Saturday, April 21, 2012

Just published: my story in City Weekend Parents & Kids

I recently wrote an article for the Shanghai magazine City Weekend Parents & Kids about being pregnant in Shanghai. When I first found out I was expecting in mid-2011, I couldn't really find an article like this in any of the parenting magazines or websites, so I pitched this first-person story idea to the editor.

Here is part one. The second part (out in a few months) will detail my experiences as a new mother in Shanghai. Happy reading!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Our little koala has arrived!

Sorry for the blogging hiatus but I have been a little busy of late. Our baby girl arrived in the world on March 10 (six days late!) after a five hour labour. I'm falling more and more in love with my sweet baby each day. For now, we're finding our feet with feeding and sleeping schedules but I hope to be back blogging soon.

"Yes Mummy, I'm very warm for a cold Shanghai day, but I think my coat is too big!"

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rufus Wainwright is back

I'm a HUGE, huge fan of Rufus Wainwright. I've seen him perform live a few times and he's a seriously talented singer and performer. His new album, produced by Mark Ronson, is out in April. And he's just released the first single. Love it.

Listen here: Out of the Game

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"I love Australia, but I can't afford to live there"

I have said this to many people in the last few years: "I love Australia, but I can't afford to live there". Well I guess that is being overly dramatic; we could afford to live there, but we have chosen not to as costs in Australia, particularly Sydney, are out of control. We have a much higher standard of life in Shanghai.

The release of the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey seems to back up my point.

"The cost of living in Sydney is now almost 50 per cent higher than that of global business centre New York – while a decade ago Sydney was more than 25 per cent cheaper than New York," Worldwide Cost of Living report editor Jon Copestake told the Sydney Morning Herald.

The report found the cost of living in five Australian cities was higher than cities such as London, Rome, New York, Berlin, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro.

Read more here and here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Golden Globes 2012 - Post-mortem

I finally managed to download the Golden Globes last night (damn you Chinese TV!). Nothing like watching something "live" ten hours after everyone else. Here are my random thoughts.

- Ricky Gervais was a bit too tame. Ripping on Jodie Foster's Beaver was about as risque as it got. Disappointing.

- Madonna is really, really up herself. "Me, my, me, my." That's all she said in her speech. Who said filmmaking was collaborative? Not Madonna!

- Seth Rogan had the line of the night. And I loved that Kate Beckinsale just laughed it off. An American starlet would have got the huff but trust a British girl to get the joke.

- These Hollywood stars are a narcissistic bunch. From Helen Mirren's showboating during Morgan Freeman's moment to Reese Witherspoon's "my friend Alexander Payne" moment, for God's sake, just read the prompter and give the moment to someone else.

- How many freaking award shows is Mildred Pierce going to hang around for? Kate Winslet's "wow, I won" schtick is wearing thin. Although to be fair, this speech wasn't as toe curling as her previous outings.

- Idris Elba rocked the house. Loved that he was sitting at the same table as Dominic West. Stringer Bell and Jimmy McNulty together again.

- Does anyone in Hollywood eat?  There were some seriously skinny bitches on that stage. And don't get me started on the botox. Jessica Lange was frightening. Although I liked her laidback speech.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Have I lost my love for magazines?

I have been obsessed with magazines my entire life. As a child, I always had my head burrowed in a book or newspaper (there is ample photographic evidence!). But I reserved a special love for magazines. If we visited relatives' houses and I disappeared for any length of time, you'd be sure to find me in a quiet corner with a stack of Woman's Day and New Idea. Total junkie behaviour. I used to offer to "help" my mum do the weekly grocery shopping at Coles and then stand at the checkout and flick through magazines like a deranged speed reader. Her rage for my cheap and cheeky behaviour was palpable! But she fell for my "help" excuse every time. Duh!

When I started a part-time job at age 13, I saved my money for two things: magazines and music. I had a subscription to Rolling Stone, Juice, Dolly, then Cosmo. But my favourite was Who Weekly. I'd walk around to the corner store faithfully every Friday and buy my copy and inhale it like a drug. Celebrities, fashion, gossip. Heaven! And I never threw them out. Ever. But at 18, when I moved out of home, I had to throw my collection out. I'm still not sure I'm over it.

So last week, when my husband and I had a big clean-out of our study to make way for the nursery, the first thing I tackled were the seven or so boxes of magazines sitting like the Tower of Pisa in the corner of the room. Still sitting in removal boxes and unopened. They weighed a tonne. I had back issues of Vanity Fair, GQ, Elle, Marie Claire, Real Living, Vogue, Vogue Living, Esquire, Elle Decor, Belle, In Style, Travel + Leisure, Gourmet Traveller, Wallpaper and Monocle. You name it. I had it. Shockingly, I have moved internationally twice in the last three years, so some of these magazines have lived in Sydney, Singapore and now Shanghai. And most of them have never been opened again since I first read them.

Why oh why do I hoard these 100-page paperweights?  I'm not usually a hoarder. But for some reason, magazines are my achilles heel. I can't throw them out. Ever.

Until now.

This time, I had no problem. I flicked through each and every magazine perusing for articles or recipes or decor ideas that I'd like to tear out and keep. Just in case. But there was nary a pile of clippings to be seen at the end. What has happened to me?! Is my obsession over? Perhaps it is.

This is a shocking turn of events. I have put it down to a number of factors:

1. I have now worked in the magazine industry. I know what goes on behind the curtain.

2. Gossip is so much faster to access on the internet. Why buy Who, People or New Idea when I can read it all on the net FOR FREE on blogs and e-mags?

3. Magazines are verging on inaccessible in China. And they're insanely expensive.

From buying around ten magazines per month, I have now whittled myself down to about two magazines. Two?!!!  Am I insane? How in God's name have I reduced my reading to Vanity Fair and Hello magazine (no judgement: Hello is only CNY30 at my local pirated DVD shop and I buy it a month or two after its publication date. So frugal and retro!).

Looking at it positively: I'm now being budget-conscious, time-efficient and judicious. Looking at it negatively: I've lost my magazine mojo. But never fear: the one time I become a magazine obsessive again is when I fly. Show me an airport newsagent and a plane and I'll show you an empty wallet and a stack of glossy tomes.

But I have reformed: instead of dragging these magazines back from my holiday locale to sit in my apartment unopened again for eternity I am going to do a shocking thing. Leave them behind. Or, shock horror, throw them in the hotel bin. My 13-year-old self would be horrified! But my 34-year-old self feels evolved and very, very free.

On that note, I'm off to bed with my "new" old copy of Hello. You'll find it in the bin in the morning. Victory!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

I wish I was in Sydney right now

I'm pretty jealous of my Sydney friends at the moment. The Sydney Festival starts tomorrow and there are quite a few great acts on the events listings. Manu Chao, Mike Patton, The Whitest Boy Alive and Lambchop are playing shows in the next few weeks. So jealous!!!!

The Sydney Festival always seems to pull some great acts. I saw two of the best concerts ever at the Festival. In 2005 when the Leonard Cohen tribute show "Came So Far For Beauty" played at the Opera House. Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, Jarvis Cocker, Antony, Beth Orton and others sang Cohen tunes. Truly amazing. And in 2008 when Bjork played a show in the Opera House forecourt.

Anyway, back to Manu Chao. In 2001, I travelled around Europe for a summer with some friends. We'd bought an old van in London and after catching a ferry to Bilbao,we drove for three months through Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic and Germany. It was a fantastic way to spend a summer. And the soundtrack to our journey was Manu Chao's Proxima Estacion: Esperanza. It was all over the radio and I just fell in love with his mish-mash sound.

And Mike Patton. Well he's a dude. As a teenager, I fanatically loved him in Faith No More. Kinda got into him with Mr Bungle. Totally loved his work on Bjork's Medulla album. It's kinda crazy to think he's gone from growling and screaming metal then to crooning Italian pop music on Mondo Cane now. I must admit I downloaded that album last year but still need to give it a proper listen. I'm still stuck in my love for the '90s-era Patton. King for a Day... Fool for a Lifetime is still one of my favourite albums of all time. But mostly I just love his propensity for DRAMA. He always brings some bravado and crazy eyes. Love it.

Vocally, he has serious range. From this...

...To this (which will be his Sydney Festival persona):

And I love this clip from a few years back where he rips into Wolfmother. "Can I get an Amen?"

Friday, January 6, 2012

Beautiful song

Since downloading last year's debut solo album from Alexander Ebert (frontman for other bands Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Ima Robot), I've been playing it obsessively.

I particularly love this track. And I've just realised it was played at the end of the killer first episode in season four of Breaking Bad. Oh I love it when my pop culture loves combine!

Little Darlings

I have just ordered some prints online for our baby's nursery. I'm not into cutesy themes or pastels at all, particularly for nurseries, so have been searching for something appropriate to spice up the room in a modern way.

Enter the Little Darlings range of prints. I can't remember where I first saw these, but they're from US photographer Sharon Montrose, who specialises in modern animal photography. I love her clean, crisp style and I'm sure the prints will work nicely as our child grows. I can't decide which little face I love the most! After much umming and aahing, I finally settled on six: the lamb, giraffe, duckling, kangaroo, lion and bear.

And I really love how it weaves in links to both our native countries: a kangaroo for my Australian roots and a lion for my husband's South African birthplace. If only she had a baby panda to represent China!

Now, I just hope they arrive in time and don't get held up at Chinese customs...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Smile magazine - a Shanghai contribution

I recently contributed to the November cover story of Smile magazine, the inflight magazine for Cebu Pacific based in Manila. My former colleague and friend Noelle de Jesus asked me to provide some shopping tips for Shanghai. Here's the result (you can open the story in a new tab for a larger version):

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book Review: The Art of Fielding - a disappointing read

Earlier this year, I read an interesting article in Vanity Fair entitled "How A Book Is Born" which recounted the story of how author Chad Harbach toiled on writing his manuscript for a decade, finally got it in front of book agents and publishing houses and ultimately published to wide acclaim (with one of the most striking cover designs of the year, see above). It was an interesting article and piqued my interest in the novel itself, which was getting massive buzz.

Having just finished the novel, I'm sad to say it was a mediocre experience. A compelling premise let down by a bloated delivery, surprisingly shallow characters and tedious plot. The original Vanity Fair article is a far more intriguing read. And obviously contributed hugely to the buzz! It's unavailable online, but you can purchase it here. A little more info on the article here:

How a Book Is Born: The Making of The Art of Fielding by Keith Gessen.

The highly anticipated novel The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach, has just been published. But what is the riveting story behind the story—and what does it take to make a bestseller these days? As author and n+1 co-founder Keith Gessen reveals in this 17,000-word e-book (expanded from the article appearing in the October issue of Vanity Fair), the passage from MFA classroom to national book tour is its own treacherous, absorbing—and wildly unpredictable—adventure. Harbach, Gessen’s friend and colleague, was a struggling writer who toiled relentlessly for ten years on The Art of Fielding, before it eventually hauled in a $650,000 advance. At each step of the way several vivid characters fought tooth and nail to ensure the book’s survival, including Chris Parris-Lamb, Harbach’s passionate young agent; Michael Pietsch, a renowned editor at the publishing house Little, Brown; and Keith Hayes, the book’s tireless designer. In this e-book of sweeping scope and fascinating, behind-the-scenes detail, Gessen pulls back the curtain on the insular, fiercely political, and cutthroat literary world of Manhattan—a place where the “Big Six” publishing houses, owned by multinational conglomerates, reign supreme, while smaller houses are left to fend for themselves. Gessen exposes the modern-day book business for what it is: a largely uncertain enterprise—but rife with courageous, enthusiastic individuals—struggling to redefine itself in the face of its own digital revolution.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Album on high rotation - "El Camino" by The Black Keys

LOVING this new album from the Ohio rock duo, The Black Keys. Perfect bluesy rock.

Check out their live performance of the first single, "Lonely Boy" on The Colbert Report.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2011 Review: The 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011

Buzzfeed has published an excellent round-up of some key news events of the last year as told through photography. Go here to see all 45 pictures.

A woman cries while sitting on a road amid the destroyed city of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan after the massive earthquake and tsunami.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011 Review: in Lego!

This is pretty cool. As reported in The Guardian, some of the major news events of the last year have been re-created in Lego. Check out more pictures here and here.

The Royal Wedding
Obama and his security team watch Osama Bin Laden's killing
Occupy Wall Street

2011 Review: Best and Worst Magazine Covers

While I have not seen every single magazine at newsstands, I do try to keep up to date with as many covers as I can by browsing online. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are my picks for best and worst this past year. I judge by concept, brand and audience synergy, styling, coverlines, creativity and overall impact. For me, the worst covers have terrible styling and picture selection and have missed the mark considerably in terms of their audience/brand suitability.




Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lady Gaga makes the cover of Vanity Fair again.

It's pretty impressive that Lady Gaga has made the cover of Vanity Fair again. Her last cover was just over a year ago in September 2010. She must really sell magazines.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Meryl Streep lands a Vogue cover. Aged 62. Alright!

Congrats to American Vogue for putting Meryl Streep on the cover and giving us a rest from the twenty-something starlets. Well played Anna Wintour.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Christmas Getaway

As this will our last Christmas pre-kids, we've decided to head away for one last holiday. Because I've grounded myself from flying, we found a great deal at a new hotel just a two hour drive from Shanghai. It's called Naked Stable Private Reserve. And "naked" means "eco", not "nudist". Check out our digs. Nice!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2011 Review: Songs of the Year

These are the top 10 tunes that got a major run on my iPod "most played" list in 2011:

"Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People

"Rolling in the Deep" by Adele

"Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye, featuring Kimbra

"Feeding Line" by Boy & Bear

"Otis" by Kanye and Jay-Z

"Night Air" by Jamie Woon

"The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" by Red Hot Chili Peppers

"Battery Kinzie" by Fleet Foxes

"Calgary" by Bon Iver

And my guilty pleasure: "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5

I'm having a bikie baby

Apparently, at 27 weeks, my baby is able to hear sounds in utero. I fear I may be having a bikie baby as we've become addicted to the TV series "Sons of Anarchy", about a motorcycle club in Northern California. Great acting, great scriptwriting, lots of drama. Perfect.

Either that, or he/she will be a Real Housewife. I'm not sure what's worse?!