Summer Home – Rustic Glam

Image Source: facebook.com/SamanthaPynn/photos

For my avid readers, you’ll know that I have a penchant for interior decorating programs. To fuel my addiction, Summer Home is the latest series I’ve added to my growing list of favourite home makeover shows. What makes this series unique is its focus on renovating summer homes – or holiday homes as we call them here in Australia. In each episode, host Samantha Pynn, aims to update rundown retreats trapped in a time warp, and transform them from boring to delightful getaways.

Image Source: hgtv.ca/summerhome/photos/#!/9

 The program has a laid back vibe that’s reflected in Samantha’s signature style. I have an affinity for her refreshing approach to decorating; it’s what I define as casual chic. With Samantha, you won’t find ostentatious fixtures, opulent or ornate focal points and quirky decorating concepts. Instead, Samantha’s creations are bright, cosy and inviting. Her designs are based on restrained elegance, understated rustic glam. She combines country with a classic, timeless comfort, yet modern feel.

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Samantha provides practical solutions to breathing new life into a home. Where possible, she retains existing furniture to minimise costs but refreshes the pieces with new slip covers or re-upholstering. In addition to custom fixtures, Samantha also favours vintage accessories found in local thrift stores or antique shops to maintain a cottage charm.

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As the homes of her clients are often located along rivers, lakes or set amongst wooded areas, her designs are often nature inspired, so as not to divert from the character of the house. To keep the look fresh, she uses pops of colour with visual elements such as pillows, throw blankets, rugs and ornaments with soft colour pallets, floral prints mixed with muted geometric patterns and delicate textures.

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In some episodes, Samantha’s major challenge is maximising areas with limited space, creating a room that is both functional and flexible in terms of their layout, purpose and usage. She often achieves this with a splash of paint, new flooring, re-positioning furniture, adding fixtures with sleek minimalist features, dismantling walls or building cabinetry upwards instead of outwards – all to create the illusion of space.

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In summary, Samantha manages to combine both function and form, transforming rooms that once lacked any artistic direction, and injecting a dash of glam that is visually eye catching yet comfortable and casually stylish.

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Image Source: facebook.com/SamanthaPynn/photos

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Me, Public Speaking? I’d Rather Go Nude!

One of my greatest fears in life is public speaking. I’d rather jump out of a plane nude, or walk barefoot through a pit filled with hairy tarantulas!

Recently, my little sister asked me to make the customary ‘family member’ speech at her engagement party. I was deeply touched and honored that she considered me, but at the same time I wanted to wet my pants (and throttle her)! Deep down, I secretly thought this was payback for all the times I threatened to flush her down the toilet when we were younger. My stomach began to churn and twist in knots. I had two months to come up with a speech and the pressure was on!

Image Source: publicspeakingtraining.biz/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Suit-guy-infront-of-big-corp-audience-iStock-CROPPED.jpg

Some people are gifted speakers, me….not so much. As a student, at the end of each term, my report card read – “C is a conscientious student but needs to participate in class discussion”. It was a recurrent theme throughout primary school and high school, much to the disappointment of my parents! Despite the many lectures from both my teachers and the folks, it was a lesson never learned and haunts me to this day.

 I can’t recall the source or quote the exact statistic, but according to a survey conducted, a significant number of people would rather die than engage in public speaking. OK, it’s a tad extreme but I can more than empathize with the thought.

I’m painfully shy! I liken myself to an awkward, country church mouse with hermit tendencies. I was the wallflower in high school that never got asked out because I was socially inept with zero personality. Men weren’t exactly queuing up for a date during my footloose and fancy free twenties because I couldn’t chat any guy up (it didn’t  help that I tried to save myself for Brad Pitt)!

Image Source: publicrelationssydney.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Microphone-at-conference.jpg

I’d still be single, desperate and dateless today if the better half hadn’t have made the first move. He was brave enough to introduce himself when we first met. I think he felt sorry for the loner in the tight skirt and knee high boots leaning up against the bar with vodka in hand.

Some people love the sound of their own voice; you know the ones who could talk under water? I’m in awe of those who can dominate conversations over the dinner table or board room meetings. I envy people who are gifted speakers, the best of which can mesmerize and captivate an audience. It does help if you ooze a little charm, personality and charisma. Personally, I believe you’re born with it, it’s an innate talent.

By contrast, talking is my weakness, my Achilles heal. Place me in front of a group of people and this weakness is elevated ten fold and I’m overcome with paralyzing fear! I start to quiver, sweat uncontrollably and I turn into a jibbering idiot. My mind freezes up and turns blank; I struggle to articulate what’s in my head (which isn’t much). Don’t get me wrong, I love attention. I don’t mind walking into a room, wearing something glam with a touch of bling and turning heads. However, when I open my mouth, I struggle to come up with something sharp, witty or profound to say. It’s a challenge to convey a message in a succinct, articulate manner – instead, I fall flat on my face (I guess this explains why writing is my escape).

Image Source: speechmattersaustralia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/public-speaking.jpg

My saving grace has always been my writing. Whenever I had to conduct presentations or meetings at work, I had notes prepared for my own sense of security. So, that’s where my mission began. I began to draft my speech until I realized I had no idea what to write! The avid blogger was suffering from writer’s block! I had to get down to the basics. Like with any good story, you need a captivating introduction, a memorable plot with a middle section that takes the audience on a joyride and a conclusion to tie up the yarn.  I channelled in my marketing experience and similar to a sales pitch, you need to have key objectives and an understanding of your target audience and what they’re after. Research is the key – a broad knowledge and understanding of what you’re talking about!

My ultimate goal was to create a light hearted message about my sister’s road to romantic bliss while hoping the audience didn’t suffer through sheer boredom, and the means to achieve this was to add some humor to the speech. I didn’t want to go down the path of the boring mushy lovey dovey clichés that you find in a Hallmark card – love is a journey not a destination, love is patient, love is kind – Blah! Blah! Blah! What a crock! That makes me gag. Instead, I wanted DIRT, that is, the crazy shenanigans that the youth of today get up to (ideal for my young audience). So I contacted close family and my sister’s friends to dig up some gossip which would form the bulk of my speech.

I certainly didn’t want to write a thesis. I wanted to keep the speech short and sweet – the less time I have to spend talking…the better! Once the speech was written up, the next stage was to practice, because practice makes perfect! I began to rehearse, I’d pace up and down the hallway rehearsing, varying my tone of voice and ensuring the delivery of each joke was perfect. On several occasions I even sat in front of Winston the Wonder Dog and read through my lines. After several rounds, eventually my own dog got bored! He’d look at me perplexed before dozing off. It got to a point where he’d walk the opposite direction as soon as he saw me approaching him. The paw thing, even my own dog got sick of the speech. That wasn’t a good sign!

As the date of the engagement party loomed, I couldn’t sleep. I began to get hives! Even as I slept, my mind raced through what I was going to say. On the day of the soiree, I needed a calming mechanism…..booze! Copious amounts of alcohol helps…it’s the best social lubricant….as they say, booze make men brave and women loose! After a few glasses of vodka, Bacardi and gin – I was rockin’!!!

Image Source: openspeaking.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/public-speaking-coaching.jpg

With paper in hand, I began the speech. I started off strongly, despite the fact my hands were trembling. If I could measure the amount of quivering, it would be off the Richter scale. I lost my spot once but quickly brushed the mistake off. Once the audience laughed at a few comical gags, I knew I was on fire. To my sister’s relief, I didn’t disgrace myself!

In summary, I survived! Woo hooo! Would I ever volunteer or yearn to be nominated for any future public speaking events? Well, like I said earlier, I’d rather jump out of a plane nude, or walk barefoot through a pit filled with hairy tarantulas!

Christmas Greetings! With Love, Melbourne

Flinders Street Station Image Source: The Vibe 101

Flinders Street Station Image Source: The Vibe 101

There’s nothing like summer in Melbourne, especially as Christmas approaches. The city’s lively atmosphere steps up a gear and comes to life even further as the festive season kicks in. Christmas brings such a spirited, vibrant buzz in town. The garlands are hung, decorations adorn street lamps and shop windows are decked out with glistening ornaments and flickering party lights.

Melbourne Town Hall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Melbourne Town Hall Image Source: The Vibe 101

The Block Arcade Image Source: The Vibe 101

The Block Arcade Image Source: The Vibe 101

The mood around the CBD is laid back, yet pulsating and infectious. As you stroll along the city streets, you’ll find yourself weaving in and out of the large crowds of people, some of whom have taken to the festive spirit by donning reindeer antlers or Santa hats. It’s hard not to be captivated by the light entertainment performed by an eclectic mix of buskers and carollers scattered on the corner of busy intersections or positioned outside retail department stores.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

The smorgasbord of bars, cafes and restaurants is the heart and soul of Melbourne. Personally, it’s a great city to wine, dine and ultimately to relax as you gear up for Christmas celebrations. The tantalising aromas wafting through the air from some of Melbourne’s finest eateries combined with the large number of funky pubs and clubs only adds to the sizzling energy and ambiance of this great city.

Burke Street Mall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Burke Street Mall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Myer (Melbourne's equivalent to Macy's, Selfridges or SM Department Stores) Image Source: The Vibe 101

Myer (Melbourne’s equivalent to Macy’s, Selfridges or SM Department Stores) Image Source: The Vibe 101

The hedonistic fusion of awesome music, delectable food, cocktail of drinks and great company is hypnotic to the senses and further intensifies the joy and merriment one would experience at this time of the year. Melbourne certainly knows how to turn on the charm to build up a cheerful party vibe full of reverie. You’ll wish to soak it in and bottle it up

I love Christmas, especially in Melbourne!

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Visual Light Show at Melbourne Town Hall
Image Source: The Vibe 101

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Visual Light Show at Melbourne Town Hall
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 19 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Visual Light Show at Melbourne Town Hall
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Melbourne Town Hall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Melbourne Town Hall Image Source: The Vibe 101

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Hardware Lane, worth visiting for a bite to eat
Image Source: The Vibe 101

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Image Source: The Vibe 101

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Image Source: The Vibe 101

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Image Source: The Vibe 1o1

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Flinders Street Station, Melbourne’s equivalent to New York’s Grand Central Station or The Tube in London
Image Source: The Vibe 101

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Burke Street Mall
Image Source: The Vibe 101

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The GPO at Melbourne
Image Source: The Vibe 101

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Image Source: The Vibe 101

Apocalypse Now!

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end. It’s already tomorrow in AUSTRALIA!!!!” Charles M. Schulz

Image Source: Facebook mamagenerator.net

 

Image Source: HeraldSun.com.au
Picture: Pierre-Philippe Marcou

Image Source: HeraldSun.com.au Picture: Johan Ordonez

Image Source: HeraldSun.com.au Picture: Matt Dunham

Image Source: HeraldSun.com.au Picture: Marko Drobnjakovic

Image Source: HeraldSun.com.au Picture: Hector Retamal

Image Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/world/amazingly-world-survives-maya-apocalypse/story-fnd134gw-1226542199000

Dubrovnik – The Bittersweet Memories

Dubrovnik 1

Image Source: The Vibe 101

I have bittersweet memories of Dubrovnik. I travelled there to catch up with an old flame. But in the back of my head, I knew the relationship was heading straight towards the deep dark void of romance abyss – that is, splitsville. All good things must come to an end, but memories last forever, hence why Dubrovnik will always hold a special place in my heart.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Oh the crazy things we do for love! I visited Dubrovnik just a week after my 30th birthday. The trek from Melbourne to Dubrovnik was an adventure in itself. The journey involved close to an 8hr flight from Melbourne to Singapore. The second flight from Singapore to Frankfurt was just under 13hrs and the final leg between Frankfurt to Dubrovnik was a further 2hr plane ride. That part wasn’t bad. It was the 8hr stopovers at both Singapore and Frankfurt that was draining.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Actually, Changi airport was fun. The free internet, cinema centre and entertainment areas featuring widescreen TV monitors that were strategically positioned near a smorgasbord of shops and café’s, was enough to keep me occupied. It was Frankfurt that was the bane of my existence. There was nothing to do as I roamed around in limbo trying desperately to pass time, while the cigarette smoke wafting through the air was strong enough to gag on. What was worse, I was dragging around luggage while wearing knee high boots with three inch heels. Don’t judge me – I looked hot despite my pain. Besides, I just entered my ‘flirty thirty’ phase of life and I was footloose and fancy free!

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Situated along the Adriatic Sea, south of Croatia, Dubrovnik is a UNESCO listed city and a gem of the Dalmatia region. During the drive towards our hotel, the taxi driver kindly stopped at a popular observation deck overlooking the scenic view of the coastline (it was a sneaky, but effective move to bump up my fare but it was worth it!). It was my first taste of the Old Town of Dubrovnik which was accentuated by a sea of terracotta coloured rooftops.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

The Old Town is the heart and soul of Dubrovnik. As you enter the gates of the walled city, you take a step back in time into a golden era reminiscent of a period where fair ladies and knights in shining armour still roamed. The city is characterised by traditional architecture inspired by Gothic, Romanesque or Baroque designs (I’m not an arts connoisseur, but I’m assuming the buildings are of that vintage). As you stroll along the Placa or Stradun (which is the main city walkway), you’ll notice the promenade is flanked on either side by a myriad of cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Our accommodation was just a leisurely walk outside the city. Each evening, S and I headed towards the historical site for a bite to eat. Even at night the city keeps a vibrant atmosphere as the residents open up their quaint al fresco cafés and restaurants to tourists. During summer, candlelit dinners with the stars above are the perfect way to soak in the laid back ambiance.  Being of Bosnian background, S spoke the language and recommended local cuisines including bureks (a pastry dish) and cevapčići (minced meat, similar to a kebab) which is worth trying.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

I had the chance to explore the Old Town, walking the length of the outer perimeter of the city. Meandering along the surrounding walls is the best opportunity to get a bird’s eye perspective of the lofty bell tower which dominates the main square or watch the sail boats and even the odd cruise liner that are docked in the port. From this vantage point, you’ll be amazed by the town’s timeless, classic appeal. However, based on the information plaque at the main entrance, much of the city was heavily damaged during the Balkans war. Following the end of the war, the town has managed to restore many of the buildings to their original structure.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

As you immerse yourself in the maze of cobblestone streets and corridors of lane ways, you’ll discover prominent landmarks including the Dominican Monastery and church with its large dome; the Great Onofrio Fountain built in 1348 and the Franciscan monastery. Other highlights include the St Blaise Church for its traditional architecture; the Rector’s (Sponza) Palace and its beautiful archways, and the Gunduliceva Poljana which is the site of the busy morning market.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Dubrovnik has an enchanting fairytale charm. Sadly, S was not my Prince Charming. However, I didn’t want this doomed relationship to overshadow my time in this romantic city. Yet, as each day passed, I knew the inevitable was looming. The relationship was coming to its finale and I was trying desperately to hold onto ‘something’ that clearly wasn’t worth clinging to.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

As women, we all know some boys are toxic. There’s a breed of men out there that are like cigarettes. You know you should stay away from them but temptation gets the better of you, until it finally hits you that they’re clearly a bad habit! Ok, this hook up wasn’t all good, but it wasn’t all bad either, it just was never meant to be.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

During the journey home to the land of Oz, I remember sitting at Changi Airport with a heavy heart, staring outside onto the tarmac…I was 30, and single….AGAIN, I thought to myself. There’s a line in Sleepless in Seattle where a man says to Meg Ryan’s character “It’s easier to be killed by a terrorist than it is to find a husband” and it hit me hard. I shed a tear. It was the end of a chapter to another failed romance.

Luckily, this story didn’t end there. Within a few months, I met a wonderful, caring, smart, funny guy who is the love of my life! To this day, this love story continues….

Wilsons Promontory – A Winter Wonderland

Wilsons Promontory – A Winter Wonderland

Sometimes you don’t have to travel far to experience the wonders of nature, the serenity of a country lifestyle and the amazing beauty of pristine beaches. Just pack your bags and take a road trip towards the coast.

In our instance, we made a spur of the moment decision to spend a weekend away at Wilsons Promontory (or the Prom as it’s affectionately known), a delight for outdoor enthusiasts and a great destination for a relaxing break.

Wilsons Prom is the southernmost point of mainland Australia and is located 206km from the heart of Melbourne, or just under a three hour drive. The Prom coast region is a world away from the fast paced life of city living. But the area is the ideal location to chill out and unwind and is as spectacular in the winter season as it is in the warmer months of the year. Just be sure to rug up and switch your mind to cruise control in order to appreciate the laid back atmosphere the Prom is renowned for!

The best way to see the highlights of the national parks as well as the surrounding rural landscapes and the stunning ocean views is to take a leisurely drive. We meandered through the towns of Sandy Point, Foster (where we stocked up on tourist brochures at the Visitor’s Information Centre) and Fish Creek. We had no specific plan, we were just winging it, stopping at lookouts (Norman Lookout & Glennie Lookout) and other scenic spots scattered along the highway to soak in the sights.

Norman Lookout

Glennie Lookout

Of course we couldn’t leave without our loyal four-legged friend, Winston the Wonder Dog, who once again happily joined us on our latest escape from life in suburbia. Keep in mind that if you’re bringing man’s best friend to Prom country, then be aware that pets are not allowed at the national parks.  There are pet friendly accommodations available whilst you are in the Prom including Sandy Point Getaway and PromClose Cottage.

Sandy Point

Our insight into the region began at Sandy Point which is a quiet holiday haven for families. Before viewing the nearby surf beach, we stopped off at the General Local Store & Café for a quick bite to eat. I vividly remember this area as it was the town where we stayed the first time I visited with family and friends, many moons ago! I recall going for short strolls along the beach and climbing towering sand dunes at dusk.

Waratah Bay

To cap off the afternoon, we stopped off at Waratah Bay. I love Waratah Bay. During winter you’ll find yourself strolling in solitude along the golden sands that stretches endlessly ahead of you, listening to the waves lapping up against the shoreline. The location is such a beautiful spot to take in the serene coastal landscape, the pristine views and to take in the sun setting in the distance.

 

Fish Creek & Waratah North

We stayed at Prom Coast Lodge, situated in Waratah North. The self contained unit can accommodate up to six people and is even wheelchair accessible. To top it off, with a little charm and charisma, I persuaded the owner to allow Winston to stay with us. For dinner, we couldn’t go past KO’s Bar & Grill located in the town of Fish Creek (just opposite, the Fish Creek Hotel – with the giant mullet sculpture on the roof). KO’s hearty country meals and especially their chocolate tarts were too irresistible to pass up.

Wilsons Promontory National Park

On our second full day we spent our time exploring Wilsons Promontory National Park, which is the heart and soul of Prom country. Famous for its network of interlinking walking trails that vary in length and difficulty, the tracks are a delight for avid hikers or even those (like me) who prefer short rambling strolls. If you love life in the great outdoors, take advantage of the camping facilities positioned at the foot of the mountains along Tidal River, which is the perfect spot to start discovering the amazing native flora and fauna. Follow the paths that lead you to panoramic views overlooking the bay and mountains sweeping across the region. Whilst on the road, go easy on the accelerator to enjoy the wildlife roaming the streets. You’re bound to spot a few emus, kangaroos and wombats during the journey.

 

Squeaky Beach

Just a short drive from Tidal River is Squeaky Beach, which is noted for its quartz sand that ‘squeaks’ with each step you take. It almost feels like the earth is crumbling or shifting beneath you. The stunning unspoilt coastal scenery is capped off by weathered rock formations, with copper earth tones, that form rock pools at high tide.

 

Picnic Bay

A short distance from Squeaky Beach is Picnic Bay, which also features amazing rock formations dotted along the beach, that’s great to explore when waves are calm, particularly at low tide.

Agnes Falls

On our last day, we opted to take the long way home, via Toora to stop off at Agnes Falls which, according to the Prom Country Official Visitors Guide, ‘is the highest single span waterfall in Victoria with a drop of 59m’. We made the most of the viewing platforms which gave the best views of the stunning waterfall cascading down the gorge, set amongst a backdrop of luscious native vegetation including ferns and gum trees.

Cape Liptrap

We continued along the coastal route towards the Cape Liptrap Lighthouse. The road leading to the lighthouse is unsealed, so expect slightly rough terrain but the drive is worth it when you experience the striking panoramic views of the ocean. You’ll be mesmerised by the rough, turquoise coloured waves crashing against the cliff face.

Venus Bay

Our last stop was Venus Bay, an idyllic coastal escape which is a favourite amongst beach goers. Again, you’ll delight in the long stretch of pristine sandy shoreline and the rippling waves.

It’s been several years since my last visit to the Prom, which left me with memories of rolling hills, rugged mountain ranges and unspoilt beaches that stretched for miles beyond view.  Luckily, nothing much has changed in this tranquil, charming area.