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Lifestyle

Sophia’s 4th Birthday Fairy Picnic

30th May, 2018

I still remember sharing Sophia’s first birthday on the blog with you all so it’s so hard for me to believe that she’s now turning four! I’m sure most parents would agree that time really does fly and each birthday comes around quicker than the next. This year we decided to hold Sophia’s party at our family property in the Southern Highlands. Given we were going for a fairy picnic theme it seemed the perfect setting.

We decided on a picnic as it made a lot simpler to style and we just wanted guests to feel relaxed throughout the day. We stuck to a simple colour palette of soft pink and white with little touches of gold which we carried through to everything from the lollies to the cake and the decorations. Sophia was able to have a little more input in her party this year and she actually chose her tutu (from Tutu Du Monde) and the cake that she wanted. We found the cake on Instagram (from @sweetmamacakes) and it worked well with the theme as it was a fairy with a mushroom house.

In terms of decorations we opted for a few balloons and some bunting to give the party area a festive atmosphere. We put down a few pink and white blankets on the grass and scattered a few pillows for the kids to sit on and dotted the place with flowers and gold confetti. It dressed the area up quite easily and it didn’t require us to spend hours decorating.

We didn’t really want to be stressing about catering on the day so we stuck to a simple menu. We had finger foods such as sandwiches, fairy bread (of course!), sultanas, popcorn and cupcakes and fruit platters for the little ones. For the adults we had a few cheese platters and fruit platters and had a good ol’ fashioned sausage sizzle, which worked out great as it was quick and easy.

We always like to have some entertainment on hand to keep the kids occupied so we hired a birthday fairy and she did everything from  dancing with the kids to games like pass the parcel and activities like colouring in. As a special treat we also had pony rides with our family ponies Harley and Jack, and we dressed them up with unicorn horns in keeping with the magical theme.

It was a great day with a few close family and friends and Sophia had the time of her life. I’m sure the next birthday celebration will sneak up on us just as quickly!

Photography: Sophia Athas

Party for the kids

The birthday girl

The picnic set up

Sophia with her friends

Sophia with the birthday fairy

It was a great day for the four of us

The kids having a ball

Grace and I with our friend Emma Watkins aka the Yellow Wiggle!

Cutting the cake

The gorgeous cake

A great day with family and friends

 

Lifestyle

Luke Mangan’s top 10 tips to impress at your next dinner party

23rd April, 2018

With restaurants in Australia, Japan and Singapore and fresh from a $1.5 million renovation of his restaurant the Glass Brasserie in the Hilton in Sydney, Luke Mangan knows the key to a good dining experience. However if unlike the chef and restaurateur you don’t have a team of chefs helping you cook up a storm at home, never fear because Luke has shared his top 10 tips for a successful dinner party. After all if anyone would know how to feed a room full of people with ease it’s a man who is at the helm of restaurants that serve hundreds of diners in a single evening! The next time you’re having people at yours, be sure to keep these tips top of mind for a memorable, stress-free and best of all, enjoyable event.

1. Keep it seasonal

Always plan your menu and try to make it seasonal. There is nothing better than cooking with fresh seasonal produce – it’s also much more cost effective.

2. Simplicity is key

Try not to be too tricky with your menu, cook dishes you know and are comfortable with so you can spend as much time with your guests rather than being stuck in the kitchen, while everyone else is enjoying themselves.

3. Don’t be afraid to delegate

One tip to avoid last minute stress is to delegate. Don’t feel like you have to do everything just because you are hosting. Your friends won’t like to arrive empty handed anyway, so let them be part of the preparation. And don’t be afraid to assign people certain things, that way you wont end up with five plates of the same salad.

Need some table inspo? Take inspiration from the setting at Luke’s restaurant, glass brasserie

4. Create a welcoming vibe

Creating the right ambience is the easiest way to relax people. Candles are a must and soft lighting creates a warm and cosy environment, especially when entertaining in winter. Always have music playing but not too loud; it creates a lovely ambience in house.

5. Check guests’ food requirements

To save yourself the embarrassment, check any dietaries or dislikes ahead of time. Nothing worse than having guests not being able to eat your food – that’s what they’re there for right?

6. Intimate is best

Don’t feel like you need to invite everyone! Keep numbers intimate and minimal – nothing worse than signing yourself up for cooking for a group of 30 guests!

7. Make dessert ahead of time

Choose a dessert you can make ahead of time and keep in the fridge or freezer. By the time you get to dessert the last thing you feel like doing is getting back in the kitchen to finish off the last course!

8. Serve communal meals

I love to serve my dishes “family style”. By placing everything in the middle of the table your guests can help themselves to as little or as much as they like; it is a nice interaction at the table and creates conversation.

9. Keep it relaxed

Most importantly, keep it relaxed and fun; if you’re relaxed then your guests will be relaxed too.

10. Don’t forget the drinks!

And if all else fails, there’s always wine!

 

Lifestyle

My fave shortcuts as a busy mum

5th April, 2018

As a busy mum I have a few time-saving tricks up my sleeve

Working and having two kids means that every day can be quite the juggling act. I don’t think I’ve ever been as busy as when Sophia and Grace came along. All of a sudden I went from being able to manage my time the way I wanted to having to fit everything around them and their schedule. As I’m sure most mums can attest, there’s not a whole lot of time left to get anything done after you’ve tried to get everything on your child-related to-do list checked off.

From taking the girls to pre-school, ballet, play dates and then having to do everything from making dinner to cleaning around the house, it can be a long, exhausting day. So wherever I can I like to take the easy way out. Yes, shortcuts are any busy mum’s friend and they’re definitely mine. Here are a few I’ve adopted to free up a bit more time during the week.

 Get groceries delivered

Anyone who has ever tried to keep their kids entertained whilst simultaneously trying to do their grocery shopping without forgetting pretty much everything they needed in the first place deserves a medal. This is why I’ve taken to shopping online and having my groceries delivered. I can peacefully shop on my laptop when the kids are asleep and then have a week’s worth of food appear in my kitchen without any hassle. If you’re not doing it already, please try it!

Vacuum from anywhere

Vacuuming is one of those chores that needs to be done regularly but it eats up so much time that I always find it a struggle trying to get around to it. So I succumbed to the allure of having my floors cleaned without having to lift a finger. Check it out here Electrolux PUREi9. It’s a robotic vacuum cleaner that I can not only program to follow my own particular cleaning schedule but I can control it from wherever I am using the PUREi9 app on my phone. I was initially worried that it may run into furniture and get stuck while I was out however  it has a 3D Vision system which scans the room and makes sure to avoid obstacles. So I can pretty much just schedule it via the mobile app, leave it and then come home to totally clean floors.

Turn it on and forget about it and come home to magically clean floors

Schedule it via the mobile app

The Electrolux PUREi9 in action

 

Cook once, eat twice

The last thing I want to do is have to spend hours in the kitchen cooking each week. So to halve the time spent on making meals often we’ve taken to whipping up bigger batches of whatever it is we’re having then freezing it as that means we can revisit again on those days when we really can’t be bothered cooking.

Organise as I go along

I’ve noticed that if I try and do things as I go along I don’t have such an epic cleaning job ahead of me at the end of the week. I’ve now tried to implement the rule that if it will only take me a few seconds to put something away then I do it right then and there instead of procrastinating.

I now make a point of trying to organise as I go along

 

Embrace lists

Lists are a mum’s best friend. Instead of wasting time trying to remember things I now map out the day ahead by writing a quick list. If I can see what I have to do, it helps me to plan how I’m going to structure my day so I use my time efficiently. For example if I have to run errands in multiple places during the day I try and do the things closest to home first then work my way out so I don’t spend the time driving around just trying to get from A to B and back again.

Utilise open storage

Before having kids I didn’t really appreciate the usefulness of baskets around the house. I do now. I have a few strategically placed around our apartment so that I can quickly put the girls’ things away at the end of the day. It takes a few minutes and I feel I have a tidy house at the end (this works wonders for calming a frazzled mind). It’s also perfect for those times when people drop by unexpectedly and I need to have a clean house in seconds.

What are some of your favourite shortcuts as a mum?

This post was produced in collaboration with Electrolux

Photography: Sophia Athas

Shop

Valentine’s Day gift ideas that are sure to impress

9th February, 2018

Valentine's Day gift ideas for women

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and if you’re yet to have found the perfect present for your other half then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve rounded up my top his and hers gift picks that are sure to impress and earn you some major brownie points on the day. From beautiful accessories for the fashion lover to timepieces that are going to make any watch fan’s day, there’s a perfect token of affection to bring a smile to your beloved’s face. And if you’re happily single, well, this is the perfect time to spoil yourself rotten because there’s no doubt that you absolutely deserve it. I hope you have a loved up February 14th!

Scroll down to start V Day shopping…

For her

Three J NYC cotton poplin pyjamas

There’s always room in a woman’s life for cute and comfy PJs.

Gucci G-timeless leather watch

A classic style that with that bright pop of red has showstopper appeal.

Anine Bing lace soft cup bra

Beautiful lingerie is a definite crowd pleaser for all parties involved.

Ryan Storer lily gold plated earrings

You can never go wrong with a piece of gorgeous jewellery.

Samuele Failli Jerry leather sandals

This is for the woman who wants her footwear to make a bold statement.

Cire Trudon scented candle

A luxe candle that will elevate any home.

Valentino metallic small spike bag

Want to make a woman’s heart start racing? Enter Valentino and it’s day – maybe year – made.

Fleur of England shore robe

A pretty marriage of lace and satin that any woman would be happy to cosy up in.

David Jones premium red roses with truffles

Why mess with a tried and tested formula? Red roses and chocolates are always going to be a winner.

For him

Hugo Boss traveller 4 CC wallet

Do your guy a favour and update his wallet for him. You know he probably needs one…

Emporio Armani baseball cap

For the sporty guy who wants to inject a little luxury into his off duty style.

Hender Scheme distressed penny loafers

Beautifully crafted shoes will always be a welcome addition to any man’s wardrobe.

Polo Ralph Lauren slim fit cotton t-shirt

You can’t go wrong with elevated basics.

Armani Exchange Maddox gold watch

A sleek style that’s worthy of a showing off.

Oliver Spencer drawstring shorts

These are a perfect addition to his summer look.

Cartier round frame sunglasses

These classy sunnies are guaranteed to become a favourite.

Bang and Olufsen wireless speaker

The minimalist style of these speakers underplays its power. Music lovers will definitely love this.

Montblanc checked pattern cufflinks

You can’t go wrong with understated cufflinks.

Fashion, Lifestyle

Closet goals: how to have an organised wardrobe this year

8th January, 2018

An organised closet really is a sight to behold. When shoes are all neatly lined up, shirts folded and divided into neat piles, everything from blouses and dresses all perfectly hung up into distinct categories it brings a noticeable feeling of satisfaction. It also makes getting dressed SO much easier. I’ve tried to implement an organisation system in my own wardrobe for this very reason. And whilst it admittedly does take a little daily tidying up, it also means I don’t have to do a huge clean up a few weeks down the track when all my clothes are threatening to take over our entire bedroom. If you want to make things stress-free on the sartorial front for the rest of the year, take advantage of all that New Year energy to do an overhaul of your wardrobe and turn it into a space that’s Pinterest-worthy and one that you’ll be happy to stare into every single day.

Here are some great ways to start…

Colour code everything

Grouping like with like is a great system to employ when it comes to your wardrobe. It makes locating everything at a glance a simple process and let’s face it, it looks really nice too.

Sub-divide into categories

Whilst colour coding is extremely handy as a sorting tool you could also try another method which is to divide everything into different categories. This means grouping all your skirts together, your t-shirts together, your jeans together and so forth. With a closet divided into distinct areas you’ll find it easier to find what you’re looking for.

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Organise jeans from light to dark

If you own multiple pairs of jeans it can be hard to keep track of them all so this year, organise them from lightest wash to darkest wash. If you’ve got the space, hang them up so you can avoid wrinkling them and thus have them ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Fold garments like a boutique

You could just throw everything into your wardrobe and hope for the best or you could take a few minutes to fold your clothes and put them away in perfect piles like a boutique would. By categorising into piles you make things doubly easier for yourself as you can immediately see what you’re looking for. Also this is the best way to store things that stretch such as woollen jumpers and tees which make stretch if hung up.

Label everything

Earn double organisation points by labelling everything. Yes, you may already know where everything is but visually it helps to have a clear idea of what you’re looking it.

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Arrange bags vertically

By lining up bags vertically as opposed to sitting them all on top of each other you not only help protect their shape but reduce the time it takes to track down a particular clutch or tote.

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Get matching hangers

Nothing says you’ve got your style sorted like staring into a wardrobe with matching hangers. Bin the old mismatched hangers you may have been using (wire especially as they can ruin the shape of clothes) and get wooden or slim velvet ones. The former looks amazing all lined up and is gentle on clothes whilst the latter allows you to fit more into your wardrobe as they take up less space, plus it has a bit of grip so you avoid things like silk blouses slipping off constantly.

Put things away in drawers vertically

If you store most of your things in drawers, instead of piling them up on top of each other, put them away vertically so you can see everything as opposed to just what’s on top. You’ll be amazed at how much more wear you’ll get out of everything simply by being able to see what you own.

How do you keep your wardrobe organised?

 

Lifestyle, Shop

Get organised in style

5th January, 2018

As the Christmas holidays come to an end for most people it’s time to shift gears and get back into work mode. If you’re keen to start the new year being a little more organised then what better way to get started than with a fresh new diary and notebook. And yes, you can write in just any ol’ diary you see around the house or office, there’s something to be said for having a chic little book to turn to throughout the year. Great stationery is always a lovely way to help bring a little organisation into your life and as an added bonus, makes any desk space look chic. From cute designs to classic styles, here are some stylish ways to keep your life in order this year…

Lifestyle, Social

A peek inside my birthday party with Sterling Vineyards

7th December, 2017

I usually keep my birthday quite low key these days and spend it with the girls and Luke and close family which is always really lovely. This year however, Sterling Vineyards generously offered to host a party for me at Sydney’s La Porte space ahead of my actual birthday today. How could I say no?

It was a great opportunity to celebrate with 30 of my close friends, some of which I’ve known since kindergarten and others I’ve made in the industry and throughout my career, alongside Luke and my brother and sister-in-law. I think it’s always really special being able to gather your nearest and dearest together at an intimate event that’s just all about celebrating and enjoying lots of great food, drinks and each other’s company. And as the official craziness of the festive season ramps up over the next few weeks it was a nice way to catch up with my friends in the one spot.

I think a birthday party is always a great excuse to get all dressed up and I was glad to have the opportunity to wear a striped Maggie Marilyn dress I’ve been dying to wear. I needed standout shoes to match so opted for my pink Marco de Vincenzo braided heels. It was a fun outfit that was befitting of such a great occasion.

One of the great things on the day was being blown away by the amazing space and set up when I first arrived. Lunch was set in a gorgeous courtyard area and had been decorated with a white balloon installation and a long banquet table dotted with beautiful blooms. And what’s a party without a delicious spread to match? We enjoyed a long lunch in the sun and were treated to a delicious grazing menu that included smokehouse salmon with with baby capers, shallots and lemon, mixed grain salad and a caprese salad-esque platter with buffalo mozzarella, heirloom tomato and basil. We had matching wines for each course starting with prosecco with canapés, a pinot noir chardonnay for lunch and rosé for dessert (fun fact: Sterling Vineyards is actually a wine brand from the US but they’ve recently come into the Australian market and use Aussie grapes for their range). Speaking of dessert! I’m still thinking about the white chocolate rocky road, handmade milk and dark chocolate bark and summer berries with meringue and mascarpone we were served up. What are birthdays for if not for indulging a little, right?

It feels as if each birthday rolls around quicker than the last and it can flash by just like that so it was amazing to be able to take the time to celebrate with all my friends. It makes me appreciate all the wonderful people in my life even more and another year spent enjoying my time with them.

Check out a few of my favourite snaps from the day below…

The gorgeous table setting

The impressive balloon installation

Bottles chilling on ice ready for guests to arrive

Having a great time with Luke

Selfie time with Terry Biviano

Tanja Gacic, Yan Yan Chan, Sara Crampton, Nadia Fairfax

With the Heinrich sisters, Andrea and Anna

Nadia with my brother, Tom and sister-in-law, Hoda

So lovely having all my nearest and dearest in the one spot

The delicious spread for lunch

Toasting another birthday!

With Tim Robards and Jordan and Zac Stenmark

With Terry and her husband, Anthony Minichiello

With Emma Watson and Sara

Personalised bottles for all my guests

Photography: Sophia Athas

This post was created in collaboration with Sterling Vineyards

Lifestyle, Shop

Beautiful coffee table books for your home

18th November, 2017

I love collecting coffee table books. I think they make a stylish addition to any home and is a great way to showcase your interests. Most of my coffee table books are about fashion and photography which is what I’m passionate about so I love having them dotted around my apartment as just seeing them around the house is really inspiring. When choosing coffee table books I make sure everything is a hardcover version of the book as it has a bit more longevity and just seems so much more luxe than a paperback. Whether you’re into food, style or blooms I’ve rounded up a few tomes worth showcasing in your home…

Shop my top coffee table book picks below:

Fashion

Event stylist Philip Carr reveals his tips for throwing a great party

16th October, 2017

Philip Carr is one of Australia’s leading event stylists and his name has become synonymous with exceptional style and the ability to create incredible function spaces. He has worked with the likes of Bill Clinton and Princess Mary of Denmark and styled everything from a wedding for 2520 guests to Nelson Mandela’s 79th birthday. If there’s an event, Philip is the man to turn it into something memorable. I sat down with Philip to chat about the biggest mistake people make when it comes to styling weddings, the key to affordable style and what he does when he’s hosting an event at home…

How did you begin your career in event styling?

I started helping in my mother’s catering business whilst I was studying psychology at university. As catering moved more into faceted events, I got more and more involved in the business as the non-catering side developed into events as we know today. In the eighties, events were more about the catering, drinks and music. Today it has developed into multi layered theatrical productions where all aspects of the event are analysed to give guests a heightened experience on all senses from how a party looks, feels, smells to what you touch and hear.

It’s all about the details… A look at a recent event Philip styled at the Park Hyatt with a statement-making table setting

What has been your greatest career highlight so far?

Working on numerous functions for and with President Mandela including his 79th birthday party. I have also worked on functions for President Clinton, President [George] Bush and Princess Mary.

Philip Meeting US President Bill Clinton

You often style weddings. What has been your favourite to style so far?

There have been many weddings that I have thought were the best I have done until we do another which feels even better. The best are always the ones where I really collaborate with the client whilst at the same time, they allow me to show my creativity and reach places that are far beyond what they ever thought could be achieved. I recently did a wedding where the meal and speeches were in one room and then we had a reveal into the coolest party space filled with lights and palm trees.

A recent wedding Philip styled featured a party space filled with lanterns and palm trees

What has been the most lavish wedding you have styled?

I have done a wedding for 2520 guests of which the first room was the dining area for a meal that only lasted an hour with Armani beaded tablecloths and extravagant table appointments. After that the guests were transported into a dessert room with tables of desserts, fruits and dessert wines.

Philip’s work on display at the dining area of a wedding for 2520 guests

The extravagant place settings at the same event

What is the best event you have thrown for yourself?

Every year I have a Boxing Day party which is more about catching up with all my friends and having everyone over that is still in town. I like to spoil my friends with things that they may not have experienced and that is a reflection of my thoughts on entertaining. I like doing things like having a cheddar bar with all USA, French and English cheddars and serve it with fruit cake. Serving ideas that are concepts of relaxed easy entertaining with a sense of luxury—like a platter with 30 buratta cheeses, 60 figs, chardonnay vinegar, fig balsamic and Colonna olive oil with Sicilian lemons.

Catering at Philip’s Boxing Day parties always has an element of luxury such as this platter of buratta and figs

What is your number one tip for affordable style?

Don’t show people everything you thought of. Keep your idea simple and strong. All too often people take and copy ideas from too many sources without focusing on one strong idea.

A wedding at Catalina restaurant in Sydney’s Rose Bay – the execution of white and green flowers is simple, but by doing one thing en masse it makes an impact

What is the easiest way to transform an ordinary space into something breathtaking?

Good lighting can transform an ordinary space into a special space. The use of good lighting or lots of candles makes a space special and luxurious.

What are the biggest mistakes people tend to make when it comes to styling weddings?

Showing people everything that they thought of, dictated too much by Pinterest rather than a reflection of themselves and their personality. It’s important to make your wedding personal.

 

Where do you find inspiration for your events?

Everything around me inspires me. Whether I am travelling overseas, on a plane, in a good hotel, being served in a shop, they all become lessons for my business. It’s great to know how to make people feel good. I’m obsessed about good service and it’s great to go to hotels, restaurants and be inspired how others do it. I just stayed at The Arts Club in London and the layers of details whether in the room, the bathroom, the service was a great experience to learn from.

Who do you look up to in the industry?

I am invited to ICE (International Conference & Events), an event industry conference by invitation only. I am humbled by the colleagues that are invited and to be part of such a group of people. They not only inspire me, but give me strength and motivation to try achieve better and greater heights within my business. This year it is in Paris and the exposure and opportunities that I will experience will be invaluable and memorable.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Rather earn $10 of your own money than $100 of somebody else’s.

How does social media work into your business?

I find social media works in a positive and negative way. I find too many people rely on too much of what they see and feel a strong need to copy other people’s thoughts, rather than crediting their own creativity and ideas. Often people don’t allow themselves to use their own creativity and personality and assume because it’s done by somebody else it’s a better idea. I like it in terms of creating a stamp on some of my ideas and thoughts. I have chosen to often see the comical side of a picture and made a quip on the photo. It allows you to see how clever so many people are and how you can be an artist in whatever you do.

Do you ever have to deal with difficult clients?

When one considers the nature of many of the events we do and the amount of money being spent, I feel clients deserve the best service. The nature of many events is often an emotional time on many levels other than the specific event. Emotions are often complex and events bring out many things. Weddings especially are so multi-faceted in emotion. From father of the bride giving away his daughter, to bridesmaids that are not the bride and more.

How do you handle them?

Often, they just need somebody to listen and vent their emotions and thoughts to. 99 per cent of the time it becomes all good on the day.

What exciting projects do you have coming up for the rest of the year?

Unfortunately, the most exciting thing happening is a large prestigious event that I have signed a disclosure for. Watch this space!!

Lifestyle

The key to great flowers according to one of Sydney’s top florists

5th October, 2017

George Low’s handiwork at the David Jones Flower Show

As the owner and founder of one of Sydney’s top florists, Seed Flora and the creative mind behind the David Jones Flower Show for the last 29 years George Low knows a thing or two about the key to a winning floral arrangement. Here he shares his favourite floral trend, the key to keeping blooms in top condition for longer and the biggest mistake people make when it comes to flowers…


This was your 29th year creating floral arrangements for the David Jones Flower Show. What was your inspiration behind the show this year?
This year we were strongly motivated by the theme of romance, focusing on a typically classic style with a modern twist. We used unusual colour combinations such as dark reds against soft pinks and lots of roses juxtaposed against more unusual flowers and foliage.

What is your favourite part of the installation?
Personally, my favourite part is seeing all of the flowers arrive and seeing it all come together. We have flowers delivered from all over the world as well as locally, I’ve been working with some of the growers for decades and some flowers and plants are grown especially for the David Jones Flower Show.

A retail experience with a difference courtesy of George – blooms in all their glory at David Jones’ city store in Sydney

What is your favourite floral combination at the moment?
One style of flower en masse in a beautiful vase, I prefer flowers that aren’t too mixed or too arranged to allow the flowers to do all of the talking.

What is your best piece of advice for creating DIY floral arrangements at home?
Keep it simple and invest in quality blooms, it makes all the difference!

Which flowers are best to buy during spring?
Tulips, blossoms, sweet pea, hyacinths and anemones are a few of my favourites in spring.

What is the trick to keeping flowers looking fresh and healthy?
The most important trick is to keep the water clean. The water in a vase should be changed daily and if the flowers are given a little trim it will elongate their life. 

What mistakes do a lot of people make when looking after their flowers?
Underestimating how much the flowers actually drink! Ensure the water level is kept up and clean and you’ll be sure to have your flowers around for a little while longer.