28 May, 2010

A vintage afternoon tea at home and the best chocolate cake ever!

I love putting on afternoon teas for my friends at home and so last Sunday I baked my favourite chocolate cake (see recipe below), bought a few extras from my local pattisserie and got out the good china for a visit from one of my oldest friends. I just love drinking out of vintage tea cups - so civilised! It also justifies my many vintage china purchases to my hubby! (see darling hubby, they aren't just for show!)

My favourite vintage china pieces and tablecloth - purchased mostly from op-shops (except blue tea and cup set - ebay; milk jug and sugar bowl - part of wedding gift from my Mum). The only thing I was missing was champagne glasses so I just made do with what I had in the cupboard! Main dish contains chocolate cake (homemade), baked cheesecake slices and hazelnut macaroon pieces (Swiss Patisserie, Syndal)

Vintage Suburbia posing for the camera before her guest arrived - sorry for fuzzy photo! (I am picking up my new Canon 1000D next week so hopefully better photos will be coming up very soon!)

I always try to have some savouries in my afternoon tea selection - here I have some lovely quiches and cheese and tomato topped baguette - from my local patisserie - Tanner's Swiss Patisserie, Blackburn Road, Syndal. They have really lovely stuff and their baguettes are some of the best I have ever tasted.

Afternoon tea would not be complete without vintage cake forks - I got these from Ebay Australia a few years ago. I love the case and look at the gift card that was still in it when I bought it. It reads 'Dear Sue, here's wishing you all that you wish yourself - May every joy and happiness be yours, Margaret'. Don't you love that? People in the 50's and 60's (which I am guessing this set is from) wrote so beautifully back then. I feel very privileged that I can keep this set in memory of its original owner.

Close up of my favourite vintage tea set - Vintage Spode - purchased from Ebay Australia a few years ago. It wasn't cheap I have to admit, but it was worth it, because I absolutely love it!

Last, but not least, you should really try out this fabulous chocolate cake recipe - you can use it to make a cake or put the mixture into patty cake tins and make cupcakes (just put in oven for less time, say 20 mins). The secret to its loveliness is the vanilla essence and brown sugar - divine! Let me know what you think of it once you have tried it out! The recipe actually comes from our very own Australian Prime Minister Rudd (who I used to like once upon a time, I'm not so sure now!). Anyway, I came across it on a website and am now sharing it with you . . . (PS I wonder if President Obama has a favourite choc cake recipe - I must google that!)

My Mum's Favourite Chocolate Cake Recipe

Recipe provided by Hon Kevin Rudd – Prime Minister of Australia

for PDF version of cake recipe which you can print out see: http://www.cuppaforkids.org.au/downloads/recipes/PM_Chocolate_Cake_recipe.pdf


185 g Butter at room temperature

155 g Brown Sugar

1 tsp Vanilla

2 Eggs at Room Temperature

190gm SR Flour

30gm Cocoa Powder

125ml Milk


Cream Butter, Sugar and Vanilla, add eggs one at a time.

In another bowl sift the flour and cocoa together then fold it and the milk alternating into

the creamed butter and sugar.

Bake for 40 minutes in a moderate oven - fan forced about 150 degrees.



1 and a half TBL Cocoa

1 TBL warm Milk

75 gm Butter room temp - cubed

125gm Pure Icing Sugar

Half teaspoon vanilla


Mix together and spread over cooled cake.

22 May, 2010

Heaven is a Houndstooth skirt, Art deco and great coffee

Vintage Suburbia's Saturday outing outfit (!)
(further details of outfit near end of blog)

Today I went on a trip into the city for my favourite things in the world: fashion, architecture and good coffee. The first pitstop was Open Day at the Victorian Supreme Court library. I love books and libraries so this visit was wonderful. The library, which is 124 years old was lovely - you walk into a big foyer covered over with a dome and there is a lovely wrought-iron balcony above. Unfortunately cameras are not allowed into the Supreme Court building, but you can get some idea of what it looks like from this photo from the library's web-page . . .
                   Victorian Supreme Court library                Exterior of Court showing beautiful dome

Next stop was my favourite place for coffee: Cafe Mediterraneum in the Manchester Unity Building, Collins Street. If you have never been to this cafe or to this building you must, because both the coffee and the architecture are sublime.
Cafe Mediterraneum, Manchester Unity Building, Collins St, Melbourne

My favourite food - portuguese tart and a great latte!

Firstly and most importantly lets talk about the coffee: the coffee is, in my humble opinion, the best in Melbourne. Coffee freaks online talk about 'Dancing Goat' and other trendy coffee bars, but Cafe Meditteraneum is better, both in terms of the quality of the coffee, and the ambience and friendliness of the waiters/owners. The cafe is a family-run business - even though I am only able to go there occasionally I know them by name and they are very, very friendly. Secondly, the place is very quiet (no loud music - great when you are like me and want to read) and third, it is very child-friendly (lots of room to park a stroller).

Next the architecture - simply the most beautiful building in Melbourne. See for yourself . . .

Last, but definitely not least - what did I wear to fit in with these glorious surroundings? A vintage houndstooth skirt is what! . .

Vintage houndstooth skirt etsy (seller: Whiteelephantsale)
crinoline underneath ebay
black top laura ashley
pearls 'borrowed' from my mum
belt etsy
Vintage Armani shoes op shop/thrifted
art deco sideboard pictured op shop/thrifted

The skirt is really gorgeous (a heavy houndstooth woolen fabric with lace panels around the bottom). I think from the 1950's (the label says 'Jack Posluns'). It is however, very tiny, so I have only been able to wear it now after many hours spent in the aerobics and dance studios of Melbourne (a 25 inch waist - ouch!).

Before I go, just a quick close-up of the shoes, found in an op shop for the princely sum of AUS 12.99. They are a bit small for me, but I am trying to stretch them!

PS sorry if I have been absent from the blogging world for a few weeks - I have been trying to get my life organised after our big trip to Europe. Although it was wonderful, taking two children on a long haul flight was rather exhausting so we are all only getting back to normal now. I will be back to my  normal blogging self (one post on a Friday) this week! Thanks so much for reading.

11 May, 2010

Vintage shopping in Dublin

Lucy's Lounge Vintage Store, Dublin

This is my last post from overseas and my last fossick for vintage treasure in international lands!

Unfortunately I didn't find any treasure on any of my visits to vintage stores in Dublin. As with my previous shopping expeditions in the vintage shops of London and Paris (before I was a blogger) I found that there are only two types of vintage shops in Dublin - the high end, way-out-of-my-price range store, and the 'This is really just an op-shop' type store - full of cheap and nasty 70's and 80's "vintage" (notice the quotation marks around 'vintage' in that last sentence - I think some vintage shops really need to more accurately rename themselves as 'second-hand shops').

Anyway, it was interesting to look to see what is on offer overseas in any case. It has made me realise how lucky I am to live in Melbourne where we have more affordable quality vintage clothing stores (I must note that I haven't yet properly fossicked in LA, New York or Portland, where I suspect all the great 50's clothes are).

Now onto specifics: The best store I visited in Dublin is called 'Lucy's Lounge' in the Temple Bar district. It is decorated in a very funky way, with old children's prams and dollhouses placed up on top of shelves, and is packed with stock. The stock mainly consists of late 60's, 70's and 80's low-end vintage, with lots of things around the Euro 5-10 range (about AUS $8-13). This is not really 'my thing' as I love 40's suits and 50's dresses. However, if you were a student (which most of the customers appeared to be, you would love it). There were a few nice 60's hats, but I was a bit reluctant to take these in my luggage lest they be squashed.

Lucy's Lounge, Temple Bar, Dublin

The interior of Lucy's Lounge - notice the prams hanging on the wall - fabulous!

Some of the stock in Lucy's Lounge. The stock was nicely put out and laundered. No musty smells here!
At the other end of the scale is the very (and I repeat, very) high-end vintage store called 'Jenny Vander'. The prices would make your eyes water! The stock consists of a lot of beaded handbags, jewellery, and vintage dresses that I actually found difficult to date. I presume they were from the 1930's, given that there were around EUR 180 (which is about AUS $300), that is, given that they were pricey, but I am not sure. Perhaps you can be the judge from these photos . . .

Jenny Vander Vintage, Georges St, Dublin

Expensive dresses in window of indeterminate era - perhaps 1930's? (PS sorry for the reflection of glass)

So there you have it, my little tour around Europe, presenting you with my op-shop and vintage store fossicking. I hope I haven't been too negative in reviewing these vintage stores overseas, but I have to say it as I see it and I have to say that for me, the vintage treasures are in Melbourne plus etsy/ebay. I am sure you all have your own opinion about where the vintage treasures are to be found. I hope you have enjoyed my glimpse into far-off vintage lands!

10 May, 2010

Op-shopping in Dublin

I had a lovely time fossicking around the op-shops of Dublin during my recent trip to Europe. Op shops in Ireland are quite similar to those in the UK - a mix of Oxfam, Cancer Society, Age Concern with a smattering of 'independent' ones like the 'Simeon Community' and Catholic-run stores like St Vincents.

Irish Cancer Society op-shop, Camden St, Dublin

Like their UK counterparts, Irish op-shops are very clean and organised and have amazing window displays. I noticed that most of the window displays are not for sale until a certain time and day (usually 10am on a Saturday) so I missed out on trying on and buying some of the really nice stuff, but I can say it looked very nice indeed. The best op-shop I found was called 'Age Concern' in Camden St, Dublin . . .

Window display - Age Concern, Camden St, Dublin

Window display - Age Concern, Camden St, Dublin

Look at that beautiful tea and cup set on the right - divine!
Window display - Age Concern, Camden St, Dublin

I saw these Prada Shoes on sale in the window at 'Age Concern' in Camden Street, but they only went on sale on the day I was leaving Dublin - arghh! They look ultra cute and only EUR 10!! I am sure there would have been a queue outside the door on that day for these shoes.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to spot any real 'vintage' pieces in my travels through the Dublin Op-shops (which was also the case in the UK). Perhaps savvy vintage buyers regularly go through the shops and buy up all the vintage? Or perhaps there is not so much around? In any case, it was good fun to go treasure hunting all the way over in Ireland!

Op shops in Dublin
The main 'drag' for op shops in Dublin is Camden Street, which is within walking distance of the centre of Dublin (eg about 10 mins walk from Trinity College). You can also catch the no. 22 bus. There are also a few op shops, including Oxfam, on Georges Street, which is in the heart of the city.

04 May, 2010

Vintage Chateaux in the Loire Valley

I have been wanting to visit the famous Chateaux of the Loire Valley for ages so it was great to visit some of them on this trip. We took a little tour from Tours (ha ha!) which is the main town in the Loire Valley. We visited two chateaux, the most famous - Chateau Chenonceau - and Chateau Amboise. Chateau Chenonceau was definitely the grander and more interesting of the two. Both the exterior and interior were stunning . . .

Chateau Chenonceau, Loire Valley

Main banquet hall

One of the many magnificient fireplaces - notice the over-eager tourist with his head up the chimney!

Beautiful detail on the ceilings

Re-created interiors such as the kitchen and butchery

OTT picture frames!!

Beautiful 16th century cabinet

These photos represent only a small part of the interior of the chateaux - there were many rooms with gorgeous furniture and paintings. I absolutely loved it so I would encourage you to try to get there if you are over in Europe.

 Vintage Sububia at Chateau Chenonceau, Loire Valley
Outfit: Cardy: Laura Ashley, Bag: Paris; skirt - etsy; Boots Sandler

03 May, 2010

Cycling in style through the Loire Valley vineyards

I love France and, in particular, French wine, so it was a dream come true to spend three days in the Loire Valley sampling red wine with my dear hubby. We left our two children with my parents-in-law in Dublin so we were 'sans enfants' as they say in France - parfait!. We went cycling through the villages and vineyards surrounding the town of Chinon on our first day in the Loire and it was absolutely fabulous. I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone who loves France and/or French wine. There is a formal cycling route all around the Loire Valley (velo de la Loire I think they call it) so it was very safe and the bicycles are very cheap to rent.

Vintage Suburbia, Loire Valley
You will notice the vines are very bare - I think they cut them back during winter (a bit like what is done with roses)

As you will see, even though I was cycling I tried not to look too shabby, so wore my standard travelling outfit, black Laura Ashley top, black pants, hat and pearls. Just because I am a tourist doesn't mean I want to look like one! I find that this is very important in France, where sloppy dressing is often interpreted as rudeness (and I totally agree with them on that score!). I also try to be 'sun smart' with a hat and gloves.

During our cycle, we came across a French wedding at an old church. As you can imagine, the guests were immaculately dressed, with the ladies all wearing hats. The wearing of hats is very much the 'done thing' at European weddings - my mother in law who is Irish, wore one at our wedding and was a bit perplexed that the other guests were hatless. Unfortunately I was unable to wait around to photograph the bride, but I did get a few photos of the groom and his friends and some of the guests . . .

A French wedding, Loire valley - the groom was obviously a member of the military - look at those gorgeous uniforms (and those gorgeous French men!!)

The hotel where we stayed in Chinon, called 'Hotel Gargantua' was fabulous and I would thoroughly recommend it. It is an old turreted tower place with a winding staircase and old fashioned, light-filled rooms . .

 Hotel Gargantua, Chinon, Loire valley.
Outfit: Vintage Asquaculture trench coat - from my relative; Red bag: from one of those cheap luggage shops in Chadstone - I don't take vintage bags with me overseas - they get bashed around too much and I always need a fairly roomy bag for glasses, passports etc.

The 'Pirochole' room, Hotel Gargantua, Chinon

I loved the little alcove next to the room - so me! (and perfect for blogging!)

Outfit: blouse: opp shop in Murembeena, Melbourne; skirt - my Mum's

The above outfit is also, along with the black shirt/pant outfit above, one of my other travel 'staples' - a classic skirt and pussy bow blouse. I find this outfit is great as it is so versatile - you can wear this sort of classic outfit to work meetings, with flat shoes for walking around towns, and then dress it up a little with jewellry for going out to dinner in the evening. The synthetic material of the blouse is also great as you can wash it at night and it is dry the following morning.

I hope you are enjoying reading about my trip through Europe - please let me know if you are interested in knowing more about any of the area I have travelled through - my next post will feature the beautiful chateaux of the Loire Valley!

01 May, 2010

The little gems of Paris - chocolate and pussy bow blouses!

Like everyone, I love Paris so it was great to spend a few days there on this trip. My favourite area in Paris is definitely the Marais district near the Hotel de Ville (Paris 'Town Hall') and St Paul metro station. There are lots of cobbled streets with cute little boutiques, cafes and boulangeries. I saw some very cute outfits at a little shop called 'Antoine and Lili' at 52 rue Franc Bourgeois in the Marais district, including this great polka-dotted pussy bow blouse . . .

Clothes in Paris are not cheap, for instance, this blouse was EUR135, which is about AUS $160 (I think, the exchange rate keeps changing all the time!) but you do get quality. I have to say that the vintage shops in Paris are very disappointing, so I did not visit any of those on this trip. I find the vintage stores in Paris have either low-end cheap and nasty vintage or over-priced ugly designer stuff from the 1980's and nothing much in between. They also don't really have a lot of 1950's items, which is my favourite decade.

However, that is all made up for by the fact that the food is absolutely fantastic in Paris! I have put on so much weight since I have been away as I have been having chocolate eclairs and creme brulees every single day - shocking. Here are some of my favourite foodie spots in Marais:

Patisserie, 32 rue de Turenne, Marais district, Paris

Outfit: skirt - my Mum's wool crepe from the 1980's
Cardi: Laura Ashley, a few seasons ago
Bag: cute Art Deco print from cheap souvenir place near the River Seine bridges

There is a great chocolate shop at 39 rue d'Anciennes which makes chocolate Eiffel Towers and even chocolate CD's!

Au revoir from Paris!