Tiny hand cream

28 June 2015

A few months ago, I stumbled across a tin of hand cream at the chemist that was smaller than a lip balm. I bought it out of curiosity and because the packaging was cute, and it turned out to be really good!

While I don't carry make up in my handbag, I always have hand cream and a lip balm on me. My beauty editor sister put me onto this lip balm, which she buys for me when she's in the US and the other day, I posted her a tiny tin of hand cream in return.

After carrying everything from bulky glass jars of fancy hand cream to lighter tubes, this one is extra light to carry, under five bucks and being semi-solid, is leak proof too :)

Weekend links

26 June 2015

How cute is this caravan? It was selling hot soup in town today to raise money for bipolar awareness and was a great reason to leave the office and have lunch in the sun. I hope you have some fun plans for the weekend, I'm going to try Bikram yoga - wish me luck! Here are a few finds from this week:

Interior design that blurs the line between home and office (in a good way).

My favourite granola bar recipe just got an upgrade with choc chips.

How to make a Marimekko cake.

And a photo essay so devastating and yet beautiful that I nearly didn't post it here. Everything else pales in significance.

Sophie's fruit cake

25 June 2015

This might be my favourite cake of the season, a buttery loaf that's generously dotted with dried fruit. To me, it's more comforting than banana bread.

The recipe comes from my friend Sophie, and it's actually the very first cake she gave me. I'd never been given an entire cake before, with the exception of a birthday cake, so it felt pretty special. Tony and I found this same loaf and a small vase of homegrown flowers on our doorstep the other month, after we'd returned home from an overnight trip to Sydney to attend the funeral of a friend.

The original recipe comes from Sophie's grandmother and you can read its story here. Thank you for sharing the recipe Sophie, and for knowing the special comfort a homemade cake can bring :)

Sophie's fruit cake

You'll need:

250 grams self raising flour
150 grams brown sugar
1/2 tbsp mixed spice
75 grams dried figs, chopped
75 grams dried dates, chopped
75 grams dried apricots, chopped 
75 grams sultanas
125 grams butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup of milk

Here's how:

Set your oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease and line a loaf tin. Melt the butter on the stove and set aside to cool. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then add the wet ingredients. I used my KitchenAid and mixed it on high for a few minutes until totally combined but Sophie says you can also do it by hand and mix like you've never mixed before. Pour the mixture into a cake tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

And just a tip:

This recipe is easily doubled, I've actually halved the original recipe and regretted it less than a week later when all our cake was gone. You can also substitute the dried fruits and use things like dried cranberries. It's delicious on its own or you can serve it with a bit of butter and jam for afternoon tea, or ice cream for dessert. Sophie also decorates heres with raw almonds pre-bake.

Find more Sentimental Cake recipes here.

A thought provoking art exhibition

23 June 2015

Last month I stumbled across a captivating exhibition on Facebook that my friend Margaret Woodward was holding in Melbourne. She was offering homemade cakes and cups of tea to anyone who attended but it was her target audience - men who spend their working lives at sea - that had me wanting to find out more.

Margaret’s exhibition, The Sea is All Around Us, was held at Dome Gallery, which is part of the Mission to Seafarers complex. The  mission looks after the welfare of seafarers by providing number of really practical free services to make their short time on land easier, beginning with transportation from the Port of Melbourne - where their ships dock - to the CBD by mini-bus.

For two weeks, Margaret used the gallery to extend a special welcome to international seafarers who called into the mission. Homemade lamingtons and cups of tea were on offer, as well as specially designed souvenirs. There were postcards, bright orange camp cups and exhibition catalogues to choose from and the gifts invited the recipients to take part in a broader project that would map the movement of the souvenirs using a QR code that was stamped on each item.

A few weeks after her show wrapped up, I chatted to Margaret about how the project came about, how it evolved and where the men and their souvenirs are now.

How did you become interested in seafarers and come to build an exhibition around them?

The Mission to Seafarers in Melbourne has an exhibition program and they encourage projects that fit with the theme of seafaring, maritime history or what they call the sea and humanity, which is quite a nice way to put their concerns together. 

This sea and humanity theme triggered an interest in me but it was also visiting the space itself. The exhibition space is a dome, so it's like a James Turrell artwork, you're in this glorious space with light coming in. I was completely entranced by the space and then the mission itself, which is a working mission - looking after people and being concerned for their welfare. All of that made my eyes just pop out because I had this project at the back of my mind that I'd been wanting to work on for awhile, which is about tracking the mobile life of souvenirs.

I thought here's a great opportunity - there's this wonderful space, there's an exhibition program, there's a captive audience if you like of people who are going places - seafarers - and there's also a captive audience who need to be welcomed in a caring way to Melbourne, given that they're here for a very short space of time. 

Do most seafarers that come to Melbourne end up visiting the Mission? And how long are they on land for?

They're often in port for only 24 hours and some of that time they're working. They'll be on the ship at night, so they'll probably be off the ship for maybe six to seven hours. I only know this because I was lucky enough to board a ship. 

Where the seafarers get left is in the Port of Melbourne, which is actually quite a long way from the CBD. It's all secure, there's fences and cameras and there's no way they can find their way to the city after the get off the ship. So that's where the mission gets special access to pick them up and deliver them to the mission in the first instance because there they can do some of those practical things like change money and get a map. It's also got this lovely social atmosphere in there. It's like a time-capsule, like something from The Grand Budapest Hotel, just the characters there. There are amazing characters who volunteer in the mission and then the seafarers themselves.

I’d love to get a sense of how the seafarers interacted with your exhibition. Did they discover the space on their own? And what was a typical interaction like?

When I planned it, I was imagining a much more leisurely participation but I got the sense really early on from the volunteers that the seafarers are here and they're in a hurry. The volunteers were great in that they brought them straight into my space. 

I guess what I'd set up was a ritual welcome and so for the mission that was nice to have somebody greeting them and taking an interest. It was finding out where they're from, where they're going and asking them things like what role they had on the ship, how long they'd been at sea. Some of them would reveal more than others and that would very much depend on what role they had.

Mostly they were really happy to be there, really proud to have their photos taken and really wanted to be part of the project, which also totally overwhelmed me because I'm used to people being quite circumspect about things.

Did that level of interaction change how you perceived the project? 

Absolutely. Before I started, I was seeing it very much as a mapping project of recording destinations, making paths - it was very much a technical project if you like. What happened in the process of being there was this real human connection with these delightful seafarers. 

One guy I met told me how he's just working to support his mother. He's an only child, his mother lives back in the Philippines, she's elderly and he's just totally devoted to supporting her. I get goosebumps even recalling that conversation. The more I know about the welfare side of it, which was informed by the mission, the more passionate I am about taking the project in further directions.

What has happened since then with the souvenirs the seafarers took with them? Are they part of the project simply by having an item or do they have to actively engage and report back to you? 

The mug's got this QR code on the bottom and they scan that with a QR scanning app. If you print out the catalogue the QR code is on there so you can scan it and see the interface that they'll get to, it's just a page that can only be accessed by that code. It just asks them - where are they now, whether they've got a mug or a catalogue or a postcard, what number it is and tell me something about your journey. Because it's a university ethics projects, there are limits to how much personal identity can be revealed through that website, so it's been set up particularly anonymously.

On my website I can see the cup number and when they've scanned it -  this last person has a mug, it’s mug number 38, he’s in the Port of Suva in Fiji and he’s saying - ‘It’s getting hot now.’ Other comments from other people - ‘I'm about to fly home and I'm so excited to see my loved ones’ and ‘I'm signing off here in Malaysia, tomorrow I'll fly home to the Philippines.’ 

They're fairly minimal comments but  having gone through this, which I also see as a bit of a test run, I would in another iteration of it set it up so that there could be a little bit more of that personal commentary coming through. Also I think it's really important, and I realise this in retrospect, for the seafarers themselves to see where the other cups are.

How many people have scanned their items since they left the gallery and Melbourne?

I have 48 responses so far and a few of them are double ups, so let's say I've had 40.

That's pretty exciting, you must just wake up and want to check in to see where they are.

I do keep checking it and I've had to adjust to the pace of the ship because they can't communicate when they're on the ship. I think from the captain or manager's point of view, they don't want seafarers in constant contact with their families in case there is trouble or issues at home and then the seafarers are stuck at sea, not able to do anything about it.

I had no idea. I thought that when they had off time they could Skype or have a mobile - so it's all port related?

By and large the majority of them can only communicate when they're in ports so therefore as far as my project goes, they can only communicate when the get to the next destination and I’m thinking - come on, come on. Then I go to my live shipping website - I've become this real shipping addict - and go, well where is that ship? I can actually see where it is so I can realistically go, well nobody's going to be scanning anything until they get to the next port. 

That's a really good realisation because part of this is about uncovering how this is an invisible world. We take so much for granted - the things that arrive - we don't think, how did they get here? And we certainly, I mean I don't, think about the timeframes that people are away. 

I wanted to ask you about the chalk drawings you did on the floor of the exhibition space that physically documented the journeys of the seafarers. Were you drawing when the seafarers were there? 

The drawing of the destinations and the ships happened live with them there but the other more reflective writing happened afterwards. There wasn't a constant stream of seafarers, so in between I was drawing and I had this beautiful book from the 1950's that actually belonged to my Dad called Decorative Maps. There were all sorts of conventions from that that I could use as ornamental devices, which for me getting back to my graphic design, mapping and drawing was deeply satisfying, as well as having relevance to the seafarers.

It was a really nice moment when seafarers came in and I'd already drawn their ship on the floor because a few from their ship had come earlier. When they came in I'd say, ‘Oh, you're from the Forum Pacific and I know you're going to Fiji next.’ The volunteers and the manager of the mission say that nobody takes an interest in them anymore so just to know what ship they're from and where they're going is like 100 per cent interest in terms of what normally occurs.

What the mission does is fantastic as far as just giving the seafarers some orientation. Another big side of things is giving them counselling and support in a practical way, it might be medical help. I think the real shame of all this is that it relies on the goodwill of the mission to do this. It's because the seafarers are not Australian citizens, they're from this international community that nobody wants to give that concern or that extend that welfare to them.

Thank you Margaret and you can stay up to date with the project through her blog and check out earlier exhibitions and creative projects via her website

As we talked, Margaret and I realised that the difficult conditions under which seafarers work had become quite topical of late. If you're interested, you might like to check out this radio documentary series, this 4 Corners investigation and Blue Angel, a creative storytelling project by Big Hart.

Photos by Margaret Woodward and Justy Phillips.

Have a sunny weekend

19 June 2015

This week was a lucky one where hefty blocks of fancy chocolate showed up in the mail followed by a present so comprehensive I wondered whether it was my birthday :)

We have friends from Canberra coming to stay this weekend to check out the comedy festival and then our very first cooking class with Soon on Sunday. Here are a few favourite finds from this week:

I'm racing through Start Up Season 2, which follows two women who set up a dating app.

Helen Garner on the insults of age via Chat 10 Looks 3.

Stocking the freezer with this simple vegetable stock (scroll all the way down).

'Gold lost, values found' - the story of a country town and an interracial relationship in the 1970s.

A brilliant half hour with Atul Gawande at the Sydney Writers' Festival on rethinking end of life care.

Big change

18 June 2015

This week, after decades of wearing glasses I finally got contact lenses.

It's been a tiny revolution. I can take off a jumper without having to take my glasses off first and won't have to worry about my glasses fogging up when I'm nervous or excited (that happens and it's embarrassing). The strangest thing has been getting used to the sight of my own face, which I haven't seen clearly without glasses since I was eight or nine.

Want to know something silly? After putting contacts off for years, a cool pair of sunnies that couldn't be made into the prescription kind helped to change my mind. I reckon it won't be a full-time thing but so far it's a fun and surprisingly big change in my every day life. I just hope my baby niece still recognises me :)

Photo by Wattle + Lace.

Real Girl Wardrobes - Amanda Collier

16 June 2015

When I first met Amanda Collier she had a very cool bob, not unlike Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O, and great style to match. Today, the 41-year-old online content strategist shares her favourite online vintage stores, her no-fuss approach to getting dressed and why she’s suddenly doubting her collection of striped tops.

Weekend links

12 June 2015

I've been really busy at work this week so the weekend hasn't come soon enough. We're going to celebrate a few birthdays and maybe try out a new restaurant in town. Just a handful of things to share this week, hope you have something fun planned:

The best places to eat in Hobart.

Amazing photos taken inside North Korea.

Reaching out, one cake at a time via my friend Amy.

Love these basic long sleeve tops.

Can't wait to try out Wagga's new gastro pub.

'Two cultures and a baby' - a fascinating article by Alice Pung.

And as recommended by Lee, I made Belinda Jeffery's tropical hummingbird cake during the week and it made an impressive birthday cake and survived the car ride over :)

Angie's Sydney housewarming

10 June 2015

My friend Angelina threw a beautiful housewarming party over the weekend, a Sunday brunch that left no one hungry. I was extra excited for Angie and her boyfriend Dave because I'd spent part of last year living with them while they house hunted. Tony and I ended up being their first house guests.

Angie went all out with the catering, which she loves, while I made donuts and brought my cookie decorating kit so I could stamp the name of their new home on house-shaped cookies :)

There was so much food, from a lamb tagine to special cinnamon scrolls and hotcakes in the shape of bees topped with honeycomb butter. 

For a winter's day it was lovely and warm and we spent the afternoon having drinks in the sun, catching up and chasing after babies who are suddenly on the move.

It was really fun and made me a tiny bit homesick for Sydney, especially because we went to the Sydney Film Festival later that night and I caught up with my sister and niece before it was time to drive home.

Photos by me and Angelina Chee.

P.S - You might also like Angie's Real Girl Wardrobes interview

A fun new podcast

08 June 2015

We spent a good 10 hours on the road this long weekend and I was stoked to discover Starlee Kine's new podcast Mystery Show right before we left.

Starlee Kine is behind one of my most favourite This American Life stories, 'Dr Phil', in which she enlists Phil Collins to help her pen a satisfying break up song. The pair end up talking about heartbreak, relationship breakdowns and whether you can ever really get over people. It's seriously great radio that's both hilarious and heartwarming.

In Mystery Show, Starlee Kine promises to bust open a real life mystery in each episode, working on cases that can't be solved by Google. They're kooky, low-stakes cases that lead her to a bunch of unexpected people, stories and ultimately an explanation. 

This show makes me grin, from the theme music to the super cute logo to hearing how each investigation unfolds. Case #2: Britney was especially entertaining and I've already downloaded episode three for my drive to work tomorrow.

Mystery Show logo by Arthur Jones.

P.S - Here are my favourite Australian podcasts. I'd also add to that list two recent series - Radio Housewives and Workers Without Borders.

Long weekend :)

05 June 2015

Hello, I've been keeping busy this week, stockpiling baked donuts and salted choc chip cookies ahead of a friend's housewarming this weekend. It's definitely helped me stay warm, especially as the temperature has already dipped below zero!

Have a lovely long weekend, here are a few links:

How to make perfect creamy porridge and spiced porridge.

A beautiful podcast featuring the work of Lachlan Brown, a poet who is now based in Wagga.

merino jumper I'd love for the coming months.

Two great videos from The Design Files - a Melbourne morning with Raph Rashid of All Day Donuts, Beat Box Kitchen and Taco Truck and this film about a modest home in country Victoria.

I signed up to Medium and am curious to explore their offerings after reading this article.

And a homely looking hotel.

Connie's date scones

03 June 2015

Over the years, I've received the most unexpected homemade gifts through my job. There has been a handmade salami, an orchid arrangement and a few years ago, a dozen freshly baked date scones.

I'd had scones and a hot cup of tea at Connie's house once before, when I dropped in to record a story. It was the beginning of a long day and I was grateful for her hospitality.

Connie's scones have a surprise ingredient - thickened cream - which means you're not messing around with butter, making them quick to mix up. They make a great late Sunday lunch :)

Connie's date scones

You'll need:

2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup thickened cream
1/4 cup milk, warmed
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped
pinch of salt

Here's how:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius and line a tray with baking paper. Sift the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl, add the chopped dates and then the cream. Use a knife to mix it through.

Add enough milk to make the mixture moist and turn it onto a floured board. Knead it gently, turning it a couple of times before shaping the dough into a rough square. Using a rolling pin, lightly roll the dough until it is about two centimetres thick. Cut out your scones - I don't own a scone cutter so use the opening of a small-ish glass - and place them on your tray. Pop them into the oven on the middle shelf and bake for around 10 minutes.

Makes 10 large scones.

And just a tip:

If you want to make plain scones just leave out the sugar and the dates. I've also halved Connie's original recipes, so you can double it easily if you'd like 20-plus scones. You can also substitute the dates for mixed fruit and if you wear rings, take them off before you start kneading, it's messy work!

Lucy Parakhina - Life in Hobart, TAS

01 June 2015

While Lucy Parakhina has only just moved to Hobart, Tasmania, the landscape and the lifestyle of the island city is already making an impression on her life and photographic practice. Today, in the second installment of the Life In series, the 27-year-old photographer and Honours student takes us on a tour of her new hometown and reflects on how it compares to the 18 years she spent living in Sydney. 

I’ve only been in Hobart for three months. 

I was born in Tomsk, in central Siberia, Russia and lived there until I migrated to Sydney with my family in 1997, when I was 10. I lived in Sydney until this February.

I am doing an Honours in Fine Arts at University of Tasmania (UTAS) in Hobart, in the Photomedia studio.

For the previous five or so years I was mostly working as a freelance photographer/videographer in Sydney, documenting art exhibitions, performance and theatre for a range of largely arts organisations. While I’m here in Hobart, I’m also working as online producer for RealTime magazine and occasionally go back to Sydney for photo/video work.

Moving to Hobart has changed the nature of my photography a lot, which is what I was looking for.

In Sydney, I was shooting a lot for work and didn’t really feel the urge to take photos in my free time. Here, with wanting to focus on my Honours, I haven’t sought out any freelance work, so I’m shooting for my project or just documenting daily life. 

With smartphone cameras as good as they are, it’s really easy to take photos quickly and discreetly. I love Instagram because I am often out exploring somewhere on my own and it allows me to share things I think are interesting or beautiful with people.

With Honours, I’ve thought more deeply about how and why I take photos in three months than I ever did in all my years of taking photos. It’s been great. I’m working on a project that involves me moving away from the purely representational photography I’ve been doing and thinking about how images are constructed and what it means to do that.

From my impressions so far, Hobart feels like a really big country town. 

Country town in that everything shuts early, there’s pretty much no traffic, rent is cheap - coming from Sydney - and everything is pretty close together. Yet it’s also big enough to have some great cafes and restaurants, all the shops you might want or need, a really nice indie cinema, a few galleries, and of course, MONA and all its associated festivals and events.

The population seems more diverse than I would expect in other towns of Hobart’s size, there are a lot of international students that come to UTAS and that adds to the cultural mix. I’ve met locals but also a lot of people who moved here from the mainland at some point.

I've also noticed how amazing all the food is - you can go into the most standard looking pub, and there will be an incredible menu consisting of fresh, local ingredients and the service will be great. 

When I first came to Tasmania, I found the whole idea of the rest of Australia being known as 'the mainland’ strange. 

The psychological experience of being physically separated from the mainland is primarily that of thinking about yourself in relation to somewhere else. That was a new sensation for me because on the mainland, you never think of yourself in relation to the island of Tasmania. It’s more about Australia being separated from the rest of the world.

On a really practical level, I’ve found that the separation means that internet is slow and there is a limited choice of internet providers (unless you’re in an area that is part of the NBN, which I am not) and that things that have to be shipped here, like petrol, are more expensive.

The landscape is one of the most remarkable things about Hobart and part of the reason I moved here. 

The city is dominated by the presence of the mountain, Kunanyi/Mount Wellington, which is really breathtaking. This probably passes with time but I still pause every time I glimpse it between buildings, around a corner or out of my kitchen window!

I live in the suburb of New Town, which is just past North Hobart. 

I visited Hobart several times over the last few years and the North Hobart area seemed like the place most similar to the area of Sydney I lived in. New Town is close enough to the centre of town to still be really convenient but far enough out to have lots of space, wide streets and cheap rent. There is a strip of a shops, good restaurants, galleries, bookshops and a cinema

I also just fell in love with the flat that I live in when I went to inspect it on my second day in Hobart. 

I live in a one bedroom flat on a nice, quiet street not too far from the main strip in North Hobart. It’s in an older building with a bit of character and it has massive windows, including a bay window in the bedroom. The building is on a bit of a hill and I’m on the first floor so I have really lovely views.

 I live by myself and that was another reason I decided to move to Hobart. 

I’ve lived in lots of different share houses in Sydney over the last 10 years and just wanted to have my own space but in Sydney I couldn’t even afford a studio, much less a one bedroom flat. I don’t have a pet but there’s a weird cat that comes and says hi every time I hang out the washing.

Nearby, there is a great supermarket called Hill St Grocer, which stocks lots of local produce, there is also Jackman & McRoss, an amazing café and bakery and Jean Pascal Patisserie, run by a fifth-generation French national pastry chef.

One of my first experiences in Hobart was buying some bookshelves on Gumtree and realising that the person I bought them from lived in the flat on the other side of the wall. 

This turned out pretty well, as she was moving to Melbourne and getting rid of everything so we just moved all her furniture and plants across the hall from one flat into the other. This experience gave me a taste of how small Hobart can sometimes feel. 

I mostly drive because it's so easy and quick, I am mostly running late and because it’s just so damn cold. 

It takes me five minutes to drive to uni, which is on the waterfront, where I can then park right outside the doors for the whole day for five dollars. There are buses in Hobart but they’re pretty irregular unless you’re on a main route, and even those stop running quite early. 

Monday to Friday I generally go to uni, as there are seminars, supervisor meetings and public lectures by visiting artists. I’ve got a studio/office on campus so I work there but I also do work on the weekends, or go away on a weekday.

These are kind of boring details but the contrast to Sydney blows my mind. As a freelance photographer, I would often spend hours stuck in traffic, trying to get out to some part of Sydney.

For the last few weeks, there’s been a great weekly community dinner at an artist-run space called The Arts Factory. 

Every Wednesday, a different group of artists cook a huge delicious meal, which you get for a gold coin donation, there’s usually some live music, cheap drinks and most people from the art school head there.

When I first got here, I started following most of the arts organisations and galleries on social media to keep up to date with what was going onBut most of the things I’ve gone to have been recommended by someone, or I’ve stumbled upon like walking past a pub and seeing that Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks were playing there in a week or coming across an Italian street fair with a spaghetti-eating competition.

Driving out of town in Tasmania is different to what I’m used to. 

I’ve driven a lot around New South Wales and Victoria and as far west as Bourke and Broken Hill. I’m used to driving for 10 hours through an environment that doesn’t change much. 

Tasmania is a lot smaller geographically but extremely diverse. So a couple of hours from Hobart in one direction you can be up on a pre-historic alpine plateau, near Cradle Mountain and a couple of hours in a different direction you’re in lush forest, surrounded by picturesque cliffs in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. 

One of my other favourite places to drive to is Queenstown, on the west coast, which is a former mining town surrounded by cliffs that have been completely stripped of vegetation. It’s not everyone’s idea of beauty, but just an incredibly striking landscape.

I haven’t had many visitors yet but I would take anyone to MONA, followed by fish and chips on the waterfront, then to the Lark Distillery to buy a small bottle of whiskey to take up to the top of Mount Wellington to sip from while watching the sunset.

I’ve found the people in Hobart to be really friendly and helpful. It’s also REALLY COLD here. 

I’m adjusting to that and actually don’t mind the cold and seeing snow on the mountain is pretty great. Plus, every time I boil water to cook pasta, I get an actual cloud forming in my kitchen.

When I first got here, I was filming a piece on the Electrona festival for the arts magazine that I work for, so I immediately met some people. I also started uni a week after moving and met people through the course, including a woman who has just moved from Melbourne. We bonded over our attempts to get our bearings and she generously let me stay with her for a few days after one conversation, when an Airbnb place I was staying in had a break-in. Having the structure and immediate community of the course has definitely helped me feel not isolated, and I feel like I’ve settled in pretty quickly.

Thank you Lucy! You can see more of her photos online, follow her on Instagram to see her everyday phone snaps, you'll find her personal portfolio here and the images she's shot for clients on her website.

All photos by Lucy Parakhina.