30 August 2012

Travel tales: the posh end of NYC. Bar Italia. Acapella Soul. A drink at the bar.

I still have a lot of memories of New York to record. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

On our second Tuesday in New York Mum and I found ourselves in the posh area of town. The Upper East Side. Mum was sick and so we booked an appointment with the travel doctor, who happens to have an award signed by Donald Trump. We had a long wait for the doctor and so we walked up 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue. How the other half live! We saw stunning apartments, embassies and lots of trees. And compared to the neighbourhood we stayed in (Midtown, close to Times Square) there was not much rubbish on the pavements. I made up a game - who can guess the embassy's flag. I think I won this game!

We were both tired and so decided to rest when we saw a group of acapella singers outside the Met. It was a lovely hour sitting on the steps of the Met, listening to them sing and watching the crowd, as delighted as we were. The group Is called Acapella Soul and they told us they have sung for Paul McCartney, Uma Thurman and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, just to name a few. We enjoyed My Girl, Lean on Me, Your love keeps lifting me higher and other mowtown songs. It was such fun, and a really good way to spend an hour. There is always something to do in New York City.

The trip to the doctor confirmed, once again, what a lucky country we live in. For a 15 minute consultation, Mum paid $280, and for three prescriptions she paid $240. Fortunately we both have medical travel insurance, but for many, a visit to the doctor would be inaffordable. It is a scary thought.

Being in the Upper East Side meant we could browse the shops we could never afford to purchase from. It was fun, and I jokingly thanked Mum for getting sick. We stopped at the first restaurant we found - Bar Italia (768 Madison Avenue) - after a long walk down Madison Avenue. There are many many clothes shops along Madison Avenue, but few restaurants. By 2.30 pm we were both on the verge of Angry-Hungry, so a meal at Bar Italia was just what we neede. And we were impressed! Bar Italia served the best spaghetti cabonara I have ever had. It was so tasty. Creamy and cheesy and just salty enough. I think the secret was that it was topped with parmesan toasted breadcrumbs. Delicious!

I had dessert too - vanilla bean panna cotta with berry coulis. My only complaint was that I didn't have two servings. Yum!
To be honest, the service started a little gruff at Bar Italia - and it wasn't helped by the fact that I had spilt the olive oil and vinegar bowl on the table - but after I complimented them on the best cabonara I had ever eaten, the staff warmed to us, telling us that some Italian builders told them the cabonara was the best outside Italy. While on the pricey side for a New York meal ($23 for the bowl of cabonara), I do recommend eating at Bar Italia.

After lunch we wandered through the shops. Mum treated me to two silk tops, one hugely discounted, from a store called Talbolt's. Talbot's is a bit old lady, but if you hunt around long enough, you can find some pretty pieces for a corporate wardrobe. Here's me in my blue and green top (sitting on the couch at home!).
Fortunately Mum felt better quite soon after she began the million dollar antibiotics and painkillers. Like on most of our nights in New York, we made a trip down to the bar. I had my new favourite drink - a very chocolately brandy Alexander. Brandy Alexander happened to be the show name of one of our dogs.
I do believe this cocktail - and another - may have been followed with a Quarter Pouder chaser at midnight...

28 August 2012

The one where I quote a Kelly Clarkson song.

"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger".

I used to picture this song playing, as strong women box at the gym, sweat dripping off them, swollen jugulars. Determination. Hearts pounding. In recent weeks the song has taken on a new meaning for me. It's true. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Exactly a year ago, my heart was so broken that I thought it was unrecoverable. The grief, though abstract, made my body ache. When you love someone, worry about their safety and write countless words to tell them they're worth being here, it is devastating knowing you are so easily and quickly replaceable. I cried. I wondered why. I missed him. So much.

He said we'd still be friends. I don't think we are. I guess in the Facebook sense we are, but that's all. How can we be friends when...? An actual friend told me, "you wouldn't stay friends with someone who's broken your arm. So why stay friends with someone who has broken your heart?"

For a while I didn't think I would feel the same as I felt before I met him. I never thought I'd feel that much love for another man - maybe I won't. I felt used, cheapened and dependent. And he just didn't understand the reason for my sadness. It was hard seeing the man I loved was the happiest he's ever been because of someone else.

I burnt my hand the day after my heart broke. The combined pain was awful. I had to go to the hospital twice that day - once for a dermatology appointment and three hours later when I burnt my hand. I cried both times. A friend, Suz, came to my house to deliver me dinner because I was too sore and sad to cook. I told her this was the worst day of my life. It was the best lamb curry I have eaten. Last night my friend told me she can't believe it was a year ago, and that I did it! I got through!

Now I feel neutral. I still love him, I still miss him. But I no longer worry, and there's no residual anger. I once even spoke her name when talking to a friend. I can listen to Somebody That I Used To Know and Someone Like You without a rush of tears. I have almost stopped counting the months since.

Writing helped. I wrote a lot - published blog posts, left posts unpublished, and wrote unsent letters - so much I wanted to tell him but didn't. Your words of support helped. Thank you.

And now I am so happy with my life. This year has been amazing. I feel strong, independent and free. My other friend Kate said "the best way to recover is to live a brilliant life". And she is right.

Exactly a year ago I was so sad. And now I'm not. :)

27 August 2012

Breakfast with Ita Buttrose (a Business Chicks event)


On my overseas trip, I vowed to take up more professional development and networking opportunities. Attend conferences, courses, public lectures and dinners where I will meet people and learn something from a speaker or the attendees. I was in London when I saw a tweet from Business Chicks advertising a breakfast event featuring media superwoman Ita Buttrose. And so I registered a membership with them and snapped up a ticket immediately. I could not miss this event.

When I arrived, I met a number of wonderful blogging and twitter friends including Valerie Khoo, Nicole Avery, Anna Spargo-Ryan, Nathalie Brown and Jasmin Tragas (click on their twitter profiles for links to their blogs). It was great to catch up. The breakfast was yummy and the gift bags were packed with enough goodies to put in my food drawer at work as well as share with my colleagues.

Like others of my generation, I was not aware of Ita's successful enormous career until I watched Paper Giants starring Asher Keddie. I wrote about Paper Giants here. Ita did mention that Paper Giants has meant a new generation are aware of her, and it has boosted her career.

Ita knew she wanted to be a journalist at 11. She commenced work at 16 as a copywriter at the Australian Women's Weekly. She was founding editor of Cleo magazine, here providing groundbreaking advice on women's sexuality (on Friday she spoke of a doctor calling her to ask her advice on whether a couple's sex life would be the same after the woman had a hyresterctomy. She had such influence.) In 1972 she was appointed as the youngest ever editor of the Women's Weekly. Ita was the first female of News Limited and 'womanised' the Daily and Sunday Telegraph newspapers. She has been the spokesperson for the Grim Reaper AIDS campaign and founder of a publishing company.

Ita shows no signs of slowing down - Wimipedia states she was born in 1942. What a woman! She believes in taking time out for ourselves to meditate and exercise. From the Women's Agenda website:

"Ita Buttrose is chairwoman of the Sydney-based digital publishing company, Reddo Media Services, and a regular social commentator on Channel Nine's Today Show. She is National President of Alzheimer's Australia, Vice President Emeritus of Arthritis Australia, patron of the Macular Degeneration Foundation of Australia, and a Trustee of the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust. Her 11th book, "A Passionate Life" - the third edition of her autobiography – has just been published by Penguin."

It was truly a privilege to see Ita speak. She was intelligent, composed, and very funny! I loved that she is proud of her many many achievements and not afraid to speak of them. This is a quality I admire so much.

I tweeted a lot of the points that resonated with me. While others may think it is rude to be using a phone during a presentation, I love that tweeting is both making notes for ourselves later and sharing messages with people that couldn't attend an event.

The room was filled with 900 women and about five men. Ita said she is suspicious of the motives of the men in the room, but does see how attending the Business Chicks events are a good way to meet women!

She spoke a lot about the inequality the still surrounds women - drawing on her experiences in male dominated workplaces at the start of her career (men letting lifts shut in her face, saying that they'd have to change their jokey, sweary ways around her) to mentioning the discrimination that still happens today. The discussion of Julia Gillard's clothing and bottom on Q&A was one example she raised, and she also spoke in disgust of the treatment Gina Rinehart has received (see article here). On discrimination, Ita said "if you decide to play in the jungle, you have got to cop whatever the jungle dishes out". I think this is such a salient point for bloggers today - we choose to put our voices out there, and so we need to expect opposing views.

She also talked about how the Cleo Magazine that she created was not the Cleo Magazine of today. It covered important issues about sex, domestic violence, women's health and body image. She said that she did not run articles on diets because she knew they contributed to eating disorders. She stated "media jobs bring with them power, but also huge responsibility". She used her influence in the media to help women.

Ita spoke a little about the success of Paper Giants and how Asher Keddie mimicked her speech and mannerisms so well that at dinner, Ita jokingly asked Asher to stop mimicking her. She said she was stopped in the street recently by a driver who said "are you the real Ita or the actress?!". Hah! She said that Asher performed her lisp well, though Ita did not realise she had a lisp until microphones came in during the 1970s. She spoke of how a speech therapist once told her "how dare you open your mouth in public with a speech impediment like that?". I find this incredibly sad and discriminatory, but Ita did not let her lisp stop her.

She encouraged the room to give back to the community, speaking of the charity work she has done for World Vision amd continues to do for Alzheimer's Australia. She said she enjoyed being involved in a protest on Parliament House recently, protesting with Bob and Hazel Hawke's daughter around funding for patients.

It was intersting to hear how she balanced having children and being in the public eye. She said her children remain unaffected by her success and career, and when her son was very young he used to call out "Mum! ita Buttrose is on TV!" She remarked "I don't know who he thought I was!"

In closing she encouraged us all to do work that makes us happy. "Life's too short to do something that makes you unhappy", she said, and urged us to think about how we'd live our lives on finding out we only have six months left to live. Hilariously she quipped, "you'd move to Adelaide and become an accountant. That'd be the longest six months of your life!"

I am truly in awe of Ita. She really has achieved so much, and is generous to share what she has learnt. She is not only a role model for women in the media, but for all women with career and personal aspirstions.

At the end of the breakfast I purchased her autobiography and was fortunate enough to meet her briefly and have her sign the book. I thanked her for pioneering equality in the media, and briefly told her what I am doing with appearance activism through writing, speaking and TV work. She was so very interested in what I had to say and told me to "keep up the great work". Just look at her posture when signing my book. Look! All class.
Thank you Business Chicks for a wonderful event, and thank you Ita for inspiring and motivating me and taking that one minute to make me feel valued.

(PS - I have been sharing a lot on my blog's Facebook page, so if you are interested in seeing what I am up to between blog entries, click the Like button :)

25 August 2012

My favourite thing to do on a cold Melbourne Sunday: lunch at Jackson Cafe and Gallery, a peek at Gleaner's Inc.

The best part of being home is catching up with friends, picking up where we left off. The next best bits of being home are the cold weather and the food. I love being able to rug up and feel comfortable, and I also love getting back to cooking my own meals and going to Melbourne's great cafes. My friends Lotus and Willow from Red Phoenix Emporium told me their Uncle and Aunty have set up a cafe in Melbourne, and I was keen to visit.

Last Sunday Cam and I caught up at Jackson Cafe and Gallery at 412 Rathdowne St Carlton North. She picked me up and the 10 minute drive from my place ended up taking an hour. We got quite lost. And my map app on my phone thought it was still in New York, directing us to The Carlton in Madison Avenue NYC! Hah!

We finally arrived, tummies rumbling, and we were greeted by Lotus and Willow's Mum and Dad Sandra and JJ, and of course, Peter and Annie Jackson who own the cafe gallery. The cafe gallery was hard to locate last week but Peter told us the signage would arrive the day after we visited. It's only been open for two weeks now! It has plenty of cushions along the window seat, a communal table in the front service room, and a back room with more tables and some armchairs near a fireplace.

Cam and I had hot drinks by the fireplace - she had coffee and I had one of the best hot chocolates ever. So chocolately! We had lunch too - she had tomato, ham and cheese bruschetta (which she said was yum!) and I had a really hearty eggplant parma with a side salad. It was a great meal for a cold wintery day.

The walls are adorned with artwork - for now they are all by Peter, but the cafe gallery is open to showcasing works by other artists. It also sells jewellery and accessories by Red Phoenix Emporium - I love that they're now stocked in Melbourne.
We finished our lunch with a decadent brownie (cut in half to share - pictured above). Yum!

Peter and JJ took us upstairs to look at the gallery and a function room. It is a lovely space. Peter told us that he plans to have some Japanese cinema in the courtyard when the weather warms up, have musicians play, as well as provide art supplies to diners and hold a little competition of their finished works. I love the creative concepts.

I said to Cam that it felt very cosy, and like being at home. We were able to talk and talk and talk while our meals were prepared and there was no rush for us to leave. The older style building was nice, and I loved the winter sunlight.

After our lunch, Cam and I drove around looking for fabric shops that were open on a Sunday afternoon, and we finally found Clegs. Cam is sewing me a capelet for the ball. We also stopped by Gleaners Inc in Brunswick where I saw Cam's work for sale, as well as a magnificent bird themed curation by local artists.
There are so many handmade goodies to choose from at Gleaner's Inc, as well as some beautiful vintage trinkets - I adored a mini tea set. I bought a brooch made from a piece of recycled ceramic. It was a fun afternoon, and on arriving home, I said to Cam, I can't believe we were out for five hours! I love Melbourne!

21 August 2012

Home - pottering, advocacy, being a role model.

I have been home a week today. Tomorrow I return to work after eight weeks holiday. Remind me to go to the right building, as we moved just before I went on leave! I am looking forward to returning to work as it means more face to face interaction. While I have met people travelling, so much of my communication has been online, and I am not sure if that has been healthy. It has been so good to see friends in person these past few days.

Being home is nice. I have cooked, unpacked, eaten greens and slept. I found this postcard from a favourite store in London (the South Bank Centre) and felt nostalgic. I loved that trip. Loved it.

I haven't been as productive as I had planned, but I have given my body a much needed chance to rest. I packed so much into 47 days overseas that it is bliss to be doing very little here. I want to take the time to finish my American blog posts, and to recap BlogHer and make some changes that I learnt there, but there is time for that - my body comes first. There is a pie in the oven and a big night on the couch is ahead.

I made an artwork with some of the many cards I have collected over the years. While I have not managed writing anything other than the stuff others have asked me to (a speech and a story), this small burst of creativity was nice.
I have also been putting together my outfit for the Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars ball happening in September. I am so excited for the ball, and also to meet Layne and Megan (manager of the program) and the other grant recipients. We will attend training days and go surfing with Layne! Can you imagine!! Surfing!! The foundation has been great - so encouraging, and I can't wait to thank Layne and Megan in person, plus meeting the wonderful recipients will be fantastic.
Anyway, the dress is a secret (though I saw a character on 30 Rock wearing it in an episode!), but here are my shoes. They are from Forever New if you are wondering.
Since getting home, so many wonderful opportunities have come my way (some I put into place while overseas). It is great to be considered and valued. Really great. Today I spoke at Scope's Young Ambassadors conference held at Etihad Stadium. The conference helped young people learn about mobility and communication challenges surrounding disability, and gave them insight into the experiences of people with disabilities. I spoke about disability acceptance and shared my story before almost 600 primary and secondary school children. It was exhilerating, and the children were lovely - listening attentatively, asking me intelligent and beautiful questions, thanking me and asking me for photos afterward. They were lovely children. I think the conference - and my speech - made them consider the way they perceive and treat people with disabilities. I ended my speech with these words, and after seeing awful examples of disability hate on social media, I know these young people will make a positive difference. I think our future will be built with good minds.

"If your friends and family are teasing people with disabilities, even if it is commenting on a picture or mean status on Facebook, say, 'no that's not ok'. It's not ok to be mean to someone because of their disability.

I know you're all young leaders in this room. Set a good example among your friends in how you treat people with disabilities. You're going to be the people that change attitudes towards people with disabilities. You can do it."

Yesterday I did an interview for International Day of People With Disability's national conversations. A film crew came to my house and I talked about how ai celebrate International Day as well as memtioning how blogging has helped me and others with a disability connect (I dug that thesis research out from the back of my holidaying brain!). My interview will be up on YouTube before International Day (before September) as well as other people with disabilities and those in the sector. I will also be an official conversation starter on Twitter and Facebook! Very exciting! Here I am being filmed.

I have also been asked to be a judge at the Other Film Festival in September. It's a film festival dedicated to showcasing the talents of people with disabilities. But it's for EVERYONE - so YOU should come along :) There will be films, a bar, great food and people to meet. I hope you can come along if you are in Melbourne!

It feels funny to be considered an expert in certain fields now - blogging, disability. I have been grappling with the responsibility that comes with being some sort of role model. It is hard, but I remind myself - I am here doing writing and speaking because I have been myself, and I will continue to be, even if some opinions surprise people.

I find there is increasing pressure to act compassionately and with a moderate opinion at all times. I look at other bloggers and see the criticism they get, and know I am lucky. But in voicing my own opinion, others are free to voice theirs - good and bad. This may sound arrogant, and I apologise if it does. Today a girl at the Scope conference asked me "how does it feel to be an inspiration to others?". I laughed and thanked her. Honestly, I don't know. I guess I am still learning.

15 August 2012

An open letter to Air New Zealand - Thank you for the best service ever!

Dear Air New Zealand,

I'd like to give a big thanks (and a virtual hug) to your inflight teams and in Melbourne, London, Los Angeles and Auckland for the great service when I flew Melbourne-London-Los Angeles-Melbourne between 29 June and 14 August 2012.

I have a severe skin condition called Ichthyosis which makes my whole body very sore, and your staff did their best to ensure I was comfortable, warm and hydrated for all my flights.

The great service began with Carol from the iMeda team who cleared my creams for travel and granted me extra luggage allowance to take 12 kg of Dermeze (like Vaseline) for my 6.5 week trip). Carol's email communication was fantastic, and from our conversations, I knew my flying experience was going to be good.

On each flight I was given extra leg room which made me comfortable and able to stretch out so my skin didn't crack during sitting for long periods of time. On one flight I was even given the skycouch! Oh what a treat! I was given extra water for hydration, and extra blankets for warmth. The staff on each flight came to see if I was ok and whether I needed anything.

Here's me on on my flight from Los Angeles to London. Very happy.

The pinnacle of the great service was on my return to Melbourne - I had just flown in from New York to LA (on a local American airline who were not as accommodating as you, despite me talking to their medical department back in January when I booked my flights) and my skin was very sore. I was not going to have a comfortable flight from LA to Melbourne without a shower or at least a wash, and there was no private disabled toilet in LAX for me to do this. The LAX Air New Zealand staff let me use the shower in the Koru Club and invited my mum and I back for drinks and snacks before the flight. I was also given use of the shower in the Auckland Koru Club, and breakfast too. I felt so very lucky.

I arrived in Melbourne yesterday feeling refreshed and well, like I hadn't just flown 20 hours from NYC. This trip was my first out of Australia and I was nervous about how my skin would fare, especially with flying such long distances. This flying experience has given me the confidence to travel more.

Thank you for making my long journey one of my favourite parts of my overseas trip. The service I received exceeded any I've received from Australian and American airlines. You listened to my needs and provided treatment above and beyond what I expected. Amazing! Thank you.

I wish you flew domestically in Australia. I will be recommending you to everyone considering flights to New Zealand, London and Los Angeles, and especially to people with special needs.

The friendliness and individualised attention from your staff has impressed me so much.

Kindest regards

Carly Findlay
Melbourne Australia

(PS- I loved that you featured my favourite singer, Darren Hayes, on your inflight entertainment. I may have listened to his album 4646 times across my flights!)


Note: I was not paid to write this endorsement. I worked with my doctors to sort out prescriptions and letters for the airline and insurance company. I also encourage you as individuals to take responsibility for alerting airlines (and other service providers) about your special needs. Be polite and factual when explaining your needs. I do believe great service goes both ways.

To book a flight on Air New Zealand from Australia, visit Air New Zealand's Australian website. Visit their main website here.

12 August 2012

Homeward bound

"Home, where my thoughts escapin', home, where my music's playin'
Home, where my love lies waitin' silently for me

Every day's an endless stream of cigarettes and magazines
And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories
And every stranger's face I see reminds me that I long to be

Homeward bound..."
- Simon and Garfunkle - Homeward Bound

I long for some home comforts. My friends. The cold. My own bed. Music through my stereo speakers. Vegetables. Oh how I want vegetables.

Tomorrow is the last official day of my 6.5 week international holiday. I fly out from New York in the afternoon, reaching LA, then spending a hideous amount of time at the airport before the long journey to Australia. I will be home on Tuesday. Home. I am ready. I took this photo tonight, crossing the road on 8th Avenue. It is an action shot of Times Square.

I will be glad to have things slow down a few notches and be in a smaller crowd. So glad. London certainly prepared me for the onslaught of people in New York. There hasn't been much personal space for six weeks.

I keep hearing Mum regaling stories to strangers turned friends at the hotel bar or the laundromat (both good places to meet people) about how she and my Dad never thought I would travel, never thought I'd live past my early months at life in fact. She is so proud I am here in New York and have been to London, on my own. I'm all like, it's not a huge deal.

And then I remember it is. It is a huge deal. I am proud I have not been sick in my time away - apart from two colds. I have not needed the doctor or extra medication, and for the most part I have coped with the heat here in New York (London's climate suited me just fine). I have done fairly well with money, considering in the past I have not been good with money. I have made conversation with so many strangers, and it has all been positive. I have handled two challenging accommodation situations, navigated the London Underground and worked with three currencies. I like New York but LOVE London. Love it!

I have packed in so much in my travels. It makes me want to do and see more in my own country. I don't want to fall victim to the geographic naivity that I have seen in others. I have been to Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Notting Hill, Camden, Bristol, Telford, Big Ben, London Bridge, Kensington Palace and Gardens, Tate Modern, Victoria and Albert, WholeFoods (in three locations), The London Eye, Borough Market, Selfridges, TopShop, H&M on every goddamn corner, Marks and Sparks, British Museum of Popular Music, Emirates Cable Car, Hollywood Boulevard, Universal Studios, Santa Monica Farmers Market, Rockerfeller Centre, Ground Zero, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Central Park, American Museum of Natural History, The Met, MoMA, Momofuku, The Spotted Pig, Times Square, Broadway and New Zealand Airport (plus lots lots more!). I ticked so much off my list. Phew! I am tired. But regenerated.

When I set off on my trip I was tired. Tired from work, doing my thesis and preparing for travel. I finish this trip invigorated and already planning what I want to do with my writing, speaking and media. My time at the Appearance Matters conference, Changing Faces and BlogHer have been big motivators, and the areas of focus will now be on expanding my writing and speaking opportunities, some consultancy work and setting up a social enterprise.

I have met a lot of new friends here. The speakers at BlogHer were incredibly inspiring, and the staff at The Centre for Appearance Research and Changing Faces really believed me. I know they have influenced me towards being more confident in myself as a brand. And in my week before I return to my day job, I am going to follow up with the contacts I have made and put some solid plans into place. I feel so empowered.

This trip has helped me grow. It has given me the confidence to take chances, to speak to strangers and to feel comfortable with spur of the moment decisions. I have appeciated the finer things in life through shopping (oh the shopping - oh my luggage allowance!) and eating (oh the food - hello jubbly tummy!).

But I have also seen the darker side of life - the poverty, the homelessness, mothers and children begging and rifling through bins, the filthy streets and the class divide. The media in America seems to be focused on the violence that takes place here, and it worries me. In Los Angeles, you cannot drink bottled water on a train, but it is legal to own a firearm. Right. I have wondered what type of company I am in when in public places. Will there be a gunman? A terrorist attack? In both London and New York I have seen police with high powered rifles. In New York there are army personnel posted to subway stations as a measure to prevent terrorism. I have never seen that sort of incidental protection in Australia. I feel lucky to live in Australia. It is clean, safe, wages are high (I felt guilty discussing my job and wages with my American friend) and healthcare is affordable. I am so lucky.

I need to go to sleep now but I want to thank you all for coming on this journey with me - thanks for the travel tips, thanks for loving my Instagram photos and for the encouragement - especially around my speech and meeting Jack - probably the best two events of my trip). I have loved every minute of my trip, and am so thankful for the opportunities it presented. A huge thanks to my hospital and the Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars Foundation for helping me.

I will write to you soon.

(I have been so tired to blog about this past week but I have lots to tell you about this past week in New York when I am back in Australia.)

07 August 2012

Travel tales: Rockerfeller Centre, MoMA and my Momofuku dream coming true

I would count today as one of the best we have had in New York. A breathtaking view from the top ofmthe Rockerfeller Centre, a walk through the Museum of Modern Art - (MoMA), some shopping, and lunch at Momofuku. Talk about bucket list stuff.

We spentman hour on the viewing decks on the 66th - 70th floors at the iconic Rockerfeller Centre. I went crazy with my camera and took photos from all angles. Here are a few I took with my iPhone.

I liked this view the best. You can see Central Park and the way the East and West streets are divided.
And then I crossed sides and liked this view the best. Oh I couldn't decide. We are just so damn lucky to be able to experience this city. The view of the Empire State Building and the rebuilt World Trade Centre.

We saw the Times Square ball in the concrete jungle - displaying 2012, reminding me that 2012 is the best year ever!
Mum bought a new dress in Conneticut. Doesn't she look fabulous?
And I have been perfecting the art of the selfie.
There is a wall of Swarovski crystals one one of the viewing floors. I thought it is quite pretty.
Mum and I sat inside in the cool and took it all in (I Instagrammed the hell out of my photos thanks to the free wifi there).

After the Rockerfeller we had a quick shop - Mum bought a dress and I was amused by the pushy sales women. We sat and enjoyed fruit smoothies from a street van. This was the view from our bench.
We wandered to MoMA - which was founded by the Rockerfellers - and took in the sun and the sights, starting in the sculpture garden. It was filled with bronze sculptures, flowers and edible gardens and fountains. A very peaceful place.
I looked up and saw this view. I just love the architecture here.
MoMA is filled with contemporary art - paintings, sculptures and multimedia. I liked it better than the Tate Modern in London. This is my favourite - part of an exhibition called Game Plan by Boetti - a collection of carpets and flags. Boetti embroidered four wold maps with flags representing each country. Amazing huh?
Of course we went to the MoMA gift shop - so many things I would love to take home! I wanted a light shade, a bubble necklace and some kitchen gadgets. Instead I bought a card cutout map of the New York City skyline.

The final thing we did today was eat lunch at Momofuku's Ma Peche and the Milkbar. Ma Peche is located downstairs and the Milkbar is on the street level. Momofuku has been a restaurant I have wanted to visit during this trip. The food we have earen here has been pretty bad, so today I was so happy to be there after today. I had heard a lot about the chain on American food podcasts, so my expectations were high. And they were met. The service was great, the food was fancy yet the prices were affordable, and it was in a great location (W 56th St between 5 and 6 Avenue).
Our waitress suggested a ginger soda - it had been made fresh from ginger root. It was so zingy and refreshing.

The menu is made up of salads, steamed buns (pork and fish), sandwiches and noodles. We shared a salad - summer beans, strawberries, yoghurt and peanuts. It was so good to have vegetables! The salad was light and really flavoursome. I will definitely be making it through the summer. This photo does not do the colours justice - it really did pop.
For mains, I chose the pork buns and Mum had the roast beef, tongue and mushroom sandwich.

The pork buns were described by Mum as "to die for" - the pork was fatty and tender, the hoisin was not too salty, and the cucumber and shallots complimented the pork well. The buns were steamed just right. Perfection.
I had a bit of Mum's sandwich - I loved the tender meat (even the tongue!) and really enjoyed the yoghurt paprika dressing. So good!

And then, the moment I had waited for since I had heard about it on American Splendid Table - dessert from Momofuku Milkbar. We both chose crack pie - named crack pie because of its sugary, addictive nature. There is a recipe here. It tasted sugary, buttery, oaty - so delicious.
The Milkbar sells milkshakes (including cereal flavoured), cookies (including the legendary compost cookie) and pies. It also sells the Momofuku and Milkbar cookbooks and totebags.
I said to Mum, we are so lucky to experience this. So very lucky. What a beautiful day.

05 August 2012

So this just happened - meeting Christy Turlington - a brief BlogHer12 update

I have been busy at BlogHer in New York, live tweeting, absorbing everything and making new friends. I promise to uodate you all soon.

I have seen some amazing speakers including President Barack Obama, Martha Stewart, Katie Couric, Soledad O'Brien, Malaak Compton Rock and Christy Turlington Burns, plus many bloggers sharing their amazing stories. It is such a privilege to be in the room with inspirational, motivational and likeminded women (and a few men). I have lots of ideas to take back with me, for the blog and for social change.

This just happened. I asked a question in the philanthropy session.

My question was to Christy Turlington, Soledad O'Brien and Malaak Compton Rock, who all do brilliant work in helping women and children in underprivileged communities.

"As a novice activist, how do I get my message out there without the leverage of the high profiles that you have?"

Christy answered:
"Use your own small community as a start, and your message will spread widely." (Paraphrased.)

I later spoke with the three women and had a photo with Christy. I told her that I am starting out as an appearance activist, and we joked that I can be a supermodel too.
And she retweeted me! So quickly too. Thanks Christy!

I will be blogging soon, when the fantastic experience that is BlogHer is over. Meanwhile you can check out my Twitter for some really useful tips I learnt at BlogHer.

02 August 2012

Travel tales: the shirtless male model. Excitement about BlogHer.

So this happened today.
(It is a photo of a polaroid hence the bad quality.)

Mum and I walked down 5th Avenue, browsing the high end shops. And we passed a store with a line of excited women. And then saw a man in the window, with his shirt off. And so we backtracked and had a better look.

Oh my!

He is an Abecrombie and Fitch model. The staff were taking polaroids of him with customers, and they let us take our own photos too. This guy is hot and lovely.

He hugged me tighter. I die.

He asked me where I am from, and we talked Sydney vs Melbourne.

He picked up my sunglasses when I dropped them.

And I stood back to have another look.

Does anyone know his name?

We were on 5th Avenue to check out where BlogHer is being held tomorrow. So excited!
I have been looking forward to BlogHer for almost one year. I cannot believe it is here. I am so passionate about blogging and I know this will be a chance to make new friends, learn new skills and promote my blog to the right people. Barack Obama will address the audience by video link. Yes! What an amazing opportunity.

The power of blogging is huge. I commented at the Appearance Matters conference that I love how it allows people to tell their own stories, and creates a more diverse mediascape.

I bang on about it a lot. But I can't be more grateful for blogging and the path it has helped me to pave. And whenever I have a conversation with people who dismiss the worth of social media, I tell them how it has helped me. I can't make a diagram, but I can use the greater than sign.

Blogging>freelance writing>more media work>public speaking>awards>wonderful friendships>online support>connections with the ichthyosis community>consultancy work>thesis>speaking at a conference in the UK after my blog was discovered>BlogHer in New York City.

It doesn't get better than that!

Bring on BlogHer'12, NYC.

01 August 2012

Travel tales: The Australian contingent. The Met. Cake cocktails. Manicure.

I have noticed how broad Aussie accents are since I have been overseas. I can spot an Aus from afar - their broad, loud accents stand out. There have been times when I have walked down the street and heard an Australian speak, and I stop them and say "Australian!". Weird I know! People have even told me how Aussie I sound - and I don't think my accent is overly Australian. I have spent time with a number of Aussies over the past two days - it makes me feel like home. I miss Australia.

Last night I met up with one member of the Aussie BlogHer contingent - Karen from Miscellaneous Mum. We had a yummy Mexican meal from Lucy's Cantina Royale near Madison Square Garden. Karen is so lovely and such a wise soul and intelligent writer (and her style is amazing!) - I really admire her, and enjoy the times we have spent together. So glad we got to catch up in NYC. Here is Katie, Karen and I enjoying the night.
Today I met up with Mrs Woog and Beth who are also here for BlogHer. Beth is definitely a blog crush of mine and I was secretly a bit star struck being able to hang out with her and Mes Woog. They are exactly how they represent themselves in their blogs - funny, clever and stylish - I love this authenticity about them. And they had their blogging A Game on, I am so glad they agree with me that everything is a story. We went to Central Park with a picnic from the extraordinary Jewish deli Zabar's - we feasted on sandwiches, bagels and pastries. Beth asked how Americans manage to get food so tasty. I imagine lots of salt and fat. I had the best bagel ever - $6 for a salmon and cream cheese bagel, and there was no holding back with the salmon (take note Australian cafes!). Delicious. No food pictures from me but check out Beth and Mrs Woog's blogs for a feast for your eyes. Central Park is beautiful- we saw a castle amd a turtle and a cute young man doing gymbaroo with babies on a coloured parachute. Very cute. Central Park is so green and fresh - it is as though you can feel the plants making the city air cleaner.. I love how so many people the park - cyclists, school children, tourists, families, readers, picnicers, bloggers...

After Central Park we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. Beth had several emotional moments. I loved seeing works by Degas, Van Gogh, Cezanne and Monet. Such detail and beautiful colours. Seeing Degas' ballerina sculpture was breathtaking.
It was a great experience, and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to view these incredible artworks in person after studying them at school.

Here is Mrs Woog, Beth and I on the steps of The Met. Beth and I have the same sunglasses, though hers are the real deal and mine are from Marie Claire mag!
I was so tired after all the walking through Central Park and the Met that I had a sit down - at a nail spa. This was my first time at a nail spa, and was rather apprehensive. I had my toes and fingers dome, and loved it, despite being ticklish. The nailpolish is OPI Teal the Cows Come Home, if you must know. I feel very fancy and might need to have regular manicures and pedicures.
And tonight I met a lovely blog reader - Clare - an Australian journalism student doing an internship in New York. We met Clare at Union Square and had cocktails and Thai food. We have spoken over Twitter and Facebook for a while now and tonight we chatted as though we have known each other forever. She is so passionate about journalism and again, I loved talking about it with her - she just got it.

This is a cake cocktail - vodka, creme cacao and liquid chocolate - my god. Cake flavoured vodka exists. The best invention since cheese!
Clare is in New York for a few more days - she loves the city as much as I do!
Tomorrow Mum and I will go see the Rockerfeller Centre and then go on a food tour. I need to prepare for BlogHer whick starts Thursday. Can you believe Barack Obama will be giving an address via video link?!?! Wow! I am seriously in awe of the wonderful things that have happened on this trip :)


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