out got onto our flights but I'm not quite sure where that leaves the bags.  Will they all be on a flight of their own?  Sitting in the seats in a bid to help clear the massive backlog.

All of which made me a bit too disorganized and unsettled to blog last night. Thankfully, today is another day (even if it is a Monday) and I had my camera in my carry on.  Let the Melbourne debrief begin.

First things first, I'm very happy with  my $2.80 Daiso bag hook.  Look at it being a quiet achiever in the departure lounge whilst I had my coffee/breakfast before flying out.  Coffee fuelled the whole weekend, actually.  It was a busy 36 hours away but a lot of fun, food  and good chat was had along the way.  The way it always seems to be for me in Melbourne.  I should be more tired than I am but that's the fun of a power getaway, they leave you mentally energized again and your body just does what it's told.

The most comfortable bed I've ever slept in on a visit to a hotel in Melbourne.
My mind can't take all the credit for my hitting the ground running back home in Sydney.  My hotel room in Melbourne was fantastic.  I stayed at the Hilton South Wharf which is rather new.  I had trouble getting out of my bed in the morning, the bed was so comfortable. Aside from the spacious rooms and fantastic art work on display, it's a 2 minute walk to the best DFO in Australia.  More about the DFO later....

The toiletries at the Hilton South Wharf are Peter Thomas Roth which I believe is an American skincare brand.

It didn't take long for me to get back to the DFO, did it?  DFO South Wharf and the Melbourne Convention Centre sit on either side of the hotel.  What more could a studious conference attendee like myself need?  Would it surprise anyone reading this that my friend and I shopped the Metalicus outlet after registration and before the opening address?

I'm a new convert to Metalicus.  I've always admired their timeless, travel friendly, free size pieces from afar but somehow never got around to buying a piece.  Until now.  The outlet is in the basement level of the DFO.  Down the way from Burberry, Armani, Lisa Ho and the usual high street labels.  No one will be more relieved than my credit card to discover that the only place I actually bought anything was at Metalicus.

The two dresses I bought were photographed in my hotel room.  See what I mean about the decor?  I love that orange against the dark wood accents in the furniture.  There was also plenty of natural light streaming in from the floor length window.

Dress - Metalicus, down to $69 from around $189.  Will be wearing with my 'Run For Office' necklace by RPE.
This purple dress is going to be in my bag for London as a conference outfit or even for dinner.  It's got a roll neck with a button down neckline and will layer well.  It will only look better for being rolled up in my suitcase....

This grey dress just has to get a spot in the suitcase too.  It is a thicker fabric, wool blend I think.  Again, it could be worn for a variety of situations in London and is easy to get in and out of whilst clothes shopping.  Which is a very necessary criteria when choosing clothes to bring to London.  I just hope I get my suitcase back in time for me to bring everything to London.

It wasn't all about clothes, conferences and hotels in Melbourne.  I couldn't visit without a trip to Brunetti.  The planets aligned when my friends had the same idea and the step machine at the hotel gym was out of order.  That second point cut my gym time short by about 15 minutes enabling me to be ready in time for the 7.10am taxi with my friends to Brunetti's in Carlton.

Because we were there so early, I managed to take these photos of all the baked goods available for the day.  The hard part was deciding what to have for breakfast.  Aside from two rooms packed with baked goods, cakes and confectionary, Brunetti also has a breakfast menu.

A classic Italian baked good such as the donuts or pastries?

Or abandoning any pretence of being good by going for some cannoli or cheesecake squares?

I chose an almond frangipane crossaint. My go to breakfast croissant.  It was delicious.  A hint of citrus in the pastry and a generous amount of almond filling within. My mocha was perfect, the coffees are so good here, the local taxi drivers stop here for their fix.  Which is a huge compliment considering that Lygon Street has amazing coffee up and down both sides of the street.

My friends were more adventurous and chose these crepes from the breakfast menu.  They arrived with a flourish, the plates covered by a silver dish en route to our table.

The banana and nutella crepe.
There was silence (and the occasional sigh) for several minutes as they ate.

The strawberry crepe.
We had bold ambitions of finishing off breakfast with an award winning macaron or two.....

But as tempting as they looked, we were all too full.

Brunetti on Urbanspoon.

The SSG and Kitchenware Direct Kitchen Drawer Sanity Giveaway.

Prepare yourselves emotionally, readers. Have a tim tam, no take two.

This giveaway is going to bring positive decluttering energy into your home.  Not only that, I'm about to present to you a kitchen appliance review that went off without a hitch.  I opened the box, followed the instructions and voila, it worked.  Brad at Kitchenware Direct is one person I know will be very, very relieved to hear this.  Because not only am I writing a review about one of his products, we're also giving one lucky reader a chance to win the said item too.

I speak of these OXO Good Grips Expandable Drawer Dividers.  Each pair retails for $33.95 at Kitchenware Direct.

See what I mean about a fools proof product review?  The hardest part was opening the cardboard box and figure out how to prise the dividers out of their packaging.  Their length can be adjusted to fit your drawer, the grey button releases extra length and snaps down again to stabilise.  There are cushioned areas on each 'foot' to protect your drawers and also give the dividers some purchase.  The dimensions of each divider are as follows: height 10.1cm, length 27.9 - 43.2cm and width 4.45cm.

Now for a few before and after photos.  I am so proud.  I'm thinking of submitting the after photos to a kitchen drawer modelling agency.

Here is my cutting, grating and measuring drawer before its makeover.

Here it is with the drawer dividers inserted.  I had to go for a horizontal look because my drawers were too deep.

It's fabulous being able to find my measuring cups, in every size, when I need them.

The whisks, froggy-luna and other oddly shaped bits and bobs drawer looked like a little rag tag before dividers.

Voila!  Everything has its home.  I feel calm rather than apprehensive when I open my kitchen drawers now.  And you can too.

I've even got a new fandangled widget for you to enter.  Just click on it below for details.  It basically involves following on twitter or Google Friend Connect but it was fun setting it up.  There are a few different ways to enter and the more you enter, the more chances you have of winning.  Some options give you more chances than others, it's a bit like raffle tickets.  There will be one winner who will receive four drawer dividers (2 boxes).

Enter as many ways as you like.  It's genius.  It is going to be my giveaway format of choice for the future.

Feb 25, 2012

15 MInutes on A Saturday Morning. Off to Melbourne.

This is another one of those super early Saturday mounting posts.  I don't know where Friday night went, actually.  I turned in early after going down the road for Subway.  Mr SSG and I were not only the oldest patrons but also the ones with the most clothes on, it was Friday night after all.  I knew I should have just turned up in my pyjamas, like I do in winter.  Then I dozed off while trying to watch Glee.  And now, here I am.

I've got 15 minutes to spare before I head for the airport.  There's SBS Chill on the radio and I've been chilling out accordingly as I attempt to harness all the illuminating powers of the make up at my disposal to make myself at least look awake.  There's no time for an outfit post but I think I'll do for airport to city to conference on a stinking hot Saturday in Melbourne.

It won't be all work.  I'm going to be catching up with some dear friends tonight.  We will try not to to discuss Kevenge or Spillard but they're unavoidable at the moment in Australia, aren't they?  I was at work early yesterday, following the live feeds and analysis as it unfolded.  There's nothing like a bit of therapy via press conference, I reckon.  I also don't think there's a skeleton left in the ALP's closet.  There has well and truly been catharsis.

I'll be back home Sunday night and hopefully will have some time to blog then.  I'm sure I will, actually.  I only have two (2) days of work next week before jetting off again and just the thought of that already fills me with energy.

Take care and have a lovely weekend.  I'm off to the airport in search of coffee....

Feb 23, 2012

Contact-ing, Baby Lips and Skinny Pens. The Excitement Of.

Well, it's officially less than a week until I live on a plane for a day en route to London.
Say what you like, real books do photograph better than e-books!
Which is generally the stage on my travel planning time line when I buy the relevant Lonely Planet guide at Books Kinokuniya and finally get excited about my forthcoming trip as the pleasant reality of leaving for a work free international time zones finally eventuates.  Life is so busy these days, holidays seem to hit you out of nowhere.  When I was a student, it seemed to take forever for a holiday to arrive.

My book is now wrapped in clear contact (old habits die hard, it was either contact or keeping it in a sturdy zip lock bag at all times) and it is now travel ready.  Which is more than I can say for me.  I have to pack for and return from Melbourne this weekend before contemplating London's packing and I am starting to get a little anxious about the prospect.

After reading through the suggested 4 day itinerary of neighbourhoods, it appears that I will have little time left over for shopping.  I know I'll be in London for 10 days but have you seen me read a map or try and follow the little blue dot on my iPhone?  There's often more movement of the map than of my feet.  I go nowhere fast.  Even on home turf.  But don't you be worrying about time restraints, I shop best under pressure.  A museum or a gallery here and there may have to be sacrificed but I will make the hard decisions when I need to.

I haven't just been head down studying travel guides, I've been pushing boundaries and trying new things in the world of lip balm.  I've been using Lucas' Paw Paw ointment for years now but when my last tube ran out, I found this Warhol-esque tube of Maybelline Baby Lips balm at Priceline.

It was on sale for $3.99 and has a berry scent.  It has a sheer consistency and glides on smoothly with a clear gloss finish.  I'm so used to the reassuring weight of Lucas' Paw Paw on my lips that a light slick of Baby Lips doesn't quite cut it.  I suppose it's like making the transition from full fat to skim milk.  Anyway, Baby Lips is a convenient size to slip into a makeup bag to use as a base for lip colour, which is how I'll be using my tube.  I just love the packaging too much not to use it frequently.

I have a confession to make.  Guess why I went to work early today?  To fatten up my new biros.  My new skinny biros are officially making my already bad handwriting worse.  I just can't seem to hold them in way that gives me any chance of clearly differentiating my 'a' from my 'o' or my 'e' for that matter.  Unfortunately, I have around 6 more boxes of them to go.  I had a brain wave at Officeworks when I saw these pencil grips and realised that they'd fit my biros.
Black skinny is a good in a jean but a disaster in a biro.
It took me a good 20 minutes to squeeze my pens into the holders and another 5 to figure out why the lids wouldn't go back on.  You shouldn't do these things without the benefit of a cup of Moccona, readers.  But it was worth the effort.  By the end of the day, my writing was back up to about 50% legibility.

Contact-ing books and customising biros, what an exciting day it's been.  I'd almost forgotten that tomorrow's my favourite day of the week!

Have a good one.

Feb 22, 2012

Moments. Missoni. Moments of Missoni.

I have this cafe I always visit when I'm in the CBD on a weekday.

It's usually around 1pm when I stand right here to order my weekday skinny cap in lieu of lunch.  I've been up since 5am, driven the hour to and from work (where ruthless efficiency is strictly observed) and then caught the bus into town.  The drawl of Italian accents all around me soothe the edge of the harsh bangs and whirs of the espresso machine and all too soon I'm handed my coffee with a flourish.  I hit the street and my pace quickly matches the ambient tempo of the lunchtime crowds around me.  I've made it just in time for another doctor's appointment.

It was the same but different today. While all my other appointments have been about tests, results and reasonable time frames to 'wait', there was a finality about today's appointment.  It's show time.  I'll be starting IVF sometime after London.  That last sentence proves my innate ability to glamourise anything.  Who else would have thought to couple a medical procedure to 2012's  European city with the mostest?  The next 6 months will either the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning. This time frame gives me hope.  One way or the other, I'll be done by September 2012.

The wall of pensiveness and pessimism that I've hit today has taken me by surprise.  Up until now, I'd been counting down the days until this appointment.  I'd been looking forward to the potential of each IVF cycle and the hard science of blood tests and imaging.  In the manner of a good Showtime telemovie, there would be teary soft focus Moments aplenty.  So what's wrong with me now?

I think it's because I've lived with this for so long now that I've found a familiar groove in my current cycle of emotions surrounding pregnancy.  It concerns me that should I come through this a mother, I will find  myself unable to live in the Moment, so uncertain will I be that they will last.  Painful, illogical and unproductive as these feelings are, they represent a kind of cynical certainty.  That when things end there will be grief but then my resilience will kick in and I'll be jetting off somewhere exotic to find myself (and the local stores).  For the record, my back up plan this time round is Brasilia in October.  A place I chose because it is so far removed from any reality I currently know, I'm sure to enjoy myself no matter what.

Needless to say, my current angst has paid dividends to my wardrobe.  Firstly with this order from My Habit which arrived this morning.  Hence the yellowish cast to the photo above.  It's getting dark again in the mornings here so I needed my desk lamp to help illuminate the photo.

Missoni wool scarf for under $100?  Of course that's frugal.
Missoni is looking like being the official knit wear supplier for London 2012.  This scarf is going to be the thing that saves the khaki puffer jacket I'm bringing as outer wear and will help me not look out of place in the lobby of the W.

$200 gets you this M Missoni cardigan at Gilt.
Gilt were not to be outdone and their recent M Missoni event was epic and guilt free.  All this heavily discounted Missoni must be some kind of karmic retribution for Australia missing out on the Target and Missoni collaboration last year.

And speaking of karma....
Image courtesy of www.smh.com.au

It's game on, Kevin Rudd has quit as Foreign Minister - a job I think he excelled at.  He made the announcement today, in Washington DC.  Somehow, I don't think the soap opera he spoke of has ended with his decision.

Feb 21, 2012

The Week Night Book Club: The Colour of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe.

Image courtey of bluedingonet.wordpress.com
It's funny how some novels register on your reading radar at pivotal times in your life.  I've had 'The Colour of Tea' on my Kindle for a few months now and for one reason or another, never got around to reading it until last weekend. It's the first novel by Hannah Tunnicliffe and the link is to a page from her own blog and web page.

I started reading it on my Kindle with no real idea as to what it was actually about.  That's the thing about e-books - there's no back cover or dust jacket to give you a clue about the plot or genre.

"The Colour of Tea' is a memoir that details period of transition, upheaval and disappointment in Grace's life.  Grace is around 40 and English.  Her husband Pete is from Australia and it is his work in casino development that brings the recently married couple to Macau.  The novel is narrated from the point of view of Grace.  Each chapter is named after a macaron of her creation (more about this later) and there are also letters between the chapters of prose that Grace writes to her late mother Liliian (who raised Grace on her own).

As I read the first few chapters, I felt myself relax into what I thought would be another 'foreigner in a strange country finding meaning and depth in their lives through a new culture' kind of reads.  Unique in the details about the country that forms the backdrop for a change in life but universal in how good and uplifted everyone feels by the last page.  I'm one of those arm chair travellers that likes finding a bit of spiritual mixed in with my word picture travels.

Grace confesses to being bored and unfulfilled with the life of a 'tai tai' and finds the language barrier (and weather) frustrating.  It all goes to formula until the 'pregnancy' word surfaces.  I pause for a moment and wonder if this is the right book for me to reading right now.  Considering the hours I spend bracing myself for any random pregnancy related talk that comes my way in real life, should I be extending the same efforts in self protection to my reading list?  Then it is revealed that Grace can't fall pregnant even with IVF because she is going through  premature ovarian failure. Is this a hidden message just for my appointment tomorrow?  Sometimes, I have to choose to stop  making everything about me and simply surrender to the simple joy of reading a really good book.

In the weeks after her diagnosis, Grace loses all purpose and envelops herself in a fog of numbing grief. She refuses to discuss alternative options or her feelings or Pete's.  Already isolated in a foreign city, she disconnects with her husband and retreats further into the happy memories of a childhood with Mama.  Trips to Paris where macarons from Laduree were devoured but the hotel room fees were often left unpaid.  Magical baking adventures where Mama would bake special cakes for birthdays and just because.  There were also the darker moments, Mama's days of tears and the lows that they signified.  Grace carries the guilt of not being able to help her mother or completely understand all the facets of her personality into adulthood.

One day, though, Grace and Pete will themselves to be a normal couple for one of Pete's work functions.  There, she is introduced to an exotic French couple.  Leon is the chef of one of Macau's more glamorous restaurants and he strikes up a 'foodie' conversation with Grace.  Over the next few weeks, Leon teaches Grace how to make macarons.  Fine food and baking become Grace's therapy and also a means by which she can find her own purpose in an often superficial circle of friends.

Emboldened by her success at making macarons, Grace decides that she will open her own cafe in Macau.  The back breaking work of renovating a disused bakery and setting up her business invigorates Grace but it also distances her further from Pete who also has a demanding job.  The cafe is named after Grace's mother, Lillian and is a success.

Along the way, Grace befriends 3 women from different walks of life.  Marjory is a beautiful and earthy 'tai tai' who gives Grace the hard facts when she needs them.  Gigi is a local girl who eventually becomes an employee at Lillian's and has her own cross to bear in the shape of a pregnancy out of wedlock to a commitment phobic croupier at the casino.  Rilla is a migrant worker from the Phillipines who becomes the back bone of the cafe and has fled a horrifying ordeal as a maid in another country.

I was completely engrossed in the world of Lillian's and its staff.  Grace and Pete eventually do leave Macau but they leave it more blessed and united than when they arrived.  You'll have to read 'The Colour of Tea' for yourself to find out how.  It's a book written with great warmth and empathy.  It's just as irresistible as a plate of macarons.

Feb 20, 2012

The Price of Beauty is $2.80.

It was only a matter of time, I guess, before my love of a cheap fashion fix influenced my make up buying mindset.  For me, make up isn't just about the product, it's also about that solid click of a well made compact, the weight and feel of a tube of lipstick in my hand and the beguiling name of the product shade.  I'm just a little disappointed I'm not more fluent in French given the number of make up labels I've read in my lifetime.

Beyond the walls of Daiso, $2.80 doesn't get you much these days.  Especially in the world of cosmetics.  You'd probably be able to finance 3 fingers of a manicure.  The question within the walls of Daiso was what to buy?  As I mentioned in my previous post about Daiso, the possibilities and permutations are endless.  In the spirit of frugality, I ended up buying only two products and these were on a 'needs' basis.  A blush because I'm on a quest to find that perfect soft pink shade and a mascara base becuase if $2.80 is all I need to invest to avoid the tedium of false eyelash application then it's money well spent.

My hands were too hefty and clumsy to do much with the brush that was included in the compact....

I went with the Cheek powder blush because I like self explanatory when it comes to a product name.  There were 3 shades to choose from and I settled on Pink Rosa.  The consistency of the blush is very fine and it dusts on evenly with a standard blush brush.  It's easy to blend and the end result was a very flattering soft pink with a little shimmer.  The co-ordinating highlighter shade also had a slight shimmer to it as well and also works as a brow highlighter shade.

I've been trialling the blush for a week and put it through all my usual day's activities.  You know, things like staying calm under pressure, or at least looking as if I am.  Not to mention mad dashes up the stairs at work because they're faster than the lifts or even trying to remain composed behind the wheel in peak hour.  And do you know what?  Cheek stayed put on my cheeks through it all.  Not only that but the thing I feared most from cut price make up, a catastrophic skin reaction, didn't even happen.

The second product I trialled was this mascara base.  Thankfully, there was some English on the barrel and the packaging to help steer me to the appropriate mascara base for my needs.

'Volume Up' was just the ticket for me.  The other version focussed on length and there were other products that aimed to declump already applied mascara.  I've been applying a single coat to un-curled lashes (who has the time on a Monday morning?!?!?) before using my usual mascara.  The result has been very pleasing and definitely 'Volume Up'.  An added bonus is that my mascara doesn't seem to flake as much using this base.

I've set a precedent now with these super cheap make up buys.  Both products have delivered huge bang for buck.  Stay tuned for further Daiso cosmetic reviews!


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