Off to the Races

Glamour, funny hats, champagne, and oh yea… horses too. The Spring Racing Carnival arrived in Melbourne! November is full of excitement with the sun coming out and the horse races under way. The Carnival lasts for a couple of weeks, and Victorians even get to enjoy a day off work for Melbourne Cup Day.

The festivities start with planning the most important accessory of the season… a fascinator! In the search for my perfect one, I came to find that these accessories cost a fortune! Especially if you want a statement piece (and why wouldn’t you?). Designers create incredible art works out of tulle, flowers, and feathers to adorn race goers noggins. Unwilling to dish out $400+ for a fancy headband I found the nearest craft store and loaded my basket up with some essentials and a hot glue gun. And voilà, a one-of-a-kind fascinator for Oaks Day (Also know as Lady’s Day… so now widely recognized as Blokes Day).

Joe’s office organized the Oaks Day outing at the Nursery Car Park. It is similar to a very long tail-gating party, except people dress up and pay top dollar to get in. The day was filled with sunshine, bubbly, and horse bets (no winners this time).

I finally dyed it!

I’ve highlighted my hair since high school (that’s a long, long time for those who don’t know) and I’ve spent the last 10+ years not really knowing what my natural hair color looks like. Finding comfort in blonde and avoiding not being washed out to a hepatitis-y look, I was fearful to find out what that natural color had in store.  So… after over a decade, I’m back to brunette… well kinda. I’m ombre! In an attempt to cut hair maintenance costs, a wise and very fashionable friend suggested I ombre my hair. After “researching” any possible DIY techniques (ala YouTube) and consulting with the said wise friend, I opted to go professional dye job (always a good choice since I have never been happy with DIY hair results)… and in 1 hour, I went from roots in need of some love to ombre. Have a look!

The ombre (or balayage in Aussie) technique blends hair color from dark roots to light ends. I know there are a lot of different ways to achieve this look, but my stylist added three different colors in my hair and it all  blended pretty nicely. Hope this helps make my transition from blonde to brunette a little easier to bear. We’ll see if brunettes can have more fun!

Work, Play, and Yoga in the Rain

Winter in Melbourne has been chilly… cold, a little wet, and sunless. Rain or shine, work, play and yoga must go on!

Work

Being a part of the lululemon team has been amazing. Not only do I have a rad place to walk (13 minutes on foot) or bike (7 minutes door to door) every day, but I get to wear my favorite clothes, work with great people, learn more about the company’s culture, and push myself to find my limits and set my life goals all in a day’s work. It’s pretty perfect!

As part of the work I’m doing in the store, I’ve had the opportunity to help out with ambassador photo shoots and do some yoga poses of my own on the steps of the Parliament to capture some photos for the store’s newsletter!

Yoga at the Parliament steps with my favorite new lululemon to and from sweater! It actually started to rain on us during my double pigeon.

Melbourne sunrise – early morning to photo shoot (yes, those are hot air balloons in the distance)!

Our photo shoot team! So much fun with Sally (Photo credit: Sally Goodall Photography), AJ and Nadine (Yoga with Nadine).

Play

The bone chilling weather has kept us (against Joe’s will) in the apartment more than I’d like to admit. Dinners out with friends help break-up the hibernation monotony, but it has been hard to brave the cold once I get home and am comfy in my luon!

Yoga

I’ve been exploring yoga studios in and around the city. I love that my job encourages getting to know the local studios! It’s been fun trying different styles and trends.

Flying in vampire at anti-gravity yoga at Vibes Fitness in Fitzroy!

I’m going to a yoga as a business workshop this weekend at Ohana Yoga in Albert Park. Stay tuned for some developments… business thinking in progress!

My Bali teacher training program is official! I’ll be spending 5 intense weeks in Bali this coming May! My goal is to practice yoga at least 5 days a week from now until then to prepare for the experience. Looking forward to solidifying this next step and transformation.

Furnishing our city pad

The first (of hopefully many design inspired posts) is finally here! I have been up to some home DIY projects to stretch our furnishing budget while making our apartment fashionably livable (and finding reasons to fill my days with treasure hunts and occasional paint fumes).

I quickly discovered the Craigslist equivalent in Melbourne (gumtree.com.au for those who are new to the city)! Gumtree, Ebay, and the dreaded trips to IKEA have helped in creating the modern industrial meets cozy vintage look I wanted for our loft-like city space. My first project: Repurposed Pallet Coffee Table (thanks pintrest for the inspiration!)

How to create yours in 5 easy steps:

You’ll need:
1 Pallet
1 Liter of clear polyurethane (or stain in the color of your choice)
1 medium-sized paint brush (for water based paint)
4 caster wheels
16 wood screws
Power drill (unless you have a lot of elbow grease to contribute)
Orbital sander
1½ Dedicated DIY days

Step 1: Find (or buy) a used pallet.

I found mine when I was picking up another ebay purchase! It was sitting on the sellers front porch and since they were moving out of the country I thought I’d be considerate and offer to take the pallet off their hands. I offered to buy it but they were so happy (and perplexed) that someone would want an old, ugly pallet that they threw it in for free! If you’re not having the same pallet finding luck, many warehouses sell used pallets… a simple google search will help you find yours!

Step 2: Prep!

If you don’t have the luxury of working outdoors, make sure you have a well-ventilated space. Put a large tarp on the floor and open your windows before you get started. If you’re working outside, I’m jealous!

Prep the pallet by giving it a good cleaning. It was probably a functional warehouse tool in its former life, but the dirt and grime from whatever bundles it carried have no place on your beautiful table.

Step 3: Sand, sand, sand!

Pallets are generally not very pretty, but a few rounds with an orbital sander will reveal a new life for your pallet. I sanded the top of the pallet using a medium grain paper with my orbital sander 3 times, until the surface was as smooth as possible. The nature of the wood is still imperfect, but I think that makes it an even more attractive piece. You just want to make sure that you don’t run the risk of leaving any ragged, splinter causing surfaces on the wood so sand away! After you finish sanding, wipe the sawdust off the pallet with a damp cloth to make sure you have a clean surface ready for painting (I would vacuum the area around the pallet as well to avoid dust particles from getting in to your stain or paint.

Step 4: Clear coat polyurethane.

Now it’s painting time! Get yourself a good brush and you’ll be able to reuse it for all your DIY adventures. I used a clear polyurethane for my pallet (again, loving the imperfections in the wood and I wanted the natural colors to show through), but you can opt for different wood stains based on your décor preference. When painting, be sure not to overload your brush with paint. Dip the brush in the paint can and let the excess drip back into the can by gently wiping the brush against the side of the paint can (similar to painting your nails). Taking the brush in the same direction of the wood grain, apply one thin coat at a time. I found it easier to do half of the pallet first and then move around to finish the other side. Applying thin coats is key! You also want to make sure you wait at least 2 hours before applying a second coat (and possible 3rd if needed). Don’t forget to cover all the visible sections of the pallet with your stain, that means getting the inside of the lower wood slab as well.

Then… wait! I know the feeling… I get eager about finishing projects too! It is best to wait a full day before touching the fresh surface and moving on to step 5.

Step 5: Attach wheels and enjoy!

Now that the stain is perfectly dry, flip your pallet upside down to reveal the four corner studs (aka new home for the wheels). Castor wheels come in all shapes and sizes. I used large grey wheels with built-in brakes that I found at the local home improvement store (I really wanted the all metal industrial looking ones but they were $25 each, so in the interest of saving some cash, I went for the less expensive rubber ones at $12.50 a pop). Using the power drill, screw on the wheels with your wood screws. Make sure the screws go in straight to avoid them from poking out on the side of your table.

Flip and Enjoy! You’ve created a conversation starting centerpiece for your room! Put some great books on it and enjoy it!

Everyone who comes into our place comments on the table! It has truly become a staple in our living room. I surrounded it with a mix of textures and seating to create an inviting and functional living space. My new texture obsession: sheepskin rugs! They don’t always have to go on the floor either… I added one to my black Barcelona love seat to soften the look of the black leather and chrome legs. The juxtaposition of the soft sheepskin with the burlap pillows I made from recycled coffee sacs make for an interesting aesthetic and easy comfort. I centered a geometric rug in the room (a great non-IKEA-looking IKEA find!) to add some color and repeated the metal accents throughout the room with the TV stand and a tray I fashioned as an industrial modern yet global remote control holder. Finished product: a come hang-out in me and feel awesome space!

Moving in… for real this time

Our house arrived! Well most of its household goods and wardrobe essentials at least. I’ve been wearing the same three outfits for almost two months. I almost can’t imagine why anyone would need this many clothes… And shoes. Did that just come out of my mouth? Backtrack… I think I’ll enjoy the outfit diversity again!

6 hours later…

Unpacking done! Everything is in its place! I’ve never been a fan of unpacked boxes with things just waiting for a home lying around. So I got to work quickly and had everything put away before Joe got home from work. With the pots in the (small yet functional) cupboards, clothes hung in the closet, and toiletries tucked neatly away in the bathroom, the apartment instantly feels more complete. Things are feeling a little more like home. Pictures to come soon!

Our bags are packed, we’re ready to go (again)!

You thought finding an apartment in NYC (well, no I’ve never had to, but I’ve heard nightmares) or LA was hard. Forget the hopeful hunt for a pet friendly place or reasonable lease terms… We just wanted a roof over our heads! And preferably before our first visitor arrives (can’t wait for Amy to get here)! Apparently finding the combination of a wheelchair accessible apartment (or house) close to an accessible tram stop with accessible trams in a desirable inner-city location was just as hard as it sounds like it would be. Melbourne is working hard on improving the accessibility of the public transit, but the city is still in transition so you can find stops that have been updated with platforms for access but not all of them will have low-floor trams (trams with no steps). We looked all over the inner suburbs… St. Kilda, funky style close to the beach; Albert Park, quiet, cute and quaint (reminded me of Pasadena if it were right on the coast); Fitzroy, trendy and has great cafes and nightlife; South Yarra, nice shopping and fancy cars (some might call it L.A.’s equivalent to Beverly Hills); and the CBD (the central business district, or downtown), close to Joe’s office but right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city.

We weren’t being picky, but the challenge here is that there are so many renters and few available properties. Jumping from suburb to suburb in hopes of finding “the one” was a great way to learn my way around the city! The pressure was on to find and move into a place to call home before getting kicked out of our company sponsored hotel (luckily the nice people at Joe’s company extended our stay for an extra four days until we got things sorted out). Some were great but totally not wheelchair friendly, others were wheelchair friendly but nowhere near an accessible tram or train stop, big fancy buildings with small apartments, or small buildings with dingy old apartments… you name it, I saw it! I wish I had a few words of wisdom for people looking to move to Melbourne, but apparently this is just one of those things that you put up with to live in a great city. The Domain website was a saving grace though… it has most all the property listings in the city and surrounding areas!

When you know, you know… we found a place! After finding an apartment you think you might like to live in, you have to apply, wait a week, and hope that the owner likes your application. We saw the place on a Thursday and wondered if we’d have to endure another Saturday of frantic 15-minute inspections. After applying, we heard from the real estate representative the next day who said that he still hadn’t heard from the owners and that we would likely not make our Tuesday move in day (the original day we were slated to check-out of the hotel). He said, “Things move slower here in the colonies.” Something that we’ve come to understand very quickly. He also gave us hope by saying, “Continue searching, but don’t sign anything unless you talk to me”. He couldn’t tell us that he thought our application would go through, or that he would put in a good word for us with the owners, but he made it as clear as possible that we should expect to be moving into the place soon enough.

What a sign of relief! Our application was accepted and we got the keys to our new city apartment (it only took 8 days from the time we saw it and applied to having the keys in hand)! And all we had do was sign four copies of a 50 page document with about 320 pictures (literally) of the pre-move-in state of the unit! They are not messing around here! With every initial and signature, I felt like I was signing my life away (reminiscent of our mortgage signing day).

  

This time the move isn’t so far… about 500 meters to be exact (yes, I’m making the switch over to metric… 0.31 miles for my standard system users) and it only took three trips down the hill from our hotel (home for 18 days) with a luggage cart full of our stuff to move into our new place.

Besides the interesting smells in the hallway and the chatter of business professionals outside my window enjoying happy hour drinks at one of the oldest pubs in Melbourne, the Mitre Tavern, the apartment is glorious! It is spacious and filled with light! I think it might actually be larger than the cute bungalow we left behind in Pasadena. The historic building, built in 1925 (coincidently the same year our house was built), was renovated 10 years ago into modern industrial apartments. The two bedroom, one bath, and tiny kitchen apartment will soon be home to many memories and design experiments. Can’t wait!

Here are some “before” pics of the empty space:

  

  

  

I’ll be furnishing and decorating in the weeks and months to come. I’m feeling a modern, vintage, industrial vibe in the space. It’s a blank canvas ready for some flair. Stay tuned for some “after” shots!