I’m taking you on a date, this time for cake.

10 Feb

Hello lovely reader!

Here I am, still in bed: nursing a sprained ankle and reading my new fashion tomes with Feist’s “The Park” on repeat.

…But let’s get to the point.

I want to take you out on a date. To my newest, most favouritest cafe on Oxford St (Paddington). I’ll pick you up in my Lamborghini with a bottle of Verve in the back.

Ready? Alright darling, let’s go!

When I walk you into Ampersand Cafe and Bookstore, you’ll be greeted by very friendly baristas, (but not too friendly; you’re my date, remember). The one with the little beard will be wearing his bowler hat, and he might give you a wink. I’ll buy you a large latte, and a huge serving of Eggs Benedict AND the Apple and Berry Crumble (because you are lovely and don’t need to watch your weight). We will talk for hours as the soft morning light tilts through the open windows, nestled in red velvet arm chairs and watch the hustle of Oxford St speed past us.

Where would you like to sit, my dear? On the ground level you can sip your cappucino with a group of cheerful strangers on the sidewalk (on the little communal tables and stools, surrounded by colourful murals on the brick walls).

That might sound good, but I think I’ll take you upstairs to the second level. There, it’s like being in a great uncle’s library.

“Welcome to my estate”, he says in his silk dressing gown, waving cigar ash nonchalantly onto the Persian carpets. “Make yourself at home, my dears. Feel free to read the books, I’ll have your breakfast sent up. Be sure to try the eggs, they go so well with EM Forster!”

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All the books in Ampersand are for sale. So we can read poetry to each other over breakfast and I’ll buy you a first-edition as a keepsake. After the second round of coffee and large slices of cake, we can browse through the floor-to-ceiling shelves of fiction and art books upstairs, then meander down to the lower ground level to the non-fiction. You’d like a $1 bargain book? Of course! Outside on the pavement. And just between you and me, any place with Gertrude Stein on the wall deserves my eternal respect.

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If, for whatever reason, you would like to return to Ampersand Cafe and Bookstore without me (please don’t tell me it’s to see the barista), find it here (78 Oxford St. Open 7 days).

Here are the books I bought for you:

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“The subject of underwear can still evoke smirks and titters but it arouses a kind of sociological fervor in me, for whom its history sheds light on women’s long battle to attain freedom and social equality. I hope to show that it gives insight into our past and perspective to our present…” — Elaine Benson, p. 9.

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After our date, you’ll keep the books and a takeaway latte, and I’ll treasure the faint scent of Dior which you leave in the car.

Don’t worry, I won’t forget to call.

xxx

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Vivian Chan Shaw: a retrospective

6 Feb

Life can be so serendipitous.

This morning, by chance, I stumbled into one of the most inspiring fashion exhibitions I have ever seen.

Until February 13, the Whitehouse Institute of Design in Surry Hills is hosting a 40 year retrospective of designer Vivian Chan Shaw. I took my mum to Whitehouse this morning to show her the school, only to discover that it was the first day of the exhibition celebrating one of Australia’s most formidable and courageous designers.

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Vivian Chan Shaw began designing fabric garments in 1972 and soon moved onto knitwear (she’d been knitting from five years old). Her knitwear was ground-breaking: her bold, beautiful colours, continual references to nature, her evening wear, and incredible seamless designs – all made individually on a hand loom – brought her international acclaim. Her label has forever changed the face of knitwear, proving that it can be used to produce much, much more than a token sweater.

Mum and I had the fortune to meet Claudia Chan Shaw, Vivian’s daughter and collaborator: an intensely beautiful woman, she spoke to us personally about the creation process (“yes, we’re crazy”). What a creative, talented and inspiring woman.

Enough of my talk.

See the exhibition for yourself:

6-13 February

Whitehouse Institute of Design, Sydney

2 Short St, Surry Hills

10am-5pm (daily)

Cost: Free

Here’s a taster:

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Vivian’s jewellery: hand-knitted wire.

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You have to go and see these pieces in the flesh. The craftsmanship, expertise and creative vision (spanning 40 years, no less) will blow you away.

The exhibition is on level 5 of the Whitehouse Institute. Speak to the lovely receptionist and he’ll show you the way upstairs.

You can also visit their flagship store in the Queen Vic Building (get off at Town Hall station): shop 33, level one.

Wowza.

xx

I’ve got a secret called Cantina Bar

3 Feb

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Welcome to Cantina Bar: the home of Mexican street food in the heart of Balmain!

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An intricate web of prayer flags lace the ceiling and framed portraits of Freida Carlo lookalikes cover the walls. The place is cosy and intimate, and will serve you an amazing spread of quesadillas, tacos, nachos and anything that pairs well with salsa and hot sauce (and not your average hot sauce, either; Charlotte discovered some questionable looking bottles). Be prepared to wait a little while for a table on weekends (but we waited only 15 minutes, so don’t worry): friendly bar staff keep you entertained as you choose from their solid list of cocktails, imported beers and wines, and you can always watch one of the old Latin films projected onto the wall.  The food menu is designed to be shared, so bring ya mates and order a few plates. And what’s even better? You won’t find anything cheaper in this part of Sydney. Win for the masses!

Cantina Bar can be found here: 350 Darling St, Balmain, 2041. Open Tuesday-Sunday 5pm-midnight. Now goooo!!

Let me know if you can handle the hot sauce (and what you think of the Dominatrix “Hurts so good”, complete with cufflinks)…

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Char, Thea,Ashley and I met here last night to make mischief. I’d like very much to go into details… but what happens in Cantina Bar stays in Cantina Bar (and a girl never tells).

But what I can tell you is that we all ate too many tacos, drowned Churros in chilli chocolate, and drank champagne until closing. For her birthday, Thea gave Char the latest Vogue and a bunch of flowers (the way to a girl’s heart… boys, take note). We laughed a lot and cried a bit.

Some things I realised last night:

1. Most things are not black and white, and I should stop giving advice based on the assumption that they are.

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2. I don’t know anything. At all. (Aristotle got it right).

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3. Char, Thea Jane and Ash are three of the strongest, most resilient women I know: if I had a heart half as big and strong as any of them, who knows how rich and bold my life would be. Each of them have a particular beauty and strength of spirit (Char’s perceptiveness and kindness; Thea’s understanding and compassion; Ashley’s forgiveness) to which I will always aspire.

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4. Tacos always go well with champagne. Always.

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5. Oh my God, you are one beautiful person!

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P.S. Sorry for the poor quality iPhone photos. But I didn’t want to get salsa in my DSLR!

Now go eat tacos! Lots!!

xxx

Bat for Lashes

1 Feb

Heavy rain has descended upon Sydney once again.

Inevitably, the downpour began as soon as I started walking home from work: the girl who finally reached this terrace house was a shivering and saturated version of myself.

As I write, the rain is a constant thrum upon the roof and the oak trees outside my window shiver in the storm. Thunder punctuates my paragraphs.

This time two days ago, the sky was a beautiful blue, and I sat on the grass drinking champagne with Thea Jane and Charlotte. Who would have thought?

We were celebrating their birthdays! Hooray! Both of them were born on January 31, and no, they’re not related! I had planned a wonderful little evening on Wednesday for them: I had visions of a candlelit dinner, strawberries in champagne, homemade chocolate truffles… trust me, that vision is still in my head and boy, is it wonderful. However, one thing led to another that day (which merits another blog post entirely, stay tuned), so I ended up being half an hour late to my own house where Char and Thea were waiting. Finally, frazzled, stressed and carrying a fat-ass watermelon (an impulse buy/ thought it was a good idea/who knows how I’ll eat a whole watermelon all to myself), I stumbled into my house, and needed C and T to pamper me for a while instead.

But anyway. Grandiose visions had to be laid aside somewhat. Instead, we drank our champagne (with strawberries, still) as we did the beauty routine in the bathroom, and I made a super-speedy dinner of lemon and chilli angel-hair spaghetti (with champagne… and strawberries). Presents were given (Thea: Sophie Dahl’s cookbook Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights; Char: a pair of Ralph Lauren tweed trousers, the perfect fit), another coat of mascara applied, and we stumbled outside to catch our train.

Why? Because we were heading to the Enmore Theatre, to see Bat for Lashes! That’s why!

If you don’t know Bat for Lashes, get out your surfboard and jump on youtube. Or better yet, listen to this:

The story of her two and a half year process of making this album is so inspirational. Hitting a complete creative wall, she couldn’t write a single song to match her previous album. Exasperated, she called her friend Thom Yorke (yep, the Thom Yorke), who told her to  explore creative means other than songwriting. So she took up contemporary dance, and through this, she was able to once again find her voice in song.

I just find this story incredibly inspiring. Bat for Lashes refused to give up. Artistic inspiration is not received; it is sought out, it is achieved. The journey of Bat for Lashes is one of utter determination and perseverance. She’s a woman of action!

And also, she’s just a damn fine performer. What all three of us loved about her was that she refused to be anyone other than herself. She came onto stage wearing a matching rainbow skirt and cape (courtesy of Romance was Born), and sang with her heart on her sleeve. And this is what people respond to: confidence in one’s individuality. This combined with an openness and willingness to connect with others on a deep, emotional level. And also she’s just got a hot body, and is a super cool dancer, and she totally rocks that little black bob.

But anyway, long story short: I just want to encourage all of those artists out there, to keep at it. Man, it’s hard sometimes. But persevere. Keep your heart in it, and anything you produce will be evident of that. Never lose sight of what you want to achieve, no matter how frustrated or exasperated or uninspired you feel.

And if it gets really bad? Have some champagne and pasta with the girls.

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Happy Birthday my darling girls! You’re looking mighty fine… xx

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P.S. To all you loyal readers out there (I can’t believe how many there are of you!): I’m so honored to have you reading my humble little blog. You make me so happy!!

If you haven’t subscribed to Cait and Marten, just click on the bloglovin’ icon in the sidebar, or just follow by email.

Bisous, bisous! x

Canberra in 36 hours

23 Jan

This ain’t a travel guide, don’t get too excited. But it IS my recount of the past two days spent in the capital city. Now, one day I would love to call myself a Sydneysider (it’s gonna happen), but having only lived in Sydney for two months, and Canberra for 2 1/2 years, I have more special places in Canberra than Sydney. There are some fabulous places in the city that I have come to adore (and now miss, being a 3hr bus trip away… absence makes the heart grow fonder).

So without further ado, let me take you through my past 36 hours spent in Canberra, with my darling family.

Straight off the bus, my family picked me up and drove to Canty’s, without a doubt the best secondhand bookshop in Canberra, if not everywhere. Three large rooms of floor to ceiling books, ranging from Philosophy, Tin Tin, Thomas Hardy, A-Z of Classical Music, French dictionaries and I even found an “unauthorized” biography of Tom Cruise (get in there before that one goes). We first found this place in 2010, when Mum and  I wrote down all the secondhand bookstores listed in the Yellow Pages, hoping to find a new (second) home. Canty’s was second on the list and once found, we didn’t even bother with the rest.

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IMG_0669 (Check out the sentence in parentheses… thanks Simone de Beauvoir)

The store is run by a charming husband and wife, who know too much about literature and all things publishable (I didn’t even know that was a word. Well there you go).

For Christmas last month, Zander gave me a lavish $20 voucher for the place. Believe it or not, I bought five (5) books. All wonderfully enticing and holding hoards of secrets I want to discover all at once. Reader, meet my books; my books, meet reader:

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s; The Prime of Life; Metamorphosis; Madame Bovary; Lolita.

And what makes Canty’s even more amazing? The coffee shop across the road. ONA is its name: locally owned and based, it is a specialty coffee roasters that will blow your mind. Zander had a Cold Pour Over, I had a Picollo and Mum bought us all sweet, roasted garlic bread for lunch. Mind blown.

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Mum was (evidently) chuffed to find a Babar book…. reminded her of Parisian adventures (but that’s an entirely different story).

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Next stop: the best fabric and supplies store in Canberra, Addicted to Fabric. This place is out near Woden and needs no introduction.

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The only reason we made ourselves leave (NB: “we” is Mum and I. Dad and Zander had lesser things to do) was monetary. But we did come home with a neat little pile of goodies! (yay)

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I won’t tell you what I’m doing with all of these, it’s a surprise! You’ll have to wait for a later post… bet you simply cannot wait.

A brief sojourn at home listening to Zander playing Bach or somethingorother —

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— we zipped along to Kingston, to the slightly famous and wholly underrated Brodburger. Selling arguably the best burgers in the city, it started out as a caravan beside the lake (the glory days) but has recently moved to a bright, shiny extension of the Canberra Glassworks. Although much of the charm has gone, the burgers are still damn fine, and their new digs means they’re now licensed. Be prepared to wait 20-30 mins on a busy night, but trust me — grab a beer while you wait — and it’s totally worth it.

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I would highly recommend getting your food to takeaway and walking down to the lake. There are plenty of benches along the water front and you can admire a) ducks, b)water, c) a few attractive joggers and many not-so and d) the other side of the lake. Nah, really: it’s stunning.

But you won’t notice it till after you’ve eaten:

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Eesh. If you’re thinking I wouldn’t be eating for days after my Haloumi, grilled vegetable and aioli burger, you’d be wrong. Because twelve hours later, I was at my favourite cafe-restaurant with my other fave brother, Joel. This place is in Chifley (near Woden) and is like stepping out of Canberra and into Melbourne, complete with mismatched crockery and disheveled staff. I annoyed/embarrassed/bewildered Joel with my snap-happy nature (“WHY are you taking a photo of a SAUCE BOTTLE?!”), but he was soon distracted by his sausages/eggs/toast/bacon/umm what else?

a Bite to Eat isn’t for everyone, but take a look at their website (above), go have a meal (they’re also licensed), and let me know what you think!

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IMG_0730 (Granola, poached pears, natural yoghurt… like, heaven)

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And a little present on the wall beside me:

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My dear brother bought me my breakfast because I’d spent all my money at Addicted to Fabric. But he’s a doctor and I’m a penniless scrooge. Thanks Joely…

The rest of my time was spent catching up with the parents. They live in Papua New Guinea for most of the year, so I’m making the most of these two months that they’re home.

The past six years have been a turbulent time for the family and relationships have been strained, sometimes to near breaking point. Family has always been an incredibly important part of my life, and being separated from everybody I loved in Papua New Guinea at 16 was a hard adjustment. Certain, awful things occurred in the next few years that prompted me to isolate myself from the family (my erroneous thinking at the time: isolation=independence=strength). This was compounded with my inability to understand and accept why my parents would choose to live in another country. Things came to a head in 2011. And then I went to New York for six months in 2012. For a long time, the song I would listen to for comfort was “In Repair” by John Mayer.

However, moving to Sydney — away from Canberra, the place associated with these memories — has begun a new chapter. I can finally look back at the past six years objectively. Living in NYC forced me to grow up and consider the decisions of my parents from their point of view. NYC also forced me to trust people, see the inherent good in people, and realise that “being loved” is a state, a mindset, entirely independent of external circumstance.

I finally feel like I am through those turbulent years, and I want to foster my relationship with my parents and family. I am a stronger, happier person and do not regret anything I have experienced. These years have most definitely shown me my true friends (to whom I am eternally indebted: you know who you are). True friendships know no borders or boundaries or time and can overcome any kind of struggle.

But back to the family: things are mending, and these past two days have revealed this to me. Families depend on forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and compromise. Just as my dearest friends and family accept me — all of it — so too do I for them. I need to forgive if I expect to be forgiven myself. Love is understanding, selflessness, compassion. But mostly understanding.

There is a strength in the ties of family that should never be broken. Of course they’ll drive you crazy at times, you will hurt them and they will hurt you. Misunderstandings and arguments could last years. But underneath it all, there is something that keeps your hearts — stripped of all the bullshit, laid bare — together.

It is a space nobody can touch.

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xxx

Don’t forget to follow me on Bloglovin’ (or subscribe by email), tell a friend, and bring a bottle of wine (I like Shiraz).

a shift in perspective

17 Jan

Sometimes there’s nothing better than the classic shift dress. It made its debut in the 60s and has never looked back. Chic, flattering, fun: it’s a modern girl’s dress.

Have a look at this cheeky little shift I bought yesterday in Surry Hills. The cut is classic, but the same cannot be said for the print (which I love, by the way).

I was inspired by my sister-in-law, who recently reminded me to think beyond the designer labels: “Don’t be a follower,” she said. “Labellers are followers and I see you more as a trend-setter.”

In these pics: Wittner shoes, Ralph Lauren sunglasses. Photography: Thea Jane

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Shift back to the 60s. You’ll only find fun, and a lot of really great legs.

The stuff that dreams are made of

11 Jan

My grandmother is the most darling person I know. You’ll never find anybody sweeter. She is incredibly kind, tolerant and open-minded (except when men swear at the football: she’ll prod them with her walking stick and say “Would you kindly watch your language!?”). She has a halo of white hair, a bright pink walking stick and a Shi Tzu puppy called MacDougal. And what I adore most? Whenever I tell her I love her, she replies: “No, I love you, darling!”

For my recent graduation, she quietly slipped some money into my hand: “I want you to buy a keepsake, Caity. Don’t just buy any old thing.” She was so incredibly proud.

So with her impeccable taste and timeless style in mind, this is what I bought:

World-renowned photographer Diego Uchitel’s new book, Polaroids.

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What better keepsake than an art book, to which I will constantly go for inspiration (and always with Grandma in mind). The photographs in these pages are overflowing with secrets and mystery and beauty… They make me want to travel to… to the world of Helen, or to a forgotten castle, or a secret treehouse in the wilderness (complete with a tyre swing and mossy riverbanks). They make me want to wear arm-fulls of bangles and toe rings and a beautifully draped ball gown. They make me yearn for mystery, for the afternoon sun slanting through a dusty room, for colour, for a pair of lips to kiss.

I want to share with you some of my favourites…

Scroll down; weep.

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Clearly I have spent hours looking through the photographs on Uchitel’s website. Please have a look here, even if just for me. I can’t even begin to describe the range of his photography, the influence of his work, or the sheer size of his oevre. Read his biography here; information about the specific book polaroids here.

Thankyou Diego Uchitel. Thankyou Grandma.

xxx