by Tilly Smith Dix
Plenty inspirational messages have crossed my screens in the past 24-hours, all with one message in common: be safe, learn from the year that was, embrace the lessons, and welcome the New Year with passion and joy.
My message to me is simple: Do the right thing and stop pursuing what we can’t control. What, pray, is the ‘right thing?’ An action that will be the least harmful to man or beast. An action that shows we will not accept bullying and dishonesty aimed at us, at any other person, or creature. To speak out, ‘do the right thing,’ and instead of turning the other cheek, walk away once we have ‘done the right thing.’
Then, to trust in the Universe to be fair and hear us. Of course, one is always tempted to call in forces stronger than us and better equipped at dealing with narcissists and other greedy humans. Sadly, I simply cannot afford Nikita, or, my latest vigilante hero, Peppermint, to do the job, so, for now, I rely on my imagination – and karma.
Last year I threatened 2020, saying I would be coming for it. This year, I’m waving it a jolly goodbye.
As for 2021, I’m clinking a glass or two, welcoming it with quiet resolve to deal with whatever it serves. My wish? To bring us good health, honesty, happiness, success, humility, kindness, clarity, joy and all the love we could possibly need. My word for this new year? Hope.
Dining in style
It was the season to be merry and catching up with people we were unable to see during the long, hard lockdown was pure bliss.
I did not need any coaxing to drive to the scenic Mornington Peninsula to celebrate my dear friend Rika’s birthday at Stillwater Restaurant at Crittenden Estate in Dromana. Not only was the food scrumptious but the vistas of vineyards and the tranquil lake, complete with weeping willows and happy ducks, made for an idyllic day.
Feasting at Meletos at Stones in the Yarra Valley…
My entrée of fried scallops on a bed of saffron spaghetti, with crispy bacon crumbs, was a triumph. My main, succulently fried duck, (hopefully not from the verdant pond), with a melody of beans and crisply roasted potatoes, was sensational.
Rika and her lovely friend Trish waxed lyrical about their respective dishes, which included crispy crumbed quail and barramundi. Washed down with the delicious Crittenden bubbles, the mood was festive.
My birthday turned into a three-day feast, never to be forgotten. It kicked off with a delicious barbeque with dear friends, who are like family. I got to meet their new pets, which now comprise four cats and two very large guinea pigs. The fluffy menagerie seemed pleased to meet me too. Yes, I’m the loon who talks to animals as if they understood. Of course, they do!
After a delectable meal with my little family the next day, where the three impish pixies sang to me, I then had lunch with my Aussie bestie at Meletos at Stones of the Yarra Valley.
What a joy to finally return to this exquisite restaurant in this glorious wine valley. I have to mention that my gorgeous friends Helen and Stephen joined me there the Wednesday prior. So, in reality, I was spoiled rotten for almost a week. How lucky can a gal get.
The Meletos menu remains a thrill. My lemon caper butter scallops, with pea puree and apple tarragon, followed by Cape grim beef striploin, asparagus, beetroot, and fondant potatoes was delectable. On my next visit, I savoured the gin-cured salmon. Sensational! A glass or two of the delicious local Domain Chandon bubbles, and we had no worries, mate. Life is good.
Maling Road in Canterbury has always been one of my favourite spots in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I love the old architecture and beautiful old residences, enhanced further by the established leafy green avenues and boulevards.
Clockwise, from top right: views from Stillwater at Crittenden on the Mornington Peninsula; Maling Road at Christmas; salmon avocado eggs at Between Us in Maling Road; avenues of Canterbury; succulent duck at Stillwater; scallops on a bed of saffron spaghetti at Stillwater.
Between Us has been a preferred eatery for me and I always have a touch of whimsey when I dine there as my elderly relative, who grew up in nearby Surrey Hills, once told me the restaurant used to house her dentist some 70 years ago! If those old walls could talk, right?
My preferred choice for brunch on this lovely day during the Holidays, salmon eggs, smashed avocado and bubbles. Heaven.
Christmas arrived all too soon and it was heartening being able to spend time with my two respective families. Christmas Eve, now our little family tradition since arriving in Aussie, is a veritable feast. Again, the munchkins sang and honestly, seeing Christmas through their eyes and conjuring up stories of how Santa was so tired after the long lockdown, he dropped some presents at my house as his sleigh team simply could not make it over more hills and tall trees to the pixies’ house, almost had me believing my own blarney.
As we do every year, the kids helped me trim the pavlova and I have to say, I’m flattered that my boy munchkin, now old enough to understand and able to wrap his smart tongue around the word, pavlova, loved it.
Christmas Day, spent with my Aussie family proved a feast, again. Surrounded by children finding joy in every nuance of the festivities, delicious food, and superb local wine, in true Aussie tradition, was a veritable feast. The mouth-watering menu, starting with steamed king prawns, was followed by succulent gammon, golden crisp smashed potatoes and fresh garden salads. The pudding was the proverbial cherry, with brandy, on top!
Actually, given this trying, strange, yet oddly educational year, I’ve decided to hang on to the Christmas feeling for a while longer – the tree will only come down in February, maybe… my Christmas music continues to extend the good cheer, so, the smooth sounds of Michael Bubble, Steve Tyrell and the late great Al Jarreau will keep me jolly for further weeks to come.
On the sofa
My latest couch binge includes biographies. I certainly enjoyed the life and times of Frank Sinatra, a bad boy, JFK, also a bad boy (when it came to women), and Jackie Onassis, who I’m delighted to see, had a truly loving, caring and faithful partner in Belgium-born American businessman Maurice Tempelsman until her death.
However, the story that captured me, for several personal reasons, was about the late Franca Sozzani, who edited Vogue Italia until her death from cancer in 2016. I had the privilege of meeting her, briefly and unexpectedly, during a press visit to Milan in 2003.
Before my December Holiday travels, I would schedule meetings with top travel media in countries I was visiting every year, and having always had a soft spot for Italy, this time, I decided to meet with some of the travel editors of the Conde Nast Publications, based in Milan. The crème de la crème.
Well, let’s just say, as with fashion, the Italians have the warmth, glamour, style and attitude to charm the world at will. Not only did the stylish, charming team welcome me with open arms, they also arranged for me to meet with travel editors at other publications, based not far from their offices!
The British travel media as well as those kick-ass editors in New York were always welcoming and helpful too, I must add. However, it seemed the Italians simply loved South Africans and its tourism destinations, not to mention how everyone knew about the magic of Cape Town and luxe safaris in the bush.
While I was drinking coffee and feeling immensely flattered that these elegant editors were being so kind to me, yet another striking woman, dressed in black, popped her head in the door, and simply and briefly, introduced herself as, Franca. She apologised she was on her way to a meeting, otherwise she’d have chatted to me. She happened to comment on my soft, fitted black leather coat, asking if it was Italian. I had to admit it was made in South Africa, to which she responded with, “I love South African street fashion!” Her charming Milanese accent sounded like a purr.
I was positively aglow and when she departed, I asked my hosts who this graciously charismatic woman was. They seemed surprised I did not know: she was the editor of Vogue Italia! Their queen, so to speak, at Conde Nast!
I was still gulping like a guppy, inwardly, whilst working hard on maintaining some gracious composure whilst picking up my jaw off the floor, when they took me on a tour of their historical building, located on the Piazza Cadorna, which is a mere minute’s walk across the road from Sforza Castle in Sempione Park.
The architecture and ornate frescos, not to mention a sweeping staircase at the entrance, reflect romance and history. Their offices offered contemporary, practical work spaces and Google now tells me it was recently refurbished further to reflect Fashion Week 2019.
The neighbouring castle, built between 1360 and 1499, has been a museum since 1862, embracing treasures such as Andrea Mantegna’s Trivulzio Madonna, and other masterpieces by the likes of Titian. If you are keen on ancient musical instruments and Egyptian artefacts, Sforza Castle will delight you as much as it did me.
So, watching this touching biography on this immensely talented, gracious and beautiful woman felt deeply personal to me. No surprise to see the admiration with which the great Helmut Newton spoke of her, declaring, “she is the woman who lasted the longest in my life.” I highly recommend Franca, Chaos and Creation, produced by her talented son on Netflix.
A series, also streaming on Netflix, that I felt at home with, is Virgin River. I got totally hooked as it is a perfect escape package. A believable storyline, stunning leafy Northern California location, a stellar cast, great direction and some eye-candy in the gorgeous form of Kiwi heartthrob Martin Henderson, make for a great binge. It’s like slipping into a comfortable chair. Gather your snacks and tipple as you don’t want to let this one go. Can’t wait for series three.
Tricksters at large
I have always been suspicious of dating sites and my fears have been realised. In fact, the only time I ever went onto such a site was to prove a point, the point being, anyone could spin a yarn and mislead you. I guess, these tricksters spoil it for good folks simply wishing to meet someone nice…
When I received an email from a woman in the US, advising me someone on a dating site called Zoosk, had assumed the identity of one Charlotte Shaw, and she had lifted images from my blog of about two years ago as her online identity photographs, I was obviously concerned! The trickster had conned the sender’s lonely father!
Naturally, I was suspicious of the woman emailing me but when I saw what she had to say, I took notice and did some sleuthing of my own.
In brief, this grifter had honed-in on a lonely widower in Covid lockdown – and probably several other gullible, older, lonely men too. ‘She,’ was so believable, this normally intelligent man was looking forward to meeting her – all her online profile images were of me!
This poor, lonely man sent her $4,000 too!
How did the gentleman’s daughter discover the true identity of the woman in the images? She got onto Google and did a reverse search, using the images of me used by the con on the site. This resulted in her finding my blog. The upside, I now have a new follower and keen reader of my blog. Downside, a sweet, gullible, lonely man got conned.
I reported this to the site, and my new follower’s dear dad managed to get the trickster’s profile shut down on the dating site. However, someone else’s images might now be used under a different alias by this vile person, who, it has been alleged, might not even be a woman – and might even be operating from another country. Frightening.
So, if you see old pictures of me pop across your screen, don’t send the police to my house – but let me know. I’m thinking of liaising with the FBI, the CIA, and possibly Nikita. She’ll get the bugger. Capiche?
Style at any age
My inspiring, fabulous tribe on Instagram agree, fashion, and luxe lifestyle online bingeing, has been our therapy through a long, often lonely, lockdown 2020. What pesky COVID-19 has done, though, is prove how immensely powerful social media is, and what a thrill it is in the time of a pandemic, when used positively.
Winter was long, wet and chilly but I had no complaints as one could hardly go anywhere anyway, so, it was great weather to stay home, work, write, photograph fashion, the cat and birds in the garden, whilst playing with my ageless closet. I also enjoyed playing smooth jazz and often danced in the lounge. Anything to lift the mood…
Style it up or down, pretend to be back in Paris, escape to whatever takes your fancy with fashion therapy – full details and brand tags on Instagram @Sixty_is_the_new_40 – from vintage to boho to Riviera style…be YOU!
Some brands were extremely generous as this was a lucrative online sale opportunity for them and this older but not over gal ain’t complaining as I managed to upscale and bring several old fashion items up to current trends with a new addition here and there. Accessories are key, ranging from classic styles to the new boho chic, which is happily reminiscent of the late 70s, and animal prints.
A quick dab of leg-bronzer, a dollop of sunscreen, summer dresses, hats, culottes, frothy blouses, and now it is a brand New Year. Hope.
Be safe, take care and don’t forget to have fun – life is too short not to feel fabulous and joyful…cheers to the good life, darlings!