Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Valentines Gift Guide - The Jewelry Edit

Call it boring or old fashioned (I prefer to think of it as low maintenance), but I LOVE receiving jewellery. Especially on Valentines Day.
I guess it’s a bit of a cop-out and I do love a creative gift that has had a lot of thought, but I’m of the opinion that picking the right piece of jewellery can take just as much thought and creativity as something that’s a bit more left of centre. We have some great little jewellery companies in Australia – small businesses who have cleverly worked little messages into their designs, or just designers who craft beautiful, delicate or fashionable pieces. 
I think I blew my chance at jewellery this year by telling the husband that he had already bought me enough recently (really though, if there any such thing?!) but here’s a few options, for both him and her that might be helpful when choosing for your own lovely love!

1. FOR HER: Samantha Wills Wild Botanist Ring - Everyone knows my long standing love of Samantha Wills jewellery, but pearls are so in at the moment and I'm yet to meet a girl who doesn't love rose gold, so this ring is completely on trend right now. (Also, if you're reading this honey, I bloody LOVE this... this one. Please!)
2. FOR HIM OR HER: Code Love jewellery create pieces that have hidden messages spelled out in morse code through their gemstone patterns. Cool, huh?! This one says 'Love' but they also have bigger ones with full quotes, and you can create your own bespoke design.
3. FOR HIM: SuzyQ Longitude & Latitude Cufflinks Another personalized piece - you give the coordinates of a special place, perhaps where you met, got married or first said 'I Love You'.
I know, I'm a complete sap!
4. FOR HIM OR HER: Pony & Pressed Origami Crane Charm These guys make sweet, unique little gifts that any girl would love to receive - they're unique and handmade, and given that they're not mass produced, it's highly unlikely your love will know anyone with anything even similar!
5. FOR HER: Country Road Bangle - Coming into Autumn/Winter, black accents are going to be everywhere. I love how this bangle keeps it simple and chic.
6. FOR HIM: Merci Maman Leather Cuff These are just completely cool and sturdy enough if your man works with his hands and can't wear a lot of jewelry for fear of it getting damaged (like mine). Plus, you have the added bonus of adding a quote, lyric or message to the sterling silver plate!
7. FOR HIM: Hardy Brothers Titanium Bracelet This one is up on the luxury end of the gift scale, and a bit pricier than the others, but it is a quality, locally made and designed piece and that's always worth a few extra dollars. Men don't get much choice when it comes to good quality jewellery, so get something timeless and special engraved and give him something he can wear on special occasions.
8. FOR HER: Simone Walsh Earrings I do love a small, local business - especially when they make pieces as gorgeous as these earrings. Etched and gilded, they're delicate and sweet and perfect for the days that a girl just can't pick between white and yellow!

The thought is really in picking something out that will suit your partner’s personality and finding something that conveys what they mean to you – and for my money, that can be just as hard as finding any other gift and is sure to be appreciated!

Good luck and happy loving!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Travel Files - Hawaii Part One: The North Shore

Travelling to Hawaii has been on my list for as long as I can remember, so when we were nutting out where to have our honeymoon, it was the first destination I put out for conversation.
Lucky for me, I have a fairly easy-going husband and he was happy with pretty much anywhere, as long as he got at least a few nights along the way at a high-life baller resort (which he did, but that will come a little later!).

Our first few nights in Hawaii were spent on the infamous North Shore of Oahu. We decided pretty early on that we didn’t want to spend the entire time in Waikiki, and that we’d cut the trip into 3. Originally that consisted of Maui, Big Island, and then back to Oahu for a few days in Waikiki and exploring Honolulu, but we struggled to get accommodation in Maui during the peak season, so instead we ended up staying in the North Shore.

I am SO glad we did.

I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with surfing and the culture behind it, and the North Shore is, of course, the home of big wave surfing. It’s where you’ll find the Banzai Pipeline, it’s where the Eddie Aikau rescued everyone who tried to emulate him in Waimea Bay, it’s where the Duke Kohanamoku Invitational was started, hell, it’s where Duke himself surfed – and through the areas of Hawaii that we visited, it’s the singular place that felt the most authentically Hawaiian to us.

We stayed in Waialua, just outside of Haleiwa, in a neighbourhood that used to be a sugar plantation. It was beautiful and quiet and perfectly set the scene for the rest of our trip. It definitely wasn't long enough, but I feel like we got the most out of the limited time we had there, so here's the 5 top tips I have if, like us, you only have a few days to enjoy the area.

1. Hire a car. The public transport system is great in Honolulu and around Waikiki. If you want to get anywhere, there is a bus or a trolley that will take you there – usually quite cheaply and quickly.
The North Shore however is not so accessible and if you want to be able to get around and see the sites, particularly some of the little bays and beaches that make the North Shore as wonderful as it is, you’ll need a driver. We were able to get a basic economy car with a GPS through Alamo for around $200 for 3 days. By the time you factor in the cost of airport shuttles, taxis and other local transport, it’s not that much more expensive and you have a lot more freedom (you just have to get used to driving on the other side of the car and the other side of the road!)

2. Eat all the food. Especially seafood. If you’re up there, head to Cholo’s for the most amazing Ahi tacos, full of beautiful fresh produce and the most amazing tuna you’ve ever tasted - or Haleiwa Joe’s for basically anything on their menu (the rock shrimp appetiser will haunt my dreams for years to come – SO GOOD!) – don’t forget the famous Food Trucks – we heard that Big Wave Shrimp was a little better than Giovanni’s (and not nearly as long of a line) and it didn’t disappoint!
The Rock Shrimp that dreams are made of at Haleiwa Joe's
Cholo's amazing Ahi Tacos

Crispy shrimp from Big Wave
3. Appreciate the scenery. Once you get to the heart of Waikiki, while there are many spots that are stunningly beautiful, you just don’t see the same amazing sunsets you do in the north, especially with the huge, towering skyscraper hotels. Laniakea beach was my favourite spot, despite the throng of people. That’s where the ‘Honu’ (sea turtles) come and beach themselves to get some sun – so if you’re lucky enough to catch that sight coupled with the sunset, you have witnessed pure magic.
Just the absolute prettiest.

4. Be a tourist. Tourist attractions are busy and bustling, but people see the sights they see and do the things they do for a reason. They’re fun, they’re worth seeing, and people enjoy them. You ARE a tourist be definition, so enjoy it. Visit the Dole Plantation (no seriously, if you don’t try a Dole Whip, you’re crazy!), have a Matsumoto Shave Ice, wear a lei, see the turtles, get your photo taken as a pineapple! Why not?! 
The Dole Plantation - like a shrine to the pineapple! 
Why eat a pineapple when you can BECOME a pineapple?!

Matsumoto Shave Ice wins at summer.
5. Relax. The north shore was truly the most relaxing part of Hawaii that we got to visit. There isn’t a whole lot to do at night, past 10pm, so we were able to catch up on sleep and feel refreshed enough to enjoy the days – thong tan on our feet, salt in our hair, sun on our skin – pure bliss.
Go with it and enjoy a few days of rest, don't feel pressure to be out all the time - learn what it is to live aloha and just soak it all in.
Sun on my skin, salt in my hair, sand in my toes.

Some of the best beaches you'll veer have the joy of visiting.
There is a lot more to say – have a surf lesson, do some stand up paddle-boarding, and check out the waterfalls – but all in all the North Shore is just a place to be enjoyed. It still has its authenticity, without the commercialism of Honolulu. The people are kind, the water is clear, the greenery is as green as you’ve ever seen and if we had more time to explore, we most definitely would have taken it!

If it’s not on your agenda, it definitely should be!

Stay tuned for the rest of the Hawaii series!


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Inspired - Love Love Love

A couple of days ago, husband and I were hanging out the washing when we looked at each other and realized it was only a couple of weeks to Valentine’s Day.
It’s one of those days that I absolutely love to celebrate (I am a sucker for love and my two long term serious relationships before meeting the husband were with men who “didn’t believe” in Valentine’s Day), but it always seems to roll around and catch me off guard, especially this year after being away for half of January.

We have the kid on Valentines weekend this year, and when that’s the case we generally choose to celebrate it the week after, so that buys me a bit of a grace period, but so far it’s been met with a lot of “What do you want to do?” “I dunno, what do you want to do?” from both of us. I think after the wedding and honeymoon, we might be slightly romanced out! We’re fairly low key kind of people, but it’s our first as a married couple so of course we want at least some effort to make it special.
So far we’ve thrown around the idea of checking out the Andy Warhol – Ai Weiwei exhibition at NGV and heading out to dinner to the restaurant we were meant to go to last Valentine’s Day before we were in a car accident (we got out unscathed, but our poor Honda didn’t survive!), or maybe even the rib joint we’ve been meaning to try.

Either way, it’s nothing that’s going to call for getting too drastically dressed up – I need an outfit that’s fairly cool and laid back. but still keeps a hint of romance.
If money wasn’t a factor, I’d hands down have bought myself the Zimmerman Empire Konya dress already – it’s a stunner!

But alas, kids and mortgages and bills stop me from being rich, so I’ve picked out a few more realistic options to get me inspired - one a little girly, one more practical, and one a bit more simplistic and cool...
1: Limedrop Dress / From St Xavier Cuff / Mimco Clutch / Bared Block Heel
2: Megan Park Pants / Lee Matthew Shirt /  Country Road Tote / Senso Block Heel / Amber Sceats Necklace3. Rodeo Show Skirt / Rodeo Show Cami / Witchery Wedge / The Daily Edited Clutch / by Charlotte Necklace

Will the husband put the same effort into researching his outfit? Probably not.
Will he actually notice what I wear? There’s a possibility (he has an annoying tendency, like many husbands, to be JUST attentive enough that I can’t get away with pretending I’ve had things in my wardrobe for aaaages and didn’t spend money on them!)

I’m sure we’ll have a great day no matter what we do or what I wear, but why not have a bit of fun and make it kinda special?

And now to find him a gift! Any ideas?!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Loving Right Now - Bold Prints

I am a lover of color in all it's forms.
Our living room is scattered with brightly colored cushions (much to my husbands dismay) and my day to day wardrobe is very rarely an all black affair, even if it means just a nice brightly coloured statement necklace.

Just recently, that love has intensified. Call it a symptom of summer, but bold, brightly colored prints have been all that I've wanted to wear for the past couple of months. A lot of people find bold prints hard - which they can be if you're wearing the likes of Discount Universe.

I personally think I'm past the age that I can get away with that, so I need something a bit more practical, and lucky for me there are a plethora out there to choose from.We have some amazing designers in this country who do bold prints better than anyone in the world (in my humble opinion!) - so here are just a few of my current faves...
Romance Was Born Opal Water Slip / The Prodigal Daughter African Print Maxi  / Gorman Satellite Silk Dress
1. The first brand that ever pops into my head when I hear the word 'bold' is Romance Was Born. They never fail to be bright, quirky, dream like and absolutely divine.
2. I discovered The Prodigal Daughter through a boutique called "The Dress Collective", who focus on 100% Australia, small run brands. This particular brand combines elements of Pheobe Mwanza's African-Australian culture, which means amazing prints and fabulous silhouettes!
3. Gorman. Anyone who knows me knows I pretty much worship at the Gorman altar. This dress would be my ultimate for a wedding or event - bright, bold, fun and cool.

Mister Zimi Ibiza River Dress / lifeWITHbird Multivision Lava Print DressHayley Elsaesser Carnival of Curiosity Dress
4. Mister Zimi will never not make a bold print countdown of mine. They are so easy to style and wear and so comfortable. There is no other - hands down.
5. LIFEwithBIRD are just a mainstay of chic, this print is no exception
6.This one makes it on a technicality, Hayley Elsaesser is Canadian born but Australian educated and I first came to know of her at VAMFF back in 2013. She is my queen of bold prints, so I couldn't not include her! This particular dress looks to be sold out, but do yourself a favour and check out her site - superb!

Just like a soulmate, there is literally a big, bright, happy print out there for everyone, and the added bonus is that they act as the centerpiece. A bold dress doesn't need a lot of styling to give you a complete outfit that looks well thought out and executed, and you can't help but be happy in whichever one you choose!

If you're stuck in a neutral rut (I get it, I live in Melbourne!), have a go, I promise you'll have fun!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Farewell Hawaii, Until We Meet Again

I'm sitting here, at my desk, with a sore back from sleeping at my mother-in-law's tiny spare bed last night (a ritual during the days in school holidays when she is kind enough to babysit for us during the days we both have to work). I have a lingering cough that rattles around every now and then and big black circles under my eyes.

The honeymoon is, literally and figuratively, well and truly over.

Today is my second day back at work since Christmas Eve and I've somehow managed to cut the 648 unread emails that were waiting for me down to just 14, but my will to anything much more than that is being fast overshadowed by the memory that not even a full two weeks ago, I was on Waikiki Beach with salty skin and sand beneath my toes, living it up with my husband on our honeymoon.
I've been back in the country since the 8th and enjoying the school holidays with the husband and kiddo, and figured that some relaxing time at home, a spot of shopping, some general down time would ease me back in, however the struggle is still there, and it is real, my friends!

But here I am, back in my beloved Melbourne and ready for a whole new year of posts - I've got a bit of a travel diary, more style posts and just some general life and times to share!

So happy belated 2016, I can't wait to share the next 12 months with you!

Friday, December 18, 2015

How Sweet It Is - Coconut Ice Cake Recipe

The day after my wedding last month, my sister in law was turning 38. Two days after that, her partner was due to turn 40.
In honour of this milestone, they decided that they were going to head off on an adventure across India and Sri Lanka for 3 weeks.
Call it ESP, or a sixth sense (I call it my Spidey Sense), but as we were getting our hair and makeup done for the wedding, I looked at her and said “I reckon John’s going to propose to you on this trip!”

Lo and behold, fast forward a week or so and we get a very excited phone call from Northern India that John had, in fact, gotten down on bended knee and popped the question.
On their return, we started making plans for a small little family backyard barbecue to congratulate them. Of course no celebration is complete without a cake, so I decided this was the time to try out a creation I had been dreaming up – a Vanilla Cake with Coconut Ice Icing and Raspberries.

I brought out the Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cake recipe I’d been wanting to try and had a bit of an experiment. After a little mishap with the oven (I turned It to the wrong setting for the first cake and it turned into a thick, gluey mess – rookie move, dickhead), we were off and it turned out pretty bloody magnificently.
So without further ado:

I'm generally far better at eating food than photographing it - obviously!
Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cake Batter (makes 3 layers of cake, I used 2)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1⁄2 cups self raising flour
1 1⁄4 cups plain flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
Grease and lightly flour two 22 cm (or 9 in) round cake pans, and one ring tin (like this one). If you don’t have a ring pan, you can use 3 regular round cake pans and remove the center of one with a glass or cookie cutter.
Line pans with baking paper if needed.
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.
Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Combine the flours and add in four parts, alternating with the milk and the vanilla extract, beating well after each addition.
Divide batter among the cake pans.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
Let cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes.
Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.

Raspberry Buttercream
1 cup pure icing sugar
100g butter
1 tsp raspberry jam
1/4 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen is fine)

Mix all ingredients together, except the raspberries.
Using one of the full round cakes as your bottom layer, ice the top of the cake and secure the ring cake on top of this as your middle layer.
Repeat this step, icing the top of the ring layer.
Before securing the top layer, add the raspberries the mixture and fill the middle of the ring cake.
Secure the second round cake as your top layer and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Coconut Ice Icing
2 cups pure icing sugar
1 & 1/3 cups desiccated coconut
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 tbsp water
pink food coloring

Shortly before removing cake from refrigerator, combine sifted icing sugar in a bowl with coconut, egg whites and water; mix well until combined
Tint with a little pink coloring (just a couple of drops for that real pastel pink coconut ice color).
Ice top and sides of cold cake with your mixture and return to refrigerator.
I chose to scatter several raspberries around the top before returning it to set.
The icing will feel quite heavy and sticky, but should cover the cake nicely without too much trouble, and will set hard once refrigerated.

The cake was an absolute hit and looks like you've gone to a lot more trouble than you actually have. Also, for all the sugar that is in it, it's not as sickly sweet as you'd expect either.
My sister in law couldn't get enough of the Coconut Ice icing, and I figure when someone can't stop picking at the remainder of something you've baked, then you've hit the jackpot! It's just a nice, light cake with delicious summery flavors and definitely worth a shot (if I do say so myself!)

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

5 Lessons I Learned in 2015

I’m always loathe to do any end of year wrap up before the end of year is actually here. There’s still more than 2 weeks left of 2015, and I’m sure many things left for me to learn in that time, but I think my major take away lessons will pretty much remain the same.
It’s been such an epic year for me, for my little family. I got engaged, married, became a stepmother, I took a leap and enrolled in a Uni course that I always wanted to do, I made new friends, lost old friends and became closer with others. It’s been a big 12 months.
I’ve felt unbelievable happiness this year, and that has been tinged with an element of sadness too, but I’m coming to realise that ultimately, that’s pretty much how life rolls on (and I’d much rather a life of happiness tinged with pain than a life of sadness with occasional joy). Through it all I’ve done a lot of thinking, I mean, A LOT - I’m an anxious little ball of neuroses at the best of times – and this is what I’ve taken away…

1) Things don’t move at the pace you demand of them, and often there are life developments happening in the background that you don’t even know about.
I learned this one pretty early on – on the 2nd of January to be exact. I had turned 30 in 2014 and had gone through a bit of a 1/3 life crisis about what I hadn’t done yet, what I hadn’t achieved, what I had wasted so many years not doing. We had gone though some expensive legal battles and I just didn’t see us moving forward with the things we wanted to do with our lives anytime soon – marriage, babies, a new home – it all seemed so far away, and I was reminded, as so many women are, that my clock was ticking.
The husband proposed to me on the 2nd January (it was meant to be New Year’s Day, but I was so hungover that I literally couldn’t move without vomiting) and I found out that he had bought the ring 6 months earlier… while I was working myself into a panic over what wasn’t happening in life, the foundations were being laid for them to happen without my even knowing it.

2) I am capable. Capable of doing so many things I never imagined, so many things I always doubted. So. Many. Things.
I spend a lot of time doubting myself. I always have, ever since I was a kid, and I don’t know why, because I’ve had support and encouragement and love from people around me for my entire life. This year, I proved myself wrong at work, at home, and at basically everything I took on. I wore so many hats in every aspect of my life, as a wife and parent, as a career person, as a wedding planner, as a friend and I succeeded.
There was of course the occasions where my successes weren’t so great, I am far from perfect, but I kept the balls in the air and I learned and sometimes that’s all that being capable really means.

3) Love isn’t a competition and the way you show your feelings isn’t necessarily the way others do – this doesn’t mean they wouldn’t move mountains for you.
This goes in every aspect of life. I have some amazing friends who I don’t need to see every weekend, fortnight or month to be close to – we just are.
We get each other, we have the most amazing time together and it works. This goes for family, for romance, for everything. I think it comes back to me point above about self-doubt, but I’ve always somehow had the feeling that no matter how close I am to someone, I obviously must like them better than they like me, or that I have to work harder to be loved, but it’s simply not true. I am loved, beyond measure, beyond my imagination, and I have learned that this year in so many different ways.

4) No amount of fretting or anxiety will change the course of the world. Bad things happen, but good things do as well – far more often than the bad, no matter what the media will have you believe.
I still struggle with this one.
I know this lesson to be true, logically, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it quiets my anxieties. Just two days ago, I had a massive attack - heaving, sobbing tears to the point of hyperventilation, my husband had to rally the troops (my brother) to figure out how to deal with me, and it was all sparked by a conversation about Christmas of all things… but sometimes telling myself this really is the only thing that does help.
Sometimes when I’m really struggling to see reason, I just need 5 minutes out of the way, with myself, to say “Mate, your worry is not going to change the trajectory of the world or the lives of people in it” and I will snap back to the here and now. It’s not logical, but then neither is anxiety.

5) If you live a full enough life, you won’t find room for anger, jealousy, spite or hatred.
Back in about May, I lost a friend. That makes it sound like she died. She didn’t, but in a strange way, it felt like she did. She simply decided that after over 6 years of friendship, of travelling and milestones, of nights out dancing and crafter-noons and any number of dinners and fun we’d had together, she didn’t want to be friends with our group anymore, and figured the best way to tell us that was through a strangely business like ‘Dear John’ email, in which she told us it wasn’t exactly our fault, but then did us the courtesy of personalizing with the reasons we had each failed the friendship.
I won’t lie, it sucked. It felt like someone had punched me in the gut.
I cried, I got angry, I went through every stage of grief.
And then I let go. I decided I didn’t want to be friends with anyone that didn’t want to be friends with me. And it was the healthiest thing I could have done.
I have no anger toward her, she did what she needed to do for her, whether or not I understand it, and I have other people in my life who are happy for my successes, who are cheerleaders when I’m down and who love me, that I can put my energy into. I have strong family relationships and amazing, beautiful women in my life who I am lucky to call my friends.
I miss her sometimes, but I feel no resentment or anger and I think when your life is filled with love, real, true, proper love in your family and friendships, you can let go of that hurt without too much scarring.

Some of these photos are a bit dodgy, I apologize.
They're taken on phones or in 42 degree heat when we've been sweating or at the end of the night when makeup has worn off - but I guess lesson 6 is that life is full of dodgy photos and special moments that don't get captured by professional photographers. They're the moments that make life worth it, and they were certainly the moments that made my 2015 wonderful, and taught me what I've learned until now.

What are you taking away into the new year with you?