Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Things I'm looking forward to: January

New year, new diary...feeling organised....

Ok so this post is a little late, but I'm going to cram it in anyway because 2015 is still practically brand new and January is going to be pretty awesome because of these things:

1. Australia Day long weekend

Does it sound bad that I've been back at work after the Christmas/New Year break for one week and I'm already keen for a long weekend? It's not like that really, I'm actually loving being back at work but I still love a summer long weekend. M and our fat dog and I will be spending this year's down at my mother's beach house at the Gold Coast. Prawns, wine, swimming, sleep-ins - there is nothing about those four things I don't like :) 

Only one note of caution: my mother's place needs some work on the garden and I suggested M and I could lend a hand and do a bit of a working bee while we're there. She is enthusiastic, as is M, but not in quite the same way: M seems to regard my mother's taste, horticulturally, as somewhat limited and has no problem expressing this to her. She, in turn, feels free to ignore his opinion and tell him so. I've said I won't take sides but will arbitrate debates as I see fit. I'm a little nervous but we'll see how we go!

2. New Year resolutions - so far, so good

So January is a good tester month for resolutions and, honestly, so far mine are being kept. Food/lifestyle choices - check. Exercise - check. Swearing - ok, swearing has come a bit of a cropper but at least now I feel really bad when I swear, which is a new thing. Drinking - only on Friday or Saturday nights and only one glass, which is not a massive change from where I was but it's still a good, moderate weekly intake. As I said, my drinking isn't problematic, it's more that I want to be extremely proactive about it not becoming a problem ever. It sounds weird to describe my 'drinking' as not a problem since the term itself sounds so... problem-y...but hey, facts are facts: I drink alcohol. I'm going to be very matter of fact about making sure I do that in as healthy a way possible, both physiologically and psychologically ;) 

Also, my organisation and new grooming efforts are sticking so far: cupboards remain organised, I'm continuing to file stuff regularly and I'm using all the things tucked away specially in drawers, like the hand cream in the bedside table. Proper lipstick is being worn and reapplied every day. That alone makes me feel like I'm winning at life right there.

Which brings me to my final resolution: confidence.  After I returned from my trip to Chicago for work, I received a very significant promotion - I am now managing director of my company.  I have been doing most of the things MD would do for a long time, but it was a very sentimental moment actually receiving the promotion and new title. Now it feels real - I am responsible for the operations, direction and growth of the organisation and have to motivate my team to get the best results. I drew up a plan for 2015 before Christmas and spent the break refining it and I've come back to work in January and hit the ground running. Hence, the lateness of this post: girl has a massive amount of work going on! I'm taking ownership of this role and my decision-making. It feels very good so far.

3. Socialising

For some reason, I have a lot of lovely small social things coming up this month. Not major stuff, not fancy dinner parties for 10 or trips to the theatre. Kids' birthday parties, coffees/breakfast catch ups after Saturday pilates and occasional dinners out (or small dinners in with close friends). It kind of makes the festive season feel longer.

4. One more month closer to D-Day...

Actually, that should be W-Day...our wedding is in May and we will be one month closer after January. Yes, that's how the timeline works folks - what would you do without me?? 

Seriously though, wedding planning got very real after New Year's Day. M and I have been faffing about for months leading up to Christmas on a whole range of issues (the band vs DJ fiasco almost deserves a post of it's own) but this month we've suddenly become very focussed. M blames my promotion (he caught me writing out a planning-plan - you know, a plan for planning the wedding - and told me to back away from the to-do list post its). I think he's overreacting but whatever, it's working as far as I'm concerned: in the past week alone, we've booked a DJ, scheduled a consultation for flowers in February with pricing to be provided beforehand, set a time to get all the paperwork organised with the celebrant and sent off the wording for the wedding invitations to the printers. Go us. 

Whether you're kicking life goals already or slowly easing into the new year, have awesome January's everyone :) xo

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Food trends I'll be happy to say goodbye to

I really enjoy the restaurant reviews in The Australian. The critics unanimously refuse to mince words when it comes to pretentious restauranteurs who seek to put hype and spin over service and substance to pass off overpriced and substandard food on the unsuspecting consumer. I was inspired by this article  regarding the food trends of 2014 that will (hopefully) die an unceremonious death now we're in a fresh, sparkling new year.

Brisbane has, I am sad to say, been permeated by hipsters.  It had to happen. Affordable housing, great climate/lifestyle and a thriving local economy meant it naturally became an alternative to people looking for east coast liveability without the Sydney price tag/population woes.  As aspirational living was imported from down south and from overseas, the new arrivals observed our (formerly) woeful dining options. They needed somewhere to sip organic chai lattes and nibble delicately on ethically-sourced kale/quinoa muffins. The food scene in Brisbane subsequently exploded with venues.

Some of it has been truly great. But a lot of it has simply been ok and then there have been those new restaurants that have been flat out awful.  You can't pin the cause of restaurant/cafe failure on any one factor.  Experienced chefs can get the mix wrong (River Bar cough, cough) while plenty of inexperienced business owners can get the food wonderfully right but the finances wrong.  In the ever changing face of Brisbane's food scene, unfortunately there have been plenty of trend-based offerings that seem to captivate inexperienced eaters who simply can't tell when they're being ripped off or, worse, flipped off by alleged 'hospitality' staff.

On that note, as an enthusiastic but amateur cook and a professional, multiply-qualified economist who won't lay down coin unless it's absolutely worth it, these are the food trends I'll be happy to say goodbye to from 2014:

1. Rude/incompetent wait staff

I get it. You're bored, your job is uninteresting to you and you're just so hard-done-by. Get over yourself and learn the great lesson: everyone has, or has at some time had, a job they didn't love, that they didn't enjoy, that simply paid the bills. I'll say that last bit again: it paid the bills. Specifically, it paid the bills because other people, known in some circles as 'paying customers', thought it was worthwhile to pay some of the money they earned by doing their job to another person to perform a fairly low-level service. One that isn't essential to daily living, but that it's nice to have someone else do for you occasionally.

Be grateful. People find themselves out of jobs in loads of industries because consumers decide it's more economical to do the job themselves. That's why there are fewer people staffing grocery checkout lines these days - we're all putting our groceries through ourselves. Don't make us remember we all have functioning kitchens in our homes and that we don't in fact need to pay for a snooty 21 year old to fling plates on a table in front of us. And get the orders right. It's just one of the important aspects of your job. You'd be pretty unimpressed if the pilot on your next flight stuffed up the landing 'just this once' because they had, you know, other stuff on their minds. Whoops!

2. Shared food 

This trend popped up in the article in The Australian and all I have to say is - hear hear!  It's a twee trend imported from Spain and designed to make us all feel terribly cosmopolitan and well-travelled. In reality, it's an excuse to spread a serving of food for two across a table of four. Add a couple of $12+ 'tapas' plates (three slices of eggplant smeared with humus - groundbreaking culinary skills right there) and you have the 'new' nouveau cuisine.

3. Bad food

Opening a restaurant is actually not the hard part that requires years of training, although it certainly will help. The hard part, the part you need to get right more than anything else, is the food.  Over the festive period, I had the privilege to enjoy meals at several pricy formal restaurants in Brisbane and I have to ask, is anyone on staff paying attention to the food coming out of these places? The following did not speak highly of the local food industry:

- garlic mash that contained no trace of garlic ($9)
- roasted 'heirloom' carrots with balsamic that had spent, at most, 10 minutes in an oven ($8)
- vanilla creme brûlée that was hot on top, cold at the bottom and had separated almost to the point of scrambled eggs in the middle ($15)

See point 1: you have a couple of things that are really important to get right as a food-preneur.  Are you ok if your surgeon misses some of your cancer? I mean, they got most of it right? And they were really nice and they got great write-ups in all the medical journals.

4.  Food served on bread boards (and other naff decor)

We've spent several millennia perfecting the engineering of the plate. Pardon the pun, but get on board, food hipsters.

Speaking of which, let's not forget all other naff, twee and kitschy-kitschy-koo furnishings, crockery/food eating and serving utensils. Stop it with the drinks in jars already - in case you haven't noticed, I'm not a three-year-old. The most obvious sign that I am not a three-year-old is that I'm here, on my own on a Saturday morning paying for stuff. I know very few toddlers who can splurge on brunch and when I'm served a brightly coloured drink in a neat jar, sitting on a rustic mish-mash of tiny child-sized chairs, I feel we're but a step away from waiters playing food aeroplanes with us. It goes hand in hand with naff eatery names. Nanny-noos' Paleo Nosh Spot - it hasn't happened yet, but I'm sure it's coming. Not to mention, the cheek of asking paying customers to sit on crates or, worst of all, the steps of the cafe - yes, there is a cafe in Brisbane that actually does this and the lemmings perch there every day, bless them.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Friday nights in beige and cool blue

Dress: David Lawrence
Sandals: Nine West
 Bag: Chanel

It's the last Friday of our precious summer break and we celebrated by going out to dinner. I initially wanted to wear navy skinnies and a loose-fitting ivory blouse but I ended up choosing a dress because it was incredibly hot today and there was no rain this afternoon to cool things down. My beige Chanel has been getting an almost daily workout these holidays and I'm loving my tan stack-heel sandals from Nine West - so much more wearable with summer pieces than stiletto heels and fancier than flats.

M and I have been bitten by the "spring-cleaning/organisation" bug and have spent most of the past week slowly clearing cupboards and getting our apartment completely organised for the New Year. I will do a full post on the organising (and my long overdue wardrobe update) but here are just a couple of beyond naff teaser pics of my newly sorted bathroom:

Neatly filed nail polishes are the dream, no? I have to share because M isn't as excited as I assumed he would be and said I have to stop asking him to come and look at how organised our cupboards are :) xo

Thursday, 1 January 2015

2015: it's here!

The year passed into 2015 overnight and, while we slept through the midnight shenanigans (being somewhat older and wiser than years past), we embraced the new year this morning and celebrated with a thoroughly decadent breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.

I love resolutions. I enjoy change as much as I enjoy the comforts of established routine. I view the opportunity to change, to try and introduce improvements into my life and the life of my family, as essential to a well-lived life.

Resolutions can be tricky to articulate. Sometimes people are quite specific i.e. I want to lose 10kg.  Other times it can be more of a feeling that you have about the year just gone, a feeling that there was something that didn't sit quite right and that you would like to do better but there's no easy concrete defined goal to spell out. Things like I want to be a better boss or I want to make more time for my siblings.

I have some readily-articulated resolutions for this year, but also some more ethereal ones. In summary, I'm hoping 2015 will be the year where I:

1. Swear less

Don't get me wrong, I'm a true-blue Aussie and believe a thoughtfully-placed profanity can often make an impact that nicely draws attention to the main point of your argument.  But when it becomes habitual rather than a considered choice, it's lazy which in turn makes you sound ignorant and unimaginative. For 2015 I'd like to reel it in somewhat and be more ladylike. M is a country Victorian boy and he sometimes is a bit shocked by my language. Ideally your partner should make you want to be the very best version of yourself and M certainly acts as that yardstick for me. This isn't to suggest I have no vocabulary beyond curse words - on the contrary, I'm quite capable of expressing myself without resorting to f* this and f* that - it's more that I have slipped into more casual usage of swear words and I'd prefer to keep them a rarity.

2. Keep up the fitness, diet and general lifestyle changes

2014 marks the year I lost around 8kg (actually the last 6 months of 2014).  I would like to do a more detailed post on my diet and exercise changes so here, I'll just say we've drawn on principles from paleo and 5:2/intermittent fasting and it has worked amazingly well.  We are very excited to keep going - and the weight loss is a very charming side-effect that couldn't be more timely considering our wedding is coming up in May :)

3. Drink less

This is largely tied into the lifestyle changes in #2 however, it's also particular to M's and my relationship. M doesn't really drink alcohol. He'll have a beer with friends after work perhaps once every 2-3 months but at home he never choose alcohol over soft drink.  On the other hand, I do enjoy a glass of wine with food and find that it's a natural progression from my passion for cooking. Over the course of the past two years however I have noticed that, whereas previously the side-effects of alcohol consumption were simply coincidental to the main event of pairing different wines with food, the slightly spacey feeling has now become something I quite enjoy. It's probably not an unexpected flow-on effect of long hours and a stressful job, but it's not something I ever want to even get close to being a problem in my life.

My family has a history of alcoholism on my father's side. My siblings and I have always been conscious of the risks and have tried very hard to make sensible choices in our lives to minimise these risks.  M thinks I'm slightly overreacting (he has said he doesn't think I drink excessively at all) but I prefer to just wind things back as part of our general healthy lifestyle upgrade.  It can only help with the healthy choices generally.

4. Feel more confidence

This is definitely one of those airy-fairy goals but I want to put it down anyway. I am very proud of my career and my achievements but if there is one thing that I am vulnerable to, it is that I sometimes second-guess myself and doubt my abilities.  When I get in that slightly anxious headspace, it can badly affect both my work and my relationship. My work can be affected because I get slow, I get almost frozen and hold off decision-making and I can react over-sensitively to feedback within my organisation.  My relationship can be affected because I am conscious of all of those impacts and I become stressed and less 'present' at home, which is obviously unfair on M and our fat dog.

I want this year to be the year I finally accept the corner office. It's mine, I've earned it and I am therefore completely responsible for every aspect of decision-making. It falls on me to make the right decisions, at the right times and to reap the rewards accordingly.  I don't need to apologise to anyone for my success, because it's absolutely not guaranteed: I have to keep earning it.

Happy 2015 everyone - I hope it's a big year for all of us :) xo