Two weddings and a baby bump.

I’m at that age, and have been for some time, where weddings are a frequent occurrence in our social calendar. I have two weddings coming up, a week apart, with the same group of friends – and I’ll be 36 and 37 weeks pregnant respectively at each.

Sartorial challenge accepted!

I think that each wedding will be quite different in style – Wedding #1 will be a modern, stylish, formal affair, whereas Wedding #2 will be a low-key, offbeat, relaxed event. And as the guests at one will be many of the guests of the other, I can’t get away with one dress with different accessories!

Option 1 below is a satin knee-length dress from Ripe Maternity. I have tried one one and it was … ok. I felt pretty dowdy but I’m not sure how much of that was the dress and how much was me. A plus would be that I could also wear it to a wedding in February with the same people and easily breastfeed, so I think that one repeat wear amongst the same crowd would be ok. At $180 it’s reasonably priced too, but I wasn’t so keen on squidging into a size XL!

Option 2 is a dress from Two Birds Bridesmaids, which is where my bridesmaids’ dresses were from and I just loved them. I’d probably get versatile knee-length black. They can be wrapped many different ways and worn with a bandeau underneath. The plus here is that they are not specifically maternity wear, although they are preg-friendly, so could happily be re-worn as a LBD for many years. However, they are the most expensive of all the options at $340.

Option #3 is a similar idea to the Two Birds Dress – a multi-wrap LBD. This one has gold backing, but doesn’t come with a bandeau so the back exposure factor is high. It’s about $200 which is cheaper than the Two Birds dresses. Jessica Alba likes it though …

Option #4 is the classic cocktail dress. I’m not really a fan of high necklines on me as they don’t suit my decolletage (ie: boobs) but this one is quite cute. At $230 I’m not sure I would want a dress that covers up my best and sometimes only assets!

Option #5 might be too hot if it’s a summery day, and I don’t think that the length is flattering, but I like the print and think it could be re-used. It’s also a cheapie at $100-ish. On the other hand, I suspect it could look frumpy in real life.

Option #6 is a lovely cut but only comes in this cobalt and at over $200 I think it’s too much to invest in such a shocking colour!

Crave Grecian dress from QueenBee Maternity.

I’m not sure what I’ll land on; I have dropped my days to 4 a week and only have 5 weeks of work left so there will be plenty of time for sorties to the shops (although many of these are online so postage time needs to be factored in). I suspect that Wedding #2 might be best served by a non-maternity summer maxi, which could be easily sourced with minimal effort and lots of choice. For Wedding #1 I am very tempted by a Two Birds dress for future usage purposes but might need to do some swift talking about the cost-per-wear principle!

As for accessories, shoes will be whatever fits and whatever I can bear to wear for an extended period of time! Some sparkly flat sandals will probably be the go. For Wedding #1, the more formal event, I’ll crack out the rocks and wear my NTRHR, and diamond pendant and diamond drop earrings, both my own wedding jewellery. Worn jewels are alive jewels! For Wedding #2 I think I can look for more fun and out-there stuff, and will probably have a good sniff around Lovisa for some bright and cheerful accessories. I wonder if these neons are too much?! I like 5 and 15 but 2 might be pushing it!

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Update: Operation Pick-Me-Up

Update on the weekend’s purchases made under Operation Pick-Me-Up:

1. The Grown face wash is lovely and looks very nice indeed on the vanity. I’ve been using it to rinse my face in the morning, which is about as much effort as I can muster. Only the tiniest bit is required – the frothing action is commendable given the lack of Sodium Laureth Sulphate (or is it Lauryl?). Verdict: Win.

2. The A’kin facial scrub is a bit weird – it smells as funny as ‘jojo and corn’ would suggest and the actual exfoliant bits are few and far between. I’ve been using it as a face wash/makeup remover in the shower, which is most convenient. However it isn’t making me feel spesh as I’m too busy concentrating on its odd smell. I’ll use it up then replace it with something from Sukin I think. Verdict: Fail.

3. The L’Oreal EverSleek conditioner and serum are the business. I haven’t had a single morning of my usual ’80s rockstar perm gone wrong’ hair since I’ve been using it. The ‘do is still quite frightful first thing, but nowhere near as laughable. Verdict: Win.

4. I don’t think I mentioned buying this, but I finally remembered to get a barrel brush for blow-drying my hair. I gave it a go on Sunday and I think it’s my technique rather than the brush that’s at fault. – I’m really a GHD girl. Verdict: More Practice Required; Still Under Review.

5. The Chanel sunnies are winners-plus, even though I’ve been scrounging for opportunities to put them on in this weather. I am really pleased with their sun-shading abilities, face-comfort, and general feeling of swishness. Verdict: Mega Win.

So did the shopping make me feel like I had the energy to spend a bit more time on myself? I think so. I still haven’t mani-pedi-ed, cleaned my jewellery or gone for a walk, but I have made an appointment at the hairdresser, remembered to shave my legs before seeing my musculo-skeletal therapist, have returned to using eyeliner, and all-around Saturday was a hugely productive day* and that in and of itself makes me feel pretty darn good.

Shopping FTW.

 

* ALL of our moving boxes are now unpacked; our bookshelves are securely in situ and have books on them; the nursery has made great progress with a pretty display Expedit and only one thing being stored in there; everything that belongs in the study is now in the study; I folded and put away two weeks of washing; and as mentioned we are now returned to a state of modesty in our bathroom with the installation of a blind)

Bling Bling.

I’ve been musing a bit about jewellery lately. I usually wear the same favourite, meaningful pieces every day but seeing as I have more meaningful pieces that I have body parts to legitimately wear them on, I’ve been instituting a casual rotation. Taking out something new each day has reminded me about why I have that piece, when I got it, and what it means to me. It’s been a nice trip down memory lane, but has also made me think more about our personal adornment. 

The Krupp Diamond (now the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond). 33.19 carats, D VS1 (potentially IF). On December 16, 2011 the diamond was sold on auction by Christie’s for $8,818,500 (including buyer’s premium), setting a record price per carat ($265,697) for a colorless diamond (Wikipedia).

I am a jewellery person. From wide-eyed admiring the scale and sparkle of my parents’ friend’s (massive) engagement ring as a small child, to falling desperately in love with the work of Rene Lalique and Louis Comfort Tiffany as an adult, my attraction to the three dimensional, tangible art forms has always won out.

See how I equated jewellery with art there? Because I think it is. Most of it anyway – as with all artforms, there is the sublime, the controversial, the middle-of-the-road, and the simply crap.   

Rene Lalique’s Dragonfly Woman. My favourite of anything ever.

The first thing for me is the workmanship, the skill of the artisan – it’s the design, the execution, the manipulation of precious metals and gems to make something useable and wearable and ‘real’. I love the tangibility of it – that I can touch and feel and move it myself, and not have to admire it from a distance. Something hand-made is precious in and of itself for the work and thought it involves, and the knowledge that the tiniest of tiny millimetres can make the difference between a piece soaring or sinking. When things are mass-produced too, there can be beauty in both the form and the intent. I love the story behind Elsa Peretti for Tiffany’s ‘Diamonds by the Yard’ – it was created so that every working girl (a dated concept, but summing up the new emancipated and self-sufficient breed of young woman of the time) could wear diamonds every day. This is jewellery acting as both status symbol and democratic equaliser all at once, because jewellery is a powerful signifier of who we are. 

Diamonds By The Yard.

I think this is true both internally and externally. Internally because we select items that appeal to our personal aesthetics and that are often chosen by us to commemorate a significant event in our lives, and externally because we are choosing to show something of that to the world, and this is coupled with a number of other markers that jewellery carries around price, taste and status. Jewellery is also a more permanent display of these things, as when we choose ‘good’ jewellery we usually intend that it will be with us for a while and that we will wear it reasonably frequently. Unlike clothing (although also a powerful marker of status) which we discard at the end of the day and probably replace more readily as fashions change, jewellery is often chosen to last a significant period of time and is therefore a more considered and longer-term view of the self. Jewellery can be what we want to represent us now and in the future. The same cannot be said of a pair of bumster jeans.

That’s how to wear jewels.

Each piece I have is not encrusted with gems or dripping in platinum, but I have tried to buy the best quality I could at the time (in itself a potted history). I believe in buying quality things as much as possible, if they are to be used for a long time, or heavily. This isn’t to say I don’t love the odd piece of tatty plastic delight from Diva or Lovisa, and in fact some fun paste can often be just the ticket, on trend and budget friendly. But these things are reserved for fun and giggles, not for long-lasting memories and heirlooms. 

The Taylor Burton Diamond. 69.42 carats in a pear shaped cut, now cut by its owner to 68 carats. After divorcing Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor auctioned the diamond for $5 million, with the proceeds building a hospital in Botswana.

The second, and most important, thing for me about jewellery is in its emotional significance. Jewellery has historically been created for and used as a marker of events  – sad (see memento mori jewellery) to solemn and significant (see the Crown Jewels, or wedding rings) to joyous (I would put the modern-day ‘push present’ in this category, or perhaps more traditionally the use of jewellery as a gift for birthdays or anniversaries). We choose something permanent and beautiful to remind us of something or someone or some time, knowing that by wearing the memento close to us we are close to the memory behind it. As wedding rings symbolise connection and permanence between a couple, when passed down in families they tie us to those before us who we loved and remember. The same could be said for other items of personal used that are designed with form as well as function in min – watches, pens or cigarette cases, for example. The day before my wedding my mother-in-law gave me a powder compact that her father had bought for her. It was a way to connect me to her family, and it couldn’t have been a sweeter thing to do. Has anyone ever passed down a pair of underpants or a pair of toenail clippers? Thought not. Not the same. A nail file isn’t art, but a silver-backed hairbrush is. 

My own ‘collection’ (ha! Elizabeth Taylor’s collection is not threatened) ranges from my grandmother’s wedding ring that my dad gave to me on my twelfth birthday, to  my own wedding rings, to various things I have bought to mark an emotional phase in my life. I wear each and every one, and I remember each and every reason that I bought each and every piece – and if I also happened to buy things just because they were beautiful, then I remember that too.

I like that it’s a collection of similar things. If I had been given a laptop to celebrate finishing university and a nice set of sheets for a birthday and a lamp for Christmas, I would still appreciate it as a gift but I just don’t think that it would add to a roadmap of important things, people, places and experiences in my life. Much as the organisation principle ‘store like with like’ applies to my house, I think that by collecting in this way I am creating a bit of a capsule of things that I both love and that provide a deeper connection with something important. A gift of a foot spa wouldn’t have the same effect. 


A night of firsts.

On our monthiversary (one month of wedded bliss), we hightailed it to Candle 79 for a slap up dinner.

A couple of Acquisitions had their maiden voyage: my Burberry olive sateen evening jacket that I practically stole from Nordstrom Rack it was so reduced (68% off); and a new cheap but adorably cute pair of Madden Girl by Steve Madden heels.

Also revealed to the adoring public for the first time was my night time RHR (NTRHR, not to be confused with One’s day time RHR or DTRHR), which I haggled (somewhat) for in NYC’s Diamond District on W 47th St. It’s a smokey quartz (nothing fancy) surrounded by two haloes of white and cognac diamonds (which are my favouritest part; Sass I’m thinking of you here), set in rose gold. I have to admit I’m pretty swayed by the size of baubles and this one is definitely on the knuckleduster scale. I can’t link on the iPad but once I can I’ll link to the shop I went to, as they were good to deal with and not at all pushy unlike many of the dealers on 47th.

As a side note: I researched this, both vendor and stone. When you go to the Diamond District, unless you’re in the market for serious bling of such magnitude that reputations ride on it, it’s pretty much caveat emptor and I wasn’t prepared to go and deal entirely on trust.

Speaking of serious bling, apart from the big kids on 5th Ave where you would expect to see bird egg sized rocks, I have never seen so many 10 carat plus ginormo-stones ever as I have in 47th. Really puts Australia’s market in sharp perspective. Eeeek.

*Why yes, that is my husband brushing his teeth in the background of photo 1.

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More in the way of Acquisitions.

The Honeymoon and the Acquiring continue. Buzz and I are currently in Chicago, which is full to the brim of breathtaking buildings and a has a very Londonesque feel. We’ve been through Portland too since my last post on Acquisitioning, where we were lucky enough to view the Colombia Gorge from a lookout, spend time with very old family friends, and sample far far too much of the local brewing.

It was also in Portland that Buzz and I were introduced to the wonder that is Nordstrom Rack. We had already visited Nordstrom, an upmarkety department store, in LA and San Francisco, and were highly impressed and jealous of the the outstanding customer service. Take note Myer and DJs! Nordstrom Rack is Nordstrom’s ugly but much more cost efficient stepsister. I have snaffled some excellent bargains at Nordstrom Rack, and were I a leather-wearer, my suitcase would be bursting at its seams with designer bags and shoes too. The price reductions are substantial, and even moreso for us.

And so … to the purchases.

My denim desires continued, and at Nordstrom Rack I bought two pairs of Hudson straight leg jeans with Carly pockets, one pair in a medium blue and one in black. At $176 reduced to $99 each, they were a snip of the $250+ I saw Hudsons for in a local boutique before I left. I love the flap pockets and the Union Jack detail, and the denim is ultra-superdooper-soft and comfortable. The pairs I bought have two buttons but are similar to the images below.

Hudon Straight Leg Jeans with Carly Pocket
Hudson Carly Pocket.

Given that certain items such as shoes, boots, winter coats and handbags are so hard to find without animal content, when I find something I like and that is decent quality I tend to give myself a bit of latitude about buying it. Very convenient arrangement really. I really liked the olive colour, gold hardware and quality PVC (yes such a thing exists) of this Steve Madden handbag. It’s also big enough to stash a few extra goodies so is perfect for Melbourne’s usual weather which requires that you cart around sunglasses, an umbrella, an extra layer of clothes, and a book. (Please forgive the yellow tint; I’m trying to photograph in surprisingly dim hotel light).

Steve Madden handbag.

I was looking for a bracelet to complement a dress I bought for a friend’s upcoming wedding (no pics of that one – you’ll have to wait for the full reveal!). The dress is various shades of periwinkle, aqua and blue with gold highlight flecks and a gold and brown brocade on the straps. As I intend to crack out the diamonds for this wedding, which are all set in white gold, I needed a statement piece to tie in the yellow gold of the dress and the white gold of my jewellery (it’s bollocks you can’t wear them together; it’s all in the execution).

This Kate Spade chunky ‘Lynx’ bracelet from Nordstrom does the trick, using ivory and black to complement cooler colours and yellow gold and tortoiseshell to play up warmth. According to the website, it’s resin and 14 karat light gold plating (what is light gold??). Combined with my white gold and citrine RHR, it makes those golds play nicely together. So far I’ve managed to wear it with every outfit I’ve put on since I bought it, so it’s proving its mettle (or metal …) very well. It will also work with my darlings, my Tom Ford Rickie sunglasses in chocolate enamel and pale rose gold. Can’t wait to put the whole thing together and fingers crossed it will all meld together as well in real life as it does in my head!

Kate Spade bracelet.
Kate Spade bracelet.

Have I told you that I love a bit of lurex? I love a bit of lurex. I bought this cheap but fabulous light gold sweatshirt-top thing from Old Navy for a song. It’s like a pimped up tracky top. Boo-yah.

Old Navy lurex jumper.
Old Navy Lurex jumper.

It’s no secret that I love blazers; it’s the School Captain in me. I bought this BCBG Max Azria one from Nordstrom Rack, where it was slyly hidden in one of their monstrously overstuffed racks. I really like the pocket details, the nod to the trenchcoat, and cropped length. In real life it’s a browny-grey but is a better colour than that sounds.

BCBG Max Azria blazer.
BCBG Max Azria blazer – pocket detail.
BCBG Max Azria blazer – sleeve detail.
BCBG Max Azria blazer – back detail.

This one’s for you Erin! Old Navy giraffe print scarf – surprisingly versatile. I love an animal print used as a neutral; it makes me feel like Joan Collins.

Old Navy giraffe print scarf.

And finally … drum roll please … cue the trumpets, Maestro … the piece de resistance …

My new Burberry frock coat in olive sateen. Love love love – loved the price (It was in the region of “CanyoubelieveitnoIcan’tthat’sthemagicofNordstromRack”); the sizing (oh those Americans with their big food portions and little clothing sizes); the fit (long enough to be reminiscent of a full trench but short enough to wear as an inside coat);  and how I just know this will be a wardrobe go-to staple for years to come. On a cost-per-wear basis I estimate that over the years I will get it down to about, say, something small enough to dance on the head of a pin.  Now please allow me the indulgence of bombarding you with photos.

Poor photo but most accurate colour.

Shoulder detail.
Burberry pocket detail.
Love that sizing.

Oh sigh. I can’t wait to take this baby for a spin.

The Acquisitions

I am nothing if not efficient. My “To Purchase” list is largely complete within Week 1 of La Honeymoon – with cash and time to spare. And to be clear, as an Advocate of Responsible Acquisition, all Acquisitions were purchased with cash and no credit cards were harmed in the making of this post.

Without further ado, here are the Acquisitions so far:

Jeans

I was after, attentive readers may recall, denim of brands that are either unavailable or prohibitively pricey in Aus. My other requirements are: low-waisted (those of us apples with bellies do not appreciate being tourniqueted in two by high risers); dark-ish; not scruffy; and legs that are either skinny but not too skinny or straight but not on the bootcut side. Further, any leather embellishments render them un-vegan and therefore o.u.t.

True Religion ‘Julie’

These True Religion ‘Julies’ have already proved their mettle, softening comfortably after I was convinced into vainly purchasing a size down. They’re a thicker weight denim but have been fine to wear in low-20s temperatures. I love the buttoned-down pockets. (PSA: Buy True Religion in the States for about half what you’d pay in Melbourne).

True Religion ‘Julie’

I have mixed feelings about Guess. On the one hand, they produce a lot of non-leather handbags and wallets, meaning I can shop other places than the Target accessories section (which is fine, but not exclusively). I also happily bought my favourite evaaaaah white and navy striped with red contrast stitching blazer from there. Add to this column a lot of wing-tip eyeliner on their models, always a plus for me. On the other: I can’t get over a certain ickiness. I feel a little too old, a little under-blinged in their stores. Fine, a lot too old.

Guess Daredeveil (with a lil’ bling)

But I did like these ‘Daredevil’ jeans, which have – horror of restrained elegance horror – a blinged up front button and little butt patch. It’s not overboard and I think could work evening-wise. I haven’t worn them yet but as I again went a size down, I’m hoping there will be another adequate stretch.

Guess ‘Daredeveil’ – and a sparkly bottom

Accessories

I couldn’t resist. I know that in certain circles Crocs elicit cries of revulsion, but these are cute. OK? They’re cute. And comfy, which is exactly what I needed after 8 hours of tramping around.

Crocs ‘Adrina’ flats

I also bought a $20 pair of metallic ballet flats from Old Navy which don’t really merit a photo, and a giraffe-print $12 scarf from the same which I love and which has proven very useful in San Francisco’s miserably chilly winds.

Toy Watch ‘Plasteramic’ with crystal

I’d been planning to buy a chunky, plasticy-ceramicy watch, maybe in white, and didn’t want to spend to much on a ‘fun’ watch. I had a good look around brands which are affordably priced in the US like Michael Kors and Marc by Marc Jacobs, and flipflopped between clear plastic, rose gold and chronograph styles, and even a blond plastic tortoiseshell. After lusting after a ceramic Michele watch with diamonds, I happily settled on this Toy Watch. My friend gifted herself a Toy Watch as a push-present-to-self, and I’ve liked their fun aesthetic since. On this model I liked the small bling adding some interest without really cranking up the sparkle (I have this thing that overly blinged pieces make your real bling look fake. I’m like that). Incidentally, this was about 60-70% of what I would expect to be charged at home – my new policy is that it’s tacky to talk money except when you’re pointing out price-gouging.

Gucci ‘GG1933’

Speaking of bling, how’s that gold?! My case doesn’t look like that, but my sunnies do. I wanted a pair of aviators – a classic style – but with a bit of freshness. I often go for white in accessories but you have to be very very careful – it’s a fine line between the Riviera and Fountain Gate. This pair combine the classic Gucci patch in a colourway I wear often – navy, white and red – and fit my face well.

Tragically (yes, forget the newspapers – this is the real tragedy of the day), on their second outing I dropped this pair face down in a toilet stall under the Santa Monica pier. Scratches. Whining. Boo hoo. I returned to the store hoping they could help with something, even though it was very clearly all my fault. The lovely owner of Ottica on Sunset Boulevard, Garen, not only offered to replace the scratched lenses with a better quality pair for cost price, but on hearing that we were leaving LA the next morning, he cut them on the spot. All I lost was a little Gucci mark on the top corner, and gained a whole lot of gratefulness for Garen’s excellent service. Ottica are happy to ship internationally so feel free to contact them if you’d like to buy (no kickback for me here; just paying it forward).

Tom Ford ‘Rickie’

Ahh Tom Ford. I have been devoted to your signature cross-over nose thingy for … let me count … about five years now. Indeed, until early this year when a gorgeous pair of Chloes reduced ridiculously in the sales finally tempted me, I have worn no other style. I have bought countless knockoffs, spending far more than a real pair would have cost, and in fact in New York in 2008 I was unable to pass any imitation I passed. They all broke. Serve me right.

Tom Ford ‘Rickie’

So I couldn’t pass these ‘Rickies’. Thrill at them. Marvel at them. The chocolate enamel (don’t you think blondes are often better off with browns than blacks?). The not-too-yellow, not-entirely-rose metalwork. They fit me like a glove and make me feel like I’m a million times more chic and mysterious than I sadly am. I do no regret these or their pricetag for a moment and intend to be buried in them.

And finally … drumroll …

I’ve wanted a colourful cocktail righthand ring (a RHR) for a while, and had intended to hit up NYC’s Diamond District a la Lilian Harlow (although without the Fairy Great Aunt) until I passed a small jewellery store in San Francisco.

I saw.

I enquired.

I beat a strategic retreat.

I thought.

I researched.

I compared.

I kept thinking.

I returned.

I tried on.

I enquired again.

I obtained a hefty discount. Heftier than I’d been prepared to settle for.

I didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

We’re very happy together.

My precioussssss

Sorry about the poor iPhone photos; I am not actually jaundiced  nor do I know why the pictures are different sizes.

That’s a hand-set RHR with a citrine. Yes not a very precioussss stone, but the colour, which Buzz and I have determined to be between ale and lager, goes very well with my two favoured colour schemes to wear, olive-neutrals and navy-white-red. A very dear friend of mine recently received an incredibly beautiful RHR with a gorgeous light green stone – a colour I love – and I really didn’t want to copy her special ring, so I am very happy with my could-be-neutral yellow.

I love the setting – the detail, the shoulders, the halo. I am very pleased that the angularity of the emerald cut is softened by the positioning of the claws and the slight rounding of the edges of the halo (much as the cushion cut in my engagement ring is between round and rectangular). The clean, solid lines of the cut are offset by the roundness and delicacy of the setting. The quality of the setting is excellent (in my untutored but picky opinion) and it’s not so big as to look either A) improbable or B) like it’s my e-ring’s conqueror.

It’s actually a miracle I’ve been able to type at all given how much I gaze at it.

That’s all the Acquisitions for now. Buzz has also been giving it a good crack, stocking up on all the comics and geek paraphernalia he can’t get at home. More purchasing to come and be posted!

Born in the USA

I’m writing on my iPhone in San Francisco, while Buzz wanders happily around the Cartoon Art Museum, so please forgive any stilted language or typos.

We’ve been on honeymoon for a week today, and off work for a fortnight tomorrow, and boy could I get used to this! The most luxurious thing is spending 24 hours anday with my husband, who I practice calling my husband at every available opportunity. Sass (at sassiest.wordpress.com – I can’t seem to linky on this)once said that the best thing about being married is that it really is happily ever after, and she was right. Being married is different and very special and now I’m getting soppy.

So let’s ditch the dewy-eyed mooning and get on to the important stuff. The shopping here is fabulous. Cheap as chips, plentiful, competitive, fanatic service (pay heed DJs and Myer), and one of the best things about Buzz is that he loves to shop too. Yes blah blah we’re doing cultural things and seeing the sights, but we are also enjoying our shared hobby.

I came with a wishlist, which I’ve mostly fulfilled. I wanted some ‘good’ jeans of brands thy we can’t get in Australia (or for which we pay an utterly absurd amount which I refuse to do); a fun chunky watch to complement my good Raymond Weil watch; a right hand ring (I had set my sights on New York’s diamond district but got waylaid – more on that later); and sunnies for the same reasons of variety and price. Check! I adore everything I’ve bought and will show you it all later on. Let me just say: Fellow Australians! Take to the skies! Or the Interwebs! Spend your dollar where it buys better! Pay what Our American cousins pay and reject the price-gouging! No import tax, no shipping costs and certainly no retail costs can justify a 150% markup (especially when the same goods are shipped from China).

A fully photographed, annotated post to follow.