Sunday, January 30, 2011

To shop or not to shop?

I've had a bit of a cracker this week with this ol' online shopping caper. Normally I am an absolute devotee but I'm off the mark on my last few purchases.

The first one I won't bore you with the details but suffice to say I decided to try out the Westfield online store. After all, I can complain about it all I like in terms of the design and the usability of the site but I should really test it out no? It was not a success. In fact I'd go so far as to say it was an abject failure. Not the fault of Westfield, mind you, but the retailer Queenspark who were selling great looking black Maxi dresses at a discounted price. Problem - I have since discovered - they don't actually have any.

Three weeks later and I am still trying to get in contact with them about my order, after being promised a call back during the week by a rather uninterested sales assistant (the voicemail in their head office is full - no doubt with complaints from people who haven't received their clothes). I am very sorry to say it's the first time I have ever had to ring my bank and investigate doing a chargeback. As I said, not the fault of Westfield but I doubt I'll ever shop online with them again after this experience. It's been a disaster.

The next one is the order I did with Peters of Kensington as part of my post Christmas sale... um, well shop. I have been eyeballing the Wedgewood Queen of Hearts Harlequin tea set for such a long time and my yearning for it was only enhanced further by our visit to the Langham for Afternoon tea in London last year. Although the discount was not huge (about 12%) it was enough to entice me into making the purchase. Two weeks later, no delivery. I call them and after some digging around they have discovered that the cups for the tea set are not in stock. They are very apologetic and promise to get the rest of the items out to me (teapot, cake stand, plates and sugar bowl, milk jug set) asap. The cups, however will be another 12 weeks. I'm disappointed naturally but these things do happen.

My third bad online shopping experience is partially my own fault. I noticed Nordstroms were having a sale on Tory Burch Sophie wedges in leopard (my crack) and at 35% off they were eminently affordable, even when you take into consideration the eye watering price of the shipping courtesy of the international shipping agent FiftyOne. I made my purchase and three weeks later they arrived. Now firstly, Net-A-Porter charges 20 pounds for International shipping (a little over $30 in today's money) and it arrives in 2 days. FiftyOne charged $65 shipping and it took three weeks. Shoddy service frankly.

Besides all that the shoes arrived in good order. The shoes are great quality and they feel comfortable. But they are too big. By big I mean INSANELY HUGE. They fly off my feet as I walk down the hall. I am so angry because they say the shoes are a true fit on the website but I'd have to go down two sizes to even get close to them fitting. And now it's going to cost me another $65 (deducted by the shipping agent) to send them back for a refund.

Now - NAP have free international returns. They are the etailer that all others should aspire to emulate. They are fast, reliable, their prices are good. If I had any other option I would not have used FiftyOne. I think they are shonky thieves and I won't be using them again. I'll wait to do my US shopping when we go in May thankyouverymuch.

So all in all I have had a pretty bad week on the shopping front. I wonder it the Universe is trying to tell me something?


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy Straya Day everyone!

I hope you all had as good a day as I did. We spent it shopping (Chatswood Chase has brilliant airconditioning), eating dumplings (New Shanghai - it's the Kitty's favourite place to dumpling), swimming in the pool, eating lamb burgers (how very Aussie of us) and the mandatory making and eating of the Pavlova. What a great way to spend our National Holiday!

I am a recent convert to making Pavlovas. I never used to make them, being desperately afraid that it would flop, crack, burn, weep... But I stumbled across a fantastic recipe from Not Quite Nigella that makes wonderful pavlovas every time. I made these as small pavs but you could easily make a large one. NQN puts the cream inside the meringue, I didn't have the patience this time, opting to pile the cream on top and stud it with strawberry, banana and passionfruit.

It's absolutely delicious: lovely and crisp on the outside, beautifully marshmallowy on the inside. It's just a few minutes of beating and hey presto - a fabulously moreish desert. I make them the night before, cooking them for an hour then switching the oven off and going to bed, letting them cool naturally in the oven. If you haven't made a pav this week I highly recommend you get out your kitchenaid and give this recipe a go!


Friday, January 21, 2011

Lather, rinse, repeat...

Someone in our house loves washing.

More specifically washing machines... If only I could get him to use the delicates cycle...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I know... I know...

I know I said I'd post something nice and fluffy today... But the vitriol over at Mama Mia forced me to repost this.

It's a fascinating read. It really throws some of the comments people are making about Nicole Kidman into some perspective. Like Mia, I can't believe some of the personal, hurtful and insensitive things people seem to feel comfortable writing about celebrities. And Nicole seems to be the one that fires people up the most...

I'm off to buy the Womans Weekly. This time not just for the crozzle and the knitting patterns...


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In defense of the reproductively challenged uterus... And Nicole Kidman.

It disturbs me to see so many people making personal comments about the wonderful news coming out of Nashville this week. Really, it does. You should be ashamed people.

Poor Nicole Kidman. I really feel for her situation. What should be such a happy time for her and the entire Kidman-Urban family and people feel they have the right to make incredibly personal statements about what a fake she is and how having a baby via surrogate is a complete joke. How she shouldn't have waited to have kids. It's all over the interwebs in comments on articles and blogs and Facebook (well, certainly my news feed). It's a disgrace.

Agreed - the choice of the descriptor "gestational carrier" to describe their surrogate was, perhaps, a little unfortunate, but infertility is really no laughing matter. It's not a joke and it's just not funny, people. It's not a matter for public derision, speculation and scorn. People like Nicole Kidman should be celebrated for their strength in going through this time consuming and emotional process to become a parent, not ridiculed and mocked. After seeing the public response I don't blame them for keeping it a secret for this long.

Infertility is incredibly hurtful and painful. It can, for some, be soul destroying. For many of us, the desire to have a baby is all consuming. If Nicole Kidman could have had this baby herself I have no doubt she would have. She looks like she's a fantastic mum to little Sunday and she really loves her. I can only imagine that being pregnant is one of the most beautiful things a woman can go through and I don't think it's something that would be often given up by choice. I don't think many women are honestly that vain.

Unfortunately, for many people IVF is not a choice. It's expensive (even more so now, thanks to Nicola Roxon's changes to the Medicare benefits payable), emotional, tiring, painful and time consuming. It's hours spent filling out forms, waiting in doctors surgeries, injecting yourself with hormones and waiting for test results, often after years of trying naturally. It's oceans of tears cried every month when the prospect of having your own baby gets just that little further away.

The emotional and physical cost of infertility can breakdown relationships and marriages. Anyone who hasn't faced the uncertainty of infertility can't begin to imagine the horrific prospect of not being able to have a child. On a good day it's almost bearable, on a bad one the pain can be so bad it defies description. And often there is no explanation as to why it has happened.

And to top it all off, the NSW Government recently legislated to make it a criminal offense to engage in a surrogacy agreement whereby the gestational carrier is paid. I get that it's about protecting people from exploitation but really? A criminal offense? One you can go to jail for? Please. Ridiculous much? And not only are they trying to stop it happening in NSW but the law also applies to overseas surrogacies in territories where the NSW Government has no jurisdiction.

With more and more people resorting to IVF and fertility treatment as a last resort to fall pregnant, should we not be trying to think of a better way to help rather than hinder the process? I don't think a jail term is an appropriate response to a couple desperately wanting to have children who have no other choice. It seems completely disproportionate. And some might even say that it's blatantly morally wrong. I can't imagine people who pay for a surrogate have exploitation on their mind (just the end result frankly), but don't people who go through the process of carrying someone else's baby to term deserve to be rewarded for their labour? Not all of us have a string of sisters and best friends who are lining up to carry our babies thankyouverymuch. I know it's not an option for me.

Surrogacy happens in Australia but it's not a common thing - estimates put the number of attempted pregnancies in the 30-50 per year range locally and a similar number from overseas arrangements. Senator Stephen Conroy and his wife had a baby via surrogacy in 2006. It's more common in the US where financial agreements for surrogacy are accepted. I think that regulation is probably important but not to this extent. Formalise the process, regulate it by all means, but don't put desperate parents in jail.

And for Nicole, Keith, Sunday and Faith - I just hope this time is joyous and special for them all. I know that if I ever get the chance to hold my baby in my arms, I won't care how it got there - or what other people might think of me.

Back to our usual programming tomorrow. Perhaps something dress related...


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oh no....

Apparently Marie Antoinette has a cousin.

And she's beautiful.

Must resist the urge.....

The upside is that she's indigo and I don't have any indigo or navy shoes. She'd match my beautiful ceylonese sapphire ring from Mr Kitty (a Christmas present). She's very very stylish...

The bad news is that I Do Not Need More Shoes Right Now (or possibly ever)...

Must... resist...

Kitty x

PS: But she's only $199.... Stop! STOP! Arrrggghhhh!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Stylish Blogger Award!

I know - two posts in one day from the Kitty. How lucky are you all?

I am honoured that the lovely Blighty passed this award on to me. Such a stylish and witty essayist, she is one of the "must read, no questions asked" blogs on my blogroll. She always makes me laugh and brightens my day.

Mwah! Mwah! Thank you darlink! You truly made my day! I can only aspire to be as verbose and witty as you are, petal! Oh, and as smart, artistically talented and athletic...

A condition of the award is to tell you all 7 things about me. Unfortunately none of them are as remotely interesting or creative as Blighty's list, but here goes:

1. I am not the only one who is obsessed by shoes in our house. Millie (the blue tortie burmese cat) loves hiding my shoes under the bed. Just individual ones - never the pair. And always mine - never Mr Kitty's shoes. It makes it hard to get ready quickly in the morning when you have to search for single shoes I can tell you!

2. I am not a good flyer. Don't get me wrong - I love to travel, but the flying part, not so much. I prefer the destination, not the journey. I am also a horrilbe sailor - boats and Miss Kitty do not get along. Apart from getting awfully ill, I just don't own the correct footwear.

3. At last count I had 94 black dresses in my wardrobe. And no matter how many I have, I continue to look for more beautiful black dresses. I can't help it. I really hope Mr Kitty isn't reading this...

4. My favourite TV show of all time is The West Wing. Clever, funny, inspirational TV. I just wish our Prime Minister was half the leader Jed Barlett was. I'd settle for a quarter frankly.

5. I have a massive collection of costume jewellery. More than a normal person could ever want or need. I have a thing for faux (and real) pearls in particular - I think they are beautiful. It's my "collection" and I love it, but I do need to be a bit more selective about my purchases I think. Maybe this year...

6. I also have a huge thing for tea sets - I have three and counting: the Wedgewood Queen's Plain set, the Wedgewood Harlequin Queen of Hearts and my Limoges Legle set I am gradually adding to with Christmas and Birthday presents. I will never use them all regularly but I do love drinking tea and I find using a real cup and saucer soothing. Plus they are all so pretty... And I love to have my favourite T2 Melbourne Breakfast tea using my tea sets... Bliss! Oh, and scones. I should stop talking about afternoon tea.

7. I am a confirmed chocoholic. At the moment I have to be physically restrained from trotting off to Lindt every afternoon to partake in the world's best hot chocolate. Speaking of which, it's almost that time of day now...

So now I need to pass this award on to 15 other bloggers who I love and have recently discovered. Well - not so recently in some cases but they are extremely stylish and certainly deserve an award.

Clare at
Nikita from Becoming Burlesque
The Mummy from Homemade Heart
Mildred's Mumma from The Stylish Shoe Girl
Sass from Sassiest
The lovely Semi-Expat from Semi-Expat in Oz
Katya from Oriental Hotel
The gorgeous Lilli from Frocks and Frou Frou
Willow and Lotus from Red Phoenix Style
And the ever stylish and thoughtful Sydney Shop Girl
What you all have to do is thank and link back to the person(s) who gave me this award, share your 7 things about yourself, then nominate the 15 bloggers you have recently discovered or who you think are worthy of the award. Comment on their blog letting them know you have nominated them. It's really that easy!
And thanks once again Blighty. Really, truly appreciate the love.

Let them eat shoes!

Marie-Antoinette is a girl after my own heart. She loved frilly things, lace, jewellery, afternoon tea and shoes. When we visited Versailles on our Honeymoon it became evident that if we lived in the same time, I'm sure we would have been firm friends. We have a very similar feminine style, we both love(d) macarons and live(d) in palaces fit for queens*.

So it's almost serendipitous that my latest purchase would have such stong connections to one of history's greatest trend setters. I'm sure she would endorse me buying them no matter what kind of spending ban I am supposed to be on. She's be that kind of friend.

As some backgroud, Mimco gave all the profits from puchases on Friday 14th January to the Flood Appeal. In an effort to be supportive (as I always try to be) I thought I'd pop in and check out the new stock as well as items on sale. You know, do my bit for the flood victims.

Unfortunately (for my credit cart), there were many beautiful things in store. I managed to restrain myself quite admirably, but I just so happened to be drawn to these beauties. Scattered with silvery studs and made from contrasting suede and nappa leather, they are at the same time chic and elegant whilst still being a bit cutting edge. Just like the woman herself. I think she would have particularly liked the bow and the sculptural heel.
They are in fact called Antoinette and they were an insanely good $119.20, reduced from $350. I think that's a saving of about a bajillion percent**. I think Faux Fuchsia might approve. They are certainly thrifty economy drive shoes... Plus - all the profit from my purchase went to help the flood victims so in fact, by making this purchase I was giving to charity.

Unfortunately Mr Kitty didn't see it that way. He just sighed and passed me another cupcake.

They still have stock in store of all the different colours but if you are interested I suggest you get in quick - at this price they will be walking out the door themselves.


* I am still waiting for my palace but I have been assured the plans are imminent.

** Miss Kitty isn't so good on the maths front, particularly on calculating savings and percentages. It's something she should be very good at given how many things she buys on sale but alas, she is not. Mr Kitty informs me that they shoes were in fact 66% off the original price. Bargain.
You can still directly donate money to help support the flood victims. For more information, please go here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where is Noah's ark when you really need it?

So sad hearing about all the flood affected people in South East Queensland. My heart goes out to you all. It makes things like shopping and cooking posts so irrelevant when people are losing their lives, their houses and their businesses.

I have friends - both real life and virtual - who have been affected by the floods, as well as friends who live in Queensland who aren't affected directly but who live in communities that have been inundated with water. Keep safe everyone. Please.

And if you have a few dollars to spare, rest assured it will go to a good place if you donate it here.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Our Grand Designs...

Is anyone else out there as in love with Kevin McCloud and Grand Designs as I am? I bought Mr Kitty the 7 series box set for Christmas and since then we have been greedily devouring episodes every night. We’re currently on series 4 and running through episodes fast. I have already seen many of them – they feel like old friends – but others are new and provide hours of entertainment and inspiration.

I love the creativity in the designs, the inspiration and thoughtfulness, the aspirations of the home builders, but most of all I love the passion that people have for interesting design and well-crafted finishes. Yes, some people are slightly mad (read: completely insane) regarding their quest to have the perfect house, but that just makes them even more compelling viewing. I love his questioning and probing about the designs, the pithy remarks about design principles or ability of the owners to build their dream creations on time and budget.

The houses featured are anything but your standard, run of the mill boxes that go up around our suburbs on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Like the house next to us which looks like the back half –made of ugly grey unrendered brick – will remain unpainted. Kevin would be aghast and scathing in his criticism. I’m seriously thinking of writing them a cheque just to paint that wall so that I don’t have to look at its hideousness for the next 20 years.

Contrary to project home builders, the owners and builders on Grand Designs often incorporate sound fundamentals and often environmentally friendly design principles into their houses; they respect and appreciate their location and have a real sense of timeliness and heritage. Or timelessness in some cases. And most of all, they reflect the lives of the people that live in them rather that providing a generic space to shelter.

Building a house for most people is a dream, a chance to put all of their ideas, love and creativity into one project that they will continue to live with and cherish for years to come. A chance to leave something innovative and inspirational for future generations. Although I don’t deny it’s a challenge – one most people might believe is beyond them – I think the one thing that Grand Designs tells us is that ordinary people can come up with some of the most extraordinary houses and dwellings. You don’t have to be an architect to have a vision.

As for our Grand Design, well, it’s coming along. Mr Kitty assures me that the plans will be into council by my birthday at the beginning of February. Approximately one year after he originally said they would be. But who’s counting? I’ve been adding to my folio of ideas though. Miss Kitty has some interesting interiors planned, that’s for sure. And some of the inspiration has indeed been provided by the fabulous Kevin. For better or worse we are investing our hearts and souls into this house and are excited by the journey ahead of us.

Image from


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Whinge and moan...

Here we go again. The retailers are having another whinge about the fact they feel their massive margins and profits are being eroded by online shopping. So much so that if the Government doesn’t acquiesce to their demands, they will take their ball and bat and go home.

Here are some facts for you readers: An Access Economics report showed Australians spent between $19 and 24 billion buying goods online in 2009, representing about three per cent of total retail sales. Three percent. The reality is Online Shopping is not hurting Australian retailers. Through bad service, high prices and lack of choice, they are managing to erode their own business models and profits themselves, thank you very much.

The Access Economic report also found that 50-80 per cent of those online sales were made with Australian online outlets, so the vast majority of purchases wouldn’t be subject to any change in policy anyway. We already pay GST on those items.

Reality Check time: What we are talking about is a tiny percentage of goods purchased from overseas, but what this campaign by the retailers and the Australian National Retailers Association has done is raise awareness of the benefits of online shopping to the many millions of people who don’t already shop online. They have been out there, banging their drums and telling everyone about the amazing bargains to be had from overseas online retailers, driving everyone off to go and see what the fuss is all about for themselves. Online retailers like Net-a-Porter and the like couldn’t ask for a better PR campaign from anyone.

I don’t want to reiterate all of my arguments as to why Australians shop online (and ergo why recent arrivals on the online shopping scene won’t succeed) but I have to say it does seem a tad strange to moi that these retailers are crying poor while spending millions of dollars on a poorly executed advertising campaign to try and get people On Their Side..

It’s ludicrous and it won’t work. Thanks to the retailers and their perpetual constant sales cycles, Australians don’t really buy anything at full retail price anymore. We’ve been conditioned over the past few years to seek out value and shop around. We compare prices, we look for the best items at the best prices. We seek out good customer service and reward it with patronage. With a lot more competition for the retail dollar, those who understand customers are more likely to succeed in the new world of retailing.

Charging GST on imported goods over $1000 purchased over the internet is the craziest thing I have heard in a long time. It’s a desperate scramble. The death throes of the condemned. Nowhere else in the world that I know of does it. It’s lunacy, plain and simple. Protectionism courtesy of Government interference and taxation won’t help our retail sector survive and thrive, but evolving to become more customer centric and focusing on good service, driving harder bargains with suppliers, passing savings on to customers and sourcing unique items from overseas will help Australians walk back through your doors, be they physical or virtual.

Rather than trying to destroy the competition, they should be observing them, imitating them, understanding why they are successful.

Retailers say that the high Australian dollar is hurting their sales with more and more Australians taking advantage of the exchange rate to make purchases overseas. Whilst I agree with them on this – yes, people are definitely doing it – I also think there is another way you can look at it. With the high Australian dollar over the past 12 months, the cost of importing goods into Australia has also dropped for those retailers. They don’t pass those reductions in costs onto consumers though – instead, preferring to pocket the difference as profit. Astute business practices or outright robbery? You decide.

It’s not rocket science but it seems that some retailers need to take a long hard look at their business models rather than on seeing who can complain and whinge the loudest. In the end, people will vote with their feet – and their wallets. And there’s nothing that the Government can do to stop people shopping overseas – adding 10% on to the cost of items won’t change people’s desire to buy them when they are already saving between 30 and 50%. Pursuing this agenda will do nothing but make the retailers who are involved look like a bunch of whinging greedy grabbers, and highlight the incredible amount of bargains already available on overseas websites.

I say let them dig their own grave. They seem eminently and efficiently able to do so.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Years resolutions.

Hmmm… So it’s day 4 of the New Year (already!) and I thought I should share my resolutions with you so far.

I, like many people, have had mixed success with resolutions in the past. I have the best of intentions, you must understand, but they just seem to fall by the wayside after a few weeks.

More often than not they tend to be negative: stop buying clothes, lose weight, don’t eat chocolate etc. and so on, and so forth and I think this has an impact on me being able to pull through. This year I have decided to be a little more constructive. Rather than stopping, I want to start. Rather than giving up, I want to take up. You get the drift!

With that in mind, here is a selection of the best of the best:

Being kinder to myself. I have to stop questioning and second guessing my decisions and have more faith in the Universe and The Grand Plan. This was a resolution last year and I plan on continuing with it this year.

Putting myself first. I’ll no longer be the doormat that I used to be, allowing people to walk all over me and my feelings. This is an important one for me and I’ll be seeking out some help with it.

A new hobby. I’m planning on doing a bit of study this year and I’m hoping it will lead to an increased interest in something new. More on that a bit later!

Thinking about purchasing decisions. With our big move coming up I need to think more rationally about clothing and how much I really need that new dress. I’m not likely to have a lot of storage in our interim place so it’s definitely a consideration for this year. That doesn’t mean I won’t shop (settle down readers!!), I’ll just get better at making choices, that’s all. And perhaps not buying 5 black dresses a week, for example.

I have a few more personal resolutions that I won’t be sharing here but rest assured they are along the same lines as this. Hopefully the switch to more positive resolutions will mean they are somewhat easier to achieve and keep working on.

What are your resolutions poppets?