Tuesday, 9 March 2010

the sydney trip

I'm not an initiator of adventures on the whole - it just doesn't occur to me very often to think up a destination and plan a trip. I'm a happy follower and I can also happily organise a trip once the seed has been planted.

So last year when Ellen suggested we take a weekend in Sydney I was happy to sign up. When D suggested I turn it into a girl's own adventure and take Amy along I upped the ante and the weekend morphed into a four day fun fair with back to back visits and catch ups as well as ample fabric and book buying outings.

The last time we went to Sydney was in 2006. I was pregnant (and still hiding it) with Wil, Amy was still just a little girl and I was waiting for my Masters to be accepted. We had a wonderful time I seem to recall and did all those things visitors to that city should. The sun shone.

This trip was so very different. The sun didn't always shine, and we missed a good many of the must sees and dos. We did not wander aimlessly through less familiar streets and parks. It was different, but in an entirely fabulously wonderful way.

What made this trip so very different was that since 2006 I have come to know a good number of fantastic people who live in Sydney. Instead of being a tourist I let myself be taken from place to place, visiting the people and places I have come to know from afar, and feeling more like a visitor than a tourist. And it was glorious.

On Friday Amy and I landed and immediately took advantage of Sydney's wonderful airport train service. Seriously, Melbourne needs to get its shit together in this regard. From airport to hotel in 10 minutes - no stress, no hassle. Brilliant. The Hyde Park Inn let us check in early, so we left our bags, had a quick look at the view - lovely - did a little happy dance about the extra bed they gave us free of charge and set out to meet up with Ingrid.

It is absolutely delightful to meet someone in real life for the first time and find them to be exactly what you expect. From following her blog and emailing her and doing swaps, I felt I had come to know her, but I know that people don't always live up to the image their online identity creates. Some people can give you quite the double take when you first meet them. But Ingrid and I chatted away at lightening speed as though we'd known each other for years, enjoying a speedy visit to Kinokuniya and then some really great Thai food in the food court downstairs (definitely an insiders tip - this place looks like every other food court blah blah, but was instead the most authentically Thai food I have ever had in Australia I think, just delishhh!). The time went like wildfire and in an instant she had to shoot off to pick up children and do other real life stuff, but not before giving me some super delicious yarn ready for dyeing from her shop, the Yarn Workshop.

Thank you so so so much! I've waxed lyrical already about Ingrid's Kiama when I used it to make G's Ishbel, so I am very much looking forward to knitting with it again - a lovely finished fabric but perhaps even more importantly a very nice yarn to knit with.

Ingrid also gave me a skein of pure silk awaba. The hardest thing about this yarn will be to stop fondling it long enough to dye and knit it - what a luxurious yarn! So excited to give it a try!

After our time with Ingrid Amy and I headed back upstairs to look through the kids section at Kinokuniya. I know for many of us the attraction to Kinokuniya is the Japanese books - more on them later - but really the whole store is really outstanding. We spent a bit of time here last visit to Sydney and all I can say is I hope they open in Melbourne soon. Amy chose herself a new book (she finished the first of her two travel novels before the plane landed!) and we set off in search of cake.

A little cooky bird had recommended La Renaissance to me as a perfect spot for the perfect treat so I figured that had Amy and I written all over it. It was quite a walk, in the rain, and Amy was flagging a bit, so it was lucky the cake selection lived up to our expectations.

While the staff were less than friendly or helpful, the raspberry tart was superb and Amy's fantastically over complicated layered sponge/raspberry mousse/passionfruit mousse/pinenut ganache/red glazed/macaroon festooned tower was a triumph.

I was very glad she couldn't finish it all and I got slops.

We scooted back to the hotel for a bit of feet up till our ride collected us for a visit to AB's restaurant. In the car on the way we got the call from Ellen to say her flight had been cancelled and while there was much gnashing of teeth and renting of clothes, it appearing nothing good was going to happen until the next morning, so we swore a bit about Jetstar and the way everything is run these days with no fall back position and pressed on.

5 tired hungry kids who have been stuck in traffic for a stupidly long time do not for a peaceful dining experience make, so instead of being inside we sat under the front awning, let the kids go mad in the rain, yakked our heads off and I ate the best gnocchi I've ever eaten and only just managed to restrain myself from licking the plate when I had eaten everything I could using cutlery. AB assures me there was nothing complicated about it, but I think he's lying. The sauce had some kind of voodoo, let me tell you. Kim very generously dropped us back so we could collapse unconscious in bed - a very late night for a little girl who'd had a very big day.

Saturday dawned bright and warm - a perfect day for meeting up with more friends and hitting Surry Hills. Hard.

Amy and I wandered up to Tessuti which was wonderfully close and found Colette almost the instant we walked in the door. Which was something of a miracle since the scale and variety of the stock was so dazzling that I was rendered pretty much senseless.

I've harped on about how fabulous Tessuti's Melbourne store is, but Surry Hills is oh so much bigger that I was having heart palpitations. On the outside I was having a conversation that I think passed for normal but on the inside it was just all exclamation marks.

Amy was already on her knees picking buttons for her stash when Alison arrived and I walked around in a dazed fashion just working out some way I could stow away and live forever in the store, squirreling away bits and pieces of everything I could see.

But since this is real life and I had carry on only luggage and a finite amount of space to store stash and a finite number of hours to sew for the rest of my life, I exercised a little restraint.

Some double sided wool, wonderfully lightweight.

Some jersey in a print I love, which had sold out in Melbourne destined I think for a top something like this one.

Super spunky spotty jersey destined for a tunic for Amy - a gift from Colette, thank you! (You know, when Amy grows up she wants to be you, don't you?)

Some more of this gorgeous bengaline for myself and a friend because I am already worried about this shirt wearing out sometime in the next decade.

And so excitement of excitement, Tessuti has just managed to get in stock this fabric (called hot wire), which is similar to the fabric used in these clothes. I have a number of friends who wear Matalicus clothes and I have had envy about it for quite some time. Since their clothes don't really fit me and are certainly not in my clothes buying budget range, I have gone without. Now I am just itching to get sewing a couple of layers in this fantastic dark grey. I plan on getting some of the black when it comes in store in Melbourne too. So so so excited! Thanks Colette for cluing me in and giving me a chance to try it out! I'll definitely be reporting back about sewing it.

After so much heady excitement Alison, Amy and I took a refuelling stop to calm our blood pressure and up our blood sugar. At last we were joined by the even further delayed Ellen who had had the shortest end of the vagaries of flying stick there is and thus gathered set off for our next stop. I was feeling so sated from all my lovely Tessuti purchases that I managed to resist the temptations of the Cloth remnant table, which was some feat. Especially since there was a very nice and large piece of linen with a car print which Wil may well have made sweet love to if given half the chance. It is a lovely store though and I am sure I couldn't hold out for ever if I lived close by.

Next we went to Bird Textiles, which Ellen had been focused on to the point of nervous exhaustion since they were in the throes of a mega sale with lots of fabrics selling for below half their usual price. I am not sure how, but until we visited I had never heard of Bird, and that's quite possibly a good thing, since they are all the things this tigger likes best. Hand printed, sustainably produced, designed with flair and wonderfully full of their own character.

I bought enough of this panel printed jersey for a top for me, leggings for Amy and quite possible a T for Wil as well. I am looking froward to the challenge of using the print well!

I was also thrilled with their 'remnant by weight' policy, since this light weight cotton print will be perfect for a dress for Amy and came out at only $11 for 75cm of unbroken print, with an extra 10cm on the end after a flaw. Talk about happy!

Fabrics thus secured we all retired to lunch. Alison brought some home made gyozas, which left the curry Amy and I were sharing in the DUST, and in between stuffed mouthfuls I caught up with Alison's news. It seems completely weird that I have only met Alison once before in person, and that once was 3 years ago, 6 days after giving birth by Cesarean on a 40 degree days after an hour long ride in a non air conditioned car. I was not, as they say, myself. But after sharing our pregnancies, swaps, emails and, briefly, a blog, I felt like seeing he again was just another visit in many. A delight! And thank you so much for ferrying us around and the lovely lunch!

Our feet up time between dates seemed minuscule before we set off again for Kinokuniya and a good hard look at the Japanese pattern books.

Despite the reality that nothing fits me, or generally looks remotely OK on my size and shape, there's much to learn and be inspired about in these books.

If you look at them as something more general than an actual pattern book, you can see that a collar detail here, a cutting technique there, a fabric combination here, an embellishment there can add to the overall design of other garments.

In between all the magazine ogling and the purchase of yet another novel for Amy (the kid reads like there's no tomorrow) and the examination of stationary and cute things for little girls, Ellen and I also had the pleasure of talking with Suzy. Suzy was living in Japan at the same time as Ellen, and at the same time I was in Thailand, so we got to know each other back when we were all expats. Suzy is always delightful company and again it seemed like we'd only just said hello before she was dashing off and we were jumping into the car for our next adventure.

This time the lovely Kristen whisked us off for some delicious Japanese food in Surry Hills at Sushi Suma. Very reasonably priced with the most enormous serving sizes I have ever seen, we had a fantastic dinner and stuffed ourselves while yakking our heads off. I've run into Kristen a few times now at Stitches and Craft shows and dinners and here and there and I enjoy talking to her a lot.

We were very appreciative that she came a long way to be with us and managed to fit a gelati on top of all the real food we'd already had!

Straight to bed - we were all exhausted!! (Though I lay awake for quite some time thinking about fabric and sewing. It's a sickness!).

Sunday was forecast to be a really crappy day, but of course, it was gorgeously sunny. Perfect for a ride on the monorail and the ferry over the Manly.

I know most people go to Manly for the beach, but we had only one destination in mind.

In the madness that is the most sought after ice creamery in Australia we met up with Kim, AB and all 4 of the boys and took the scenic route back to her place. All very glad of the people mover I can tell you! And I will just say that despite the absence of other children of the female persuasion and anyone even close to her in age, Amy slotted in like a little she totally belonged. It should be said that there had until this point been a lot of time in adult company, and an absence of mental going, all of which Amy had dealt with by simply whipping out a book any time she felt bored, but the boys more than made up for it with an embracing kind of vibe that transcended age and gender. In fact for the entire 24 hours we were at Kim's she barely nodded at me, a number of times declared her desire to move in and generally appeared to have entirely defected families.

All of which was completely fine with me since it meant more time for me to chat with Corrie and her lovely wee munchkins when they came for afternoon tea.

Kim whipped up scones to have with 3 kinds of home made jam (woot!) and Corrie pulled out some home made rocky road and fabric presents for us (thank you Corrie!) and we talked about her impending entrance to the world of four kids and the markets she's been doing and all the other crafty stuff she's been up to since I met her as a student in one of my classes all that time ago (2 years? Can it be?!).

Then it was time for pizza making and a master class on gnocchi (thanks chef!) and then a whole crap load of eating. AGAIN.

I was really impressed by how involved all of Kim's kids are in the kitchen and where I tend to want to skip the mess and get the food done faster, food preparation and eating seem to fit into a much more fluid kind of family life there. I think there's something in it that I need to explore! The kids all had a turn cutting up the gnocchi (which made for an amusing time for us adults eating it later) and then AB cooked off a sumptuous and simple butter and sage sauce for it. Talk about stuffed. Just able to roll myself over to the couch and watch I am legend before I retired to bed.

Monday started with the smell of frying butter - is there a better smell in the world than pancakes first thing? - and if Amy had any doubt about where she wanted to be that was the end of it.

Two enormous buttermilk pancakes later and the rest of the day was a blur of trampoline, cooking biscuits, and building cubbies while us grown ups slagged off the oscars red carpet coverage, cruised around the internet, ate left over pizza and drank cups of tea.

Really, why would we leave the house?

Except of course, in the end we had to go home.

A really big thanks to everyone who came and hung out with us, drove us, catered for us, forced us into buying stuff and generally made the trip the complete joy ride it was. Speshly you Kim, for opening up your home to all of us, feeding us and relaxing us and giving us beds to sleep in. We had a really really really good time.


travellersyarn said...

Wow - it does sound like a good weekend - lovely to finally meet you and Amy.

I wish I had made it Tessuti - but apparently I have a bit more fabric stash than I recalled. Thats unpacking for you!

merrilymerrily said...

Mammoth post! Thanks for the effort. You visited some of my favourite places, and some I'd never heard of before. Bird you say...

Alison said...

I loved your description of walking around with exclamation marks in your head - it was one of those days - I so thoroughly enjoyed myself as well, and have to admit got a little focused on getting home and sewing......

I know everytime I sew with the fabrics I bought with you guys, that they will be infused with the memory of a great day :)

Fe said...

Beautifully documented! And I love how you describe Kim cooking in her kitchen! I've witnessed it, and it is almost magical, the way the boys and the family life is so closely entwined with the creation of incredibly wonderful food.

But next time, Sooz... Next time WE are going to meet up too!

kim at allconsuming said...

I don't think I took a breath during reading that whole post. It was absolutely bloody marvellous. Jasper showed me a dance Amy taught him - it involves what looks remarkably like a grapevine. Awesome on every level.

sueeeus said...

What a fantastic trip!

Corrie said...

so many new places for me to discover in my own home town...I can't get the image of that gorgeous strawberry cake out of my head!

and don't take it too personally, keira and the twins would love to move in to kim's house too!

so lovely to see you and yes it's been 2 years, I was pregnant with the twins when I did that class

eeloh said...

Wow. First, the cakes; they are the male menopausal midlife crisis sportcar of the cake world! MM that glossy red!

Great purchases from Tessuti. And yes, I am interested in Kim's thoughts and your observations on kids in the kitchen too.

Duyvken said...

I'm so sorry I missed the argvo tea at Kims!!! Glad you had a great visit to Syd, A.

Cheeky Beaks said...

I'm still reliving the memory of that gorgeous passionfruit gelato. So glad to get out of the house and hang out with you guys.

Great post!