Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

The Gertrude Street Projection Festival finished on Sunday after running for a week, lighting up buildings and spaces all along the street. Some were big rolling spreads on the highrises, some were in shop windows, some were inside exhibits within a gallery, and some were projected on the footpath or road - all unique and captivating.

I met Charles for a drink and then we made our way up the street, taking in the art in the form of light, and popping into a couple of places for drinks along the way.

At first we were underwhelmed with what we saw, but as it grew darker, and the crowds gathered in the street to take it all in, it became clear that there was something whimsical and magical about this little community festival of light.

A hub of activity and art, the street has just enough bars at the right intervals to brace against the Wintery winds of this time of year. Another gem event of Melbourne!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Little Black Number: Open House Melbourne

Around 10 buildings were accessible only through a balloted ticket this year for Open House Melbourne, and I was lucky enough to be drawn out to see the Little Black Number. My allotted time was Sunday morning, and I arrived just before 10am, to a completely nondescript exterior along Leveson Street.

This home is the dream of interior designer Amanda Lynn, and was once an unofficial Libyan embassy, complete with a massive signed poster of Gaddafi hanging on the wall – imagine if that artifact was still floating about!

The block was an old mechanic’s warehouse and then a Union headquarters, her and her husband had their piece of it gutted, and then worked with their architect to produce an amazing living space of less than 5 meters wide, and 16 meters deep. The use of Ms Lynn’s preferred colour, black, was her main requirement, and as she invited the balloted guests in to sit in her living room and listen as she described the features and design thoughts, she explained how black manages to blur the edges of this space, giving the impression that it is bigger than it actually is.

Use of reflection, through mirrors, shiny kitchen panels and windows and the sky lighting from the unique centrepiece of the building, create the impression of ongoing space. Her use of art to “pop” along the walls is very effective, and the commissioned mural in the centre by a local artist, pulls in the couple’s African background in a subtle and useful way, draws your attention upward and creates the illusion of more space than there is.

From the living room, we were invited to peek into Ms Lynn’s office, which doubles as a library and the home of her book collection. The secluded downstairs bathroom is cleverly done with windows at the top of walls, and an unobvious door. Upstairs showed the hidden laundry features, as well as showcasing the use of space, and light from the window out to the courtyard. There is even a second bathroom up here, with a well thought out door handle texture and shape for those cold Melbourne mornings.

The idea of functionality of space rather than being locked into defining a room by it’s function – such as the need for a second bedroom or guest room – was another design feature shared and explained. Considering the frequency of use, the second office for Amanda’s husband doubles as a spare room when needed – and then bed is folded away completely out of sight and thought when not used, allowing for a beautiful black-featured man-den. Using walls for a purpose, such as the bookcase all the way around the window in the office-come-library, and all along the staircase, plus the seating built in within the bookcase in the library and in the living area, in addition to the clever use of storage options throughout the home, fits so much into these small dimensions.

Ms Lynn also shared the sense of community stemming from the house, with the use of the laneway, and the description of the neighbourhood feel. The use of light with the transparent roller door at the back, bringing the laneway behind into the visual field from inside the house, also makes the space seem so much bigger than it is.

Being taken in, and shown around in such a casual and intimate way, and having the design thoughts and trick shared within the tour, was such a special visit. I was wowed by the space and the function of Ms Lynn’s black interior, which she explained she had always wanted to try as a designer but could never foist onto a client. Such a gorgeous home, with an ingenious multipurpose use of the space , and a warm lived feel, this ballot ticket was such a treat!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Project 52: Wednesday Lunchtime

In the attempt to stem the flow of cash from my wallet on a daily workday basis, I have resorted to my old cheese toastie lunch at work, to save for my next big trip. A tried and true method of reducing my spending, and it allows me to justify my habit of eating out many nights a week!

This post is part of Project 52 with Jess from FuShMuSh.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

171 Collins Street: Open House Melbourne

My pick of the buildings open for Open House Melbourne after exploring on Day 1 is 171 Collins Street - which is also one of Melbourne's newest buildings!

Finished after 5 years of planning and open in May of this year, the building features the facade of the heritage Mayfair Building out on Collins Street, and then ranges back through to Flinders Lane with an impressive modern space of light, glass and views of the city!

The tour was led by Bates Smart architect and OHM President, Tim Leslie, which added such a personal element to make the features come to life. Such passion for his design!

Walking through the doors from the street into the gorgeous atrium, you are hit with a sense of vast light and space - which is created by the 9 storey glass elements, which are actually hiding the next door building and one side of a carpark on the other side, plus the goings on in office floors above.

This modern space will soon be filled with the activity of the offices on the floors above, as occupants fill the Tower Building.

Our tour continued up one of the elevators to a couple of the 20 stories of office space not yet occupied. The afforded a view of the atrium from above, which was equally impressive.

But the views of the city was the killer for me - amazing! Spying the sporting precinct of Melbourne, including the MCG, AAMI Park and the Tennis Centre to the left, and then the Arts precinct with the Arts Centre spire, Yarra River, Flinders Street Station and St Paul's Cathedral spires to the right when facing South, both levels visited gave breath-taking vistas.

Because of the light glass nature of the exterior of the Tower, this building was permitted as a new backdrop to the Cathedral spires.

Such a treat to get this special peek into such a new and stylised building! Get out there tomorrow, to be a tourist in your own city, Melbourne!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Laurnie Footy Weekends

For two weeks this month I have travelled across Bass Straight to Launceston to attend the footy - Hawthorn plays four games per year down there, and it's always such a fun weekend!

The first of the two was against the Brisbane Lions, and I went with the family, and also had Carl and a group of his mates come down.

A huge weekend to include checking out many of the pubs of Laurnie like the Boag's Brewery Centre for Beer Lovers, Dickens Cider, and Sporties.  For that weekend the weather was initially wintry at the start of the match as we took our seats at Aurora Stadium, but improved as the Hawks kicked on to a comfortable win.

The second weekend was last weekend, and I joined Jenny, Amy and Shane in a little cottage in town for the two nights. More wine and drinks out, a winery tour on the Sunday for me, and dinner with the 4 of us plus Cass and Flash down on the waterfront after the match. So much fun!

This game was against the Western Bulldogs, and more rainy on and off. The Hawks got over the line by 20 points, just doing enough for the win on the day.

The Friday night of this weekend we walked into the CBD to find somewhere for a late dinner, and spotted our Captain sitting in the window of the bar downstairs at the players' hotel. Revved up for a big weekend, we decided to pop in there for a drink and managed to get a photo with Hodgey as he was meeting people down there at the time. This started a bit of a run of fun encounters for the weekend.

The first weekend we were present for Isacc Smith's 50th game, one of my favourite players in our current team.  The next weekend was Shane Savage's 50th, and the debut of son of a gun, Will Langford.

We spotted Will's dad at halftime at the back of our stand as we were gettng drinks, and Jenny and I grabbed the chance of a pic with him - back to our old days of these kind of player moments!

Jen told him how stoked we are to be calling out Langers during a match again, and he said he agreed! So cool to have been there for the debut, and to see big Langers, champion and proud father too!

Go Hawks! On track for finals again this year, very exciting!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Little Astronauts Around Melbourne

In my wanderings around Melbourne city I have spotted quite a few of these little guys, paste-ups, all doing slightly different things, all in random places.

These ones, specifically, were spotted in little back laneways off Little Bourke Street.

They are so cute! And placed for the keen observer - they are understated, and close to the ground - blink and rush past, and you have missed him.

I am not sure who the artist is, there is no sign off or indication, and a search to find any reference online has found nothing. Has caught my eye, though!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Drinking For Good: Shebeen

Tucked along Manchester Lane in Melbourne's CBD is Shebeen - where you can meet and have a drink, and help change the world while doing so.

Whilst I was waiting for Carly to join me, I ordered a beer from Namibia - of which the profits go towards mothers2mothers, which delivers programs to support African mothers with HIV to prevent the transmission of the virus to their baby - through mentoring and information and support.

Never before has ordering a second beer felt so good!

Once Carly joined me, and ordered a cocktail, we studied the snacking menu and ordered some dishes to share. Banh Mi is the feature of the menu, and we ordered the Moroccan Meatballs with Pine Nuts - delicious!

To add, we had the Pork Belly Banh Mi Sliders, which were also the perfect handful of taste delight.

The listing of Thai Chili Lime Sorbet was impossible to resist, and seriously some of the best ice cream I have ever had - the chili left a tingle on your lips....yum!

The bar has a cute interior with quaint decor, although the seating outside in the sheltered laneway is surely the pick of the spot.

The bar is well stocked, but the beer range from places like Laos, Sri Lanka, Mexico, India and Vietnam, as well as my African selection, in addition to a South African cider, is the talking point. The profit from each beverage contributes to a not-for-profit organisation from it's originating country, linked to programs such as vocational training, literacy programs, and agricultural technological support to farmers.

Pages in the menu also describe how Shebeen has selected the programs to feed their profits to, and their aim of finding sustainable organisations making a real, measurable difference, and who are working on scaling up their operations. Impressive research, behind this impressive social enterprise.

Certainly a new bar that has impressed me, I will no doubt be back time and again.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The First Experience of the Taj Mahal

The plan when getting to Agra is of course to see one of the greatest sights of the world, the Taj Mahal. The anticipation built as we got closer to our first scheduled visit, and with the quick first glimpse of the iconic white marble dome from the rooftop of our hotel.

But we waited until the second full day, allowing this part of our 5 week India trip to be laidback and a time for rest and recuperation. This also meant that the anticipation of visiting the world's most famous monument to love grew even bigger, and more exciting.

The Taj was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a monument and tomb for his third wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their fourteenth child. This pure white marble monument holds her body, and his, and stands as a mark of his love and grief, and built so that all would remember her.

We entered the site as a group near lunchtime, from the west gate, taking in the grand pink gate, walking through, and then having our respective breaths taken away by that unforgettable sight.

So, so beautiful. Set in ornamental gardens, with symmetrical features and water fountains.

Standing at the entrance and taking it in was a must, and almost involuntary. Soaking it in, in bold sunshine, was magical.

As a group we spent a couple of hours walking the visitors circuit of the visit, which follows on from that first full visual, to walking the length of the water fountains to the foot of the temple. Placing shoe covers on, you then walk the steps to reach the platform where you can enter the tomb. Ushered through the interior with enough time to take in the exquisite detail, you file back out into the sunshine and walk the semi-circle behind the temple, looking at the operational mosque and the matching replica on the other side, all while still taking in gazes of this spectacular piece of architecture.

A visit where it's impossible not to be in complete awe, during and after, the Taj is one of those places you have always want to go to, and you really should figure out how to get there! It does not disappoint!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Project 52: Wednesday Morning

This Wednesday morning I was waiting for the tram to work, from my housesitting location in North Melbourne. Chilly Winter morning, with sunshine to burn off the early fog, and wake you up to start the day - I love Melbourne!

This post is part of Project 52 with Jess from FuShMuSh.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Croft Alley Ever-changing Art Gallery

The turns of Croft Alley, off Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, right in the heart of Chinatown, is a treasure trove of street art. It changes so regularly that it is always worth a wander down past all the bins from the restaurants and towards the Croft Institute, just to see what's new.

The octopus radio at the top of this post was once where the green and silver Beauty was late last year and into some of this year. When I took these shots, there were artists at work on a section of backwall, creating a new piece for us all to find.

But whilst there is a constant change among this canvas, there is also a code of respect within the artists. Many of these pieces here have been up, and left to be admired now, for some months.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Project 52: Tuesday Evening

This Tuesday evening I attended a briefing to join the Social Media Team for Open House Melbourne this year, and then I made my way across the CBD to BangPop to await dinner with Carly and Camille, who were seeing a movie premier. I got to reminisce about South East Asia over a Beer Lao before they joined me.

This post is part of Project 52 with Jess from FuShMuSh.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Birthplace Of The Ashes

I did a double take when I drove past this sign a couple of weeks ago, when out and about for work. The country town of Sunbury - or outer Melbourne suburb to some - claims that it is the birthplace of the Ashes. How did I not know this before?

I stopped to do some online research, to find out about the story, and the link between Sunbury and the greatest cricket rivalry there is – which started again for another round just last night!

Sunbury is where the beautiful Rupertswood Mansion is, and this lays claim to the place where the "Ashes" were first handed over to England Captain Ivo Bligh in the Summer tour of Australia in 1882-83, in an urn.

This of course follows on from the famed death notice for English Cricket appearing in The Sporting Times following the Australian win in England (of just one test) in 1882. The notice claimed that English Cricket had died as a result of the low scoring defeat at The Oval – which was actually the ninth ever Test between the two nations – and was ‘deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances’. The notice also advised that the body would be cremated and that the ashes would be taken to Australia.

Before the very next tour of Australia by England in the Summer of 1882-83, Bligh had gallantly claimed that he would bring home the ashes, and his English team were a source of great sporting hope for England! The record outlines that there were four Tests played over this Summer, and a host of tour matches, but after three it was claimed that England had indeed won The Ashes back.

Sir William Clarke, owner of Rupertswood, and the President of the Melbourne Cricket Club at the time, hosted the English cricketers over Christmas of this tour, and it was here that The Ashes was presented. Sir Clarke’s wife Lady Janet, and English Captain Bligh’s future wife at the time, Florence Morphy, presented what is thought to be an old perfume bottle to Bligh, as a bit of a joke the story reads, after a match between the English team and the staff and guests of the grand house, on the grounds of Rupertswood.

This famed little urn has physically returned to Australia twice since Bligh took it back to England at the end of this tour, and where it was finally presented to the Maryleborne Cricket Club by Florence upon his death - one of these times for a full lap just as many of us did in 2006, for The Smashes!

I drove on from the Birthplace sign on the way in to Sunbury to check out Rupertswood, which is a beautifully restored building, now on the grounds of a private school, used as a hotel and a host for functions. I parked in the school carpark, and went for a wander to the front of the building, and for a peek inside. Such a big part of the history of the sporting battle between England and Australia.

Now, onward with the new battle for Australia to win them back, again, after that unspeakable Boxing Day Test in 2011. Go Aussies!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Tiny Dancer Of Hosier Lane

She's tucked away in a little doorway alcove, just in Hosier Lane. Minding her own business, moving to her own tune. She's so cute!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

A Little Bit Of Cuba Has Come To Fitzroy!

Cuba is still one of my favourite travel places over the years, and so hearing that a new bar with a Cuban theme was opening in Melbourne was met with gleeful excitement! Los Barbudos opened last week along Smith Street, and is sure to become a favourite haunt of mine on that side of town.

Los Barbudos means the 'bearded ones', as an ode to the baseball team with many beards put together by Castro just after he and his guerrilla army took power. Photos of Cuban men with impressive beards, in baseball uniform, adorn one of the walls of the long rectangular bar.

The theme brings Mojitos, Cuba Libres and frozen Daiquiris to the bar, as well as a fully stocked spirits shelf. These tastes of the Caribbean island with revolutionary history and spark took me right back to some fun rum filled memories.

The food was a standout, and will soon be available from a permanent food truck out in the back room, which adjoins next door's Mr Wow's Emporium.

Empanadas, filled with braised lamb and drizzled with goat's cheese creama, were delicious morsels. The Caribbean Spiced Chicken Wings were a sensation, and the Cuban rice was the perfect regional compliment. With smoked black beans and fried plantain, the Tostones con Frijoles had a spicy punch - all far from the rather bland food we actually experienced in Cuba!

As the room filled with a crowd, there was a three piece band that added to the Cuban swing feel - and transported me back to Havana for a little bit!

*I attended the Media Opening of Los Barbudos as a plus one, but the gushing recollections and trip down Cuban memory lane are all mine!

Monday, July 08, 2013

Fatehpur Sikri - India's Ghost Palace

From Hyderabad we made our way to Agra for the week off between Tests. Our first stop at the jewel of tourist India was the capital of the Mughal empire from 1571 and 1585, where Akbar built the palace buildings and the still-in-use mosque. The story goes that the empire lived out here, 40km out of Agra, for this short amount of time due to a water shortage. It was therefore abandoned after Akbar's death, earning it's Ghost name.

The palace buildings are red sandstone, and are stunning! There are so many details to each of the buildings, but none moreso than the three palaces Akbar built for this three favourite wives - one Hindu, one Muslim, and one Christian. The biggest of the three is the Hindu one, as she delivered the Emperor a long awaited heir.

I found this story a little hard to fathom when there was not one cross to be seen in the supposed Christian wife's palace. Also, our guide insisted that the water shortage story was not true, and explained in depth the water supplies to the grounds. We found a lot of differentiated stories for many of the big touristy sites across India!

A site where the Emperor held elaborate court in the city's prime, it features the Hall of Audience (above), gates along the five mile long fort walls, and the courtyard has a giant ludo-like game board, when Akbar was said to play using girls from his harem as the pieces!

The other half of this ancient city is the active Jama Masjid, where the boys needed to donn sarongs to cover their legs, and we needed to discard our shoes before walking through the Victory Gate into the vast open courtyard and the stone, hot floor.

So grand, and so beautiful, this peaceful space commanded reverence.

A local girl started following a few of us around at one point, and pointed out many of the details of the mosque grounds, including the effects of the archways along west section of the complex, and the architectural intricacies marking the Hindu, Muslim and Christian links to the empire.

The masterpiece of this complex is the white marble tomb of Shaikh Salim Chishti - inside which woman come to tie a thread in the hopes of having a child. I didn't enter the inner room, mainly because of the crowd and that it seemed like prayer was going on, but I hear it was stunning inside.

We spent half a day out here, taking in what we could, but the complex has so many intricacies you could easily spend so much longer. The active mosque and the tombs within that complex, is busy but worth it. The palaces were vasts and pretty empty, which meant you could take your time and take more in. So much history, and mystery, about the Ghost Palace....and so beautiful!

Friday, July 05, 2013

Clexane For Travel, Post-DVT

The worry about flying long haul flights, and making sure you are doing all you can to avoid a fatal blood clot is something that is as important as checking you have enough pages in your passport. Maybe more so!

I have had a blog reader contact me with questions about travel after having a DVT, and so I thought I would share those flight strategies for anyone else who may be in need of the same reassurances, an example of how travel does not need to stop after having a DVT, and how best to manage your fears about getting another one.

Cassie says she Googled “traveling with Clexane” and found my blog. She told me that she had her DVT and PEs 4 years ago, and was finally in the process of planning more travel - “I figure at 30, I can't give up on seeing the world just because I need an injection or two”. Cassie asked me some questions about her upcoming trip, and we swapped diagnosis, ongoing leg symptoms, the variable medical advice we have both received, and travel precaution stories. We also talked about sharing our discussion here, to add to the limited information there is out there about post-DVT travel, and to share the precautions I take when flying.

Cassie has a very similar story to mine in terms of her DVT diagnosis and lack of factors other than travel, with “No underlying predisposition to clotting, just some very long travel days on a bus in Turkey, several lengthy flights, being on the pill and a big dose of bad luck!” Neither of us have been found to carry genetic factors predisposing us of clotting like this. She also had calf pain during her travels, and dismissed it as a cramp. Sounds oh so familiar!

You can read about mine here, in terms of diagnosis, treatment, and getting back on the plane!

Cassie and I have both exchanged how lucky we both consider ourselves to still be alive and well, given the DVTs experienced, and the point of travel for them to our respective lungs. She asked me a series of specific questions, to help her prepare for her trip, to know a little about what to ask for from her doctor, and also how to be ready to inject herself in the belly with a syringe of blood thinning medication!

Having had a DVT cannot be the death of the travel bug, and your travel plans – so here is my post-DVT travel advice:
  • Once you have a prescription for clexane from your doctor, with the dosage based on your weight and risk factors, I suggest following up the filling of the script with your pharmacy a little in advance from your flight date – the first time I got one filled, the smaller country chemist I went to was not sure of their supplies, and thought they may have needed to order some in.
  • Getting to a point of actually giving yourself a needle is the hardest part, for sure. But I figure if that's what I have to do, then so be it! I give myself an injection before a long haul flight, and also after the flight.  My rule of thumb is once per 24 hour period, and then if it's a long haul flight that usually means one before and after to cover the time differences. For a shorter flight, like an 8 hour one, I usually just give myself the one jab before the flight.
  • I wear the compression stockings for flying, and get up and walk the lap of the plane every couple of hours - like at the end of every movie. I have accepted that flights are no longer a place for sleeping for me now, so I just treat any flight as a serious movie marathon!
  • I always ask for an aisle seat, and stretch out when I can. I often let my seat buddies know that I have no issues with them disturbing me during the flight so that they can get out – such an opportunity will ensure I get up and walk around at least to the back of the plane and back again myself.
  • Needle disposal is a challenge, for sure. I don't carry a sharps container with me when I travel, but I have found some sharps disposals in bathrooms around the world (mostly in non-Aussie airports, actually), but not many. I usually just wrap them back in their packaging and throw them out that way. Not the best option, for sure. I sometimes carry them with me until I find somewhere a little more equipped to handle such delicate rubbish.
  • I have never had a security issue carrying needles, which I have been surprised about. The first couple of times I carried a letter from my doctor explaining why I was carrying syringes in my hand luggage, but now I have become pretty lax about that because I have never been questioned!
  • Keeping a couple of needles in my hand luggage, and then a bigger stash in my checked baggage, is my usual strategy for ensuring I have enough supplies for my trip, and some sort of safety net in case I lose one of my bags.
  • In terms of travel insurance, I have been advised that I don't need extra cover (which I got on my first post-DVT trip), because without the presence of blood factors we have as much chance of getting a DVT as the next person. I am not really sure about that, but I agree that we are not really classed as having a pre-existing condition. I would imagine there would be an insurance fight in the event that I had another one though, knowing what the insurance world is like!

My policy about when to inject and when not to, is to err on the side of prevention. I would rather give myself a jab and be over cautious, than wish I had have, and have a trip ruined, wind up in hospital not being able to fly for a month, and  be made to be on warfarin for life, or the worst case scenario, that's for sure! In addition to flights, I have given myself clexane for overnight train travel, and also long bus rides.

Following all of this has still left me feeling anxious about leg pain on a flight, or the days afterwards, on occasions. And this treatment plan is not a guarantee, especially if you seek out anecdotal stories. The need to trust your instincts to get any persistent leg pain checked out is needed, and if your calf is hard, or if you are out of breath, an Emergency Room visit is a must!

I would also recommend compression stockings, or wearing sports skins, to everyone taking a long haul flight. Plus the tips to get up and walk as often as possible, and to keep hydrated, should be everyone’s plan also – better to be safe! Sitting cramped up all those hours is just not good for anyone!

*Please note – this post should by no means replace consulting with your doctor, or following the instructions given for your particular risk factors of a DVT.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Dan Sultan's Back To Basics

With news of Dan Sultan doing a couple of solo, acoustic shows at the Toff In Town to test out his new tunes before recording them, it was useless resisting purchasing tickets! I actually went to both shows, one with Nicole and one with Michelle.

Both nights opened with Walk Through My Dream, before he showcased some of the new tracks he has been working on. Across two 45 minute sets each night, he was chatty, explaining the background to many of the songs, and telling stories from Irish translations to his award of best legs at the Community Cup the previous weekend.

A solo rendition of the current song with Way Of The Eagle, Rattlesnake, was impressive solo. The first set ended with Kimberley Calling, the beautiful and literary tale of travelling to find the final resting point of his grandmother.

Dan's new songs were actually very different to the ones we heard back in November. Then, they were all songs of love, and now they are mostly of pain and heartbreak. About him being a bad boyfriend, he explained on the second night. It seems this forthcoming album has completely changed it's tune!

Ending both nights with the powerful, and long time favourite of most in the room, Old Fitzroy - the second night even found a single female voice in the crowd adding the distinct harmony.

He told us on the second night that he is soon off to Nashville to record this new album, just like another band we know.... Looks like Nashville is the place to be for Melbourne artists looking to make new records right now!
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