Things I Love Lately: Instagram Edition – Countryside Dreaming

Hello, writer’s block, my old friend.

Actually, I’m not sure if what I have can even be called writer’s block. Usually, people suffering from that particular ailment are in the midst of writing something already, and have simply come to a standstill…but lately, I’m rarely in the midst of writing anything, because what I’m having trouble with is getting started.

You might say instead that I’m having something of a crisis of inspiration. Inspiration is the absolute essence of a creative life; it’s no wonder I feel a little lost without it. It’s a bit of a strange time for me.

I want nothing more than to be writing, writing, writing all the time, so to try to get myself started, I’ve resorted to desperately Googling variations of the phrase ‘what to write about when you have nothing to write about’. What I’ve found, mainly, is what I already know: write about what you know, what you’re passionate about, whatever you’re thinking about. Just write.

So to get myself moving, I decided to get meta and start thinking about what I have been thinking about. And one thing in particular came to mind: the fact that I’ve lately become a little bit obsessed with the idea of the countryside.

Ever since Nate and I stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast in the Upper Hunter Shire town of Scone a couple of months ago, the countryside – especially the Australian countryside – has been playing on my mind. I’ve often found myself daydreaming of perfect pastoral views and early, foggy mornings brightening into clear days; of big, rustic kitchens and crackling fireplaces; of a lifestyle based on simplicity, clarity and the comforts of home.

Little essences of country lifestyle have been jumping out at me everywhere, too: home-baked lavender shortbreads calling my name from café cabinets; Far From The Madding Crowd bumping its way to the top of my to-read list; Women’s Weekly ‘Country Classics’ cookbooks tempting me from bookshop shelves…and, most of all, a curious trend in the bunch of new accounts I’ve started following on Instagram. You guessed it: they all feature scenes of the countryside and the life that comes with it.

So after another long stretch with no blog activity, I’ve finally come up with this post. It’s just a quick look at five of my favourite countryside Instagram accounts – the ones that fill me with dreams and inspiration. (In other words, the ones that get me feeling the way all writers want to feel, all the time.) I do realise that it may be more focussed on images than writing, but hey – it got me blogging again, so I’m not complaining!

Now, after all that ado, read on to transport yourself to some of the most beautiful countryside Australia has to offer. (All images are courtesy of their respective Instagram accounts.)

Tamsin’s Table @tamsinstable

Rolling, sun-dappled hills, wandering farmyard animals, seasonal food on long timber tables…have your eyes misted over in pure dreaminess yet? If so, you’d best snap back to reality and go check out the Insta-feed from Tamsin’s Table! It’s full of all the things that make country life so idyllic: bucolic landscapes, gorgeous interiors and delicious home-cooked treats.

All this beauty comes from a farmhouse in Gippsland, Victoria, run by Tamsin Carvan and her family. But they’re not the only ones who get to enjoy it: picture intimate lunchtime gatherings featuring homegrown produce laid out on handmade furniture, as well as workshops and masterclasses teaching you how to make the most out of what’s in season – that’s what’s on offer at the numerous special events held regularly on the 113-acre farm. Find out more at www.tamsinstable.com.au.

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The Timber and Stone Retreat @thetimberandstoneretreat

If you’re ever in need of a relaxing, rejuvenating getaway, what’s the first thing you think of? A beachside holiday? A big-city shopping trip? Whatever it is, trust me – after you’ve seen this feed, all you’ll want to do is visit a country retreat the little Victorian township of Malmsbury!

Curated by the owners of the picturesque Timber and Stone Retreat, this account paints a portrait of the perfect country escape through beautiful snaps of the house’s interiors, gardens and surrounding property. The feed as a whole has a beautiful aesthetic, with plenty of muted tones and pops of warm colour.

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Country Style Magazine @countrystylemag

This one is pretty self-explanatory! Australian magazine Country Style is the perfect coffee-table tome for lovers of the most picturesque parts of country life. Gorgeous rural scenery, stylish farmhouse interiors and homely, garden-to-plate food – you’ll find it all in both the magazine and its Instagram counterpart. Somebody please stop me from taking out yet another mag subscription…

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Gold Dust Days @golddustdays

Gold Dust Days is a blog run by friends Jesse and Kathy, who both live in the beautiful town of Daylesford in Central Victoria. Their Instagram feed documents the day-to-day imagery that inspires the pair and shows off the loveliness of their hometown.

The main word the ladies use to describe Daylesford is ‘magical’, and I have to agree with them. Everything about their little town seems to be bathed in the golden glow that their blog name suggests. Their photos reflect this as well – there’s plenty of warm, sparkly hues from all the autumn leaves and sunrise/sunset skies!

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Em and the Wild Things @emandthewildthings

I’ve hardly seen a more dreamy Instagram feed than this one. I couldn’t find out much about Emily, who runs the account, but her bio reads: ‘Grass, landscapes, flowers, kidspam, abandoned, the everyday.’ And that’s pretty much what you’ll find here: a series of beautiful vignettes of country and family life.

From what I can gather, Emily’s in the Instagram purely for love, not money, business or self-promotion. It seems like she’s just super passionate about capturing and sharing beautiful moments from her rural life in Central NSW – and no wonder, when it’s as pretty as this!

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If you have any other lovely Instagram accounts you’d recommend following, leave them in a comment below or tweet me @paperbackbird!

Things I Love Lately: Clouds, Clothes and House of Cards

Fictional politics, winter fashion, quiet getaways and views from the top: here are some of my favourite things from the last few months.

House of Cards

Ahh, Francis J. Underwood…the most intriguing (and occasionally terrifying) TV lead since Walter White. I missed the initial House of Cards hype train when the show first started (as I am rather apt to do), but boy oh boy did I jump on board recently! I quickly became fascinated by the ruthless power couple that is the Underwoods, and now I don’t know what to do until Season Four.

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Everything about House of Cards perfectly reflects the smooth, cold, calculating nature of its key characters, from the softly sinister tones of the soundtrack to the carefully crafted aesthetic of the cinematography and set design. The colour palette is gorgeous: muted, neutral and often shadowy, dealing mainly in shades of grey, black, blue and white with the occasional gold highlight. It’s beautiful to look at and listen to; throw in some ultra-sharp political drama and a fourth-wall-breaking Kevin Spacey, and you’ve got some damn addictive viewing.

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Autumn/winter clothes

Now, speaking of colour palettes…I’m about to get all girly on you here and have an OH-MY-GOD-I-LOVE-CLOTHES moment, so be warned. In my opinion, the best thing about cool-weather clothes (besides their ability to hide the evidence of all those hot chocolates and warming pastries you’ve been consuming) is the beautifully rich range of colours to choose from.

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On a recent stocking-up trip to H&M, I bought cardigans and jumpers in shades of mustard, oxblood and byzantium (yellow, maroon and purple, for the less shade-savvy/pretentious reader), and picked up staple navy pieces like spotted blouses and striped long-sleeved tops. I can’t wait to pair them with comfy jeans, scarves and brown lace-up boots for all those hot-chocolate-based outings I’ll soon be going on.

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Holidays

A couple of months ago, Nathan and I both took a week off work and treated ourselves to a little holiday. Travelling up the coast to beautiful North Haven, we spent a few days camping, eating, wandering and playing aqua golf, before moving along to a little cabin at Manning Point – a favourite holiday destination from both of our childhoods. We indulged in three-course home-cooked breakfasts, napped, read books on the beach, played board games, walked around the sleepy streets, and visited the local bowling club senior-citizen-style for dinner and raffles.

IMG_1904Stunning views from North Brother Lookout near North Haven.
IMG_1919Fish and chips by the river at Manning Point.

I hate to use a holiday buzz-phrase like ‘relax and recharge’, but in truth, that’s exactly what we did. I felt like I came home in a totally different mindset, feeling much more relaxed and at ease with myself and the world at large, and so did Nathan. The rare getaways we take are usually to big cities and are jam-packed with activity, so it was really nice to have a holiday in the true sense of the word.

IMG_1907Early evening strolls around Weeroona Caravan Park, Manning Point.

Sky views from my balcony

We’ve had some crazy weather where I live lately; the NSW East Coast has been absolutely battered by wind in gales and rain in torrents. By chance, Nate and I had actually been away from home during the worst of the storms, and due to flooded roads we couldn’t get back when we’d planned. But when we eventually did make it home at 6:30am the following day, we were greeted by the most magical morning sky I’ve ever seen.

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Apart from being a welcome respite from the moody cloud-cover of the preceding few days, the gorgeous sunrise reminded me of all the beautiful skyscapes I’ve witnessed from my well-situated balcony. I’ve watched angry clouds amass themselves and spit out purple flashes of lightning; admired painting-esque sunset scenes of puffy clouds hovering on a gilded horizon; and marvelled at the perfect pastel gradient of many a clear afternoon sky. My previous post was even written on my balcony under the calming influence of a brand new day’s sunrise.

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Yeah, I’m pretty lucky to live where I do.

On Redundancy.

As I start to write this, it’s a Friday morning in mid-April and I’m awake and dressed before the sun has even properly risen. You might think I’m very industrious, being up nice and early before a day of work; but the fact of the matter is that, as of this lovely autumn morning, I no longer have a job.

It’s a funny feeling, being ‘made redundant’. On the one hand, you’re assured that it’s nothing to do with you or the quality of your work – that it’s simply, and sadly, just not viable for your position to exist anymore. On the other hand, though, there’s no getting around that word: redundant. It means, literally, ‘no longer needed or useful’; and there are few less pleasant feelings than that of being useless.

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It’s true that of late I had been feeling a little uneasy with my job. Was this really what I wanted to be doing? Was I making any progress towards my eventual ‘dream career’? But these were just the musings of someone a year and a half into their first ‘real’ job after uni. When it came down to it, I really did like my job, I was good at it, and I never imagined I would lose it so suddenly and in a way so out of my own control.

On the day I was let go, I spent the evening absorbing the shock with mint choc-chip ice cream straight from the tub, occasionally bursting into teen-relationship-breakup-esque fits of tears and lamenting the fact that I was now effectively an unemployed hobo. Since the age of 15, I’ve always had a job! Even though most of that time was spent in retail (and even though there were times I thought I’d rather live on the street than fix another damn self-serve checkout), I was always appreciative of the fact that I had a payslip to rely on at the end of each week. Facing a redundancy in the face of today’s competitive job market, monetary concerns soon become far more pressing than mere feelings of disappointment and self-doubt…

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Luckily, I have an extremely supportive partner who is always very good at assuaging my worries, whatever they may be. ‘I actually think this is a really good thing,’ he said to me while I was probably getting snot and tears all over his shirt. ‘It means you can focus on what you really want to do now.’

And when I stopped to think about it, I realised he was completely right. I’m not really one to believe ‘everything happens for a reason’, but I do think that sometimes bad things like this happen at just the right time for us to turn them into good things. I’m treating this as the push I need to work hard on my own business and career opportunities – to focus on achieving the creative lifestyle I’ve been dreaming of.

There are plenty of wonderful things in the world that some people may define as redundant: bookshops, physical photo albums, semicolons. But I know in my heart that those things are not at all useless – and you know what? Neither am I.

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DIY Christmas Gifts

Happy third-day-after-Christmas to anybody out there! I hope everyone had a beautiful Christmas week full of festivities, food comas and family time – I know I did.

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Looking back on my last post, I realise I haven’t quite lived up to my word. While I did indeed embark on my crafty, Pinterest-y DIY Christmas projects, I did not faithfully document them here as planned. The weeks leading up to Christmas were busy – so busy that come Christmas Eve, I found myself spending eight frantic hours doing last-minute baking, making and gift-basket-assembling, with only enough time to snap a few quick blog photos in between!

That being said, I really did enjoy the few days I spent at home preparing for Christmas, decked out in a cute apron, Ol’ Blue Eyes and The Boob crooning carols in the background.

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Anyway, due to all the Christmas craziness, I’ll only be talking about a few of my homemade gifts here, but I hope they give you some DIY inspiration – even if you don’t put it to use until next Christmas!

So first up: bath salts. They’re about the easiest thing ever to make, so I did two varieties for my and Nathan’s mums: lavender & bergamot and rose, geranium & lavender.

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Following this recipe from hellonatural.co, I used a cup of Epsom salts, a cup of sea salt (substituting for kosher salt), half a cup of bi-carb soda, and some essential oils and food colouring to make them look and smell pretty.

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I got some cute little glass jars from a two-dollar shop, made labels with some free banner graphics and fonts found online, and tied it all together with coloured twine (also from the two-dollar shop – a true place of wonder for DIY gift-makers).

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Lip balms are another cute and simple gift. I found this recipe on overthrowmartha.com and bought a block of beeswax from Bunnings; some Vitamin E capsules from Chemist Warehouse; a little set of lip balm pots from eBay; and a $2 grater and mini saucepan from Kmart. (The latter accessories are highly recommended if you’re going to try this out – the wax will most likely ruin your grater and leave a gross residue on your saucepan!)

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Grabbing some coconut oil from my pantry and the essential oils I used for my bath salts, it was then as simple as boiling it all up together and pouring into pots to cool.

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Making good use of the pretty stickers at the end of my 2014 Frankie diary, I decorated the lids of the pots, and the lip balms were good to go!

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I made lots of other things that I forgot or didn’t have time to photograph – mainly food gifts, including cookies, muffins and little jars of pesto and jam. One that I did manage to record was a very simple rosemary-infused olive oil I made for my grandma.

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All it involved was drying some rosemary sprigs in the oven for a couple of hours (which made the kitchen smell AMAZING, by the way), then combining them with some oil over low heat for 5-10 minutes. Strain the mixture into a cute pourer (again, from the two-dollar shop – amazing) and you have another lovely, easy gift.

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So even though I didn’t get to document my progress the way I wanted to, my homemade Christmas gifts all turned out wonderfully – and were very much appreciated by their recipients, which, after all, is what it was all about.

Merry belated Christmas and an early Happy New Year!

C x

How Very Pinteresting.

It’s happened.

I’ve become a PINTEREST PERSON.

It all started when I finished my postgrad certificate a couple of weeks ago (YAY!). Freedom from uni couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s November, which means the shops are getting ahead of themselves, draping everything with tinsel and obnoxiously playing carols…and I love it.

Christmas is my favourite time of year. As soon as the weather gets warmer, and my calendar fills up with parties and family gatherings, and that beautiful holiday feeling starts to permeate the air…ahhh, it’s heavenly.

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Yep, I’m a Yuletide fiend. So you won’t be surprised to learn that I also love Christmas shopping! But I thought that this year, with all my magical free time, I’d make some little things to fill gift hampers for Nate’s and my families, rather than buying everything. I won’t be going so far as to make ALL my presents – I think I need a few more XP before I unlock that level of DIY goddess-ness – but I’ll be stocking each of my hampers with at least two or three little handmade pressies.

Now, this is where Pinterest comes in. I’d always regarded Pinterest as one of those things I’ve tried but couldn’t really get into, like quinoa or American Horror Story. But it’s obviously the best place to go for all things crafty, so I gave it another try – and hello, new obsession! I found a whole heap of ideas and tutorials for Christmas gifts, but also discovered countless sources of inspiration and imagery that I’ll definitely be using a lot more in the future.

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So in the lead-up to Christmas I’ll be documenting all my creative endeavours here. It may end up becoming more of a how-NOT-to guide…but I’m going to give it a go at least! Stay tuned for adventures in bath salts, lip balm, cupcake kits and festive foods. :)

Ten Life-Changing Albums

This afternoon I was challenged via Facebook to create a list of ‘15 albums that changed me in 15 minutes’. Despite the slight vagueness of the instructions (do I write the list in 15 minutes? Do I choose albums that took a mere 15 minutes to change my life?!), I decided to complete the challenge and, in the name of procrastination, turn it into an entire blog post!

I’ve altered the rules somewhat. To knock out a list as quickly and intuitively as I could, it was strangely easier to stick to 10 rather than 15. There is obviously so much music left out that is also hugely important to me, but the 10 albums I’ve listed all have a particular and immediate significance – whether it be that they introduced me to a future favourite band or represent a certain time, place or concept in my life. (As an interesting sidenote, I have been lucky enough to see all of these artists live as well. [Apart from the last two, but you’ll see why when you reach them.])

So, in no particular order, here we go!

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1. A Rush of Blood to the Head – Coldplay

This is the first ever album I recall buying with my own money, and it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I know everyone thinks Coldplay are a bit daggy, but I don’t care! I love them SO much and I always will. This is one of those albums where every song is so different and amazing in its own right. It’s definitely the record I would name if I had to choose an all-time favourite.

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2. In Rainbows – Radiohead

Oh, Radiohead. My favourite band in the universe. I’ve chosen In Rainbows because it was actually the first Radiohead album I ever bought! (Yes, I know Radiohead had been around for about 15 years before Rainbows came out. I’m always unfashionably late to the party – see here for further evidence.) This is such a compelling and masterful record from beginning to end, and I have it to thank for sparking my undying love for Radiohead!

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3. Takk… – Sigur Rós

If you’ve never heard this Icelandic band, you are truly missing out. Their music is absolutely something else – ethereal, soaring, atmospheric soundscapes that completely envelope you. To say this album is pure magic sounds like an exaggeration, but listen to a song like ‘Glósóli’ or ‘Sæglópur’ and you’ll know that it’s not!

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4. For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver

Another truly beautiful album. I can’t explain how much I love Bon Iver – everything Justin Vernon does just mesmerises me. I think that even if you didn’t know the backstory to this album, you’d get a sense of it just by listening: it transports you immediately to that lonely log cabin in the woods, where every song aches like the long winter. It’s just amazing.

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5. Neon Ballroom – Silverchair

Ahhh, now this is an early one. I went through a MASSIVE Silverchair obsession at the age of about 14 (as you do). I remember coming home from school every afternoon, putting this album on repeat and doing my maths homework while passionately singing along with all the angst of a teen with nothing real to complain about. It was a close call between this album and the orchestral rainbow that is Diorama, but in the end, I think songs like ‘Emotion Sickness’ and ‘Miss You Love’ had the most influence on me at the time.

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6. Sunrise Over Sea – John Butler Trio

This is another album I became addicted to at the age of 14 or 15, when I was first starting to get into ‘real’ music. Strangely enough, as I type this, Nate and a couple of friends have randomly chosen Sunrise Over Sea for background music, and I’m really remembering why I loved it so much. I don’t really listen to this sort of rootsy music anymore, but this album was such a wonderful introduction to the world of real music that it will always have a special place in my life.

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7. High Violet – The National

I’ve written about The National previously, so it’s no secret that I’m a sucker for Matt Berninger’s melancholic crooning. This is an astonishing album, and (we’re about to get sentimental here, folks, be warned) it always reminds me of the beautiful time at the very start of my and Nathan’s relationship. We used to listen to it a lot, and for good reason: every song is just so ridiculously, richly emotive.

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8. You Are All I See – Active Child

It’s widely acknowledged that music can be a powerful transporter, and that we often associate certain songs or albums with particular locations or time periods. This gorgeous harp-laden record takes me straight back to a family holiday through Europe in 2011. Staring out the window of trains, cars and planes as we travelled around, this album played constantly through my headphones and formed the perfect soundtrack to a wonderful trip.

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9. Inception: Music from the Motion Picture – Hans Zimmer

Speaking of soundtracks… As a film score fanatic, I couldn’t help but include a couple of soundtracks in this list! Hans Zimmer is one of my favourite composers, and Inception is one of my favourite movies. For me, the soundtrack is SUCH a huge part of the movie’s success. It’s really hard to pick a top song, but you can’t go past ‘Time’ – so simple yet so, so perfect. The emotional punch it packs is incredible and just goes to show how fundamentally important soundtracks are.

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10. Pride and Prejudice: Music from the Motion Picture – Dario Marianelli, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the English Chamber Orchestra

Again, a favourite soundtrack from a favourite movie, this time based on a favourite book! The combination of the period-perfect chamber orchestra and Thibaudet’s piano – swirling, delicate and powerful by turns – is stunning. I love listening to this album while I work or just when I want to chill out. I also bought the sheet music many years ago and had so much fun learning to play all the beautiful songs. (You can see me playing one in the clip at the end of this post, but it’s very dodgy and I would recommend listening to the real thing.)

 

Well, that was fun and wasted an appropriate amount of time! So, which 10 (or 15) albums would make your list?

Things I Love Lately: Melbourne Edition

There are so many things I’m loving at the moment that I couldn’t resist another one of these posts! I’ve recently been on a lovely mini holiday to Melbourne, so I decided to run with that theme. Melbourne is one of my favourite places to visit, so it was hard to narrow down into a few snippets – but I’m sure there’ll be many more trips there in the future, and many more blog posts!

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Of course number one on this list was going to be food. I went into my Melbourne trip fully prepared to spend most (if not all) of my money eating everything I could get my hands on. I definitely did that, so I’m going to have to narrow things down again here and focus on one meal: BREAKFAST. (The best meal of them all.) These were two of my favourites:

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This adorable spread from The Hardware Société is called The Continental. With my dodgy photography you probably can’t tell, but it consisted of a little granola and yoghurt jar, a warm croissant and some vanilla macerated strawberries.

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Granola again! I must admit it’s becoming a bit of an obsession of mine. This one is apricot, coconut and fig with vanilla yoghurt, almond milk and poached stonefruit. It’s from Twenty and Six Espresso in wonderful West Melbourne.

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All my Melbourne drinks were not only delicious, but photogenic too. The two picturesque sippers that follow were both enjoyed in Fitzroy, which leads me to assume that it must be Beverage Photography Capital of the World.

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This tropical-looking treat was from a place called The Grub Food Van. I can’t remember what it was made of exactly, but I know it had coconut ice, some sort of sugar syrup, probably pineapple juice and possibly gin…whatever it was, it was amazing.

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This one was absolutely as refreshing as it looks. Titled ‘The Fitzroy Beer Garden Cooler’, it’s a lovely mix of Hendricks, elderflower, apple juice, soda, cucumber and mint. YUM.

Sunny weather

For a city with a notorious reputation for temperamental, often miserable weather, Melbourne absolutely turned it ON for us! Our three and a half days there were filled with warm sun, clear skies, crisp air and cherry blossoms…

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Stop it, Victoria, you big charmer.

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Men’s clothing

Men’s clothes are SUPER comfortable. This isn’t exactly news to me – I’ve been known to *borrow* many a jumper or T-shirt of Nathan’s and *forget* to return it ever again. However, I recently went one step further and bought a few men’s clothing items expressly for myself. (Best decision ever.)

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This ridiculously comfy H&M jumper is my new favourite thing. I originally picked it out for Nate, but then snuck back to grab an XS for myself…so now we both have one, and have to make sure we don’t accidentally wear it out in public together. Now, H&M, if you would please hurry up with that Sydney store of yours…

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I didn’t get this tee from Melbourne, but I thought I’d include it anyway, because a) it’s unisex and b) it’s super cute. It’s by one of my favourite brands, The Orphan’s Arms: two guys from East London who print gorgeously English things on tops, jumpers, tights, etc. I’m slowly building a collection of their pieces and I don’t think I’ll be stopping anytime soon!