28 September 2011

Our music mix

When I was a younger I considered myself a bit of a music aficionado.  I was quite disdainful of anything that lots and lots of people liked to listen to.  My pencil case had bands like Nirvana and The Cure and Pink Floyd scrawled all over it, way before most people at my school knew who they were.  I scoured record fairs for Neil Young and Hendrix and obscure Velvet Underground recordings.  I coveted my Dad's LP collection (I still do, to be honest).  I wouldn't touch Kylie or ABBA or anything that was in the Top 20 (apart from U2.  For some reason my friends and I made an exception, a BIG exception, for U2. Obsessed doesn't even begin to describe it).  

In short, I was an idiot.

Last weekend the husband and I stayed up 'til the wee hours, letting iTunes run on shuffle and taking turns to play DJ on the record player.  We happily skipped from Joy Division to Adele, from Joni Mitchell to Rihanna, from MGMT to The Lighthouse Keepers.  Because good music is simply that, good music. It might be a song that helps you make sense of the world or of a feeling.  Or it might be a song that floods you with memories, good and bad.  Or it might be a song that makes you wanna dance around your living room like an idiot (not that I do that...).  It just has something about it that is inherently good, in and of itself.

So now I say 'no' to musical snobbery!  (And to movie snobbery, and food snobbery for that matter). Don't get me wrong - this doesn't mean I like everything.  But I try to like things on their merits, not because of some ridiculous wanna-be-hipster hang up I have.  I believe that sandwiches are completely underrated, that Love Actually is one of the greatest movies ever made, and that Beyonce is a pop genius with a killer voice (and killer pins!).

What do you think?  Do you say no to musical snobbery?


ps. the one thing our playlist is currently lacking is new music, because we are a wee bit isolated from the English speaking world, and there's only so much Kpop I can cope with.  I'd love to hear what's on your music mix right now - tell me please!

26 September 2011

Pack your bags...

In the past month or so I've traveled from Seoul to Melbourne to Sydney to Phuket and then back to Seoul.  I've spent a few days in Hong Kong and a weekend in Tokyo.  I've just found out that next month I'll be heading to Paris (yippee!), and a little while after that we'll be going back to Melbourne and Sydney. Yep, if you haven't already guessed it from my blog/twitter/facebook, I travel. A lot. I love it, and I'm eternally grateful for the opportunities it's given us - I've learnt a lot from it in so many ways.

So I thought it about time that I share some of the things I've discovered from the past years of planning, packing, security searches, immigration queues, long flights and short visits - beginning with that not-so-fun task of packing your bags.

Let me start with an absolute cop out and say that travel is a rather personal thing in the end, which means that packing really is to.  What may work for me may not work for you.  Having said that, here are my top packing tips learned from many a packed bag.  It's text heavy but I've highlighted the important bits in bold so you can skip all my waffle in between, if you like.

First up, take carry on whenever possible.  This might sound like madness to some, but with practice you'll realise it's actually quite easy.  My husband has turned me into a total carry on fan - I think it's that moment when you can walk swiftly past all the sorry souls waiting endlessly by the baggage carousel and head straight out of the airport into the fun of a new city, or back to the warmth of your own bed, that really sold it for me.  We really only take check in when we are doing a wintery ski holiday, and sometimes I might check in a bag on the way home if I've been shopping.  This post is really about the art of packing lightly.

If you don't take carry on, make sure your check in only holds stuff that you could deal with saying goodbye to.  Checked bags can and do get lost.  Also be aware that you may be forced to check in what you think is a perfectly acceptable carry on bag, some airports/airlines are quite strict on weight and size limits.

Insider travel tip - if your carry on bag gets weighed by an over zealous a dedicated airport employee (ie. not the check-in staff) and you're asked to check it in, head back to the check-in desk and ask for a tag from the airline - it'll let you carry on your bag regardless of weight.

When I was at uni and had to write an essay I would read everything relevant I could get my hands on and then wait a few days.  At some level my brain was working away on all that stuff I had read, and after a few days a theory or an angle or a structure would always reveal itself (this process was usually followed by one or two all-nighters, I was never very good at 'getting an early start').  My approach to packing is kind of the same.  A week or so before my trip I think about the climate, the activities, the social functions involved.  Then I start pulling together a bunch of things to match, first in my head and then in the real world.

Next, I hang or pile my planned clothes in a group somewhere.  That way I can stand back and see if everything kind of works with each other.  If so, it means that I should be able to mix and match to create different outfits.  It also means that the limited supply of shoes/jackets/scarves/jewelry I pack should work with everything.

Here's two examples:
The first group was for a trip to Melbourne/Sydney at the tail end of Winter.  It's all black, tan and blue, with a bright pop of green for good measure.  The second group was for a trip to hot and steamy Hong Kong - pinks, blues and purples ahoy!

A few other things:

- After I pack I do a quick run through of what I've packed to check it covers everything I need (Do I have something for that bush walk? That fancy dinner? Those chilly nights?).  If you get a bit of pre-travel anxiety (like me!) this is a good way to soothe your nerves.  At this stage I normally cull an item or two. Be ruthless.  Having said that...

- You can never have too many singlets.  They are great as stand-ins for PJs and for layering when it's cold.  They roll up nice and tight and can fit in all kinds of tiny crevices that you didn't even know your little carry on bag had!

- Pack half as many t-shirts, shorts, jeans, tops, etc as you think you need - and twice as many undies as you think you need...trust me.

- Pack your shoes first, then fit everything else around them.  Roll thin, small things.  Bulky knits work best when they are laid out flat-ish across everything else.

- Make you luggage do double duty!  If I'm packing some jewelry, I  keep it safe and sound by packing it in a small purse or clutch - storage and night-time accessory in one!

- No sharp stuff in your carry on, sorry.  That means no swiss army knives, no bottle openers, no nail scissors.  You might be able to get away with plastic knitting needles, or small sewing needles, but best to check with the airline first.

- With all the rules about liquids and gels you won't be able to pack your jumbo sized bottle of conditioner if you're aiming for carry on so beg, borrow and buy travel sized toiletries with abandon.  Having said that...

- You do not need as many toiletries as you think you do.  Seriously.  Just try and go one trip without your straightener/night cream/hair gel and you'll realise you can cope.  And people won't notice the difference.  You will still look pretty and cute.  And if not, it's just a few days/weeks/months anyhow!

- My husband follows a rule that I think is way easier for men than women, although I do try it sometimes.  He packs clothes that are at the end of their life span, and throws out as he goes.  This also means he has space to buy new stuff, if he wants to.

- Remember: you can always buy it there.  This applies especially to the basics - toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo.  The fun thing about this rule is that when it turns out you can't actually buy it there, you realise you don't really need it anyway!

And my absolute number one top tip for packing?  As you walk out the door check that you have your wallet, your passport and your mobile phone.  In the end, if you have those three things you will be fine no matter what else you've forgotten.

24 September 2011

Happy Weekend!

Hello!  How are you?  Are you having a happy weekend?

We're in the midst of one of my favourite kinds of weekends - the kind when you can stay in your jim-jams all day if you want because there's nothing urgent on your to do list, no obligations or must-dos.

Here's what we're up to:
- Cooking up a roast beef with all the trimmings, including this delicious version of cabbage and bacon.
- Listening to this and this and this a bit of this.
- Watching Underbelly Razor (we are total suckers for anything Underbelly!).
- Waiting for my husband to wake up (he's a world champion sleeper, he could sleep for his country no problem) and working on some paper goods and mail art, and finishing off three mammoth blog posts all about travel.
- Catching up on some reading here, here and here.
- Making something inspired by my new most favourite cookbook in the world - The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches.
- Strolling about our always fascinating neighbourhood.

Hope you are having a lovely break too!

23 September 2011

Death by Doxie: The Elfi is a Dinosaur Edition

Here is Elfi, masquerading as the cutest dinosaur that ever lived.  We bought this for her in Tokyo.  It is perfectly proportioned for a dachshund and was near impossible to resist.  They also had lion costumes! Next time...

Elfi doesn't entirely mind clothing.  She gets quite excited when winter rolls around and I start pulling out her her little coats.  I think it's partly because they smell like her, partly because she associates them with going for walks (which she loves) and partly that she just likes the extra attention.  Whatever it is, it's nice to have a (mostly) willing clothes horse (dog?)!

21 September 2011

Three (by three) pairs of shoes I'm loving right now...

[Image of total loveliness by Lola's Room]

So yes.  I am a female.  And I love shoes.  Oh it's all just so terribly typical and cliched and predictable, isn't it?  But, there it is.  Sigh.  I love shoes to the point that I acquired three new pairs this week (it doesn't happen every week, I promise).  I love shoes to the point that I have some in my collection that I can't even wear, they are just so darn pretty it makes me smile to look at them.  I loves shoes to the point that when the step-sons are drawing humorous caricatures of their nearest and dearest they always draw me standing next to my giant cupboard of shoes, or doing some other shoe related thing.

Here are some that are currently in my shoe-dreams:

The lovely Pip from Meet Me At Mikes has written before about her penchant for a pair of Swedish Hasbeens, but it wasn't until this morning, when I saw a photo of her in mid-craft sporting a pair of these 'Jodhpurs', that I decided I needed to add them to my shoe wish list.

Woah!  Check these out!  Is there anything more beautiful than a perfectly formed boot?  To me these are perfectly formed - just the right amount of buckles and straps, curves in the right places, toes that aren't too pointy or too round.  One of each please, Mr Lauren!  Yes, these are from Ralph Lauren!  Not normally the first name I think of when I dream of shoes but their current boot collection is very swoony I think.

And lastly, some sparkly shiny color-bursting fun from Miu Miu!  I swear if I owned that sparkly yellow pair I'd wear them every single day, they are so very happy! (And so very expensive.  Hence that is why they are in my shoe dreams, and not in my shoe cupboard.)

19 September 2011

New in the shop...

I have so many blog posts floating about in my head at the moment, but I just can't seem to find the time to actually put any of them together, which is rather frustrating.  But never mind, because what's not frustrating is that I finally figured out how to make my own banners and avatars and what not (thanks picnik!).  So you might have noticed I've been playing around a bit with this blog a bit, and with the graphics for Jorpins, my Etsy shop.  

Plus I finally got around to making and listing the stencil note cards that some of you saw a sneak preview of on Instagram an age ago.  At the moment I've got three sets in the shop 'Happy' (the one above), 'Hello' and 'Love'.  I'm pretty happy with how they turned out - they look even better in real life I think!

17 September 2011

52 Weeks of Mail

I've mentioned before that I'm a member of the awesome Etsy Greetings Team (I know I use that word a lot but this team really is awesome!).  A little while ago Angie from Bear River Photo Greetings threw a gem of an idea at the team - an idea about the joys of snail mail, about re-connecting with friends and relatives. And we all got a bit excited and some amazingly talented people pitched in with graphics and thus 52 Weeks of Mail was born!

The idea is that starting October 9 we are all committing to sending at least one note or card or letter to friends/family each week for a year.  Easy, yes?  Fun, yes?  Maybe you might want to join in to?  

More information here.
Tweet using the hash tag #52weeksofmail.
Add the button to your blog.
Send some love!

14 September 2011

Hello Tokyo!

In Korea (and across large swathes of Asia) we've just had the annual autumn holiday known as Chuseok (Moon Festival in China).  It's a three day event celebrating a good harvest and involving rituals of ancestor worship.  It's one of the big holidays, and Seoul is pretty much deserted as Seoul-ites head back to their home villages for family feasting.  The husband and I took the opportunity to head to Tokyo for three days (one of my favourite cities in the world and it's only just over two hours away!).

I've been to Tokyo a few times but I haven't really visited since actually living in Asia, so it was interesting to compare my experiences.  The first time I went to Tokyo I was in a constant state of wonder - a great heaving noisy flashy city filled with all manner of inscrutable, foreign and just plain Japanese things.  I loved the way the people were so polite and ordered and community minded, and yet at the same time so individual and extreme.  

On this trip I guess there wasn't the same shock of the different, I live in a city where I don't understand most of what goes on around me (signage, language, customs) every day.  And Tokyo these days isn't looking as bright and flashy as it once did - it's a bit worn around the edges from years or economic stagnation and the neon signs have been switched off in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.  But there is still something beguiling about Tokyo, about Japan, and by day three we were already planning our return.

Some things:
- Aside from his super-Spidey-sense of picking great restaurants, my husband is not the right person for me to be in Tokyo with.  I am already planning a solo trip, one where I can spend a whole day in Tokyu Hands (he lasted all of 40 seconds) or Ito-ya if I want to.
- Dachshunds are big in Japan. Not big as in fat, big as in popular, to the extent that they even have special dachshund sized dog costumes which fit their long body and short legs perfectly (I may or may not have bought something...stay tuned!)
- You can not eat a bad meal in Tokyo.  It doesn't matter what you have a hankering for, you will find it in Tokyo and it will most likely be the best darn [insert food name here] you've ever tasted.  One of our favourite meals of the weekend was at an American Chinese restaurant in Shinjuku.  So good.
- Living in a densely populated, crowded city does not necessarily mean a stroll down the city sidewalk has to end in bruises/broken ribs/missing eyes.  The only time I got bumped into was when I stupidly wasn't paying attention (hello Hong Kong and Seoul, I'm looking at you!).
- These days I automatically start looking at the city I'm visiting and ask 'would I live here?', even when there's absolutely no likelihood that we will ever one day actually live there.  The answer, Tokyo, is yes.
- I am increasingly obsessed with the black and white setting on my trusty Canon.  

12 September 2011

Comfort Food: Tuna Casserole

The good thing about the greatest thrifted cook book in the history of the world (aka Cookery in Colour) is that as well as being an absolute visual treat it is also your one stop shop when you want to whip up some fatty, salty, creamy comfort food (or anything involving toothpicks, ham or glace cherries).

So the other night when I was looking for a healthy dose of comfort food, I turned to it's glorious technicolour pages.  Resisting the urge to make the 'Tipsy Cake' (so called, I'm guessing, because it's chock full of sherry) I turned to my old favourite - tuna casserole.  Granted, I didn't stick to the recipe entirely (I used pasta instead of rice, I added corn and I left out the mustard) but I did make sure I included the key ingredient.  Nope, not tuna (although that is, obviously, in there) but a can of cream of mushroom soup.  And it was delicious.

[not looking delicious...yet]

[oven ready]

[tummy ready]

Here's the recipe I used (modified from the original) - feel free to add and subtract flavours depending on your cravings!

Tuna Casserole

3 cups cooked pasta
200 gm can tuna
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup (condensed)
About 1/2 cup of milk (depending on desired 'wetness'!)
Grated cheese, to your taste (the original recipe says 85 gm, I have a feeling I used more)
About 3/4 cup can corn
salt, pepper

Mix all the ingredients using only half the cheese.  Pour into a greased 3 oz (1.7 l) casserole dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Bake in moderately hot oven until the cheese on top looks yummy. Serve with a crisp green salad and lemon wedges.

07 September 2011

My nephews...

...are freakin' adorable.  That is all.

05 September 2011

Mail art to Saylor Made

Last week I wrote about the lovely mail art package I received from Saylor Made.  Well, I now know my reply has made it to her safe and sound so I can show you now as well!  I sent her a package themed around blue, birds and maps - three things that I spy on her blog and in her art on a regular basis, so I hoped it was all to her taste.
The package included: some mini bunting I made from street maps of Hong Kong and Korea; a print of one of my favourite photos from our recent visit to Dubrovnik; some 'Jorpins' owl stickers; a cut out of a seagull from a Korean magazine (a Busan seagull, no less!); three notecards featuring bird pictures from an old 'Book of How'; plus a few other bits and bobs.  You can see more on Saylor Made's blog here.

And the winner is...

...Felicity from Gifts of Serendipity!  Congratulations!  I'll be working on your tailor made prize this week so it should be on it's way to you shortly.

Thanks to all of you who entered - I loved reading your comments, it helped me get to know you a little better I think.  And also a big 'hello' to those of you who came for the giveaway and stayed for the blog.  You are all ace!

Actually, the end of a giveaway makes me a bit sad.  I'm always excited for the winner, but I really do wish I could give you each a prize!  Hmmm, maybe I'll have to do just that in my next giveaway.

Just to clarify, this was a randomly drawn winner - I use the third party drawer service at random.org.
If anyone is interested in viewing the results, I can provide you with the access details.

03 September 2011

Cookery in Colour

Introducing the greatest thrifted cook book in the history of the world - Cookery in Colour (the Australian edition), published by The Australian Women's Weekly some time in the mid 60s from what I can gather.  

Yes, the cover looks just like any other old cookbook, food splattered and a little bit boring.  But look!  Inside is a treasure trove of clashing colours, fabulous fonts, checks and stripes and all kinds of food involving toothpicks.  And then there's the completely psychedelic 'easy party sweets' page.

From hence forth, all of my crafting inspiration will be guided by the patterns and hues in this glorious tome.  I love it so much I could post a photo of every single page, but then you might hate me, so here's just a little taste:

02 September 2011

Death by Doxie: The Dachshund Free Edition

"How can you have a death by doxie post without a dachshund?" I hear you ask, horrified. It's my blog so deal with it, I reply.

This is Coco.  She was my dog before Ferdi and Elfi.  She was a gorgeous chocolate brown kelpie x lab.  I'm writing about her because even though she hasn't been around for a bit over five years the other night I woke at about 3.30 am, thought of her and shed a tear or two.  And that's not the first time it's happened.  It doesn't happen often, but a few times a year I will think about my old hound and I will feel a bit sad.

I got Coco as a young pup from the RSPCA.  She was a pretty special dog.  She was unbelievably loyal and super smart.  She saw me through so much - my first 'serious' relationship, a broken engagement, several broken hearts, a move to Sydney which took me away from family and friends.  When I was feeling sad and lonely she used to sit next to me on the couch, right up close, and put all her weight against me like a big comforting presence.  She forgave me for being out all night and forgetting to feed her.  She was calm and gentle on a lazy Sunday morning, she was jumpy and happy on a lively Saturday afternoon.  She really was a true friend.

The problem was that Coco liked other dogs, but she did not like other people.  Around strangers she was nervous and aggressive.  Even around people that she knew well (like my parents) she could be unpredictable.  In these situations, she could be dangerous.  Coco needed extra special care and attention to ensure she didn't hurt anyone.  

And so, when I was about to move in with my now husband, and I knew his step sons would frequently be around, I had a long hard chat to my vet.  After 10 years together, I had to put my beautiful hound down (gawd writing this is harder than I thought...).  It was  heart wrenching taking her to the vet that one last time, her face still so full of trust.  Ughhh, it really was horrible.  But I know that I made the right decision - dogs like Coco and children do not mix.

Here she is when she was just a cute little puppy (on her first day home actually) - a little nervous and hermit-like maybe, but before she had jaws to do serious damage.

Do you have a special dog from your past that you still think about?

01 September 2011

(Instant) Collections: Sheet Music

I've mentioned before that any time I head back to Melbourne I always make time for a spot of op shopping.  Here's an instant collection I picked up from my last visit - sheet music from the 1940s. The illustrations and fonts are simply wonderful, and I love the soft thickness of the old paper.  And that's not to mention the history hidden in the titles and lyrics.  

When I originally started searching for sheet music I was thinking of making envelopes, gift tags and the like, but these are way to precious to cut up!  I might have to scan them and use them that way?  Can you guess which one is my favourite?