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December 31, 2014

A Beautiful Mess. In Retrospect.

The thirty-first day of December, two thousand and fourteen. The last day of this year. Where did it go and what did I do with the time? Sometimes it feels as though time moves so fast. That one moment we are in the early days of a new year and then in the next moment, we are closer to the end than we are to the beginning. My days kept flipping over at a dizzying speed yet, at the same time, there are moments during this year that seem as though I lived them a lifetime ago. 


Yesterday I posted a photo to Instagram, captioning it "A Beautiful Mess", and after doing so I felt that if anything could capture what this year was to me, that one phrase said it all. At times, yes things were a mess and on a couple of occasions so was I, but with the clarity of hindsight and the ability to put so many things into perspective now, it was an overwhelmingly positive year. It was my beautiful mess. Life isn't always the proverbial bed of roses and this year, the bouquets were in abundance but there's always the tricky thorns to navigate.


Rewinding the clock to this time last year, I couldn't have predicted what 2014 would have in store for me. The highs and the lows. The losses and the lessons.  The opportunities and experiences that left me pinching myself wondering if it was real and actually happening to me.


This was the year I turned thirty. I felt this to represent crossing the threshold into real adulthood. Sure, I have taken on almost all the responsibilities that come with being an adult since my late teens, but for me, there was something about leaving my twenties that really made me think that if I ever doubted it before, I was now unequivocally an adult. And with that, there were certain aspects of my life that just weren't going to cut it anymore. Personally, professionally, socially. Making those difficult decisions is like removing a bandaid. You mull over it for so long but after doing it, you wonder why you didn't do it sooner. 


Most difficult for me is ending this year with less people than I started out with, whether by circumstance or by choice. However it happens, ending friendships and 'unknowing' a person is possibly one of the bitterest pills to ever have to swallow. 


Through all of this, the sun never failed to let me know that it would always pierce through even the heaviest of clouds. I couldn't be more grateful and appreciative for the support of those closest to me, in both my losses and my victories. I'm also overwhelmed by the support and following I have received here on the blog. I love reading all your emails and comments and that you take the time out of your day to stop by is genuinely heartwarming. 


With so many opportunities received this year, it's almost difficult to believe some of the things I have done. Hitting the catwalk for Telstra Perth Fashion Festival's Restyle is an experience I doubt I will ever forget. Working with FORM and meeting so many of the artists I personally admire and respect has been a thrill and I look forward to collaborating with FORM further in the new year. Getting to know some of the most wonderful and creative people in Perth has also been a privilege.

The highlights have most certainly outweighed the low points, and in fact I have to be thankful for some of the more difficult times. I leave this year feeling that I've learnt so much, particularly about myself. Admittedly, I am a very hard headed person. Sometimes I resist the things that I know are best for me and it may have taken awhile, but everything that I was meant to learn this year have slowly seeped in.


Moving into 2015, there are big plans on the horizon. I'll soon find myself back in New York, one of my favourite places on this earth. In fact, it only just dawned upon me that this is the only year in a long time that I've not travelled anywhere. I had to think long and hard if I were not mistaken but sure enough, I've not left Perth at all this year. While in New York, I'm working on a couple of projects and happy to be spending my time there with my awesomely talented friend Shu, whose talents produced all but two of the photos in this post. Upon returning, I'll be preparing to move into the house that I spent most part of this year searching for. I believe in things happening when and as they should, and purchasing this particular house was quite serendipitous considering the circumstances. It's gorgeous and exactly what I wanted.

Most importantly, I'm happy at the place I have found myself and move into the new year knowing that I have done a lot, lived a lot and learnt a lot. Though I may not be happy with all that has happened during the way, or how I have handled it all, it's all had its purpose in bringing me to this day where I can look back on this year with a smile and ready to welcome 2015 with optimism, excitement, open arms and a chilled glass of champagne.

December 29, 2014

On The Juice

Life is nothing without indulgences. If you want my opinion, life should be full of little treats. Even the all knowing wisdom of Tom Haverford tells us, treat yo self, and I'll admit, I like to treat myself. Especially when it comes to treats of the delicious sort.

Problem with that is, my occasional treats sometimes become a regular fixture. Being a person who has never had to worry about my weight with the word "diet" not having a place of residence in my vocabulary, if I'm to be brutally honest, I am at times reckless with my eating habits. While I know for my general health and wellness I should be more conscious about what I put into my mouth, being a very active person I have allowed myself to use that as justification for stuffing my mouth with all manner of sugar and calorie laden treats whenever I wanted it. I have over the course of this year, made some changes to my eating habits and eliminated almost all my added sugars and consumed more vegetables and it's something I want to expand on and continue into the new year.


In the lead up to Christmas and all the food offerings that the festive season offers, it was an ideal time to get myself into check and put into motion my goals to nourish my body in better ways. Undertaking the three day cleanse program from Pure Glow Cleanse was the kick starter I was looking for and surprisingly, I found the benefits to extend beyond the physical, with the mental changes it brought to be even greater than the physical benefits I continue to experience.


Offered the opportunity to take part in the cleanse on a Monday, I was a little frazzled knowing that the following day I'd be starting on my juices. I felt unprepared, as though I needed more time to psych myself up for three days of no food and all the possible consequences that I thought would flow from not eating. I really doubted myself in being able to maintain the regime and in successfully completing the cleanse; it taught me a lot about how much I can focus on something if I have enough determination and desire.


Upon picking up my box of juices, they went straight into the fridge and I prepped myself that night by having a lighter dinner. I also received a jar of a coffee body and face scrub which has been so lovely to use on my skin. I dry brushed my entire body that evening before my shower and also used the scrub, just to get myself feeling 100% ready to commence the cleanse. I used the scrub throughout the cleanse and found the scent of the coffee grounds to be quite uplifting, even though I am not a coffee drinker. It was a really nice way to perk up my senses. Speaking of senses, I found my sense of smell to be extremely heightened from the first day of the cleanse. I could smell absolutely everything with acute clarity.


Starting the first day of the cleanse with the Sunrise Elixir, I did find it difficult to get through as my very first juice. It's very acidic and tart from the lemon and being mostly filtered water without the bulk of the other juices, it was one I had to sip to avoid feeling bloated. The difficulty in getting through the Sunrise Elixir was only present on my first day, I think resulting from not eating a breakfast mid morning. My stomach was wanting more than just the juice. The following days it went down without any problems. Taste wise, it was very acidic although I do understand that it's designed to give you that zing to start your day with and in that regard, it's a good juice to get you going for the day. It's almost like the juice equivalent of starting your day with a glass of hot water and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.


Following on from the Sunrise Elixir the second juice is the Glowing Greens. Similar to the green smoothies I make myself, I looked forward to this after having my Sunrise Elixir as it gave me that bulk from the pulp of the greens. I avoid using celery in my green smoothies as I do not like celery and I feared I would not enjoy the Glowing Greens due to the inclusion of celery, but it was not a noticeable taste. Of the three 'green juices' in the cleanse, this one has the most variety of green vegetables and I feel it's a good follow up to the Sunrise Elixir.


Green Guru is the third juice of the day. Most similar to the Glowing Greens, the only difference is that the Green Guru does not contain any celery, avocado or pear and uses mint in place of parsley. The use of herbs in the juices is refreshing and in this juice, using the mint probably also beneficial to prevent any bad breath that might come about from not eating. In the scheme of my entire day, this would be my lunch time juice and it has just a little bit less body to it in comparison to the Glowing Greens.


In the afternoon, I'd take my fourth juice - the brightly coloured Good Karma. A combination of grapefruit, carrot, apple, ginger, tumeric and lemon, it was a very welcome change in flavour to the preceding juices. I welcomed the sweeter taste of this juice and found consuming it later in my afternoon to have a revitalizing effect, almost like a mid afternoon version of the Sunrise Elixir. I did find that the oils from the grapefruit and lemon did leave an odd taste and feel on my tongue which was the only unpleasant aspect of this juice.


My dinner was the Buddha Juice. I had this after finishing my workout. I'd have a quarter of it immediately following my workout, and then after showering I'd finish off the rest. Since doing the cleanse, I've actually started following all of my evening workouts with a green smoothie and even substituting dinner with a smoothie similar to the Buddha Juice. I expected at this point in the day to be starving, and if I was going to fail at all I felt it would have been at this point, but with all the juices that I had consumed throughout the day and then having the Buddha Juice as my dinner really was more than enough to keep me from feeling hungry.


I thoroughly enjoyed ending the night with my Chai Vanilla Dream nut milk. Completely different to the five other juices, the blend of nut milks with dates, chai spices and vanilla was so delicious and like a liquid dessert. I'm not sure if it's suitable to heat, but for someone doing the cleanse in winter it would be worthwhile investigating it it can be warmed up as I think the flavours would be lovely as a warm night cap. Of all the juices, my favourite was the Chai Vanilla Dream.


All the juices were enjoyable and easily drinkable. One of my main concerns was the taste factor. Consuming nothing but these juices for three days, you want to enjoy the juices and I was happy to drink all of them. The cleanse is heavy on the green juices and in that respect, I felt that having three types of green juices in a row (Sunrise Elixir, Glowing Greens and Green Guru) did leave me hanging out for a different taste come the afternoon. The cleanse is formulated in a way to ensure that each juice is best suited for a specific time of the day, so for that reason I can see why there would be three green juices in a row.


Other than the Chai Vanilla Dream, all the juices contain lemon or lime. By the end of the cleanse, I found that having so much citrus oil did leave a chalky feel in my mouth. The oils just settled on my tongue and being an oil, you can't really cut through it with water or herbal tea. This is my only real dislike about the juices. I found myself scrubbing away at my tongue when brushing my teeth just to rid myself of that residue left by the citrus oil.


Undertaking the cleanse, it was never about losing weight for me. In saying that, I was curious as to what effect it would have on my weight so I weighed myself the day before, the day after completing the cleanse and at the two week point after completion. My weight before starting the cleanse was, as expected, my usual weight which is within the healthy range for my height. After completing the cleanse, I was surprised to see a reduction of almost two kilograms and at the two week point I was still two kilograms down from my usual weight. Personally, a cleanse such as this is not something I would recommend as a means of weight loss. I feel that for such a short period of time, any weight loss is not necessarily going to be true fat loss however I do believe that it would be a good catalyst to get yourself started on a longer term and sustainable weight and fat loss regime. For myself, I would attribute this reduction in my weight to being a result of the cleansing effect and my continued efforts to be more cognizant of what I am eating. In being on this cleanse, I wanted to give my sometimes overworked digestive system a break and get a lot of 'goodness' into me and I felt I achieved this.  


Throughout the cleanse I maintained my usual routine. I went to the gym each day after work and stuck to my normal workout, which is mostly weight based. The first day I was still adjusting to starting the cleanse, and for me this first day was the most difficult, so I needed to lower my weights slightly in response to how I was physically feeling. The second and third day, I had no problems lifting and exercising with my usual weights and experienced no lack of energy. My energy levels were, to my surprise, quite high for the most part. I felt fatigued the first day and the second day I awoke with a headache, which I was told could be expected, but that headache subsided by lunch time. I drank a herbal chamomile tea which helped in easing the headache and throughout I had a lot of filtered water, which is usual for me anyway. That day I also experienced some difficulty in concentrating and find myself reading the same piece of tax legislation over and over again because my mind was off with the fairies! The cleanse allows you to take in as much herbal non-caffeinated herbal tea as you desire and while this option was available to me, I only consumed one herbal tea on day two and day three. The juices and water were sufficient to keep me going and feeling full. Thought not hungry at all, it was only the habit of eating and mindlessly snacking that I had to had to take my mind off.


For those who wondered, each day of the cleanse has a caloric value of 825 calories. This information isn't printed on the labels, although including this on the labels would be a handy addition as well as more detailed information on the ingredients, such as listing them in descending order. I'd also like to see a nutritional table on the labels, if this information is possible to compile.

Something else I experienced while cleansing and for the days following was an improvement in my sleep. I am not a morning person and most mornings I am fighting my alarm clock. It was a very strange feeling for me to wake up day two of the cleanse well ahead of my alarm clock and to actually feel refreshed and not tired. This continued the following day and the days after that. Perhaps that is the result of my body not having to process and digest solid foods. Whatever it is, that alone was enough to make me want enact real changes to how I eat and what I eat. My Pilates instructor saw me on the weekend after I finished the cleanse and told me I looked very refreshed with eyes that sparkled. Sparkling eyes - who doesn't want sparkling eyes? 

I consider myself to be well read and educated. I don't take most things at face value and will always delve deeper before forming my thoughts on something. Before cleansing, I don't know if I would have agreed that something so simple could result in so many positive outcomes or that any real and tangible benefits would be experienced. It's only after having done it, that I can genuinely attest to how I benefitted. Physically, yes I felt great and even though I did it before Christmas and New Year, I think that was an ideal time for me do it because it made me think reconsider launching on all out assault on the Christmas lunch buffet. The physical benefits were definitely present but what I got most out of the experience was the shift in my mentality; gaining a greater sense of clarity in how my body performed when I wasn't fueling it in the best way possible. This makes the decision going forward to be more mindful in my food choices much easier because I know the benefits that come from treating and eating my body good.

Coming into 2015, why not get the juices flowing for yourself? With all the Christmas parties, festive eating and New Year's Eve celebrations, there couldn't be a more perfect time to nourish your body and implement better habits. At $195 for the three day program, it's an investment worth making.

December 03, 2014

L'heure du Thé

It was famously written in The Portrait of a Lady that "there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea" and who am I to argue with the literary greatness of Henry James? Perhaps one day when I am cited over one thousand times in the Oxford English Dictionary I will be in a position to do so, but even then why would I argue with someone who evidently enjoys the ritual of afternoon tea as much as I do?

The simple pleasure of a well brewed pot of tea and small delights to please the taste buds is something that does wonders for the soul, even more so when shared with a dear friend. I don't think you can underestimate the wonderfully restorative and calming properties of a beautiful cup of tea and there's surely nothing better than an afternoon spent with a special friend who is as sweet as the treats on offer and with whom the conversation flows as freely as the dainty tea pot.


Upon learning that afternoon tea had made its way to Bistro Guillaume at Crown Perth, there was no question that I had to partake and in fact, indulge, in this much loved past time of mine. I say indulge as it is billed as an "indulgent" and "decadent" afternoon tea complete with a glass of Perrier-Jouët champagne for the price of $65 per person. Served only on Saturday and Sunday from 2pm, the dining room of Bistro Guillaume was teeming with tables of women (surprisingly, only women) navigating their way through tiers of sweet and savoury treats.


The glass of champagne is served upon being seated and we are given some time to view the menu to make our tea selection. The tea of choice at Bistro Guillaume is none other than the exquisite Mariage Frères. Our tiered stand of goodies is delivered to the table along with a separate slate tray upon which are the spanner crab sandwiches. Reaching for the small square of sandwich first, there's a very positive but incoherent noise that makes its way out of both of our mouths. The crab was flaky and sweet, mixed up deliciously with the creamy mayonnaise and was a good choice to start off with.


When it comes to afternoon and high tea, I thoroughly enjoy the savoury component and always am left desiring just one or two pieces more of savoury items. The savoury treats help to balance out the sweetness that follows and I often find them much smaller in size that so though there may be an equal number of savoury to sweet pieces, there's just not quite enough savoury. This is what I felt of the composition of the food that day and my friend agreed.  We loved every savoury piece so much and just wanted a little bit more.


In addition to the spanner crab sandwich, we were served a small slice of a chicken waldorf champagne baguette, rare roast beef on a crouton disc, smoked salmon and dill creme blini, veal sausage roll and a mini quiche. Each was happily consumed with approving nods and grunts shared between the two of us.


The sweet situation consisted of mini scones sandwiched with raspberry coulis and creme chantilly, white and milk chocolate mousse, lemon tartlets, vanilla creme mille-feuille and two macarons, one being pistachio and the other salted caramel. We broke each macaron in half so we could both try the two flavours and of the two my favourite was salted caramel which thankfully was not sickly sweet as anything made of caramel can sometimes be.


The scones were less cake and bread like and more like small rounds of shortbread. Upon biting into one, it broke up like a cookie and had more crunch to it than a scone ordinarily would. The tangy filling of the lemon tartlets was really quite smooth with the sweetness and the acidity balanced perfectly. 


Upon seeing the chocolate mousse covered in ganache I thought to myself that I had eaten this before. It looked so very familiar. I attend a number of conferences and professional events held at the Crown complex each year and one of the best things about these events are our meals. I have been served a white and milk chocolate mousse covered in chocolate ganache more than a few times and sure enough when I took a small forkful of the mousse there were the familiar white and brown layers. I thought this was interesting although I'm sure the catering for events and conferences probably does borrow heavily from the various restaurants.


I can't complain about the quality or the taste of everything we consumed that afternoon. My favourite savory item would be the spanner crab sandwich and of the sweet items I would pick the vanilla creme mille-feuille filled with the luscious creme patisserie that oozed out from between the flaky layers of puff pastry. If there is something I would like to see though is more of a French feel to the menu. Although everything served has taken some cue from French food, whether it be the raspberry coulis and creme chantilly in the scones or the blinis and baguettes in place of more English style savouries, I feel that Bistro Guillaume could serve an afternoon tea which is distinct from all the other afternoon teas available in Perth by giving more of a nod toward traditional French treats and those that are less commonly found in Perth. I would love to see the likes of madeleines and caneles, which would definitely set Bistro Guillaume apart as I don't often see these offered by many cafes in Perth and on a personal note, I miss eating caneles so nothing would make me happier. Although quiches and macarons are undoubtedly of French origin, they've now been adopted as part of our Australian diets and feature in most afternoon tea menus. There's no reason to not continue serving them, but if there's one thing that could set Bistro Guillaume's afternoon tea apart from the rest would be taking full advantage of its French roots.

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November 30, 2014

A Technicolour Summer

It's a new dawn, it's a new day and it's a new summer. The page has turned over on the calendar today and we welcome the return of the Australian summer. Here come those days of seemingly never ending sunlight and heat. The sun greets us earlier than ever and come evening, hangs around like the dinner guest who just will not leave. The temperatures soar and we're almost shocked to remember just how oppressive the Australian sun can be. However unbearable the heat may become, it's a magical time of saltwater and sand, cold drinks and browned skin.


Summer to me is all about bright colours and fun. A playful and carefree time. It's gratitude for the city where I live, enjoying the beaches and the coastline from which come the long awaited cool afternoon breezes. Summer Rising, a collaborative project by Perth based international artist Francesca Gnagnarella and local well-loved fashion label Ethel & Leo is a celebration of this hypnotic time of year. A visual feast of colours, prints and textures, the pairing was a perfect match made in technicolour heaven.


I was invited to be amongst the first to view this special showcase last week, held at Francesca's beautiful home which doubles as her creative space and gallery. The collaboration between Francesca and Jess, the talented creator of Ethel & Leo, came about almost as a synchronistic event with neither woman having met or even knowing each other but both wanting to collaborate in some form. As Francesca tells it, "when I first saw Jess' dresses at Telstra Perth Fashion Festival I just fell in love with every single one of the them, and the same happened to Jess when she saw my paintings for the first time; she just died." This mutual respect and appreciation for each other's work led to them exploring the possibility of working together. With their shared love of the Western Australian coast and similar vision, passion and philosophy behind their creative pursuits, Summer Rising was born.


Showcasing Francesca's amazing art, ranging from canvasses that cover the expanse of an entire wall to smaller sized pieces enframed in colourful perspex, with Jess' summer ready designs, I found this to be one collaboration that truly worked in harmony. The collection of Ethel & Leo's dresses made in bright colours and fun prints were perfect for the warmer days ahead, accessorized with show stopper beaded necklaces. The shapes were flattering and easily worn by women of all body shapes and sizes. In particular I loved the trapeze style dress worn by Francesca that evening. What's quite exciting is that Jess is turning one of Francesca's paintings, The Future of Now, into a limited edition silk run which will be used in one of her designs.


For her part in this collaboration, Francesca created a series of bright, coastal and summery works to embrace the feel of the exhibition which would work in synergy with Ethel & Leo's collection. She says that it was a fun experience to work with vibrant colour palettes before she starts work on her next series which will be exhibited in Hong Kong and based on an entirely different subject matter. Francesca draws her inspiration from the landscape and finds a great deal of her inspiration in the colour palette offered up by Mother Nature. This is not at all surprising when seeing a vivid painting of orange, red and pink accented by 23 carat gold leaf which looks like it has been plucked directly from the sky and applied to the canvas.


If you are interested in viewing Francesca's work, please contact her via email on info@francescagnagnarella.com and as always, Ethel & Leo can be purchased via their website and from their Claremont boutique.

November 23, 2014

The Graduating Class

To be nothing less than frank and honest, I was a slacker during my university days. I entered higher education as a young and idealistic soul, full of enthusiasm in the pursuit of those few letters that would sit behind my name. That wide eyed enthusiasm lasted likely all of the first month of my first semester. Devoid of the rules and structure that had dominated the prior five years of my education, I was free to do as I please. If I didn't show up to my lectures, nobody knew or even cared. Upon discovering that some of my tutorials didn't even require attendance, it felt like I had hit the jackpot. I had found myself in what my seventeen-going-on-eighteen self would consider to be utopia.

My approach for the next three and a bit years did not deviate much from the easy pace I developed after that first month. My fellow students did not seem to put in more hours and more effort than me, they almost certainly did. Despite my lackadaisical approach, I graduated with better than average grades and most importantly, received those all important letters behind my name. Recalling this time of my life, it was an experience that I did not truly appreciate until it was over. There's something about student life as a young adult which cannot be replicated even if I chose to further my studies now as a not-so-young adult.


Though I have no qualms in calling myself a lazy and less than committed student, I highly doubt the same could be applied to this year's graduating class of fashion design students from Polytechnic West. Dubbing themselves the Umbra Collective, the work of these exceptionally talented women continue to reaffirm in my mind the enormous amount of talent and creativity that comes out of Western Australia. It frustrates me when I hear the constant moans regarding the perceived lack of talent in this state, and in particular, Perth. Those who don't believe we are overflowing with talent, intelligence and creativity should perhaps take a wider look around the ever increasing creative community and in doing so, will surely have their minds blown.


In recognition and celebration of completing their studies, the fourteen ladies making up the Umbra Collective wowed their family, friends and members of the public (including me!) with a fashion show held on Thursday night at the Claremont Showgrounds. A sample collection from each graduating student was paraded up and down the runway, the culmination of their years of hard work and dedication.

Designer: Melanie Cooper
Designer: Melanie Cooper

So impressive was the standard of their designs that I very much look forward to seeing where these ladies go in the next few years in their future careers in the fashion industry. It's always wonderful to see emerging talent appreciated and most importantly encouraged and nurtured on a personal and professional level. Having reached the next stage of their careers, I wish the entire Umbra Collective a beautiful journey forward. If it is anything like what was seen on Thursday night, the future is no doubt going to look good.

 

Designs by Holly Mumford. Beautiful colours and geometric prints. A very fun but still sophisticated collection that suits life in Perth perfectly. 



Designs by Natalie Fullwood. Classic, elegant and feminine. 



Designs by Jasmine Nash. Wonderfully dreamy bridal creations. The tea length dresses are very modern whilst still classic and no less of a wedding dress due to the beautiful use of fabrics, laces and beading.


Designs by Sarah Hua. The use of ropes to embellish the outfits added a literal twist to the fresh nautical theme.

 

My favourite collection of the evening. Designs by Rosemaree White. Every outfit was absolutely incredible. Very luxurious in the use of laces, beading and feathers creating beautiful textures. Feminine and sensual pieces that I would most definitely love to have hanging in my wardrobe.