Style: The Weekly Beautiful

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There’s nothing like good friends, food and fresh, sea air to bring you out of a slump. I had a bit of a bad start to the weekend after having a mini crisis of confidence in my new writing class (putting myself out there + public speaking= no fun). Luckily things ended on a much better note with wine and sunset gazing at the beautiful pier in Albert Park. It’s nights like these that make me realise how much I love living in Australia. Even when you’re at your lowest, you’ll come across something so heart-stoppingly stunning that you realise how small your problems really are.

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I also got to check out Carsten Höller and Jean Paul Gaultier at The National Gallery of Victoria. Getting stuck into a bottle of bubbles in the tea room meant we were super late for the exhibition and were the last ones in. Being a stickler for schedule, I was anxious for everyone to get a move on but as it turned out, this meant we got the place to ourselves and even spotted model Andreja Pejić having a low-key moment with her family. Sometimes a plan falling apart is the most wonderful stroke of luck!

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Style: When in London…

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Going home to me is always tinged with a slight sadness along with so much joy to see my family and friends. These shots are from a wedding that meant so much to me as the bride and groom actually introduced me to my husband and have been our very cherished friends for a long time. Not to mention it took place in Stoke Newington where we have so many happy memories from living in and around the area, not to mention our own nuptials two years ago.

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As the wedding party walked from the church to The Londesborough, I couldn’t resist asking Alex to play the photographer as I stood in front of one of the gorgeous terraced houses. I loved this look, despite debating whether it was appropriate to wear a full white skirt to someone else’s wedding. I think the contrast of the black top and multi-hued bolero, plus the fact it was quite an informal affair, meant it worked. And I could pull the jacket off later in the night for more of a party look.

‘But you are home,’ cries the Witch of the North. ‘All you have to do is wake up!’ The journey is hard, for the secret place where we have always been is overgrown with thorns and thickets of ideas, of fears and defences.

Peter Matthiessen’s “The Snow Leopard

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Skirt – Zara, Top – Seed, Bolero – vintage, Bag – Vintage, Shoes – Windsor Smith

Style: New York City Ballet x Mary Katrantzou, Alexander McQueen & more

If the world is a stage and the street is a catwalk then it makes sense that the ballet is a runway. Tonight the New York City Ballet will debut a brand new collaboration with designers Mary Katrantzou, Alexander McQueen, Carolina Herrere and Thom Browne at their opening gala.

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Sarah Burton, Alexander McQueen

The idea was the brainchild of Sarah Jessica Parker, who is bringing a high-fashion edge to her role as NYCB board vice chair. Each designer was paired with a choreographer to create a look for a dance piece, adapting their signature style with second-skin fabrics and free-flowing lines that allow the dancers to move.

I love these looks from Mary Katrantzou and Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen for their sense of drama, texture and playfulness. You can really see the negotiation between attention to detail and the all-out glamour that stage costumes inherently require. Hopefully this spells the renewal of the long love affair between ballet and fashion.

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Mary Katrantzou

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Mary Katrantzou

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Mary Katrantzou

 

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Travel: Beautiful Cinque Terre

City breaks may have some serious style and culture appeal but sometimes it takes having absolutely nothing to do to really be on holiday. Not that you can do nothing just anywhere… there’s an art to it. For me sickly sweet cocktails by the pool of a personality-lacking resort just won’t do it. Call it the egomaniac creative in me but I prefer to while-away summer days in a place of serious beauty with lashings of authenticity.

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I could write a guide of things you absolutely must-do in Cinque Terre but wouldn’t that defy the point of taking it easy? I will say this, find a spot by the harbour where you can read a good book with your feet dangling in the water. One sunset a fellow traveller kindly offered to take a picture of me and my hubble sitting on a rock watching the sunset as it struck her as really beautiful. I thanked her but declined feeling that it wouldn’t have been a perfect moment if we’d have taken a picture.

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Travel: The best food picks in Florence

From its winding streets to its Renaissance masterpieces and incredible food, Florence might just be one of my new favourite places. There’s a real sense of history to the city that I’ve really missed living in Australia. Looking at buildings and streets that have barely changed in hundreds of years, it’s all too easy to let your imagination run wild with the plots, intrigue and decadence this city has seen over the centuries.

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Florence is small enough that you can probably throw away the guide book and lose yourself in the twisting, mostly car-free streets. If you’re a foodie like me though, there’s a few spots you’ll probably want on your radar so here’s my suggestions…

Gelato

Florence is famed for having the best gelato in the world so you won’t be short of options. The only way to fit them all in is to have at least two servings a day, which is alright with me! If in doubt look for a queue and you probably won’t be disappointed but I loved Vestri and Carabé for authentic flavours that live up to the hype.

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Mercato Centrale

On my first day me and the hubby rushed off to the central markets for lunch to check out some local produce and the famed Da Nerborne, which usually has lines around the block. Unfortunately it was shut for the summer holidays (an occupational hazard of Italy in August). As we headed upstairs to console ourselves at the bar we inadvertently found the best pizza we’ve ever tasted from a counter in the food court area. Seriously, I don’t know if it was because we were so downbeat and starving, but it was incredible. Plus the cheeky team of Italian fellas manning the ovens while flirting with the tourists put a smile on my face.

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Late Night Bites

The off-beat Oltrano quarter south of the river is the place to be after dark in Florence. Backpackers and locals grab a bottle of beer and head to the Piazza Santo Spirito to make the most of warm summer evenings. We sampled the best of the city’s spitzs at the neighbourhood bars and ended up at Osteria Santo Spirito for delicious spaghetti vongole served on huge traditional ceramic plates.

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Cathedral Picks

While you’re on-the-go by the cathedral, stop off at one of the adorable sandwich and wine stalls. We grabbed mozzarella and ham paninos at I  Due Fratellini, which is a tiny cubby filled with the freshest ingredients and floor-to-ceiling wine proving that sometimes the simplest things in life are the sweetest.

 

Culture: Swan Lake at Bondi Icebergs

It’s one of my favourite locations and one of my favourite ballets, so I couldn’t resist posting these pictures of Australian Ballet dancers at Bondi Icebergs. The company took advantage of the weekly emptying of the iconic beach-side pool to celebrate the new season of Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake launching in February 2015.

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Since the ballet’s premiere in 2002, the current version of Swan Lake has undoubtedly become the company’s masterpiece and has a recurring spot on the schedule to match. Having seen it for the first time in Melbourne last year, I fell instantly under Murphy’s spell. Over ten years on from its inception, I think it benefits from increased distance from its tabloid-worthy subject matter (it was originally inspired by the death of Princess Di) to explore more universal themes of love, deception and betrayal.

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Whereas the traditional story sees the black swan Oldie tricking the unwitting prince into betraying Odette, in Murphy’s version, our prince is simply in love with two different women. Rather than casting the female leads as innocent and devious; black and white; they are both suffering from being in love with someone who hurts them – something that I think makes the story more complex and in a way, darker. I find the way the vampy Baroness becomes more vulnerable, while Odette takes on a harder edge towards the end of the ballet, particularly haunting, especially the expression of this through their evolving dancing styles and on-stage presence.

The other thing I love about this version is the clever, bold and quite modern connection between the choreography, score, costume and settings. There’s a scene where Odette is confined to an asylum. Devastated by grief, she becomes passive as people move around her and she stares lifelessly out into the woods outside. It’s here, in the distance, that her imagination is free. As we enter her mind, the walls of the asylum are wrenched away to reveal her swans dancing on an elevated mirror/lake. The movement of the sets with the dancing and musical crescendo come together in a really powerful way to represent how painful and maddening love can be – I defy anyone not to be moved by that at least.

Style: Fashion stories and the modern spectacle

It’s pretty clear to the pop culture fans that fashion exhibitions are enjoying a boom in popularity right now. From Charles James: Beyond Fashion to Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty and the upcoming Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the NGV in Melbourne, the idea of fashion as art has increasingly moved into the mainstream.

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A few weeks ago I attended a talk by the journalist Mitchell Oakley Smith for the launch of Fashion detective at the NGV. There was one point that struck me particularly; as fashion shows become more of a performance and as brands turn their advertising and visual merchandising into an exhibition, what does that mean for the modern museum? If exhibitions are entertainment and each collection becomes an exhibition, the line between them must surely blur.

The rise of digital culture and the changing face of fashion media mean that brands have more power than ever before to control their own stories. There are now countless ways to communicate with your customer; whether it’s through the myriad of fashion bloggers, traditional advertising or through new digital platforms. Conversely this makes it harder for brands to cut through the noise, with designers making ever grander statements. This may explain the trend for fashion shows as performance. From Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel Supermarket to Marc Jacobs’ nostalgic farewell at Louis Vuitton, so much depends on the spectacle.

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It’s not just traditional forms of showcasing each collection that are evolving. Fashion brands are increasingly traversing the boundaries between commerce and art. Take Prada’s ‘A Therapy’ film directed by Roman Polanski , which was released last year. It showed there’s no longer such a need to rely on the costume department of a big budget movie to showcase your new collection. You can create your own mediums.

So where does this leave the museum? I personally think there’s an important role to play in impartially telling fashion stories. In the same ways magazines have had to adapt to a new digital landscape, there’s still room for careful and authoritative curation of content. That’s why I’m looking forward to the new Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition and the ways the museum will find to tell that story. Also, I need to find a way to get to London next year to catch Savage Beauty at The V&A. Is it too early to start a petition to bring it to Australia?

Blog: How to make panna cotta

Who says desserts have to be heavy? Sweet, delicate and deliciously creamy, the panna cotta is my go-to solution for when I’m in the mood for something beautifully light and refreshing at the end of my meal. Easy-to-make and even easier to eat, it’s the perfect finishing touch for when you want an indulgent treat without the guilt-factor.

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The traditional Italian version uses a simple milk, cream and gelatine recipe; lightly baked, set, and then turned out on a plate with a tantalising wobble. To avoid extra stress in the kitchen, I prefer to set mine in pretty glassware and serve them straight from the fridge. I also commit another sacrilege to purists everywhere by incorporating whatever fruit I happen to have laying around, blending it into a puree or jelly for an extra hit of flavour to offset the cream.

For this version I also folded in a few dollops of strawberry and rhubarb yogurt. It’s a great way to add some instant intensity without compromising the fragile texture of the mixture.

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Ingredients:

Panna Cotta

280ml Double Cream

100ml Milk

150ml Rachel’s Gourmet Low Fat Yoghurt

1 Sachet Gelatine

3-4 tbsp Icing Mixture

1 Vanilla Pod

Jelly

2-3tbsp Frozen Mixed Fruits

2tbsp Caster Sugar

1 Sachet Gelatine

 

Method

Begin by making up a batch of jelly. Using a blender, roughly blend the frozen fruits into a juice. Add one pack of gelatine to 400ml just-boiled water, whisking vigorously until granules have dissolved. Combine both mixtures and pour into the bottom of your containers, placing in the freezer to set quickly.

For the panna cotta, place the double cream and milk into a saucepan, bringing to the boil. Score open the vanilla pod and add to the mixture, leaving it to gently simmer for 5-6 minutes. Meanwhile, make up about 2 tablespoons of gelatine mixture using the same method as before.

Take the cream mixture off the heat and leave to cool down slightly for 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve to remove the vanilla pod, then mix in the gelatine and fold in the yoghurt.

Pour the mixture over the set jelly and leave to set for an hour or so in the fridge. Use fresh fruit to decorate the glasses when ready to serve.

Culture: The 24 Drinking Game

Before we had Breaking Bad; before we had Mad Men, we had The Sopranos. And while Tony and his dysfunctional gang of nodding hench men were busy changing the face of television as we know it, Jack Bauer was bringing us the perfect light-hearted, explosion-filled antithesis. While the revolutionary new gangster genre brought us things like meaningful layers, complex characters and hard-to-spot references, 24 brought us guns, explosions and more plot twists and changing baddies than could possibly fit into several years, let alone a mere 24 hours.

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Yes, yes I’m sure my A-Level Media Studies teacher would have wanted to point out the contextual themes of a show that first aired in 2001 and is about good guys fighting terrorists. It’s always fun to note how the nationalities of the terrorists change from Russian to Middle Eastern over the seasons. Plus I’m sure there’s some kind parallel to be drawn to the Greek Tragedies in terms of a lone hero going up against both the bad guys and toxic power structures (Why are the politicians and agency heads always so misguided?! Why does no one trust a man that has saved America so many times?!) But the real fun in watching 24 is in not taking things to seriously, which is where the 24 Drinking Game comes in.

So grab some friends, fill up your booze cupboard and join me in drinking to the themes and tropes that make this show so great.

Take a sip every time:

  • Jack says, “Dammit’
  • Jack says, ‘Right now you don’t have any other choice!’
  • Jack says, ‘Like it or not, you’re going to have to trust me.’
  • Jack says, ‘Cover me I’m going in’
  • Jack yells at his boss, ‘You don’t have time!’
  • Someone gets tortured
  • Jack gets tortured
  • Someone gets shot
  • A terrorist gets offered an immunity deal
  • The Justice Department investigates Jack
  • Jack gets arrested
  • Kim or another woman needs saving
  • Chloe rolls her eyes
  • Someone says, ‘CTU has a mole’
  • Anyone else says, ‘Dammit’

 

Finish your drink every time:

  • Jack whisper shouts, ‘You’ve read my file. You’ve seen what I can do’
  • Jack yells at the president/anyone, ‘Millions of innocent lives are at stake!’
  • There’s an explosion
  • Someone underestimates Jack or makes a fate provoking comment like, ‘They’ll never find us.’ (Oh you silly, silly terrorists)

I’ve just realised that based on past seasons, you’ll probably be drinking a lot. I take no responsibility for what happens!

If you have any 24 Drinking Game suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

Natalie x

 

 

 

 

Udaipur India Lake

Travel: Six weeks in India

There’s no preparing for the sensory assault that awaits the incoming traveller at New Delhi airport. As the doors swing open to the arrival terminal, you find yourself simultaneously confronted with a wall of noise and of heat, even in the middle of the night. Hawkers and taxi drivers flood the building, bustling and yelling over each other to drum up business. Welcome to India: the most beautiful, painful, frustrating and life-affirming places you will ever be lucky enough to visit.

Snake charmer in India

When I told people I planned to spend six weeks travelling with my girlfriend to India, the reactions were incredibly polarising. People were either cheerily supportive or bluntly disparaging. “Aren’t you worried you’ll get gang-raped?” one soon-to-be-former acquaintance sneered at me.

Perhaps I could have picked an easier destination for my first attempt at backpacking; somewhere English was more frequently spoken and the path was a little better-trodden but having recently graduated from uni, I was desperate to get out and see the “real world”. And India is nothing if not “real”. Backpacker hostels are few and far between and you’d be hard pressed to find the party bus atmosphere of your more typical gringo-trail spots, but for the brave traveller there are rewards that far make up for the challenges.Udaipur crowd watching ceremony

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You could call me naive for rocking up to a developing country without either a Lonely Planet or local currency to my name. An ATM at the airport quickly solved the first problem but the second would have me kicking myself for the impulsive decision to leave the bulky backpacker’s bible at home while packing. I soon found that without something to point to as I asked for help, people quickly developed selective hearing, opting to offer to take you to their friend’s “tourist office” instead.

In India, never expect the truth from people who stand to gain from your ignorance. A disastrous attempt to navigate New Delhi railway station led to a man in an official-looking uniform ushering us into a conveniently placed rickshaw. In a cramped and faded office full of photos of Princess Di, we found ourselves drinking sugar-laden chai tea and handing over credit cards for vastly inflated train tickets to Agra. An important lesson had been learned; we were going to have to toughen up if we were going to last the trip with enough money to get home.374_529974327895_4179_n

None-the-less we were soon on our way south in a second-class carriage, where a kind travelling salesman offered us daal and roti freshly made by his wife that morning. “No visit to India would be complete without at least one journey by rail”, he told us. “Best train system in the world, absolutely.”

Once a monument to colonial power, now battered by overcrowding and corruption, the country’s trains are a great place to see what life is really like for the people who live here, even if it’s just a glimpse of the packed commuter trains from your slower, safer cross-country route. Anyone who has ever complained about their journey to work gets a serious reality check. Those jokes about people sitting on the roof are not an exaggeration.

In a nation with over a billion people and only precarious law and order, there’s a delicate balance that stops the whole country simmering into chaos. To survive in India, a traveller must quickly learn to adjust their pace of life, slow down and take life as they find it. Trains may leave one, two or three hours behind schedule, your taxi may be stuck in traffic because there’s a cow in the road. Deal with it.

If I achieved anything during my six weeks here, perhaps it was the small assimilation that allowed me to let go of my constant expectations and judgments enough to just enjoy myself.

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