queen victoria market, melbourne

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Fat blue pumpkins; bags of kiwis for $2; potatoes in hues I never conceived existed; red papaya; lemons the size of baseballs, honeycombs and honey, and barrels and barrels of New Zealand white; monkey bananas; dragon fruit and lychee imported from Indonesia; ripe cherries that burst in your mouth; a marbling on beef I’ve never seen; kangaroo filets marinated in red wine; bread that lacks salt but is yielding and delicate; frangipani, lavender and goat’s milk soaps, buckets of rose petals and rose heads for the hopeless romantic; plumeria and towering orchids; bok choy, verdant spinach, kale, and yes, the vile, very vile, mushroom; vintage linens and kitschy Christmas decor; wooden boomerangs and plush koala bears; Do you own a life-sized stuffed kangaroo?; petite women barking in Cantonese, as they arrange coriander and mangos much like how one would prepare a table for company; today’s specials; pineapple slices that melt, melt, baby, baby; gristle, bone, and fish with their eyes-in and bones out; American donuts that are not quite American; crates and crates and squelching tomatoes and crushed peppers discarded behind vans; a photograph of a horse I consider purchasing; a phone call to my father who says, You’re in Australia?; A stack of photographs of hands, alleyways, that horse, and roads navigated with film and a point-of-view; trading hours; French pastries that are not quite French; sacks of quinoa and millet and black-eyed peas.

A magical morning spent in the Queen Victoria Market, one of the largest in Melbourne.

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where we are headed {firenze outdoor markets + a meditation on self}

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Quite often during the past several years I have felt myself a sleepwalker, moving through the world unconscious of the moment’s high issues, oblivious to its data, alert only to the stuff of bad dreams, the children burning in the locked car in the supermarket parking lot, the bike boys stripping down stolen cars on the captive cripple’s ranch, the freeway sniper who feels “real bad” about picking off the family of five…Acquaintances read The New York Times, and try to tell me the news of the world. I listen to call-in shows. — Joan Didion, The White Album

Today I sit next to a pregnant woman who smells of blood. It mattes her hair, sullies her packet of tissues and brings her to shuddering tears. For some reason this puts me to thinking of my father and the horses he cared for, and how he told me years ago that they could smell the blood right off you. You don’t want that kind of trouble, he said. Rummaging through my bag I procure a tissue and the woman shakes her head no, and says, I’m fine. Behind her, a man that appears to be her husband whispers, be quiet, don’t make a scene, and I wonder if this is the equivalent of equine trouble.

On a television screen, a man says that it’s humane to dole out fresh works to heroine addicts. He talks about providing a controlled environment, a community of compassion, while a three-decade heroin user shoots not to get high, but to not get sick. He’s deep in the nod when he shakes his head and says he doesn’t remember what a life without junk was like.

A great woman falls to blight in her East Village apartment, is dead for days before anyone discovers her. It’s not the smell that gets you discovered, it’s the unpaid rent. This is a woman who shone too bright despite herself; she invited us to question not only our confining gender roles, but posited that nature itself should be questioned. Put on a jury trial and convicted for crimes against humanity. Children and women were shackled from birth. Before she died, friends found her wandering the streets, swathed in wigs and costumery, and speaking in tongues. Her plumage was her mask because all she wanted was a love that would not alter.

Last night I woke drenched, stirred out of slumber by a dream that unnerved me. Surrounded by the people I once loved, they speak only to a former version of me, a lesser one. A woman who was determined to ruin. A woman who would boomerang out into crowded thoroughfares just to get a rise out of you, who pushed you out into the street and pulled you back and yelled, Suicide! A woman who had her first nosebleed in front of her boss, but said she was fine, just fine, and could you give her a minute? No one wants that kind of trouble.

It occurs to me that randomness does not exist. Signs are deliberate, appearing only when you’re ready to see them. Didion notes that, Maybe that is one true way to see Bogota, to have it float in the mind until the need for it is visceral. It’s as if I’ve slept the sleep of children and have now only just woke, groggy and confused. Lately, I feel the need to protect, mother and be in a way I hadn’t before. Friends email me and say that they haven’t seen me this alive (Had I been dead this whole time? Had no one thought to dig me up from the earth? Or was it easier to continue planting your harvest over my cold body?) in years. I don’t know how to respond to this. Acquaintances talk about my chrysalis. I don’t know how to respond to this. Strangers cheer on my blooming. I don’t know how to respond to this.

All I know is this. This moment is mine. And the more I share it or allow you to navigate it, it becomes less mine. It becomes explained, defined, and put in a box. I’ve been figured out, understood, and suddenly resolved. But all this time I still haven’t figured out where I’m headed. Know what I mean?

I also know this: I’m following the signs. I’m playing out this hand and seeing where it takes me. And oddly enough it took me to two places I never thought I’d go.

MARKETS THAT DO NOT HAVE FOOD.

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Normally, I’d run screaming from a vintage fair or a crafts booth, simply for the fact that I’m probably the least creative person when it comes to reinventing the old or creating the DIY new. I don’t know what to do with a gramophone or how one would don a tutu without evoking Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? commentary. However, I found myself wandering two on Sunday and feeling inspired by the books, linens and the patina of another era. First I visited a small market for local artists located on Piazza SS. Annunziata, adjacent to the Museum of the Innocents, and the second was the monthly antiques market on San Spirito.

Granted, I didn’t think about how I would incorporate these items into my home or life, rather, I felt inspired by the items in and of themselves. A slew of Italian medical books from the 1920s made me want to return to books I own at home on psychiatry. Trays and baskets of silver inspired characters that are confined by their masks of money, whose dolorous existence is only brought to bear by the accumulation of finery. A barking dog made me long for my cat. English china had me thinking of brunch parties in the spring.

Chandeliers have served as odd guideposts in Italy, reminding me that in my reflection there is always light. That there are always signs.

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love.life.eat of the week

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love.: It’s no secret that I’m mad for the color blue. In blue we believe, in blue we trust. When I organized my closet this year I was shocked to find that nearly every item I owned was in some shade of this magnificent hue. So it’s no surprise that my covets this week (as I’m on a deep shopping hiatus) are beautifully blue. From Erikson Beamon’s Duchess Earrings, which are rather grand and made for royalty (too bad my ears aren’t pierced) to Shop Terrain’s Textured Burlap Tray (imagine biscuits piled high!) to this rustic soapstone Cheese Slate Board, to this darling homemade Natural Linen Napkin set I discovered on Etsy (not blue, but certainly in the dreamy aquatic territory), part of me can mentally transport myself to the sleepy shores of Biarritz even while I’m bundled up for a New York winter.

Artists + bloggers I’m loving right. this. moment.: Not*Otherwise (she preaches the truth), Nicole Franzen (her photographs are transformative) and Elephantine (her prose is quite lovely).

life.: I promise you (and myself) that this is the year where I will break ranks. And although that sounds cryptic, intentionally so, I’ve been surprised by just how much I love my French classes at the French Institute Alliance Française. Every Saturday, myself and 12 other hopefuls watch movies, play games and learn how to think in a new language. For those three hours I joke with new friends, get dramatic with vowel pronunciations, while proclaiming, Oh, we’re so French, while we’re clearly not. But for that small pocket of time I can immerse in a world that is so far removed from the one I knew and closer to the one I will inevitably know. And I also have access to the FIFA library, cultural programs and a whole new suite of possibilities, gratis! In grade school I switched out of French class because it was all too complicated, it wasn’t the language we spoke in the streets, and I’m glad to have returned to new ways to think of words. Change doesn’t happen until you leap out of your comfort zone, so here’s me, reaching for sky.

eat.: This week I’m craving a mix of the very virtuous and the very naughty. Last night I read a feature of the designer Kelly Wearstler in Bon Appetit magazine, and I was shocked that my favorite mag would publish a piece about a woman who basically starves herself during the day and has one meal at night. PSA, PEOPLE: JUICING IS SOCIALLY-ACCEPTABLE STARVATION, AND IT’S NOT OKAY. It’s okay to eat, folks — everything in moderation. So if you’re feeling the need to feast on kale check out this yummy Crunchy Kale Salad made with nuts, avocado and tahini. Surprise your taste buds with the melange of flavor in this protein-packed Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas and Harissa recipe. And find morning comfort in this Barley Porridge with Maple-Glazed Almonds and Blood Orange.

Or perhaps you want to indulge in flights of almond fancy with this etherial Almond Bread Pudding or these Salted Caramel Banoffee Éclairs, or these Lemon Seed Poppy Rolls by one of my favorite foodies.

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magical foodie find: la merceria: toronto, canada

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How is it that I’m always finding things when I’m not looking for them? When I’m all tra la la, let’s walk the three miles to spin class in Toronto. A class where the bikes actually move — so much so that you’re convinced that you’ll fall off them. It’s chilly here in Ontario, although the denizens will try to convince my otherwise, and I damn near experienced frostbite walking the three miles to cycling class this morning. The streets were abnormally desolate, and the only sounds one could hear were a few cars speeding down the thoroughfare, papers lifting up from the ground because of the wind and the rustle of twigs in the trees. But it was peaceful, this quiet-like, and I studied the buildings, the magnificent murals and the tiny shops dotting the way. And while I’m having a lovely time in this austere, charming city, part of me just wants to be done with the traveling and go home. My schedule is full-on, and I won’t likely have any quiet until Christmas. And while it’s true that I want to leave New York, I miss the familiar and comfort of my space, where I can bake on Sundays and photograph the sweet treats on pretty napkins. Simple, I know, but comforting.

So imagine my joy! glee! and other assorted adjectives when I discovered La Merceria, an Argentinean cafe and home accessories shop. But quite simply it’s a place home to miniature pleasures and treasures. You can savor a homemade almond croissant and tree by the window where the sun pours in, or you can opt to fondle the linen napkins and sample the litany of apothecary soaps and fragrances. From china cups to the PERFECT white mixing bowls with blue trim I spied on Rachel Khoo’s cooking show, you will find simple kitchen accessories that will delight. Choice finds were Denmark’s TineK-Home’s ceramic bowls, Fog Linen napkins and RiaRay soy candles.

The store reminds me of a Scandinavian Anthropologie without all the fanfare and whimsy and full of warmth and flavor, and no doubt you will enjoy some sweet treats while you’re fawning over the goods.

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Paris

love. life. eat. of the week

love.: Currently I’m infatuated with Ice Milk Apron’s lovely heirloom linen napkins. My work colleague ordered a set in the mail and not only was I impressed by the heft of the fabric, but the exquisite detailing. You’ll find a piece of cotton stitched with red thread that serves as an excellent placeholder for flatware. Ice Milk’s vintage recipe cards and aprons delivered in mason jars make for a sweet gift for the holidays, which is a nice alternative to the big-box gifts and Odyssean lines.

Keeping with my bowl and linen obsession (and it’s deep, my friends), I’m also eyeing these handmade dBo bowls, and if I didn’t need a reason to jet off to Vancouver, I have one now: ceramic bowls made by Janaki Larson, sold at the incomparable grocer and cafe, Le Marche St. George (image credit). I couldn’t help but fawn over their website, which is host to pages of woven throws, simple minimalist decor and foodstuffs you just want to eat. And finally, I can’t kick my addiction to paper. It feels good and right to feel the tactile weight of books in your hands, and for this very reason I subscribed to Anthology magazine, a quarterly publication devoted to all things decor, design, culture, travel and food. And would you believe the moment I was about to hit the “Publish” button, I found The New General Store’s handcrafted platters and bowls? SAVE ME.

life.: Talley of House to Haus’ recent posts on adjusting to life in Zurich put my heart on pause and I can quietly relate. How Talley lays her heart out to bear, feels a rush of confusion over a life not planned, while at the same time a fervor for what lies ahead, warmed me. I discovered Talley’s site on a lark, and I encourage you to bookmark it because her recipes and posts are lovely.

eat.: These recipes warmed my cold, dead heart, and hopefully you’ll find recreations of these delicious eats on this space soon: Crispy Kale Salad, Pumpkin Fettucini Alfredo, Meatballs for New Mothers (although I’m not one and never plan to be, but this recipe is delightful!), and these Pumpkin Oat Pancakes made me swoon.