While you were sleeping

In case you missed the memo, just shy of 4 months ago I upped and left Melbourne. While my ASOS delivery details have changed, I haven’t updated my drivers licence yet so I’m still calling myself a Victorian – I just live somewhere much warmer now.

The whole ‘Beautiful one day, perfect the next’ Queensland catchphrase is pretty much true. In four months it’s rained twice and the sun has shone EVERY OTHER DAY. I’m actually kinda over it.

Kidding.

maggie islanMagnetic Island from The Strand

All the Vitamin D has made me a much happier person (and even with litres of sunscreen, my skin has naturally darkened), plus I’ve been able to use all the bathers I’ve bought over the years and never wore in Melbourne.

Four months in Townsville has shown me that there are wonderful, friendly, amazing people all over our country. My biggest fears upon leaving Melbourne were A) where would I work, B) who would I have a glass of wine with, and C) I’d miss my family and friends too much. In no particular order of course.

working by the poolI don’t actually work by the pool (you can’t see the screen!!) but this is enough to make anyone in Melbourne jealous

And you know what? My amazing team and clients in Melbourne said I could keep working with them. My family and friends booked plane tickets to come and visit. I’ve met a whole bunch of gorgeous, generous people here who are more than happy to drink wine with me. (They are also scarily enthusiastic about exercise dates, but that can’t be a bad thing!)

I joined a yoga studio, and started French lessons. I’ve tried a bunch of different restaurants, and discovered Melbourne-esque cafes and lanes that are a stones throw from delightful beaches and tropical islands. My husband and I have taken road trips three hours up the coast, and three hours down, exploring just a smidge of our gorgeous country. There really isn’t much to complain about!

paronella parkParonella Park, three hours north of Townsville

I still miss everyone at home, and it makes me sad to think of the occasions, birthdays, baby showers and general wonderfulness of Melbourne we are missing. But in the long run, it’s a pretty exciting (and scary!) thing to move states and start afresh, and more so when you are going to be doing a fair bit of it on your own. *One day* when I’m old and grey, I’ll be able to look back on this experience and be grateful that I had the opportunity.

And so to the more exciting happenings – the who, what, where, when and why of Townsville.

betty bleThe epic smashed pea, feta and poached eggs at Betty Blue

Fave spots include Betty Blue, MJ Espresso, Seasoned, The Yacht Club and IMC Steakhouse.
Clever little businesses I like include Wahboo, The Secret Garden, Gluten Free Love and Rambutan.
Fabulous girls I’ve met include Bianca, Carly, Jess, Amanda, Pip, Kayla, Mich, Ellen, Caitlyn and Jocelyn, AND all their gorgeous families. Thank you for being wonderful!

hamilton islandSunset on Hamilton Island, three hours south of Townsville

POSTSCRIPT: A special mention must be made to Rachel, whom I’ve known for 25 years (yes, eek!) and was pivotal in helping me settle in to Townsville. Without her to ease my anxieties and introduce us to the ‘cool’ places in Townsville, I’d certainly not be in as good a position as I am now. She can not, however, tell me where to buy weed.

The Gentlemans’ Gentleman

Last week I had the pleasure of judging Fashions on the Field at the Geelong Cup alongside Dom Bagnato. Not only is he a dapper gent and lovely to boot, his range of suits has any girl swooning if her man wears one.rebeccashare

Judging alongside Dom, milliner Rebecca Share, GT Fashions Editor Renee Enright, Nina O’Brien from Track Mode and Joanne from Pret a Porter designer dress rental.

With the Spring Racing Carnival in full swing and the main days just a week away, it’s a timely reminder to the gents out there that ‘any old suit’ from the back of the wardrobe just won’t cut it at Fashions on the Field – or in the eyes of your lady friend.

Dom has some suggestions for any man purchasing a suit for the 2015 carnival, and you’d be hard pressed to get advice from anyone so well educated on the matter.

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“You do not want to see any lines, wrinkles, pulling or bunching on your jacket or trousers, anyone of these means the suit is too big or too small. Your movement should not be restricted at all. When you try on a suit, you’re looking for a good fit in what’s called your natural stance, where your stand up straight with your arms at your side, “ says Dom.

No one wants to see boring or unflattering suits at Flemington, so make sure you heed Dom’s advice and take note of the little things. Your shirt and tie – the finer details! – are just as important.

Dom suggests experimenting with colours and patterns, otherwise you’ll look as though you have dressed for the office and if you are opting for a printed shirt, ensure your tie is more plain and vice versa. Clashing is not always the best idea.

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Pocket Squares should feature elements of colour from your shirt or tie and tie pins highlight an attention to detail – it will be noticed if you are vying for a the title of best dressed at the track!

The season’s featured colours include a palette of beautiful blues – slate, royal, teal and navy with mint, rose and orange shirting and ties adding dynamic colour highlights.

“Above all be daring,” says Dom.

You heard him boys!

Ottoman3 Brow Game

I don’t have a lot of eyebrows. They are reasonably blonde, and I’ve never taken the time to have them shaped properly. I usually just ask the beautician waxing my legs to get rid of the strays on my brows and continue on with my life. Looking at pictures of Cara Delevingne makes me incredibly jealous, but I’m resigned to the fact that my brows are just never going to have that kind of impact.

And then I visited Ottoman3. I knew how to use a brow pencil and a bit of highlighter to really make those brows ‘pop’, but these guys take brow maintenance to a whole new level. First up – they use threading to remove hair, rather than waxing. It’s not painless, but more a weird vibration sensation. Plus, your brows and WAY less red than they are immediately following hair removal.

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The skill required to actually do the threading is pretty unique. Plus it’s super cool to watch (fascinating, even). After the threading experience, it was recommended that I get my brows tinted. A simple process, I did kinda freak a little bit immediately following (they were REALLY dark!!) but 24 hours later, actually rather impressive. Look out Cara.

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The team at Ottoman3 then demonstrated some of the products used in brow aftercare. Did you know there is a fairly significant difference in using a powder, or a pencil, when filling in your brows? The powder might take longer, but the results speak for themselves.

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Ottoman3 carry a range of after care products, all in brilliant shades of gold. Pretty!! And now, a week on, my brows are pretty awesome. Two more sessions before my wedding and I’ll be rocking a super strong brow game at the alter.

Bendigo Weekends

I moved house about 3 weeks ago. And not around the corner – around about 10 corners and a few miles beyond that. I am now a resident of the far north (pretty much the edge of civilization) and in addition to moving, the new commute is pretty stressful.

A weekend away in Bendigo was timely and (I feel), well deserved. Yes please and thank you, I’d love to spend two days in an idyllic country town. Jumping in the car and heading up the highway was an escape, and I couldn’t wait to spend two whole days (and nights) with my soon to be husband, whom I haven’t seen much of in the past six months.

I arrived at the Quality Resort All Seasons Bendigo, part of the Choice Hotels, on a sunny Friday afternoon and while it was pretty chilly outside, the room at the hotel was warm and inviting. The colours and décor were rich and opulent – AND THERE WAS A SPA! I dumped my bag and went exploring.

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Having been to Bendigo in the past few years for various girls’ day trips to the art gallery (an AWESOME day out), I knew that Bendigo’s op shops were a treasure trove of delights, and so I headed off in search of bargains. A few hours of hunting, and sudden darkness at 5pm, and it was time to return to the hotel.

Husband to be wasn’t due for another two hours, and the mini bar beckoned. Kudos to the All Seasons for having the most appropriately priced mini bar I may have experienced, ever. Champagne, F.R.I.E.N.D.S reruns and all the cosyness, I settled in to read a mag for a few hours.

We headed to the Seasons bistro within the hotel for dinner, and watched the footy on big screens over steak and salad. Nearby, patrons were winning raffles left right and centre, while around another corner, kids were happily distracted by an incredible facility designed for the little tackers to leave Mum and Dad alone while eating. Brilliant.

Saturday morning started with a lazy wake up and a return to the bistro for a buffet breakfast. Note to future guests – breakfast finishes at 10am! We rocked up at quarter to, so a big thanks to the staff for keeping the eggs hot for an extra few minutes for us.

A tour of the property followed, and I suddenly found myself rethinking my wedding plans. The Quality Resort All Seasons has a gorgeous function space (several, actually) with art deco trims, mirrors, wallpaper and outlooks over gardens. The ‘city meets country’ element of Bendigo was hard to ignore – I almost think I’d rather be living in Bendigo than my new suburban existence!

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A drive around the city followed – we visited the original Myer store, wandered through the Conservatory Gardens, stopped at The Brewhouse for coffee and drooled over the furniture and homewares at Oliver Birch. And then – that SPA.

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For dinner, we braved the cold and ventured into town to the relatively newly established Mr Beebe’s Eating House. With the kind of quality, service and atmosphere you would find in any CBD restaurant, we really enjoyed our meal here before popping up the street for a nightcap at the famed Wine Bank.

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Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny, and so to Percy and Percy for brunch, the most Melbourne café you’ll find outside of Melbourne. The coffee was a great and the food excellent, but the crisp morning in the sunshine really made it magical. We stayed for several hours.

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Heading back to Melbourne and the monotony of ‘real life’, I couldn’t help but think about the people who live in Bendigo and the simpler lives they lead, with everything within a few kilometres, and the kind of facilities and eating spots that would rival Melbourne.

A gorgeous place to bring your family, your sweetheart or to escape on your own for a weekend, or longer! (I would love to try some of the other spots – there are just not enough meals in the day!) The Quality Resort All Seasons is an ideal spot to base yourself and features a pool and spa area, conjoining rooms if required, a bar, bistro and lounge and the best mini bar in Victoria.

Thanks to the Choice Hotels Group for having us!

Say yes to the wedding dress ~ Part Two

My search continued in the suburbs, with my mum and oldest friend (flown in from Townsville).

The first stop was the store where I obtained my Debutante Ball dress fifteen years ago. Their gowns were gorgeous, but rather ridiculous in their use of hoops and taffeta. So. Much. Fabric. I’m only a little person and some of these dresses weighed more than me. It was fun – don’t get me wrong – but not for me. We then ventured to a store that made you wear gloves whilst browsing the dresses and trying them on. The less said about that store, the better.

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I was at the end of my patience. This was supposed to be the bit I was good at! The fun part! Everything just wasn’t right though, and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. My google searches and instagram trawling were showing me all these amazing frocks, that I couldn’t find in Australia, until I stumbled across my next appointment, with Lucy at Era Vintage Bride.

Within minutes, I was sure I had found ‘the one’. And not the one as in the dress, but the one in terms of the person I wanted to work with to make the dress. My search was over. Lucy has a collection of vintage dresses on site, but I had other ideas in mind. We chatted and brainstormed and I spent the next two days thinking about working with her.

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The following weekend I went on a pre planned trip to Sydney to look at dresses whose labels are not stocked in Melbourne. I tried on more frocks, mostly two piece outfits that I thought would have more wearability post wedding, and had still more ideas about how my dress should look. Maybe I should have two dresses!? The opportunities continued to present themselves. But I remained committed to Lucy and the ideas we had come up with.

love found true

A side note about a Sydney wedding dress stores vs Melbourne wedding dress stores. Sydney like to charge you to come in on a Saturday, or will take a credit card number in case you don’t show up. Melbourne is a bit more relaxed but you can’t just walk in and try on one dress on a Saturday, even if the store is empty. The wedding dress game is a well oiled machine and bridal store assistants are a breed of their own. Some were fantastic and made you feel amazing. Others made you feel like you were simply interrupting their day. Proceed with caution.

Lucy, on the other hand, is a delight. A week after I got back from Sydney, we started talking fabrics, and next week I’ll head in for measurements. I have a new secret Pinterest board with yet more ideas (poor Lucy isn’t going to know what she’s in for!) and a 2 inch square of lace that I’m showing anyone who’ll listen.

Now the hunt for shoes starts. Wheeee!!!!

Images 1 and 2 thanks to instagram.com/eravintagebride and 3, instagram.com/thebabushkaballerina

Say yes to the wedding dress ~ Part One

You might say that I’m the kind of girl who has thought about her wedding dress for some time. You might imagine that ‘some time’ started long before there was a wedding in sight, and you’d be right. When it comes to all out frocks, the wedding dress is perhaps the only time you get to step outside the box and wear something truly incredible (unless you are someone who regularly attends awards ceremonies or black tie galas).

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So my wedding dress search for my upcoming nuptials started in earnest. I was super excited to be the princess I’d always dreamed of, but I also had lots of ideas about my this one amazing dress. My plan was a bit champagne tastes on a beer budget and my fashion experience and ethics said I wanted something I could wear more than once, so after poring over several issues of Hello May, I was convinced I could find what I was looking for.

And then I went shopping.

Following solo trips to a vintage store and David Jones, I decided to start at the epicenter of wedding dresses in Melbourne – High Street, Armadale. First mistake? I tried to make appointments at the stores a week before I wanted to head in. It was almost amusing how the sales assistants laughed when I requested an appointment a week out. As if!

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So I went anyway and just hit the pavement, taking a walk up and down High Street and simply window shopping, removing the stores from my list that were not in my price range, not in my date range, or not in my style range. I had one left.

My appointment at The Bridal Atelier was a wonderful experience. I took two girlfriends (we are not having a bridal party) and there was champagne. So far, so good! I tried on frocks of various shapes and colours, including a gorgeous gold SarahSeven creation that had to be seen to be believed and a pink ombre number that was ridiculously heavy and cost $13,000.

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I picked a favourite and we went on our way, stopping in at Rachel Gilbert, Aje and Carla Zampatti since we were in the area. They were all good, but not great.

Next stop? Madame Virtue & Co for the most amazing vintage and designer dresses a girl could ask for – if she has a teeny sized waist. I squeezed into a sweet original 1950s Audrey Hepburn-eque gown and shimmied in feathers and sequins. It was the most fun I’d had so far, but I wasn’t feeling it. I can’t wait to go back and just find fab pieces for my wardrobe though!

Carla Zampatti at David Jones got another run with the new season collection, before I made appointments with Gwendolynne and Pamela Usanto to talk bespoke dresses. It was a dream world of sequins and beading, tulle and taffeta.

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And yet I wasn’t feeling it. The more I looked, the more confused I became and the more what I wanted became murky. It was time to broaden the search – so off to the suburbs I went.

Images 1-3 with thanks to instagram/thebridalatelier and 4, instagram.com/pamelausanto

Reverse Reviews at the Art Series Hotel

Hello. My name is Sarah and I’m a perfectionist.

Picture on a wall not straight? I’ll adjust it (even in your house). Items on your desk not lined up? I’ll fix that (I don’t care it’s not my office). Dirty mark on the table? Let me get out my handy handbag wipes and I’ll remove it (sorry, waiter).

Getting a call from the Art Series Hotel to participate in their Reverse Reviews program was like the mothership calling me home. The chance to be scored on my perfectionism? Hell yes!!

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Here’s the deal. You go stay at The Cullen, The Blackman, The Olsen or any one of the Art Series Hotel signature boutique spots. You stay in the hotel as you normally would – sleep in their bed, use their towels, eat off their plates. But when you leave the dirty towels on the bed, or the plates next to the sink, or globs of toothpaste on the bathroom sink, they’ll be watching.

The hotel, and it’s staff, are getting their own back by scoring us in terms of our cleanliness, how polite we are to staff and the  general way in which we treat property that isn’t ours. The good bit? If you put in a bit of effort you can win a free night at one of the hotels, or upgrades and other benefits. It’s being rewarded for being a decent human being.

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Last night, the fiancé (hehe it’s still funny to write that!) and I stayed at The Cullen, on Commercial Road in Prahran. Our room was lovely – and the perfectionist in me silently willed the fiancé not to touch anything. But he moved the books, and checked out the snack bar and decided to take a shower (how dare he!!) while I followed around straightening everything in his wake.

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We watched some footy, headed to Gramercy bistro for dinner (which I might add, was DELICIOUS) and had an early night, namely because B was leaving at 4.30am. After his early morning departure, I fell back into a blissful sleep until 8am, when I awoke with a start, knowing it was now my time to make the room immaculate.

I dried floors and remade the bed, all the while knowing that the staff would strip the bed after my departure anyways. (I wondered if stripping the bed would step over a line. Are there rules about this??) I straightened the books and wiped the bench. I made sure there was no toothpaste to be seen in the sink.

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And now I wait. It feels just like the days before I got my Year 12 ENTER score. I know what I’m hoping for, and what I think I’ll get. I know what I want. And the waiting feels like FOREVER. I’ll keep you updated, but in the interim, you have til May 31 to get reviewed yourself for the chance to win free nights. Get to it!

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Eat Street 2015

There are only a few weeks to go until the Sofitel Melbourne opens its door again and welcomes top chefs from around the city to serve up their tastiest morsels and raise money for children’s charity, Variety. The annual Eat Street event is a night to remember, and now in it’s 16th year, not one anyone will quickly forget.

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Around the World in 40 dishes is the theme of the 2015 event, a nod to the 40th anniversary of charity partner Variety.

Restaurants participating in the event include Union Food & Wine, The Flower Drum, Saint Crispin, Huxtable, Cumulus Inc and many more. Desserts will come from Le Petite Gateau and Ganache Chocolate, together with delicious wines from Victoria, and France.

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Inclusive of the $160 ticket price is all the entree size serves of deliciousness you can eat, plus entertainment, silent and live auctions and a chance to help contribute to a wonderful cause.

Bring your appetite and your cheque book – this is an event you will be disappointed you missed!

Eat Street
19 May 2015
Tickets online or visit the Eat Street Facebook for more yummy snippets of whats to come!

The *NEW* Smith, Prahran

They say life is short, and you should eat dessert first. My experience at The Smith Prahran this week proved this to be true, when this incredible peanut butter and chocolate dessert with salted caramel popcorn came our way. Unable to stop at one, I felt that if this had of been served at the beginning of the evening, we might never have wanted to try the rest of the delicious food that was on offer, part of the new Asian Fusion menu the revamped Smith revealed on the night.

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From delightful oysters (I have to confess I didn’t try them – I’m not an oyster fan!) to the Caramelised Sticky Pork with Vietnamese Herbs & Duck Egg Salad (of which I more than made up for the lack of oysters) the food was yummy and filling.

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Also, there were cocktails. These were also delicious.

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A fab night and a fab party to celebrate the changes to this still young venue – I look forward to returning for more of that peanut buttery chocolate goodness!!

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The Smith Prahran
213 High Street
Prahran
thesmithprahran.com.au

Images two, three and four thanks to Regina Karon / Karon Photography

Union Electric

I like bars, especially new ones hidden in sort of hard to find places that serve cocktails and have fairy lights strung above. Union Electric is a recent addition to the Chinatown (Off Russell Street, off Little Bourke Street, on Heffernan Lane) and while you might accidentally walk by the the discreet entry, once inside you’ll find a buzzing little bar with plenty of personality.

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It’s charm lies in the simplicity of the space, and the deliciousness of the cocktails to be found within. They have the self proclaimed best Espresso Martini in town too, though I’ll let you decide that one for yourself.

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Also rocking at Union Electric is the glassware – I may end up with a champagne flute in my purse the next time I visit!

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Stop by and say hi to the new kids on the block!

Union Electric
13 Heffernan Lane
Melbourne
facebook.com/barunionelectric

Images one and two thanks to Union Electric