Saturday, July 31, 2010


There can be few greater pleasures in life than planning and making an epic, delicious meal and sharing it with some fantastic people (and a little splash of wine). The best home cook I've ever had the joy of wearing an apron with happened to be in Sydney for a few days, so we decided to take our time putting together a three course meal for eight people. Kate is a much more adventurous and ambitious cook than I am, but we were pleasantly suprised by how smoothly the whole process ran.

We prepared everything in reverse order. First we put together the desserts: Kate pitted ruby red fresh cherries, doused them with amaretto and topped them with crushed biscuits and almond meal for a delicious crumble, while I chopped chocolate croissants into an artery-assaulting bread-and-butter pudding. Then we prepped the various elements of the individual beef wellingtons, assembled them and left them to chill while we parboiled potatoes we'd later fry to serve with the wellies. Finally Kate handmade ravioli in wonton wrappers, with a spinach, ricotta and goat's fetta filling, while I threw together a rocket, pear, avocado and blue cheese salad. The ravioli only needed to cook in boiling water for about 30 seconds, and we served them with a sauce of two punnets of cherry tomatoes reduced down with olive oil and thyme.

The best beef wellingtons you will ever eat (serves 8):

Caramelise three brown onions over a low heat with a heap of butter and some sherry if you have it. Meanwhile, chop six big mushrooms (stems removed) into thick slices and marinate with six tablespoons of olive oil, some fresh thyme and fresh rosemary. Wilt 2-3 bunches of english spinach and set it aside to cool. Fry up the mushrooms with any marinade they haven't absorbed. Chop/crumble about 200g nice stinky blue cheese (we used Stilton). For each person you'll have a round little steak, cut nice and thick - eye fillet would be ideal, we used a New York cut scotch fillet cos we're pov - seal these quickly in a hot pan.

Lay out a sheet of filo pastry for each wellie... cut it into as big a circle as you can manage, then cut out some corners to make a cross. Layer some spinach, blue cheese, caramelised onion, mushrooms, steak and more spinach, then fold in the flaps and seal up the package. Flip it upside down onto a greased oven tray, brush with a beaten egg, and do some pastry art on the top if you're feeling fancy. Bung them in the freezer for a good hour or so, so the wellies hang together when they go into the oven. They need to cook for about 45-50 minutes at 180 degrees, give them another egg wash first and, you might want to blast them at higher heat for the first 10 minutes. Let them rest for a few minutes before you serve them. They'll be steaming little bombs of cheesy goodness, and hopefully your meat will still be just pink. Mmmmmmmm...

If you prefer a more professional recipe, here's our source!

The choc croissant pudding was super easy to make, and when it finally came out of the oven our judgement may have been sedated by a reasonable quantity of vino and two other courses, but it was possibly the most delicious thing ever. Slice up about three chocolate croissants (they can be a day or two old), arrange them in a greased pudding bowl, and pour over a quick custard of 130g caster sugar, three eggs, 3/4 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of cream. Cover with plastic and let it sit for a good few hours, then bake at 180 degrees for about half an hour. It will be totally soft and gooey and with just the right amount of chocolate surprises...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fair leather friends

Working a job where I trade in words all day, I have this vicarious obsession with people who do and make things with their hands. Via DoubleOhTwo, today I found Secret Forts' fantastic photo feature on the workspace of a couple of American brothers who turn out handmade leather products under the moniker BillyKirk.

Chris and Kirk Bray are the brothers, and their site includes a great interview that sets out how they got started, the design and business ethos of the brand. They only use the best leather and highest quality hardware… There’s a clear and understated design signature, and their emphasis on quality materials and functional simplicity lends a consistent industrial elegance to all their products. They use a lot of antique leatherworking machines, and initially learned the trade from a "third generation leatherworker" still using his grandfather's tools. As the brand has grown, now much of the manufacturing work is actually done by a group of Amish leather workers in Pennsylvania.

This photo (from Secret Forts) shows a BillyKirk shoulder satchel they designed based on "a World War II Belgian map case".

At the risk of sounding kinky, there’s something I find seductive about leather. It’s an inherently masculine material; in its rawest state it retains something of the scent of the beast that is its origin. With time its patina showcases all the stories that leather has seen, whether burnished to radiance or scuffed to graffiti; marks of age like wrinkles on a well-loved face, or the rings of trees in cross section. One of the world’s oldest materials, it has cultural and historical associations with pioneers, cowboys and tribal artefacts. Yet it can also be incredibly delicate, like buttery soft kid gloves, an exquisitely tooled handbag, or the earliest form of paper, vellum.

Unlike so many products today, leather rewards loyalty. Leather grows with you. A sturdy pair of leather boots mould themselves to your foot. A leather wallet, once it makes its home in your back pocket, cups your bum like an overfamiliar friend. Leather, like a hot dude, looks even better with a few scars and imperfections. Because they’re the marks of character, a life lived unreservedly.

I’m by no means into high fashion or “it bags”, but I’ve always fantasised about letting loose in the Hermes store. Their bags and goods just seem so beautifully made, the immaculate waxed-thread stitching and attention to detail. Luxurious and gorgeous as Hermes bags obviously are, it’s the traditional saddlery skill and functionality echoing through their design that captivates me.

An overpriced brand is an overpriced brand; but something hand-made just for you, tailored and customised and cut just right, that’s true luxury. Be it a suit, a pair of shoes, a chair or a bicycle pannier: bespoke is the ultimate in style because it silently affirms its owner’s taste, respect for craftsmanship and design, and confident individuality.

On that rambling note, and pertinent to skills like leatherwork that seem like they belong to another time: found a gorgeous book today that I wish I’d discovered sooner; hell, I wish I’d thought of writing it! It’s a large format hardcover book by Leta Keens called Shoes For The Moscow Circus: Scenes from a hidden world (published by Pier 9).

“Tucked away above a nondescript shopfront in suburban Sydney there is a workshop where dance shoes are made the way they have always been made – by hand. This workshop makes shoes that are worn by can-can dancers in France and by the acrobats of the Moscow Circus.”

The book basically explores small industries, specialist manufacturers and artisan craftsmen. Leta looks at 28 different hidden worlds with an inquiring yet lyrical style – discovering what drives the people who make bicycles, cricket bats, flags, umbrellas, taxidermy….

The design of the book is a lovely complement to its material – it’s luxurious and beautiful, but not in an obvious or ostentatious way. The book is generous in size and in its use of photography by Oliver Strewe; but the pages are matte rather than gloss, black and white with an occasional splash of red. The book is clothbound with no slipcase and the titles on the cover appear screen-printed by hand.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Baby steps

It's taken nearly two months of yoga two to three times a week, but tonight I conclusively touched my toes. Gripped my feet and straightened my legs. For most humans this is not cause for celebration, but for a lanky unco like me this is a momentous event. Seriously, the last time I managed this feat was at least a decade ago. The whole process is finally starting to make sense to my body and it's bloody satisfying.

Some days, you gotta take the little wins.

Folk insomnia

After just one full spin and an insomniac perusal of the (hand-annotated) lyric sheet, I Will Love You At All is already paying dividends. The song "Home" has just rendered obsolete a short story I've been meaning to write, because it sums up exactly the feeling of going back to your home town for Christmas:

I did what everyone else does
I drifted back to my hometown
With my restless heart kept hidden
Deep within my chest I knew
They'd have to take me back again

Put on my shoes to search for clues
But you'll never find them there
Nor with the mates from your old class
Gathered after midnight mass
Round the bar in the predawn hours of Christmas morning

They thought I'd outgrown them
They could read it on my face
I wanted to leave but my face...
Had an appointment to keep
with the fist of some young freak
That's why I wear this scar beneath my eye

And how about this from "Folk Insomnia":

What have I learned?
Don't walk in front of cars or behind horses
Cats don't drink milk out of flying saucers
Green means go, yellow go faster
Red means stop or financial disaster

The album got a great review in the Herald this weekend, and it was a treat to see the man himself for a quick Newtown beer today.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I'm on fire...

Kasabian last night was a geezer-fest... heard more Pommy and Scottish and Irish accents than I did Australian, I swear. It's the kind of swaggering Brit dance-rock that's soundtracked a thousand slow-mo sport montages. The musicianship was tight, the frontman was hella charismatic and the songs are rousing, football-stadium-singalong fodder. I think "Fire" is my favourite, and this clip is hilarious.

It's one of those songs that's more like two songs in one - a bit like Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" - with that tempo change between verse and chorus that's enough to blow your mind.

Everything but temptation

Measure For Measure
is one of the bard’s lesser known plays; a Shakespeare B-side if you will (if I seem wittier than usual on this topic, it’s because I’m totally plagiarising the commentary of my learned theatre-going companion). It’s all about sex and power, politics and corruption, with ample use of Shakespeare’s favoured devices – mistaken identity, disguises, the scene at the end where every character is inexplicably in one place (not unlike Gossip Girl, now I think of it) and some multiple weddings. But mostly, the switcheroo. Old Bill loved the switcheroo.

The duke of Vienna (Robert Menzies) goes undercover as a friar after handing over control of the city to his puritanical deputy Angelo (Damien Gameau). Angelo amps up the vice squad and sets out to make an example of Claudio (Chris Ryan), sentencing him to death for fornication after he knocks up Julietta (Maeve Dermody). Claudio’s mate Lucio (Toby Schmitz) goes to Claud’s sister Isabella (Robin McLeavy) and encourages her to beg Angelo for mercy; Angelo falls in love with her and his sudden discovery of desire undoes everything he’s about. His confusion becomes hypocrisy and he offers to save her brother’s life in return for her virginity. Throw in some prostitutes and confetti and that about sums it up.

Benedict Andrews’ production for Company B put a very modern twist on the show. The set was a pared down hotel room that rotated at varying speeds, which added some choreographic challenges for the actors and became a great dramatic device as things were revealed and concealed from the audience. Then there was the use of video cameras, both hidden in the set and wielded by the actors: giving a more intimate view of the action and tapping into the ideas of surveillance, sex tapes and invasion of privacy. It worked incredibly in a scene between brother and sister Claudio and Isabella, the glass shower wall between them representing his prison cell. On the darkened stage, the camera caught their distraught reflections in Blair Witch night-vision as they desperately pleaded with each other as to who faced the greater sacrifice; her purity or his life.

The first scene was a sex scene, then there was an orgy with some prostitutes, and probably most confronting was when death-row inmate Barnadine was told he’d be hanged the next day and went a bit nuts. As in full-frontal nudity, poo-smearing, fake blood-spitting, set-trashing while Nick Cave wailed at high volume and the set spun at top speed, nuts. Considering I’d last seen the actor, Colin Moody, in the gentle ABC serial beloved by my mum called Something In The Air, it was quite powerful.

One thing that fascinates me about theatre is a show’s potential to evolve over its run. That’s why it was great to chat to some of the actors after the play, to hear some of the stories from behind the scenes. I mean, this is three hours of Shakespeare every day, sometimes twice a day, for six weeks (the last performance is tonight): things are bound to be honed. The word Barnadine wrote with his poo was always “shit”, but other scenes had changed over the weeks. When we saw the scene between Claudio and Isabella there was a weirdly intense kiss, but early in the run it was much more explicitly incestuous. And Toby Schmitz’s bawdy Lucio was originally more of a sex pest, but eventually this was distilled down to a single, insane scene where he performed cunnilingus on a lily.

Anyone on two wheels is a friend

Checked out the Woolloomooloo Festival on Wheels yesterday - well, mainly the sausage sizzle at Sable and Argent, an amazing bike shop down Bourke St. Had a quick chat to the owner, a lanky bloke called Boris who affects a tres cute cycle cap. Boris' background is in commercial fit-outs, so it's no surprise S+A is almost as much a gallery as it is a shop. The theme is cool black and white, with industrial touches and graphic artwork, and there's even a tree growing inside. Then there are vintage style Rapha cycling jerseys, whole walls hung with brightly coloured caps, MOMO helmets and of course racks and racks of delectable bikes. Even the mechanics' workspace becomes a design feature, visible through clear plastic in the centre of the store with walls proclaiming anyone on two wheels is a friend.

Handlebar grips and bike chains and spoke cards, oh my! It was like a candy store! You can get little ears or horn adornments for your helmet, ipod speakers for your handlebars, and heaps of other beautifully designed accessories. I got a much needed new light for Big Red, which wraps easily on and off the handlebars so it's not at risk of being stolen because it must be left on the bike. And they even make coffee at the store!

The Bourke Street cycleway has been pretty contentious of late - there are threats of a class action over the way its construction is messing with parking and access to businesses in Surry Hills. Hopefully once it's complete things will run more smoothly, business will pick up again and it will become a model for better cycleways through the inner city. It's my favourite street in Sydney, arched with beautiful trees, generally hushed and with little traffic, and home to parks and boutiques and little terrace houses... and of course Bourke St Bakery! (had the ham and fennel pizza yesterday - so good) The trail goes all the way down to the harbour at Woolloomooloo, and you can ride right up to the water...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Late mail

Met a bloke last night at Cricketers who's the drummer for a band called Alberta Cross. They're here on tour from New York (though the founding members of the band formed in London) and playing Splendour among other things. If you're in Sydney tonight and looking for kicks, you could do worse than to check Austin & co's gig at the Annandale. Their sound ranges from folky to Zeppelin-style classic rock, and they've been compared to the likes of Neil Young and The Band. My dance card's already full with Kasabian tonight so I won't get to see AC, but I'm really digging the vocals on this track:

Another one for Sydney-siders - Darren Hanlon's doing an instore at Fish Records in Newtown tomorrow afternoon at 2pm, plugging his newly released album I Will Love You At All. It's getting some great reviews and quite a bit of airplay which is fantastic... I'm overdue to get my copy, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's a sign...

State of Design is happening right now in Melbourne, and there are a couple of interesting bike-related tidbits to be had. Mikael Colville-Andersen, the Danish film-maker, photographer and bike fetishist best known from the Cycle Chic and Copenhagenize blogs is the special guest at a cycling celebration at Denmark House on Friday (would love to be a fly on that wall).

The Design Files did a great wrap of the festival's trade show, and something in particular that caught my eye was Trent Jansen's Cycle Signs. Jansen is an Aussie object designer with a keen interest in sustainable design; as such he has a rich history of recycling and reinterpreting pre-used materials. For example, he makes beautiful stools from old road signs. With offcuts from the signs and their reflective vinyl lettering, Jansen has created these reflective buttons for bikes, which either attach via a clamp to the wheel spokes, or strap onto the body of the bike. Even the straps are made from old bicycle tubes, so the materials are almost all recycled.

They're so simple and practical, yet visually they add something special to a bike. I'm hoping to pick up a few this weekend - Trent says they're available in Sydney at Deus Ex Machina, Tokyo Bike, Cheeky Transport and Chee Soon & Fitzgerald. If you're in Melbourne, try "Saint Cloud on Gertrude Street, and Eco Innovators on the corner of Little Collins and Swanston Streets". (photos courtesy of Trent Jansen - and be sure to check out this great interview with him, which has images of the amazing Pregnant Chair he designed)

If you're in Sydney this weekend there's a bit of a bike bonanza happening at the Woolloomooloo Festival On Wheels. Sable & Argent will play host to a swapmeet, there will be a BBQ and beers and bands and DJs and all manner of cool kids. Will do my best to check it out but I always feel like the school nerd at these kinds of gatherings of chic fixie aficionados. Not unlike when I took my first bike to St Pat's Primary School, proud as punch of my little pink treadly. Ended up in tears at the bike rack when some older boys informed me that my spokey dokes were not nearly as cool as I thought. Their every pling and plong on the long journey home was like an accusation of my dagginess, and I made my dad take them off that night, burning with shame. Never again! Bike pride!

One last thing. A bike just ain't a bike without a bell - but these are some amazing bells. The cupcake bell would be just perfect on Baby Blue, but Big Red would suit the ladybugs, I think. And the turtles are so cute!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In which I plumb the depths of the internet, so you don't have to...

(Beard Alphabet by Tim Yarzhombeck)

Er. This post started out with good intentions, just so you know. It was going to be an earnest little musing on rainy nights and the music that best goes with them. Sun Kil Moon's newbie Admiral Fell Promises is on high rotation, for example. A little Iron & Wine, maybe some old Devendra Banhart, just a touch of the National. That little subset got me thinking about whether there's some correlation between musical genre and the occurrence of resplendent beards. So, naturally, I performed this google search.

I'm sorry - are you seeing this? That is the most pitiful selection of beards and hotness I've ever seen. Prince William?? Everyone knows the ginger prince is where it's at. (Yes, I've been waiting for an excuse to post this image of Prince Harry with a puppy):

A good beard requires a bit of grooming (Roald Dahl's description of one of his characters, possibly Mr Twit, as forever storing bits of food in his beard to nibble on later still grosses me out), but shouldn't look like it's been manicured. Sure, it may be the fashionable camoflage of the weak-chinned, but a good beard can convey character, charisma and wisdom. The beard owner may or may not possess these traits, but then beards tend to reward hasty first impressions rather than intense scrutiny.

Anyway. Beard porn. It's real. It's out there. You can join a Facebook group for "Hot Indie Rockers With Beards". Their mission statement is pretty spot on: "We'll scratch up your face when we make out - but the burn will make you remember us tomorrow..." Well - not that I'd know about that. But it sounds realistic.

Rocker beards, yes. But the Tumblr for Dudes With Beards Eating Cupcakes was just a little too far for me....

*NB the term "beard" as used here assumes the unspoken inclusion of a moustache as well. A beard should never appear without a moustache (else "the chinstrap", quelle horreur), much as a moustache without a beard looks fey and, well, a bit silly.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday swims, Chinglish and Sparklemouse

Big Red and I were very active today - she wasn't very helpful while I cleaned the oven after the Princess Shazza explosion yesterday, but then we tootled down to Glebe to see the lovely Miss Mel for coffee. Then she waited patiently while I struggled through a swim - it was such a glorious afternoon with the sun glittering on the outdoor (albeit heated) pool, and yet I barely had to share a lane. After that we raced back to Oxford Street for some yoga practice. It's finally starting to work, it seems, so have decided to try to teach mum the brief string of poses I know so we can practice together in the George.

One bonus of the Princess Shazza adventure yesterday was the odd Chinglish name the doll came with: "Benign Girl". Thought I had stumbled on something unique, until Mel told me today she has a Benign Girl toy phone (long story). How did she get her name? Is she really that non-threatening (or indeed, non-carcinogenic)? And if she's supposed to be so demure, what's with the red fetish heels and glitter eye make-up??

On a completely different note, have been smashing the amazing album Dark Night Of The Soul all day. The songs were all written and performed/produced by Sparklehorse (AKA Mark Linkous) and Dangermouse (AKA Brian Burton). The two had fuelled rumours of a forthcoming collaboration for years, and it's tragic that they didn't release DNOTS under either of the fantastic portmanteaux "Sparklemouse" or "Dangerhorse".

It's a brilliant, cohesive record, even though each of the 13 tracks has a different vocalist and the tone veers from space pop to scuzzy punk to what I can only think to describe as baroque country. And the list of collaborators is incredible: Black Francis (Pixies), Iggy Pop, Suzanne Vega, Vic Chesnutt, Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips), James Mercer (The Shins), Nina Persson (The Cardigans), Jason Lytle (Grandaddy) and more. I think my favourites are the Mercer track, the toy piano-driven "Star Eyes", and "Daddy's Gone" on which Linkous takes lead vocals while Persson's silky Swedish harmonies curl around a laidback string section. The title track, featuring David Lynch, is suitably staticy and film-noir cinematic.

The recording has been in the can for a while (you probably heard the Casablancas cut "Little Girl" months ago on Triple J) but a legal dispute with EMI saw the project sidelined and possibly even silenced for good. Despite the feverish anticipation of music nuts, and spurred on by a further collaboration with David Lynch who put together a book of visual interpretations of the songs. But Sparklemouse (I'm calling them that even if they're not) circumvented the drama by releasing Lynch's book with a blank CD, ostensibly for burning the album which can be found online for download.

Om nom nom

Girls' dinner @ Toko. Everything was perfect. Japanese food is always so immaculately presented. If you go, make sure you have the mushroom skewers, and this sweet potato.

And, of course, anything soft shell crab.

Gonna miss these ladies baaad.


Have this new pair of sunglasses; they're not the best for cutting out glare, but they're gorgeous retro tortiseshell and the lenses are sepia-toned. When I walk around in them I feel like I'm in an Italian film from the 70s or something; everything looks old and deliciously fresh all at once. It was a glorious winter Saturday today and I decided to take the new Holga (and the old SLR) out for a spin on Big Red. The one downside to taking pics on film is the impatience! I can barely wait to finish the full 24 exposures before racing to get them developed.

Anyway, got sick of the photos I could immediately review not reflecting the ye olde-hued perspective I had from behind my sunnies. So I took them off and held them over my lens, and have to say I love the way these shots from Randwick and Centennial Park turned out.

Had always admired this memorial from a distance - it is the centrepiece of the big dog park area of the parklands - but never inspected it closely. It's even more impressive close up - the domed roof is decorated with mosaics on the inside, and there is a cairn inside in the middle with a facet for each state of Australia.

The whole structure is very geometric, and the late afternoon sun makes amazing patterns. As I left the park I stopped by an old favourite garden, and caught a beautiful moment. I lost my grip on the sunnies over the lens as I snapped it, but I like the effect:

Hello Dolly...

Meet Princess Shazza. I know it sounds like a name I would bestow, but honestly the Women's Weekly Birthday Cake Cookbook beat me to it. This cookbook is the stuff of legend - if you didn't have one of these cakes at a childhood birthday party, as an Aussie kid that's solid grounds for claiming child abuse. Personally my favourite was the train cake, but as previously mentioned the typewriter was pretty special.

I had decided to make a suitably embarrassing cake to celebrate Alison's birthday for the thousandth time at a girls' dinner, and Reboot kindly faxed me the recipe when I couldn't find it online. The instructions are endearingly specific, calling for 50-odd pink marshmallows and 20-odd white; as well as feathers, lengths of ribbon and silk flowers. Personally I like to add small custom touches like the bows, and even though the doll had to become legless for the cause (perhaps an omen of what was to come for her consumers) I couldn't bear to part with her red stillettoes, and attached them to her hand as though she was a lass who'd had a big day at the races.

The whole process was a wonderful adventure for a Saturday, and based on reactions around Surry Hills as I carried Princess Shazza into the restaurant (we had to take a cab, as public transport isn't quite what she's used to) perhaps there's a side career to be had in making nostalgic childhood birthday cakes for post-ironic hipsters....

Friday, July 16, 2010

Press Gang

So Seven 2 is re-running old episodes of Press Gang - the classic 80s TV show about a bunch of Brit kids who run a paper called The Junior Gazette. It unfortunately clashes with Insiders on a Sunday morning, but then I'm probably the only person in Australia for whom that's a problem.

It. Is. Awesome.

I remember it being on ABC when I was a little tacker, and while Degrassi was always titillating and exciting, Press Gang was what I really got pumped about. The cast is pretty amazing - Julia Sawalha (later seen as Saffy in Absolutely Fabulous and of course Lydia in Pride & Prejudice) and Dexter Fletcher (later seen as Soap in Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels) as this debonair, wayfarers and leather jacket-wearing bad boy Spike, who affects an inexplicable American accent.

Oh Dexter, I hope we're not related because.... damn. With that pout and those cheekbones - he's like Bob Dylan meets James Dean. He's like what Robert Pattinson only wishes he could be.

Julia plays Lynda, the bad ass editor who somehow wrangles high school students into producing a newspaper. And the realism is fantastic - they have a graphics team clamouring for rough copy so they can put together their artwork, they call contacts on rotary dial phones, keep files of research in manila folders, paste up lay-outs and then the final edition runs through the presses.

And there are TYPEWRITERS!

And more scrunchies than you'd believe.

And mullets.

Ah, what a golden time - for journalism and for fashion.

OK I have been thinking too much about Dexter. The only thing cooler than him in Press Gang is him as a child in one of my favourite movies of all time. It's a production of Bugsy Malone, in which the cast are all kids. The gangster warfare involves cream-pie guns rather than actual artillery. Dexter plays a young gang member... and when I went to the Newseum in Washington and they had an exhibit on crime reporting throughout American history, seeing the hardened gang members of that era I was suprised how many of the names I knew from watching Bugsy as a rapt kid! Dillinger, Baby Face, Floyd...

A prepubescent Scott Baio was the star, and there's even a young Jodie Foster as the temptress Tallulah. It's really fantastic stuff and the songs are great.

It was always like Christmas when this movie would show up in the matinee timeslot on the ABC in school holidays. My sister and I were so obsessed with it, she once recorded all the songs onto cassette.. I think we may have worn that tape out! From memory, this song was our favourite:


Whoah - the whole movie seems to be online here. Goodnight!


My sweet-faced young colleague Miss Al
Is a remarkable bike-loving gal
Pass her on The Heartbreaker
You’ll think you’ve met yer maker
Happy 25 mate! Give em hell!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Girl with a satchel

Surely going back to uni merits one of these puppies from the Cambridge Satchel Company? Vintage brown, 15", gold embossed with my initials... If it's good enough for Sophie Ellis Bextor, it's damn well good enough for me...

You might have heard of another Girl With A Satchel... she's always worth popping in on.

Tour de force

Lately it's really feeling like there's a groundswell of bike love going around. Could be wrong; it could be my newly-awakened awareness of a culture that's always been there. But for a city that hasn't traditionally been very cycle-friendly, Sydneysiders are taking to the streets - and the web - in treadly-treasuring droves.

Cycle Chic is a movement gathering pace around the world – driven by girls who like to look pretty while they ride. It’s all about basket-and-streamer-clad vintage steeds, fashion and all the best things about bike-riding. There are regular meet-ups for Sunday rides which are a great way to make contact with like-minded (bike-minded) girls; unfortunately I missed the one just passed, but am determined to catch one before I leave Sydney. A lovely lass called Saskia is Sydney's ambassador for Cycle Chic; check out her blog A Spirit Of Place. And of course visit Cycle Chic Sundays online; or join the Facebook group.

If you're more the minimalist, fixie-lovin' hipster type, you'll be well aware that Tokyo Bike has opened in Surry Hills' Crown Street, and boy do they have some eye candy for you…The bikes are stripped back to beautiful basics, their lightness and simplicity betraying their origins in, you guessed it, Japan. And you can't argue with their mission statement:

"More about slow, than fast, Tokyo Bike believes that speed is not always the aim, destination is only part of the story, and losing yourself in a city’s small back lanes and expansive parks and gardens, is one way of switching off and escaping it all."

Then, bringing together two great loves, there's a fantastic little project called Small Stories Big Picture happening as part of Sydney Design. Over three Saturdays (July 31, August 7 and August 13) you can register to take part in an ongoing photographic installation. If you're one of the lucky 25 each week, you get to pick up a bike, goodie bag and Lomo camera for the day... You have to ride around Surry and the design precinct, ticking stops off a passport and talking to shop owners and designers and, of course, taking pics.

"Does it make me pretentious that I'm stupidly excited about this?" I asked my voice-of-reason friend. "Hmm.. bikes, antiquated cameras, Surry Hills? It's ridiculously pretentious," she decreed. "But that's the shit you love. It would be pretentious if you didn't do it because you were worried about looking pretentious."


More bike porn at Bikes, Bikes & Bikes!; gorgeous, cheerfully unaffordable bike fashion and accessories at CycleStyle Australia (they've been running a great campaign where they leave cards on hott bikes offering discounts); and two other great loves come together at the excellent Foodie On A Bike blog.

Oh, and there's some race on in France, apparently?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stop! Holga time

Finally! I ordered a Holga plastic camera a couple weeks ago and it finally turned up today, along with three rolls of film. It was a lovely surprise and I can hardly wait to start taking photos with it. They will have to be mostly outdoor, daytime pics though - the flash is sold seperately! Because the film has to be wound on manually, you can play around with multiple exposures just by continually clicking the shutter. Loading the film today was a little nerve-wracking, and made me realise just how many years it's been since I've used film.

In high school there was an introductory photography subject that we all clamoured to do - we got a precious few rolls of black and white film to shoot, then had to develop them ourselves in the darkroom. It was really exciting, and a bit risky; to get the finished film developed you'd have to fumble blindly around with rolls and cannisters inside a cloth bag to avoid exposing the film to light and ruining it. There were lots of supposedly amazing photos lost and tears shed!

My favourite photo that I took was shot out in St George on a home weekend (boarders would get one long weekend each term to go home). Dad had taken my sister and I with him to a job he was finishing on a property just out of town, and as he clambered up the wall of a dam I caught him against the horizon line of cracked dry earth and cloudless sky. It wasn't quite in focus and the contrast wasn't strong enough, but somehow there's something really dreamy about it; he looks like he could be in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

But back to my beautiful new Holga! It's superlight and almost entirely plastic, so it will be perfect for taking pictures on the bike. The little manual that came with the camera is full of random history - the name may sound European but the Holga was designed and made in China as a means of making cheap cameras available to the Chinese people in the early 80s. Since then a bit of a cult has grown around their lo-fi aesthetic.

No two Holgas are exactly alike; they're rough and cheap and leak light, meaning the photographer can never have full control of how an image turns out. Which is half the fun! There are all these little modifications you can make to the cameras - like taking out the default mask that crops your shots into squares, so you get full edge distortion and weird vignetting.

So all that remains now is to have some bike-riding, photo-taking adventures on the weekend, and then find someone that still develops film! It will be interesting to see if I changes the way I approach taking photos; knowing there's only a finite amount of film rather than the reckless excess I now take for granted with digital cameras. Just hope it's not a return to the over-cautious bad old days of having a twenty-four exposure roll of film stuck in my twelfth-birthday Kodak for entire boarding-school years at a time. Pretty sure somewhere amongst my personal effects there's a still uncompleted disposable camera with a meagre handful of halting shots of too-far-away bands at Splendour and Good Vibes.

Anyway, I think the sheer excitement of the new format will counteract my tight-arsedness for at least the first roll of film, and I will be gagging to see the chemist-developed results no more than a week from now. Don't worry - I'll keep you posted!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The HOGs

Woke with a start at 5am today - mouth dry, Fleetwood Mac still blaring in my ipod headphones. It all came back slowly: the cab ride home, leaving my bike chained outside a Surry Hills bar, more bottles of wine than I care to remember. There was collateral damage. My favourite Blair Waldorf headband, nowhere to be found; my dignity presumably in the same unknown location. Work was a trial; naturally, of all days, today would be the one where construction downstairs rendered our office full of pounding hammers for hours on end.

That was when my sister mentioned the hogs. What on earth do you mean, the hogs, I asked. The Hang Over Guilts, she replied. Sure enough, as I counted down the minutes until lunch and continued refining procrastination like it's an olympic sport, I felt quite awful about my professional performance. Not that I'd change my Sunday - catching up with old friends and new friends, it was a delicious day. But I will be filing "the hogs" for future use.

Sending a special birthday shout-out to a racy rednut...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Concerned mostly about... FOOD

On a whim, today I signed up to a site called 750 words. The challenge is, obviously, to write 750 words each day. Probably a lofty goal considering I have been slack with even updating this blog every day, and have you tried sitting down to write 750 words lately? It's more than you think!

Once you sign up and log in, the site gives you a blank page and a word count; then tracks your progress day by day. You accrue points for as long as you keep posting daily. But there's another great incentive I didn't foresee to completing your daily 750. And that's stats.

I don't know when it happened, but stats have become like porn to me - between this and Google Analytics I am going to be like a pig in mud. Because once you save your 750 words, you get a page of stats - a bar graph detailing your progress over time, which periods you smashed out 50 words per minute spiking against the minutes you spent distracted on Facebook. Even better than that, though, is the analysis of content. As you'll see above, to the suprise of no one, my stream-of-consciousness rant was mostly about food and booze.

I have no idea how it all works but it's fascinating. Unlike what I actually wrote, which luckily for you I can't seem to find now the site has saved it. Goshdarnit, now you'll never hear about the time a cat called Action Hero tried to assassinate me while I was couch-surfing in London, or my musings on the futility of not smoking in China.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

On the road

There's a long list of amazing writers that will testify otherwise, but personally booze and words don't mix so well for me. As evidenced by the glasses of wine I've consumed tonight, and my subsequent lack of progress through the pages I need to proof before we sign off the magazine tomorrow. Not sure what started this train of thought, but I got to thinking about drinking and reading, which isn't something that's really done here (or perhaps anywhere for healthy people), but which I dabbled in while living in San Francisco.

How could I not?! I was living a stone's throw away from the very streets the Beats haunted. What could be easier than a Saturday afternoon picking a title from City Lights (whose owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti first controversially published Alan Ginsberg's Howl), then settling down at Vesuvio on Columbus and Jack Kerouac Alley, with a succession of $5 gin martinis?

There I devoured The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (still one of my top five books of all time), and scrawled hilariously tortured travel journal entries. And on one memorable weekend, I got lost in a Steinbeck anthology right through happy hour and ended up befriending some locals for an endless night that spanned dinner in Little Italy, drinks in the Fishbowl, a hazy house party and late night streetcars home. Above all I recall that a couple of the party guests worked at the San Francisco zoo and were this close to taking us out there to chillax with the big cats...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Find love... give it all away

Clem Snide covers Journey

The AV Club is running a great feature where indie bands cover older songs. This week the amazing Clem Snide (aka Eef Barzelay) covers "Faithfully" by Journey... He's got the kind of voice that can make anything (shopping lists, telephone books, hansard) sound heartbreaking. Combined with lyrics like this, well...

Don't let hurricanes hold you back
Raging rivers or shark attacks
Find love, and give it all away
Find love, and give it all away

Wrestle bears bring them to their knees
Steal the honey from killer bees
Find love, and give it all away
Find love, and give it all away

Don't be scared to connect the dots
And dig for gold in parking lots
Find love, and then give it all away
Find love, then give it all away

Highly recommend you check em both out - AV Undercover and Snide.

Souper duper

Roughly chop two carrots, two onions, some celery stalks and a couple of potatoes, and throw them in a big old pot with four lamb shanks, two crushed garlic cloves, a tin of tomatoes, a little tin of tomato paste and six cups of chicken or beef stock. Bring it to the boil then turn back the heat and let it simmer, covered, for an hour. When the meat is tender, strip it off the bone, toss back into the pot and throw in two roughly chopped zucchini. Simmer with the lid off for another 30-60 minutes and......yummy! (thanks Women's Weekly cookbook)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Like a fat kid loves...

Mini cupcake. Maxi happiness. (Gazebo's rose sangria may have been a contributing factor, also).