Jan 29, 2016

It's Just A Number.

Many bloggers, myself included, have lost a significant number of blog followers in recent weeks.  It's always a boost to your ego to see numbers rise but things going in reverse isn't so pleasant.

It turns out that the major reason is that Blogger has made changes to who can follow our blogs via Google Friend Connect in what they call an attempt to 'streamline' things.  Basically, if you don't have a Google account profile but follow blogs through Blogger, you will now no longer be able to do so and will be removed as a follower.  Your options from now on are to either get a Google account or else to follow using readers like feedly.

I know that it's only a number, that I don't blog for the stats and that this recent change was beyond my control.  But it's still hard  not to take it personally.  I've been blogging for six years now and have enjoyed seeing my readership grow and treasure the friends I have made through my writing.  I have a Twitter and Instagram account for this blog and while I enjoy using both of these platforms, blogging is still something I enjoy very much and put thought and effort into.  I don't blog as often as I did in the early days but putting posts together using my own material along with references and research where necessary is still part of my everyday life.

I like how my blog has changed to reflect who I am now compared to who I was when I started Sydney Shop Girl.  I like that what I write about isn't forced and that I haven't had to fit my writing into the usual pigeon holes that bloggers seem to get defined as.  I'm delighted that you've been along for the ride and I hope that you'll stick around to read the blog in some capacity if it can't be as an 'official' follower.

I don't know when and if my blogging life will end but I am determined to not let the numbers determine this.

If you're a blogger yourself, has this change in the follower system affected how you feel about your blogging?

I'll be returning to normal programming for my next post but in the mean time, have a lovely weekend.

Jan 27, 2016

Australia Day 2016. Zara Home Has Arrived In Sydney.

I think we should have more public holidays on Tuesdays.  

The day off to just kick back and enjoy our beautiful city isn't a bad reward for having survived the Monday at work before it.  Except for some reason I'm here on Wednesday feeling like it's Friday already.  Could be because I had such a lovely and busy Australia Day.

Though the grey rain clouds that hung over us at breakfast didn't bode well for our plans to hit the city for Australia Day celebrations.  I don't think I was alone in constantly checking the weather app on my phone to see if the rain would be miraculously be gone by the afternoon.

And didn't our collective checking pay off because take a look at how the afternoon scrubbed up!

I'm a Circular Quay tragic.  Playing tourist there never gets old for me - especially on Australia Day.  It's a day to embrace Australiana as you bob along in the crowd, stopping every so often as the person in front of you pauses to use their selfie stick.  As the bush band plays and the ferries churn the water, how can you not look at it all and be thankful and proud to call this country your home?

It's as if the city has taken a break from its usual brash self and decided that January 26 is the one day of the year that it can be true to itself.  Water fountain stations offer free refills to keep everyone well hydrated in the heat.  Volunteers hand out flags with a friendly smile or you could get a tattoo if you were  so inclined.  The streets are awash with people dressed in green and gold and creative licence is taken with the styling of our flag.

Food trucks near the Overseas Passenger Terminal were doing a brisk trade.

As this pizza truck observed, everyone really was as happy as Larry.

Toasting The Bridge just had to be done....

George Washing Machine (the band) provided the perfect soundtrack for the afternoon.

The tall ships sailed in.

While over at The Rocks, another Australia Day tradition was being enjoyed on deck chairs around a caravan  Triple J's Hottest 100 was being played to a relaxed and appreciative crowd.

So there I was just strolling through the city when I randomly found myself here...

at Sydney's new Zara Home store at the Pitt Street Mall.  Did you even know that Zara Home had reached Australia?  They kept that pretty quiet.

Trust Zara to make door knobs a fashion statement...

It's a beautiful store.  Airy, light filled and pleasantly filled (rather than crammed full) with homewares.  True to the clothing arm of the retailer, the range is eclectic with a little bit of something to suit most tastes.

Shabby chic, beach chic,  minimalist and classic Hollywood seemed to be the main influences I could see. I'll talk pricing a bit later in this post but overall, things looked to priced between Country Road and Kmart / Ikea.  Interestingly, retro, Scandi chic, pineapples, Eiffel Towers and inspirational quotes written in brush script weren't represented at all....  Nice to see a high street home wares retailer doing something just a little different from everyone else.

Looking out from the in store lift over the back of the ground floor.  

The second floor can be accessed by stairs or lift and is mainly the children's range and basics like hangers and sheets.

The Mickey and Minnie slippers were very tempting except Toddler SSG prefers to go barefoot around the house.

In addition to the Zara Home range of candles and home fragrance, there's also Zara Home music!!!!  The largest piece of furniture I saw on the floor were side tables and I don't think there were any rugs.

Having had an uneventful four stretch out and about, I decided not to tempt fate and got Toddler SSG home in time for dinner and a bath at his usual time.  I also had to urgently find my tube of aloe vera skin ointment. That'll teach me for forgetting  my hat and sunscreen because the day started out so wet and cold the sun ended up being a welcome but slightly painful surprise.

While it was tempting to go nuts at Zara Home, I only bought things that I had a specific need for.  So hard at a Zara store but it can be done!

I still have the set of Zara Home coasters I bought in Dubai back in 2011 and they're still in excellent condition.  This set with a beaten metal effect are felt backed and were on sale for $19.95 down from $35.95.  Not cheap but reasonable at the sale price for the quality.

I'm a bit behind in framing photos and the ones I particularly needed to get done for the study were some from Toddler SSG's daycare photo day last year.  These frames are silver plated and fit 13 x 8 prints.  They cost $29.95 each.  I usually get all my frames from Ikea and the Zara product feels and looks better quality. In fact. my favourite element of the current range at Zara Home are the photo frames.  And the tea towels but I already have a back log of new tea towels at home that need to be used before I can even think of getting any.

How was you Australia Day?  Did you immerse yourself in Australiana?

If you've visited our local Zara Home, did you like it?

Jan 24, 2016

A Foam Blizzard. Friends Reflecting Together. Podcasts Of Note.

There's this plateau phase after moving house where most of the boxes have been unpacked and most of things that moved with you have found new homes.  You have some kind of routine going in the new 'hood. You've got your ports of call for things like coffee, takeaway sushi and bits and bobs.  Heck, you've been around long enough to have a basic understanding of the peculiarities of the area.  It's your new normal and after the months of carefully orchestrated chaos surrounding the move, you've earned a few quiet weeks of predictability.  

And then my new storage units for the study arrived.  As North America shivers through blizzards and snow storms, I've been doing battle with some snow of my own - the kind your toddler makes when he helps tidy up by breaking up the packaging into a gazillion little balls of packing foam.  We unpacked the furniture yesterday and I've swept the floor about six times since then and mopped it but I've still got microblizzards of the stuff here and there.  I have to admit that looking at it and the way it gets caught in my hair does remind me of snow.  Perhaps that's one way of keeping your cool during a Sydney summer...

What a difference having shelves and drawers makes!  Clutter has magically disappeared off the floor.  Precarious piles of stuff have decamped to shelves behind closed cupboard doors.  I've found stationery supplies I thought I'd lost forever.  And now that everything has its place, I've finally managed to decide on a bit of wall to hang my calendar on.


As a person who fails dismally every time 'minimal self assembly' is required with furniture, I splashed out and got my stuff fully assembled from Freedom.  A combination of end of season discounting and a further discount for being a freshly minted My Freedom member, the total cost of my order ended up being cheaper than if I'd gone the Ikea route.  With the added bonuses of my furniture not wobbling every time I walk past it as well as having doors and drawers that close properly.

My fledgeling potted herb garden has also benefitted from the return of my 'making my house my home' mojo.  I've added some mint to my lemon tree pot.  It's only been two days but the plant still lives!!!!!

One of my dearest friends from Perth made the move to Sydney via Melbourne this week and she bravely ventured down a few motorways and through some tunnels to visit us for a play date / long overdue catch up / good bubbles, cheese, fruit and ethically sourced snacks for the kids.  The time since we'd last properly caught up seemed to disappear as we took up from where we left off.  There were quite a few moments when we looked at each other and realised we were both forty with kids, mortgages and real jobs but also quite a few where it was almost like none of the above had even happened to either of us.  But I think what warmed both of our hearts the most (besides the top shelf adult beverages and the giddying effect of its bubbles) was seeing how well our little ones got along.

Changing tack just a little, I thought I'd end today's post with links to a few podcasts I've found fascinating recently.

The first is Henry Rollins' interview for BBC's Hard Talk series, here's the link to the podcast.  I'll preface my thoughts by saying that while I've heard Rollins' name mentioned many times in the news, I've never actually heard any of his music.  What struck me with his interview was how arresting he is as the subject of an interview.  There's something about his husky / gravelly voice and the way he can distil his complex observations on society into everyday words with real world context that made me sit up and take notice.  A specific example is Rollins' take on why so many Americans are taken in by Donald Trump's solutions to the world and the USA's problems.

During the interview, Rollins told host Stephen Sackur his reasons for visiting the world's political hot spots.  It wasn't to use his celebrity to try and save the downtrodden or purely to crusade for change but instead, to give himself perspective on his life in LA.  To remind himself to never forget that what he takes for granted as part of his everyday life in the US is worlds away from the reality for millions of people who have had the misfortune to be born elsewhere.  Rollins, of course, says this all with more passion and eloquence than I can muster which is why you should have a listen to his interview if you can.

There's been much discussion in the Australian media recently about the way gentrification of suburbs in Australia has impacted the schools in traditionally working class areas which are now  seeing large numbers of wealthier middle class Anglo-Australians move in and settle into.  While the new members of the community value the 'multi-culturalism' their children are being exposed to as school, the research suggests that what actually happens is that schools in the catchment area become polarised and unequal as one school becomes more desirable than others for a number of complex reasons.  Also, the ethnic diversity that does exist appears largely to be that of 'cosmo-multiculturalism' - the experience of other cultures through its food and language for example, rather than through interacting with actual people from that ethnic group.

It's thought provoking research which challenges what many of us define as our multicultural Australia.  On a more sobering note, the trends found in the research has significant implications for how effectively our current education system will serve all our children.

The Compass podcast series  In Black And White looks at the issue of race and socioeconomic status changes in communities in the context of changes in Hartford, Connecticut.  While the active abandonment of racially segregated schools in the area began 20 years ago, challenges still exist in removing unequal access to a quality education for African American and Hispanic children living in Hartford.  'In Black And White' is a documentary that presents a range of opinions, facts and voices about the transition that Hartford has gone through and the challenges it continues to face in order to achieve the same education for all its children.  Educators interviewed for the series told of their joy at seeing more and more students of successive graduating years finding happiness in biracial marriages but this was tempered with the numbers of African American students lost to the system when school communities that advocated for them and had an appreciation of their social context disappeared.

Are you a podcast listener?  Have you heard anything recently that made you stop, think and possibly google to find out more?

Jan 20, 2016

Ambient Lighting. Travel Plans. Seconds Pro. Front Loaders. Everything but the Kitchen Sink.

Having your gym so close to your local Westfield that you have to park at said Westfield every time you go to the gym is a burden.  Truly it is.  Sure your car is secure, your parking free and a stealth trip to Coles or Woolies is always on the cards (after you've picked up your after gym coffee, of course) but the price one pays for all this convenience is temptation.  From the spendy boutiques, the dumpling place, Target and my personal arch nemesis ... the cosmetic and skin care stores.

There's just something about an immaculately made up sales assistant / make up artist / part time model who takes you by the hand and blends some miracle product gently into your skin as they tell you what amazing skin you already have that makes me abandon logical thought as I utter the magic phrase, "Yes thanks, I'll take that".  And now that I'm forty, time poor, sleep deprived and have pure caffeine and sugar making up at least fifty percent of my blood volume, I'm an even easier mark than before.

The executive summary of that bit of mansplanation of my current first world problems is that I went to Mecca Maxima after the gym yesterday and left with my very own Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette ($87 AUD).  And it's the best bolstered ego make up product I've bought myself in quite some time.

Quite a few of my friends have been raving about Hourglass for a while now and being the die hard MAC fan that I am, I've been deaf to their glowing reviews of the range.  Hourglass is an American brand that launched in 2004, selling first at Barneys, New York before achieving global domination and opening the flagship Hourglass boutique in Venice Beach, California.

Many if not all the products are made in Italy. The packaging is sleek and understated with a nice weight to the compacts and sturdy finishes to things I tend to break like the hinges of lids and opening clasps.  It's the little things that justify the price.  I was also told when I made my purchase that the Ambient Lighting powders are vegan and gluten free.  It's nice to know that my make up makes the effort to look after me even if my diet doesn't always do so.

The Ambient Light Palette comes in one colour way and features three powders - dim light, incandescent light and radiant light.  Original versions of the set came with a travel sized bottle of primer but mine did not.

I've added the above photo from a beauty blogger's post about the product to give you an idea of how the different shades look.  Temptalia did a very comprehensive review of the palette here and Nikki from Styling You shared her tips on how the powders work in her daily beauty routine.

Initial impressions:
  • though expensive (it would cost $96 to purchase the three full sized versions of these powders), the convenience of having the three shades in one travel friendly compact swayed me to justify this purchase
  • the powders are soft and finely milled with minimal glitter or shimmer in the pan, they applied evenly with my powder brushes without any fall out or frosting up on my skin or in my pores.  I find the compact format of this product much more workable than loose powders or loose balls of product that other brands favour
  • the colours worked well on my medium toned skin with none looking too light, dark or muddy on me 
  • the overall effect was that my skin looked finished and polished, like an Instagram filter only more practical for daily life.
  • easy to use if you're short on time, technique or tools.  I used the palette for the first time this morning over a BB cream and the effect was very natural and polished.  I didn't have to work too hard with any of the shades
  • works well over liquid and powder based foundations
  • the colours are multi use with Radiant Light being a good subtle bronzer and Incandescent Light being useful to highlight at the brow bone
  • I've heard that these powders last for ages and travel well
  • the palette works with practically every kind of make up you're likely to do from everyday to going out so it will work hard to give you a good return on your investment.
  • besides the price, I can't really think of any except that the shades may not suit your skin tone.
  • just sharing information on technique I picked up in store yesterday, really
  • Dim Light is great all over the face as a finishing powder or else brushed out over the forehead and down the the nose
  • Incandescent Light works well on cheekbones and brow bones
  • Radiant Light works well brushed over the jaw line.
Please feel free to share any other tricks in a comment below the post.  

So all in all, I'm happy with my first venture into the world of Hourglass cosmetics.  And it couldn't have come at a better time because.....

I'm off to New Orleans in 139 days.  Tickets booked, hotels booked, local outlets mapped out and researched....  and the promise of adventures down streets lined with jewel coloured terraces and hints of witchcraft and the spirit world in the air.

I just need my passport renewed and for that I need new photos.  Here's hoping my Hourglass powders soften the ugly factor of my passport mug shots.

I've also got an app to share with you today.  It's not exactly cheap for the full / pro version but it could be just the thing you need if you're a home exerciser who does interval type workouts.  The app is called Seconds Pro and it is currently $7.99 on iTunes.

Seconds Pro allows you to create templates to guide you through your workout without you having to count, reset timers or try and remember whether you've got an exercise next or one of those heaven in a timer rest periods.  There are a number of templates on the app that you can modify to your specifications, it's very intuitive to use once you start browsing these templates.


This is how the circuit template looks.  You can save, edit and export your templates.  It's very addictive once you get started.


What I like best about the app though is the way the screen looks as you power through your workout.  Everything you need to know is there in one easy to read screen.  You know what's coming up after what you're doing, you know how much longer you have to go, you can pause.  Audio cues can also be added to your template which is great when you're doing push ups and can't read your screen.

I tested Seconds Pro out this morning using a template I made based on a Darebee HIIT workout I like.  All I had to concentrate on was doing the exercise the screen told me to do.  The audio prompts (you can even choose whether you'd like the tones to be pleasant or more insistent) helped me transition smoothly between moves and it was nice to know precisely how far I was into my workout as I went.  If you're really fancy, you can add music to your workouts too.

I can see myself using this app a lot when I travel and need to work out without a gym.  With each exercise of a workout entered directly into the template, all I need to train is my iPhone - no bits of paper, no laptop no worrying about trying to copy moves off a youTube video.  It's simple to use and it works for me.

The science experiment that is the rubber seal of my front loader right now.

The last bit of today's post will probably be of no importance to most of you because I know you're all way more diligent than I am about keeping the rubber ring of your front loader clean, dry and well ventilated in  between cycles.  But I have to come clean about the state of mine.  Actually, it's not clean, it's filthy.  There's a black build up in the folds that's a combination of many things but not limited to fabric softener, mould (!!) and unidentifiable debris.

I'm in the process of soaking the deeply stained parts with bleach and I found this trick to do it that actually works!  Before pouring the bleach in, simply pack the folds with wads of damp paper towel.  The paper towel soaks up the bleach and acts like a compress on the stains.  I could see the improvement within an hour and have left the packs in place overnight.  I'm pretty sure it's going to sort the problem out and that I won't need to get the ring replaced.  I just need some ideas on how to keep the ring clean and dry.  Can you help?

Jan 15, 2016

After The Heat. 'Shameless' On Toddler Time.

Chances are that if you are anywhere in New South Wales right now, you'll be looking out at today's heavy rains wearing something long sleeved and trying to reconcile today with the heat of yesterday.  This weather, it's driving me crazy!  Though it is nice that the rain's fixed that oppressive blanket of hot humid air that was plaguing us all yesterday.  If you had the misfortune of being at work outdoors yesterday, I hope your employer was kind and responsible and that you're in good shape today.

When running through the sprinklers on your lawn at home just isn't going to touch a 30C morning...

My strategy for yesterday's heat was water.  To be in it, close to it and to drink as much of it as possible.  We started the day at our favourite indoor aquatic centre.  Sprints through the sprinklers, as many turns as possible on the water slide and lots of simply enjoying the water - it was the perfect thing to start the day.  An added bonus for me was how cool my head of thick, wet hair kept me cool for the rest of the day's activities.

Netflix.  I'm late to the game (as usual) but making up for it with my relentless questioning of everyone I know with regards to what I should be binge watching (for want of a better term).  'Binge' for me currently equates to about 28 minutes on a good day divided into three or four time slots around dinner time, bath and toilet time, book time and bed time.  The toddler's, naturally.  Which means it's going to take me around a month to finish season one of my current obsessions... Shameless.  I did try Making A Murderer on the first day I signed up, you pretty much have to, I suppose because the programme is practically synonymous with Netflix here in Australia but nah, wasn't my thing.  The accents, the premise, the people ... just couldn't get into it.


But there's something about Shameless.  Quite a few things actually that have me hooked in a way I haven't been with anything on television for quite some time.  William H Macy is predictably brilliant as the self righteous and brittle alcoholic patriach (in name only) of the Gallagher family. Emmy Rossum plays his eldest daughter Fiona who has given up so much of her own personal fulfillment to be mum, dad, major breadwinner and voice of reason to her siblings as well as her dad.  Somehow, through all the challenges that Fiona has to overcome for her family,  she manages to find love with Jimmy (Justin Chatwin) and it is their tumultuous relationship that has kept me watching.

Shameless was originally a British series and is one of those unique projects that has managed to survive its translation for the US market without suffering heavily for it.  Casting is perfect, nothing feels clunky or poorly transplanted from the original and it maintains a delicate balance between comedy and drama.  It's gritty, dark, bleak at times, hilarious but always very real.

In the words of Paul Abbott, creator of the original series, "It's not My Name Is Earl or Roseanne. It's got a much graver level of poverty attached to it. It's not blue collar; it's no collar."  The poverty of Shameless shapes each character from the decisions they make, the way the rest of society views them and the way they look on screen.  Nothing about having so little financially is glossed over in Shameless.  Instead, what is emphasized is just how much each of the Gallaghers have in terms of their unity and love for each other.  Even if it does at times appear misguided and just plain wrong to the rest of us.

Jan 13, 2016

JPG for Target: Save the Date.

I don't believe this piece of news slipped me by and thank you to Instagram for rectifying the situation.  Target Australia announced the official launch date of their Gaultier collaboration on Monday.  Apparently the ads have been on telly for ages but being without reception at my place, the news just passed me by.  The reception issue is a story for another day.  The indoor antenna I just bought isn't receiving anything but static and my plan B is getting Netflix.  A sensible person would just install an outdoor antenna and be done with it you don't read this blog for common sense, do you?  I'll update on the Netflix adventure in a bit.

Anyway.  Back to Jean Paul and Target.

Gaultier and the face of the collaboration, Nicole Trunfio.

The designer will be in Melbourne for the March 9 2016 launch parade  and the range will be then be released to us the collab crazy public March 10 - online and instore.  This article from the Huffington Post reveals the entire range as well as prices.  So much to like, so much to need.  So much so that I'm going to be planning March 10 around my online access.  

Here's what I'm hoping will be successfully put into my basket and then just as successfully paid for on the big day.

From the Huffington Post.

The mesh top in blue at $49.


So Gaultier yet so Maeve.  Of course it's a must have for me.
From the Huffington Post.

This quilt cover in the queen size is $129.  It's Breton striped with a twist.  Another one of those enough said retail snap decisions.  It's a shame that there don't seem to be beach towels in the range.  

Because my Missoni for Target / Tarssoni beach towel from 2014 is still going strong.


Of the leather and denim pieces, my favourite is the biker jacket ($299).  But can I justify another leather jacket in my life?  Probably not.  The skirt is $99 and the jeans $79.


There are also a number of pieces inspired by the sharp tailoring and corsetry of the Madonna era.  It's safe to say I'll be passing on these but the bra below is $49.

From the Huffington Post.

Went for chevron at work today.

The skirt is another winner from Nife via Ozsale.  Everything else are much loved pieces from the archives.

What's your take on Gaultier's collection for Target?

Netflix.  Yay or Nay?


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