H&M Finally Down Under

H&M finally opened in Australia on Saturday. That’s right. Before now, the closest outpost of trendy-yet-well-made clothes was in Asia.


Melbourne’s been a-flutter for months over this news. One thing you need to understand is the coup that we got from
H&M deciding to open here and not Sydney. Just as Zara did, H&M picked a spot on Bouke Street Mall (as in, pedestrian mall, not shopping mall). I can only guess how much went into refurbishing the three floors of the GPO (historic Gerneral Post Office), which housed dozens of high-end boutiques. When H&M came calling, it was goodbye, boutiques, and ‘Hallo’ to the stylish Swedes.

This validates Melburnians’ desire to be seen as the cultural hub of the country. Take that, Sydney, with your nice weather and beaches! We have the first big-name European chains!

The build-up to the opening has been immense: billboards in the major train station were updated daily with a numerical countdown. And speaking of countdowns, the two clocks outside the GPO let you know to the minute when it would open. Thursday was the pre-launch, which I glimpsed as I passed in the tram. Spotlights lit up the red carpet, crowds gathered to ogle the crème de la crème of Melbourne fashion royalty. I had a massive bout of FOMO.

But nothing would convince me to join the throngs queuing for the opening morning — not even the promise of drinks being passed out and a mobile lipgloss station so you could look your very best before diving into the mêlée.

Nah. I’ll give it a few weeks. Its siren call will lure me in soon enough.


Filed under Australia

Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition

Schott 1

Book trailers — they’re all the rage. (No, really. Tim Ferriss did ones for his twolatest books.) Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition, by Ben Schott, has a most intriguing one.

It’s for a book whose description reads:

In which language but German could you construct le mot juste for:
a secret love of bad foods, the inability to remember jokes,
Sunday-afternoon depression, the urge to touch wet paint, 
the glee of gossip, the loneliness of cooking for one,
delight at the changing of the seasons, the compulsion to hoard,
or the joy of perfectly slaked thirst?

Right? Right? I’m so glad I saw a Kiwi friend share this on a German pal’s Facebook page, because now I am in possession of my own German Words for the Human Condition (which are all made up). Like these gems:


I mean, who doesn’t love the newfangled word ‘Bluthochmut’ (blood-haughtiness), “The pride some people take in having a rare blood type.” Haven’t we all been there? I’m talkin’ about you, type-AB people. Gawd, just shuddup already about being the universal recipient. 

I swear, this is going to really help me in my quest to learn German. The only problem I can foresee is that I might be using words that aren’t proper ones…yet.


Filed under recommendations

Craft + Craft at Good Beer Week

I’m putting on an event at Good Beer Week! Yes, me!

logo design by Jez Kemp

logo design by Jez Kemp

Good Beer Week is a celebration of the burgeoning craft beer scene in Australia (and beyond). Hordes of brewers put on events each May, attended by beer aficionados and foodies alike. In 2012, I interviewed one of the women putting on several beer events for Time Out Melbourne.  And last year, I was lucky to attend and write about Rhythm & Blues, The Big Easy, Elements of Beer, Mildura Brewery’s tasting, Beer Comes Home, plus two more events. Yup, seven events in a week. Was I tired? You betcha. Was I happy? Even more.

After attending so many — and, as you all know, having arranged quite a few events of my own — I figured I might try my hand at putting on my very own Good Beer Week event. It was important to me to ensure that my event had a female bent, carving out a women-friendly space in the midst of an industry that can often have a male focus. With some guidance by the supportive crew at GBW, I put together a stellar lineup. Talk about Girl Power: an afternoon headed by a female brewer, at a woman-owned business, with instruction and food provided by an all-women group. Tickets go on sale today at 9am, so I can finally reveal the exact details:

Craft + Craft

Craft beer paired with craft making. What could be better?

Sample a variety of craft beer under the guidance of Jayne Lewis of Two Birds Brewing, paired with healthy snacks by Lee Gal of Naturalee. Then get your craft on! Create beer cap jewellery with Theresa Winters; learn the art of origami hop flowers with Lou from Paperlab.co; and make beer carton wallets with Chloe Gunn of Gunnbelievable. You’ll walk home with a bag full of creations you made yourself.

The 2.5-hr session is hosted in the warm confines of sewing shop Thread Den. There will even be beer-related craft items on sale to complement what you make on the day.

Sat. 17 & Sun. 18 May
Thread Den (3d/26 Wellington St, Collingwood VIC)
$37 tickets

Top of the 'Good Times' stream on GBW's site

Top of the ‘Good Times’ stream on GBW’s site

If you’re in Melbourne, I hope you’ll join me for a craft-beer filled crafternoon. If not, well, you’ll have to wait for the follow-up post and pictures!

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To Be Alive, On a Fitzroy Rooftop, On a Sunday in Summer



This is it. This is life. You’re there, you’re living it. It’s all good, baby, it’s all good.



You’re on a rooftop in Fitzroy. In Melbourne.  In Australia. It’s summer, a glorious early evening preceded by morning rain showers, where the sunlight bounces off the shining faces of incredibly attractive, even more incredibly talented, people. They take turns, these incredibly attractive, incredibly talented men and women, singing a cappella or with a banjo, telling a story, a joke, doing a duet. Your friends swig beers, make sandwiches from cheese and prosciutto. Your wine slowly warms; the afternoon slips into evening.



City lights flicker on, one by one. Overhead, fruit bats flit and fly. It’s time to walk home, down the traffic-laden thoroughfare of Brunswick Street, past the restaurants, past the bars, all teeming with people.

They, like you, are squeezing one…last…drop out of their Sunday night. This one particular Sunday night, in Fitzroy.
In Melbourne.
In Australia.

In summer.


Filed under Australia, musings

How To Avoid The ‘When Are You Getting Married’ Question

When you’ve passed 30 and have been dating the same guy for over three years, it’s inevitable.

You know. The question. The same one, over and over, in different iterations:
“So, when are you two getting married?”
“Will there be wedding bells soon?”
“Give me a reason to come to Australia and I’ll be there.”

Okay, that last one might not be for everyone, but you know what I mean. The annoying, pushy, and intrusive question that all long-term couples have to deal with. One of my friends actually keeps a spreadsheet with her boyfriend, recording who keeps nagging them about “making things official.” (I’ll hazard those people won’t be receiving any ‘we’re engaged!’ notifications…)

Engagement Ring Luxury Tax Monopoly

Image via Flickr Creative Commons

For all those of you who are in the same spot, I present to you some surefire tactics to make the question go away:

Turn the Tables

This is the simplest tactic. “When are YOU getting married?” is a time-honored retort. But because the people who ask this tend to be married themselves, I’ve found the best response is: “When will we be hearing the pitter-patter of tiny feet?” or “When are you popping out a baby?” The more offensively it can be worded, the better: “Isn’t it past time to breed?”
This puts them on the back foot. They have just been asked a question equally as annoying in its nosiness as it is in its repetitiveness. Since young married couples are asked this constantly, this should shut ‘em up.

If someone in the conversation happens to be pregnant, this won’t work. So you can just tell them about the brand-new American tradition of a “push present.” (That’s when the pregnant woman gets a huge ring for pushing the baby out, of course.)


I’ve found is one people enjoy. Start talking up all of the stupid traditions surrounding becoming engaged. (This works particularly great if you’re American.)

“Well, you know how the engagement ring is supposed to cost three months’ salary…” Bat your lashes at your significant other.
Or try: “Rings are supposed to be three months’ salary, but I’m shooting for six. No, twelve.”

“22 carat gold? If it’s not 100 carats, he obviously doesn’t love me enough!” (Let’s not let exaggeration get in the way of the truth.)

If you’re dating someone from a country or religion where wedding rings are worn on the right hand: “Well, because my country wears wedding rings on the left hand, and his on the right, I’m just going to have to get TWO rings!”

Act Like A Princess

Say something like, “Well, I’ve always dreamed of being proposed to in a castle. That’s where my good friend got engaged. It’s even better if he owns the castle.”

Or how about: “You know how some people’s skin turns green with base metals? It also turns white gold yellow. So I guess my two rings [see above] are both going to have to be solid platinum. Start saving, honey.”

Try: “Where’s my PRE-engagement ring, huh? Huh?”
Up the ante with: “I want one ring for every single month we’ve been dating.”

This one’s good, too: “See how long my fingers are? I’m going to need a huuuuuuuge rock. I want something so heavy that it’s hard to hold my hand up. You know, the kind of ring that won’t let you wear gloves. The sort that scratches people.” Mime backhanding your boyfriend with your imaginary diamond. “Take THAT for not proposing sooner.”

The more out-of-control and over-the-top you are, the better people like it. Go on wild tangents. Distract them with minutiae. Start talking about how you can’t WAIT to get proposed to, because you’re sooooo looking forward to picking out colors for your wedding. And after all, your bridesmaids will need to be alerted that they’re going to have to lose massive amounts of weight. You need to line up a personal trainer at least one whole year before the Big Day.

See what I mean?

By doing this, you’re showing people how stupid and silly this sort of question is — as if a relationship isn’t valid because someone doesn’t hold with the completely fabricated tradition of putting a bit of pressed carbon on the finger of just the female’s hand. (How come men aren’t publicly marked when they get engaged, hmmm?)

That said, I’m guilty of asking this dumb question myself every now and then:

Me, last month, to friend dating the same guy for several years: When’s your wedding going to be?
Friend: After yours.



Filed under dating

Highlights of 2013

Friends about to feast on New Year's Eve 2013/14

Friends about to feast on New Year’s Eve 2013/14

Like lists? For me, the highlights of 2013 were:

  1. Dressing up for the Great Gatsby – first for a Gatsby ball with my friends Jen and Colin, and for a private Gold Class cinema screening of The Great Gatsby (including food, drinks, and gift bags valued over $2,000), which Jen won for 20 friends
  2. Visiting Germany six weeks for the first time (or second, depending on if those 15 minutes in a car count)
  3. Acting the part of a goblin handmaiden as part of The Goblin Ball
  4. Starring in Mantis and the Prayer’s music video, through my friend William who’s the lead singer
  5. Spending time at my family’s cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
  6. Having my photo published in the newspaper for an article on Game of Thrones viewing parties
  7. Joining my first book club, which focuses exclusively on prize- and award-winning/-nominated fiction
  8. Continuing to help the Brunswick Scottish Society‘s monthly ceilidhs flourish with an influx of young, international people ready to don some plaid and learn traditional dances (one time we had 50 youngesters turn up!)
  9. Being asked to become part of The Squeaky Wheel‘s committee, where I’m now handling their social media. I’ve also become an official AustCycle Skills Coach, which means I can teach people to ride bikes and lead breeze rides
  10. Discovering I’m really good at teaching braiding classes (I’m one of the most frequent teachers at Laneway Learning, and my classes sell out in minutes)
  11. Going on a week-long campervan trip along the coast between Sydney and Brisbane with my boyfriend
  12. Finishing a book about my grandfather’s WWII experiences in time for his 90th birthday
  13. Learning enough German to have a brief conversation or two with my boyfriend’s family
  14. Getting out of my comfort zone and telling true-life stories at storytelling nights
  15. Participating in Mindful in May and doing a month of meditation for the first time
  16. Going on a magical weekend with my boyfriend to Strahan, Tasmania (and hitting another UNSECO World Heritage Site)
  17. Seeing my articles continue to be published in Time Out Melbourne magazine
  18. Spending a wonderful summertime week in Abel Tasman and Golden Bay, New Zealand with great Wellington pals
  19. Waking up to a snowfall on my birthday in July in Queenstown, NZ (remember, the seasons are opposite in the Southern Hemisphere)
  20. Winning lots and lots of stuff via WinWinWinters, my weekly newsletter, and hit 120 people in its Facebook group
  21. Rounding off 2013 in a house in the Dandenong Ranges with nine wonderful friends

Throughout the year, I maintained my much-loved active lifestyle, making sure I continue to explore Melbourne and its many intriguing events. I hope that I made sure that all of my friends and family around the world know I care about them, that I continued to learn, and that I managed to keep with my non-resolutions.

How was your 2013? What were the highlights?

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Project 35

Being asked to participate in a blogger’s personal challenge? Sign me up!

Setting the scene: I’m a devotee of the website EatWithMe, where anyone and their brother can put up an event that’s food-related. A potluck, a picnic, even meeting at a cafe — it’s all fair game, and I’ve hosted and attended my fair share of events. I set up an event called ‘The Red Weddin–er, Dinner‘, where all the food had to involve red ingredients. One of the EWMers emailed me afterward:

I hope this email finds you well. Apologies I couldn’t make it for the EWM dinner last month. I’m writing to ask if you might be interested in participating in a personal project of mine that I’ve just embarked on – Project 35. (see details here: http://ranmaleemendisproject35.wordpress.com/) Essentially, I’m looking to meet 35 new people and make a self-donation for each person met to the Wesley Mission Victoria for social isolation projects. Part of this is also for me to learn about interesting initiatives that people have embarked on – I am particularly intrigued by the ‘Eat With Me’ movement and would love hear more about [it].

I got to meet Ranmalee at the next EatWithMe dinner I arranged: an evening at a restaurant for Scarf, a social enterprise.


click on the photo to go to the Project 35 blog

I’m completely entranced with the idea of doing a project like this. And I was floored when she told me what one of the next new meetups was going to be: the Carpark Choir. She’d read about it in an article on Time Out Melbourne. And article I had written! How cool is that?

Ranmalee, best of luck for the rest of your 35 people. It’s a great project, and I’m honored to be involved. You should have a party at the end so all of your new connections can meet (or, in the case of me and the director of the Carpark Choir, re-meet).

How about it? Are you inspired? Would you ever do a project similar to this?

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Filed under Australia