May 31, 2014

On the Move. The Princess Problem.

It was a case of being there at the right time.


I saw these two furniture removalists from across the road this morning and whipped out my iPhone just in time to capture their synchronised shelf shifting across a normally busy intersection.   Pitched at almost identical angles and in contrasting black and white, it was one of those moments where everyday life just suddenly decided to arrange itself into a perfectly composed photograph.

But trying to turn someone's life into a perfectly composed film isn't as easy.

The Princess Problem - today's SMH review of Grace of Monaco.

Nicole Kidman is back in the headlines and on the front covers as she promotes her latest film, 'Grace of Monaco'.  The film opened the Cannes Film Festival this year and there's nowhere to hide  there if your film fails to please the critics.  Their response hasn't exactly been enthusiastic.  At 46, they find it odd that Kidman was cast as the 32 year old Kelly though her physical similarity to the Princess is startling.  The Grimaldi family, initially supportive of the project, have now distanced themselves from 'the farce' they feel the final edit of the film has become.

Is it possible to turn the life of a fashion icon / princess into a film that would satisfy all its potential audiences?  On the one hand, admirers of the icon's style would feel short changed if set and wardrobe were not awash with Dior, diamonds and exotic locations.  Those who are fascinated by the historical context of said icon would possibly have read biographies (authorised or not) and the forests of magazine articles written that come with being beautiful and famous in the 21st century and would have their own vision of X.  To this group, any film, no matter who the star or director is would have a B grade, made for television miniseries connotations to it.

What's your opinion on films based on the lives of Diana, Grace et al?  Are you going to see Grace of Monaco?  Did you see Naomi Watts' Diana film?  Is the Princess Problem an Australian actress thing?


May 30, 2014

Blue Steel. Girl Power at the Gym. Lots Of Other Things Like Shoes.

Oh, they were good times at the gym this morning.  Yes, seriously.  

www.tiffanypinerostyle.com

I might have been there at the Derek Zoolander time of really, really, ridiculously good lookingly early but, hey.....



at least I was wearing my neon pink and magenta trainers from Adidas via Orlando.  And possibly my best Blue Steel face for the mirror in front of the cross trainer.

But you know what made the morning even better?  MTV's choice of video clips for the graveyard shift.




Ariana and Iggy's 'Problem' is officially my cardio ear worm.  What's not to love?  Killer lyrics, strong vocals and a video clip that you can actually look whilst sharing the gym with a bunch of middle aged men and women.  Miley, take note.  Keep up the good work Ariana and Iggy.  Iggy, your country salutes you - numbers 1 & 2 simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100.

And just as I was dying under the Smith Machine, MTV came up with this classic.



Telephone is four years old already but it's timeless.  I almost couldn't leave the gym.  

teendiaries.net

What if they put RhiRhi and Shakira on next? And I missed them?  Oh, all right.  It's Friday.  Here's RhiRhi and Shakira's clip.



I love Friday afternoon blog posts.  They just go everywhere and anywhere all at once.  




I might have had a cracking time at the gym this morning, but that didn't stop me getting to work on time.  A bit early in fact.


So that I could dash down the road for my usual Friday coffee in my new work shoes.

May I tell you about my old work shoes?  You might even have a pair of them yourself.

You know that pair of shoes I'm talking about.  They're probably black, have enough of a heel to make your legs look half decent in a skirt but more importantly, they're comfy.  Too comfy because they're around five years old and showing serious signs of wear at the heel.  

You've been meaning to replace them for ages but somehow nothing at the shops is exactly what you're looking for.  So you compromise and buy yourself a same but different pair and keep the new pair in its shoe box while the old faithfuls keep getting worn. 

Heels - Rockport, $69.99 from Costco.  Had to buy something from Costco yesterday to celebrate the opening of the Brisbane's first store.

Well, anarchy (along with all that girl power music) was in the air this morning and I finally binned my old soles and whipped out my new pair of Rockport heels. They're probably more of a pump than a heel but they're the highest heels I've worn to work in quite some time.  They're very comfortable and feature the adiPRENE by Adidas soles, to match those trainers from this morning.  I barely noticed the heel height all day.

To finish off today's kitchen sink post, I've got an update from the SSG Manor Kitchen.


The kitchen loves coriander.  So much so that it made some Punjabi Garlic Chicken featuring a double hit of the heady green stuff - those fresh leaves that smell so good freshly chopped and a generous lug of ground coriander seeds.  


It's best to err on the side of generous with chopped garlic and chilli.



I took a leaf out of the Come Dine With Me home chefs and blu tak-ed my recipe at eye height to a cupboard door.




I added some of of the fresh coriander stems at the browning of the onions and garlic stage.



I've not made too many Punjabi recipes, this was my first attempt actually.  Though the dishes are often hearty, I like the way that this is often counterbalanced with lots of fresh herbs.  The chicken was delicious, very different to the usual tomato based chicken dishes I make and too easy to whip up.  It also freezes well and tastes even better the next day.

And now, I'm really going.  Dinner beckons.  Have a lovely evening, it'll be June so soon!!!!!

May 29, 2014

The Courtside Cafe.

It all started a few weeks back when the girls at work let me in on a bit of inside information.  They'd found the best coffee in Liverpool.  Sure, it was a bit of a trek from work but aren't a few lungfuls of fresh air and some sun on your face the best prelude to a perfect cup of coffee?  With the cafe's name punched into Google Maps, I put my iPhone away, convinced that I'd be there within the week.


A courtside coffee from the Courtside Cafe.... geddit?

One month later, I finally made it to the Courtside Cafe (hence the photo).  Housed in the kiosk next to the tennis courts at Bigge Park, you're best accessing the cafe off Moore Street.  Its official address is 1 Moore Street, Liverpool NSW 2170.

The entrance isn't conspicuous, literally a whole in the hedge but the dead giveaway is the number of people streaming in and out with coffees.  And that would be multiple coffees per person.





Courtside is so cool it doesn't even have a website.  Even by coffee mad Sydney standards, the line for a mid morning coffee was insane.  For some orders, a standard 4 cup cardboard holder wouldn't do.  Regulars brought cardboard boxes in with them from the office so that they could card the 20 coffees in their order back to their workmates.  Every spare inch of space at around the espresso machine was lined with cups.  Only they weren't there just as decoration, they represented real time orders.

Our barista for the day was as cool as a cucumber.  She filled each order perfectly, first time.  She and her coworkers asked after anyone who looked as if they'd been waiting for a bit just to make sure no orders got lost.  Staff members would come out from behind the counter to hand deliver coffees to patrons who were waiting outside on the deck enjoying the late autumn sun.  I didn't have time to take a closer look at the food on offer but breads and cakes are by Brasserie Bread and there's a well stocked freezer of Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

I can tell you, though, that the coffee is excellent.  Creamy with not a hint of bitterness.  A large skinny cap is $3.70 takeaway.  It's really lovely to see an independent cafe being so well supported despite the local Westfield being full of outlets of the big coffee chains.

Have you discovered a local, 'little guy' cafe recently?



May 28, 2014

Wednesday. Lots of Books and Movies to Discuss.

Just between you and me but I'm ready for winter now, thanks.  It's felt a bit strange waking up to dark skies but driving to work in cotton cardigans while the puffer jackets and wool coats that are usually out by this time of the year get left behind at home.


Having said that, I think the weather's turning and perhaps by this time next week, I'll be huddled in the office wrapping my hands around my morning mug of coffee to warm them up.

Speaking of work, I've been back at work for long enough a week now, marveling at the small things.



Like the wonder of the railings in the car park that don't scratch the paintwork on your car no matter how often you accidentally reverse into them (with the guidance of your parking sensors, no less).


And these special issue two dollar coins.  Were they really made with the blue inlay or did someone who was handy with a blue biro get to work on mine?


Things haven't been much more exciting at SSG Manor, I'm afraid.  Unless you count the time I spelled 'Ikea' in a bowl of Ikea Kex cookies.

Yeah, life isn't that exciting around these parts.  Impromptu book and movie club post, anyone?

There are a few long weekends coming up across Australia so I thought I'd write about what I've been reading and watching in case you were looking for things to do with your couch potato time.

First up are a couple of memoirs I've been reading.

www.npr.org
I never thought I'd find reading a prison memoir both hilarious and poignant, bleak yet life affirming it's happened.  'Orange is the New Black' is Piper Kerman's 2010 memoir about her 11 months in a federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut.  The memoir was the basis for a television series which is into its second season.  Die hard fans might like this link about the differences in plot and characterization between the book and the series.

Piper Kerman is a blonde Bostonian from a family of academics, doctors and teachers.  A graduate of Smith College, she had a world of privilege and opportunity at her feet on graduation.  The world was her oyster and she was determined to find its more bohemian pearls as she embarked on a rudderless journey around the world.  She followed her lover Nora to Bali and knowingly embraced the world of drug trafficking that she was introduced to.  Intrigue, danger, more travel and 'adventure'.  Piper found it in spades.

Then Piper grew up and left that world behind - or so she thought.  She effortlessly returned to the respectable world of her peers and family, started to get direction in her career, fell in love and then got arrested for drug trafficking.  The kind of girl no one thought would ever end up in jail, despite her crimes, ended up serving 11 months and in the process discovering more about a world that she had previously only known through newspapers and television.

'Orange is the New Black' isn't just a well written and humorous 'tell all' book about the tedium and frustrations of being incarcerated, it is also a novel about relationships and new beginnings.  Through her time on the inside, Piper came to appreciate the compassion and humanity of her fellow inmates. In turn, she was able to help them using her academic background.  Doing time gave Piper a deeper appreciation of everything - the things and people she left behind on the outside but also the small joys on the inside that she and her fellow inmates created for each other.  Life as an inmate had such a profound effect on Piper that she now serves on the board of the Womens' Prison Association.

www.amazon.com
Alida Belair's memoir 'Out of Step: A Dancer Reflects' (I think it's only available on Kindle via Amazon) looks at life in a different kind of 'prison' - that of the world of professional ballet.  Belair is the daughter of Jewish refugees who migrated to Australia from France in 1949 when Alida was 5 years old.

It was in Australia with its opportunities that Alida discovered that ballet was her outlet for creative expression.  She wasn't a natural student at school but ballet was different.  Ballet was beauty, poetry, self expression and joy.  Alida's parents (and her school) were very supportive of her talent and Alida found herself performing professionally by the age of 11, under the tutelage of Madame Borovansky, a legendary and imposing figure in the history of Australian ballet.

Unfortunately, with the rapid rise of Alida's star came immense pressure.  To practice to perfection, to be the best and also to be as thin as possible.  With this last point proving to be the one thing that Alida strived for even more than perfection in her dance.  Her memoir is quite frank about her battles with the disease - both the physical and the emotional.  Anorexia nervosa wasn't a widely acknowledged pychiatric illness in Alida's youth so despite seeing numerous medical specialists, she never received a diagnosis or appropriate treatment.

With regard to her career in ballet, Alida's memoir takes her readers to London, Moscow and parts of the United States as she struggles to define herself in the fiercely competitive and temperamental domain of professional ballet.  Ultimately, her anorexia sapped her of the energy and resilience to continue dancing at the level required at the top of the game and Alida retired from ballet after a relatively short professional career.

At times, 'A Dancer Reflects' was frustrating with respect to the sheer amount of detail of Alida's performances and experiences at the hands of various highly respected teachers.  They all seemed to misunderstand her in some way which would then drive her to more self destructive behaviour.  It had been noted in some reviews that there is a sense that perhaps Alida was a small fish in a big pond at times, especially when she attempted to take her career to the global stage.

Whatever the objective standard of Alida's ballet was compared to the rest of the world, her recollection of the final months of her career left me feeling cringing on her behalf.  Returning to New York as the star returning to her loyal fans, the impeccably dressed wannabe principal dancer is humbled to find that her place has been usurped and that she is no longer flavour of the month.


Lots of sobering talk so far in this post... let's do a brief live cross over to my laundry hanging out in this glorious sun.  Those Daiso monkey pegs always make me smile.  Even when I have to hang and then collect the washing.

As promised, I did a lot of movie watching on the plane.  These are my favourites and they're all on DVD as of now.

www.thewolfofwallstreet.com

The more I watch Leonardo DiCaprio, the more I realize just how commanding his performances are.  He's one of the rare teen heart throbs who's skill as an actor has developed with maturity and a clever choice of roles.  In the Wolf of Wall Street, he is Jordan Belfort, the cocaine addled, smooth talking and insanely rich (for a time and what a time) stockbroker.  DiCaprio captures every nuance of the spectacular rise and train wreck fall of a man who prized good times only a little more than he prized money.  Jonah Hill impressively matches DiCaprio in the drug frenzied interactions that define their characters' relationship.  It's hard to remember that they're 'only acting'.

Under Martin Scorcese's direction, the New York City of Wolf is all about over the top eighties music and fashion.  Designer power suits, blingtastic labels and big hair clash with the quiet and discrete old money wealth of the Establishment that Belfort takes on.  Margot Robbie's performance as Belfort's second trophy wife is also justly deserving of the critical praise it has received.

www.oscarfavorite.com

Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen's most recent film and my favourite of his so far.  Cate Blanchett is Jasmine, the impeccably clad, Birkin toting wife of Hal (Alec Baldwin), a big time New York property developer.  The couple lead a gilded life circulating between The Hamptons and Manhattan.  Things unravel when the illegal side of Hal's dealings are revealed and he commits suicide in the fall out.  Unfortunately, Jasmine's sister Ginger and her former husband Augie were taken in by one of Hal's projects and lose their life's savings in the process.  The financial strain ends their marriage.

With no where else to go and being shunned by her former socialite friends as she sold shoes to them, Jasmine finds herself, her Birkin and a key edit of her wardrobe slumming it with Ginger and her new man in a modest San Francisco apartment.  Jasmine is a woman barely holding on.  She's brittle and her tenuous grip on reality owes more to her steady supply of sedatives and alcohol then any emotional resilience of hers.

Jasmine is far from the milieu she is accustomed to and poorly equipped to provide for herself financially.  She holds dreams of being an interior designer but that would involve learning about computers and completing the adult class she is struggling with.  Jasmine's desperate financial situation brings her to her senses and swallowing her pride, Jasmine finds herself as the new receptionist of a lecherous married dentist.

In a typical Allen plot twist, Jasmine meets Dwight at the party of a classmate from her computer class.  Dwight is a divorcee with political aspirations who conveniently needs an interior designer to help him furnish a new house he bought.  Romance flourishes between Jasmine and Dwight but just as it looks as if Jasmine will be returning to the lifestyle to which she is accustomed, her past confronts her in a chance encounter.

Cate Blanchett won numerous awards for her portrayal of Jasmine, including an Academy Award.  Like DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, Blanchett inhabits the role of Jasmine.  All the audience sees in both these performance are the characters, not the highly recognizable faces of actors with global fame already behind them.

movies.disney.com


The last film I'd like to mention is 'Saving Mr Banks' - an interpretation of the tempestuous working relationship between Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and Pamela Travers (Emma Thompson) as they created a Disney version of Travers' Mary Poppins novels.  It was fitting that I saw this on the plane home from Disney World with my Minnie ears tucked in my suitcase and a camera full of Magic Kingdom photos.

In addition to protraying the Disney and Travers dynamic, a series of flash backs to Travers' childhood provide the back story to some of Travers' idiosyncracies.  We learn that her father (I couldn't recognize Colin Farrell), though loving and an imaginative storyteller to his adoring daughter was also an alcoholic who could barely provide for his young family.  On his death, the young Travers retreated to a world of make believe as some sort of order is restored to her life with the arrival of her Poppins-esque Aunt Ellie (Rachel Griffiths).

Despite the sadness of Travers' early life, the film is just beautiful.  The contrasts between rural Australia, England and the glamour of Los Angeles make the film a visual feast.  Highly recommended for a Sunday night when you need a break from reality television!

Apologies for the very, very, very long post.

Have you seen any of these films or read the books I reviewed?  Thoughts?

Please share.




May 25, 2014

Vivid 2014.

It's official, Sydney.  This has been the sunniest May we've had for a very long time, if not ever.  What's more, the clear skies and warm sunshine don't look to be going anywhere for quite some time so enjoy it while you can.



Not that I need to be asked twice.  I've been basking in the sun and keeping it classy yet comfy with track pants and my new deck shoe inspired Crocs.  The pins give away where they came from and yes, Toddler SSG's new pair also feature Disney's original mousey super couple too.


Fancy beef bourguingnon pies from Costco.  Bought for Toddler SSG but devoured by me.


I did my civic duty last night and dropped in to Vivid.  But not before I had a super early dinner at home.  Turned out to be a wise move because all the food stalls at the festival had enormous queues stretched out in front of them by the time I hit the city at 6.30pm.

It's been a few years since I last attended Vivid Sydney and I was rewarded with a collection of installations that were completely different to anything I remember for previous Vivids.  This year's organizers have done a great job in selecting works that appeal to a wide cross section of Sydneysiders and tourists.  Also, the key locations of Martin Place, The Rocks, Darling Harbour and Circular Quay flowed easily for attendees - most of which were on foot, pram or a bit of both.

In addition to the free programme, there is a concurrent ticketted music program, markets and bar areas.  To be honest, I couldn't even get through the free stuff in one evening - there was so much to see.  This year's event has been widely promoted and Sydney has heeded the call.  The crowds only got bigger as the evening progressed and it was a good call by the City of Sydney to close off key streets of the CBD to cars and buses.  The pedestrian only rule made it possible for everyone to enjoy the night safely and at their own pace.

I began at Martin Place and looped through Circular Quay and The Rocks last night.  I discovered the movement reduction function on my camera in the nick of time so I actually have a few Opera House shots that were mostly focussed.


e|MERGEnce is the name of the large glass skull that greets you at Martin Place.  During the day, it's an unobtrusive white sculpture but at night, it lights up and its 'face' mimics that of the people who face it.



Further along the way is Digital Forest, 120 3D LED lights (now that's a tongue twister) suspended from a metal frame.



You can enjoy a drink at the cube bar behind the forest and watch the world go by in a haze of purple light.


The Geo Glow Dome does even trickier things with LED lights to make things appear 3D.  I couldn't get any closer than this, it was so popular.


In between the feature areas of light display were little observation areas where it was a bit less crowded.  I found this spot along Macquarie Street and it boasted a lovely view of the MCA.



The Bridge always looks like a star, any night of the week.  Even when it's not particularly dressed up.  Special Vivid boats sailed the harbour all night.


The centrepiece of Vivid is undoubtedly the Lighting of the Sails of the Opera House.  Butterflies, reptilian scales, pieces of history and works of art - this year's images were created by a UK / USA art group called 59 Productions.



One more of The Bridge because I can never get over how magnificent it looks at night.

The Magic Circle by Tina Fox at The Opera House - light inspired by crochet.


Filament Storm is a project that saw Sydney's skyline become a canvas for a riot of colourful lights and lasers.


With Filament Storm dancing on the buildings above, the lights closer to earth did look more vivid.



Aside from the traffic free zones, the organizers made sure that everything was clearly signposted.  There was a large security and police presence who worked together to somehow get the amorphous throngs of people to keep left on walkways and to keep moving.


My light walk began at Customs House.



Which was the backdrop to Play Me, a musical sculpture by the Technical Direction Company



Pulses of colour throbbed in time to a soundtrack that had everyone dancing on the spot, holding their iPhones / iPads / smartphones / DSLRs / tripods or children.



The light's a bit bright but this is Tetrabin.  The little girls are putting piece of rubbish (thoughtfully provided in the blue crate) into the specially wired up bin as part of a computer game interface between responsible non littering citizens and rubbish receptacle.



One of the many black boxes of magic responsible for the light and laser wizardry illuminating the streets of Sydney for Vivid.



A close up of one the buildings caught up in the Filament Storm.

The MCA forecourt was the place to be for Sydney's little ones.


The MirrorBall heart that was the centrepiece for the final float of 2014 Sydney Mardis Gra Parade.  Inspired by Strictly Ballroom and the proverb 'A life lived in fear is a life half-lived', the mirrorball was designed by George Savoulis and Ignatius Jones.  Complete with a DJ spinning the decks and a a dedicated dance floor, the toddler set were going nuts as they celebrated freedom from their prams.  You can never be too young to celebrate equality through dance, music and glitter.




The Pool by Jen Lewin is a bed of concentric circles that light up as you leap onto them.  The circles contain pads that 'listen' to your footfalls and reply with changes in colour.  I don't think I move fast enough these days to create any kind of light ripple.  Best of leaving it to the youngsters, I think.


This year, the MCA was lit up in the designs of Jess Johnson.




Mystery of Creation (Fragments of the Seasons) by Heinz Kaspar / Robert Faldner lit up a wall of Cadmans Cottage in The Rocks.



The ever changing branches of a tree looped and blossomed across the wall.


To quote the poem that inspired the artists:

Flowers blossom, only to wilt; trees wither, only to grow anew. The wind whispers in the tree; its leaves embody alchemy in the transformation of living colour, from green into yellow and red; leaves dance and drop off in a storm; and once again you see a bare tree.



Nature and concrete brought together in the city by the art of light and music.




Goodnight and thank you, Sydney.  It was one of the most magical evening walks I've taken through the city in quite a while.




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