Saturday, 30 April 2011

ZARA Sydney - The Review

I had to go to Sydney for work this week so I took the opportunity to visit the new ZARA store. I've been a huge fan of ZARA from trips to Europe and the US over the years and was really interested to see what they'd deliver in Australia.

The store is pretty large by Australian standards - three levels covering ladies, mens and kidswear, with a fit out to match its other international outlets.

I visited on a Thursday night - and it was crowded! There was a wait for the dressing rooms, and another queue for the registers. It goes without saying that neither were long enough to put me off.

The collection was pretty broad - like the European range there was more workwear and evening wear than casual gear, and a small range of shoes, bags and accessories.

There were some lovely jackets and trenchcoats but most were too heavy for Brisbane winters - for me at least. I felt the same about quite a few of the long sleeved dresses. There were quite a few pretty silk sleeveless blouses though around the $60-$80 mark.

The prices were fairly similar to what I'd found overseas - jeans around $50, dresses $80-$150, jackets $100-$150 (although I did see a leather shearling jacket for $700) and leather shoes and bags between $100-$200.

So what did I buy? I was slightly more conservative than I thought and only bought two pieces (hey I've got a deck to pay for). I picked up this polka dot blouse for $59..
... and these skinny cord pants for $49. I was somewhat hesitant about these but wore them all day today and they were amazingly comfy.

So what was my verdict? It's a great store and offers more choice in the lower/middle price point range, but I really don't think its going to revolutionise the Australian shopping scene like some are predicting. It's been overhyped because it's the first big international arrival in that segment (I don't really rate GAP), but hopefully it'll do well enough to ensure that Topshop and H&M arrivals aren't too far away.

Best Work Lunch Ever - Caprese Salad

At Coffs Harbour this summer I tasted the most delicious tomatoes I'd ever eaten - so when our friends were going back over Easter we begged them to bring us back a bag.

We were lucky enough to be spoiled with two bags of these beauties - so the question was what to make before they all became over-ripe?

And the answer? Caprese Salad.

This was honestly one of the best work lunches I've ever had - and it was so easy! I just added the sliced tomato to some spinach and basil leaves, chopped up some bocconcini and liberally added olive oil, salt and pepper.

Initially I thought I'd made far too much - but I cleaned the plate and was licking my lips for more..

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Hunt for the Perfect Danish Modern Coloured Lounge

So I mentioned earlier that I was hunting for a new 2 seater sofa.. the old dark leather beast from when I first moved out of home has finally packed it in - so now I need a new friend to keep our vintage chesterfield (see here) company.

I'm embracing the mismatched sofas look - and I find it works best when they're really mismatched - so I'd love a bright fabric sofa in a slim-lined, danish modern shape, preferably on legs so it looks a little "lighter."

I've been stalking ebay with no luck so far - but this is my ultimate wish list/look book.

via Danish Teak Classics
via First Dibs
via Perpenduum
via Twenty21's flickr

via Bond&Bowery
via South of Market

via South of Market
via South of Market
via Absolutely Beautiful Things

However it should be noted that all of these are either from overseas retailers or are extremely cost prohibitive. So at this point - I'll have to keep searching ebay or hope that Ikea brings out a version quicksmart. The hunt continues...

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Two gorgeous friends of mine just got engaged - so we caught up for dinner to celebrate and I decided to make a cake for the occasion.

Inspired by this recipe over at The Cake Mistress I decided to bake a Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Here's what the final result looked like.

But of course it started out with carrots and walnuts. It was my first attempt at a carrot cake and I was slightly surprised at how much carrot went into it (4 big carrots!).

Not exactly the prettiest "before" photo..

But hey it turned out of the ring pan in one piece which is always a win.

To be honest I struggled with the frosting again (what is it with me and frosting?) it was a weird consistency - it seemed to be slightly separated with the icing sugar particles almost suspended in the icing? I think next time I'll try it with Philadelphia cream cheese instead of the Dairy Farmers Cottage Cheese I used.

But despite my complaints on the frosting - it was happily gobbled up! Congratulations again M & T!!

Woolloongabba Antiques Centre

Yesterday I took a trip to one of my favourite Brisbane shopping destinations..

The Woolloongabba Antiques Centre! I loved the coloured macrame plant hangers above - I can totally imagine them hanging over our deck - but somehow I don't think they're too wind-friendly.

I'm in the process of looking for a new 2 seater lounge (the main reason for my visit) and loved the shape of this one - pity its a 3 seater and too large for me. I'm sure it'll find a new home soon though.

My mum used to play the accordian as a child and I've always thought they would look so great in a home. And you know, I could totally use it to entertain guests..

I had a little swoon over this Tretchikoff print - we've got his Miss Wong print in our living room (we lugged it back from an antiques shop in Glasgow) and I'm sure she'd love a friend.

And you know I love a good animal tchotchke.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Designer Chicken Coop

Would you look at this?

This is The Nogg - a gorgeous modern chicken coop designed by a US furniture designer and engineer.

We've spent countless hours tinkering and adjusting our chicken coop (or as Mt Tchotchke sometimes refers to it - The Summer Palace) and although the thought of simply buying one online is pretty appealing - I have to say that the guy who designed this one must have never kept chickens.

It would be so dark in there for the poor girls - it must be a nightmare to clean out and I don't think our little fattie Charlotte would even make it through the tiny door.

Although it would be fun collecting the eggs every afternoon from a giant egg..

My Uncle's Veggie Patch

At my Uncle's place on Friday I couldn't help taking a few snaps of his very productive veggie garden in a narrow bed down the side of his house.

The soft pretty purple eggplant flowers were so lovely!

I've never tried growing eggplants before but these were pretty inspiring

And like all good Italian veggie patched - a chilli bush!

This passionfruit flower was so amazing! We've got three passionfruit vines in the backyard - one on a side fence doing much better than the two in the shade growing on the chicken coop - but we've never had a single flower or fruit to date.

Maybe I should print out these photos and show them to our vines to give them a bit of a hint.

Coppola Vino

One of my favourite parts of our Easter Sunday lunch - a glass of the Rosso from Francis Ford Coppola's winery. Is there anything that family can't do?

It was a Christmas pressie that Mr Tchotchke ordered for my Dad - and it was delish!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Happy Easter

Wishing you all a happy and safe Easter!

Strawberry Flowers & Lucerne Sprouts

My little strawberry plants have been plugging along for the last month and a half - and look what I spotted today - flowers! Now I just have to protect them from the chickens.

And I threw some of the lucerne seeds from Diggers into our back veggie bed - look at the little sprouts go!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Good Friday Lunch

All the classics of a great Good Friday lunch with the family.

Delicious seafood lunch (entree was my favourite - spaghetti with anchovies - but I gutsed it all down before I thought to take a photo)

Amazing desserts..

And a game of cards...

Oiling the Deck

So Good Friday was more like good-for-getting-stuff-done Friday - amongst tackling a bunch of other projects I managed to get the first coat of oil on the deck.

Mr Tchotchke cleaned it first with Cabot's Deck Clean, and then I gave it a good coat - posts, handrails and all - with Sikkens Cetol HLS. Thanks goodness it was a lovely sunny day - it looks like it soaked in nicely and should be ready for another coat tomorrow.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Tango Bougainvilleas by Night

A quick snap of one of the bougainvilleas we bought at the Gardening Australia Expo on the weekend.

They look quite dramatic at night, no? I hope they do well enough to cover our fence - the flowers really pop.

Deck Update: Build Completed

Here's a peek at our completed deck!

We've got another busy weekend ahead of us - there are still some paint jobs to finish off, the lighting fixtures need to be installed and we need to oil the decking boards too - lucky we've got a few long weekends ahead of us!

I'll post some more detailed pics when its all completed.

Hot Cross Bun Breakfast

I know it doesn't exactly tick all the food group boxes for a balanced breakfast, but heck Easter only comes once a year.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Home is Where it all Begins

In my last post I referenced Apartment Therapy - which is far and away my all time favourite design blog.

To mark their tenth anniversary their founder, Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan is writing a series of posts on Ten Things You Need to Know About Apartment Therapy

He's only up to number two, but when discussing Terence Conran's The House Book - he made the two below points that have really stuck with me.

All of this was not merely to impress the neighbours. Having a good home was more than skin deep; it was "one of the most worthwhile things in life" - the foundation of a good life."

It is not about stuff, it is about what you do with it that counts, and the home is where it all begins.

I think it's this focus on "a good life" that's what elevates Apartment Therapy above shelter blogs more focused on decoration - for me anyway.

The above pic is from my first apartment - that I was lucky enough to have featured in Apartment Therapy's Fall Colours Contest back in 2007 - you can still see the entry here.

Broccoli and Feta Pasta

This week Apartment Therapy/The Kitchn revisited one of my favourite recipes of theirs - Velvety Broccoli and Feta Pasta. I used to make it all the time back when I was a single gal because its so easy and quick, so I was excited about revisiting it again tonight.

This time I steamed the broccoli - but before I had a steamer I just used to boil it which worked fine too.

Because my little food processor is just a mini one I had to blend the ingredients for the sauce in three batches - here you can see the steamed broccoli, yummy danish feta and some basil leaves from our garden.

And a few seconds later it's a delicious creamy blended sauce!

And here it is all put together - the sauce took roughly the same time as the pasta did to cook - not too bad.

Apartment Therapy also had another interesting post Salt the Pot: Not the Pasta - which is something I did already - but I was intrigued by their suggestion to use two tablespoons of salt just as the water boils. As someone who usually just uses a pinch of salt - I thought the idea of pot water "as salty as the sea" was a little extreme - but I gave it a shot and have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Marimekko Crush

How gorgeous is this shot from the latest Marimekko catalogue?

Although if I wore that gorgeous dress I would totally disappear into our zig zag rug.

via designlovefest

Gardening Australia Expo

I was tickled pink here on Friday when my new copy of Gardening Australia arrived in the post - so of course I wasn't letting the weekend slide by without a visit to the Gardening Australia Expo at the Brisbane Convention Centre.

I dragged Mr Tchotchke along - and when he wasn't being accosted by shoe shine demonstrators or distracted by food stalls I think he enjoyed himself too.

I bought two bougainvilleas from this stall to plant alongside our side fence.

We caught up with Ingrid at the City Chicks stand.

I couldn't believe how placid this silky was! And can you believe she's wearing a chook nappy?

Another stall was selling these gorgeous hyacinths.

And I couldn't resist taking a photo of these ridiculous plastic garden sculptures - Mr Tchotchke warned me here that it's a slippery slope from a plastic owl to a plastic tiger. Can you see the velociraptor in the background?

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