This is Zoe’s Blog

05
Dec

Some books I read, loved and can recommend.

Every now and then I take a photo of a book, or even a stack of books, with nice lighting and cute composition, with the intention of placing said photo on the Instagram, enthusiastically endorsing them so that everyone else can experience the same thrill and feverish page turning mania I did.

Then I forget to post it, start a new book, and promptly forget all about previous book, especially when someone says, ‘Read any good books lately?’.

So here’s a list of (some of the) Books I’ve Loved* this year.

That doesn’t mean they’re the only books I read, nor that they were necessarily released this year, by the way, just that I read them this year. So don’t get all fidgety if you see Are you there God, it’s me Margaret on the list. A good book is a good book! They don’t expire! Good on them!

Of course, it goes without saying (but not, apparently, without writing) that a book is a tremendous Chrimmus gift, especially since many people, like myself, get crippled with indecision at the book shop.

Another great gift is a homemade cream and sponge cake, in case anyone I know is reading this.

TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT, Maria Semple

If you are yet to read Maria’s brilliant Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, for the love of lice, do. It is a triumph in funny, clever, manic story telling. This is equally wonderful, her female protagonist again dancing dangerously between feisty, glamorous wife, mother and woman, and complete nervous breakdown. Semple is a former writer for SNL, Mad About You and Arrested Development. So, yknow, chops. She’s sharp as lemon and funny as hell.

Good for: Lovers of wit, sassy dames, and just all women with pulses, really.

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THE DRY, Jane Harper

Utterly harrowing and at times difficult to read (as a mother – those who’ve read it know what I mean) this Aussie outback murder-mystery-thriller is a cracking yarn, which is not a sentence I thought I would ever write, but there you go.

Good for: People into crime stuff.

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ELEANOR AND PARK, Rainbow Rowell

Not only does Rainbow win at names, but her tale about two misfit teens falling in love (in the EIGHTIES NO LESS!!!) is a masterpiece of deep feels and wonderful detail. I loved this book so much. Make me a mixtape already.

Good for: Romantics and nostalgics and ’80s kids.

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THE GAP OF TIME, Jeanette Winterson.

A sexy, elegant, (get ready for it…) unputdownable modern retelling of Billy Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. (Also: Jeanette Winterson! She of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit!) Fun fact: The Gap of Time was the first in a series of modern Shakespearian re-tellings. Since then Anne Tyler has published Vinegar Girl (casually hanging out in the stack next to my bed) which is based on The Taming of The Shrew, and the inimitable Margaret Atwood has just released Hag-Seed, a retelling of The Tempest. Woo!

Good for: Shakespeare fans. And also non-Shakespeare fans.

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BURIAL RITES, Hannah Kent

I finally read this (2013) smash as a catch up before reading Kent’s new book, The Good People, which I have not got around to reading but it’s coming on holidays with me because what could be better than some dark and miserable Scandi Noir over summer. Like billions of others, Burial Rites grabbed be my the goolies and did not let go. And that’s saying something cos a tale set in rural Iceland in the 1800s about a woman condemned to death for the murder of her employer is not generally my jam. Kent is a phenomenal writer, and this is an exceptional book.

Good for: People who can read.

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BEAUTIFUL RUINS, Jess Walter

I read this in 2015 and again this year because I’m lazy, sure, but also cos it’s great. It’s wonderful and often feels as though you are watching a film. There’s romance! Glamour! Mystery! Love! Italy! Movie stars! Death! Oh, what a ride! Jess Walter is constantly referred to as a ridiculously talented writer, but this book is rubbish. No, wait. This book proves it! This book proves it.

Good for: Romantics and film-lovers and fans of a good bloody story.

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LETTERS OF NOTE, Compiled by Shaun Usher

I gift this book constantly. (Also it’s follow up, More Letters of Note.) It is a magnificent, very special collection of rare, romantic, historical, heartbreaking, harrowing, hilarious, breathtaking and bombastic letters from presidents, poets, painters and paupers, featuring job applications, suicide notes, letters from fans and the first recorded use of OMG. This is a brilliant, gutting, gorgeous book, full of gems, and OH, how I love it.

Good for: ANYONE. No, wait. EVERYONE.

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WHAT I’VE LEARNED, (US) Esquire

My favourite page from my favourite magazine (note that it’s US Esquire, not that stinkin’ UK edition), where, thanks to the exceptional interviewing skills of (usually) Cal Fussman, you get access to the most crystallised, potent little mind diamonds from successful, fascinating and brilliant people. Often funny, always interesting, and with more wisdom than, I don’t know, something really wise like an owl maybe, there are a few editions, but the older ones can be tricky to get your mitts on. The most recent edition (featuring Ted Danson, Robert DeNiro, Aaron Sorkin, Lionel Richie, Sigourney Weaver, Amy Schumer etc etc) isn’t though.

Good for: Everyone but tis an especially terrific gift for any male human you’re struggling to buy for.

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WE FOUND A HAT, Jon Klassen

The newest and maybe my favourite from the king of very silly and very perfect picture books. If you haven’t already bough his other hat-based tales, This Is Not My Hat, and I Want My Hat Back, then you’re a sweet fool.

Good for: Toddlers and – gasp! – their parents.

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Also I hear that beauty book Amazinger Face is good, and that book that they made a telly show made out of, The Wrong Girl is great, and The Younger Man and Playing The Field and Textbook Romance and Air Kisses are really awesome and worth a read too, but I can’t remember who wrote them except I think her name had something to do with a beer and she has frizzy hair.

 

*I also read lots of (often dull) non-fiction (Unfinished Business, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, Big Magic, The Importance of Being Little, The Whole-Brain Child) and am totally up to date with Sweet Valley High, but they’re not books I loved with a big pink loveheart.

Responses to this drivel: 31 Comments
28
Nov

My favourite bits of Italy.

Despite the fact that it requires many thousands of dollars/kilometres for Australians to holiday abroad, and our currency is always being picked on by the bigger kids, we Strayans continue to travel overseas in rising numbers, and with craftier luggage tricks. Good on us.

I usually choose Italy. I’ll go there annually if they’ll continue to have me, despite my terrible pronunciation of “grazie”.

Some reasons include:

  • Carbs
  • Fashion
  • Negronis
  • Ricotta cheesecake
  • Swimming off rocks and no sand anywhere
  • No judgment when ordering a bowl of pasta, then pizza
  • Friendly, warm, welcoming Italians
  • Everyone looks great because everyone wears sunglasses always
  • Carbs

Like most people, I’ve done the classic Italian hotspots: Venice, Positano, Sicily and, of course, Athens. Here are some of my favourite things to do/see/eat/visit in the aforementioned hotspots.

Taormina, Sicily

We stayed in Taormina, on the beach, rather than up in town. But with a cable car swinging its way between the town (all the food/shops and most of the hotels) and beach (a handful of hotels and restaurants) all day, both options are good. Have a fancy, view-soaked drink at Grand Hotel Taormina, and outstanding aperitivo at Timoleone. Have your (daily) granita at Bam Bam bar, swim at Isola Bella, and make a day trip to Noto and Syracuse if time permits. Definitely eat lunch (or ideally stay) at Country House Villadorata, just outside of Noto, if you’re roaming. It served up the finest meal of my trip.

 

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Portofino

Portofino could never be accused of being cheap, but that’ll happen when you’re a) tiny, b) breathtaking, and c) overrun with super yachts and tourists. But it’s so lovely! Pop on your best boaty pastels and make the trip already! Head up to Hotel Splendido (often called the best hotel in the world, and after staying there, I’m a believer) for a sunset cocktail, and when the bill arrives suck it up and file it in your “Lifelong Memories” folder. Buy some cheese, wine and crackers in town and have a picnic in the surrounding national park; have a casual lunch at La Taverna del Marinaio, or walk away from the packed main square to L’Isolotto for some of the best pizza of your goddamn life. There’s a small, protected swimming area just below Splendido where locals swim laps (scene of one of the most magical rock swims of my life), or Paraggi beach just outside town.

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Venice?

Rome?

Capri and Positano?

Florence?

Click here.

Definitely not here.

Responses to this drivel: 6 Comments
27
Oct

How to pack for (and dress up on) your holidays.

When Expedia (he’s just one guy wearing a cowboy hat and board shorts, by the way) said to me: “Hey Travel Ambassador Lady, does dressing up on holidays make sense to you?” I said, “Expedia, to me, dressing up on holidays makes PERFECT sense.”

I put it in the same category as ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ except that it’s more, ‘dress for the place you’re in, not the one you came from.’

I cop a fair bit of stick about it from my mates, of course. It’s so much effort, my mates say. Who cares how you look on holidays, they say. Take off that velvet cape, they say.

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But it’s not an effort for me. I love it. I adopt a new personality overseas, a much more flamboyant, fruity one than the jeans and trainers girl back home.

To me, the holiday experience is about playing along. About immersing into the city or country you’re in. So, if you’re in Sicily, you eat pasta alla norma, cannolli and caponata, you drink Zibbibo and you swim where the locals tell you to. And for me, you dress in bright colours and with as many pom-poms as legal.

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I’m embarrassingly osmotic when I travel. If I see a cool woman wearing a slip dress with a flamboyant head wrap in Portofino, I want in. If I see a minimalist woman wearing bejeweled slippers with a white pantsuit in Rome, I want in. And if I see a babe in a white shirt tucked into a colourful ankle-length skirt with a neckerchief in Florence, I want in. To me travel is Real Life Instagram; I see things that inspire and delight, and in that moment, in that piazza, in that sunshine, I want to play along. Even if it’s just with a new ZARA top and belt, and a bucket of holiday confidence; I’m in.

Anyway. Recently I went to Italy.

I knew I’d shop over there, so I packed light: a tight edit of shoes and a few dresses and tops from last summer, half of which I was ready to farewell if space got tight. This, I’ve learned, is smarter than flying with nothing, assuming you will fill your suitcase with cute new stuff the second you arrive, only to arrive and discover they are already doing autumn-winter fashion, and it’s 30 degrees, and you’re screwed.

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Read the full story here.

Not here.

Responses to this drivel: 8 Comments
26
Sep

On having one’s book adapted into a TV show.

Look, I’ve barely mentioned this, maybe once or eighty times over the past few months, but my 2014 novel, The Wrong Girl, has been adapted into a TV series, and that TV series begins this week.

Since no one – NO ONE AND I WILL FIGHT ANYONE WHO DECLARES OTHERWISE – is more thrilled about this than me, I wanted to diarise the process, so that I could read it one day when I’m a grown up blogger and come back to my childhood blog and go through my blog diary etc.

Timing and luck.

I may be infuriatingly self-deprecating (‘Australian’) but I also understand how lucky I am. An adaptation is not why you write books (you do it for the free bookmarks and the private jets), it’s an incredible, super cherry on top bonus.

When I was an arrogant, ignorant cute pig in my twenties I told my agent that my novels were perfect for TV, (because how could she, a seasoned professional, possibly know this unless I told her?) or even a movie, and she should “get them out there” which means nothing, and was a huge neon sign pointing to my naiveté: you don’t shop your books around – people come to you if they want in.

Obviously nothing came of any of that. And nor should it have. When you want something too much, for the wrong reasons (in my case a firm belief that my books were SO GREAT/designs on fame and grandeur/general youthful self-importance) and push it too hard, it very rarely, if ever comes off.

Fast-forward 10 years. I’m busy with a family and a business instead of losing sleep wondering why my books aren’t transformed into a film directed by Clint Eastwood.

And sometimes when you’re busy getting on with life, and not attached to the win, good stuff happens. I grew up with a mum who lovingly taught me the power of the subconscious mind at a very young age, and I still subscribe to the ask, believe, receive etc model. Manifesting is my superpower. It works because I believe it works. (Like deodorant. Or Apple TV.) (Sometimes.)

But at the core of all the ask-the-universe-for-shit stuff, is the fact that you must let go. To make the request, and believe it’s happening, and then say goodbye to it. If you hold on to it too tight, and focus only on that, to the point of obsession, it doesn’t work.

I wonder if I’ve subconsciously always had 20 projects on the go so that I don’t get too attached to any one of them too much. Awful to have too much time on your hands and one thing you’re desperate to hear about. Better to keep busy. Models, actors, writers – anyone in an ebb and flow industry learn this pretty quickly.

So make your requests, then get on with life, and do good work, and be grateful, and be present in all the great stuff you get to do and have, and think about what you can offer others and do next. This makes for a fantastic life, but also you’re in a much better flow for good stuff to happen because you’re projecting abundance, and you’re feeling abundant and so you welcome more of it. Etc etc. A date breeds another date and so on. Like attracts like.

How the TV show came about.

Annnyway. The lovely people at Playmaker (the production company who have gifted us Love Child, House Husbands and The Code) approached my agent about optioning The Wrong Girl for a TV series last year. This is not wildly unusual, but most of the time, the optioning period expires before anything comes of it. But Playmaker were enthusiastic about getting it up, and fast. And this made me VERY EXCITED. But I kept a lid on it. Didn’t pester my agent. Just played cool. Kept busy.

Playmaker asked me to come on board in a consulting capacity (official title: associate producer) (made up title: All Powerful Author Wizard) which I thought was wildly flattering and wonderful, since it meant they weren’t just buying the world of The Wrong Girl, and doing whatever they liked with it (which they are absolutely entitled to once they have bought the rights), they were asking me to be part of it, too. It felt like being picked first for the football team, which I assume feels terrific, but wouldn’t know since I prefer golf.

One of the first things they did was bring in a scriptwriter to create the first episode: Judi McCrossin, TV script magician of The Secret Life of Us and Time of Our Lives.

When I read her script, I cried a bit. It was a triumph. How the fuck do you even DO that, my author-y brain demanded. How do you turn an already fully-formed story (‘the novel’) into something fresh, and new, with so much depth and heart and breadth, while retaining the original flavour of the book? Adaptations are notoriously tricky. The balance of old and new; loyalty and innovation. But she’d nailed it. I loved it.

I was a teeeeny bit anxious before reading it, although I’d told myself as soon as I signed the contract that whatever happened with the TV show was A) okay, and B) out of my hands. Judi could do anything she wanted with it. She could have driven a horrible, cheesy, naff stake right through the heart of it. But she didn’t. She gave it five Red Bulls, etiquette lessons, a whole new family, a huge heart, intense therapy and made it onto a godamn TV princess.

IMG_9758Judi and I on set being rascals. 

After many months of hard work from Playmaker to get the show funded and sold, I got a Friday night call that Channel 10 had picked up the show, which was the official piece in their huge production puzzle. I drank all the champagne.

IMG_1095Drinking some Good News Booze the night I got the call. We always keep some GNB the fridge in case good shit happens.

 The writing

The writers began work immediately. Joining Judi was the magnificent Michael Lucas (Offspring, Wentworth, Party Tricks) and Christine Bartlett (Offspring, Party Tricks) as well as Ian Meadows (The Moodys) (… later cast as Pete!), Claire Phillips (Bedhead) and myself. This was my 30 Rock moment: getting to sit in with the writers as they worked on the story for each episode, and listen and laugh and watch and marvel as they did their thing, which is a very specific and inspiring skill.

I did ZERO writing on The Wrong Girl; I was just there with the writers, enjoying seeing them map it all out, and helping with brainstorms on plot and character developments occasionally. Another writey brain to bounce off.

The first few sessions I had to gobble the words, ‘But in the book…”  back into my mouth. This was different! It was a whole new story; a new piece of art. The key characters and loose story were the same as in the book, but that was it. This was a big, beautiful new vision. Pete, for example, I dispose of very quickly in the book. But he is a major character in the TV series, and thank F for that. He is fantastic.

As a commercial fiction writer, and having worked in magazines I’m used to my work being edited and changed. I don’t get attached to what I write, I just want it to be the best it can possibly be, and for people to read it. And that’s why editors and publishers exist, and why I trust them: they know what they’re doing.

So when characters changed, or appeared who weren’t in the book, or people were cast who didn’t look like their book cousin (Lily, for example, is Eurasian in the book, but a blonde in the show) I didn’t mind at all. It’s an adaptation, not a reenactment. I envisioned my characters to look one way; the casting process offered another. Both are great. And look, to be honest, what my characters look like is a bit of an afterthought for me. It’s their essence, their personality, the way they speak and behave that I use when I write. I often go through at the end and give them their eye colour and hair length. Especially if they’re based on someone I know and I need to REALLY make sure that person won’t recognise themselves. Ahem.

 The Cast

The many many people who worked on The Wrong Girl are extremely competent, clever, experienced people who have worked in the biz for a long time. Whenever I would visit the set, I’d be clapping giddily, unable to believe it was all really happening, and just being a pest in general, and constantly reminded I wasn’t to post any social media.

Occasionally I would touch a desk or a prop in the on-set (‘pretend’) TV production office (very meta) and say to myself, ‘This all came from your head, you beautiful bastard’ and allow myself a second to feel proud. But mostly I would just be a pest who only came when crew meals were being served.

IMG_8526My first visit to set, sitting at the split with one of the three marvellous TWG directors, Daina Reid. Playing it cool, as usual.

The show has the most exceptional crew, directors, producers, and of course, cast. EVERYTHING on this show is quality. Pay attention to Lily and Simone’s bedrooms. Jack’s apartment. The beautiful lighting of the show. The music. The wardrobe. (Lily basically got to wear every Bella Freud, Etre Cecile and Equipment sweater I’ve ever wanted.) It’s astonishingly well done.

And the cast, well, they’re diamonds.

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The core four.

We have, of course, Jessica Marais, who plays Lily, and who is in almost every scene, which is a real win because she is an incredibly talented and experienced actor, who lights up the screen even when she is at rock bottom. I could watch her face all day. She is also a terrifically funny and generous player, and that came across again and again. Jess’s Lily is relatable, weak, strong, adorable, frustrating and real. It’s beautiful to watch.

Simone is played by Hayley Magnus (The Dressmaker) and from her first audition, I was enchanted. Simone is your classic manic pixie dream girl, but with heart, and vulnerability and strength, and Hayley brings it. It’s not the key love story in The Wrong Girl, but to me the relationship between Lily and Simone is the most powerful.

Rob Collins (Cleverman, The Lion King) plays Jack, and gives him the perfect measure of handsomeness, gravitas, and makes-you-feel-nervous-and-want-to-impress-him quality of Jack. Rob is a sensational actor, and the perfect gid-inducing love interest for Lily/Simone/anyone with a pulse.

Ian Meadows (The Moodys) plays Pete, Lily’s best friend (or perhaps more?). Pete is that scruffy, adorable, larrikin, brotherly-best mate you have forever, and all your friends think he’s bangable, but you can’t see it, because you have burping competitions with him after a few schooners. Ian is tremendous in this role. Charisma + caring + cute.

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At the first table read. I was a touch excited but didn’t let on.

… That’s the core four, but oh, there are so many more! The cast is the perfect blend of experienced faces and energetic newcomers. Craig McLachlan and Madeleine West are the attractive, bitey, passive aggressive Breakfast TV hosts, the fantastically dry David Woods plays Dale, CeCe Peters plays adorable Alice, the very funny Christie Whelan Browne plays Nikkii, Kerry Armstong and Steve Vizard play Lily’s mum and dad, Hamish Blake (hunk alert) is Hamilton the weather guy, Ryan Shelton is Bernard the cock (that’ll make sense later), Kevin Harrington plays Pete’s dad, Doris Younane is Sascha, Hugo Johnston-Burt is Lily’s brother, and Leah Vandenberg is Pete’s flame. (Fun fact: Leah is on Play School and a big hit in our house.)

IMG_9637The time Sonny and I went to set to see Daddy and he yelled just as there was a quiet and poignant moment in recording. Good one, mum!

Anyway. I think you get the picture: I’m excited. I have had the great privilege to have seen the whole season and this is a genuinely great show with tremendous feels. I would have endorsed it regardless, but I am so impressed, and so five-steps-removed proud of what has been created.

Don’t worry about not having read the book (although you should definitely read it): they are two different, glorious beasts. Just enjoy your new favourite best-ever TV show. (Too much?)

The Wrong Girl starts this Wednesday at 8:30, on Channel 10.

I’ll be tweeting hard from @zotheysay and perving on all your tweets via #thewronggirl

WOO!

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Responses to this drivel: 20 Comments
08
Sep

I went low FODMAP in Italy and I didn’t break.

Despite my earlier post detailing the finest pizzas and gelato and cheesecakes in Florence, I must confess those magnificent meals were not indicative of my daily diet. They were naughty, delicious pit stops on a food journey through Italy that was primarily – gasp! – lactose, wheat, gluten and fructose free, and where possible, low in FODMAPs.

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Oh no no no, it’s not for any special reason, I just like to make life hard for myself! No: since the start of the year I’ve been sorting out some longstanding gut issues, (I thank Gut, the brilliant book by Giulia Enders for finally urging me to do so; also recommend Brain Maker by David Perlmutter, he of Grain Brain fame) and my gut guy (technical title) recommended I go on the low FODMAP diet to fix them.

At first I was miserable, and confused, hungry and extremely hangry, and then, after time, I figured out what I could eat, and what upset my tum, and how to cook without onion and garlic, and now it’s just a way of life. (Except that it isn’t, because it’s not a forever-diet, it’s a highly restrictive, temporary diet while your gut heals and then you begin re-introducing the problem foods back in. But you know what I mean.)

I feel much better for it, and so armed with a slew of supplements (oregano oil, Bactrex, digestive enzymes… sing if you know the words) I headed to the land of wheat, cheese and fruit.

But here’s what I discovered. You can still eat well and not feel like you are missing out in Italy, even if you have malabsorption issues, or intolerances, are vegan, or have full-blown allergies. The Italians are incredibly progressive in this area, in fact; no one blinks when you make a special request. Except for that one time I asked for Nutella on my omelette.

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I’m not sick, it’s a dietary preference, and I am the furthest thing from an expert on this, but you can click here to read what I learned if it’s of interest. (But not here.)

Responses to this drivel: 4 Comments
03
Aug

Five Total Florence Food Wins.

In a sentence that’s so gross even I’m repulsed: a few years back I lived in Tuscany while writing a novel. When I say ‘lived’, I mean schlepped around from B&B to B&B, from Lucca to San Gimignano, Forte dei Marmi to Florence, for six weeks. But still, it counts for something. Oh no, no, no, you mustn’t call me a local, it’s too much, basta, basta!

Florence swiftly stole my heart, the old dog. That’s its thing! It’s a heart-stealer, an extremely pretty, romantic city boasting an exciting history, art superstars, terrific food, world-class shopping and breathtakingly long queues for nude statues. (Also, in July, far too many tourists, but as one of them, even a local one, I’m not meant to say that.)

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As it happens each time I fall off a plane, I Goog everything from ‘finest Negroni in Florence’ to ‘best gelato in Florence’ to ‘local favourite pizza Florence.’ I need to know what’s best, old and new. If I’m in a city for only a few days, there is no time for a bad meal. They each must be sensational, lest my holiday slip below a 100% perfection rating. (Airports and, yknow, actual travel in general notwithstanding.)

And not a bad meal was had. Click this link to read my favourites, all of which are pretty perfect if you only have a few days/a stomach with a perfectionist complex.

Click this link if you like hearing goats yell like humans.

Responses to this drivel: 1 Comment
06
Jul

Amazinger Face book events!

Let’s celebrate the book,
let’s celebrate beauty,
let’s have something to eat,
then take a cute selfie.

Zoë Foster Blake, 2016

It’s not every day (or even every year) I lovingly inject a new book into the literary bloodstream. As such, I quite enjoy making a big fuss about it with some events, and if at possible, skywriting and ornately dressed elephants in a spectacular procession.

And so, we are doing some Amazinger Face events this July and August. They will be intimate, and fun, and I will chat about beauty and why I wanted to update the book, and there will be nibbles and bubbles (but not squibbles) and you can ask all the beauty questions you want, and I will quickly generate answers that sound vaguely correct and smile a lot so you believe me.

I will be signing copies of Amazinger Face, there will be a Go-To pop-up, (and possibly makeup pop-ups… TBC!) and we have had some delightful free tote bags made that I’m probably a bit too proud of considering they are just tote bags.

There aren’t many events and there are even fewer spaces at said events, so probably book your ticket soon, or don’t and forever feel a gaping, endless hole in your life.

Tickets for all events go on sale tomorrow,
Thursday July 7, at 9am.

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Brunch with Zoë Foster Blake

Date: Saturday July 23, 2016

Time: 9am – 11am

Venue: The Langham Melbourne

Tickets: $45, includes brunch

Bookings: rest.res@langhamhotels.com


Brunch with Zoë Foster Blake

Date: Saturday July 23, 2016

Time: 12pm – 2pm

Venue: The Langham Melbourne

Tickets: $45, includes brunch

Bookings: rest.res@langhamhotels.com

 

Sydney

An intimate Friday Night with Zoë Foster Blake 

Date: Friday July 29, 2016 (omg day after my birthday)

Time: 6pm – 8pm

Venue: The Langham, Sydney

Tickets: $45, bubbles on arrival and sweet nibbles

Bookings:  tlsyd.rsvn@langhamhotels.com
NB: Pre-payment is essential to secure a ticket

 

Sophisticated Saturday Brunch with Zoë Foster Blake

Date: Saturday July 30 2016

Time: 9am – 11am

Venue: The Langham, Sydney

Tickets: $45, tea and coffee on arrival and brunch nibbles

Bookings:  tlsyd.rsvn@langhamhotels.com
NB: Pre-payment is essential to secure a ticket

 

Canberra

 An afternoon with Zoë Foster Blake

Date: Saturday August 6 2016

Time: 2pm – 3:30pm

Venue: Muse, East Hotel, Kingston

Tickets: $25, includes drink on arrival and nibbles

                $65 includes a copy of Amazinger Face, a drink on arrival and canapes

Bookings: Via Muse events

 

 A (later) afternoon with Zoë Foster Blake

Date: Saturday August 6 2016

Time: 4pm – 5:30pm

Venue: Muse, East Hotel, Kingston

Tickets: $25, includes drink on arrival and nibbles

                $65 includes a copy of Amazinger Face, a drink on arrival and canapes

Bookings: Via Muse events

 

Apologies to Perth and Adelaide and Darwin and Brisbane and Wagga and Tamworth. I love you no less than these event cities! I plead (guilty to) scheduling constraints.

To those who book a ticko and come along, I look so forward to seeing you.

To those who don’t book a ticko but do try to sneak in, I applaud your moxie, even if I don’t respect it.

ZFB x

Responses to this drivel: 27 Comments
22
Jun

Recommendnation: Kid’s music that doesn’t suck.

I love recommendations.

I love them for restaurants, and travel spots, and places to swim, and peanut butter brands, and shapewear, and chiropractors, and apps, and hip-hop, and dry shampoo, and books, and movies, and just EVERYTHING.

I thirst for them, I live for them, I inhale them; I need them.

I love being given recommendations, or uncovering them accidentally, or hearing them second-hand even when they’re not for me, and I love writing them down furiously while listening to podcasts. And obviously, since I am a self-important person with access to a blog and social media, I like making recommendations myself.

Not because they are necessarily the best, after all, a recommendation is just an opinion dressed up in hyperbole, but rather to save other people the time and energy and bullshit of researching things that require being in the know (‘where should I eat dinner when I am in Brisbane?’), or overwhelmingly subjective (‘which pram is best?’), or authority (‘which lip balm should I buy?’) or being a bit of a tightarse (‘how can I save money on toilet paper?’)

And so, I wanted to start a specific category of blog post (and sometimes maybe just a social media post) that deals only in recommendations.

I will throw mine up on a topic, and then, since you have the ability to leave comments/your own ideas about what is good and what you like, you get to throw your recommendations down below in the comment tornado.

And so together, we create a living, breathing, dynamic, organic, passionate, authentic recommend… nation. A recommendnation!

What fun! What absolute magic!

Oh, let’s begin already, my heart can hardly take it. Tonight my recommendation concerns:

GOOD KID’S MUSIC.

As a parent you are inevitably and perhaps unfairly thrust into a world of music that you would not, in a child-free existence, toot towards. As a passionate music lover, and the owner of a home that must always have music playing, (Spotify via Sonos, since you asked) I was determined not to listen to music that sucked just cos I had a kid. I would listen to music that was child-friendly, even made for children, but not music that would make me want to stab myself in the knee with a fish knife. I realise it has to be fun for my son to hear and sing along to, but since I am listening too, well, it can’t be shit, basically.

So, it’s Aladdin, it’s Jungle Book, it’s the Muppets, it’s Rockabye Baby, Medeski, Martin and Woods, it’s Caspar BabypantsThe Dream Jam Band, (Nicky Nicky Knock Knock is a terrific song, I don’t care how old you are) and it’s Ralph’s World and Raffi (polarising/daggy but I love) and some Wiggles stuff (I think that Wiggle Town has shades of The Beatles. Yes, I just wrote that.)

Raffi

It’s generally pretty folksy and gentle; easy to have on in the background through the day without feeling like you’re about to eat some cut-up vegemite sandwiches, a squeezy yoghurt then take a nap.

Also we listen to Kinderling radio, mostly in the evening, when it’s cruisy and there are some stories and instrumental stuff to calm mad little bugs down, (I find all the talk during the day annoying). And thank F we do, cos that’s how I discovered The Teeny Tiny Stevies, a couple of Melbourne sisters doing some very good, and very easy to listen to indie-folk music for little people that I find myself singing along to even when the music has stopped, and sometimes even playing when Sonny is not around.  Kind of remind of me of the Whitlams a bit, if anyone remembers those guys. (You will know this song.)

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Here is my Little Kids Spotify playlist. Have a listen, or, don’t. Be sure to list any recommendations for good little kids music below. Be judicious, for the love of Gabba Gabba, be judicious.

Ultimately kids music is just music. If it’s catchy, and good, then I will listen to it. I’m not a genre snob, I just like good music. Whether that’s classical, rock, jazz, rap, pop, EDM or kids: if it’s good, I’ll listen.

Except for death metal. I fucking hate death metal. Sorry.

Responses to this drivel: 37 Comments
10
Jun

Go on. Be obnoxious on your anniversary.

When my friendly overlords at Expedia asked me to write about anniversaries and travel, I was ready. I bloody love an anniversary. And if it involves travel, even better.

But I’m not necessarily the norm. Well not after a few years of marriage, anyway. Of course, when you first start seeing someone Really Great you celebrate being together for a month. Six months gets heavy fanfare. A whole year warrants a weeklong celebration and fifty cute selfies.

But for some reason, maybe it’s familiarity, or the introduction of children, or just the general energy-sucking cycle of daily life, the celebrations go from 100 watts to about 20 watts by the time you are actually married, and have earned a legitimate, legal anniversary.

Case in point: I recently texted a mate to wish her and her husbo a happy anniversary. She text back saying: We both forgot.

I found this so dismaying that I immediately sent over a Celine Dion impersonator to serenade the two.

Marriage isn’t always cupcakes and Jesus juice, but it’s important to show each other your marriage is a priority, and that you still love them. An anniversary is a reminder as to why you love and married this person.

My husband and I will take any excuse to kick up a fuss, especially if it involves a weekend away, or a new restaurant or drinking strong, well-mixed alcohol in elegant glasses.

We don’t give a bee’s burp about the gifts you’re ‘meant’ to give each year, like paper, silver, or leather, or insect wings, but we do think you should give each other a ‘memory’ – commemorate each other, and what you have achieved in another year of marriage by doing something, whether it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, or something you used to do but never do anymore, or just doing nothing.

And yes, the longer you’ve been married, the more extravagant and obnoxious those things are allowed to be. (I plan on buying a diamond-encrusted pergola for our 20th.)

In case you’re struggling, here are some ways to give your anniversary a figurative tequila shot this year….

Read the list here.

But not here.

Unknown-1

Responses to this drivel: 5 Comments
02
May

I finally found my ‘mum’ style.

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend, but if you’re a mum you already know that cos you’re busy putting in your specific pancake order (maple syrup, butter and whipped cream) for Sunday morning, to be delivered no earlier than TEN AM.

One (of the four billion) thing(s) they don’t tell you about being a mum is how much your personal style can (and will) change post-baby: you may end up with an entirely new fashion identity. It could even be guy called Merl, who favours bark-brown slacks and sensible sandals. Who knows.

I thought I was sartorially prepared for being a mum. I figured being a stay at home writer (‘dressing for comfort but courageously foregoing fleece for denim’) meant I’d be a gun at it.

And I was TOTALLY right!! Man am I the friggen best. The end.

Just kidding, I have way more bragging to do first.

But seriously, I was astonishingly wrong. The Newborn Days were the first fashion slap in the face. Huge, messy boobs jammed into daggy bras, tracksuit pants, Air Max, a hoody and a pair of bleary, shell-shocked eyes was my go-to look, and I gave zero toots about it. I’d stuffed all my maternity slops into a cupboard when I first got home from the hospital, then dejectedly got half of them back out again because, um, they fit, and were comfortable, and I didn’t care if I spilled meatballs on them. (Just so you know what brand of optimistic you’re dealing with here, I packed my old jeans in my hospital bag. I did not wear them home.)

At around 10 weeks, (of my son’s life/of eating cake twice a day/no exercise or even walking because of a fractured pubis) some work events forced me out of the fog. I’d squeeze and Spanx myself into a bright, fun dress that seemed right, like something I would wear, then tear straight back into my soft clothes to express milk and watch Survivor. When my Son was five months old, I did a series of national pop-up events for my skin care company, Go-To and realised that the problem was not the nine outfits I tried on for each one, but that I had no idea how to dress this new busty, materbity-bra-ed, wide-hipped frame I’d been given. All my old stuff (preppy, fitted shirts, high-waisted skirts and novelty sweaters) didn’t fit, and the cute, colourful young woman I used to dress as seemed wrong now, somehow. I was having a clothing identity crisis as a symptom of my new role in life, and was alarmingly judgey of all my old clothes. (Too tight! Too short! Too busty! Too non-motherly!)

Sonny was about a year old before I started to understand The New Me. I was acutely aware that couldn’t rely on the old me, or my old clothes, because not only did none of them ‘spark joy’ anymore, or fit well, I wanted to start fresh, with a zingy new look that made me feel happy, and like ‘me’, whoever that was now. I’ve always been a firm believer that if you look like shit, you will feel like shit, and after the dark newborn days, (dark sartorially and sleep-wise; thrillingly happy heart/family/pastry wise), and the not-fit-not-feel-or-look-right days, I decided to start over, and dress for how I wanted to feel: happy, polished and colourful.

I started investing in beautiful clothing again, shaking off the ‘Don’t spend good cash on clothes that won’t fit in a few months’ mantra that plagues all women in their baby-making years, to create a wardrobe that was simple, meaningful; a practical blend of casual and stylish, designer and chain store.

After all, I wasn’t only a mum. Or a stay at home writer pig. I was a godamn proper grown up career lady woman with a successful skin care business! An author with a new book about to come out! Associate producer on the TV show being created from my novel! A mid-level chainsaw juggler! A terrific lipstick-applier! It was time I started dressing like it.

My KEY wardrobe rules are:

  • To spend cash on beautiful flats cos I will wear them 500x more than heels
  • Collars always dress things up
  • Layers indicate a level of thoughtfulness and effort even if it’s entirely faked (eg: shirt under jumper/blouse under trench)
  • A few good jackets will do a LOT of heavy lifting (specifically: a leather biker jacket, a lightweight trench, a classic blazer)
  • Colour and patterns makes everything better, my mood especially
  • Flashy, fun earrings and necklaces are Holy Outfit Transformers
  • If you buy it, it has to spark joy, as per Marie Kondo’s now ubiquitous don’t-accrue-so-much-shit philosophy

As an ambassador for Westfield’s new #ownyourstory campaign, I was asked to show my personal (mum/business lady/work-from-home-r) style using some of the shiny new AW16 clothes and accessories in-store. It was FUN.

My story? I’m a woman who is just as likely to be tearing around a park after a toddler and schlepping around Coles buying milk and salt and vinegar chips (my secret shame) or sitting at her laptop for six hours straight in her home office… as she is to be popping onto the set of TV production set of The Wrong Girl, or attending an interstate meeting for the day, or heading in to see her publisher to discuss her idea for a book about a sexy, angry teen vampire who attended a wizard school called Fogwarts and had a secret billionaire lover who was into S&M. I need something casual, but with some zing. Easily transformable, and with a punch of polish.

The Getting Sh*t Done Look

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The light grey coat is stylish, warm and practical, the tote is tan and oxblood, two uber-neutrals, and fits a laptop and a nappy roll easily, the sunglasses are big and make me feel more fabulous than I have any right to, and the orangey lipstick brightens up my face and my mood immensely.

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A jumper over a collared shirt or dress always looks fun, fresh and a bit dressy/efforty. I love adding at least one pattern into block colours.

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Look at this happy woman! She got ready in 15 minutes! 

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Boxfresh trainers are beautiful, magical things that mean you can wear nice dresses, or fancy slacks but still be comfortable.

Shop and steal the look RIGHT HERE, you cute time-poor monsters: Ravishing Rampling Coat from Jac + Jack at David Jones, cute, playful gingham dress from Country Road, blindingly white sneakers from Witchery, bigass sunglasses from Karen Walker, handy tote from Country Road, jumper my own, from Country Road.

Anyway. So that’s my everyday look. But when I need to be a little bit fancy, well, then I go to the…

Little Bit Fancy Look

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This look takes me from a day time meeting (with brogues) to evening (with heels) should my husband and I decide to steal off to a show or dinner. I friggen love a good day-to-nighter; and each element of this outfit can be worn with a million other things. This pleases me.

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A glitzy earring quickly dresses things up, and makes a boring hairstyle irrelevant.

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 I love a shirt or blouse all done up. Big fan. Add a blazer with pushed up sleeves if you remember, (some skin is important with all that chest covered up) and you’re cooked.

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High-waisted pants have always flattered me more than low-waisties.
(It definitely took shedding some baby weight before 
I felt good in them again. Oh, high-waisted anything can be so cruel.)

Steal and shop the look right here: Fancy spotty pants from CUE, silky, slinky blouse from CUE, tuxedo jacket my own, from Country Road, earrings from CUE, clutch bag from Olga Berg at David Jones, heels my own, ivy from Simon my neighbor.

Head to Westfield to find out more about #ownyourstory and shop the HECK out of some very nicely edited looks and stories, actually.

And hey. If you’re a new mum, and you’re feeling like you’ve lost your fasho mojo and identity, IT WILL RETURN. It will! And likely in a whole new form, like mine did. An exciting new form that is more streamline, practical and confident. It just takes time, like a good roast, or getting to anywhere from Australia.

For now, just pop on a swipe of bright lipstick, and your favourite black jacket and off you trot, you beautiful bastard. Happy Mother’s Day!

Zo xx

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Responses to this drivel: 34 Comments