Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A NIGHT AT SAKE DOUBLE BAY



If I were to win the lottery jackpot, the money would run out quickly. It would be my dream to buy approximately 5 houses in our suburb, one for each member of my immediate family and their partners (I ran this past them and they're all on board). I would ensure these homes were within close walking distance to make it easier for everyone to be able to visit each other. I'd love to be able to call my mum in the morning to see if she were up before strolling over for coffee and real conversation. In this dream of mine, my sister and sisters-in-law only work some of the time, so all the ladies can join in.

Coming from a large, crazy, very open and accepting family has left me spoiled. We don't do formality and small talk. No-one has had to suffer with anything silently because "the family won't understand". There's no such thing as passive aggression or bitching behind anyone's back. It's all out on the table; dirty laundry is aired without any shame. We're also not the kind of family who decrees "family comes first"; no-one has to feel obliged to do or be anything to anyone. It's a sort of Tenenbaums situation: we may be mad indidvidually, but family is somehow essential to our sanity. When we get sad, lonely, screw up or feel ashamed, we never need feel alone. When people come to visit my parent's home, they are welcomed like family too. You could turn up to our place in your PJ's, knock the door in the middle of the night, spend your entire Christmas with us: that's normal to us. I'm really privileged that this is my family situation and so it's impossible not to miss them or feel a little lonely because I live so far away. I was most grateful to have my sister and her fiance here this weekend and I am not too sad at their departure because the family is to be reunited again this weekend when my father turns 60. Speaking of birthdays, this was the actual point of this blog post. Here's how the four of us celebrated James turning 21 30-something.

 

Sake Restaurant is a relatively new addition to Double Bay. Set within the recently refurbished InterContinental hotel, the restaurant brims with sophistication and style. Melissa Collison was the designer behind the fitout, which is almost masculine in its design: monlithic concrete slabs and Calacutta marble feature heavily. However, the use of light oak furniture, veneered timber and warm lighting accents soften the space considerably and provide a comfortable aesthetic that doesn't forfeit any of its edgy style. With decor like that, we expected grand things when it came to the food. And we were not disappointed. Sake does some of this nation's best modern Japanese food and the fact there are three other Sake locations in Australia is testament to its worth. Here's a little of what we consumed, starting with the lovely Pink Blossom, Choya Umeshu shaken with fresh passionfruit, strawberries and citrus and topped with cranberry juice:


A standout starter: White soy snapper slices with lime, chives, and white soy dressing


The very moreish brined pork belly with braised daikon and grated ginger


And the most magnificent, tender and flavoursome beef to ever pass my lips, the braised short rib with akamiso, shaved truffle and spring onions.


Eggplant is my favourite vegetable and I always enjoy it when I visit Japanese restaurants. This one was decent, but not the best I've had. Eggplant with niku chicken miso.


Ten out of ten vegetable tempura:


I wish I could show you the perfect rainbow rolls we also ordered, but I forgot to capture it. Sorry! Here's a pretty table instead:

  You can find out more about Sake here

Sunday, May 24, 2015

BEAUTY PRODUCTS I'D RATHER NOT LIVE WITHOUT


Lately I have found myself shaking my head at some of the blogs I used to really enjoy. I get that once you become popular in the internet world, you can start capitalising on the interest you've cultivated; you've put a lot of time and effort into producing blog posts so it's probably fair to be rewarded for it. PRs and brands might pay you to write favourable content about their products, or send you free goods with the understanding you'll promote it to your loyal followers who might go out and buy the same thing you got given. I can smell a PR-generated blog post a mile away and I can say this now: when I read those posts, especially when there is non-disclosure, I've mentally demoted that blogger to a lower rung on my barometer of trust. It becomes difficult to take their word for it.

Now, back to me! As you can probably guess, things I feel half-arsed about won't make it to the pages of this blog. Good products deserve a shout out, bad and mediocre ones shouldn't be encouraged, even if I did get them for free, which in this case, I didn't. So let's get to it: products I really like and don't want to live without. I am crazy about reasonably priced, well-formulated products that stand up to their luxury competitors and these four products do just that.


Let's begin with Loving Tan 2 HR express self tan. I use 'medium' for winter and the 'dark' in summer and I am going to have the name of this product tattooed inside a heart on my flabby bicep so everybody knows just how much it means to me. In just two hours, this nifty mousse takes me from pasty and self loathing, with every inch covered to "oops my phone has no storage left because I just took 300 mirror selfies in my underwear". This one trumps all the other tans on the market because it is perfectly olive and even if you really screw up the application, doesn't ever look dodgy, even on the hands and feet.


ModelCo Gradual Tan is a moisturiser with a hint of self tanner. You can use it to build your perfect tan over a few applications, or to top up your existing tan. It's got a gorgeous fragrance and injects a whole lot of moisture into the skin, which is really helpful as fake tans tend to make the skin a little dry and scaly after a few days. I generally use this product on my face a couple of days after I have self-tanned, because tan tends to wear off more quickly on the face than the rest of the body. Simply apply it at night, hop into bed, and you'll be good by morning.


I chanced upon the Rimmel Lasting Finish primer when I was out grocery shopping one day and remembered I had ran out of my usual MAC one. I was hesitant because there are only two primers I have been happy with historically, so I go out of my way to buy them instead of easier-to-come-by versions you find in pharmacies and grocery stores. That day, though, I really could not be bothered walking the 1km to the MAC boutique so chucked the package into the shopping basket and hoped it would be worth it. And it was. This provides a smooth, non-greasy and, importantly, long-lasting base for my foundation. Will I buy it again when this tube goes empty? In a heartbeat. Is it as good as others I have used? Yes, perhaps even better, particularly in the winter months when my skin turns dry and I need a primer to provide adequate moisture as well.


The final item in this review is one I am all over like a rash. As you may know, Real Housewives is my not-so-guilty pleasure. I enjoy playing armchair psychologist and trying to figure out who has which personality disorder. I love when the camera does wide shots in the housewives homes, so I can see who has the best decorating taste. And I love when Yolanda does her pieces to camera where she does a lot of talking with her hands, and I get to see her perfect manicure. These past couple of seasons, she's been wearing a red so deep and dark it verges on black. It's the new french manicure and I hope it doesn't ever get old, because I adore it. In my search for a polish just like Mrs Foster's, I bought a few that were either too red, too black or too purple but my search ended when I bought "Wicked". I recommend two to three coats for the perfect colour.

In unrelated news, I've just had a brilliant weekend. My sister who is also my best friend on god's green earth flew up to Sydney with her fiance to surprise James for his birthday. We love it when they visit because we spend most of our time laughing til we cry and we don't get out of our pyjamas until the late afternoon because we've been too busy talking. We had a great dinner on Saturday (which I'll blog about), plus Rachel and Dan introduced us to the Create Your Taste thing where you build your own burger at McDonalds and they actually come out and serve it to you on a wooden board with your fries in a tiny little chip basket. Hard to believe but it looks and tastes as good as something you'll find at a proper burger joint. Wheat avoidant me didn't have to miss out because it even has a lettuce bun option which you shouldn't knock until you try! I don't have the Sunday night blues because in a couple of hours The Real Housewives of Cheshire is going to premiere and I just know these women will bring narcissism and delusion to a whole new level!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

CROSBY STREET HOTEL


It's been a very long time since I promised you the rest of the pictures from our NYC holiday. I'm a terrible blogger, I know. But if there's anything I learnt from my journalism studies it's the importance of currency and I still think Crosby Street Hotel is definitely very hot and very worth writing about.
If someone were to ask me where they should stay in the Big Apple, my answer will always be down town. Though it's hard to escape the feeling that New York is a major tourist hub, basing yourself down town gives us that something many of us crave: the illusion that, even for a short time, we're a local. Oh yes, I know how pretentious that notion sounds but I think for many of us, a holiday isn't really what we're after. What we really desire is to feel as comfortable as we do at home, just with different surroundings. I know when I leave my house, I love that my street is filled with people I've seen before, going about their daily lives. I wouldn't wish to live at the base of the Opera House because the sight of faces I'll see once and never see again makes me kind of sad. Even though I got off to a rocky start with my neighbours because they don't like noise and my dogs produce much of it, I love that they're a constant. I know the sound of their front gate opening as my neighbour leaves to get his morning paper; the smell of their cigarettes at routine intervals during the day; the fact that, despite our clashing, I feel familiar enough with them that when my index finger was mutilated by the blade of a milkshake maker, they were the people whose names I ran out my front door screaming as the blood sprayed out of me. And I'll forever be grateful that my usually gruff neighbour didn't think anything of tourniqueting my finger in my messy home before driving me to the local hospital as if I were a friend. Now I certainly don't claim that you'll find yourself feeling quite as at home as that in the big, often lonely, city of Manhattan. But by placing yourself somewhere a little further from the main attractions, gets you pretty close.

Now, Crosby Street Hotel is way too elegant to remind me of my own home, but the homely feeling is definitely there in spades. Yes, it is world-famous for its interior design and indeed it isn't a bargain to hole up there but this place isn't the Ritz (it's cooler!). It's not all hushed tones and desperately hoping check-in will god-damn hurry up because you're in the clothes you wore on your long-haul flight and you're certain someone is about to ask you if you're lost instead of welcoming you inside. This place feels like you've been invited to your best friends eccentric aunt's country house where there's oversized muddy dogs taking up space on the sofa (there wasn't any while we were there but pets are welcome) and a moustachioed man in a safari suit and monocle who you're pretty sure thinks he just returned from safari but is actually your best friends eccentric aunt's second cousin who hasn't set foot outside of the manor, or traveled to Africa for that matter, since the 1920's... Catch my drift? 


The hotel itself lies within the cobbled streets of Soho. Though it is a new dwelling, you wouldn't think so, its red bricks and steel framed windows speaking to a past, industrial Soho. Once inside, you're in Kit Kemp's world. The English designer is famed for her elegant yet folky, kitsch and oh-so British aesthetic. No two rooms are the same and it wouldn't be right if they were: Kit Kemp is synonymous with eclecticism so to limit colours and patterns in the way most hotel chains do would be, in a word, illogical. How about we take a tour? 

Suite


Drawing Room


Courtyard


Restaurant


You can read more about Crosby Street Hotel here
For other Firmdale Hotels in London and New York, browse here

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

SO I DID A JUICE CLEANSE...


You read a lot about the benefits of juice cleansing. Healing digestive troubles, detoxing from caffeine and other supposed 'toxins', clearing the mind, weight loss... I'm going to admit that the first juice cleanse I did was purely for the latter. I figured if I managed to lose a couple of kilograms rapidly, it would give me a rewarding feeling that would provide an impetus to ditch crappy foods and gain the fitness model physique I had been coveting and my chronic lack of will had prevented me achieving. Well, when I completed my 3-day juice cleanse, the numbers on the scales did shift, but that became only a minor reward. When you become comfortable with the fact that for the next few days your entire consumption will be mapped out for you, you can bid goodbye to food and all the distractions that come with it. That is, you gain back the time you would have spent planning, preparing and eating food or engaging in mindless snacking.

I found that my digestion was given a much-needed rest and for the first time in ages, I had the ability to focus completely on other areas of my life. For instance, I managed to write a whole chapter of a book that had I had started, neglected, and couldn't find the motivation to work on a long time prior. This phenomenon isn't something new or unheard of: fasting itself has long been accepted as a means to allow the mind to focus on spiritual or intellectual ideas rather than earthly ones. Bottom line: you might just find the clarity and focus you've been desperately hoping for, which I did.


The first hurdle you need to overcome is committing yourself to the idea that for the next few days you won't be eating. That was depressing for me, but as the cleanse went on, I kept reminding myself of these few things:

This is a short period of time that will end
There are benefits to what you are doing (they are well-documented: keep googling for reminders when you feel like you're going to throw in the towel)
Your next juice will be in just a short couple of hours, and you are capable of getting there!

I consider the Orchard Street range of cleanses a superior option if you're thinking of juicing. It's 100% organic, using naturopath-selected ingredients and comes delivered to your door - no hard work on your part! Of their three juice cleanse options, I selected the "Pure Cleanse" which is low in fructose and good for sensitive stomachs. When I went to bed, I couldn't wait to get up in the morning and savour (this is key during cleansing) their green smoothie; and their Cashew Chai smoothie was worth waiting all day for. The juices in between, well, they're juices. Very tasty for what is essentially a vegetable drink and far better than most other places offer but, unless you teeter on the edge of orthorexia like myself, you won't be getting the same feeling you would consuming a big fat burger, let's be honest. But your insides will feel better; you won't feel heavy or regretful; in fact you'll feel very proud for getting through the day. Plus, having gone through all of that, feeling as good as you no doubt will, you'll prefer to nourish yourself with healthier foods when it comes time to choose what you'll be eating from thereon out. As for the fitness model physique that I was my initial purpose - I decided that was far too much hard work for me and that I'd much prefer to strive for balance. So now you'll find me enjoying virtuous foods whilst vegetating in front of creepy mystery docos and all the Real Housewives franchises :-)