Thursday, December 25, 2008

Southern Style 2

Photo: Bron Williams

Photo: Bron WIlliams

Photo: Bron Williams

Photo: Bron Williams

Belt Me

This resin belt by Aussie designer Elke Kramer is at the top of my Christmas wish list. It's the kind of piece that would make a sack look hot. I'm going to use mine to cinch in my baggy summer T's, and then dress it up and take it out dancing. See you on the floor.

Check out, or purchase the range at Belle Bird in Dunedin or Good as Gold in Wellington. The new Trompe L'oeil range is out soon, inspired by old school toys, art deco and pop art, and all in slick coloured resin.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Sale of the Century!

Givenchy peep toe boots with straps. Love em or hate em, these patent beauties from Fall 2008 are on sale at And at fifty percent off, they're a mere steal for the tidy sum of 504 little Euros. Get saving in time for our next Autumn, fans.

Southern Style Exposed

Preparing to make the trek to visit Dunedin city, I suddenly had a stress out. What to pack? Clothing style definitely varies from city to city, and my eclectic capital city wardrobe would stand out like a brightly coloured sore thumb on the dark southern streets.

Dunedin style is always pigeon-holed into being conservative towards skin-flashing, and, much like their architecture, overtly gothic in character. I’d like to put stereotypes aside for a bit, and armed with a camera, discover what Dunedin style really is. As for the packing situation, I gave up and will purchase when I get there.

Southern Style

Photo: Bron Williams

Photo: Bron Williams

Photo: Bron Williams

Photo: Bron Williams

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fashion Crash Test Dummy - part 2

BODYSUITS - "Bodysuits are yeuck!" I used to say. Bringing to life images of sweaty crotches and those dirty domes between the legs, the bodysuits that festered in my mothers' drawer in the early nineties still haunt me. So it was indeed with challenge that I took it apon myself to test drive the trend this time around. In my research I found out that no one knows who invented bodysuits, but Donna Karan made them hip back in '85. If Donna Karan can do it, so can I.
I picked up a cute black number by Federation For Good, with what you might describe as Mickey Mouse-earred epaulette details on the shoulders. Slipping it on, I realised how great it really is to have a bodysuit under your pants. The look is clean-lined, wrinkle free and fits perfectly with this seasons' tucked-in and body-con trends.

On my first day of the bodysuit challenge I went a bit rock and roll, wearing it with some dark rinse slim denim, tough heeled sandals, and new necklace hardware from Ksubi. My mother saw me like this and let out a gasp "You're not wearing a bodysuit!" she exclaimed. After years of us kids badgering her to throw the dirty things out, she couldn't get her head around seeing me in one. "I should have held onto mine so you could have them" she said.
After a couple of days, I began to realise the practicality of the bodysuit, and found myself virtually living in it. I dressed it down in high waisted jeans (my other new love: see part 1) and preppy flats, and dressed it up in thigh skimming waisty skirts and boxy jackets. It worked a treat under my sheer tops, allowing me to experiment with layers without getting to bulky. I even tried to leave the house in the bodysuit alone, tights and boots but my conservative self wouldn't go that far. (For those brave enough to pull it off though it definitely looks cute).

To come to my conclusion I am sold on this trend, and a very happy customer. To try this look at home you don't have to buy the designers versions, although they sure are cool: but rootle around in the Sallies and find a (not so sweaty) retro number, or alternatively slip on your cutest vintage one-piece swimsuit and wear it out for the night with cute bottoms and a statement belt. Done and dusted.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Try this tonight - socks and sandals

Socks and sandals - take your inspiration from Miu Miu. Drag this look right through to Autumn when your tootsies will need the warmth. And don't forget to show a bit of leg.
Here is my version.

This is what I love

The blazer in classic form
The blazer on the street

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What are you wearing right now? (florals)

Dries van Noten

Fresh and flirty, let florals put some spring (and summer) into your step. But don't forget summers' rules of proportion - there are none. Toughen it up, roughen it up, prep it up, or go all out ladylike.

What are you wearing right now? (a blazer)

Marc Jacobs

Charles and Anastase

Blazers have been around the block a few times, and are now back with a vengaence. This season it is all about extremes - small skirt, big coat. Girly prints, tough accessories. Have some fun with this classic coat and team it with something a little unexpected.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fashion Crash Test Dummy - part 1

I had a great time during Fashion Week this year. While I wasn’t one of those important enough to actually be in front row, I kept up with the shows from the comfort of my couch daily via the internet. Each day of Fashion Week was a bit like a birthday – the hours wouldn’t go fast enough to the end of the day, when I would charge through my front door, dumping bags and tearing at shoes to get to the computer for my daily fashion fix. All too soon it was over, and out came the reviews, the hits and misses, and the summaries of key trends for the season ahead.

HIGH WAIST, WIDE LEG - Summer may be wonderful, but with a new season comes new fashion trends, and the dilemma of how to wear them. And so, for the greater good, I decided to test run some of the key trends for the season ahead and let you know just how wearable they are. First to go into the lab was the high-waist flare trouser trend.

I admit I was slightly sceptical of this trend and not quite brave enough up until now, but I had to see what all the fuss was about. And fuss I did, when I slipped on my first pair of high waist flares by Lee.

Coming out of the changing room I was confronted by a startling sight - the slimming and bottom lifting effect was astronomical! Not to mention the new length of my legs. Because the jean starts at the top of the waist, it gives the illusion that your pins start there too.

I wore the jeans to work on a busy Monday, when my day evolves around running after small children. The high waist meant my tee stayed in and I never needed to re-tuck, and best of all I got no butt-crack when bending down to pick up screaming child, collect dropped toy, or wipe sick off the floor.

Monday night was 1+1=1 at Chow, famous for the delicious modern Asian food and equally famous for its stylish patrons. After a quick wipe with a damp cloth to remove the food, paint, and sick of the day (god bless dark rinse denim), I wore my jeans with a sheer Cybele top tucked in, and my highest wedge heels, and felt suitably dressed for the part. My friends oohed over my new physique, and I’m proud to say my rear end got a lingering look from the cute waiter!

All in all I would have to report that this is a trend with serious staying power. If you would all get brave enough to try it, you too may be converted. What sight it would be to have a nation of lovely elevated butts this summer!

To be continued…

Oh, for Christmas' Sake!

The people of this world can be divided up by those who can roll their tongues, and those who cannot. (There are also those anomalies that have no tongue, though I suppose they would fall into the “can’t roll their tongue” category). Likewise, there are also those jovial folk who “do” Christmas, and the grinches who despise it. I sadly fall into the latter of both categories - hours of my childhood were wasted before the mirror, forcing my tongue into all imaginable shapes with my fingers before realising I was one of the condemned, born without an acrobatic oral muscle. While I may have given up on the contortionist training, my poor tongue is still put under stress at the end of each year, when it is forced – many times daily it seems in the lead up to Christmas – to utter those dreadful words: “I’m not really doing Christmas this year”.

Much to the horror of my peers and colleagues, my idea of a perfect Yuletide is to be in some godforsaken place where no one can reach me, to hopefully be forgotten by the world. This year I am doing just that, and escaping to a powerless hut in the middle of the Maniototo. It will be sheer bliss.

As far as the gift giving bit goes, my perfect gift is something that can be consumed, and I recently cottoned on to the fact that many others agree with me. So my festive phobias will be soothed this year by the fact that my presents will all be made in my kitchen. In fact the only Christmas shopping to be done this year will be a trip to the supermarket to stock up on baking gear, dark chocolate, liquors and seasonal fruit. I will then lock myself in my house to concoct gastronomic delights, and package them up in swathes of sparkly paper. I admit this is an event I am looking forward to, and so I suppose that I’m finding a way to navigate through Christmas, thus on my way to becoming cured of my Grinchey ways. If so, I may have to believe that anything is possible. I’ll head back to the mirror and re-attempt my tongue roll.

Here are some of my favourite recipes for Christmas gifts. Wrap them with as much flounce and flair as humanely possible. Just don’t give them to the same people that I do.

Decadent Chocolate Tart

400g short pastry
1 ½ cups cream
½ cup milk
½ cup sugar
300g dark chocolate
1 egg

Roll out the pastry and line a shallow tart case. Cover with a sheet of baking paper topped with baking beads, and bake the case blind for 15 minutes at 150°C.

Heat the cream, milk and sugar in a saucepan until boiling. Add chocolate, broken into chunks, and mix till blended. Allow to cool, then whisk in the egg. Pour chocolate mixture into the cooked tart case and bake for 20-25 minutes or until set. Dust with icing sugar – or, if you are really festive, place a cardboard Christmas tree stencil over before dusting to get a little picture on top of the tart.

Poached Apricots in Dessert Wine

This is lovely served warm with ice-cream, yoghurt, or lumped over simple cakes.

12 ripe apricots
¼ cup sugar
A third of a cup of cup water
1 ½ cups dessert wine
1 vanilla bean

Place apricots in a bowl of boiling water and stand for 4 minutes. Drain water and peel apricots. Make a slit in their tummies and remove the pips. Place sugar and water in a saucepan on low until sugar has dissolved. Bring the heat up to simmer, and then add wine and vanilla bean. Simmer for 5 minutes before putting in the apricots, and simmer for a further 5 minutes until soft. Ladle into sterilized jars and seal. Tell your loved ones to refrigerate after opening.

Orange Biscotti

1 ½ cups raw whole almonds
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup castor sugar
3 eggs
1 Tbsp orange rind
1 tsp orange juice

Dry roast the almonds in a 180°C oven for about 7 minutes, tossing occasionally. Be careful not to burn them. In a bowl, sift the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, orange rind and orange juice. Add to dry ingredients and mix until a dough forms. Add the whole almonds, turn out onto a floured surface and give it a bit of a kneading. Shape dough into sausages about 3cm across, and flatten a bit with your hand. Bake the sausages at 160°C for 30 minutes until set. Allow to cool, and then cut into 1cm slices. Return to oven and cook for about 5 minutes on each side until toasted.

This is Borneo

After reading Redmond O'Hanlon's Into the Heart of Borneo, I got excited. So I went there. It was very different from the book, probably because I'm not the author our friend O'Hanlon is; and because I largely stuck to the main routes (apart from getting lost in the countryside on a motorbike and running out of petrol. And money for petrol). Here are some of the snaps.

A Gripe of the Times

It is always disheartening when you are served bad coffee. Some may call my passion for food austere, as I treat my fare with the utmost respect and expect others to also. So when you present me with a mound of steaming shite on a plate, being a sensitive soul I can’t help but feel deeply disgusted, disappointed and, to be forthright, personally attacked. Whether it be over-boiled, over-seasoned, over-stewed, over-brewed or sat for too long beneath the warming lights drooping sadly as a consequence, I am driven near the point of tears.

Upon discovery of my badly extracted coffee the other morning you may well understand my state of distress. Being in the car, and driving madly to an important appointment I couldn’t easily ask them to make me another cup. Panicking, I screeched the car to a halt, did a desperate U-turn mid street, and careened back to the café to return the coffee. And then it struck me that I didn’t have time to park the car, let alone wait for the young drip behind the counter to re-make my order. So I screeched the car to a halt again, repeated the U-turn, and drove to my appointment, neglected coffee cooling rapidly in the cup holder.

Later that day I found myself brooding over the madness of that event now past, and began to wonder; when did life become such a rush that we have to settle for second rate coffee? A wave of nostalgia flooded over as I reminisced about the seemingly endless days of my tomboy childhood.

Now there are never enough hours in each day to do the things I need, let alone want. I, like many others become so wound up in my own self-importance, and the pressures of time and of conforming to time, that sometimes I get an anarchistic urge to escape. I tell the world I’m ill, and flee with the dog to lounge for hours by the sea, and wander the hilltops. I imagine, if all of life were fragments of this one tranquil day, we would have the time to breath, to love, to give food the respect it deserves, and with luck, to never have to drink a bad coffee.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chic on the Cheap

International credit crunch alone, I find it hard to afford clothes at the best of times. Myself and every other student/young person/anyone whose wage isn’t a million bucks. Without disposable cash floating around, it can be very difficult to find a decent outfit, let alone flirt with current trends and be fashion forward. I’ve managed to discover a way, and all it takes is a bit of creativity.

It is easy to get stuck in the rut of being a fashion follower - and don’t go using low income as an excuse - keeping ahead in the fashion game just requires planning. The great thing about living in little old NZ is that the rest of the world have their seasons, and therefore their fashion seasons, before us; which means that we have the gift of observing trends before they hit our shores.

The first thing to do at the beginning of each New Zealand season is decide which trends you like. Log onto and check out the latest catwalk looks, flick through pages of UK Vogue and dribble to your hearts content, dog earring pages where you love an item or a complete look. A word of warning before I go on, a chic on the cheap girl does not set her sights on the latest Alaïa scallop-edged belt out of Vogue and hope to find an exact copy. Scrap all notions of that. A chic on the cheap girl observes the scallop-edged theme, and finds an affordable belt that has a similar feel or style. And don’t think you have to stop there – if you like the look, why not channel it into other items of your wardrobe? Look out for bags, shoes, and jewellery that incorporate this trend.

Get together an idea about the way you want your wardrobe to look this season. This does not mean take note of every trend that exists today and try to emulate it – you’ll only end up back in your fashion follower shoes. Take a note out of the book of Yves Saint Laurent, and keep in mind that “Fashions fade, style is eternal”. This means staying true to yourself and your own personal style, and being realistic about trends that will not suit your body shape or lifestyle.

Once you have a feeling for what you like, you begin the hunt. This is the fun part. Get inventive with your places of purchase, because it is unlikely that you will find the garments from your wish list on the main street. You’re still a good six weeks ahead of the chain stores, baby. The internet is a blessing. Try eBay,, and Check out second hand designer boutiques, small Asian import shops, and don’t underestimate the Salvation Army. Fashion works in cycles, and the modest charity shop is a potential fashion gold-mine.

And now I am opening up my closet to you, dear reader, in the hope that you too can be chic on the cheap. Here’s how I do it (just don’t tell everyone).

I divide my new season wish-list into a few categories to help with my purchasing. Firstly there are those items that I call my investment pieces. These often require a bit of saving to afford but stay staples of my wardrobe many seasons running. Things that fall into this category are jeans, boots, bags, coats, and statement jewellery pieces like my beloved Karen Walker pendants, Dyrberg/Kern watch, and Dita sunglasses. These are not the kind of thing I need to, nor can afford to buy each and every season, but pick them up as I need them, often taking advantage of end of season sales.

Next are the fashionable staples for my new-season wardrobe. These are the items that are likely to last two seasons – maybe three in the trend stakes. I don’t spend a lot on these items, in terms of cost-per-wear it’s not worth it. This summer my key purchases were a girly floral dress, a cuffed sleeve white T-shirt, a jumpsuit, and a high-waist bell shaped skirt. The dress was about $120 from Wild Pair (as they import a lot from overseas, they do well with staying on top of current trends), the tee was $100 from NZ designer Scintilla, jumpsuit a mere $25 from an Asian import store down a back alley that I couldn’t tell you the name of. And the skirt I picked up for around $NZ50 from eBay.

Finally in my clothing break-down are the items that I know won’t last more than one season, but are too cute to pass up. For me these were the washed out light blue boyfriend shorts (à la Alexander Wang), chunky metal bracelets, a tough black waist-cinching belt with metal hardware, and a black ankle boot. I hit the Salvation Army first, and found myself a pair of sufficiently baggy light blue denim shorts for $3, which I took to with coarse sandpaper to vintage them up. At the same shop I hauled out the black belt, a steal at $2.50, and a perfect way to toughen up my girly floral dress. The bracelets were around $10 from equip (I snuck inside in disguise – one of the few shops where at 22 you feel old), and the boots were a delightful discovery at No.1 Shoe Warehouse.

So there you have it – my wardrobe for summer, and all for the affordable price of around $330. All it took was a bit of planning, creativity, and legwork. Now hop to it. And wink at me if you spot me on the street.

Style inspiration:

Shops to try:
Wild Pair
No.1 show warehouse
Local designers
Second hand/vintage boutiques
Salvation Army or similar charity shops
Small Asian import stores

Our Daily Bread - rediscovering the joys of food

After a recent break-up, I had one of those epiphany, change your life around moments. No, I didn’t cut all my hair off (I don’t have much to begin with), or move house, but I did rediscover an old passion of mine. Previously suppressed due to other (ahem) peoples’ influences, the need to cook began to bubble up inside me, like a well about to overflow. I don’t mean cook as in cooking a quick weekday evening meal, but real cooking, getting back to basics, and enjoying it for the process alone. Breads, fresh pasta, pies, tarts, cakes… there is something truly spiritual in transforming a bunch of ingredients into something delicious. In fact, I always used to say, and will begin to say again, that if I had to choose a religion, it would be cooking, and if there was a god, it would be food. Not that my god would be so good for our waist-lines, but I like to live like the French Women do, and see not good food and bad food, but all food in moderation and appreciation. So there is no heaven and hell in my religion? Suits me.

I have just finished a batch of brioche, a rich and buttery French bread. The entire experience was an affirmation to my faith. From the first step of preparing the warm bath water for my yeast to grow, making brioche is a feast for the senses. Watching the yeast bubble and fizz and develop was a revelation in itself, the scent of my growing brood filling the kitchen. My parental instincts kicked in and I found myself caring deeply about the wellbeing of my fungi. I separated the eggs using my fingers to experience the full sensuality of it. Then I mixed and kneaded, pulling, stretching, and pounding the dough until it was silky and shined like a wet puddle. With love and care, in it went to a warmed bowl, slicked with pungent grassy olive oil; I watched, and waited, and made myself a cup of steaming coffee, as my beautiful dough sat in the sun on my windowsill alive, and growing. I know if my brood of yeast has been well cared for, because it dances with happiness inside the mix of flour, eggs, butter and milk, and turns it into a mound of stringy, sponge-like dough. With all the sorrow in the world I knocked my dough back down with my fists and separated it, placing each piece into its’ new bed of fluted little brioche pan. After a second rising (rather like Christ I think) it cooked, until the sweet bready odour permeated the entire house, wafted up my nostrils, and sent me a-running for the oven.

Now they done, but it is not over, because now it is time to share my little jewels with friends and loved ones and let them taste the passion that one brioche bun can contain. I am a food missionary and my aim is to convert them, and you, to the joys of cooking. Try it and see for yourself.

Recipe for Brioche:

¼ cup warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
4 cups high grade flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, warmed

2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
150g butter, softened
1 egg, beaten lightly with a pinch of salt to glaze

Place warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle with yeast and sugar. Sit bowl in a dish of hot (not boiling) water to retain the heat in the yeast mixture. Leave to activate for 5 minutes or more, until the mixture appears foamy and thick.

Combine flour, and salt in a large bowl. Add activated yeast mixture, milk, eggs, egg yolks, and softened butter, and mix. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and glossy.

Place dough in a pre-warmed, lightly oiled bowl and cover with glad wrap. Sit in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume. This should take about an hour. Knead again lightly.

Shape dough into 12 portions and place in oiled brioche moulds, (if making one large loaf, place all dough in oiled loaf tin). Poke spoonfuls of jam or a small piece of chocolate in the centre of each bun if desired. Set aside to rise again for 20 minutes more.

Preheat oven to 190°C. Glaze brioche with beaten egg and salt mixture and bake for 15-20 minutes (about 25 minutes if making a loaf), or until golden and firm.

Ode to my New LIfe

I love this freelance writing business; I’m getting into the creative lifestyle full swing. I revel in scoffing huge bowls of pasta, drinking copious amounts of wine and not feel guilty, and smoking cigarettes even though don’t normally smoke. The only bit I can’t stand is the smelly smokers’ finger, so have taken to wearing my left leather motorcycle glove while smoking – further adding to the theatre. One of the greatest effects of my new lifestyle is that I have lost my voice due to the cigarettes, giving my speech a sexy husky rock star quality. I think I owe my great Saturday night to the response the voice had on my male counterpart.

Freelancing now means that I am unemployed in the traditional sense, allowing me to wake late, be spontaneous, wear strange clothes around the house, dance with the dog to loud music, and write through the night. Working from home, I can be as lonely as I like, donning smears of black makeup and crooning to angst filled tunes, or as extrovert and social as possible, visiting friends unannounced and partying till the early hours.

One of the problems with being creative is that an epiphany will strike at the most inopportune moments, like on the way to the gym (a remnant habit of my old life) an idea struck me waiting at the lights. I had neither pen nor paper on me, so had to U-turn immediately and tear back home. Let’s just say I haven’t got back yet. So I will now be slowly putrefying at my desk, losing muscle mass. I guess that goes part and parcel with the lifestyle. And my lungs may not hold out. Not that I have aspirations to be a singer, but any day now my sexy purr of a voice is going to develop into an entirely un-sexy phlegm-producing chest infection. I’m not looking forward to it.

Thus after the novelty of my new lifestyle wears off (give it a month), I think I’ll slink in part back to my old ways of healthy eating and regular exercise. As for the dancing with the dog – not a chance – I like my new life too much.