Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Very Sad CrystalRox :(

Hi everyone.

It's been some time since my last blog post but I have a very valid excuse. Typing is currently very difficult for me so rather than attempt to retype the whole story, I have posted the 3 Journal entries I made on Deviant Art as an explanation.
This entry contains a gross photo of a post-surgery wound. DON'T READ IT IF YOU DISLIKE SUCH THINGS!

Wednesday October 6th, 2010


I am typing this one handed. Why you ask. Well, I did a very stupid thing today. I couldn’t find my scissors to cut something, so I grabbed a huge knife. You can guess what happened i'm sure.

Knife slipped...finger sliced...blood gushed....

I called my boss for help to take me to hospital emergency room. I could see the bone, that’s how deep I sliced it. Index finger on my left hand, by the way. And the moment I cut it, all the feeling was gone. Totally numb except for the pain but my fingertip had no feeling. Very scary.

My landlord helped me wrap my bleeding finger in a towel and ice. Then my boss drove me to hospital.

A triage nurse bandaged my hand and told me I needed stitches. I then waited an hour. My boss had to leave so I stayed alone

Anyway, after an hour I got seen to. So I thought, hey, a few stitches and I’ll be fine.

The doctor took one look and said it was one of the worst he has seen, and that I need SURGERY.

THAT’S RIGHT. I managed to sever the nerves and need them surgically reconnected. By a plastic surgeon no less. The doctor then told me I may never get the feeling back in my finger, so of course I freaked out and cried my eyes out...
The specialist looked at it and said that with surgery it should be fine, but that doctor scared me

Anyway. I'm scheduled for surgery tomorrow morning at 7am. My friend will be taking me to the hospital.

Me scared...never had surgery before....

In any case, I thought I better journalise these events seeing as I won't be able to use my hand for a while. Which means no jewellery making, no good photography, no writing since typing takes ridiculously pretty much no deviations...

I'll post again after my surgery. Hope for me that the healing goes well and I get my feeling back in my finger!


Thursday October 7th, 2010

Hi all.

Just a quick update. I had my surgery yesterday, everything went ok.
I had to be at admissions by 7am. By 8am I was called in, had to put on a robe and get into a hospital bed. There I stayed while various doctors and nurses came and asked questions and brought me surgery consent forms. Eventually around 10.15am I was wheeled into another room pending my procedure. Final checks were done before they took me to surgery. I was left in a little room just outside the operating theatre doors. By this point I was pretty scared. An Anaesthetist placed an IV into my hand and injected a sedative that made me feel dopey and floaty.
I then remember the doctor injecting something else into my IV. It was a really weird sensation I could actually feel it flowing into my vein and up my arm. I remember thinking 'that’s weird why are they giving me more sedative and when will they tell me they are giving me the anaesthetic?' and then the next thing I knew I was waking up in Recovery.

Its weird waking up from surgery in a strange place with an oxygen mask on your face. Kinda scary.

Anyway the surgery ended up taking an hour; they had to repair nerves, tendon and a few other things. And the surgeon told me I'll never get the full feeling back in the finger.

I should still be able to make jewellery when I can use my hand again, but I’ll need to learn to compensate for my damaged digit. The surgeon also told me it will ache in cold weather for the rest of my life. I can just hear myself now...
'There's cold weather a'comin...ah can feel it in the ol finger!'

Anyway I’m in a cast and a sling for now. I have x-rays and a checkups on Monday - I’ll find out then I suppose how long I’ll be in a cast for. In the meantime I'm going a little crazy nit being able to type quickly and with handling everyday tasks one handed. Thankfully, I have a friend to stay with for a few days and she is helping me.

So anyway that’s what's happening with me. Feeling a lot better now my two day ordeal is over and now concentrating on recovery.

Shalie sure cheered me up too with this beautiful gift ^_^ [link]


Thursday October 14th, 2010

Hi all,

Just a quick update on my recovery status

had a checkup at the hospital this week and was told for the first time the damage I did.

The knife wound was to my left index finger and completely severed two tendons, an artery and most of the nerves, as well as partially severing a third tendon.

I am now in a splint for 6 weeks and not allowed to use any fingers on my left hand until the splint is removed. Once it comes off I will require extensive therapy to regain use of the damaged finger and rest of my hand.

My finger still feels dead and I’m told not to expect full feeling to return.

In the meantime I am going crazy not being able to use my left hand...its really getting me down, especially since I cant do the things I love like jewellery making

*sighhhh* 6 weeks to go....

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vintage Lucite and Fabric Necklace

It all started with a magazine.   
I was browsing through a bead store in Cheltenham when I came across a 3-year-old issue of Australian Beading featuring a fantastic necklace design on the cover.  The design was by an artisan by the name of Angela Clark, made using colourful vintage Lucite beads and vibrant vintage fabric cut-outs, backed onto leather and wire-stitched around the edges. I fell in love with that necklace on the spot and snapped up the magazine, planning to contact Angela and see if she had any kits available.
I was a little nervous, feeling rather audacious to ring up a bead store and ask about a design featured in a years-old magazine. Not even knowing if the number was still current, I dialled and waited hopefully. A few rings in, Angela herself answered the phone. I briefly explained that I had seen her necklace in Australian Beading magazine and I had loved it so much I wanted to learn how to make it. I then asked if she had any of the beads left in her store and whether I could purchase a kit or come in to learn the technique.
To my surprise and delight, Angela instead invited me to come into her store and offered to show me how to make the necklace herself. I was thrilled to be offered such an opportunity, and jumped at the chance. Such an offer was extremely generous especially considering I had said I was willing to purchase a kit, which would no doubt have cost me far more than going in and learning from Angela herself. I soon discovered, though, that Angela is the type of artisan I love – the kind that love what they do so much that their greatest joy is sharing it with others.

After a brief phone call the following week, I arranged to visit Angela’s store, Boutique Beads, to learn how to make that wonderful necklace.
I caught the 112 Tram from Collins St and rode it to St Georges Road in Fitzroy North. I managed to ride the tram two stops too far and had to walk back, using the Google maps feature on my iPhone to guide me. I have a remarkable talent for walking straight past the shop I want when I am trying to find one. I did actually walk past this one and did an embarrassing back step-shuffle before I redirected my feet in through the door.
The moment I stepped into the store, I felt a rush of excitement. Along every wall were bench tops and racks, just dripping with beads. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I could barely even walk in a straight line, as my legs tried to take me in every direction at once. The beads beckoned to me from every side. Long strands of semiprecious beads – amethyst, jade, pink quartz, stone, onyx and many others– sparkled along the left side of the store. Between them lay magnificent hand painted beads with a distinct African flavour. Not far off lay a plethora of lampwork beads in every colour and shape. 
On the far right of the store stood the most exciting racks of all – two tall rotating racks absolutely dripping with Vintage Lucite beads.  
They looked so delicious they were almost edible! The colours were vibrant, magnificent.  It seemed as though someone had burst open a candy piñata and the contents had spilled across those racks. Every brilliant colour and shade hung in looped strands, begging to be touched and taken and made into masterpieces. Even more exciting was the fact that every bead was rare vintage Lucite – difficult to find and wonderful to work with. One basket contained owl beads of several brilliant colours. Nearby lay handmade glass beads the size of large marbles, carefully placed on display. One was of a startling design, resembling a large eyeball staring back at me, rather scarily realistic and of course, incredibly cool.
Down the centre of the store stood a long worktable. Along the table were scattered a myriad of jewellery pieces, coils of wire, beading pliers, beading mats, baskets of beads and damaged items waiting to be remade and repaired. If possible, this table was as exciting to me as the wonderful beads lining the walls. This table was a place where magic took place. A place where the myriad of wonderful beads were woven and threaded, wired and twisted, joined and dangled into even more beautiful pieces of Jewellery.  Works of art to be worn and loved.
Yes, that table thrilled me. Because it was also the place where my coveted necklace was to be born. 
I introduced myself to Angela, who was absolutely lovely from the moment I walked in the door. A customer had entered at the same moment as I, so I took a little basket and started to browse the beads while Angela served. The customer had a beautiful ivory necklace and another lovely antique piece she wanted remade. As she and Angela discussed the pieces, I began sifting through the treasure trove of beads. The semiprecious stones called out to me, and I picked out around 40 including large, clear purple amethyst, faceted onyx, heart shaped rose quartz, small jade beads and various stone beads, streaked and textured in wonderful ways.
As I moved around to the side of the room featuring the vintage Lucite beads, my excitement mounted. These were the beads I could pick out for my necklace, the purpose of my visit to the store in the first place.
My eyes were soon drawn to a tall jar filled with mixed vintage beads. I began to sift through with my fingers, catching hold of the round, solid coloured beads I wanted. The beads in that jar were of every colour, shape and texture you could want. Along with beads for my necklace, I picked out unusual, odd shaped and other pretty beads to purchase.
As Angela’s customer left, I went over to the table. At last, Angela took down the original necklace I had fallen in love with and lay it out on the table for me to look at. I examined it excitedly, looking at how it was made. It was a great moment, seeing that necklace for real, the necklace that had led me on this journey in fervent search of making one for my own.
To my delight, Angela had a bird-shape prepared for me, the same as the one on her original necklace. Already backed onto leather and protected with a layer of painted-on sealant, she handed it to me along with a large flower from the same fabric, prepared the same way. These were to be the feature pieces of my necklace. She then showed me the vintage fabric she had cut the pieces from, and a few brooches she had created in the same way. Examining each piece gave me a good idea of how she had made them. The idea was unusual, original and in my eyes, just gorgeous – I was so excited that she was willing to share it with me so that I could create my own piece the same way!
Once I had finished picking out my beads, I would be able to start making my own necklace! To my delight, Angela told me I could tip the bead jar out on the carpet and sort through it that way.
I then spent a happy hour or so sitting on the floor with a pool of beads in front of me, sorting them into type, colour and shape, and picking out the ones I wanted. By the end, I had a large snaploc bag bursting with vintage Lucite beads, planning to buy what I didn’t use on my necklace, and another bag filled with other weird and wonderful shaped vintage beads for other projects.
At last, finished with my bead-play, I seated myself on a stool and spread out my chosen beads in preparation. Angela handed me a funky little tool called a Japanese screw punch. She explained she had used a basic sharp tool on her first necklace to make the holes around the edges of the fabric shapes. Since then, she had discovered the screw-punch tool which was far easier to use and much neater.
I used the screw-punch to make neat, evenly spaced holes around the edges of my bird shape and my flower shape.
The next step was to ‘stitch’ around the holes with wire. I used a 22 gauge silver coated wire – non-tarnishing. Keeping the wire neat was difficult, and my result was far clumsier than that of Angela’s work, but I was happy regardless with the cool wire-stitch effect I created. Angela showed me how to curl the loose ends of the wire into little swirly loops.
The final – and most fun step, in my opinion – was to string the beads together and attach them to the fabric shapes. To ‘string’ the beads is not really an accurate description as no string was involved in the process. Instead, the beads are joined together by handmade wire links (this time using 20 gauge silver coated wire). These are made by twisting one end of the wire into a loop (a standard beading technique most beaders know) threading the bead onto the wire and twisting the other end of the wire into a second loop. When linking the beads, the second loop is first linked to the closed loop on the previous bead, and twisted closed so that the beads are linked together.
Again, I was a little clumsy with my technique, still being a fairly green beader and in the learning stage with many techniques. However, the process was delightful as I picked over the beads, choosing the prettiest, brightest colours and deciding which order to put them in.
At long last (I spent several hours making the necklace in the end, including adjusting the length several times before I got it right) I completed the final step, twisting the last wire loop closed on the clasp and, with a thrill of delight, fastening the necklace around my neck.
I paraded up and down in front of the mirror, looking at my necklace from every angle, and wanting to jump up and down in delight. It’s the coolest thing I have ever made and I was absolutely thrilled with the result!!!! For the rest of the day, every time I passed a mirror (or a reflective window…hehehe…) I had to smile at my reflection as my beautiful new necklace was reflected back at me. I also spent an inordinate amount of time looking down at the fabric shapes and coloured beads and smiling at how cool they looked from that angle, too. I’m surprised I didn’t walk into a pole with my preoccupation with looking at that necklace from one angle or another.

I was highly amused by part of my conversation with Angela regarding the original necklace design.
She told me that when the photograph was originally published on the magazine cover, a customer had picked up a copy of the magazine in her shop and remarked to her,
 ‘ Who on earth would WEAR something like that? Who would MAKE that?’
The lady was of course rather embarrassed when Angela calmly replied that she, in fact, had made the necklace herself.
I find this interaction a rather funny joke because as Angela and I discussed, her design was in fact a few years ahead of its time.
Nowadays, vintage has become high fashion and girls everywhere are trying to pull off vintage style.
Statement necklaces are in style, the bigger and brighter the better.
And birds. Bird designs, bird motifs, bird displays in shop windows…birds, birds, birds. They are everywhere you look. Birds are IN. I myself happen to adore birds and take great delight in how available they are now that they are so in fashion.
Hilariously enough, this necklace is vintage in every way, what with the vintage fabric and the vintage Lucite beads, it features a bird, and it could only be called a statement piece.
I know girls who would fight over this necklace if they knew it existed.
If this necklace was mass-produced and sold in funky little vintage stores and boutiques, it would literally fly off the shelves. This necklace is now extremely fashionable, which was not something Angela created it to be. We laughed over the fact that she was so ahead of the time with the design.
And I so look forward to the many comments my necklace will draw. I get such a rush out of wearing something nobody else has!

As the day passed, filled with my bead play and with the long process of creating my necklace step by step, I chatted with Angela about her passion for beading, her story behind opening her shop, and various other topics.
I found myself fascinated by Angela’s approach with her store.
For one thing, she ran a hands on store where all customers were invited to handle the beads as they browsed. She is happy for children to touch and play with the beads as well. It creates an inviting atmosphere, in far contrast to the bead stores I have entered where a frowning shop assistant forbids touching the beads or follows you around the store, watching your every move as if afraid you are pocketing the beads.
Even more interesting was Angela’s creative approach. Rather than dealing only in pieces of her own design, her store featured relatively few completed pieces and focused more on loose beads. Her customers choose the beads they like, describe the piece they are after, and before their eyes, Angela creates the piece. She stops after each step, checking that the customer is happy with the result and changing it if not. Step by step, the piece comes to life, created exactly on the customer’s wishes.
I watched, fascinated, as a customer came into the store and picked out some gorgeous, hot pink owl beads. Admitting to not being confident in creating a piece for herself, she pointed to some large bluish beads, explaining she wanted to pair the owls with that colour. Angela produced some loose turquoise beads, and the customer picked out which she liked. Quickly and neatly, Angela linked them with silver wire to the owl beads and carefully hung them on earring wires. The customer put them on, excitedly thanking Angela.
‘This has made my day!’ she told us happily. Angela charged her only $18 for the beads and for making them into earrings for her. The customer left glowing with delight, having also purchased the rest of the pink owl beads and wearing one-of-a-kind earrings she couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.
As Angela explained to me, she deals largely with those who see their dream pieces in her merchandise but lack the skill to put them together. These one of a kind creations she produces for her customers are a large part of her business. She also remakes old pieces to give them new life, and repairs broken pieces brought in to be subjected to her expertise. All of this, combined with selling beads from her treasury to other beaders, makes for a fascinating little store. I must admit to enjoying that little bead store far more than any other I have visited so far. I am thoroughly enjoying the adventure of attending craft fairs, expos, markets and stores in search of beads and handmade jewellery creations. So far, nothing has scored as high in my opinion as Boutique Beads.

I left the store, late in the day, proudly wearing my new necklace, and taking with me a carry bag loaded down with about 40 semiprecious stone beads, two snaploc bags crammed full of vintage Lucite beads, two beading magazines and a hole punching tool. Angela charged me very little for the materials used in making my necklace and for the beads I took home with me. I was over the moon with the price of everything and will most certainly be frequenting the store for my future beading purchases.
For anyone who is interested in visiting Angela’s store for themselves, it is located at 179 St Georges Road, North Fitzroy – you can catch the 112 tram from Collins Street if you are coming from the city. It’s the first stop when the tram turns off Brunswick Street onto St Georges Road. Her prices are excellent. You can leave with treasure in your hands without blowing your weeks pay. Seriously, if any of my readers can visit Boutique Beads, do it. I guarantee you will love what you find there. 
You may be sure it will be henceforth my favourite beading store. Who knows – you might even find me in there one day when you go along yourself.
You’ll certainly be seeing plenty of the beads in my future creations!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just Another Melting Moment...

Recently my Dad and I conducted a delicious little experiment.
While he was on holiday over here, visiting me, we started trying Melting Moments cookies in various cafés across Melbourne. We rated them and wrote down our ratings because I thought it would be fun to post our findings in my blog.
I think the idea started with me. I visited some friends for coffee and a chat, and one of them pulled out packet of Melting Moments from the supermarket. (I wish I had asked her which one because I haven’t been able to find them since) I don’t usually go for biscuits, (unless they are Tim-Tams, thanks to Miss V getting me hooked) but I decided to try one of those melting moments.
It was a fateful moment. A melting, delicious moment. A moment to remember.
I decided to remember it rather quickly by eating two more of those cookies. Hehe…
Anyway, this led to me deciding I wanted a Melting Moment when dad and I stopped for coffee at Pran Central on Chapel Street on his first day here. They had Monte-Carlos, which are similar, but with an extra layer, so we each had one.
I didn’t take a photo at that point because we hadn’t hit on the whole tasting and rating idea at that stage. But they were absolutely delicious. And it started our little taste test experiment.
The next day we stopped at Gloria Jeans – it has become kind of a tradition when Dad comes over to see me that we have Gloria Jeans coffee in the mornings. In any case, we decided on sampling their Melting Moments.
I asked dad how he would rate them out of 10.
Dad said he would say 7/10. I agreed.
And so it began.
In the end, I have photographs of 6 of the cookies we tried. They seem to be called Yo Yo cookies as often as they are called Melting Moments. Trying them all over Melbourne added some real fun, and some real flavour – pardon the pun – to our holiday. Our findings may not be as interesting to you as they are to us, but we had great fun with the experiment and it’s a great little memory of our holiday :D
Oh, if you’re wondering at the title of this entry – there’s an old song with the phrase ‘just another magic moment’ in the chorus. I found myself singing it each time we tried a tasty cookie – only I changed the words to ‘just another melting moment.’ Hence the title. Hee hee!

So, fanfare, drumroll…dun du du daaaaaaah! Below see our findings!

Gloria Jeans:

This cookie actually scored two ratings because we tried it about 3 times over the course of the holiday. The first two times it scored a 7/10. The third time it must have been another batch because they were even better than before, and got a score upgrade to 7.5/10!
Each time, they were deliciously crumbly and definitely melting. They were rich and smooth in my mouth and went very well with a sip of coffee after each mouthful. The biscuit part was a tiny bit too sweet, but the filling was perfect. The overall texture was melting, smooth and delicious. I liked it enough to sneak in there before the gym today and buy one. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone I was eating a cookie before the gym….

Capri Fine Chocolates

I actually took Dad to Capri for their decadent iced chocolate. Seriously, they make the best iced chocolate in the world. I love iced chocolate, but I stopped ordering it at cafés because I was tired of receiving milk and chocolate sauce in a glass and paying $5 - $6 for it. Then came the day when I went to Capri with a friend and she ordered an iced chocolate and had me try it.
One mouthful had me heading back to that café the very next day to get one for myself. And on multiple occasions since then. I actually refuse to buy iced chocolate anywhere else. I even had one at Max Brenner that didn’t even come CLOSE. (They also do a fantastic iced mocha at Capri as well.)
I took dad there for the iced chocolates and since they had Melting Moments, we ordered those too. Rather a rich morning treat-wise, but…well, I know I keep using this word, but…D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!!!
Those melting moments scored a 7/10. I think we couldn’t do them full justice by pairing them with the sweet, rich iced chocolates. They weren’t as melting-crumbly as they should have been, and they were a little overly sweet. (Actually, if we noticed that against the chocolate taste then they may be more than a little overly sweet) but they were quite nice all the same. They didn’t really compare to the Federation Square Café cookies.

Enchanted Maze

We came across the Enchanted Maze after our visit to Heronswood, Dromana and Arthurs Seat. It was on the drive back down from Arthurs Seat. We didn’t actually go into the maze because the lady who ran it wanted $16 a person to go walking through it, which we thought was ridiculous. But she also had a café so we stopped for coffee and melting moments.
She actually had Monte Carlo’s instead but we rated those anyway.
As far as I am concerned they just don’t compare. They weren’t crumbly/melting enough. They were just like biscuits in general. And the red berry layer (or whatever it is) was too sweet. I prefer the lighter taste of filling in Melting Moments. I would only score them a 6.5/10. Dad said 7/10. I decided to list both scores because I wasn’t willing to upgrade mine. Heh.

Acland Street

If you read my blog entry about cakes on Acland street and our discovery of the Worlds Best Cherry Crumble Cake, you would also have seen how the melting moments we tried scored.
In a word – crap.
Crap crappity crap. Seriously.
The cookie was burnt and crumbled in a distasteful, burnt-toasty kind of way. They most certainly did not melt in our mouths. The filling was sickly sweet and for some bizarre reason, tasted like lemon.
This is not to say all the Melting Moments on Acland Street are that bad, but the ones from the shop we tried certainly were. I didn’t take down the shop name because their biscuits were so pathetic they didn’t merit me noticing.
We had one we took home. We threw it out because neither of us wanted to eat it.
Those lousy biscuits scored our all-time lowest score of 5/10.

Artful Dodger

Dad and I discovered Artful Dodger through Miss V. It opened up on the corner near the station a few months ago but I never stopped there for coffee because it was right near Gloria Jeans and I prefer to stick to places when I already know I like the coffee. Anyway, Miss V read about it in the Coffee Magazine and tried the coffee accordingly. At least, she attempted to. She met us at the station when she joined Dad and I to go see the ABBA exhibition in fed square. When we sat down with her with our coffees to wait for the train, she made a spectacle by accidentally knocking her coffee across the bench, herself and my dad. I managed to avoid all but a few drops and laughed my head off because that’s usually MY move. I guess my clumsiness must be contagious!  Anyway, she was pretty annoyed because – as she told us – it was really good coffee. So, dad and I took her recommendation and tried it for ourselves the next day.
May I just say, the coffee at Artful Dodger is EXCELLENT. It well earned its place in the coffee magazine and I highly recommend you try it.
Anyway, they didn’t have Melting Moments the first time we went but when we went back a few days later they did. And of course, we tried them.
Sadly, their melting moments did not score nearly as well as their coffee :(
My big complaint was the biscuit part. It was not melting. It was not crumbling. It was…doughy. Bleh. Taste wise, it was excellent. But that doughy, almost chewy texture lost it a high score. It got only a 6/10.

Federation Square Café

There is a café in the centre of Federation Square. For some reason I have still not stopped to memorise the name despite having been in the square multiple times since trying these cookies. Anyway, it’s fairly obvious. It’s the one in the centre of the square. Heh. Anyway, that café scored the highest Melting Moment score of them all!
The cookie was absolutely, positively, wonderfully delicious. They literally melted in my mouth. They were buttery, smooth and rich. The filling balanced perfectly with the biscuit and was not overpoweringly sweet. It was a small cookie, but it was so delicious it didn’t matter. Sure, I could have eaten 5 of the little beauties. But just one was still a delightfully delicious experience.
Those awesome little cookies scored an 8.5/10. (That was my score. Dad said 8/10.) No other cookie has scored so high with us yet! They…were…wonderful…
I want another one….

Well, that’s the end of our Melting Moments ratings.
But I think the experiment wont end here. Whether I will continue photographing and rating, I don’t know. But I find myself hooked on Melting Moments and I believe I will not be able to resist the chance to try them when I can, in other cafés…where untasted, unrated melting moments are waiting for me…

Waiting for me to enjoy just another melting moment….

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Delectable, Delicious and Delightful… As Compared to the Absolutely Frightful!

Acland Street, St Kilda in Melbourne, Victoria is famous for it’s cakes. Alongside the myriad café’s and expensive boutiques you will find the tantalising array of spectacular cakes and pastries arranged in the windows of various gourmet cake shops like the crown jewels of the bakery world. The biggest hurdle is choosing which cake shop to try. The second biggest is deciding on which cake. Or cakes.

The best-disciplined dieter would be reduced to tears by the selection. Against their will, they will find themselves slowing, slowing, and stopping as they try and fail to walk past the windows with averted eyes. Their feet will turn them back, through the doors of the shop.
Before they know it, they will be seated at a table with an empty plate, licking their fingers and trying to pick up the last of the crumbs.
With the special occasion of my father visiting me from interstate, where my family lives (I abandoned my home state for the wonderful life in Melbourne) I have thrown caution to the wind as far as healthy eating is concerned and dived into a wonderful week of eating out, treats, cakes and fantastic Melbourne coffee on a daily basis. I have not enjoyed food so much since I started my new ‘healthy’ plan (and successfully dropped 15 kilos and several sizes, thank you very much) and nor am I likely to enjoy such indulgence for some time once my dad goes home. I’m sure I will pay dearly for my indulgence in torturous gym sessions and normal, un-palate-stimulating food. But while his visit continues, we have taken tremendous delight in sampling the delightful food Melbourne has to offer. For fun, we have made a little tradition of trying Melting Moments cookies from about 9 different cafes as we travel around Melbourne and surrounds. We have rated each cookie and there will soon be a blog entry on our findings. This in itself has been a delicious and rewarding experiment.
But, back to Acland Street and it’s wonderful cake shops – an experience which has merited a blog entry of it’s own.
Joined by my best friend, Miss V, Dad and I headed for Acland St for coffee and cake and to check out the Sunday Arts Market that meanders along the beachfront area nearby. After scoping out a few cake shops, we decided to try Monarch Cakes.
May I take this moment to say that there is something to be said for trying things twice, because my initial selection did nothing to recommend me to this particular place. I ordered a Vanilla Slice – a choice that in retrospect was rather stupid considering I had the opportunity to try a range of spectacular cakes and instead chose one of the most basic and mainstream cakes possible, available in just about any bakery anywhere. I happen to love Vanilla Slice, but I judge myself in this instance for deciding to be safe and boring when I could have treated my palate to something amazing.
In any case, Miss V and Dad ordered a cake labelled as ‘Our Famous Plum Cake’. The title itself suggested a culinary experience to be remembered.
Sipping coffee, which, by the way, was very good considering that I expected the shop to excel in their cakes but be rather average in their beverages – I took my first spoonful of my Vanilla Slice.
The custard both looked and tasted gelatinous and lumpy. The taste was that of reduced fat, reduced sugar custard – you know the tasteless crap you get in the long-life milk section of thee supermarket? Yep. Crap. I didn’t even finish it. Each spoonful tasted of disappointment and…well, not much else. It was, I am sad to say, the very worst Vanilla Slice I have ever tried. It did shame to the Acland Street name.
Meanwhile, however, Miss V and Dad were mmmming and aaaaahing over their Famous Plum Cake. With every bite, they extolled the wonderful taste experience they were having as I waded through my selection. I don’t think either of them took a bite without saying just how delicious it was each time or indicating it with a hearty ‘mmmmmmm!’
However, I decided not to pass judgement on the cake shop based on their Vanilla Slice, and decided to share another slice of the Famous Plum Cake with Dad.

The first forkful made up in abundance for that awful slice.
The cake was light, soft with only slight, perfectly balanced sweetness. The plum was phenomenal, without a hint of tartness and yet again with that balanced, gentle sweetness. It tasted like plum. This may sound like a stupid statement considering it was a Plum Cake but I can tell you I have ordered many a cake claiming to contain some fruit or another which has not tasted in the least like it. Rather, I am often served some artificial filling, which contains perhaps 5% actual fruit.
Not so with this Plum Cake. Every bit was real plum, perfectly prepared and complimented in every way by the soft, light cake.
I found out on leaving the shop that they in fact are well known for using all-natural ingredients and not using anything artificial in the preparation of their cakes. This ma account for why their custard was lousy but the plum cake was something worth travelling to Acland Street just to try. Fantastic. Delicious, and well deserving of it’s title of Famous Plum Cake. If I tasted as good as that cake, I would be famous too.

And yet, this cake was not the most delicious treat of the day.

We continued down Acland Street and made our way up to the Markets, where we spent a lovely hour or so browsing. Miss V left us at this point and Dad and I meandered along the stalls, stopping to look at some of the lovely local handmade products and to buy some handmade gold wire rings.
As we headed back along Acland Street toward the car, I suggested that we try an Acland Street Melting Moment cookie and add it to our list. We soon spotted one cake shop with Melting Moments in the window and I stepped in to buy a few.
We sat down and each bit into a cookie, expecting to have our tastebuds tickled by the best Melting Moments in Melbourne…
And our tastebuds cried out in protest as the WORST Melting Moments in Melbourne assaulted them!
The cookie was overly sweet with a texture that was far from melting in your mouth. The filling was, for some reason, lemon flavoured and sickly sweet. The cookie part was burnt and crumbled in a distasteful rather than enjoyable manner.
So far the Melting Moments we have tried have scored mostly 7/10, with one scoring an 8 and one particularly poor one scoring a 6.
This Acland Street Melting Moment barely made a 5.
So utterly disappointing! In a street known for it’s cakes, I was crushed that we found a Melting Moment that rather than topping our biscuit-sampling adventure, came in rock bottom.

On our way back to the car, disappointed by our Melting Moment letdown, we passed Monarch Cakes again. In the window, their Cherry Crumble grabbed my gaze and called out to me, willing me to eat it. I remarked to Dad how delicious it looked and he suggested sharing a piece. I did not need convincing.
We sat down outside and I dug my fork into the slice.
That slice…
Never, in my entire life, have I put into my mouth a cake that tasted anywhere near as good as that Cherry Crumble.
Oh, the taste…oh, the joy…
The cherry was…unbelievable. Indescribable. It tasted…so wonderfully cherry!!! The slice filling was pure cherries, perfectly balanced between sweetness and tartness. The taste was something I cannot even do justice to with words. I wanted to cry with sheer joy. I wanted to marry that slice. I wanted to run down Acland Street holding it aloft and screaming that I had found the true definition of delicious. I even went back into the store before leaving to announce very loudly to all and sundry that it was the best cake I had ever tasted in my life. At least, I directed my comment at the staff but made sure it was loud enough to reach everyone in the store. If you know me, you will know that this is not difficult for me to do.
Seriously, though, if anyone who reads this lives anywhere near Acland Street, or if it is within your power to go there, you must absolutely try this Cherry Crumble.

That wonderful Cherry Crumble has placed Monarch Cakes firmly into my list of places I take friends and family from interstate. Since I moved here, I have made a point of choosing the very best places for coffee, cake, treats and eating out. So far, Glenhuntly Road in Elsternwick has provided the most destinations for culinary delights. I firmly maintain that the best Coffee in Melbourne is from Loco, closely followed by Artful Dodger. The best Iced Chocolate (and Iced Mocha, for that matter) in Melbourne – or in Australia, as far as I am concerned, is from Capri Fine Chocolates. Seriously. I have had Iced Chocolate from Max Brenner that didn’t even come close. The best Indian food in Melbourne is Rich Curry Indian Cuisine (the Butter Chicken is an unparalleled taste experience, and the Lamb Saag is my all-time favourite dish.) All of these places – Loco, Artful Dodger, Capri and Rich Curry sit on the wonderful stretch of tarmac that is Glenhuntly Road. A horrible road to drive down with the trams, heavy traffic, idiots that try to reverse parallel park and fail repeatedly and even bigger idiots who try to do U turns or cycle alongside parked cars and moving trams – all of these things pale into insignificance against the wonderful cafes and restaurants that cause a large portion of the traffic to be there in the first place.
Back to the Cherry Crumble and Monarch cakes – (I must apologise for my frequent and detailed deviation from the topic, and warn all of my readers that I do this on a regular basis…where was I?...Oh, yes, Monarch Cakes and their Cherry Crumble)…ahem– this has been added to my list and provides an unusual deviation from the Glenhuntly Road cafés and eateries I frequent. Guests from interstate will henceforth be whipped down to Acland Street and parked at a table in Monarch Cakes. All protests that they want to try something else from the window will be overridden as I order the Cherry Crumble on their behalf. And I shall triumph in their expression of joy and wonder as they take that first delicious, delectable and delightful mouthful…and join me in the chorus of MMMMMMMMMMMM’s.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Who Says Fashion Has to be Expensive?

Who says you can’t dress well on a budget?

I had a very successful shopping trip yesterday. I partly want to write this entry to boast about the bargains I found. I also want to express what it got me thinking about shopping and buying clothes...

Fashionista’s will probably scream ‘blasphemy!’ when I say it, but I think it is ridiculous to spend big money on designer label clothes.
Already, the fashion nazi’s want to shoot me, I’m sure.
Don’t get me wrong, I love fashion. I love reading fashion magazines. I love looking at the clothes and the outfits. If someone gave me a designer piece I would wear it and flaunt it and love it because, lets face it, I’m a woman, I love fashion and owning a designer piece would make me feel pretty snazzy. But I would never spend the money to buy it myself because frankly, I think it’s a complete waste.
The quality of designer brands may be a bit better than regular off the rack clothes. But the superior quality does not in any way merit the ridiculous mark up that comes with the label. People, it is cloth stitched together with thread, just like any other piece of clothing. Who cares if a famous person designed it?
If you spill sauce on a Chanel top it’s still just as ruined as if you spilled sauce on a Dotti top. I’m sure I’d rather only to have suffered the loss of the Dotti top than the Chanel top (That I probably would have still been paying off. )
A watch from a regular jewellery store will tell the time just as well as that fancy name brand watch you were looking at.
A silver necklace will look just as nice as that Tiffany’s piece and it won’t cost you thousands of dollars.
That $3000 leather bag you saw in the fashion magazine? It’s just a bag. It doesn’t last any longer than a regular bag. Trust me, I have rich friends who spent big bucks on designer bags that didn’t last any longer than one of my bags. And to be honest, when I look at pictures of some of those bags, they don’t even appeal to me. THEY ARE JUST BAGS. They look the same as the ones hanging in Bags Only. Honestly, you might feel special carrying around that $3000 bag but most people aren’t giving it a second glance. It looks like any other bag. Yes, other fashionista’s will stop you on the street and lust after it, but the majority of the populace wont even notice.
I think that even if I did have a fancy high paying job and called myself rich, I still wouldn’t be able to justify spending that much money on designer clothes. The fashion magazines tell you which pieces to ‘splurge’ on. Sorry, but I don’t want to ‘splurge’ $700 on that dress. I’d rather take a trip, or spend it on multiple items of reasonably priced clothes!
You probably think I don’t dress well, seeing as I take the liberty of scorning a holy grail of fashion – designer brands.
In fact, I get comments on my outfits, clothes, bags and accessories all the time. I often hear the words, ‘Only you could pull that off’, and ‘WHERE DID YOU GET THAT?’
I am not claiming to be a walking fashion plate or that I would be stopped on the street and interviewed about where I bought my clothes, or that I would ever be considered a style icon. I don’t presume to claim any superior knowledge of fashion. I also don’t make a point of constantly updating my clothes to fit in with whatver ‘look’ is in. I have my own ‘look’ and I wear what suits me and what looks good. It is still fashionable to dress well even if you don’t look like a carbon copy of the girls on the cover of this month’s fashion magazine. In fact I prefer to look different. It’s fun.  I wear a lot of big jewellery, statement pieces and sparkly bling. This happens to be in style at the moment. But I will be continuing to wear it when it isn’t the latest look because I like it and I look good in it.
Also, please don’t get me wrong, I love looking at designer clothes and I admire them as much as the next girl. I love looking at the outfits women wear in movies and watching the extras when they talk about dressing the characters. I circle pictures in magazines and write comments so that when my friend reads them, she gets my thoughts on the outfits. I would love to go to fashion shows and watch the high end designer clothes be modelled in real life.
But I still wouldn’t spend my money to buy them. it’s my hard won money and I think it is a waste to spend masses of cash on owning the brand name clothes.
I am an advocate of buying that once-off special piece. But I think it’s unrealistic of the magazines to push constantly buying those over the top items that you wont even be able to wear next season, just so people will think you are in style. When I look at those outfits, I just use the ideas for when I buy cheaper clothes. You can still achieve that killer outfit without having to buy designer clothes.

I went to DFO yesterday with my best friend. We didn’t plan to catch any particular sales but we happened to go at the best possible time as the midyear sales were on. Why the midyear is in August I don’t know, but the sales were spectacular. Portmans had the best sale I have ever seen. I picked up two skirts and a pair of dressy shorts that usually retail for over $90 for $10 each. I also picked up two pairs of jeans that are usually around the same price, also for $10 each. Plus a pair of shorts for the grand total of $5.
At Cotton On, the sales continued. It is winter now but in the store I found 4 pairs of short-shorts in my size. They cost me all of $2 each. In summer, I can never find shorts that suit and when I do they are expensive.  This summer I will have my wardrobe ready ahead of time for a laughably low cost. You couldn’t even buy clothes secondhand for that price!
I also managed to pick up a pair of Billabong (Australian surf brand) shoes for $5, a Speedo swimwear top for $15 and two belts from Dotti for $5 each. With food, petrol and some stationary I bought, I still spent under $100 for the day and left with 6 pairs of shorts, 2 skirts, a swim top, two belts and a pair of shoes, plus some funky stationary from Typo (2 picture frames, 2 pens, a notebook and 5 cards for a total of $7)
You may think that I was just lucky to have caught such good sales and that I usually have to spend a lot more on clothes. In actual fact, this is not an unusual occurrence for me. I am a very smart shopper, a skill I have honed over the years, and I always shop so well at sales that I rarely find myself so in need of something that I have to go out and buy whatever I need at full price.
I shop at Tightrope for t-shirts, leggings and pants. Most of their items are under $10 and for everyday items I am able to buy more and varied clothes that I can mix and match and have fun with.
In the past I have picked up dresses at post-christmas sales that draw a lot of comments and cost me something like $15 each. I have two pairs of Sketchers shoes that cost me about $20 each, down from well over $100 each. This winter’s jeans were picked up at Just Jeans in a two-for-$10 sale at the City DFO. Yep, I have been wearing jeans every day that cost me $5 each. My new bathers for summer cost me $10 at a sale in Bondi when I went to Sydney for a holiday. I buy belts and accessories to jump up my outfits. And as I said, I often get comments on what I wear. My clothes don’t look cheap. I took a friend shopping a few weeks ago, and halfway through the morning she turned to me and said,
“I cant believe it, I thought I wouldn’t buy anything today. I thought you spent a lot of money on your clothes! But you don’t!”
That’s right, I don’t. But nobody can tell and I don’t have to tell them!!
I also buy one-of-a-kind pieces off Etsy and eBay, as well as making my own jewellery, and get more comments on those pieces than anything else. I LOVE wearing something nobody else has.
I work part time and pay rent and car costs, as well as going out with friends, taking weekends away, buying craft and beading supplies and lots of clothes. I am able to do all of this on a budget. If I bought designer brands my wardrobe would have about 3 items in it. Instead, it is full of fun and variety.
So, while I love looking at designer clothes and I will admire them if I recognise that you are wearing a label piece (I seriously wouldn’t know the difference from sight most of the time, even though I read a lot of magazines) I could never justify spending the money myself. I guess I have been brought up to really consider the value of money and how to spend it wisely.
I’m happy with my clothes and I never regret buying them or have to mourn the passing of an extravagantly expensive piece. I never have to look at my credit card bill and feel regret as I watch the piece get old while I am still paying for it.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s the best way to be ^_^

Very First Blog Entry

Hi, i'm CrystalRox. I am a writer and jewellery maker/beader.
I am starting this blog as much for my own benefit as for that of my friends who will be reading this. I wanted to keep a diary or a journal so I decided to try my hand at blogging. I want to talk about the jewellery I create and put up pictures for my friends to see. When I finish learning to knit and crochet I want to share those creations too! I want to talk about shopping and my finds in op-shops. I want to talk about important things that happen in my life. I espeically want my friends back in Western Australia to be able to keep up with what's going on with me! And it's a great way to practice my writing, which is always good! So, i'll be finding the time when I can to write entries for this blog. Hello to everyone who ends up reading it!