Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sarahs Style Emporium has moved!

As is the case with most beautiful things, age takes over and a new look is required. I realise that my Style Emporium has only been around a few months, but it was a bit pale, a bit two dimensional and in desperate need of added lift.

And so after a few days at a health retreat, sipping sparking mineral water and wearing a terry towelling bath robe, the Style Emporium has emerged, newer, fresher and with added bits in all the right places!

So head over to Sarahs Style Emporium and have a champagne with me. We are now hosted by the onsugar network, but the domain name remains www.sarahsstyleemporium.com

If you have come to this page in error, please update your bookmark accordingly!

Hope to see you soon!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Christmas comes but twice a year...

Everyone knows the best thing about Christmas is the presents. Don’t try and tell me you think otherwise, underneath it all, the presents is what draws you to celebrate the event year after year. I mean really, you could do without the family fight and Uncle Joe passing out behind the couch, but the presents will make it all worthwhile, right?

I’m not saying I don’t love Christmas for the presents – cause I sure do! (If I was being honest, I am a Christmas nut, love everything about this holiday much to my family’s horror) – but the other equally important reason is the food. I love Christmas food. I hate that we don’t eat it all year around. The same applies to Hot Cross Buns. Why make something so good, and then only have it available for half the year?

Anyways, as yesterday was July 25th, I invited some girlfriends over to celebrate Christmas in July. Traditionally, Christmas is July is a made up event so that Aussies can give Christmas a bit of a winter feel, however I personally feel that any excuse to eat Christmas food is a valid one, so the menu was set – one friend would make a soup for entrée, I would do a turkey with roast vegetables for main and another would tackle the dessert – traditional plum pudding.

My Christmas in July started with a minor miracle – I returned to my car at the local Safeway (I only had to run in and get the peas!) to find a parking inspector issuing me a ticket. Thankfully, the gentleman’s Christmas spirit was intact and I was dismissed with a warning.

Next up was table decoration – as you will remember I am not staying at my house at the moment, but housesitting inner city. So where does one find the serving bowls and spoons, roasting dishes and serviettes in another’s house? Much hunting ensued, and after a quick trip to the MCG for the Hawthorn v Geelong match, I returned to Christmas central to prepare the feast.

I cheated a little with turkey – bought one of the turkey rolls instead of a whole bird, and threw in pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower and corn. The girls arrived bearing gifts of wine and mix cds, and we sat down to our first course, Miss K’s homemade lamb and vegetable soup. So good that we wanted more, but with the prospect of a further two courses ahead, we decided to pace ourselves and move on to the main.

My turkey and roast vegetables were perfect if I don’t say so myself, and in a small twist, I totally forgot about the all important peas purchased that morning. Wine flowed, laughter followed and before we knew it, the time had come for the piece de résistance – Christmas pudding. Miss M had been hard at work for a week - soaking, steaming and simmering. Served with custard, this Gluten Free Plum Pudding was just heaven – exactly what Christmas should taste like!

Stuffed to bursting with food, I bought out the final trays of food, after dinner mints, and my little gift for the girls, peanut butter m and ms. We fell onto the couch, complaining of having eaten too much and drunk equally in excess. One screening of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ later, and 3 very satisfied girls crawled into their beds.

Only 5 months until we get to do it all again, and I think I will probably still be full from this meal. Miss M’s pudding recipe is below and should you want to start practising now I am available to assist in any taste testing you may need. This is probably also a good time to start Christmas shopping. You know how much those presents mean to everyone come the big day in December.

Happy Christmas in July everyone!

Gluten Free Plum Pudding

Ingredients (serves 12)
350g raisins, coarsely chopped
300g sultanas
1 x 300g pkt currants
185ml (3/4 cup) rum
Melted butter, to grease
200g butter, at room temperature
200g (1 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
140g (2 cups) fresh gluten & wheat-free breadcrumbs (made from day-old bread)
120g (1/2 cup) soy compound
70g (1 cup) Farex Baby Rice
80g (1/2 cup) Orgran Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Bought gluten-free vanilla custard, warmed, to serve

Place raisins, sultanas and currants in a glass or ceramic bowl. Stir in the rum. Cover and set aside, stirring every few hours, for 6 hours to macerate.
Brush a 2L (8-cup) capacity pudding basin with melted butter to grease. Line the base with non-stick baking paper.
Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the breadcrumbs, soy compound, baby rice, combined flour, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add the raisin mixture and stir to combine. Spoon into the prepared basin. Smooth the surface.
Place an upturned heatproof saucer in the base of a large saucepan. Fill one-third of the saucepan with boiling water. Bring to a simmer over low heat.
Cut a 30cm-square piece of non-stick baking paper and a 30cm-square piece of foil. Place the paper on top of the foil and fold to make a wide pleat in the centre. Place over the basin, foil-side up. Tie a double piece of kitchen string under the rim of the basin to secure foil. To make a handle, tie a double piece of string loosely over the top of the basin. Scrunch the paper and foil around the rim so they don't get wet.
Use the handle to lower the basin onto the saucer in the saucepan. Add enough boiling water to reach two-thirds of the way up the side of the basin.
Simmer, covered, adding more boiling water when necessary, for 4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the pudding comes out clean.
Set aside for 5 minutes before turning out onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve with custard.

Notes & tips
Allow 6 hours macerating and 5 minutes resting time.

Recipe thanks to taste.com.au

Friday, July 24, 2009

Escapade Events

Last night I attended the launch party of Escapade Events, www.escapadeevents.com.au, a social networking company recently started by the beautiful Kimberley Smith. Escapade Events has the simple philosophy to provide social occasions for women to get together and meet new people, enjoy great food and drinks, and experience all Melbourne has to offer.

Held at Tony Starr’s Kitten Club on Little Collins Street, Melbourne, www.kittenclub.com.au I could see right from the start, (a neon green door next to Bettina Liano, can’t miss it) that a venue such as this was more than perfect for the occasion. The Kitten Club is on the third floor, complete with 'love lounge' and quietly understated surrounds. The Kitten Club oozes cool while retaining a luxurious relaxed feeling, and had been decked out with balloons and a stage full of gift bags to mark the celebration that was the launch of this spectacularly good idea. It was time to party.

I made my first new friend the second I stepped inside and while we collected our complimentary cocktail – I chose the Fashionista in honour of the name – conversation flowed easily and common interests were discovered and shared.

Fabulous canapés did the rounds, while the cutest little cupcakes adorned the bar simply begging to be consumed. The girls from Nailene (www.nailene.com) were on hand in the love lounge doing mini manicures, while women of all ages enjoyed their drinks and met new friends and contacts. I was especially pleased to meet Kimberley and congratulate her on such a wonderful achievement, and put faces to the names of ladies I had only interacted with on Twitter.

And in another wonderful surprise, I was lucky enough to win the door prize, a stunning laptop bag from Ladedah bags. In addition to the giftbags full of goodies and vouchers, and the top I bought at Ojay while waiting for the event to start (I know, I know, I don’t need anymore tops!!), the evening was a terrific success.

The next events Kimberley has lined up include a movie screening of Cabaret on Wednesday August 5 and a pole dancing fitness class on Friday August 14. Both events can be booked through the website, and if you join as a member you will enjoy discounts on both these and future events.

Keep an eye on www.onyamagazine.com for more details of last night’s event!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Put Victoria on Your Table this winter

One of things I love about winter - besides the rain, wind and cold :p - is the food. Comforting soups, hearty casseroles, pies, crumbles and cakes. There are days when all you want to do is curl up on the couch with a good book or movie and eat your way though porridge, brownies, toasted sandwiches, hot chocolate, beef stew and apple pie. Of course, eating like this all winter long won’t do anything for your waistline (albeit winter is a very good time for layering with fashion), so one must consider the spring after the storms and take care to pick the best places to eat in order to make the most of the rainy season.

To try as many different canapes and cuisines this season, participate in the Put Victoria on your Table Festival, http://www.putvictoriaonyourtable.com.au/. Many of Melbourne’s great eateries are opening their doors this winter and inviting you to enjoy all Victorian produce has to offer while allowing you to experience the wonder of these renowned places to dine.

The Age Good Food Guide Winter Restaurant Express involves 80 restaurants, offering a 2 course meal with a glass of wine and coffee or tea for just $35 (lunch) or $45 (dinner). The restaurants on the menu are nothing short of spectacular, and are representative of the wonderful food and beverage available in Melbourne.

From July 26 to August 9, I will be eating my way around Melbourne – starting at Arintji, Federation Square, http://www.arintji.com.au/, and finishing at Walter’s Wine Bar in Southbank, http://www.walterswinebar.com.au/. These are just 2 of the 22 restaurants located in and around Melbourne city. You can also find great places by the bay, in Fitzroy and Carlton, south of the river and in regional Victoria.

You should book now to avoid disappointment by contacting the restaurant directly. Keep an eye on my blog for reviews of the places I make it to – starting with Seamstress on Lonsdale Street, http://www.seamstress.com.au/, early next week. Check out the website and you will know why I picked them to be first!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards 2009

Are you a creative type? It doesn’t matter which discipline – graphic design, music, film, animation, fashion (just to name a few) – there is a competition out there just for you. The Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards (or SOYA) are now open for applications.

SOYA, now in its sixth year, aims to reward and recognise young creative Australians with emerging talent by offering them $70,000 in grants, flights and prizes and an internship with established leaders in the field. For the fashion category – that means designers in the field of clothing, jewellery, shoes, couture, hats and fabric – the 2009 mentor is Zimmerman.

With past winners in the fashion category including Akina, Friedrich Gray and ANT!PODiUM, you will be in excellent company should your entry most impress the judges. Kate Vandermeer of http://www.ispystyle.net/ is the Fashion Category Producer for SOYA, and recommends you get your entries in soon, as they close on July 31st.

Check out http://www.soya.com.au/ to see all available categories (there are 7, $10,000 each!) and submit online. You must be an Australian resident aged 30 or under, and are encouraged to submit some info on stockists, media coverage, participation in events or shows and any study you have undertaken to give the team at SOYA as much detail as possible on how you’ve done the background work to build your business or label.

You are welcome to submit to as many categories as you like to increase your chances at winning the cash and mentorship. And really, why wouldn’t you? Time is of the essence and this is the chance of a lifetime. Submissions are closing soon so get to the website for all the t’s and c’s, get your folio together and enter now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

6 weeks til Spring (but who's counting?)

Melbourne looks deceptively warm through the windows of my 12th floor office complex. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and I swear this morning, I could sense spring in the air. We are only halfway through July, still weeks away from birds chirping and the sounds of children in parks and the smells of freshly cut grass, yet, as the days start to get slightly longer (yes, I realise its only a minute or two every day) I can’t help but get excited about the prospect of another Racing Carnival just around the corner.

I love Spring Racing. An opportunity to get frocked up and drink champagne in the sun, to put dollar each way bets on a sport you know nothing about and possibly the only time you can get away with wearing ludicrous head adornments and still be called fashionable.

Today I took a quick tour of the DFO shopping centre at Spencer Street, and was drawn to the Jackie E store – not because I was looking for a gift for my Mum or Nanna, but because the frocks in the window were just so very pretty, feminine and charming I had to take a closer look.

Perfect chain store chic for Spring Racing (or for those of us that feel the need to purchase a new outfit for every outing at the carnival), Jackie E’s range of dresses, skirts and accessories will take you from the office to the track and out on the town afterwards without breaking the bank.

The pale colours of grey, champagne, ivory and pink work so well together and create a softness that melds with spring perfectly. They even have the shoes to match, though I wouldn't recommend taking pale coloured satin or silk anywhere near damp grass or muddy racetracks. (By the same token, please don't be one of those girls walking/stumbling home with her heels slung over her shoulders...)

The countdown is on … 6 weeks and counting. Start planning your outings and outfits now (and don’t forget the head adornments!)


Here are three of my favourite looks from the current Jackie E collection.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

More good reasons I should live in the city

Ahh, weekend number 2 as a city dweller. I have stepped up the hunt for the perfect city pad, and lament the fact that I am going to have to go home for a while before I get to come back. From Friday at 5pm to Sunday (about now), I have enjoyed every second of my second weekend here. It is just so easy to get around, be somewhere in 15 minutes and make decisions at the spur of the moment.

First up Friday night was Bertha Brown, a relatively new bar on Flinders Street. The work crew wandered down for the end of week festivities, and found a fabulous new watering hole for the cool and chic. $12 cocktails are just the beginning, you can relax in lounge room type settings with couches, or sit around tables that have a desk and school chair feel. There are also booths for those looking for something more intimate. The large U shaped venue uses effective lighting and décor, with groovy tunes to create a soothing atmosphere perfect for a wind down beverage. They also do a $5 pizza lunch special, so head on down and check them out - and try the Bertha’s Passion cocktail. I promise you won’t regret it.

Bertha Brown
562 Flinders Street
Melbourne 3000
9629 1207

Then the beauty of being so close to the city – I headed back to my pad for a quick costume change before meeting a friend and walking (walking!) to Chapel Street for dinner. Yes, it was chilly and I opted to forgo the heels for an evening, but so worth the walk on such a clear night. We found a little Japanese place and stayed a while, before the brisk walk back in the cool night air.

My first trip on public transport at night was to the MCG for the Collingwood v Hawthorn game last night. I rugged up for the evening and jumped on the tram to Flinders Street at the end of the road. A gentleman on the tram raving we should starve ourselves for cats and dogs was only slightly unnerving, before I switched to the train and headed out to Richmond. Cold and Collingwood supporter’s aside, the game started quite well. The Hawks weren’t doing too badly and the one lunatic Collingwood supporter behind us was gracefully evicted – I am sure something to do with his language at a family affair. I was actually surprised to see so many kids out last night; guess you have to start them young!! In case you hadn’t heard, Hawthorn ran away with the game in the end, and I couldn’t have been happier getting the tram back home with the other supporters later that night.

And today I woke up to glaring sunshine, blue skies and a spring in my step. I bounced down to Chapel Street for breakfast at Globe, where the coffee wasn’t bad, but the muesli and yoghurt were worth the wait. A wander along the strip, a bag full of groceries and a visit to the Prahran market later, I headed home again, where I am about to head out for another lap of the lake on such a pleasant afternoon.

Globe Café
218 Chapel Street
Prahran 3181
9510 8693

Don’t forget Masterchef finale tonight – who is your money on? I’d like to see Julie win but time will tell! I think the real winner here is Channel 10. Who would have thought it would be such a success?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Trackies and Uggs (Urghhh...)

One week on living in the city and I think I might have already become a bit of a city fashion snob. Last night I ventured back to the burbs to see the new Harry Potter flick with friends (PS. don’t bother spending $19, wait for the DVD), and was noticeably shocked by the presence of several young ladies wandering Knox Shopping Centre in tracksuit pants and Ugg boots. Maybe I just never noticed it before, or maybe I have spent too much time on Chapel Street recently, but when did it become okay to wear these items, together, out in public?

As I walked around the fashion precinct looking at the gorgeous new season outfits adorning the windows, I couldn’t help but look as these girls and wonder what possessed them to leave the house looking like that. There is a time and place for trackies and Ugg’s, and the shopping centre is not it.* Not to mention, some were with their mothers and these women really should know better.

I will confess, I do own not one, but two pairs of Ugg boots, and about three pairs of tracksuit pants. Of these five items, I think I would only actually wear one outside the four walls of my house. They are what I like to call, more ‘upmarket’ Ugg boots: boots that are ok when teamed with skinny leg jeans and a fitted jacket to a movie night with the girls or dinner at mum and dads. Tracksuit pants are only good for Friday nights on the couch and when I muster the energy to go to the gym at 6am on a weekday.

And speaking of exercise, last night I completed my first full lap of Albert Park lake. There is some debate as to whether the track is 4.7km or 5km or somewhere in between, but for arguments sake, let’s say it was 5km and be done with it (cause it certainly felt like 5km!).

It was a beautiful night in Melbourne, and as I walked around I wondered why anyone could want to live anywhere else. One week down and two to go in the city… whatever will next week bring?

Albert Park Lake at Dusk, Thursday 16th July 2009

*After noticing said tracksuit pants and Ugg’s, and posting comment on Twitter, miss_melbourne asked if wearing trackies and Uggs to Safeway late at night was ok. I will concede this is okay only if one is just ducking in for a) chocolate, b) ice cream or c) tampons.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Baby, take a bow

During a burst of sunshine yesterday afternoon, I took to the streets of Melbourne for a spot of impromptu shopping. Number 31 tram to the Paris end of Collins Street, I wandered Australia on Collins, through to Royal Arcade, down Little Collins and back through the Walk Arcade, ending up at the Block Arcade and back to Collins Street to the 31. I could have spent hours scouring the little stores hidden in the alleys and envying the casual, laid back lifestyles of the people sipping coffee but there was shopping to be done, and my credit card was burning a hole in my pocket.

24 hours before pay day, and it had been a while since my last fashion purchase. My skin was tingly with the anticipation of new fabric, while my eyes worked their way up and down rack after rack of items, searching for the elusive garment that was to be mine.

A stop at the Christopher Ari store in the Walk Arcade yielded success. This gorgeous and very cute grey knit with sequin bow can be dressed up with skinny leg dark denim jeans and a killer heel for a night on the town, or paired with boyfriend jeans and comfy flats for (more) shopping with the girls. A bargain at only $39.95, and the perfect pick me up to get through the afternoon.

As for pay day tomorrow, I’m planning a trip to the Alice McCall (www.alicemccall.com) Sample Sale this Friday and Saturday at the corner of Chapel St and Cecil Place, Prahran (enter 2a Cecil Place). Styles are up to 75% off and prices start at just $20. Eftpos, Cash and Credit all accepted.

Then on Sunday, get along to the ‘This is not a Design Market’ market, www.thisisnotadesignmarket.com, at 500 Latrobe Street, Melbourne from 10am. The market is part of the State of Design Festival and is sure to have something fashionable or fabulous for everyone, foodies included.

If you’re not into the design scene and vintage is more your thing, the Take 2 Market is also on this Sunday, www.take2markets.com.au. The market, at the Hawthorn Town Hall from 10am, is the second anniversary for the team whose recycled fashion heaven helps us shop in a more affordable and sustainable way.

Where will you spend this weeks paycheck? Happy shopping!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Not so dangerous Liaison

Once in a while, you find somewhere hidden in the laneways in Melbourne that you want to tell the world about. Every now and then, a gem of a café or restaurant, bookstore or undiscovered designer reveals itself and you wonder how you ever survived without it before.

Today I visited Liaison, a café on Ridgway Place up the top end of Melbourne, where I was presented with fabulous coffee, divine breakfast offerings and superb surroundings off the beaten track of Melbourne’s main grid.

In true Melbourne tradition, the best finds in our laneways are the ones most easily missed. Ridgway Place would pass you by if you didn’t know where to look. Just off Little Collins St, between Exhibition and Spring, the cobblestones of this alleyway lead to Monaco House where Liaison has set up shop.

A small outfit with limited indoor seating, Liaison feels like an exclusive space that you are privy to even know about. One of Melbourne’s great finds, the coffee here is fantastic (as verified by Kayne West, www.threethousand.com.au/eat-drink/liaison) and the breakfast dishes a great start to the day.

My thrill at being offered gluten free muesli with fruit and yoghurt was not lost on my companions, who also enjoyed croissant with tomato and cheese. Other pastries and various toasts were on offer; a limited menu but sufficient and fitting for the space and style of Liaison.

Quirky graphics of people in various states of running, walking and biking move across the shopfront and this motif is continued on the business card – symbolic of the people who are no doubt flocking to this treasure. Get in before it the secret gets out.

22 Ridgway Place
Melbourne 3000
9663 3225

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Age, Sex and Location Location Location

They say ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ – the same could be said for my living situation. Does ‘live the way you want to, not the way you are’, have the same ring to it? This weekend was my first doing the inner city living thing and as I sit here on Sunday night assessing it, I have to admit to feeling pretty at home here!

Friday night I stayed in with a DVD but just looking at the lights of the city skyline was entertainment enough. Saturday morning I braved the weather and joined the other diehards (read: idiots) running around Albert Park lake in the wind and rain. Made it 1.5km before I gave up and turned back in favour of a hot shower. That still meant I walked close to 4km and that’s good enough for me!

Then ventured out to Rowville to help a girlfriend and her husband move house. Now I wouldn’t like anyone to get the wrong opinion of me and expect that when they move house that I will be first in line to assist. I don’t do heavy lifting. Or cleaning. Or general unpacking. I offer to do lunch, because it means I can still wear heels and skirt, plus I get brownie points for ‘helping’. Friends’ hubby had bought the muscle power so I figure it’s only fair that someone take on the 1950’s stereotype and feed the troops. Party pies, sausage rolls and chips were the order of the day (it was still pretty darn cold) and the boys were grateful. Not a particularly inventive or original menu, but sometimes you have to realise that men are simple creatures who just want to be fed, and that any kind of culinary delicacy loses it’s appeal when served on home brand paper plates.

Saturday night – friends graduation party, and I was headed south to Moorabbin. Dinner was standard pub fare at the Sandbelt Hotel, www.sandbeltclubhotel.com.au, however the Vietnamese Chicken Risotto I had was particularly good! Awesome kid’s area, that even had a fairy with free face painting! Almost makes you want to bring someone else’s kids, just to take advantage of the facilities. We partied on to the Southside Six Over 28s, www.southsidesix28s.com.au, with halfprice entry before 10pm and two free drinks. While our group collectively bought the average age of the patrons down about a decade, we strutted our stuff on the podium and gave the gentlemen who looked about 60 wearing a badge that said ‘birthday boy’ something pretty to look at for a few hours. Spent some time star spotting – pretty sure I saw the likes of Kamahl, Donatella Versace and Rose Porteous in the crowd, and don’t even get me started on what some of these women wore out in public. I think there are a few general rules a lady should follow once she reaches a certain age. These include but are not limited to;
1) Tights with shorts over them are a no-no (actually, this is no good for anyone, I don’t care how old you are)
2) Skirts so short we can see your underwear (again, I actually think this rule is also ageless)
3) If you are too old to know what CFM means, you should not be wearing them.

We didn’t pay for a drink all night – the two free on arrival kept us going until we won Midori shakers for dance competition after dance competition. I think it helped that the Midori promo girl was our age and when she was handing out chupa-chups and I commented that she had an awesome job, she advised that no job was worth the lecherous stares of the over 28 crowd (which was really more of an over 48 crowd for most of the room).

Tired feet hours later I crashed at my friends place, and when my physio asks tomorrow what the hell I did on the weekend to stuff my back up so bad, there will be no mention of 10 inch high heels or falling asleep on a couch. Recovery day Sunday started with home cooked bacon and eggs, followed by the trip back to the city. Some quiet reading time and a nap later, I took a walk down Commercial road to Chapel street. Visited the Prahran Market and took in the sights, sounds and smells of the area. Enjoyed a coffee and got some groceries, and took my time walking back. Quite sensibly did not take my credit card, however I will be back because Landes, Sportsgirl and French Connection all stole my heart while I walked the strip and I feel it’s only fair that I visit again.

One weekend down, two more to go, and still so many places to see and explore!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bright Lights, Big City

I have been trying to move house since January of this year. Currently I live in the outer suburbs, a good hour from where I work in the CBD, and spend a good deal of my time in transit – be it on a freeway or on a train. My thought was to rent out my place in the ‘burbs, and rent something cute and quirky closer to the CBD, effectively cancelling out my mortgage and being footloose and fancy free in the city.

But then, the rental market is a horrible place right now. People are offering over and above the advertised prices and happy couples are beating out the single white female. And just like that, 6 months on, and I am still a resident in the dreary outer east.

A good friend of mine lives very close to the city. A stone’s throw in fact, to all manner of amenity. Albert Park Lake, Cafes and Restaurants, Docklands, CBD, Richmond – everything is not much more than a short tram ride or walk away.

While she has decided to go trekking to the other side of the world, I have taken up residence in her inner city abode for three weeks, putting me in the middle of my universe – a shopping and dining haven. Last night was my first staying at her place, and my eyes are newly opened to the differences between the sleepy suburbs, and the chaotic city.

First, the traffic! And lot’s of it! Actual ear plug inducing traffic noise. I woke up in the middle of the night, thought, ‘wow, few cars going by, must be close to the 6am peak hour rush’, and looked at my phone only to discover it was 2am.

The views, convenience and constant activity are amazing. I could have stared out the window for hours at the city by night, looking at a view I have only experienced in hotel rooms before. Imagine living like that all the time. Feel like an ice cream? 7 Eleven at the end of the street. A run? Pop down the road to Albert Park Lake and join the throng that beat a path daily. Coffee? Which café will I go to? It’s all about choice here and I feel like I am living in the New York of Sex and the City or Friends – being the middle of it all and experiencing Melbourne city the way it is meant to be lived!

All of this after just one night! I haven’t really had time to get to know half of what the lifestyle will be like for the next few weeks, but I have a feeling it will be amazing. I am looking for your tips and tricks for inner city living – what can I cook in a kitchen that would fit into my house’s bathroom? What are the greatest café spots and restaurants along St Kilda road and through to Albert Park, Chapel and High streets Prahran? Where can I find tucked away fashion stores with vintage pieces and the most promising up and coming designers? And tell me about the markets!

I have three weeks here, and a change is as good as a holiday! Tell me all your secrets and I’ll tell you most of mine – come along for the ride!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Stilletto sprints for Shakuhachi

Today appeared to start out like any other day, but maybe a bit of the odd side. I know this might sound strange, but I had that experience where you can’t remember if you were awake, or asleep and dreaming. For some reason I thought I had set my alarm clock back two hours on purpose. Clock said 4am, I thought it was 6am. So I lay there, arguing with myself as to whether I should get up or go back to sleep for another 20 mins and risk being late for my 9am meeting. Inevitably I fell asleep again (if I was even awake to begin with!) and woke up when the alarm went off at 6am.

A very odd start, but then it got more left of centre. I’m a fairly typical Melbourne girl, and generally wear our standard uniform in shades of black and grey. Today, in honour of the crispness of the temperature and the touch of winter sun, I choose a rather eclectic spring colour palette – yellow, orange, hot pink and brown Claude de Alban summer dress over black long sleeve tee and tights with knee high brown stiletto boots. Add a hot pink coat and scarf – I look like a flower bouquet – and off to work. In a city like Melbourne, I now stood out like a sore thumb (literally, due to all the pink!). So with all these people looking at the girl in the strange bright outfit, it seemed fitting that today I would develop a rather unpleasant static issue. My skirt is clinging to my butt and my hair has a mind of its own.

I don’t know why I am so statically charged today! What causes this? And more to the point, how do I get rid of it? I have static spray – but it’s at home. I also have hairspray. Also at home. I needed a miracle cure! While trawling the web for a quick fix at lunch, a fleeting check of Twitter bought my attention to today’s Project Runway OZ competition.

Those who follow me on Twitter will know that yesterday I missed out on the Hussy dress at DFO by mere seconds, so when I saw that the team were again in my territory, I threw on my coat to cover the static cling and took to the streets! 15 minutes and a tram ride later, I was manically checking Twitter on my iphone to ensure the prize had not yet been claimed and missed the tram stop! Result – a girl in a hot pink coat and knee high stiletto boots running down the Paris end of Collins Street towards the Regent theatre (comment if you saw me!).

But it was worth it, because I won! After a minute of getting my breath back, I became the proud owner of a Shakuhachi dress. Unfortunately a size 8, but the thrill of winning is enough for me! You can check out all the Shakuhachi designs here www.shakuhachi.net.au

I also won a CocoLee voucher for being runner up yesterday – a gorgeous online fashion boutique where I can shop up a storm - can’t wait to find a bargain! www.cocolee.com.au

And so my afternoon at work has been a bit of an anticlimax after such an exciting lunchbreak. My static cling and aching feet have kept me confined to the desk and I am now considering the benefits of doing away with hosiery all together as I can’t possibly continue to walk around like this! But for future reference, I will bring the static spray back to my office drawer, and endeavour to wear more sensible shoes when planning on running in the pursuit of designer dresses.

Don’t forget Project Runway Australia, starting tonight on Foxtel, 8.30opm!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The best thing to come out of America...

Close to two years ago, I started working in Melbourne’s CBD. Not long after that, I visited the Sugar Shack at Southern Cross Station. The Sugar Shack is exactly what it sounds like – a little shop full to bursting of everything a dentist fears and more. Pick and mix, chocolate bars, choc coated coffee beans, cans of exotic sounding drinks and imported sweets, toffee and other filling extracting niceties. But the most exciting discovery I made on my visit so long ago, was Peanut Butter M and Ms.

I am a big fan of M and Ms. Australian varieties – plain, peanut, crispy and mixed up (although I notice you can now get mint and jaffa!) – are great and were definately in my top 5 candies, until I met Peanut Butter M and Ms. Now, I don’t even like Peanut Butter, so I have no idea what inspired me to buy these little bite sized pieces of heaven to start with, but once you have them, you will forever wonder why something so good isn’t available freely in Australia.

At $2.60 for a 50g bag, the imported candy is on the expensive side, but definitely worth the investment. Shortly after my first time (and in the early stages of addiction), I contacted Masterfoods, (the lords of M and Ms) to enquire as to why this variety was not for sale in Australia. Apparently one ingredient isn’t available here, and they have no plans to manufacture the Peanut Butter variety in Australia.

Words could not express my disappointment. My addiction was up to several bags a week, and although the walk to the Sugar Shack could compensate a little, I’m quite sure that calories consumed was outweighing energy expended. So I quit cold turkey. I cut off my daily expedition to the city and avoided the Sugar Shack… until months later I attended a BBQ with an international visitor, who had bought the biggest bag of Peanut Butter M and Ms from the States to the party I have ever seen.

And here we are, two years after my first time and it doesn’t get easier.
This week I bought a big bag off eBay from a store in Brisbane. An intervention might be needed to save my arteries and my wallet. But in the meantime, try this recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies. The cookie dough somewhat resembles Peanut Butter M and Ms – and if you find you still need your fix, email Masterfoods. Surely if they receive enough emails we can get Peanut Butter M and Ms in Oz!

Peanut Butter and Choc Chip Cookies
1 cup Crunchy Peanut Butter
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Dark Choc Chips
1 tsp bi-carb soda1 egg, lightly beaten

Mix the Peaunut Butter, Brown Sugar and bicarb soda. Add the egg, and finally the choc chips. The mix will be very sticky! Use a teaspoon to create balls, put these on a greased baking tray and flatten slightly with a fork. Bake in a 180 degree over for 8-10 mins until slightly browned.

If you find you still need the real thing, try

LollyworldShop 3/6 Ebert Parade
Lawton, Brisbane
07 3285 6559

Or the Sugar Shack at Southern Cross Station, Melbourne City!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Everyone Loves A Sunday

Everyone loves a Sunday. The slowest day of the week; sleep ins, breakfast out and long lunches, often followed by the traditional Sunday night roast. This particular Sunday had none of those things. I had quite grand plans for today, the best of intentions, however my Sunday has gone decidedly left of this.

My sleep in was rudely interrupted about 6.07am by my South African stalker. ‘Oh my!’ I hear you say. ‘A stalker?!’ Yes. For over 12 months now I have received random phone calls about every 6 weeks from a South African extension - I never actually get to speak to anyone, most often they like to let the phone ring until I answer it then they hang up. If it goes to voicemail I sometimes get a few random ‘hellos’, which serves no purpose other than to charge me for retrieving the voicemail. My so called ‘service provider’ has offered no assistance either, other than to offer to change my phone number – which I have had since I was knee high to a grasshopper and have no intention of doing.

So as it was, I was awake at a rather early hour, but with the sun streaming in I retrieved my newspaper from the lawn and went about making a fabulous Sunday morning breakfast for myself – like going to breakfast out but in my pyjamas. I decided that an omelette was going to be my egg based dish of choice for the morning, and set about it, coffee machine going, toast in, chopped up tomatoes… then, dilemma.
I don’t have a small, omelette style frypan. Only large stir-fry style ones. Solution? Make scrambled eggs and toss the cheese and tomato in with it! I can tell you right now, from first hand experience, this is not the same as an omelette. Not even close. A girlfriend described the texture as ‘gluggy'. I have to agree. Do not try this at home. At least the coffee was good.

Next up on my well planned Sunday – a first birthday party, home to all things sugar filled and cavity inducing. I donned a pink frock, heels and a bow in my hair, and off to the princess’s party I went. It is my opinion that first birthday parties should be more of a celebration for the parents – as in, ‘Phew! We made it through the first year and everyone is still alive!’ There should be champagne beside the fairy bread and Dads standing in the backyard with beer and a tool set, wondering how they go about putting together the swing set Nana bought little Dora. Well this party had no champagne. Or beer. Or a swing set. But there was fairybread. And cake. And lollies. And children. So many children. I don’t have any children of my own, but it’s always so nice to see kids with icing and sprinkles all over their faces, mud on their knees and dirt in their hair turn to you with a look that says ‘I need my mum’, and be able to point them in the other direction. I had my fill of smarties and sweets and left the little bundles of joy to engage in more adult pursuits – working off the sugar I had just consumed by taking a friend for a quick walk around the block.

Sunday is meant to be an exercise free day. It’s only fair that if we work all week and try for the most part to be good and watch what we eat, that we should get a day off from thinking about our weight woes, but alas, half a bag of natural confectionary jellies and a slice of cake will go straight to the hips no matter what day of the week. My ‘block’ is about 6km’s (much to my friends disgust) but an hour later, quite pleased with ourselves, I am now thinking about what to have for dinner.

My sugarhigh has worn off, and my thoughts turn to next week. Sunday is three quarters over and I wonder just what happened to my best intentions this morning to just ‘have a slow one’. I have one saving grace – the Sunday roast, which I probably could still pull off, but the thought of the preparation, not to mention the dishes, is just too much to bear, and the take away directory next to the phone is looking mighty appealing. After all, I did go for a walk this afternoon...

Under 3ft tall and feel like being a princess for a day?
Checkout the Big W toy sale for these taffeta creations, on sale for $29.46 each.
Perfect for your next princess party.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Skinny Bitch

Tonight I am going to celebrate the 50th birthday of the most stylish and envied woman in world. She has over 1 billion outfits, has worked in 108 different careers and has been with the same man for over 43 years (although there were some problems a few years back).

This year is Barbie’s 50th birthday, and boy, does she look good for 50! Although if I had cosmetologists, hair and makeup teams, artists, fashion designers and over 100 stylists, pattern makers and seamstresses putting me together everyday, I could probably look pretty darn hot all the time too.

Barbie Forever, an exhibition celebrating the life of Barbie at Federation Square Melbourne, costs $13.50 admission and will give you the highlights of the doll’s life, from her creation in 1959 to the empire she reigns over today.

Barbie was bought to life by Ruth Handler in 1959, officially known as Barbara Millicent Roberts. She was $3, and wore a black and white striped swimsuit and sunglasses. In 1959 alone, 300,000 Barbie dolls were sold. Barbie started a toy revolution; today having presence in an estimated 90% of homes with US girls aged 3 – 10.

Barbie has collaborated with world renowned fashion designers Patricia Field, Anna Sui and Judith Leiber (among others), MAC and Stila! cosmetics, and now even has stores totally dedicated to Barbie branded fashion. Products other than toys make up half of Barbie’s annual sales – coming at just under $3 billion.

In 2009, Barbie is the ultimate fashion icon and feminist. She has the ability to inspire little girls the world over by showing them that they can achieve whatever they aspire to. She may have perfect features and perfect clothes and a perfect life, but at the end of the day, Barbie is whoever our imagination wants her to be.

Visit Barbie and her friends at Federation Square until Sunday July 12th, http://barbie.com.au/events.html or just read about her at http://www.barbie.com/

Now, Barbie might be a skinny bitch, but I like cake too much to ever be that thin.
So here is a recipe for cupcakes – maybe you can make pink icing for them (PMS 219 is Barbie’s official colour) and serve them at your next tea party with the girls.

Basic Cupcakes
200g unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced oven. Line muffin or mini-muffin pans with paper cases.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, vanilla and sugar in a small bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition (mixture will separate at this stage). Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir in half the flour. Stir in half the milk. Repeat with remaining flour and milk until combined.
For 1/3 cup-capacity muffin pans use 2 level tablespoons of mixture. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes. Alternatively, for 1 tablespoon-capacity mini muffin pans use 1 tablespoon mixture. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
Stand cakes in pans for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Make icing using icing sugar with a dash of water. Add some red food colouring for pink icing!

Recipe thanks to http://www.taste.com.au/

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Coco Avant Chanel Tres French Chic!

After listening to numerous reports about how wonderful the new film, Coco Avant Chanel (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1035736) is I finally got my turn to see it last night.

The film is magical, and even if you are not into the fashion, the story of a girl who has ambition and follows her dream is at the very core of the storyline. It has love, life and death, all set in beautiful surrounds of the fabulously wealthy and the pleasantly peasant poor.

Audrey Tautou is splendid, and portrays Coco as many would imagine she lived. Her passion and famous ‘you should always take one thing off before leaving the house’ is evident throughout the film – her simple tastes and style start from an early age and it is easy to see why women coveted the clothes she designed. Way ahead of her time, Chanel wore pants long before they were popular for women and pioneered the French fisherman/sailor look.

Visit http://www.chanel.com/ for further inspiration and to see how an orphan girl became one of fashion’s greatest visionaries and a label still relevant today.

In honour of Chanel and her Parisian dreams, today’s recipe is for French toast. Nice and simple, but oh so good!!

French Toast (serves 2)

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs thin cream
30g unsalted butter
4 thick slices brioche (square)
1 banana, sliced
Creme fraiche, to dollop
Maple syrup, to drizzle
Ground cinnamon, to dust

Beat the eggs together with the vanilla and cream. Heat the butter in a large non-stick frypan over medium heat. When butter is sizzling, dip brioche slices in egg mixture, then place in the pan. Cook brioche for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden.
To serve, stack 2 slices of french toast on each plate, then top with slices of banana and a small dollop of creme fraiche. Drizzle with maple syrup and dust with cinnamon.

Thanks to taste.com.au for recipe