Jul 16, 2010

Bright Lights Will Inspire You

We've arrived at another Friday and as I've got my sights firmly on New York, it's only fitting that this week's Top 5 should be themed accordingly.

This morning a fellow Aussie came to the rescue and agreed to sub-let her SOHO apartment for a month. Now I have a place to sleep, I just need to find myself a job! I'm a little nervous but I just have to think of all my favourite Manhattan haunts and it brings a smile to my face and fills me with confidence. I think I was always destined to live in that city, my husband even wrote his marriage proposal in a book about New York!

Ms M's Top 5 - New York Edition

1. Bleecker St: What's not to like? A gorgeous streetscape in the heart of The Village, cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery, the incredibly diverse selection of music at Bleecker Street Records, coupled with the retro cool of Jack Spade and inexpensive trinkets at the Marc by Marc Jacobs' accessories store.
2. Public, Nolita: The BEST Bloody Mary cocktails EVER. I've never liked tomato juice, but after sampling perfection in a glass there was no turning back. This ultra hip restaurant also serves up some of the best fare Australia and New Zealand has to offer.
3. Flea markets: After living in a city where you were confined indoors 88% of the time because of the soaring 50-degree temperatures, wandering in any type of open air market is always a novelty. I love that you can turn any street corner and stumble into something new and unexpected.
4. The Metropolitan Opera: Give me La Boheme over Cats any day. I recently read in Vanity Fair that this cultural institution is in financial strife, so go buy a ticket and support the arts.
5. Time Square: I know it's a bit of a cliche, but this is the landmark that's most quintessentially New York for me. Yellow taxi cabs, crowds, noise, billboards - it completely encapsulates Manhattan's unique energy.

It will be interesting to see how this list changes in the next four weeks... if you have your own New York Top 5 don't be afraid to share!

Jul 15, 2010

Flamenco Finery

After the initial shock of my husband's redundancy last year, we quickly set about making our exit strategy from Dubai which included planning a three-month globetrotting adventure. The scope for our trip was rather broad (thanks partly to a friend's wedding in Melbourne, a commitment to my former employer to cover the Chanel runway show in Paris and a desire to spend the holiday season with family and friends in our hometown of Adelaide) so our itinerary of countries ended up looking like this: 


Phew! A trip highlight was a lazy month spent driving through the Spanish countryside where we consumed our weight in jamon and red wine. I've long been a fan of flamenco dance and music and so we lingered for a week in gorgeous Seville, exploring the cobblestone alleyways lined with orange trees and lapping up its cultural feast. 

One of our happy discoveries was Felix Cartelismo, which specializes in selling original posters from the city's various fiestas. I could have happily emptied the shop's contents, but walked away with just one carefully chosen poster from the 1968 Seville Flamenco Festival. While she's yet to be framed, our dancer can be seen in the very top photograph as she's also been reproduced as a postcard (yellow background).

More designs are available online, but the website doesn't really do justice to the shop's treasures. Still, the posters make a colourful change from the usual movie paraphernalia and would certainly be reason enough to entice me back to Seville. OlĂ©!

Uncle Sam Wants...Me!

Sorry for my absence yesterday ... don't you just hate bloggers who don't post regularly? Despite making a commitment to write something every weekday, I had a really good excuse, promise! My US work permit finally arrived and I am simply euphoric! 
I won't lie, it's been one arduous journey to get here which involved waiting SIX long months, and one misplaced EAD card by the Centre of Immigration. So, this week I've been busy preparing for my foray onto the job market and will soon be travelling to New York to pound the pavement and knock on doors. Now I just have to find somewhere to stay for the next six weeks. Wish me luck!

Jul 13, 2010

An Ode to Bill

For the past four years, I've called myself an expatriate. While I largely enjoy the chance to explore new cultures and step outside my comfort zone, living away from home (particularly when that home is in another hemisphere) is guaranteed to bring bouts of homesickness.

One of my quick-fire cures is to whip up a recipe by Aussie celebrity chef Bill Granger. It's not really just about his simple, fresh food that makes me long for home, but the photos that populate his cookbooks  perfectly capture the laid-back spirit that tends to be the signature of Australian life. After flicking through one of Bill's many books (he's a prolific writer as well as restauranteur) I can almost taste the saltwater after an idyllic sun-drenched day spent at Henley Beach.

One recipe I always keep ingredients on stand-by for is Bill's banana and chocolate chip bread - below is the fresh loaf I baked last night. Not only is it utterly moorish and easy to make, it's a great way to get rid of over-ripe bananas which I keep ready in the freezer until needed.

What you need; 2 cups of plain flour, two tspns of baking powder, two ripe bananas, a few drops of vanilla extract, two eggs (lightly beaten), 4ozs of melted butter, 1 cup of chocolate chips.
What you do; preheat over to 350F/180˚C, sift flour and baking powder together. Mix together all remaining ingredients in a separate bowl before combining with the flour. Pour into a greased loaf tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Eat and Enjoy!

Jul 12, 2010

Cover Appeal

For me, The Great Gatsby has long been synonymous with style. Way, way back in 1997 - when I was sporting regrettable bangs and listening to No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom on endless repeat - I spent a glorious summer reading Fitzgerald's masterpiece as part of my final-year English assignment. The story of the idealistic bootlegger and his glamorous parties captured my heart and it remains one of my all-time favourite novels. 

But my love for all things Gatsby was catapulted to new levels once I got my hands on the film starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. (If you're a love of fashion do yourself a favour and download it at Netflix) While no cinematic masterpiece, I thank this film for not only introducing me to Redford (the original McDreamy) but also to the timeless style of Ralph Lauren. With cable knit jumpers, immaculate white blazers, three-piece tailored suits and fabulous flapper dresses - it's Lauren at his preppy best.

...so imagine my excitement when I discovered THIS:

These gorgeous carryalls are part of Kate Spade's inspired Book of the Month Collection, which unveils a new 'title' throughout the Fall but is already available for pre-order at www.katespade.com  While my taste in accessories is usually understated chic rather than outwardly quirky, this is one clutch I'd happily adopt. Too pretty to be locked away in the closet, I imagine it would look just as eye-catching stacked atop of some well-loved tomes. Who says you shouldn't judge a book by its cover?

Jul 11, 2010

Couture Wrap-Up

[L-R] Jean-Paul Gaultier, Valentino, Elie Saab, Chanel, Armani Prive

One reason why fashion designers are a constant source of fascination, apart from their outrageous personal attire and controversial remarks about plus-sized models (yes, we are talking about you, Mr Lagerfeld), is their ability to transform everyday references into walking pieces of art. 

This is no more apparent than during the showing of the Haute Couture collections in Paris. A dwindling number of houses dared to venture into fashion's most priciest realm this past week but for those who did, the results were staggering...

The house of Dior is the grand dame of Haute Couture, and the Fall 2010 collection ensured it lived up to its reputation with an extravagant bouquet of vibrant blooms.

Riccardo Tisci opted out of a tradition runway show in favour of an intimate showcase, allowing editors to get up close and personal with his intricate designs of Chantilly lace, appliqued leather and ostrich feathers for Givenchy. Inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead Festival, one garment alone represented 1600 hours of craftsmanship. 

Jul 10, 2010

Off The Wall

Being married to an architect is sometimes cause for great amusement - walls suddenly share a 'dialogue' with each other and you spend a lot of time patiently waiting while your other half takes photographs of seemingly trivial things, like pavement and fences. 
My husband is obsessed with texture - stone, wood, pebbles, recycled brick, even trees. It's the sole reason why these wall tiles by ceramist Heather Knight, of the Element Clay Studio, caught my attention. Don't you just want to touch them? 

Jul 9, 2010

Apple of My Eye

Oui EaringsMany a fashionista will tell you that accessories maketh the outfit. It's a relatively inexpensive way of adding individual flair to an otherwise cookie-cutter trend. 
Recently I stumbled across the online store Madison Honey Vintage and fell in love with this piece of Apple Delight selling for a budget-friendly $US22 - shipping included. 
And as to whether you should make these earrings your own, the answer is simple: "Yes! Yes!".

High Fidelity Hijinks

Today I want to introduce a regular Friday feature to The Matryoshka Files, a bit of fun to end the workday week. It's inspired by the fabulous movie High Fidelity, with John Cusack and Jack Black, who play characters obsessed with compiling their ultimate 'Top 5' lists for various life scenarios. If you haven't seen the movie (you really should, it has a killer soundtrack) here's what I mean...

It's a game I've played with all sorts of friends and creates a great debate at a dinner party or wiles away the hours in a doctor's waiting room/airport terminal/traffic jam with your other half. So each week I'll provide my own list according to a set topic but would love to hear your own versions too. After all my comments box is feeling a little neglected!

Jul 8, 2010

Lee McQueen - Tribute Book

When you're the owner of some serious curves, it's often difficult to find designer labels that cater to your extra va-va-voom. Thankfully, Alexander McQueen could always be relied upon to produce an impeccably cut dress.

A gritty Londoner who trained on Savile Row, he caught the attention of the legendary Isabella Blow with his graduation collection and became known as a rebel amongst the fashion elite. Sadly, he took his life earlier this year after a long battle with depression.

I never fulfilled a long-held dream of reporting from one of McQueen's Paris runway shows but I was lucky enough to acquire a few key pieces that will never be parted from my wardrobe. Given my devotion to McQueen, I was pleased to discover that Visionaire have just released pre-orders for its gorgeous tribute book - Spirit - with an impressive list of contributors including Steven Meisel, Mario Testino and Lady Gaga.  Visit their website here to sign-up for your copy and also to check out the stunning video that captures the essence of the McQueen legacy.

The book is no small investment at $US295 but just like the designer's own work, it's a piece of art.

Where To Buy This Tiffany Bracelet for .68 Cents

Think I am joking? This sensational headline is just a trick to grab your attention? Well, you're in for a pleasant surprise if you haven't already come across Ohh I Love 
A designer lover's dream, this auction house sells major luxury items at a fraction of the price. We're talking Louis Vuitton's classic Speedy Bag, Marc Jacob's hobos, Tiffany pearl earrings and quilted Chanel wallets.  

What's the catch? It's a little akin to gambling. Each member has to buy a bidding pack, the cheapest being a pack of 30 bids for $29.99. The next step is to search for your must-have item and begin clicking away. Keep in mind that Ooh I Love recoup their costs by charging you $1 each time you bid while also raising the total price of the auction by 2 cents. Every bid also resets the auction clock.

So even though you may REALLY, REALLY want that Fendi clutch, exercise some restraint as there is no guarantee of winning!

My first experience was with a beginner's auction and that's what I would recommend for anyone eager to give it a try as it's your best chance of actually winning. I won the Tiffany Toggle bracelet (pictured) for .68 cents but actually paid $13.58 at checkout when the cost of all of my bids plus the shipping fee was factored in - and that's excluding the initial purchase of the bid pack.

I will state that I had some hiccups following the purchase and had to be pro-active in contacting the customer service support staff to ensure delivery. To their credit, they did respond to my emails promptly and I couldn't have been happier when the little blue box did finally arrive.

Some tricks for new players; watch the 'How It Works' video to ensure you understand the process thoroughly, wait to bid in the very last few seconds of the auction, don't participate in auctions during peak periods like weekends or lunch hours, don't bid too early, the website provides all statistics on previous winners so do your research beforehand and finally, stick to your limit!  

What am I eyeing next?  This Louis Vuitton Neverfull. 

Jul 7, 2010

SATC 2 - The REAL Story

There have been very few times I've wanted to walk out of a film that I've paid good money to watch, but Sex & The City's latest big screen offering was one such occasion.  This post may be late as no doubt many of you have already seen the sequel but I've been longing to share my thoughts as someone who lived and worked in the United Arab Emirates and has a little inside information on what really went on. Intrigued?...

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