melbourne part ii

As promised, here's the second instalment of my Melbourne trip! I did see more of the tennis but failed to take many blog-worthy shots, since there are only so many you can get without a good zoom lens. I'm still kicking myself for not throwing an extra one in my luggage... Anyway, when my relatives and I weren't getting tennis-ed out we did a lot of exploring of the area, the shopping and the food. Granted we didn't eat out for every meal and took advantage of the food court at Southgate (free wifi and all), but we definitely indulged quite a bit!

We had breakfast at Cafe Vicolino before the tennis, this time to see the daytime matches. One thing I'll definitely miss about Melbourne is the sheer choice available in terms of cafes, something that Sydney lacks! I may be biased after living here for so long, but Sydney seriously needs some laneways of its own rather than having hidden gems in random suburbs. Anyway, I had the deluxe breakfast which involved poached eggs, swiss cheese, bacon, avocado and sourdough bread.

After seeing three consecutive matches we were exhausted, but that didn't stop us from getting French crepes at a vendor on Swanston Street. My cousin wouldn't stop going on about it and rightly so, since they tasted amazing! Apparently the people working there really were French, so that's probably the closest I'll be getting to the real deal until I visit Paris. Anyway, I went with the safe option and got Nutella with flaked almonds, not like you can tell from the picture. It was piping hot and would be the perfect thing on a cold day, although I'd still gladly eat them all year round!

A couple of the pianos around the city. They really made me wish I didn't give up on learning how to play all those years ago!

We kept passing those outdoor tables in the middle of Degraves Street but never actually sat down there, so on our last day we decided to try out The Quarter. Everyone got the halloumi eggs, which was basically poached eggs, grilled halloumi and pesto all on a slice of sourdough. I think I consumed more poached eggs during this trip than I usually do in a year, not that I'm complaining! Anyway, I also got my go-to chai latte since I don’t typically drink coffee. For once it wasn't too sweet and even came with a tiny cookie on the side!

In a typical touristy fashion, I couldn't help taking pictures of shop displays... a lot of them, actually. I absolutely loved browsing Signed and Numbered (right), which stocks prints from Australian artists like Kelly Smith, Miso, Ghostpatrol, and Catherine Campbell just to name a few. I seriously would've taken some home if I wasn't paranoid about it getting crushed on the trip home! Maybe next time, after I also free up some wall space in my room.

Retro Star Vintage was tucked away in Nicholas Building on Swanston Street, although I probably never would have found it if I was wandering around on my own! My cousin mentioned it was what she imagined vintage stores in midwest America to look like, and I have to agree. While I wasn't really into the styles it was certainly an experience, and the decor definitely gave me some kitschy seventies vibes!

We stopped by Cumulus Inc for drinks, and I got their home brewed lemonade. I don't know what I was expecting, but it was incredibly sour! I feel like it'd be a good thing to have with your breakfast, since the lemon was so invigorating and would probably perk you up for the rest of the day. Anyway, apparently this place is too cool to do sugar because neither our lemonade nor iced coffee had any. It was still quite tasty, though! Other people around us were still having breakfast at midday, so that might be a good idea if I ever come back.

More photogenic shop windows, this time outside Hopetoun Tearoom. I'm a sucker for high tea and seriously wish I saw this place earlier, but unfortunately it looked packed and we wouldn't have had time before our flight anyway! It's definitely going on my bucket list though, especially since the interiors looked incredible.

Aaand then I went home. Did I see everything I wanted to? No way. However 'next time' was a recurring theme throughout the trip, so no doubt I'll be back again soon. Who knows, I may even find myself living here in ten years if Sydney's just not doing it for me... Anyway, I hope you enjoyed and have a great week!
Posted by : Mani

melbourne part i

Ever since my last trip to Melbourne, I knew it wouldn't be long before I visited again. It may be hard to believe but not all Australian cities are made equally, and it's amazing what a short change in scenery did to clear my lungs and give me some perspective! This time around I had time to explore things instead of doing a lot of frenzied shopping, but ironically I didn't buy anything except a pair of sunnies that I stupidly lost on our last day. At least they were from Sportsgirl and are easily replaceable, but still... Anyway, I'm not in the most articulate mood today so onto the pictures!

We stayed in Southbank, which was super convenient and just over the bridge from the city. Anyway, it seems like love locks are becoming a thing here, although I hear they've been removed in New South Wales (which is kind of a shame)!

This little macaron shop had the prettiest decor and mural on the inside! I absolutely loved that silver teapot too, although common sense prevailed and I realised it would never make it home in my carryon luggage.

Inside the Atrium, which was full of galleries, cafes and specialty stores. Although, the only things I really ogled at were those amazing glass walls...

We watched the tennis in Federation Square before moving inside, because a) we were damn hungry and b) Melbourne's weather was getting the better of us. Anyway, we ended up watching the match from a little place called Cafe Chinotto, since that's all anyone has on the brain at this time of year! That Caesar salad was also pretty good (anchovies and all).

Some sights to be seen on Brunswick Street, including this hairdresser that left us utterly confused. Who even came up with this idea? Are they planning some voodoo ritual with all those locks of hair? So many questions, not enough answers...

I saw too many cute shop displays to count, and these aren't even the last of them! Looks like someone didn't get the memo that Christmas is over, but I guess it's okay if it's outside Tiffany's...

The reason we visited Melbourne in the first place was to watch the tennis, and we really lucked out when we got to see Wawrinka vs Djokovic. It was one of the most intense matches I've ever watched, and I’m not just saying that because it was the first I’d seen live! At one point it even rained for two seconds and they made the ballkids wipe down the court which was... amusing to say the least. Anyway, there's something so electrifying about being there in person! I'm so glad that Wawrinka is through to the finals after that nail biter of a match (which lasted exactly four hours).

... and a picture of what the Yarra looks like at midnight, since the queue to catch the tram was atrocious and we ended up walking back to our hotel. Stay tuned for part two, which I should be posting up here very soon!
Posted by : Mani

vanilla panna cotta

When it comes to anything food-related, simple truly is best. While I'm someone that often gets sucked in by the plethora of new restaurants and food trends out there, usually the average non-foodie just won't get it, and only classic flavour combinations like strawberries and cream will do! I think that's why I like making vanilla panna cotta so much, since it's a definite crowd pleaser. Not to mention, it's satisfying and stupidly simple to make! While the recipe adapted from David Lebovitz calls for vanilla, that's probably changeable for experimentation. However, until I'm brave enough to try a new flavour combination I think I'll be sticking with this recipe in its purest form. Read on if you're interested in learning how to make it!

Ingredients (serves 8):
4 cups (1L) heavy cream
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)
6 tablespoons (90ml) cold water

1. Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan or microwave. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. (If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the bean pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then rewarm the mixture before continuing.)
2. Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral-tasting oil.
3. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Pour the warm panna cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
5. Divide the panna cotta mixture into the prepared cups, then chill them for 2-4 hours or until firm. If you’re pressed for time, pour the panna cotta mixture into wine goblets so you can serve them in the glasses, without unmolding.
6. To make macerated strawberries, chop strawberries and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar, mix and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
7. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each panna cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnish as desired.

To make panna cotta with sheet gelatin: Soften 25g (approximately six sheets) in a litre of cold water for 5 to 10 minutes. Wring the sheets out and stir them into the warm panna cotta mixture in step 4, until dissolved.

As you can see, panna cotta on a plate definitely has a little more panache! Although the recipe calls for using a knife around the edges, I found that running the outside of the glass under hot water is a lot neater, allowing it to slip right out. Either way, the result is a ridiculously creamy dessert that's bursting with vanilla goodness! Whilst you could also make strawberry coulis to accompany this, I find macerating strawberries a lot easier and necessary to cut through that creamy texture. Anyway, let me know if you happen to try this out, and have an awesome week!
Posted by : Mani

on the road

If you ask me, you can either be a person that loves packing or despises it to the end of the earth. I find myself in the latter category, given that I rarely travel and haven't picked up the tips and tricks that make the process a little easier! Anyway, next week I’m off to Melbourne for a few days but even the thought of packing for that overwhelms me, so I thought I’d take baby steps starting with my carry-on. The flight's only 1.5 hours so obviously this stuff wouldn't do on a long haul flight, but it also wouldn't look out of place for what I'd want with me on long train rides home. Hover over to see the numbers!

1. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - I can't be the only one having Sherlock withdrawal symptoms, right? Anyway, Penguin Classics are typically light and relatively cheap reads, so I won't be too sad if it happens to get lost or worn out from being knocked around my bag.

2. Notebook - If I need to write notes or have an epiphany on the road, putting pen to paper is the way to go!

3. Earphones - Whether it be on a flight or train, catching myself without headphones on public transport is the worst. I'm still on the lookout for a pretty but lightweight pair, but for now these Samsung ones tide me over just fine.

4. Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream - I'll admit it, I'm a hoarder when it comes to travel-sized things. For some reason using them daily feels wrong, so obviously I get excited when I get the chance to break out my collection! Anyway, I've been a bit obsessed with hand creams lately but should really refrain from buying more. The struggle is real...

5. Maybelline Baby Lips in Pink Lolita and Revlon Just Bitten Kissable balm stain in Romantic - I wasn't kidding when I said that I needed to lay off the balm stains! I'm not even much of a red lip wearer, but the fact that this one can be built up makes it extremely versatile.

6. Systane Ultra eyedrops -  Planes and my perpetually dry eyes are never a good combination, so these are a no-brainer.

7. Pentax K-r - For those of you wondering what camera I use, this is it! I always use my 35mm f2.4 lens when travelling since it's compact, performs decently in low light and has a good focal length.

8. Tetley Cinnamon Orange teabags -  Teabags might seem like a weird thing to travel with, but it's always nice to have when the hotel's tea just doesn't cut it! Plus this brew's delicious and feels like a giant hug, for lack of a better word.

9, 10. kikki.K pen and tissues- Trust me, when you're travelling there's always a time when someone needs a pen (same deal with tissues). Might as well be prepared and save yourself having to ask someone for them!

11, 12. Contacts and Osiris B21 glasses - On a long haul flight contacts are totally out of the question, especially if I plan on getting some shuteye! I think I'll be fine this time around, but I find it's always best to have my glasses on hand anyway.

13. Samsung SGS2 - I'm lacking an iPad or tablet, so my phone suffices as an entertainment device for now! I've mentioned the Pocket app before, but it's seriously a lifesaver for storing the articles that I always procrastinate from reading.

14. Clean & Clear Oil Control Film - Does anyone else get a weird sense of satisfaction from using these? No? Well in any case, they'd be essential for what I hear is a heatwave in Melbourne right now. Summertime oiliness, I'm prepared for you.

I'm probably taking this Zara satchel that I bought on my trip to Melbourne last year, funnily enough! Admittedly I haven't worn it much since my brown tote came into the mix, but the shoulder strap is good for some handsfree action (especially when shopping). Anyway, there are probably a gazillion things I've forgotten to include here considering my tendency to overpack at the last minute, but at least it's a start. What are your travel or flight essentials? Enlighten me!
Posted by : Mani

walk in the park

As a typical introvert, I wouldn't be the first to admit that I don’t get out much. I usually hate parties, and if you asked me to go out over a night in with the TV? I don't think that's even a question! Anyway, it's no surprise then that it took a friend's invitation for me to get out of the house to catch up over food and a walk around the city. We ate at Teru Cafe in Glebe for some Italian food, even though there's a huge variety of other dishes (all-day breakfast included)! By the way, the above bookstore's not attached to it and is in fact in Sappho's, but a girl can dream of a restaurant/library hybrid right? Anyway,  somehow we ended up at the Chinese Friendship Gardens in Darling Harbour which is a total tourist trap. Nevertheless, I'd never been before so I guess there's a first time for everything!

My friend's eggplant parmigiana and my spinach and ricotta cannelloni, although they look suspiciously similar under all that cheese! In hindsight I doubt eating that much dairy did me any favours, but I do know that it was delicious...

Some adorable bonsai trees featuring tiny horses near the entrance of the gardens! Too bad my first experience growing them was less than stellar, otherwise I might be bothered trying to maintain my own again...

Probably the most wildlife I'll be experiencing for a long time. Anyway, I think I would have gotten even nicer pictures at sunset, but it's a shame that the gardens close way before 8pm! Not pictured are the Chinatown markets that happen every Friday night, but I was so full that I didn't even think about taking any treats home. Although, I'm now craving takoyaki and Japanese pancakes, so there's always next time... Anyway, I hope you're having an awesome weekend!
Posted by : Mani