Thursday, October 13, 2011

To the Nation's Capital

The Curious household is off to Canberra today - Mr C's work has an annual conference there, which is really a paid-for holiday for staff and their families. Mr C's dad lives in the area so we'll be spending a bit of time with him as well. It'll be TLG's first visit to his grandpa's house!

On the agenda - a morning at the AIS organised by Mr C's employer, dinners at the Australian War Memorial and Kingsley's Steak and Crabhouse (drool), and trips to the Floriade and Questacon.

Photo: Floriade Canberra 2011 by Galeforcesales

We're doing last minute packing now and will be off in an hour or so.

Hope you enjoy the rest of the week :-)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thoughts from a Sydney shopping day

The Bathurst 1000 was on last Sunday. Of no particular relevance to me, except when Mr Curious said to me on Friday "I'll watch the race with TLG at home, why don't you go out, maybe do some shopping?".

I didn't need to be asked twice.

So on Sunday I caught the bus into the city and spent the day within a 100m radius of Pitt St mall. Almost 6 hours of browsing, trying on clothes, and of course buying. I will write about my purchases but that's not the focus on this post. Below are some random observations on shopping from the day.
  • I arrived at QVB a bit after 10:30am and ALL THE SHOPS WERE CLOSED. I checked my watch to make sure I had the time right. The cafes must love it, they were doing roaring trades. I assume the decision to delay opening hours till 11am is based on the lack of sales during early hours, but I can't but think that with Myer, DJs and Westfields just a block away (or less) they may be shooting themselves in the foot.
  • Full prices at high street stores are getting ridiculous. I went into Country Road and French Connection and I cannot picture myself paying RRP on any of the items. With the current economic environment they go on sale fairly quickly (I saw a pair of sandals I liked at Country Road the week before, and by this week it was discounted from $70 to $50), but with overseas online retailers like ASOS and Zara (more later) I wonder if a general lowering of price points with fewer sales is a better way to go.
  • I went through both Myer and DJs looking for bargains. Didn't find anything at Myer (except some boys' underpants for TLG at the children section), the items on sale were not inspiring. I even went to Miss Shop to have a look (I was after some casual tops) and nada. It was more promising at DJs. There were racks and racks of discounted clothings to go through on both Levels 1 and 2, including some from Australian designer labels. Discounts were up to 75% for many designers. I didn't see clothings of similar calibre on sale at Myer. Where is Myer is offloading its unsold Australian designer stock?
  • I almost bought this Shona Joy top (discounted to $39) but decided against it at the end - I'm a bit uncertain about loose fit tops.

  • I didn't leave DJs empty handed - I bought this fun top/dress from Kirrily Johnston's S/S 2010 collection for $99 (down from $399). No, I did NOT buy the matching leggings.

Here's a photo without the embellishments.


I like that it can be worn two ways. There is a small button to gather the sides to form a figure hugging dress (as above) or you can undo the button and wear it loose.
  • I know I'm super late but I went into Zara for the first time. I have been to Zara overseas so I knew what to expect. There were certainly lots of choices. I was tempted by some of the bright coloured jeans but the long line to the change room banished the thought. There is still a reasonable mark up between Australian and overseas prices, but not as much as other international brands such as Esprit. I can live with some mark up (Australia is a small market, far away and $A exchange rates can be volatile) but 100%+ mark up will stop me from buying. For all the hype at its opening, it is just another high street store with some nice stuff and some not-so-nice. I didn't buy anything.
  • GAP is boring. For a store with good basics I pick UNIQLO anyday.
  • I guess I'm never going to be a GASP girl - I bought something from Supre. Cute and a bargain at $20.
  • I also bought another one of the bra I liked from the CK underwear store at 50% off. Nice customer service from the SA which is always a plus. Another loyalty card to add to my collection.
  • I love online shopping but it IS nice to see, feel and try on clothes to see how they fit.
  • With DVF available at shopbop with free shipping, will the store at Westfields become an expensive fitting room?
  • Overall I'm lukewarm about the new-ish Westfields, I like the new labels that opened shop there but there is something about the layout that leaves me cold. ifc mall in Hong Kong is much more to my liking in terms of shopping centre design.
  • Exception to the point above: I love the food court on Level 5. Great variety, good quality and not a fast food joint in sight. Must explore the restaurants soon.
  • It feels like The Strand Arcade is slowly dying. It must have taken a big hit from Westfields. I didn't even go up to Level 2, half of shops looked closed.
  • I went into Burberry on George Street for the first time also. I saw a pair of sunnies in Vogue's October issue that I liked. Unfortunately they didn't suit me. The layout of the store was underwhelming, I didn't feel it at all. I hope LV does a better job with its new flagship store a block away (corner of George and King Sts, opening 3 December).
  • Shopping is exhausting. My body was ready for a lie-down by 3:30pm. I soldiered on until 4:15pm. As a form of exercise it was a fun one.
Blogging is exhausting too! Even this rambling post took almost 2 hours. Like shopping, it has been fun. I just need more hours in the day!

I have been thinking about writing a series of posts on shopping, especially on online shopping and the influence of social networks. This post may just get me started. Part of the series is a survey for you to complete - are you keen?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

An open letter to a fashion thief

Dear Sportscraft

I was reading the latest issue of InStyle magazine when I came across this in the Summer Steals feature.


"Hey, it features a bag I own!" was my initial reaction. Until I looked closer and realised that it was not. You see, I bought this Michael Kors bag earlier this year.


You don't need to be a rocket scientist to realise that the two bags look eeriely similar. The shape, the colour, the way that the shoulder strap can be worn two ways. Yes, the clasp of the Sportscraft bag is different and it does not have the tag and key, but putting them next to each other, no one would deny that the bags are almost identical.

I know the adage "Nothing is new in fashion", and that even major trends like the bold stripes from Prada's S/S 2011 collection ...


have been seen before.


Everyone understands how the fashion food chain works and for those of us who cannot afford designer gear day-in-day-out, it's a godsend. However there IS a line between "inspired by" and "blatant copy". That line is difficult to describe but it's dead easy to tell if someone crossed it. Witchery/Balenciaga anyone?

You may not care at all. Michael Kors is unlikely to take any action against you, and many people will be happy to cough up the cash for the bag, whether they know of the original design or not.

But you (must) know that you are a thief. You stole someone else's work, claim it as your own and profit from it. That's poor form.

I'll spend my money on high street brands that come up with their interpretation of the latest trends (or better still, with their own unique designs).

Yours sincerely

Ms Curious

Friday, October 7, 2011

Healthy Life Part 10: H2O

Read any article about healthy living and drinking water is likely to be high on the list.

I'm pretty good with my beverage choices. I only have an occasional glass of wine or champagne (I'm also partial to nice sake), and juices and soft drinks are once-a-week treats. My only daily "vice" is a skim cappuccino or two.

I drink a good amount of water, but the amount I drink varies based on where I am. I drink like a fish when I'm in the office, at least 1.5L even if I'm not exercising. However, when I'm at home I don't drink nearly as much.

So what caused the difference? I use a disposible water bottle at work and plastic tumblers at home. So I think the bottle is the trick.

I know that the bottle that comes with the water are not meant to be re-used. After some research online I purchased several 750ml Camelbak Better Bottles.


Hand modelling from yours truly to give you a sense of the size of the bottle.


The bottle is made with BPA free plastic, and the bottle is spill proof even if the sprout is out because of the "Bite-N-Sip" valve. You have to bite slightly at the valve to release the water. The biting was a bit strange at first but it was easy to get used to, and now it's second nature.

I'm happy to report that the bottle increased my water intake at home. I still don't drink as much as I do at work (I think the air conditioning makes me thirsty) but having a water bottle around at all times makes it much easier to take a sip here and there. In fact I just had a sip before typing this sentence.

I take the bottle out when I go outdoors so I'm not tempted by sugary drinks, and that works too.

If you'd like to drink more water I highly recommend getting a bottle to carry around (I bought the bottles from Wiggle).

Monday, October 3, 2011

Home made butter chicken

I haven't written a cooking post for what seems like forever. I have been cooking non-blog worthy food, partly because I was avoiding high-fat food, but mostly because I was lazy.

The lovely Ling tweeted about butter chicken a little while ago. I'm a big fan of the dish so I asked her for the recipe and kindly she sent it to me. I made it last night so finally there's something to share with CCM readers.

Ingredients
2 onions
cooking oil
1 clove garlic
1 tsp ginger (I used ginger powder)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 small piece cinnamon
2 pods of cardamom
4 tbsp cashew nuts
3-4 tbsp (60-80g) of butter
3 large chicken thigh fillets - cut into ~1cm wide strips
1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp dhaniya (coriander) powder
300ml passata

Finely chop 1 big onion and pan fry with 2 tbsp oil until golden brown, then put in the fridge to cool.


Blend the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cashew nuts and onion into a smooth paste.

I mixed everything else first while the onion was cooling.

Before


After


After adding the onion and more blending it started to look like a paste.


Put the butter in a large saucepan in low heat (so the butter can melt gradually).


Chop the other onion lengthwise. Add to the saucepan and fry for 2 minutes.


Add the chicken and fry it for a few minutes each side.


Add the above paste and fry for a while. Then add chilli powder, coriander powder, passata and boil until chicken is well cooked.


I let it simmer for 10 minutes in low heat after the chicken is cooked.

The final step is to garnish with freshly cut coriander and 1 tsp butter before turning off the heat, but I didn't follow it.

I served the butter chicken with roti and steamed green beans.


As you can see in the photo above, the sauce is thicker than butter chicken from Indian restaurants and takeaway. Maybe I'll add some water to the mix next time. It is also less sweet and a bit more spicy which I like :-D Even with 1 tsp of chilli powder only it was too spicy for TLG, I'll have to cook some without chilli for him next time.

What do you think? Are you going to give it a try?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Saturday

Yesterday morning started with a glorious sleep-in (of sorts). Mr C went for an early morning bike ride. When TLG woke up I was half asleep in bed and ABC2 kept him company until Mr C returned. I stayed in bed for another nap and didn't get up until 9:30! Bliss.

The day's main event was a trip to Opera House with my friends S and E to see ex-High Court judge Michael Kirby as part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. One of the few joys in my law school days was reading Justice Kirby's compassionate and well written judgments, and it was a pleasure to see him in person. As expected he was articulate and wise, and he knew how to entertain the audience.

He spoke on 3 topics:
  • The importance of public education - the need for more funding (or re-balancing of funding between public and private schools) and for it to maintain a secular institution
  • Animal welfare - he stopped eating red meat and poultry after reading a book in 2009 about the cruelty of animal slaughter
  • Gay rights and same-sex marriage - he read out a letter sent to him by the Australian Family Association opposing same-sex marriage (and homosexual relationships in general) and he torn their arguments apart to the delight of the crowd. He talked about his love for this partner of 42 years, and that to deny his right to have a relationship with such a wonderful man is "evil" in his opinion.
His new book called A Private Life has just been published (he cheekily plugged his book many times during the talk). I'm keen to get my hands on a copy - maybe I'll do my FIL a favour and ask him to buy that for me for Christmas. Here's an excerpt of the book - oh if only I can write like that! And here's an interview with the ABC earlier this week.

On the way to the Concert Hall I saw some Gruffalo merchanises at the SOH gift shop. My sister gave The Gruffalo to TLG when we were in Hong Kong and he loved the book. So after the talk I went and bought him this cute apron.



I also liked the domino set - I think I'll get it for him next time.


We had lunch at Opera Bar. I had a delicious artichoke risotto and we talked (and talked), mostly about pregnancy and motherhood as E has a 4 month old boy and S is due for her first baby later this month. It was nice to have a good long chat with friends.

It was almost 4pm when we parted company. I headed to David Jones with the aim of buying a pair of sandals. I had no luck in that department, but a wander down to women's fashion led to the following purchases.

toi et moi cotton purple beaded throw


I have not heard of toi et moi before, it looks like a fun brand. This will be perfect with a black singlet and skinny jeans.

Diesel T-shirt


Brings out my inner rock-chick!

Antipodium Natural Urge dress


This photo isn't doing the dress any justice. Here's a maxi version that is sold out on ASOS.


Pretty, isn't it? And it was only $89 (down from $199). The sleeveless top in the same collection is on sale at ASOS for £65 so I definitely nabbed a bargain!


With a shopping bag full of goodies it was time to go home and spend some quality time with Mr C and TLG. TLG loved the apron and wanted to help me prepare dinner. I entrusted him with the important tasks of removing the husk from the corn cobs and spreading oil on the steaks, which he completed with aplomb. It was a lovely way to bond. And the dinner was yummy too.

Wishing you all an enjoyable end to the (for NSW and ACT readers, long) weekend!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Healthy Life Part 9 - Load me up with nutrients

A little while ago I purchased a few health supplements online. This is one of them.


Not the most enticing looking beverage I know but it's good for you.

It is a "super green" type powder from Nutra Organics.



The main ingredients are barley and spirulina but it also contains alfalfa, psyllium husk, chlorella and kelp. All green!

I have to be honest, I didn't scrutinise the product's health claims, but sometimes I don't eat as much green vegetables as I should, and I thought this is an easy way to top-up.

This is what the powder looks like.


The "serving instructions" on the tub said you can eat the powder by itself so I gave that a try. I  recommend against that method, unless you like having a gruggy yet powdery mixture in your mouth *shudder*.

I take it by mixing a heaped teaspoon with a glass of ice water, just like the first photo. It tastes ... green. Actually it is not too strong a taste. While I will not say it's delicious, it is quite refreshing, and I feel like I'm putting something healthy into my body.

One major change I noticed after taking it regularly is that my bowel movements became much more regular. I guess that's from the fibre. I can't attribute any other benefits but I feel good about drinking it. You can buy the powder at 30% off RRP here.

My friend Elizabeth started Schmoosli with her friends a while ago with the aim of making healthy and tasty wheat-free muesli. She kindly sent me a pack of "Heidi Gets High" to try.


The muesli contains oats, barley, rice flakes, rice bran shreds, dried fruits (including goji berries), nuts, seeds and cinnamon.


It tasted as good as it looked! There was a good mix of flavours and texture. And a 50g portion serves up 5.4g of protein and 5.3g of dietary fibre.

I like to mix up my breakfast so this is a very welcome addition :-D

I have also been taking some Cod Liver Oil on my PT Nat's recommendation (see her blog post) but silly me forget to take them half the time. I must remember during dinner every night!

Do you swear by any health supplement or super foods?

P.S. I haven't forgotten about goal setting. I went through my wardrobe last night and found 2 items of clothings that I'll use for my short term measurement/body shape goals. I will write about them soon.

P.P.S. Thanks to Jade linking about my tweet in her blog post - here's a good article from Dr Karl about the science of eating and how to change your poor eating habits.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Miu Miu double act

I visited Miu Miu a few times, both in Sydney and in Hong Kong, when I was searching for a wallet. Although I didn't buy a Miu Miu wallet, I liked what I saw in the store, and I was keen to get something from them.

One of my best friends E lives in Hong Kong and she told me about her favourite store Twist, which sells a variety of designer goods. She likes it because she finds it less intimidating then designer boutiques, and many items are on sale. After the poor service I received from the Miu Miu boutique in Hong Kong I was not in a rush to go back.

I went with my brother B to Twist one day when TLG was playing with his cousins (my brother grew up in a family of women and is well trained on shopping). To me the store was like a Kit/Mecca/Sephora for designer wares.

 Photo: Twist

First I had a look at keyholders. B gave me a Burberry keyholder a few years ago. I didn't know about fabric protector back then and the keyholder became grubby with use. Also, the hooks were not that good and the keys fell out a few times :-/

I have been admiring my sister's Miu Miu Matelassé tote (she also has the Stage clutch, yes she has a very enviable handbag collection!). 


With that in mind I chose the Matelassé calf skin keyholder.

Love the print on the lining of the box.

(click the photos for larger images)

As a keyholder is fairly small, it's nice to have a print (like the Burberry) or textured leather in this case to give it a bit of oomph.

The light lilac colour is so pretty, and it's complementary to the soft pink of the Chloé without being matchy-matchy.


I like the hooks better than the ones in the Burberry as there is no clasp to fasten, so the chance of keys falling out is much lower.


I cannot emphasise how soft the leather is. Sometimes it catches me by surprise when I hold it!


Finally I have something to satisfy my lemming. Is a Matelassé handbag in my future?

After choosing the keyholder I wandered to the handbag section. My last few handbags have been on the formal end of the scale and I'm hoping to get something more casual. Something I can pair up with jeans, but still suitable for the office. I considered the bow bag but it was a tad too big for my needs, and the zip and fold-over "flap" did not suit my clusmy self.

Luckily there is a bag in the collection that fits my bill.


First of all, I really really like the shiny grey colour. It's versatile without being boring. It has a slight "marbled" effect that I think works very well with this bag.

Here's a close up of the gold hardware.


Most of my handbags have flaps, so it's a nice change to have a bag which gives me super easy access to my belongings.


The strap is long enough for me to wear the bag cross-body. Handy when I need to lug TLG around!


The best thing about buying the bags from Twist? You can join their loyalty program when you spend more than $HK10,000 in one transaction and you get 10% off all purchases! The keyholder and the bag totalled just over that mark so I saved around $HK1,000 :-)

I think I should go on a handbag shopping ban for a while after my HK haul. I wonder how long I'll last?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Music On My Mind - The Beatles

I've been wanting to get into the Beatles for a while now. I listened to Abbey Road when I was on the plane from HK to Sydney (Come Together is an easy winner; I need sometime to digest the rest of that album!) but I needed a catalyst to really get into it.

I found it via Leigh Sales' tweet about The Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Beatles songs. Lying in bed with a sick tummy, I read about (almost all of) the 100 songs even though I didn't know most of them. Finding out how the songs are created, their influences (drugs featured prominently ...), the growth of the band from pop stars to music pioneers, and their inevitable break-up - it was completely captivating.

The logical next step of course is to listen to the music. I chose Rubber Soul purely because of the name. By golly am I blown away - first by how many of the songs I already know, and by how fresh they sound now, almost 50 years on.

Then I chose The Revolver, something that is already on my iTunes. I remembered listening to it a long time ago and not really getting it. I wonder what was wrong with me back then! Rock, folk, psychedelic and everything in between can be found in the album. And it's all good.

My favourite track so far is "Here, There and Everywhere" - I am a romantic at heart :-)


I'm sure there are many other discoveries to be made. Oh to be a teenager again and hole myself up in my room for days immersed in music!

Monday, September 19, 2011

More NYFW S/S 2012 goodness

Going through the MBMJ S/S 2012 runway was so much fun I decided to look more. It's always inspiring to see beautiful designs. Here are some more of my picks. Enjoy!

Tory Burch



Naeem Khan





Marchesa



L'Wren Scott




Proenza Schouler



Caroline Herrera





For all-out glamour I can't go past the floral gown by Naeem Khan - what an amazing print and I love the silhoutte.

If I can pick 3 outfits for my wardrobe, I'll go for:
  • the black and white Caroline Herrera dress with that amazing red belt - effortless chic
  • the blue Tory Burch coat. The print gives the classic-cut coat a new lease of life
  • I can't even follow my own rules - I can't pick between the pale blue Proenza Schouler dress, the yellow and brown Caroline Herrera dress or the white L'Wren Scott dress. They're all so lovely!
What are your picks from the NYFW S/S 2012 collections?

 Photo credits: Vogue.com.au, New York Magazine

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