Best of Melbourne

I went to Melbourne for five days recently. I’ve been to Melbourne a few times before and always enjoy it. It’s the type of city that’s fun to visit, but also has a feeling of liveability. There’s some places I love to visit, but I can’t envisage myself living there, or I don’t think living there would be all that great.

Funnily enough, while I still think that, this time that I visited Melbourne, while I still think it would be a fantastic city to live in, I can’t see myself living there right now. I thought that maybe on this trip I would feel that I’d ‘found my place in the world’, but I think my place must be a bit further a field at the moment. I’m definitely keeping Melbourne on my futures list, though.

Anyway, in no particular order, here’s some things I enjoyed when I was there and think you should check out if you get the chance.

Degraves Espresso. I can’t speak about the food at this cafe, as I just went for a pre-breakfast coffee (we got breakfast free at our hotel and I was being cheap), but the coffee was definitely good. So good that when I finished my first soy latte, I felt compelled to order another. Sitting there sipping your coffee and people-watching is one of those quintessentially Melbourne experiences, I think.

Retrostar Vintage. There’s a lot of good vintage shopping in Melbourne, but I found a lot of it quite expensive compared to K Rd prices in Auckland and it wasn’t that much better to warrant the prices. Retrostar definitely has a lot of stuff to choose from and it’s prices are pretty good. It’s a large warehouse-style building that has a huge amount of stock that’s worth a rummage through. I found a fabulous 1960s champagne lace-overlay dress for A$65.

Circa Vintage. I actually didn’t buy anything here, but I think it’s worth the trip out to Fitzroy. It has a small selection of clothes, but all well selected. This is somewhere if you’re lucky, and if you have the budget, you could pick up something truly special. And the shop itself just has a nice 1940s kind of vibe to it, old-fashioned music playing and the shop girl dressed in vintage attire while ironing some new acquisitions.

Little Cupcakes. This is in Degraves St (so goes perfectly with a coffee from Degraves Espresso). I had a mini mocha cupcake and my mum had a lamington cupcake. Both were devine. There are numerous other flavours, and you can get mini or regular-size versions. If I lived in Melbourne, this would be a weekly treat. Mmm.

AIX Cafe Crepierie Salon. This is in Centre Place, which is another little iconic piece of Melbourne. Surrounded by the tables and graffiti and shops and people walking past, this is tucked away, a little hole-in-the-wall kind of place. I went there in the afternoon after the lunch rush so I could get a table (there’s only about three), but it’s well worth finding the time. I had a sticky date crepe with caramel sauce and double cream. It’s as rich as it sounds, and was amazing for about three-quarters of it before I fell into a food-induced coma. There’s a large variety of options for those not as brave or stupid as I. The berries with yoghurt and rosewater sounded nice to me for next time. And there’s also a lot of savoury ones as well. Good value, delicious and filling.

Scarlette & Sly. This is also in Centre Place. It may be best to come here before eating a large crepe, as trying on clothes with a full stomach is never much fun, and I’m sure you’ll want to try something on. From what I understand, this shop stocks local Melbourne designers. I bought a great navy blazer here, something I’d been looking for for a long time, but hadn’t managed to find the right combination of relaxed and tailored, smart and casual. It was half price as well, so only $75, but it’s original price of $150 was pretty reasonable, I thought, for a well-made classic piece. It’s chain store prices, but not everyone is going to have it.

Finally, I didn’t get to do this, but I guess you have to leave something for next time – Rooftop Cinema at the top of Curtin House. And Cookie Bar & Restaurant downstairs is meant to have excellent cocktails, so I’m told.

And just because this is a Melbourne-themed post, this is one of my favourite blogs at the moment, Lady Melbourne.

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You’d find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair

I’m really into shocking red hair at the moment. There seems to be a few women around, particularly musicians, who are rocking some bright red hair. It seems to be a look that is equal parts delicate and strong, fragile and fierce.

Florence Welsh of Florence and the Machine. I’m also madly in love with her debut album, Lungs.

Alison Sudol, who records under the name A Fine Frenzy.

And while it’s not a new look for her, I’ve always loved Shirley Manson’s red hair.

It’s a look I’d love to have, in theory, but there are some things that put me off –

a) you would have to completely alter your wardrobe. I once dyed my hair black, and it kind of amazed me how it completely changed the clothes you could wear. When I ended up going back to my natural colour, I had to get rid of some of those ‘black hair’ clothes, as I no longer could wear such strong colours. This kind of bright red hair would be the same. There would be some colours that you look amazing in and really pop with the hair colour (like that turquoise in the A Fine Frenzy picture above), but there would be other colours that clash terribly.

b) it would be high on upkeep. To keep that really bright colour, I imagine you’d have to colour your hair fairly frequently. My hair is uncoloured, virgin hair at the moment. After the black hair, I got the colour stripped back to blonde, but it was never quite the same and was pretty damaged. I was trying to work out what colour to go next when my boyfriend at the time suggested a radical new idea – why not just have your natural colour? So I chopped my hair off into an ultra short Mia Farrow ‘do and grew it out (a painfully slow process).

While I can sometimes feel my hair’s a bit boring, because of the lack of colour or highlights, it’s definitely easier and cheaper. I only have to go to the hairdresser a couple of times a year, instead of every six weeks. And I just try to fool myself that it looks very French chic to have natural healthy hair.

c) I don’t think I have the skin for it. Red hair tends to look best paired with a milky white complexion and pretty perfect skin, with maybe just a smattering of freckles.

So I think I’ll just have to admire these ladies and their beautiful hair from afar.

Out of the ash

I rise with my red hair

And I eat men like air.

– from Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath

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Push it real good

I assume the lack of posts on the blog lately are a big indicator that I’m not doing so well with my ‘just do it’ resolution. Although I suppose it could have been that I was just far too busy ‘just doing’ a whole bunch of other stuff. I’m going to try to blame my recent holiday in Melbourne for falling off the wagon as far as my commitment to being a more organised, efficient person this year. I need to try to get back into keeping my diary regularly as well. Am really sucking at that at the moment.

Anyway, I was in a bit of a post-holiday funk after Melbourne. I think it may have been that since it was a short holiday (away for six days), you don’t have that feeling where you’re happy to come home that you have after a longer holiday, where you’re pleased to have some home comforts and not live out of a suitcase and know exactly where to go if you need to buy Band-Aids, for instance.

Luckily we had a three-day weekend here in Auckland last weekend, so having some time to just relax and chill out was good. I’m now trying to throw myself back into the ‘being organised, eating healthy and exercising’ lifestyle I was trying to live in the first few weeks of January (I can’t believe one month of 2010 is over already!)

So one of the things I’ve decided to do in that regard is the one hundred push-ups challenge. Push ups are something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve only ever done the ‘girly’ push-ups, but would love to be able to do proper ones. I don’t know about doing 100 of them, but 20 would be nice. I started on the lowest level, and so my first day involved five sets, doing anything from two (yes, two) to five push ups. A pretty pathetic start, but it can only get better from here, surely! The challenge doesn’t take much time out of your day, and if I end up getting nicely toned arms as a result of it, that’s an awesome bonus.

Some people live their life by the mantra ‘What would Jesus do?’ but I think ‘What would Michelle Obama or Rafael Nadal do?’ is more my style. And by the look of both their arms, I think they would do push-ups. So here’s hoping that in the coming weeks I can report some positive progress.

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Top 5 Records 2.0

Here are some songs I’m enjoying at the moment…

The Pierces – Sticks and Stones. I bought their record 13 Tales of Love and Revenge recently, and am really liking their sound, a bit sassy, a bit coy.

The Ruby Suns – Tane Mahuta. A great band from New Zealand 🙂 This is from their second album, Sea Lion. They’re playing a few gigs around the country at the end of February to promote their third album.

St Vincent – Now Now. This reminds me a bit of the soundtrack to Where the Wild Things Are with Karen O and the kids.

Au Revoir Simone –  Sad Song from their album The Bird of Music. The music video is very cute too.

Vampire Weekend – White Sky. From their new album, Contra, which I’m really enjoying. It reminds me of dancing in the rain at All Points West festival. Always brings a smile to my face.

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A Fresh Start

I love the feeling of a new year. It always feels like you’re starting again somehow, like the world is ripe with possibilities, and that you’re able to reinvent yourself, or write yourself, in some new kind of way.

I’ve mostly managed to avoid the usual excesses of the festive season this year. Sure, there was the obligatory overeating on Christmas Day, and the few days after that involved far too much trifle, and a rather large amount of Pimms, but I think I did pretty well in not completely falling off the bandwagon of the healthy lifestyle I’ve tried to build for myself. This is quite a big achievement, as I was always victim of the snowball effect of eating at Christmas, where I’d eat too much at one meal, and so there was no point trying to be healthy the rest of the day, as it was already too far gone, but then that would linger on into the next day, until you’ve suddenly had a month of overeating and no exercise and you have to start all over again.

But this year has thankfully been different, which gives me hope for my New Year’s resolutions, one of which is to maintain my healthy lifestyle. Another one, which is totally stolen from a friend (thanks, Kim!) is the mantra ‘Just do it’. (Yeah, I think she may have stolen it from somewhere too.) I can’t speak too much as to what it means for her, but in my life, the way I’ve been trying to use it is to stop myself procrastinating.

I always knew I was a good procrastinator when it came to doing uni work. If nothing else, I certainly mastered the art of procrastination while attempting to finish my MA. But it wasn’t until this year that it actually dawned on me how procrastination seems to permeate so many facets of my life, from putting off writing blog posts, (sorry, faithful readers – all three of you) to the stack of bank statements dating back to June that I still hadn’t gotten around to filing, to even taking my vitamins in the morning. Everything for me is something I’m going to get onto soon, rather than now.

I was working over New Year’s, so didn’t go away, but it meant I had a few days off afterwards with few distractions, and I used that time to try to get onto stuff that I had been meaning to do for months, or sometimes years. I filed those bank statements, I got that coat dry-cleaned, I got the tips replaced on my high heels, I backed-up my computer, I went through my iTunes library and deleted the music I didn’t like. I cannot begin to tell you how great all this made me feel. I was accomplishing stuff. I was ticking it off. My whole world felt lighter. I was less burdened by crap that I didn’t even realise was weighing me down.

It’s something that I totally need to work at. I still catch myself thinking, ‘Oh, I should take my vitamins,’ or ‘I must pay my phone bill,’ without any real intention of getting on to it right then. But more and more I think, ‘Just do it’. And unless I’m in the middle of something really important, I do it. It’s done. I forget about it. I’m also trying to keep a diary, as part of this new-and-improved me. I still often forget to look at it until the day is almost over, but I hope that I can use it to make me more efficient at utilising my time.

The results of all this, I’m just starting to see. I finally finished a book that I’ve been reading since July. I’ve started another book, The Book Thief, which I bought probably a year and a half ago. I’ve been meaning to read it, but I just wasn’t in the reading zone in 2009. I felt like I didn’t have the attention span. I suddenly feel like I’ve got it back and that I can enjoy reading again, and that feels like such a gift.  I’ve not only cleared space on my desk, I’ve cleared space in my mind and in my life.

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Now join hands, and with your hands your hearts

I’m going to a wedding tomorrow, which seems the perfect way to kick-off summer. While I personally have mixed feelings about the institution of marriage and whether it would be right for me, there isn’t much that I like better than going to a wedding. There are other events which can be fun and celebratory – birthdays, New Year’s – but a wedding is an event that is all about love, and that’s pretty cool. The idea of proclaiming your love and devotion and commitment in front of your closest friends and family is so simple and yet so powerful, and I think that feeling of love and happiness filters through to all the guests.

Some other cool things about weddings are you have a reason to wear a pretty dress,…

…the dancing…

…the beautiful flowers…

…Champagne and cake – what a perfect combination…

…and it always makes me feel positive and hopeful about love, if even just for a day.

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Dress like Dita: lady in red

Well, the final day of dress like Dita, and I have to say that the night before, I was glad it was ending. I was having such a stressful time working out what to wear for the final day! I felt like I’d run out of options. I’d had my outfits sketchily planned in my head for most of the other days, but the final day, I didn’t have anything planned, and when I was trying some options on the night before, nothing felt right, and I didn’t want to end on something that felt like a token effort.

Finally I settled on an Anne Mardell dress that I wore to a friend’s wedding this year.

I had already decided that I’d do pin curls for the final day, so the night before I washed my hair and pinned them up. It was easier this time than the first time, and I felt more confident in knowing what way to pin them for the right effect. I just used a serum and some anti-frizz milk on my hair beforehand, which I think made them look nicer for just wearing them down.

Here’s how they turned out first thing when I took the pins out.

I wasn’t sure if I should brush them out or just loosen them with fingers a bit or just leave them. I guess the more I do them, the more I’ll become confident with how these various options turn out. I ended up just loosening the curl with my fingers a bit, which, looked like this.

When I got to work, I took the pin on my forehead out and also tucked the left side behind my ear, so it became more like a Veronica Lake style, which I really liked.

The morning yesterday was really stormy, so I decided against wearing the dress I had planned on, as it didn’t really work with a coat or tights. I then remembered a shirt that I had bought from the wardrobe sale at the television station I work for. I wanted something that would go with bold red lips, as I knew I wanted to try those today, and I figured the black would look good.

So I ended up wearing the pussybow blouse, which I think is maybe a TopShop one, or some sort of imitation of something Kate Moss has worn. It doesn’t have a label in it, so I’m not sure. I wore that with the charcoal denim Kingan Jones pencil skirt that I wore on Monday. The gold patterned belt is off a vintage dress I have since gotten rid of.

In these photos I’m wearing stockings with a suspender belt – so very Dita – with my peep-toes, but I ended up changing out of both of these before I left for work, as I was unsure if the suspender belt would be that comfortable for all day at work, and so I just wore my opaque tights instead. I paired them with the black patent Mary Janes from yesterday, as they were a more sensible option in the rain.

The rain and wind also had me concerned about how my hair would survive the walk to the bus stop, so I used the scarf that I had wrapped around my head at night to cover the pin curls. It was spur of the moment, but I actually really liked this. It felt very glamorous, and it really did the trick as well – the curls were fine when I arrived at work.

For my make-up I used MAC Studio Fix foundation in NW20, which is a pressed powder foundation. I think this really photographs the best out of all of them, and the more matte look was very Dita.

I had my eyes lined with Bobbi Brown gel eyeliner in Graphite Shimmer. I used a cotton bud with make-up remover to remove some of it so that it was just a really thin line all around the eye.

On my lids I again have the LM eye basics in Linen and just a little of MAC Trax.

My blush is MAC matte in Mocha.

I curled my lashes with my Shu Uemura curler, put on Origins Underwear for Lashes primer and then the LM waterproof mascara.

I again filled in my brows with Benefit’s Brow Zings.

I also painted my nails in OPI Red after the photos were taken.

Finally, for the red lips, I first blended my foundation over my lip line, then lined my lips with a red pencil, trying to accentuate the cupid’s bow. With a lip brush, I painted MAC Lady Bug on and blotted with a tissue and then applied again a couple of times, touching up the edges with the pencil.

It surprised me how well the lips lasted. I was a bit worried the lipstick might bleed or feather, or that it would wear off really quickly, but it lasted all day. I only  reapplied once, after lunch, and even then it would have been fine if I didn’t.

And so that was the end! I was glad I could finish on a high note, after being stressed out the night before that I wouldn’t have anything to wear, I actually really like this outfit and the whole look. It’s one I would wear again. And I’m excited to have done the red lipstick – I would definitely wear that again.

Tomorrow I’ll sum up my thoughts about the whole project, and whether I’l be back to wearing my trainers and jeans next week…

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