Thursday, February 28, 2013

Have you heard of Posse? Posse is the world's first social search engine. What does this mean? It's a relatively new social media platform, that allows you to search for a certain type of place you might be looking for, wherever you may be in the world. It will then show you a list of places recommended by your friends or 'posse'. Posse was founded in Australia and have plans to launch in the US this year and eventually become global.

Say you're visiting a new city and you are stinging for some burritos. Well, you can search for burritos on posse and it will show you a list of places nearby selling them, as recommended by your friends. The advantage over other sites such as Yelp or Trip Advisor is that you get recommendations from people you're more likely to have similar tastes to and you probably trust these reviews more than that of strangers. The more people in your Posse, the wider your search will go and the more places will show up.

Posse works with retailers to help establish their presence on the site and creates virtual 'shop fronts' with their chosen branding/design. Retailers are then more aware of what their customers are saying about them and can even offer rewards or send thank-you notes to those who have recommended them on Posse. It's a win-win situation as users are always going to be adding places they actually want to recommend.

Once you create an account, you're able to start building virtual streets featuring all your favourite places. These streets build up a virtual 'town' with some funky illustrations with different themes to choose from. You can view my different streets and follow me here. Here are a few pics from some of my favourite places I have featured on posse.
Huge slice from Artichoke Basille Pizza in New York.
Red velvet cupcake from Magnolia Bakery in New York.
Breakfast from The Grounds of Alexandria, Sydney.
Ramen and tempura from Menya Mappen in Sydney.
Breakfast from Kitchen by Mike in Alexandria, Sydney

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On Starting My Career

Part of my desk at work featuring super ancient telephone.

In May this year I will have been working in my current and first 'proper' full time job for two years. A year before that I finished university and had no flippin' idea what to do next. A few stints of work experience and an incredible internship in NYC later (still don't know how I managed to pull that off), I was back on home turf, broke and applying for 10 jobs per fortnight to fulfil my Centrelink requirements.

A month or two later I landed an interview with an organisation in Sydney who I'd never heard of and frankly, really had no idea what they did. I heard the words 'communications' and 'not-for-profit' and thought that sounded alright. I was sure I'd blown the interview and remember talking to Mum afterwards and saying that I really didn't know how I would feel if I got it. When they offered me the job, I spent about a week considering whether to take it or not. A conversation with my beautiful grandpa changed my mind. He told me to think of this as just one small part of my career and that any opportunity was a good one and that I would look back on this time in my life and appreciate the experience I had been given.
About half of my belongings packed into my car when I moved to Sydney (and Ben being a creep).

Eventually I was packing my life up into my tiny car and heading down the freeway to my new home - a shoebox bedroom in a very old apartment in North Sydney with a severely water damaged ceiling (I was blinded by the incredible view of Sydney harbour - still miss that view!). Once again I was leaving Ben behind to pursue something new and terrifying.

I have always been a nervous wreck when starting new jobs. When I worked in a coffee shop after finishing school, my boss asked me to make her a latte so she could see how I was going. My hands were visibly shaking and she had to tell me to relax - such a horrible memory! Thankfully, when I started my current job, I'd had my internship in NYC to kind of ease me into professional working life, but it's still a weird experience. Every new person you meet (outside of your immediate colleagues) wants to know 'where you were before'. You're introduced to this new thing called 'KPIs' and you're now expected to sign off all your emails with 'Kind regards' instead of 'xo :)'.
The amazing view from my first apartment in Sydney.

In my job I have a lot of interaction with external people due to the nature of what we do. We have a lot of events and meetings which means I'm often chatting with people much older than me, with many more years of experience and in very senior roles. This has the potential to be very intimidating, if I let it. At an event a few months ago I was chatting to a group of women who asked me how old I was and when I told them they said I was 'just a child'.

I've learnt that I can't let my age or my perceptions of my abilities get in the way of doing my job well. I'm finally at the point where I feel like I have some good ideas to contribute and that they will be beneficial for the business. Realising that you're not just some uni graduate but someone who can actually contribute in a professional working environment is pretty awesome.
Being super nerdy holding a copy of the magazine I am editor of.

I still don't know what I want to be when I 'grow up', but from what I've heard I probably won't know for a while yet. Like with any job, there are times when I'd much rather curl into a ball and hide under my desk than make that phone call I've been putting off all week. But you know that experience my grandpa told me about? Well, I sure am getting a lot of it and one day when I'm rich and famous, I'll show those ladies that called me a child who's boss!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Just a Minute in February

Beautiful flowers spotted on my daily walk to the train station. Snapped on my iphone.

Watching...The Walking Dead (finally back on after the mid-season break!), Parks and Recreation (catching up on season five), Girls and New Girl.

Working on...Work is crazy busy at the moment as this week I've had the deadline for the magazine I produce as well as a million other projects and events to organise. I am also doing a course from the US in online community management which meant I got up at 4am on Thursday to participate in an online discussion. Crazy, I know, but I'm really enjoying it.

Listening to...Fleetwood Mac (always), Grimes, Bombay Bicycle Club and Alt-J.

Reading...The Great Gatsby.

Loving...The fact that my parents are coming to visit in a couple of weeks, that I get to go to Melbourne on Monday, that it's only two and half months until my next America trip and...turkish apple tea.

This post was inspired by Amanda from Here Comes the Sun. Make sure you let me know if you play along!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ben's Secret Spicy Salsa Recipe

I mentioned in my last post that Ben and I have perfected the way we cook vegetarian burritos. Ben's not a vegetarian but he loves these burritos. The salsa was all his doing and is so much better than any store-bought salsa I've tried. We LOVE Mexican food. We eat it once a week, sometimes twice. No matter what we always have this salsa. It's a chunky salsa but you could probably blend the tomatoes and onions in a food processor if you wanted it to be more dip-like. I'm giving rough measurements as it really depends how spicy or garlicky you want it. 

The bean mixture is just two cans of red kidney beans, 3 tablespoons seasoning (you can use packet taco seasoning or make your own using a combination of different spices, such as this, which is better for you) and all the liquid from the cans. Mix seasoning through and boil until most of the liquid has gone. It looks pretty foul but tastes awesome. This will make about 6 burritos (no we're not pigs, we always have leftovers! ha).

We serve ours with homemade guacamole (avocado, lime juice, salt + pepper), lettuce, cheese and sour cream.

Salsa ingredients:

3 - 4 tomatoes
1 small red onion
1 lime, juiced
2 - 3 teaspoons crushed garlic
2 - 3 tablespoons pickled jalapeno peppers
Fresh or dry coriander (optional - we ran out this time but it's fine without)


Finely dice the tomatoes, onions and jalapenos. Combine in bowl. Add garlic, lime juice and coriander. Mix well and you're done!

So easy and so tasty. Let me know if you try it :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On Being Vegetarian

I'm coming up to my five year anniversary of being a vegetarian so wanted to share the things I've learnt along the way and advice for anyone who might be considering this way of life. I'm in no way a health or food expert, these are just my observations and personal experiences.

1. You will get a lot of questions. When it comes to discussing the fact that I'm a vegetarian, I've found two types of people. The first are those that want to question and argue against vegetarianism. Thankfully I haven't found myself in too many of those situations and if I do I usually just tell them that I don't eat meat because I like animals and I didn't want to eat them anymore. I try to keep the conversation short because I'm not really an outspoken person. Other people will argue the point further and that's great, but it's not my approach. Don't get me wrong, I think it's very important to know why you've made the choice.

The second are those who seem almost embarrassed or concerned that they are eating meat in front of me. Apart from my brother, the rest of my family are meat-eaters. My boyfriend is a meat-eater and we live together. All of my work colleagues and close friends are meat-eaters. I can count three other friends who are vegetarians but they're people I don't see very often. The point is - I'm surrounded by meat-eaters. It was my choice to become a vegetarian, so don't feel embarrassed or make a fuss over the fact that I don't eat meat. I never go hungry wherever I go and I'd prefer people not to go out of their way. That's just a personal preference. If I wanted to eat meat I could, I just don't want to.
2. Set a goal. If you're thinking about becoming a vegetarian, or even just eating less meat, I find it helps to set a goal or time-frame. You might want to introduce 'Meat-less Mondays' or even try a week without meat. For me, I decided to do it for a month and I told myself if I could last that long I would stick to it, and I haven't looked back.

3. Do your research. I attribute the fact that I became a vegetarian to moving in with my brother, who had already been one for a few years. We were eating vegetarian meals together at home so I became more interested in the lifestyle. I started doing some research, reading about it online and watched a few kinda horrific videos on factory farming. After watching one particular video I had decided that I didn't want to be a part of that kind of cruelty anymore. There are plenty of resources out there and the different opinions can be both extreme and more reasonable. I personally love the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer as I think it's well researched, non-preachy and presents both sides of the factory farming debate.
4. Be aware of what your body needs. It's no secret that in order to stay healthy as a vegetarian you need to make sure you're getting enough protein and vitamins. Some people have lower levels of iron than others and need to be careful. I would definitely recommend getting your blood tested for iron levels and other things like B12. I had mine checked last year and while my iron and B12 were fine, I found out I was low on Vitamin D so I started taking a supplement. This reminds me that I need to get it checked again soon! For me, the secret has been ensuring I have lots of different colours and textures in the foods that I eat. If I don't eat something green each day I feel like I haven't given my body everything it needs for the day. I honestly believe that all the nutrients you need can be found in plant-based foods, but it does take planning and experimentation, which brings me to my next point.

5. Experiment with new recipes and food. I've found since becoming a vegetarian that I've tried so many new cuisines and my cooking has definitely improved. I think it's safe to say that Ben and I have invented the best recipe for vegetarian bean burritos and homemade salsa in the WORLD. The internet is your friend when it comes to vegetarian recipes. I like websites such as Vegan Yum Yum or Veg Web. I have a number of meals I fall back on and eat weekly, but there's a tonne of stuff out there that can be used in unique ways - beans, lentils and grains are super versatile, for example.
6. So, what do you eat? During the week I eat pretty basic meals. Here's some examples:
  • Tempeh spaghetti bolognaise.
  • Kidney bean burritos with homemade salsa, guacamole and lettuce.
  • Big salads with spinach leaves, regular salad items and added proteins like lentils and quinoa (pictured above).
  • Wraps with salad and veggie patties or schnitzels.
  • Vegetable curries with added tofu or chickpeas for protein.
  • Homemade sushi with avocado and cucumber.
  • Pizza - homemade or bought, you can't go wrong with endless topping choices.
I will try and share some recipes here in the future, but my meals usually aren't very scientific. I hope you've found this post interesting or useful. None of it is revolutionary but hopefully it's been worth the read. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments or send me an email.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Quiet Days

After a big week of work last week I've managed to come down with a rotten cold. As a result, I spent most of my weekend inside, except for a brief breakfast outing with Ben yesterday morning. I'm never too sick for breakfast.

Here are a couple of snaps from around the apartment. Our chilli plant is thriving which I'm quite excited about, seeing as though we managed to kill all our other plants. I found a new place to hang my bunting (and also left my bed unmade for a whole week). I dug up some of my instax photos, including this favourite shot of Ben and I. I also loved the bokkeh effect the sunlight through the leaves was making on our balcony. But apart from that, I've spent most of my time between bed and my couch, keeping up the fluids, popping cold and flu tablets, eating toast and watching back to back episodes of Parks and Recreation. Let's hope I can shake this thing soon. The next few weeks (months, years?) are going to be busy!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Surfers Paradise

This week I spent two nights at the Surfers Paradise Marriott Hotel on the Gold Coast, Queensland. The company that I work for runs a lot of educational events for not-for-profits. This week we had one of our major two-day conferences which was specifically for CEOs of not-for-profit associations and charities. Being able to travel interstate quite regularly is a definite perk of my job. It's not always as glamorous as it sounds but I have to say that this trip was one that really made me step back and appreciate the opportunities work has given me. I also found being able to sit in on a lot of the sessions really interesting and beneficial for my own professional development. It's kinda cool to be able to learn so much about issues concerning those in high level management positions when I'm just in the very early stages of my career.

While I wasn't directly involved in organising this conference, there was still a lot of running about, mingling with CEOs and long hours. As a result, I'm pretty exhausted now and have managed to come down with a cold. Nonetheless, staying at the Marriott was fabulous and we managed to squeeze in a bit of time by the pool in our short breaks. Oh and our manager got upgraded to the Presidential Suite (pictured above) which was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. It was probably twice the size of my apartment and lavishly decorated. It didn't even have a number on the door, that's how fancy it was. I commented to my other colleagues, who were just as excited as me, that I'm glad I got to experience something like that once in my life time, even though it wasn't actually my room. These photos don't even begin to do it justice.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Book Club: Part Two

1. Women of Letters curated by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire. I'm a huge fan of anything Marieke Hardy does. I might have a slight girl crush on her. I was also fortunate enough to meet her a couple of years ago during the country music festival in Tamworth. It was unexpected, that's for sure. The Women of Letters book stems from a series of live shows where a bunch of different creative folk are asked to write a letter on a certain theme and read it on stage. I haven't had a chance to make it to one of the shows yet but it's on my bucket list for 2013. The book is a collection of most of the letters written and presented so far. They also introduced a couple of 'Men of Letters' shows last year and some kind men-folk have submitted their letters to the book as well. If you want to read heart-felt and often hilarious letters from well-known Australian artists, musicians, media personalities and other creatives, then this book is for you.
2. The Memory Keeper's Daughter. I borrowed this book upon recommendation from my BFF. If you're reading this, remind me to give it back! It's quite a sad story set in the 1960s about a Doctor who gives away his newborn baby because she has downs syndrome. He also keeps this from his wife for a very long time. As horrible as it sounds, I ended up really feeling for the man because he honestly thought he was doing the right thing. It's an interesting read, but a sad one at that.
3. Gaysia by Benjamin Law. I've briefly touched on this book in another recent blog post but wanted to tell you a bit more about it. In the same way that I'm obsessed with Marieke Hardy, I cannot fault anything that Benjamin Law does. Since I discovered him in Frankie magazine, I've also read his other novel, The Family Law. I also recently listed him as one of my favourite people to follow on Twitter. A gay man himself, Ben says he feels pretty lucky to live in Australia where he can speak up about gay rights and hold his boyfriend's hand in public. In order to write Gaysia, he traveled around parts of Asia including Bali, Thailand, China, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar and India to find out what it's like being gay in these parts of the world. From a ladyboy pageant to gay sex workers, he spares no details. It's confronting and sometimes shocking but there's also plenty of funny moments. It's the relationships Ben forms with the various people he meets along the way that really got me in. This man knows how to tell a story and I can definitely say I learnt a lot. 

I've been trying to read a lot more of the classic novels lately and I'm currently onto The Great Gatsby, which I will tell you about once I've finished. In the next few weeks or so, Bec from My Bloggable Day and I will be sharing our reviews of Wuthering Heights, as we both happened to be reading it at the same time. If you're interested in being a part of this book club, please feel free to email me and we can choose a book to read and review together.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Who Are Nellie and Oliver?

If you don't know me personally then you may be wondering why I decided to call this blog of mine 'Nellie and Oliver'. Well, Nellie and Oliver were my two childhood puppy dogs who I loved with all of my heart. They are both no longer with us and my whole family misses them dearly. 

I still remember the day we went to pick up Nellie (black and white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) from a farm near Armidale, NSW. Our Dad must have had the day off work and I think it was during school holidays because I remember my brother, sister and I went with him while Mum was at work. I vaguely remember all these gorgeous little puppies running around the farm and us choosing little Nellie to take home. We were all eagerly waiting for Mum to get home and I remember us all sitting on the front step with Nellie as she drove up the driveway. Nellie was a very loyal and loving dog. She was also a little bit crazy. And by crazy I mean she would lick the screen door for hours on end and had some other obsessive tendencies. We loved her very much and hope she's having fun licking the screen door in puppy heaven.

Oliver, or 'Ollie', was a gift to our family from my Aunty. He was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel cross Poodle, or 'Cavoodle' as they are technically known. I also remember the day that Aunty Kim brought Ollie over to our place. He was a little yellow fluff ball and I remember him running around his new home with Nellie not quite sure what was going on or who this new strange friend was. Ollie was an extremely gentle pet. He never barked and he slept a lot, especially in his old age. We talked to him like he was a human. He was such a huge part of our family and when he passed away last year we were completely devastated. I'm sure him and Nellie are having great fun together now.

Now days, we have a puppy by the name of Chester in our family. My brother adopted him from the pound and he lives with my family in Tamworth. I've only met him once so far as I live five hours away, but I'm enjoying seeing regular Instagram photos from my brother as this little pup grows into a big pup. 

So there you have it - the story behind the name. 

Photos by my brother and me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Neighbourhood Favourite: Sweetness the Patisserie

I cannot begin to describe how excited I was to discover a gorgeous patisserie in my very own suburb. Sweetness the Patisserie was founded by Gena Karpf. While studying for her Diplome de Patisserie (Honours) at Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney, she opened her store in Epping as a place to sell her delicate handmade sweets.

She specialises in handmade confectionary including honeycomb, coconut ice, marshmallows, nougat, fudge and gummy lollies as well as baked goods like slices, tarts, biscuits, macarons and more.

I popped by last weekend to treat myself to some goodies and asked if I could take a couple of photos for the blog. I had a lot of trouble deciding what to buy but I ended up taking home some mini chocolate swirl shortbread biscuits which I enjoyed over a cup of Green Rose tea on my balcony. 

You can also find Sweetness at many of Sydney's food and produce markets. Click here for all locations. They also cater for special events and parties.