Thursday, 30 June 2011

Top Five Retail Shops

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination” 
~ Oscar Wilde

This next list is really going to show my pretentious side… But I hope you will forgive my materialistic fancies and take delight in the world of shopping. Sorry for any international readers who may be unfamiliar with these stores but if you ever visit down under – you’ll be shop efficient and ready to go!

1. Alannah Hill

Although I have very few items from Alannah Hill I adore it all the same. Sadly, this poor student cannot walk out of this magical shop with a new dress every time.

But it is a wonderful place to float whimsically away as you are surrounded by lovingly made dresses all with the most feminine of airs. The sales assistants (I like to call them “The Alannah Girls”) are pristine perfect! It is like they stepped straight out of a 1950s pin up poster. They greet you with gorgeous smiles as you admire the range of colourful garments.

The stores are absolutely gorgeous – girly wallpaper, velvet couches, white benches and exciting change rooms. What more could you ask for? Maybe a serve of champagne as you walk out the door? Well it happens at special events – so I guess that’s that!

What I most love is the distinct style. Alannah knows who she is: she isn't shy, she's quirky yet wearable and she knows how to have a quintessential girl of a time!

And on the rare occasion I walk out with a new dress wrapped delicately in fine tissue paper and placed in a pretty red and cream ribbon strapped paper bag – my shopping experience is complete and those little details have the ability to make me happy for a month. (I'm easily pleased)

2. Mimco

I browse the wonderful store that is Mimco so much so that the sales assistants know me by name… Every Mimco sale, I am there without fail, and yes I usually walk away with a bag in hand. I’m not kidding: Mimco is my kryptonite. I went to a party the other night feeling as though I was sponsored by Mimco:

Friend: “Where did you get your shoes from?”

Me: “Mimco”

Friend: “I love those earrings”

Me: “Thanks, they are from Mimco”

Friend 2: “Wow, where is your clutch from?”

Me: “I bought it on sale at Mimco”

Yep! Definitely devout Mimco junkie and hard core groupie number 1!

I have little to no will power when it comes to Mimco. Once; I knew I couldn’t afford these very impractical but gorgeous heels so I walked out empty handed. That night they haunted me in my dreams. I’m not joking when I say my coveted purchases talk to me in my sleep… the next morning I was drawn back through those wonderful doors as I left with the shoes I thought would change my life. Ok, so they might not have changed my life but like the next person I do love a compliment and on their virgin run, compliments endlessly flooded in. I have never regretted a Mimco purchase and no matter how anorexic my wallet gets I don’t think I ever will.

3. Cue

This is a wonderful example of an Australian brand. The garments are all still made in Australia and customer service is excellent. Cue never fails to flatter my body shape and it is my go to for corporate wear. The Cue sales are another must go (I hardly buy full price – one of the reasons why I have a fictional Olympic gold in shopping).

Also who doesn’t love a place which offers a loyalty card? There is something inviting about collecting copious amounts of loyalty cards. You feel as though you are special, you belong. Who doesn’t want loyalty discounts, special offers and VIP events?

4. David Jones

Christian Laboutin, Miu Miu, Akira, Collette Dinnigan, Burberry, Armani, Lisa Ho... the designer’s are endless. Ever since Queens Plaza (my favourite Brisbane shopping destination) had a makeover, David Jones has been a place where I can melt away and dream of purchases way out of my means. I can try on garments with eye popping price tags, sample overpriced beauty products and lovingly stroke leather Chloe bags I can only dream of.

To be fair David Jones is really your average mass corporation department store but I always find myself supporting it, even when I know there are other relatives. I think it's because it is a convenient place to find the most expensive of fashion houses, especially in little old Brisbane. So thanks Mr Jones for providing me with a little taste of opulence.

So I guess they aren’t lying when they say “there’s no other store like David Jones” (insert catchy 90s advertising tune).

5. Mecca Cosmetica

Want the perfect place for pretentious cult brand beauty products – head to Mecca.
I remain somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to beauty with a price tag and yet I find browsing the bright clean shelves of Mecca so inviting. Suddenly this place made me want to part with my money for a tiny bottle of cleanser claiming to be the best, with an ingredient list that might be mistaken for Latin or scientific jargon.

Not turning into a beauty blog but I must thank Mecca for finally finding my one and only mascara – (Kevyn Aucoin The Mascara – volumising) LOVE! Ladies you know this endless search is painstakingly annoying and when you discover that unspeakable one, you never look back! (And you pray the day it is discontinued will never, ever come)

Again, my name is in their database – they know what I have purchased; they ask whether you need a top up, they know their products and they always give you samples! We all know free stuff is a great pick me up!

Just missing out is feminine brand Review – I think of it as the more affordable Alannah Hill and I must admit I own a fair few Review dresses. Again, these wonders are mostly still locally made, the stores are neatly set out and yes there is a loyalty card! Plus, to top it all off paper bags and tissue paper is all part of the parcel.

Also, a quick mention must go to the other department store - Myer. Recently whoever employed the new buyer - snaps! They are really getting in some great Australian fashion talent and unlike David Jones they have an awesome rewards card!

Comment and let me know where you love to shop. I’ll be more than happy to check them out!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Top Five Period Dramas (Mini-Series)

Now before some of you scoff and choose to ignore this weeks entry put aside your prejudices and open your mind to the wonderful world of period drama. Many people label it as a slow genre, a world meant for the elderly, senile or utterly lonely. I hope I fit into none of these categories (although lonely could be slightly true).

To be clear these are all mini series (not movies or ongoing shows). Mini series are one of my favourite genres because character development is so well portrayed and production value is amazing! Spend a day at home curled up under the warmth of a blanket some comfort food and a cup of tea - you have got one happy camper.

A mini series only consists of about 3 to no more than 20 episodes – this is my own definition but in essence it is a series that has a planned and limited number of episodes with a defined and complete end.

What people don’t realise is that a period drama is like any other drama. It has main characters with flaws, a plot line containing love triangles, war, scandal, betrayal, action, suspense with an ultimate conclusion. The following are all wonderful adaptations of classic novels. So check these gems out:

1. Pride and Prejudice (BBC 1995)

I’m not sure what my life would be without this mini series. Firstly, credit goes to writer Andrew Davies for providing audiences with the truest adaptation of a novel I have ever seen. Davies is my God when it comes to period drama screenplays because he understands the need to display the original author’s work. Much of this series is word for word Austen’s prose and it is this which makes it perfection. The casting is just right (although Jane Bennet isn’t exactly the picture of beauty) but Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle make up for her horse like face and rather annoying mannerisms. I sit down for this 6 hour epic once a year and it never fails to cheer me up. Each viewing I discover something new and each time emotions are riot. The look of Mr Darcy’s face as he admires Lizzy is to die for. The famous lake scene redefined the words “wet white shirt” and the addictive soundtrack sews it all together. P&P is the ideal introduction to the world of the mini series and the magic that is Colin Firth.

2. North and South (BBC 2004)

Need I say anything? Dress Richard Armitage in period costume acting out this wonderful example of a man (Mr John Thornton) and you have got yourself one hell of a period drama. You could make parallels with this and P&P for days but what I love about this series is the passion and confrontation.
The flaw is the heroine Miss Margaret Hale played by Daniela Denby-Ashe – I feel she does not do Gaskell’s original character justice and she just comes across as ungrateful and constantly annoyed. Maybe I’m just jealous of her but she lacks the strength of Margaret and you are left feeling Mr Thornton could do so much better.

This has an untouchable conclusion. It ranks as my favourite ending to anything! This scene was never actually in the book but it makes it so much more romantic and for that I approve. No spoilers here, but I'll paint the picture – an old steam train, a fateful encounter, a romantic speech and an undeniably beautiful embrace.

3. Cranford (BBC 2007 and 2009)

The great Dame Judi Dench - oh how hard it is to fault her. This is more typical old lady viewing material but it has a charm about it. I found the sub plots extremely engaging and the ensemble cast had magnificent chemistry. My favourite relationship is between a young boy and a man (no; get your head out of the gutters). This is one of fatherly love, a man who wants the best for an unrelated boy yearning for an education; a boy defying class divide. What keeps this so engaging is the turn of the century feel. You are placed in a world of change, a small town being effected by the growth of the world, the evolution of human construction and intellect. Be prepared to cry, laugh and be left wondering how much we as a race have changed.

It was so popular the show returned in 2009 for an extra 2 episodes with a summary that leaves you complete.

4. The Forsyte Saga (ITV 2002)

Here is one for the history books. I thought watching 6 hours straight of Pride and Prejudice was a little crazy. Try 11 episodes straight – that is 660 minutes of little movement, hardly any sleep and minimal toilet breaks. Do the maths, I started episode 1 at 4pm…
They aren't lying when the say “saga”. You go on a whirlwind journey following three generations of a rather scandalous family. It was a shock to the system when I saw it was an ITV production as life for me without BBC would be a nightmare. But this is a drama with all the plot lines. A very flawed man, a cheating wife, a family feud, forbidden romances, unforeseen deaths, forgiveness and acceptance – every minute of this captures your attention.

The final credits role and you are emotionally drained you have been angry, sympathetic, joyous and finally you understand the character's actions and your anger subsides and you see how true they have portrayed the human condition.

5. Little Dorrit (BBC 2008)

A Charles Dickens mini series is really rather perfect for me. I am someone who strives to be one of those snobbish people who can say they have read all those “must read” books but I struggle in reality. There are so many classics sitting in the “to read” pile but I can never seem to get through them. Mr Dickens is one such author. His character development is complex and his books so terribly slow and detailed. So yes I am sadly to some extent one of those people who believe watching an adaptation means you have read the book. For the case of Little Dorrit it is actually fairly true.

Again the magic of Andrew Davies is clearly the foundation to its’ success.
Darker than I usually enjoy (but that is what you get with Dickens) yet I enjoyed it from beginning to end. Matthew MacFadyen is wonderful as the ultimate good man and set design is true to BBC greatness.

Are you shocked this Jane Austen fanatic only has one of her many adapted screen plays? Well I certainly am. You see, they are beautiful in their own right – especially the recent Persuasion but unfortunately that final kiss is just horrendous. Seriously, as much as I love Captain Wentworth and Anne’s relationship this final scene is stretched way too far. I rank it as most awkward lead up to a kiss ever! Similarly Sense and Sensibility was well written (by Mr Davies naturally) but it didn’t really stay with me as much.

Sadly Downton Abbey and Lark Rise to Candleford don’t qualify as they have multiple series so I might touch on them in the distant future.

Share your favourite mini series, your least favourite and whatever else!

Next week we look at my favourite Australian retail shops.

Also, just a shout out that I’m trying to blog once a week so watch this space!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Preference

This next entry is going to be a little confronting and auspiciously truthful (some of you may think a lot less of me..) So here goes:

We all pigeon hole people into categories (no matter how much we choose to deny it).
I do believe I am one of the worst offenders! Someone speak to me in an accent: English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh and on occasions, French, South African, Italian; I immediately think rather highly of them. That is probably an understatement, I want to know them, I think they are amazing!

Yes yes I know, it is a horrible habit and my prejudices are worse than that of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett combined. My preference for the English is shamefully obvious and so help me I truly think I have a super power. Just on one look 8/10 times I can tell you if a man is from the UK. I mean just on appearance. I haven’t heard him speak I haven’t even seen his mannerisms, I just know. I recently watched Good Will Hunting and it was the perfect analogy. Just like Beethoven and Mozart could look at a piano and just play is how I look at the English and just know. I know, you think I’m crazy (which I ask myself on a daily basis) but hear me out.

Some people are more observant than others, I like to think I’m a fairly observant person when it comes to noticing appearances (I know, I’m rather shallow). Anyway, what I’m trying to say is we all have similar features nation wise. Australians – well we have pretty leathery skin, we tend to have sun spots and we often walk with either a lazy or cocky gate. The Americans – well I’ll state the obvious they are fat and a young American girl just look s so American! – you all know what I mean, they walk with sky high confidence, look older than their years and have the whitest of teeth and broadest of smiles. The average American tends to wear ill fitted clothes and outdated tracksuits. The French tend to have thin lips, small frames and effortless minimalist style. And those from the UK – fair skinned, dress conservative but well, have distinct mouths and yes the stereotype seems to be true – they tend to have bad teeth (A weakness that often vexes me). So purely based on appearance picking the European from the American, the Italian from the Greek, the Chinese from the Korean is really rather easy. You can notice these similarities after you have travelled. Jumping from country to country you begin to find the likely features of a local. Just stop and watch and you will see the likely suspects.

Back to the disgusting truth of my preference towards the English accent. I notice it everywhere I go, in every action I take, in every decision I make. I work as a receptionist at a medical centre. Someone calls for an appointment, we are kind of full but then I hear his accent and I kindly book him in… An ugly looking man walks through the doors – I label him ugly and then he speaks and suddenly he is just normal looking. I book a meeting time for someone over the phone after sitting at my desk bored out of hell and suddenly his accent across the line perks me up and just like that my day has been made. My top 10 actors are almost all from the UK (I could write sonnets, poems, songs, heck even essays on Bear Grylls). No seriously, that is how bad it is, that is how sordid my mind is. The brain is a mysterious organ and mine must have been wired by one dumb little na├»ve girl.

I pigeon hole almost everyone I see and I know how bad it is but I simply find it entertaining, I find it amusing, I find it relatively healthy. I would never force it on them and when it came to tough life decisions off course I would never, ever let my prejudices override what is right. (As an Asian, I have no patience for racism and I utterly, outrageously detest it – now that is a topic I could seriously write some fiery essays on!)

Recently though I have come to except my slight insanity and I am learning to embrace by obsessions and unceremonious passions (no matter how trivial). It is part of who I am, it is a part of my story, it contributes to my life, it is what helps drive the mind and soul. What is life without a little fanciful fantasy? Without a little daring opinion or passionate thinking? I don’t exactly think it would be a life well lived. On the whole I am actually really grounded (although some would think I’m cheating myself), I am very much all about the reality despite my rants and delusions of grandeur – I do know the difference between reality and dreams (but that can wait for another entry).

Reading back on this, maybe this didn’t belong out there in the cyber world, maybe I should have kept this to the humble pages of a private journal. But then I guess what is the point in writing something if no one else is going to enjoy it, judge it, laugh at it and disapprove of it? Keeping something private is just for self indulgence really, sharing it with the public; then it is self improvement.