Sunday, 28 December 2014

Happy Birthday to me!

Oh my goodness - I'm 32 today!!! And something very special was waiting for me when I woke up...

Ok so that slightly naff series of step-by-step reveal pics is actually of my wedding ring - my dream wedding ring from Boucheron, which my darling M bought a couple of months ago but we agreed to wait until my birthday to actually open.

It was so beautifully wrapped and presented, I felt quite overwhelmed. There is a great sense of sentiment that attaches to such a significant and personal piece of jewellery. I can honestly say I've never anything like the gravity that comes from putting this ring on. It makes me take a breath and think "Ok. I get it. This man is going to take me, this passionately-in-love-but-nonetheless-deeply-flawed woman, to be his wife. I am so batting above my weight class."

As a superficial sidenote, never having bought anything from Boucheron before, how cool is the packaging?! Like something a ring from Hogwarts would be presented in, no? It's been tucked away now until our wedding day but it's official: starting to get real!

People sometimes assume having a birthday between Christmas and New Year is a raw deal but honestly, I've never found it to be that way.  Probably because I have an intensely thoughtful mother and a very sweet sister and kind group of friends. I get all sorts of calls and texts and general birthday wishes (many of them quite early in the morning, since everyone knows I love a sleep-in and frankly why would they pass up the opportunity to wake me early just because it's my birthday?) The day is just lovely.

It's been really hot and humid for the past couple of days and the rain has been drizzly and a bit off-putting.  After much debate, M and my mother settled on one of my favourite asian restaurants for a casual and relaxed lunch and I pulled this outfit together in about 5 minutes before dashing to catch the ferry across to the CBD:

Top: LK Bennett
Jeans: Country Road
Flats: Country Road
Bag: Chanel

My hair was definitely not playing ball today due to the humidity so I apologise for looking fuzzy! I wanted softer colours today so I chose this blush pink tank over navy skinnies combined with the classic beige Chanel. While it might be tempting to wear a silk dress in this weather, the truth is you sweat so much it just comes straight through so slightly darker colours and a light tank is definitely a safer choice for the conditions :)

Friday, 26 December 2014

Indulgent holiday mornings

Homemade blueberry pancakes. This is not the only serving I had...

It's that funny time between Christmas and New Year where time almost feels suspended and everyone is a bit vague about what day it is.  Because M and I rarely get time off, this time is just so precious. The flow-on of public holidays to the weekend is a wonderful opportunity for us to actually relax. In the spirit, I jumped out of bed this morning and made pancakes. And had time to sit down and eat them and read the paper. Bizarre but I could get used to it :)

While my mind is admittedly thinking up a long long list of chores I can tackle (kitchen cupboards, downstairs storage space, repot some herbs...stop it!) I am working on winding down a bit. We're partway through a Star Wars marathon (M is a massive fan, personally I like some of it but find the Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader development a bit whiny. And AS IF Natalie Portman's character would be into someone that petulant - Mr Lucas, you need some female perspective in your story development).

It's my birthday tomorrow and I'm looking forward to a relaxed day with M and my mother doing nothing in particular. There may be afternoon drinks with some girlfriends but plans are pretty loose at this stage.

I think we'll spend today just tidying around the house a little bit before a nice equally indulgent dinner: pork belly and coleslaw and a glass of wine and perhaps some more Star Wars...

I hope everyone is getting to enjoy some real downtime before the new year :) xo

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas, Queensland style

It's a beautiful day, the sun is shining and I wanted to wish everyone a very merry and safe Christmas wherever you are in the world. It's time for friends and family and, if you're a Queenslander, prawns and ham and potato salad and crisp white wine :) xo

Monday, 22 December 2014

Moving on and counting down

It's been a long week. Sad events at home, sad events around the world. I am always grateful that I get to go to work and come home safe to the people I love the most. I've been even more conscious of that feeling of gratitude following the siege in Sydney. The two people who tragically lost their lives will be so missed by their loved ones and I know they will struggle through this Christmas. I wish in some small way I could help, but that is an inherent part of the tragedy: we get to continue and they stay frozen in time.

So after a few sleepless nights/waking early, I gave up and went running one morning and watched the sun rise.  It's enough, I decided, to still be here. That's how we honour those who leave us through no fault of their own. We make a conscious choice to continue living as we wish they could.

After such profound and deep thoughts, I retreated to my safe haven - the kitchen. When all else fails, when the world outside makes no sense to me and I feel like a complete underprepared amateur in it, I cook. There's something really comforting about the predictability of ingredients, a recipe and the outcome.  If you can make nothing else in your world work, you can heat fruit and sugar and make jam awesomeness happen like so:

It's the final three days before Christmas and I have an absolute mountain of work to clear.  Next year is going to be big, strategically, for my company and I want to start a little ahead of the game.  It's hard to maintain your focus though when there's gorgeous weather outside, delicious food to be made and a festive glass or two to be raised in celebration. I am going to make it to Christmas Eve, but it's going to require a lot of willpower :)

In anticipation of a busy day, I chose a peplum top over my trusty navy skinny jeans:

Top: Pierre Balmain
Jeans: Country Road
Heels: Bally
Bag: Chloe

It's a slightly unusual work outfit for me - peplums are so tricky.  They can be devastatingly flattering, but proportion is critical.  I quite like this one as it's exaggerated enough to catch the eye but it's also classic, the colour and lack of embellishment keep it contained.  In many ways, it's the perfect outfit for someone who has built the seniority to set her own rules for the office.

In some ways, it's tempting to dismiss clothing and fashion as utterly trivial following events of such magnitude.  I don't see it that way though.  Irrespective of what happens to you, whatever tragedies and grief and injustice you experience in your life, you still, after a time, will have to get up one morning and rinse your face and put clothes on. Undoubtedly, you will choose clothes that help you feel that you can face the world again. Clothes that remind you of yourself. Or perhaps clothes that are nothing like who you were because you can't be that person again. Whatever happens, life continues inevitably.

I hope everyone out there chooses an outfit for today that feels like good armour against the world :) xo

Sunday, 14 December 2014

You will never change who we are

Kiss this, terrorism.

So December 15 2014 is turning out to be a day when someone thought they'd like to terrorise a bunch of innocent Australians to make a point to the world's media.

Well, kind of like this guy, I say to them: piss off.

This is not to downplay in any way, shape or form the distress and fear this idiot's actions will have caused the hostages in this incident, or their families, all of whom will be praying for their loved ones safety during this despicable event.

To these guys who think they have the right to take over other people's lives, other people going about their business in this great country, going to their jobs, living their lives peacefully and respectfully, I say this: you don't have the right to do that.

You don't get to mean something important by your actions.

You don't get to pretend that you're oppressed or hard-done-by in this great society.  It's pure crap and we're all on to you.

You don't get to treat innocent people's lives like a game.

You don't get to create a climate of fear and paranoia and retribution.

You don't get to do any of those things, because the worst choice you ever made was doing something like this in Australia. Here, we don't play like that. We think you're fools. We think you're selfish. We don't think you speak on behalf of anyone else. We think you're going to be forgotten pretty quickly.

My heart goes out to the members of Australian law enforcement who are handling this matter with the highest level of competence and professionalism.  My heart goes out to hostages and their families.

Cream and white summer weekends

Top: Vivienne Westwood
Jeans: Country Road
Bag: Chloe
Sandals: Country Road (new! Love :) 

Ta-da!! It is a fabulous Sunday evening and I am writing this with a glass of wine feeling quite tired but pleased at the end of a busy but delightful social weekend. Sunday has been very quiet and relaxed after Saturday's adventures, with a few minor errands only. I changed bags to my cream Chloe to lighten up for summer and also to go with my fabulous new jewelled flat sandals which arrived during the week. I am officially obsessed with them.

Our big dinner party took place last night. We had 10 friends over for a Christmas/end of year celebration. I was initially a little bit anxious about fitting everyone in (our apartment is spacious, no question, but still we don't tend to host 10 people every night of the week) and also catering for that number given the limited size of our oven etc. We borrowed some dining chairs from my lovely mother and boosted up our coffee table on magazines to extend the dining table (necessity is indeed the mother of invention). In the end it all worked out well, with great food, great music and fun conversation - the three essentials of good entertaining - and it went on until midnight. Who says we're getting old?! :) xo

Our Christmas playlist includes
Rudimental, Sheppard, One Republic and of course, Bing

French tarragon roast chickens - it was a bit of a squeeze in our oven
but we managed :) 

Cherries and dry roasted smoked almonds - unbelievably delicious!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Why Christmas 2014 is already the best ever

I love Christmas. I love food, friends and time spent with my family and of course, I love presents and surprising people and giving things (including things to myself!) It's my birthday just after Christmas as well, so the whole time of year kind of feels like a festivus of me..

That said, this particular Christmas is so far working out to be quite spectacular in its own right, for several reasons...

1. I'm pretty much organised as far as gifts go. 

It's the absolute dream, no? M is sorted (thank you Apple for your unnervingly reliable and accurate shipping times). My sister's gift will be ready to collect next week and my mother's present is on its way from Hill Smith Gallery as we speak. I have all my jam jars ready for jam-making, the fruits of which will be going to my extended family and other friends. My kris kringle presents for the guests at my dinner party are purchased and merely await wrapping. I am feeling like a pretty smug organised beaver right now. Feel free to hate me :)

2. The balance of social and quiet relaxation has been struck

Everyone likes a party. Hosting one makes you feel completely grown up and sophisticated, being invited makes you feel incredibly popular.  Having nothing on your social calendar through December would be a bit like that time all your friends were invited to THE end-of-year school party and you waited expectantly before deciding the day before that you really didn't want to go anyway and you'd much rather get a headstart on your summer projects #sadface

However, in adulthood, there is such as thing as too much busyness. Too much work, too much social stuff after hours, not enough sleep/relationship time. What you're going for is a balance: enough fun times out with friends and new outfits and hip eateries so you don't feel like a hermit plus enough quiet time on the couch in your big underpants so you still have energy come Monday morning.

3. Christmas entertaining and food is sorted

Obviously first up is the dinner party this weekend and while I've still got to do the shopping, I do have a very comprehensive list which should make it a breeze in Woolworths on Saturday morning in my gym gear. 

Christmas eve dinner is just M, myself and my mother and as we all like each other and get along splendidly, the dinner is really just going to be an average Sunday night and I can do those standing on my head. 

Christmas day, it's just the two of us. Right now, I'm sure, there are numerous loved-up couples hating us because their Christmas day will be spent traveling to various parents and siblings homes to join in a lunch with 30 other people, some of whom you have not met and many of whom you may not particularly like. 

My lot is scattered this year and so, dear friends, we are celebrating that unicorn of life's social situations: a truly quiet Christmas.  There's no pressure to produce enough food to feed a football team, with enough variety in the sides/salads to quell Auntie Mary's judgmental eye and make it all look easy when they turn up at a quarter past 10, squawking for nosh.  

M and I will be waking up when we're ready, walking the dog around Kangaroo Point and then settling in with prawns, fresh bread, cocktail sauce and a bottle of crisp white wine, all to ourselves, before an afternoon that looks like this:

And that, to me, is the mark of a truly superb Christmas.  It's been a very big year, 2014, and I'm looking forward to briefly kicking back :) xo

Prepare for landing

So Monday morning looked like this as the pilots carefully brought us down into Brisbane:
Best. Travel. Handbag. EVER.

Noise-cancelling headphones - a must, even in business

It's been a big week, mostly because work doesn't really stop just because you're not in the office.  My in-tray was plenty full when I walked in on Tuesday morning and it's been a big effort to get things slightly back to under control.  I've been extremely tired all week and I can't tell if it's due to jet lag or just because there is a lot going on and I'd be tired whether I'd been overseas or not.

Friday is even more welcome than usual and I thought it would be a good idea to bust out my lovely new Jimmy Choo flats:

Top: LK Bennett
Jeans: Country Road
Jacket: L'Agence
Flats: Jimmy Choo
Bag: Chloe
Finding a polished office-friendly pair of flats is something of a challenge. Frankly, heels add authority to any work-look, so flats that still make you look like you own the corner office, instead of a student doing a summer internship, are more rare than one might think. Black patent with a pointed toe are extremely transitional and make any more relaxed outfit look smart.  I used to have a couple of pairs of Christian Louboutin Pigalle flats but they got tossed in the great wardrobe edit (after many, many years of good wear, I should add) so these were a timely addition to my wardrobe.

I'm looking forward to a fairly busy, but fun social weekend. It's M's and my Christmas party on Saturday night so Saturday will be a flurry of early Pilates, grocery shopping, house-cleaning and cooking before welcoming our guests for a night of great conversation and (hopefully) great food.

I hope you all have wonderful weekends :) xo

Sunday, 7 December 2014

New obsessions for summer

Country Road Zelda sandals

Probably unsurprisingly but being in Chicago in sub-zero temps seriously sharpened my appetite for warm weather fashions. Summer entertaining calls for bejewelled slides, sleek monochrome separates and a generally pared-back look that leaves you free to enjoy yourself and be either a scintillating guest or the unflappable hostess :)

1. Summer slides

I've picked up the jewelled slides from Country Road above with a spend-and-save (also ordered a sneaky Palo Tuberose candle which will come in handy with all the upcoming entertaining at our place - winning!) I love a statement slide that lets you show off a beautiful pedicure while also being supremely comfortable.

I'm also quite interested in the pair below from Witchery:

2. Summer jacket

I saw this ivory bomber in the Outnet clearance and thought it would be a lovely light cover up, perfect to slip over black jersey dresses when the air-con is a little too cold:

3. Camisole

This is a little bit of a gamble for me. I've been intrigued by this Witchery camisole ever since I saw it on a girl out for Friday drinks. She'd clearly come straight from work and honestly, under a blazer it just looked great and when she slipped her jacket off after her date arrived, it looked even better.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to carry it off but I'm prepared to at least experiment, perhaps over white jeans. It also comes in ivory, which would look smashing over navy skinny jeans, no?   :) xo

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Flying home

As I write this I am in Chicago O'Hare and shortly going to board my flight to LA, connecting to Brisbane, Queensland. I added a little navy Hermes for 'flying chic' and I am so excited to be heading home to my family, M and my fat dog and our beautiful apartment and sunny Queensland summer :) xo

Friday, 5 December 2014

5 things that suck about internet shopping

As you know, I'm a passionate online shopper.  A couple of posts ago, I did a list of the top 5 things that make internet shopping awesome. However, I'm a balanced sort of person and I thought it would be best to be honest and share some of the less lovely things about clicking 'purchase' and waiting/hoping as a bunch of internet elves somewhere magically scrape money off your Visa debit...

1. Stuff doesn't fit

This is self-explanatory. Sometimes a brand is small or large for size, sometimes the cut is very small across the bust or roomy in the waist. Frustrating.

2.  Stuff doesn't look how you thought it would look

In this scenario, stuff does fit. In fact, it fits just fine. But the fabric or the cut or the embellishment or some detail that you would definitely have noticed had you been able to look at/try on this item in real life, makes you look bizarre or otherwise renders the garment unwearable.

One of the biggest factors at play here is the way products and clothes in particular, are presented to us for online consumption.  In order to maximise the realism of the internet shopping experience, Net-a-Porter does a superb job styling, modelling (including videos) and otherwise marketing individual pieces. They use real models who walk against a bland background so that the clothes really stand out.  You can see how the clothes look in front, back, profile and full length.  However, at the end of the day sometimes you still lift the clothes out of the box and think 'Ah. Well, if I'd known it really looked/felt/wore like THAT...' At the end of the day, I don't have the model's height/weight/modest bust. I'm short and curvy and that's the end of it. And some styles will never, ever look as good on me as they do on other people.

To be honest though, in my experience it is rarely the size or style that's 'wrong' (except when I'm going through my fantasy moments where I'm totally 5ft 10in and weigh 50kg.) It's far more likely that I will obsess over an item, stalk it madly, buy it, anticipate it, rip of the packaging when it arrives like a werewolf hacking into a butcher's delivery only to find the fabric is impossibly heavy and unwearable for the weather we really have in Brisbane 95% of the year - #sadface.

3. Orders get mixed up/partly delivered/can't be fulfilled

Most recently, a pair of shearling LK Bennett boots I had been obsessing over for my Chicago trip and that were on sale. Grrrrr...Again, it is rare but when this does happen, the foremost thought in your head is "Well, this wouldn't have happened if I'd bought it in store..."

4. Returns and refunds take time

The best e-tailers have their returns process down pat and make it as painless for the customer as possible.  Off the top of my head Matches and Net-a-Porter/Mr Porter/The Outnet all do returns very well. However, it still takes 3-4 days for the package to reach the return destination and then it will be a day until they process the return, then up to 3 days for the refund to appear in your account. Le sigh.

5. Internet shopping changes how you shop in real life.

At it's core, internet shopping is all about maximising information access and convenience. You shop when you want. You have all the information to compare prices at your fingertips.  You can access any number of reviews and feedback about the product and particular stores.  So the role of the sale assistant is essentially reduced to processing the transaction.

In most cases, this is all for the better - I've discussed poor customer service from sales assistants in bricks and mortar retail in previous posts and for those individuals, processing a transaction accurately, quickly and with minimal chit chat is probably the best way for them to earn their wage.  However, some sales assistants ARE knowledgable about their product. Some of them genuinely want to know what you're looking for and tell you what product they have that could best serve your needs.  For these people, internet shopping has the potential to render them obsolete - the customer can get all that info online. They just need someone to swipe the card.

At the end of the day, there are pros and cons to both forms of shopping.  I am undoubtedly a huge internet shopping proponent. But there are also things I greatly value advice from a human being sought face to face before I take the plunge and make my purchase.  I like to think that the advent of internet shopping and the competition between it and bricks and mortar retail effectively push each sphere of retail to improve on the gaps in service quality and performance.  Neither form will ever be the be-all and end-all.  There is absolutely a place for both :) xo

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Surviving Chicago in winter - or lumpy dressing for the northern hemisphere :)

Woohoo, it is happening! As I write this, I am sitting in Chicago and I am freezing! It's below zero, quite a lot if you include windchill. I am assuming you get acclimatised to the cold, because a lot of people are walking around just dressed warmly but normally and don't appear to be tearing up because their face is freezing and their ears, I am visualising 30 degree heat back home and returning to a land of t shirts all year round.

So this trip is for work, we attend a big radiology congress for my company and it's held in Chicago at the same time every year.  Unfortunately, as much as everyone kept saying 'Have a fun trip!' before I left, in reality, it's a long flight, I am at the conference every day and then we fly straight home on Saturday so it's not really a holiday and there's not much time for sightseeing. However, it's still lovely to go and see a different part of the world, especially as it's preparing for a proper white Christmas.

Getting away from work is always tricky and, despite my best efforts, I always seem to end up packing the night before, which goes like this:
That suitcase is going to look super packed once I finish this...
In the end, I packed:

- lots of sweaters/knits
- three pairs of pants (jeans and my Country Road black technical pants, super warm and comfy)
- tights to go under pants and tank tops to go under sweaters
- a pair of black ankle boots and a pair of black patent pointed toe pumps
- exercise gear including trainers, jammies, a couple of t shirts
- one dress
- one very large black shearling coat

Which looked like this:

I woke up early for the flight out of sheer nerves mostly and tried to settle them with a good healthy proper breakfast (my grandad would be so proud of me)...

Breakfast of jet-setting champions
The challenge in going from southern hemisphere to northern hemisphere at peak seasons is you leave in 30 degrees and arrive in snow. I ended up deciding to carry my shearling on the plane, while wearing a more warm-climate suitable white t-shirt and jeans with my lovely new boots for the flight. I accessorised with a navy Hermes scarf and took my trust Chloe tote:

We boarded Qantas business class headed for LA, drank a celebratory champagne on boarding, had a couple of glasses of red with the splendid lunch they provided, then popped on Bose noise-cancelling headphones and watched a bit of Underworld on my iPad mini before sleeping.

So far, this post makes me look quite the drinker...oh well...

On arrival in LA, we had a 3 hour connection which gave us plenty of time to collect bags, negotiate customs/immigration, drop off bags again and proceed to the AA Admirals Club lounge for a brief recheck of Viber on the free wifi before heading off for the connecting flight to Chicago.  It has to be said, first class American Airlines is NOT the same as Qantas business class.  Not. Even. Close.  But I was happy enough that everything was on time and we flew into Chicago around 3pm on Saturday afternoon.

At this point, we had been awake for around 24 hours so we obviously wasted no time checking into the hotel, showering, unpacking then collapsing into bed.

On Sunday, the weather was comparatively warm and so we ended up walking for about 40 minutes to the McCormack Centre to register for the conference.  I did a fairly extensive tour through the technical exhibits halls before a lecture, then headed back to the hotel to drop off conference papers. Then we headed out to eat this amazingness at Acanto:

On that first day, it was about 11 degrees, so I was comfortable enough to go out without a coat and just a jumper, pants, well layered with tights and singlets etc plus a scarf and gloves:

Since then however, the weather has gotten quite cold and bitter, with the windchill taking temperatures well below freezing. It's been fascinating for me, as a warm-weather resident, to work out how best to put an outfit together driven solely by comfort.  It's also one of those things unique to when you're traveling that you have to get by with very little choice in how you dress on any particular day - you only have one bag, two or three pairs of shoes etc. Mostly my traveling wardrobe seems to have worked out well - I'm a bit lumpier than I usually would like but that's ok as long as I've been warm:

Jumper: Maxmara
Pants: Country Road
Boots: Guiseppe Zanotti
Bag Chloe

Jumper: Maxmara
Jeans: JBrand
Boots: Guiseppe Zanotti
Bag: Chloe
We've mostly been working but there has been time to head out into the cold and take some pretty shots of the city as it comes into the Christmas season:

Biggest coat ever...

I hope everyone is having great weeks, whatever the temperature where you are :) xo

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Things I'm looking forward to: December

So this is a tiny bit late because I flew into Chicago late on Saturday and have been working since then and also dealing with dodgy wifi and a fair whack of jet lag but here it IS! December's list of things I'm looking forward to :)

1. Christmas!!!

I'm so excited. I have my Christmas playlist on repeat on my iPhone, my gift list is almost complete and my Christmas party plans are well and truly in hand. It's one of my favourite times of the year, full of sun, beach, prawns and Christmas ham and naps in the air con after far too much food :)

2. Presents

I love giving gifts, especially when they're a surprise. My sister, for example, has no idea about the piece of jewellery my mother and I are getting her. My mum does know about the very special oil painting I'm getting from one of her favourite artists (think it's hard to do surprise 'art', what if the recipient hates it?).

M however is impossible to surprise. He's very picky and hates wasting money so I kind of have to run presents past him before I actually take the plunge. Worst gift-receiving trait ever. However, this year I have managed quite the coup: he is getting a new iPhone 6 with his stamp of approval however I have also managed to pick out a little surprise something for him

I received a 100GBP  gift card from the lovely people at Net-a-Porter to spend at Mr Porter. It came quite out of the blue and I was immediately intrigued. I haven't spent much time on Mr Porter since it launched (M is not exactly a fashion hipster so there's precious little point trying to buy him clothes there).

Given I had 100 pounds to spend, I thought it would be a great opportunity to buy a little surprise gift for M - something that he will enjoy but that I'll also enjoy giving him because he has no idea about it.

I was a little anxious about the exercise, given Net-a-Porter's general luxury price range: would there be anything there that was a suitable 'stocking-filler' type gift?

Honestly ladies, I was very pleasantly surprised. There are obviously some really extravagant items (Dunhill Poker set anyone?) but also some quite fun and relatively inexpensive gift ideas.  I dithered for a while over a bluetooth speaker which you can sync with your phone to play music when you go on picnics...but then we don't picnic #fantasylife #reelitin

In the end, I went with Monopoly and Cluedo vintage box games:

I'm quite excited to bust these out come Christmas Day: the perfect time-passer for the afternoon while older relatives get their nap on...

3. Christmas dinner party

We have a group of friends coming for dinner on Saturday night after I return from Chicago - it's a great opportunity for everyone to catch up and share some Christmas cheer before we all scatter for the break.

I've got the menu mainly sorted: classic French Tarragon roast chickens with roasted carrots and onions and a witloff mustard salad. I'll probably do some smoked salmon and dill creme fraiche canapés to start with, and a cheese board with fruits and Viennese almonds to finish (if it was just M and I, I'd wrap the meal up with a litre of connoisseur ice cream and two spoons but my friends are a bit 'no dessert for me, thanks')

I love the idea of a little Kris Kringle-type gift to hand out randomly to my guests and I found these Luxe City Guides on Net-a-Porter.

4. Making jam

My Christmas gifts this year include amazing homemade raspberry jam courtesy of the domestic goddess herself, Nigella.  I've bought about a thousand jam jars from Wheel & Barrow and am so looking forward to a weekend of jam-making somewhere in the time between now and Christmas...

5. The best vanilla malt milkshake ever - Ribs and Burgers - James St

One thing I am really looking forward to when we get back to Brisbane is a fabulous vanilla
milkshake from Ribs and Burgers on James St...

This beauty awaits me back in sunny Brisbane :) 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Flat shoes are having a moment...

I'm probably quite late on this one but flats are clearly having a moment. I've been stalking a pair on Net-a-Porter all season and when a sneaky 25% sale popped up, I swooped:

Black patent leather pointed toe flats are the absolute dream, no? I'm already fantasising about pairing these with skinny jeans and an ivory blouse, topped with a classic smart beige trench. Perfection!!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Red, navy and Hermes

I have meetings early this morning but after that I'm just clearing work and running some errands before my flight on Saturday - getting some scripts filled, getting some USD. I needed a bit of a boost so I went with this bright blouse that always makes me feel cheerful :) 

Top: LK Bennett
Jeans: Country Road
Heels: Bally
Bag: Chloe
Scarf: Hermes

Only two more days!! xo

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

5 things that make internet shopping awesome

Australians spend over $20 billion per year  shopping online.  As we're fast approaching Christmas, I thought I would do a quick recap on the top five reasons why this figure is so large and amazing :)

1. The range of products

I was about 14 years old when I started reading Vogue seriously, grabbing my copy every month, becoming familiar with sections of the publication, recognising recurring names of content contributors. It will sound hilarious (and some Gen Zs might have no idea what I'm talking about) but my favourite section was the 'stockists page', tucked away towards the end of the mag. This page had all the names and Australian contact numbers of the brands/designers of every item of clothing and accessory featured in the magazine's stories.  When I was reading Vogue and Bazaar, I would find dresses and shoes and the prices would usually be well out of my meagre school student range (natch). However, I started to get an idea of what these sorts of items cost and when I had saved enough money, I got out the stockists page and found the number for the store that apparently 'stocked' the particular Pierre Hardy black patent peeptoe pump I planned to buy as my very first pair of investment high heels (bless, look at me, the sophisticated 18 year old). I called the store and explained I was calling from Queensland and that I wished to buy an item over the phone that I had seen in Vogue using a credit card. The lady laughed so hard I was amazed she had the breath left to tell me that 'people don't buy things over the phone'. True story.

So Australian retail was a pretty woeful experience for fashion lovers in the late 90s/early millennium. It was a revelation when Net-a-Porter launched (sidebar: I was a Net-a-Porter subscriber so early on, it was when they still divided designers into the 'Salon' and the 'Boutique' - aw...). As internet retail expanded, the outraged squeals from local bricks-and-mortar retailers came in loud and clear: it's not fair, how can we possibly compete?!!

Answer: well, giving your customers what they want might be a novel idea. We don't want the bare minimum of any designer's collection. Oooooh, David Jones has finally stocked Christian Louboutin shoes? Wow, how exciting! it's just two actual designs? And you got two in each size for, like, the entire country? That sounds intelligent. And they're um, $900 for why exactly, coz I can buy them online for about $450 with the exchange rate?

It may be impossible for people in Europe and the UK and US to understand but trust me ladies, this was the true retail picture in Australia for a very long time. Minimal range, snooty sales assistants who knew less about the product than most customers but thought we were lucky to be spending money in their stores and prices that were sometimes twice what we would pay overseas. And the worst part? The companies treated us, their customers, as though we should be grateful for it.

I'm now a firm internet buyer for anything high-end. Matches, Net-a-Porter and Browns are my poison as far as clothes are concerned. There's a clear UK-bias and I don't really know why, it's just that the edits just seems to speak to my personal aesthetic so well. Matches in particular seems to stock lots of really wearable classic investment pieces season after season, that enable me to step away from the reliable-but-boring world of black pants/pencil skirt plus two-button jacket *bleurrgh*.

Now, it's not all about giving Australian retail a toe up the clacker ;) I also prefer whenever possible to buy from local or domestic stores online as well, because...

2. Convenience!

I don't have to go into detail about this one. Shopping is a time-consuming activity. I'm an economist, time is my number-one valued commodity. I'm also a lawyer, and time is pretty damn expensive for those people too, ESPECIALLY if you're paying for it. I don't want to go out when it suits the shops to be open to me. I finish work usually around 6pm and then I'm off to walk my dog, exercise, cook, clean and heaven help me, spend some time with my soon-to-be husband.  Shopping is something I'm very happy to do when I'm sitting on my couch or in bed, with a glass of wine or cup of tea, on a lazy Sunday evening while dinner is get the picture.

3. Customer service

Point 1 above doesn't exactly paint the world of retail sales assistants in a great light.  However, it seems to me that when you make your purchase through the framework of the internet, customer service can be brought to the fore.  It makes sense in a lot of ways: retail SAs standing around in shops are usually bored, tired and couldn't be bothered even trying to gloss over the fact that they are only turning up to work so they can still get paid.  Nothing about their work inspires them and you, their customer, are nothing more or less than an annoyance. However, email enquiries to customer service in my experience are invariably answered promptly. The best e-tailers include individuals' names and contact phone numbers so that you can go the old-fashioned route and speak to a person if you prefer to take your interaction out of the email arena. I've even had a customer service representative from the UK work with me to arrange a time to speak with her about a particular bespoke item, to make sure she (and I) understood completely what I was trying to purchase and there could be no disappointment.

Now I know that there are larger online traders that don't provide a great level of customer service, but then they probably wouldn't be great at customer service if they were in a bricks-and-mortar store either.  My experience has been that the entire framework of online retail is more readily geared towards providing a great customer service experience simply because there are written records of customer interactions and staff performance. There is no quibbling about how long it took for someone to get back to you about your enquiry - the times and dates are right there on the email for all to see.  There is no confusion about what the customer service rep did or didn't advise the customer. The entire process naturally provides far greater accountability for retail assistants. And the good companies (and good sales assistants) know it.

4. Getting parcels and packages delivered makes any random day like a birthday or Christmas

Call me sentimental, but parcels delivered by post are right up there with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens in my incredibly busy digital-heavy world of high-speed communication and instant decision-making. Frankly, it's just fun to receive something by post, open the boring cardboard box and find all the pretty wrapping inside. In fact, packaging has become something a lot of e-tailers are focusing more on, because the best ones recognise that there is still an 'experience' to be attached to shopping in the virtual world, if THEY choose to create it. I've received parcels with handwritten notes with nothing more than good wishes by the person who packed it and you know what? I like that. I would never get that shopping at a physical store, would I?

Happy Tuesday to me, happy Tuesday to me!

5. Participation

The modern world and particularly social media move at an incredibly fast pace. I obviously don't maintain an even vaguely-current social media presence (I'm working on it, I do have Twitter and Instagram accounts - yay me!). There is quite a disconnect between those of us who work in 'old' economies/industries and those who are moving almost exclusively into the 'new' industries where social media content and activity is either an essential support component of a product or service, or it is the product itself. I'm an old industry participant - I run a company that employs real human beings in real time and that sells services to real human beings in real time.  My real presence is non-negotiable and consequently, given there are only so many hours in the day, it would be possible for me to feel quite excluded from the virtual world where information moves so quickly.  Internet shopping however, allows me to maintain an (albeit) small level of interaction with the online industry. I might begin by browsing dresses somewhere but then be taken to an online publication such as The Style Report by Matches (one of my favourites). I might want some information about a product and go to my hands-down recommended source of genuine feedback on clothes and jewellery and accessories on the net - The Purse Forum - where I'll find reviews and be able to ask questions from other fashionably-minded individuals. I will also have the opportunity to find blogs, some of which have become firm favourites with posts from lovely women all over the world, all managing lives while keeping their fashion-fantasies alive. It makes me feel connected and I'd take that over Facebook's algorithm-generated, ad-heavy 'news' feed any day.