30 June 2015

My...Neighbourhood

Thinking about what to write for this post has made me realise I've been really quite lucky to have lived in some great neighbourhoods over the years. (It's also made me a bit nostalgic and wistful...damn those itchy feet of mine.) They've all been unique in some way, but there's also a few defining commonalities regardless of city or country - greenery, walking distance to a village (somewhere to eat, somewhere to shop), and friendliness in shared spaces. 

I grew up in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne's east - not the inner east like South Yarra, or the outer east like Ringwood or Ivanhoe, but the mid-east, Kew. It was (and still is) suburban Melbourne at its finest. It was a pretty nice place to grow up, actually. The streets were blessed with long established oak trees, the parks were plentiful (perfect for tree climbing and dog walking and finding some space of your own-ing), the trams frequent-ish and the schools were not too bad at all. 

And it had a sense of community. In primary school the neighbourhood kids walked together most mornings, and in high school we caught the tram together. We had a street party, at least once. And I remember epic water fights in the heat of Melbourne's long dry summers, running in and out of neighbour's gardens to refill our various watery weapons. We knew our street, our neighbourhood. It felt safe, it felt like ours. My parents still live in the same street, and they still know their neighbours. A dying art they say, this neighbour thing. 

After a few moves around Melbourne's mid-east, the next stop for me was Balmain, Sydney. I still marvel at my luck, picking Balmain out of all the places to pick when I moved to Sydney. It's a suburb full of dogs and pubs, with winding streets that lead you on to patches of green and surprising harbour views. Being a peninsula it's a bit isolated, a bit cut off from the rest of Sydney, but there's a gorgeous main street with restaurants and cafes and cute little shops so come the weekend you really don't need the rest of Sydney. 

Balmain was pretty great, although I don't remember anyone ever saying 'hello' to me in the street. Maybe because it's a bit of a destination suburb, there's a lot of day trippers. You can't tell who is your neighbour and who isn't. Or maybe I just wasn't feeling so friendly around that time. Maybe. 

Then the husband and I moved to Potts Point for a year. We lived in an apartment, which had harbour views from the tiny balcony right at the top, if you stood on your tippy toes and angled your head the right way. Potts Point is just a short walk from the city (a little longer if you take a detour past the sparkling waters of Woolloomoloo and the Gallery and the gardens, and why wouldn't you?) but it feels like it's one perfectly contained city in itself. It's unusual as it's one of the few high density suburbs in Sydney, and the high density living happens mostly in gorgeous deco apartment buildings (swoon). 

You'd think living a little on top of each other would lead to niggles and tension, but in our experience it lead to thought and consideration and small acts of kindness. I'd move back there in a heart beat. 

Then we headed overseas and drove our relocation consultants to distraction searching for the right place to live. They'd show us a shiny new apartment with all the mod cons in a 'great expat area', and we'd say 'Hmmmm, it's nice but can we go for a stroll and get some dinner, or groceries?". Because for us where we lived was just as important, possibly more important, than what the actual place was like. We'd happily sacrifice space and newness if it meant we'd be in walking distance of a shop or a cafe or a bar. Which, apparently, in Hong Kong at least, is not a typical consideration for expats and relocation consultants. 

The thought of having to jump in a cab every time I needed some milk filled me with dread, so we pressed on, and - after some frustration and a few tears (mainly mine) - ended up in the most perfect spot. Our apartment was a short but steep fifteen minute walk into Central yet it was surrounded by lush masses of greenery. And flamingos, and monkeys. You see, our apartment was perched just above the zoo. At night we would wander down the street for a martini and a steak and then head home, normally in a taxi - the hill really was steep! Come morning we'd awake to the sound of howler monkeys and red-crowned cranes in the gardens below. Pretty freaking awesome. 

Next was Seoul, and another great neighbourhood - Hoehyundong - which you can read about here and here. It was one of those crumbling old areas, a rabbit warren of shacks and concrete and incredibly slightly dodgy looking massage shops. It was just starting to be redeveloped, hence our shiny new skyscraper of an apartment building. On one side we had Namsan, on the other was Myeongdong and the sprawling Namdaemun market. It was a great spot to spend three and a bit years. 

(Slight tangent - after all our moves I've come to the conclusion that it takes a minimum of twelve months to start to get to know a place, to start to feel like you belong to a place. What do you think of that timeline?)

And then we moved back to Sydney, and we bought a house in Paddington. Paddington is a great suburb filled with all the things we love - cafes and restaurants and pubs and parks and trees and dogs. There's a little community garden at one end of our street, and an excellent butcher up on Oxford Street who happily shares cooking tips, and not too far away is Centennial Park where a whole herd of dachshunds meet up once a month. I can walk into the city if I fancy, and on a warm sunny day we can drive to the beach in fifteen minutes or so. 

We've got a rental on one side, so our neighbours change fairly frequently. But on the other side we have a neighbour who grows exotic orchids under shade cloth and listens to opera, loudly, on a Sunday morning. And almost everyone stops in the street to pat Ferdi on our morning walks, which makes him ridiculously happy.

We're close to the boy's other house, and to their school. We have three locals within walking distance - places we're happy to go when we want a break from cooking, places where the staff say hi. Since leaving Melbourne's east I'm used to moving, often, but I think I'll be happy to settle in this neighbourhood for a little while longer.


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The My... posts are a way to get me writing more throughout 2015. There'll be one a month, each with a different My... prompt. You can play along as well, whenever and wherever you want. This month's prompt (June) is My Neighbourhood. Next month's prompt (July) is My Wardrobe. Interpret each prompt however you like - a story or a jumble of thoughts, fact or fiction, personal or not. Don't feel too constrained by the months either, if you like a prompt then have a go. And make sure to let me know if you do join in!

Typography Tuesday : Ann Patchett on Life

I knew I wanted to highlight this quote which comes right at the end of Ann Patchett's essay Dog Without End (from her wonderful collection This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage) as soon as I read it a few weeks ago. And it's become even more poignant given some pretty sad news we received over the weekend. Yes, the endings will so often break you in half. But yes, all the stuff in between - the life and love and blue skies on winter days - make it worthwhile. I've said it once and I'll say it again, go seek out this book. It's brilliant. 

The font is another from the mix and match Harman family designed by Ahmet Altun - Harman Retro. I reckon the whole font family is pretty ace, worth the investment especially as it's on special right now.

19 June 2015

Death by Doxie : Extra Curricular

And this is why you won't see too many flat lays around these parts - the dogs think that if it's on the floor, it's theirs. 

These photos are from a month or so ago, when the lovely folks at Extra Curricular magazine sent me a few copies of their super cute and gorgeously put together magazine (payment in kind for an interview I did with Helena Leslie for their Messy issue). I'd just bought some gorgeous banksias, so I thought - mags + flowers + concrete floor = perfect Instagram shot, yes? Well, maybe, in a Ferdi and Elfi free house. 

As soon as the magazines were on the ground Elfi came and sat on them, and showed no intention of moving. Then Ferdi decided to see if the banksias were tasty (they weren't). The dogs were saying - loud and clear - If you're going to give your attention to something close to the ground, it should be us. Elfi even blew me a raspberry...


16 June 2015

15 Things in The Year of The Sheep : An Update


Ahhhh yes. It's that time of year again, that glorious time when I publicly shame myself by revisiting all those things I said I'd do when I had a song in my heart and a skip in my step and a firm delusion belief that this year would be different.

But guess what? With an average grade of B (-ish) things actually aren't looking too shabby so far, despite life throwing its usual hilarious curve balls at us. So, with head held high, I present this update on 15 things in the Year of the Sheep.

1. Read more. Specifically, read at least fourteen books in twelve months. B-. Slow but steady progress. I feel like I'm closer to achieving this than the stats say, because the stats say that I've only actually finished three books. But I'm reading pretty much every day, and I'm reading on flights, and when I'm waiting at the doctors, and when I'm out eating solo, so it feels like more. I've tackled a few doorstoppers to date, but I've got some thinner reads lined up so I'm hoping to make some more ground on this one in the coming months.

If you're interested so far I've read: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (excellent in all kinds of ways); The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (I hate to say it but...disappointing; parts of it are so over the top and hysterical - all that mooning over a girl - but parts of it are heart achingly sad/beautiful - the fish and chip shop scene for one, but on balance, disappointing); and Waiting for Doggo by Mark Mills (a bit of light fluff, completely inoffensive, I forgot it as soon as I read it).

I'm currently most of the way through Questions of Travel by Michelle de Krester, which I'm thoroughly enjoying, especially for the writing on travel and the way it captures the very essence of Sydney. And I'm on the brink of finishing This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, a collection of essays that I cannot possibly say enough good things about. If you have any interest in writing, or family, or dogs, or friendship, or life, go read it. Go read it now.

I've been on the brink of finishing it for awhile, but I can't quite bring myself to. Not because I don't want to say goodbye to such a great book, but because the second last essay starts "Two days before my dog Rose died..." and I haven't yet been able to make it past that opening sentence.

2. Read more blogs. Randomly quantified with the goal of posting three thoughtful comments a week. D-. Like most things I have good weeks and bad.  Okay, good months and bad. This past month has been a bad one.

3. Blog more. Specifically, blog at least six times per month. A+++. Six posts every month in 2015! Oh yeah! I'm a flipping bloggy superstar, no?

4. Write more. About everything. Specifically, write a My... post every month in 2015. A. I might just squeeze them in on the last day of the month but I've got them done. I've really enjoyed writing them; I hope you've enjoyed reading them. I think my favourite to date as been the one on travel.

5. Related, pitch at least five stories to magazines. F. I made one pitch, which translated into an article on modern lace makers - three profile pieces, plus an introduction, plus a bunch of photos. Ummm, Y to the AY! You'll be able to see it in the upcoming Issue 26 of Uppercase. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

I also had the chance to interview the lovely and clever Helena Leslie for Extra Curricular (she did the cover illustration for their Messy issue, which you can find here). Outside of that I've done zip, zero, zilch. And seeing as things are all a bit akimbo in our life right now (yet again! more on that later...) realistically it's probably all I will get to do this year.

6. Finish my 365 project on Instagram. A. Half way through and going strong! You can see some of my favourites here, or follow me on Instagram to get the full shebang!

7. Hit fifty sales in my Etsy shop, Jorpins Vintage. B. On track! I'm sitting on 26 items sold. I've got a ton of amazing stock still to clean and photograph and list. I'm feeling vaguely confident about this one.

8. Finish three walking events. C. I completed the 22km Jabulani Challenge in April (yay me!), and I've signed up for the 9km Bridge Run - not a long distance but it has tight-ish (for a walker!) cut off times, so it'll help me focus on pace. As for the third event...stay tuned!

9. Walk 1500 kilometres by the end of December. C. I was doing really well with this! I was doing a good 25 to 35kms per week, I made it to Forster, and then, well, life happened. The past few weeks I've barely managed 15kms. But, thanks to my cheer squad (aka the Operation Move community!) I'm feeling inspired again. I've got a plan to kickstart things, this goal isn't over yet!

10. Sort my health out. B+. I've been seeing the dentist regularly and we've got a long term plan for a bunch of stuff. I finally got around to getting a pap smear, and discussed contraception pros and cons with a GP. The other day I even visited an optometrist for a full eye health check up. Next on the list - physio.

11. Cook at least one new meal for the family each month. B. I haven't been keeping track of this, but I feel like we've been kicking its arse. I recently refreshed our cookbook shelf - ditched some we'd never used and bought some new-to-us classics (ie. everything by Karen Martini).

We've been cooking at home, heaps. Okay, yes, maybe last night we had tacos, again, but we have been adding some new stuff to our standard repertoire. This sausage ragu has become a firm favourite. We've also tackled mince pies, chicken pot pies, all kinds of stews and soups, and a slow roasted lamb cooked on the BBQ.  Have I told you how much I adore winter cooking? I freaking adore it.

12. Related, attend two cooking classes. F. Nope. The one I had booked got cancelled. Right now unless someone is willing to provide two all expenses paid trips - one to Italy, one to Thailand - I can't see this happening.

13. Watch twelve movies. And blog about them. D-. Well, I am watching loads of new movies this year, but I'm not really blogging about them. I do have some draft posts, just asking to be finished. So maybe.

14. Organise my office, and keep it organised. B+. I had been chipping away at this, little by little, and then last week I spent two whole days on a final push. It's still not there but it's really, really, really close.

15. Do more road trips! F. I've wanted to, I've really wanted to, but I just haven't. I did have one booked, but I had to cancel (for a pretty substantial reason, none of this dog ate my homework stuff). The next six months are looking good though - we've got trips to Canberra, Thredbo,  and the Hunter Valley planned. Oh, and I'm hopefully heading to Cowra to meet this talented lady!

Do you have a list of things you were hoping to achieve this year? How are you tracking?


11 June 2015

The Search For The Perfect Winter Wedding Outfit

Weddings and spring and pretty floral frocks just all fit together, don't they? But what about winter weddings? What does one wear that's celebratory but warm? Cosy without being drab? I've got a wedding to go to in August, and when I spied these shoes a month or so ago I thought all my wedding outfit dilemmas were solved - a classic black dress, black stockings, and then BAM! these beauties sparkling on my feet. Perfect, yes? 

But now I'm not so sure. Traditionally one isn't meant to wear black to a wedding, so I've been expanding my options. 

Here's a few of the favourites right now:




So - classic and cute black frock from Leona Edmiston with gorgeous gold loafers, clearly a winner (and whilst we're on the topic of Leona Edmiston how ridiculously gorgeous is this frock?). But then just look at the copper metallic goodness that is the Obus dress! Hard to resist for some sparkly fun! (Just quietly I'm quite obsessed with everything Obus right now, they get better with every season.) Sticking with the bronze theme I do love the Gorman shift, so many options for layering too. (Oops, I just clicked over and saw that it's on sale...it may have jumped into my shopping cart...) 

That pale green frock is a bit more traditionally wedding-y; such a pretty colour and cut. It's got longish sleeves plus I reckon it'd look awesome with opaque black stockings, hence it could work for a winter wedding. It's pretty sweet huh? And cheap too...

But then there's the Marimekko dress. It's velvet people, velvet! Swoon! I may have actually bought it six months ago with the justification that I could wear it to this August wedding, but I've worn it so much since then it doesn't feel 'special' enough anymore. Gosh I'm glad I got it though; it was bloody expensive but I already know it's going to be one of those frocks I'll still be wearing out to dinner in ten, twenty years time.

Okay, let's be honest. I'm not really looking for the perfect winter wedding outfit, I'm just using it as a - rather shaky - rationalisation to buy some things I love. And despite all the above at the moment I actually think I'm going to wear this crazy vintage 70s maxi dress that I've had for years. It's shimmery and silvery; floor length with slits up the side, long sleeves, a big collar and a zip down the front. Oh yeah!