29 October 2011

J'taime France (really, I do!)

I may not adore Paris, but I definitely love France.  I haven't explored much of it, but from what a can gather it is a beautiful and tasty country.  On our recent visit the husband and I hired a car and spent two lovely Autumn days in Champagne.  After green tea and coffee, champagne would be next on my list of 'drinks that make life better' so I was pretty excited to be visiting the home of bubbles.

First up, we went to the Medieval town of Provins.  Being only an hour or so outside of Paris, Champagne is unsurprisingly popular with weekenders.  And unfortunately I managed to completely stuff up our original hotel booking (don't ask...).  At one point it looked like we were going to be sleeping in the car, but the Ibis came to our rescue.  It was basic, a bit out of town but is was also clean, super cheap and, importantly, not booked out.  Provins proved to be quite a charming little town, complete with a lovely town square and views from the ramparts across the rolling countryside (the food, on the other hand, was surprisingly dire).

Next we spent a night in Epernay, which is where all the big champagne houses are based.  Most of them do tours of their caves where they store thousands and thousands of bottles of bubbly, complete with a tasting.  It was like a sort of homecoming for me...

Oh, and a few things I left off my last post:

- Your ability to easily understand a menu written in Italian does not translate to an ability to understand a French menu.  Take the time to read each dish carefully before you order.  Otherwise you may ask for what you think is mushroom risotto and be presented instead with a plate of baby cow glands ('ris de veau').  Which is fine, I guess, if you like baby cow glands.

- Almost everyone who is not French will tell you the French are rude and arrogant, but I don't think this is true at all.  From my experience, they are confident and they are direct, but they are also friendly, helpful and welcoming. Some cliches are just that, I think.

28 October 2011

Death by Doxie: The Ferdi Grooms Elfi Edition

Although Elfi hogs most of the limelight we do actually have two dachshunds.  One of my favourite things is to watch them together - I love that they are such good friends.  Whenever Elfi is uncertain or nervous she will look for Ferdi (who is one year older, and also not quite as neurotic as she is).  And they will always, always end up sleeping in a pile together.  And each day Ferdi cleans Elfi's face (she seems to quite enjoy it, I think).

26 October 2011

J'adore Paris (well, sort of)

I have a confession to make!  I don't LOVE Paris!  Gasp!  Shock!  Horror!  I do like Paris though, and it is a breathtakingly beautiful city.  The only problem is that once you've oohed and aahed and oh-la-laed over all the prettiness, and you've battled the crowds and the queues to see all the big things (Lourve, d'Orsay, Pompidou, that tower - you know the one), and eaten your body weight (maybe more) in the best bread and cheese in the world, nae!, in the universe...well, once you've done all that, I'm not sure there's much more.

This was my third visit to Paris.  It was as beautiful as ever, but it's kind of conservative.  And I can't seem to find it's heart, it's soul.  Not like Rome or Tokyo or Hong Kong, or even Barcelona, which I could visit again and again and again and constantly feel the bubble of life, the evolutions and revolutions.

Can you believe I'm writing this?  About Paris?  Do you feel like slapping me?  Just a little?  Maybe if I had the chance to stay there for a month or three, maybe then I'd feel differently, maybe?  I do think Paris is a must visit, at least once in your life time, kind of city.  And I do think I could most definitely live there (oh YES! I could!).  But I'm not sure I'd rush back there again for another visit as a fleeting tourist.

But, if you are going to Paris (and I know you'd love it if you do go) here's some things:

- If you don't like the smell of cigarette smoke, be prepared to not like lots of Paris.  Everyone smokes, everywhere.

- Walking is my favourite way to explore a city, but with it's grand buildings and wide avenues Paris is not an easy city to walk.  I tried it the first day and very nearly broke myself.  The second day I combined walking with the metro system and it was perfect.  The metro is super easy to get the hang of and as an added bonus you'll feel like a bit of a champion for having conquered it!

- Having said that, le Marais (3eme & 4eme) is a wonderful area to go a-wandering.

- As is the Jardines de Tuleries, especially if you like to take a photo or two (see below).

- Motorists actually take notice of pedestrian crossings.  After being in Asia this came as quite a shock (in Seoul drivers will toot their horn at you if you try and use a zebra crossing in the way in which the road rules dictate). 

- Parisians still don't clean up after their dogs.  Watch your step.

- Women in Paris actually are all thin and immaculately put together in a style-is-eternal kind of way (sometimes cliches exist for a reason).  At aperitif time, pull up a cane chair at a cafe and spend a lovely hour or so watching them pass by.

- This trip I stayed in the Champs Elysees area (8eme) and it was my favourite area I've stayed in so far. Everything and everyone was fabulously beautiful.  Note: I may be biased as I had a bad experience last time I was in Paris on my own (my hotel was in the 3eme, or maybe the 11eme); it was the only time I've ever felt unsafe traveling solo.  But this time, staying near the always busy Champs Elysees, I never felt unsafe - even walking around alone at night.

- If you want to do the big museums, expect to queue or plan ahead and buy your tickets on-line. Also, there is a secret entrance to the Lourve if you pre-purchase your tickets; it's in the shopping centre underneath the museum.

- Be prepared to see extremes of unbelievable wealth and heart breaking poverty.  There were a fair few beggars out on the streets in all the areas I visited.  Not too far from the famous shopping area around the Galeries Lafayette I saw a whole family living on the street - the kids had a tent and the parents had a mattress.  Might put a dampener on your shopping...

- Lots of bits of Paris are basically London, but with better food.  I may get hunted down and shot for saying that, but the truth must come out.

- Have I mentioned the best bread EVER?  Oh, and the pastries!  The cheese!  The omelettes!  etcetera!

- Breathtaking beauty seems to equate to breathtakingly expensive hotels.  It took me a lot of research to find a hotel that was reasonable, in a good location and that looked ok.  I stayed at the Hotel Mayflower which was friendly and nice.  The room was basic but it was a palace compared to the shoeboxes I normally expect to get in Europe.

- If you're planning on doing a weekend trip just outside of Paris book early, otherwise you'll find that everything is already booked out, and you'll end up staying at the Ibis like we did.

- Get your hands on the Michelin Red Guide.  It's all in French but you can figure most of it out.  My husband swears by it.  After testing it's inclusions and exclusions out over a number of years, I can now say it is the most reliable guide for hotels and restaurants that I know of.

- And the shopping?  Well, that deserves it's own post - don't you think?

21 October 2011

Color Palette Blog Walk: The Color of Joy

Today I am super excited to be participating in the Color Palette Blog Walk hosted by the amazingly talented color genius herself - Brandi at Brandi Girl Blog.  The theme for this round is 'The Color of Joy'.  

Being the total nonce that I am, I signed up to participate without actually having any means of creating a palette (friends and family take note: Photoshop is high on the xmas wish list this year).  Luckily Brandi came to the rescue and, using my photos and my rather poor color descriptions, put these amazing palettes together for me - thank you! So, with a massive debt of gratitude to Brandi, here are three palettes based on three things that bring me joy.

1. Autumn
Let's conveniently ignore the fact that this photo was taken in Spring, because really it does scream Autumn doesn't it?  That soft, hazy light; the gorgeous red of the leaves; warm days, cool nights; comfort food; scarves and boots - oh Autumn you bring me so much joy!

2. Sea
One thing I've really missed about living in Asia these past years is the easy access to the (clean) ocean.  It's not even that I love to swim (actually I'm a bit of a wuss - I'm easily freaked out by seaweed and things lurking unkown in the ocean depths; this fear hasn't been helped by a bad Bondi beach experience involving a stinging jelly fish who didn't want to let me go...) but there is something about being close to that big salty body of water that is immediately calming.  Whether you're strolling along a windy beach in the midst of Winter, or leaping off a rock in your underwear because you've completely overheated in the height of Summer, there is something just so incredibly cleansing about the sea.

3. The Little Things
Joy isn't all about big events and big holidays, more often than not joy is found in the little things.  Joy, happiness, often comes from noticing all those little things that happen to us and surround us every day. It might be this morning's perfect coffee, the smile from a stranger in the street, or the sunshine streaming in your office window.  It might be a favourite print that you've had framed, a holiday souvenir that you treasure, or a piece of furniture that has a history all of it's own.  Or perhaps it's just admiring the wonderful harmony between this purple-grey succulent, olive green Hornsea bowl and rosewood sideboard.  Whatever it is, I'm always grateful for the little things.


Want more?  Why don't you have a stroll around the other blogs participating in the blog walk?  And please allow for regional time differences - if their post isn't up yet, it will be up shortly.

Lori at Pretty Things
Kerry at Kab's Concepts
Cynthia at Ornamental Style
Brandi at Brandi Girl Blog
Jenni at Jenni's Beads

19 October 2011


how to make gif

A fishy GIF.  Just 'cos it amuses me.  Happy Wednesday all!

17 October 2011

What I wore...

Well, weren't you were all so ridiculously nice to me for my first what I wore post?  You've really only got yourself to blame for my continued narcissism...Here's pretty much what I'm living in at the moment, now that my favourite season is here.  

For me, Autumn dressing is all about not overheating, not turning in to a red cheeked sweaty mess (so glamorous, right?).  I love Winter layers so when the temperature drops I'm sorely tempted to start playing with boots and coats and fun knitted mittens.  But I hate overheating with a passion, and there seems to be some arbitrary day when the air-con is turned off and the heaters are switched on regardless of the fact it's still 22 degrees and sunny outside...so instead I turn to leggings and shift dresses and I stay cool and happy.  

My favourite thing about this outfit?  It is so very easy to wear.  It's one of those outfits where in your head you feel like you're strolling about in your PJs, but you actually look pretty damn pulled together. Plus, the best shoes ever  - I love the colour blocking - which are surprisingly comfortable despite the rather high heel. Also, the bag (see below).  Thank you for bringing a burst of sunshine in to my days, Kate Spade!

Dress: Mango
Stockings: Not sure, but they are 200 denier and they are ace!
Shoes: Nine West
Bag: Kate Spade
Piggy: Fruit Fly!

It's kind of strange that both posts have featured a Mango dress, because I don't really like Mango all that much (although I do like Penelope Cruz!) and I find their sizing is all over the place.  Some non-Mango posts (maybe some vintage!) will be along shortly, depending on whether you all shower me with compliments again...

14 October 2011

Death by Doxie: The Hounds Want Something Edition

See that look?  The one of total focus, commitment and intensity?  The look that in Elfi's head says 'I want what you've got, and you want to give it to me' like some sort of Jedi mind trick?  Well, that's the look that accompanies every meal and every snack around our house...

11 October 2011

The BIG Project

Do you have a big project in your life right now?  One that is years, possibly even decades in the making?  One that fills you both with unbelievable excitement and a healthy dose of trepidation when you think of it?  For me right now, our big big project is the house we recently bought in Sydney, Australia.

While we are living overseas the house is being rented.  But one day, when we final settle down a bit, it will be the house my husband and I will live in.  We have quite a few more years yet of moving from country to country, from rented apartment to rented apartment, but one day this house in Sydney will be our first real home.  

And it's going to be my responsibility to make sure it is a home we love.  You see, eventually we'll be renovating. Or, more accurately, I'll be renovating - at some distant point in the future, while my husband continues to work overseas, I'll come back to Australia and play foreman.  Even though it's a long way off, it's already an idea that fills me with eager anticipation (and stomach churning anxiety)!  

I've channeled some of this excited energy into creating inspiration books for different areas - the garden, bedrooms, bathrooms, living areas, etc.  It is so much fun pouring over interior magazines and dreaming away...  Imagine how chock full of ideas these books are going to be by the time I actually get to work? Yikes!

09 October 2011

Good Things...

I don't mean to alarm anyone but in 76-ish short days xmas will be here!  I adore xmas and this year I am feeling mildly organised (despite the fact that October has so far been one crazy mess of a month) - I have already planned out my gifts and started organising the decorations.  And as generally happens about this time I've also started channelling Martha Stewart (the crafty bit, not the tax avoiding bit) and have been planning my gift wrapping 'theme' for this year.  This paper weave idea from one of the cutest paper blogs around - minieco - is my current favourite.  Wonderfully colourful, yes?

Also making me smile right now is the work of Swedish illustrator/designer Olle Eksell, as showcased in the awesome book from Japan.  I love the humour and liveliness that is so evident in his work (just look at those birds!  and the two awkward bathing suited kids, surrounded by fish!), and his packaging design is crazy good.

I may have mentioned this before but I'm a bit of a magazine junkie.  Being in Korea is a bit like going cold turkey - English magazines here are so expensive, even a basic month-old 'Who' can cost you US $17.00.  So I subscribe to my favourites, and there's a few local publications I love (including this great home decor one, this arty one, and this slightly insane fashion one).  And whenever I'm in Australia or Hong Kong or anywhere else with a decent stock of English magazines I'm always looking out for something intriguing - which is how I stumbled across the first bi-lingual edition of the French magazine Raise.  
I have no idea what the purpose or concept behind Raise is (it's tricky to find any information on their site, and the translation in the magazine leaves a little to be desired) but I'm a sucker for super cool images, and this features a ton of them.  Just check out these two photographers featured in issue 8 - Marc Da Conha Lopes and Liu Di.  Plus, cute kittens.

Aren't these illustrations fabulous?  They're all from The Painted Peep Show (aka Blake Roberts), one of the talented members of the ace Etsy Greetings Team.  I recently bought a set of the running dachshund note cards - Blake captures the energy and enthusiasm of the doxie so perfectly, I think. And yes, that is a portrait of The Golden Girls!

And lastly...I'm going to Paris!  Hazzah, hooray, and other happy sentiments!  I've been to Paris twice before - once traveling solo on my first trip overseas (fun, but a bit nerve wracking), and once with the step-sons and their Mum in tow (lot's of fun but definately not romantic!).  

I'm super excited about this trip as it'll be the first time the husband and I have traveled to the city of light on our own.  Plus, we are doing a quick road trip on the weekend to a little town near Reims (that's where champagne is made, my favourite beverage in all the world!).  And then the husband is heading off to Dubai and I get to stay in Paris for two whole days on my own - taking in the Musee D'Orsay at my leisure, visiting the flea markets, eating my body weight in macarons, checking out the fait main stores in Pia Jane Bijkerks 'Paris: Made by Hand' (with thanks to @TheCraftRevival for the recommendation).  Heaven!

07 October 2011

Death by Doxie: The My First Gif Went A Little Like This Edition

animated gif how to
Okay, technically this isn't my first ever gif - the first one I tried was so immensely shoddy it has been safely hidden away.  So really this is my second go.

It's a bit grainy because I had to reduce the size of the original photos so the gif doesn't crash my blog/your computer, but I don't mind that so much.  I like how Elfi's eyebrows seem to rise in the last frame, and I also like the goldfish swimming in the background.

I think this gif making thing could be a little addictive...here's Elfi yawning, a little out of frame but it amuses me nonetheless - look at those big ferocious teeth!

online gif creator
With many thanks to My Poppet for the inspiration and the instructions.

06 October 2011

Handmade Card Bonanza!

I think I may have mentioned this before, perhaps once or twice or possibly more, but the Etsy Greetings Team really is very ace.  Team member Susan, from Killam Creative, recently organised a card swap amongst the team and so it was that my mail box had a bit of a handmade card bonanza the other day.  I think these pretties just might be playing a role in my 52 Weeks of Mail!

04 October 2011

Holiday things...

It's Australian school holiday time which means the step-sons are in town which means we are doing lots of fun things - road trips to crazy water parks, hiking Seoraksan, playing 500, cooking slap-up breakfasts and watching lots of hilarious things - but it also means I am completely behind on emails and blogging and bill paying and other not-so-fun stuff.  So here's just a little sneak peak of the beautiful Seoraksan National Park, Instagram style.  More posts soon, I hope!

01 October 2011

Weekend water flowers

In our garden we have two heavy stone containers which the dogs love to drink out of.  We've had these water plants growing in them for months now and I've been waiting and waiting to see if they'd flower, and they finally have!  Somehow they've survived being dragged out of their natural habitat on a near daily basis - for some reason Elfi seems to have a vendetta against them and picks them out and leaves them to dry on the paving - and have just started to bloom.  Beautiful!