Happy Weekend!

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With the school weeks slowly coming to end, I sure am looking forward to sleeping for just an hour or two, though the Duke sure does agonise waking up while I’m snugly tucked in my cocoon of warmth. There is no rest for the poor Duke; he doesn’t get school holidays like me. However, he does get holiday pay/sick leave/superannuation/any pay that the average bear receives from a big company. As a freelancer, when I stop working, the money stops coming in. And so I have to find my ways of keeping a continuous flow in the holidays, may it be the odd workshop for my piano students or a holiday music camp that I may be so fortunate to teach and be a part of. But enough about money. The long awaited weekend is here! And as usual, here are some links from around the globe for you to enjoy.

Until next week!

DIY: speaking of globes, why not give this diy chalkboard a go?

Stay: wouldn’t it be glorious to stay at JK Place Capri? Sublime.

Home: some lovely design for your hallway or bedroom.

Etiquette: Thank you cards. So simple yet I am sure they bring much joy to the recipient.

Drink Up: the Old Fashioned

-The Fine Duchess

Image via Lonny Magazine (Issue: October/November 2010)

Latte Art

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Have you ever been a barista? If so, do you remember the first time you saw someone pour a rosetta or a heart for you? Did you feel that bubbling sense of joy inside, having witnessed something so simple yet truly amazing? And then you think, how hard can it be (at least that’s what I thought), only to feel much despair when you realise that it’s a fair bit harder than it looks. And then the sheer excitement of pouring your first heart. And then the rosetta (which you just had to show everyone). I’m still working on my tulips but with lots of practise, the end result doesn’t look too far away.

There is an article in the current issue of Barista Magazine (June-July 2013) (beginning on page 64) about latte art and the positive impacts it has on the customer when executed well (on a side note,  when I receive a cup of coffee where the art was well attempted but not quite achieved, there are still smiles around the table). In addition to the main article, the side bars are very useful in trouble shooting the art of a good pour, as well as offering many useful tips from the professionals.

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“Before you pour a drop, though, one thing is crucial to master: milk quality. Beautifully textured, microfoamed milk is the single most important part of creating and improving your art…Listen to how it (the milk) sounds and feels by touch to really get to know where it has to be.”

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Now please excuse me as I head over to my little coffee machine and practise my tulips. Hope you’re a having a wonderful day!

-T.

PS. If you don’t have a subscription, you can read it online here. And don’t forget to turn to page 64 for the article.

Images: 1 | 2 | 3

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Gin

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The perfect accessory for your gin? A Gin Wheel of course! The highly esteemed design firm, AvroKO, have collaborated with Bombay Sapphire East Gin to create the perfect item for entertaining your guests on those balmy summer nights. What? You say it’s winter here in Perth? Oh well, perhaps the Duke can purchase one for me and we can pull it out when the leaves are once again green and the flowers are in full bloom.

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Seriously though, this sophisticated Lazy Susan inspired wheel is one toy that will amaze even the most cynical of guests. Each unit is finely handcrafted from walnut wood and when opened up, reveals a bountiful treasure of all that is required to create the celebrated Gin & Tonic.  Amongst the treasures are your high quality bar tools, specialty gin & tonic glassware, specially branded wooden coasters as well as removable cutting boards. Well I must say, that really is quite fancy, no?

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At a dear $500, this toy may just have to wait until Christmas (or my birthday next year…). A girl can always dream, can’t she? For those who feel that you just need the Gin Wheel, you can purchase it at The Future Perfect. Just don’t forget to invite me over for a drink. Deal?

-The Fine Duchess

PS. I first discovered the Gin Wheel over on Design Milk. If you have some time, I do encourage you to saunter over and fill up on your daily dose of design.

Tomboy

Over the weekend, the Duke and I had a quiet night away from the stormy weather and watched Stephen Fry‘s Bright Young Things, a film adaptation of  Evelyn Waugh’s 1930 novel Vile Bodies. Of all the characters in the film, I must say that I was truly charmed by Agatha Runcible (played by Fenella Woolgar) who finished a majority of her sentences with “daaaarling!” Not only that, her tomboy-esque ensembles are quite the envy:

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The tuxedo. I must say that it looks really quite good on her. With her sharp features and endearing bob, it is perfect for her and I can’t quite imagine her in a dress full of frills and lace.

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Though the ensemble above may seem rather masculine, with a leather jacket paired with a suit and tie, the feminine touches are all in the details here. The black beret must be all the rage in London during 1930s as it is sported by so many characters in the film. Add to that a sweet pink and yellow scarf and quite the most interesting gloves – black and white thin diagonal stripes, with long black tips for the fingers and a slanted cut off at the wrists; they seem, to me, to be rather fitting for Cruella de Vil. On second thoughts, Cruella de Vil is not nearly as chic as Agatha and wouldn’t do any justice to the gloves.

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Aah, the tweed suit. So befitting of Agatha, and the yellow tie matching the beautiful yellow vest of supporting actor Miles (played by Michael Sheen). Don’t they just look grand? I don’t often see people in my city dressed up like that these days. And just one more photo to finish the round up on Agatha’s amazing tomboy style:

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…my my, doesn’t she just look eccentric?! With the classic driving goggles perching on top of that blonde bob and a wide smile on her face, she looks like she enjoying herself, does she not?

And the scenery. Don’t even get me started. Perhaps a post for another rainy day? Who knows.

Hope you’re all having a good start to the week. Only two more weeks left before it is once again the school holidays. And I can then spend my days lounging around the house and doing absolutely nothing and being absolutely useless, all in the name of taking a break and relaxing, of course.

-The Fine Duchess

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Happy Weekend!

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And it is the weekend! With little on the agenda, I can imagine that mine will be filled curled up on the couch going through past issues of Emma Magazine and Lonny. As usual, below are a few links for the weekend:

Fashion: Have you been following the resort collections? Diana from Miss Moss shares her top 30.

Design: Simple and sweet decor by Melbourne based studio Middle of Nowhere

Travel: Perhaps Madrid should be on the agenda for my next destination

Bedroom: Wouldn’t this be the perfect bedside table? Or perhaps you’d prefer something more avante garde?

Drink Up: Went to our local favourite The Classroom Bar and had a sample of their delicious Wild Wimbledon Punch, a hot gin punch made with Hendrick’s gin strawberries and cream tea, blood orange liqueur, and served with a macaron.

What will you be up to this weekend?

-The Fine Duchess

PS. Where do you go for Friday night/Saturday night drinks? I’ve been looking into other bars that are around North Perth and the city but the Duke insists on The Classroom, as they deliver every single time and are very consistent. Any suggestions?

Image via 1st Pancake Studio

Dumb Ways To Die

Clever marketing by Melbourne’s Metro Trains. It even won two out of the coveted four top honours on the first day of awards at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

The campaign message featured in the video: of all the stupid ways to die, acting unsafely around trains is the most inane.* Go and have a laugh. Watch this video. Maybe even pick up a few life lessons on certain situations to avoid.

Hope you’re having a lovely day!

-The Fine Duchess

Video via Red Meets Blue Design. Song written by The Cat Empire‘s Ollie McGill (keyboards).

*quoted from USA Today

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Coffee Break

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…and to think that it is Wednesday already and half the week has gone by. Perhaps that’s a good thing; it means that we are closer to the weekend and days filled with sleeping in our cocoons whilst the storm clouds loom dark overhead and the dew daintily sits upon the rugged grass.

You’ve made it through half the week already. Go treat yourself and take a little coffee break. You can download the quaint wallpaper above at right here.

-The Fine Duchess

Image (and link) by A Pair of Pears via How About Orange

Piano Lessons

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Did you ever take piano lessons as a child? If you did, how old were you when you first began?

I remember my first piano lesson at the not-so-young age of eight and three quarters years old : it was a cold autumn night when my dad took me to my first lesson.  Walking up to the door, we rang the door bell, only to be scolded for doing so as their baby was sleeping. Goodness, what a great way to begin my first lesson. My teacher’s name was Mrs Anderson. After a quick introduction to the piano (simply pointing out the black and white keys, and how the keys are grouped into twos and threes), we began looking through my very first piano book – Bastein’s Piano Basics, Primer Level. I learnt the numbering on my fingers, from my thumbs to my pinkies, and discovered that only seven letters of the alphabet are used in music – beginning at A and ending at G. For an eight-and-three-quarters year old, this was rather fascinating.

It would be a nice story if I said that I stayed with Mrs Anderson through my adolescence years but the reality is that I began lessons with another teacher less than a year after my first lesson, right after my Preliminary exam. Though my mum is not a trained musician, she has always and still does love music very much and was highly involved in my piano lessons, listening to me practise and ensuring that I was doing what was outlined in my music journal. After a few months, she noticed that when I played the piano, my wrists were sitting really quite low and my fingers looked rather tense. She went to Mrs Anderson with this concern but my teacher brushed it off as something I will grow out of and insisted that my mum should not be worried. However, being the diligent parent she was, she consulted the opinions of a few close friends and watched their children play the piano, coming to the conclusion that having one’s wrists sit so low and playing with tense fingers really was not the way to go. And so off she went to find me a new teacher.

Looking back today, I am truly grateful to my mum. Playing the music well and accurate but doing so with bad posture and tense hands is definitely not the best way to approach playing the piano. There is more to it than making a few strings resonate and producing a pleasant sound – the physical side of piano (as in the way the hands move in relation to the rest of your body) is very important, despite many teachers in our society seeming to pay little attention to this fact. Where possible, one should be using the least amount of energy possible but yet be producing the best tone and sound. When all muscles and joints are moving well together, playing the piano (not necessarily reading the notes) should be easy! It should be as natural as walking.

I remember when I was in my year one music class,  all the children that played the piano were allowed to use the glockenspiels, but those who had no experience were handed the percussion instruments. I didn’t mind the maracas or the clave sticks at first but after a few lessons, I found it unfair that my instrument produced only one sound whilst the glockenspiels produced a much larger range. And it sounded so pretty!

I was never a very good liar. Not only that, I have been described over the many years to be a very sweet child and a straight A student. But the incident with the colourful glockenspiels had me in such envy and I felt so unfairly treated that I crossed the line (especially in the mind of this little six year old) – I lied. My music teacher must have had a very bad memory because when she asked the crucial question of which skilled child had experience playing the beast of the piano, I inconspicuously raised my hand and she didn’t even blink. Surprised at not being caught out, I was overjoyed and quickly picked up the extraordinary skill that was a prerequisite for even going near the bright sounding instrument.

But guilt gripped me so tightly that I confessed to my mum and told her all about the incident. After a gentle warning of the consequences of lying, all was well. But my mum could no longer deny the affect that music had on me – she sought out my first piano teacher and as the saying goes, the rest is history.

-The Fine Duchess

PS. Were you forced into lessons or did you willingly attend them? Did you give up the piano at a young age? Any regrets? Chris Cornell sure did regret it.

Image via the bluegrass special

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Marilyn

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Over the past few days, I have had the soundtrack from the film “My Week With Marilyn” (starring Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Emma Watson) on constant replay. Not sure if it is the boisterous jazz that bursts through with little warning or the melancholic melody of Marilyn’s theme that has me feeling so wistful. Perhaps it was the delicate piano lines played by classical pianist Lang Lang that convinced me to look up the transcription of the beautiful theme.

The melody is so simple. It begins in a tone that yearns for happiness and yet is so lonely. And just when you think that the future is so too bleak to comprehend, the clouds miraculously part to reveal the smallest ray of sunshine.  Though the theme ends on a happier note, it still feels as if that happiness is tainted and not quite as it seems, as is revealed in the film.

Lang Lang plays the piano excerpts in the film with such depth and lyricism but credit must also be given to Conrad Pope and Alexandre Desplat. Some of the tracks, such as “Colin Runs Off With The Circus” and “Eton Schoolyard,” are indeed very charming and have been described to be rather George Gershwin-esque. For them to be followed by  the dramatic track of “Arthur’s Notebook” or the bittersweet “Colin’s Heartbreak” shows that the film score has been very well written and would surely satisfy those with a classical background (such as myself). In fact, upon listening to “Colin’s Heartbreak,” I came away thinking that the flute, clarinet and oboe are quite the admirable trio and are so very suited together.

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On another note, I found myself thinking that whilst the flute was so warm and tender in “Colin’s Heartbreak,” it was quite a contrast in it’s appearance in “Paparazzi” (around the 1 minute, 20 seconds mark) – I never realised that flutes could be written in such a way to sound so… seductive. Who would’ve thought! It just goes to show you how much I have yet to learn.

Overall, the soundtrack is a pleasure to listen to and I highly recommend it.

Do you often look up film soundtracks? What are your favourites?

-The Fine Duchess

PS. if you’re curious and want to try your hand at playing the beautiful piano theme, a transcription can be found here. Good luck!

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  • Rain (from Disney’s Bambi)
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The Trench

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As the mornings get colder, I look through my coats and jackets and find myself longing for the ideal coat that should have a space in everyone’s wardrobe but seems to be missing in mine – the iconic trench coat. And then, for me to go online and peruse through my favourite blogs doesn’t help either; I seem to be constantly reminded of the versatility of such a well cut coat and how flattering it is. This all brings to mind the fantastic collaboration between The Sartorialist’s Scott Schumann with Burberry in Art of the Trench.

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Does everyone not look simply sublime?

Do you have a trench? Or are you still patiently waiting to find the right one (or in my case, saving up for one)?

-The Fine Duchess

PS. How to tie the belt of your trench

All images via The Sartorialist for Burberry’s Art of the Trench

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