A Little Bit of Double Happiness

Chinese New Year 2010 - Karen ChengEarly this week, my 7 year old VOLUNTEERED ME to give a presentation about Chinese New Year to his school class.

Apparently he thought that I knew everything there is to know about the subject of being Chinese.

Now. This whole thing is rather funny for the people who know me.

Because… I know CLOSE TO NOTHING about Chinese New Year, except the things my family practice, which – for a long time – I have waved off as being silly, daggy, folky stuff.

I can’t even speak Chinese! Cantonese or Mandarin!

No, wait. I can say, “Ni Hao! Wo Ai Ni!” which means, “Hello! I love you!” And a few swear words of course.

So sure enough, the night before it was due, I was cutting and pasting from Wikipedia and Googling for images to finish my primary school homework! How humiliating!

To make matters worse… there are 8 kids in my son’s class who are actually ethnically Chinese, from China, Singapore and Malaysia, who probably know how to speak more Chinese than me!

And they probably also knew MORE about the traditions, customs, meanings and stories surrounding Chinese New Year.

And crap, it would be terribly embarrassing if they blew my cover.

So. I decided to take on a bit of Chinese Aunty credibility by wearing my bright red cheong sum. It was a kind of dress that said – All Hail The Chinese Woman! Don’t cross her path or she’ll whip out her invisible flying swords! That’ll teach those pesky kids with difficult questions!

Then I thought, Oh god, how embarrassing is this going to be? I’m going to walk across the school yard dressed like this, and everyone is going to think I’m the local expert on all things Chinese! They are going to invite me to school cultural dinners and other classroom talks and they are going to parade me in front of everyone and make me say things in Chinese (“Wo Ai Ni Everyone!”) and give out char siew bows (roast pork buns)! Eeeek! What am I getting myself into!?


That morning, at home, before the presentation, my 7 year old said to me,

“Mum I like your dress. But your split is so high, I think I can see your knickers.”

“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?! This split is NOT HIGH! Look! You can’t see my knickers!!”

And my husband had the cheek to say “If you don’t want people to see your knickers, maybe you shouldn’t wear any?”


Despite everything, the presentation went wonderfully well.

I started by saying “Ni Hao! That’s what Chinese people say for hello!”

Oh I could barely stand the irony of it all! I sounded just like a children’s TV show host.

I brought props like Ang Pows, two oranges (my local fruit store didn’t sell mandarins), pictures of a lion dance and I even had print-outs for everyone of a Chinese Zodiac Chart with all the animals and dates – which I had to make myself in Photoshop.

The Chinese kids seemed really happy that their classmates were learning about things they already knew about.

I had one Chinese kid say, “We call them HONG BAOS not ANG POWS.” And I explained to everyone that Chinese have different dialects, and how they both mean the same thing – red packet.

And the teacher goes “Wow, are you a Chinese language teacher?”

(Oh the sweet sweet irony.)

And some other Chinese kid said, “What’s that thing that adults do… for lots of happiness? My mum told me about it. It’s all mixed up?”

I double blinked and paused… as I tried to find an answer to his question by sifting through the flashing images of “mixed-up adult behavior”… none of which was suitable for discussion in a primary school classroom.

Then I said, “UH. Maybe she told you about the fish salad??? They serve this special fish salad, and all the adults reach into the center of the table and toss it with chop sticks, and shout happy sayings?”

“Yes, that’s it!” said the kid.

Good save Karen! And I proceeded to guide the conversation away from any other possible adult things adults might do for lots of happiness.

I went on to tell the class about “Double Happiness”, which was a concept that the teacher really liked. Thank god she didn’t ask me to write the Chinese characters for it on the board, or my cover would have totally been blown!

Maybe I would have just drawn some random scribble, and hoped no one noticed.

Phew anyway, that’s the end of my story. Thank god that’s over.

So here’s me wishing you all Double Happiness and a sensational mixed fish salad!

(The cheong sum was my wedding banquet dress, hand-made by a very nice lady in Maylands.)

Rick Owens SS10 – Black and White

Rick Owens SS10 - Black and White

If I had to list some fashion labels that have influenced, inspired and shaped my personal style – one of them would definitely have to be Rick Owens.

American born, now based in Paris, his women’s label is heavily rock-inspired chic, minimal, drapey, edgy yet feminine. He’s often talked about as being a trend-setter of trend-setters, and one of the few designers who is worthy of sitting on the pointiest end of fashion.

OK, perhaps some of his clothes are possibly too edgy (and expensive) for me, but his latest SS10 collection is just gorgeous. Gah, it’s more than gorgeous, it’s sublime. I can seriously feel myself considering what I could go without (like my family’s summer holiday) in order to buy one of his jackets.

See the rest of Rick Owen’s collection at Net-A Porter. It’s brilliant I tell you!

Seafood Paella Recipe

Seafood Paella

Paella is a Spanish rice dish that mixes meats, fish, beans, rice and all sorts of other things. But best of all, it all cooks in ONE PAN.

It’s also a lot like risotto, but you just don’t have to stir it as much – so it’s really easy. It is one of my favourite dishes to make, and my family love it!

3 tablespoons of olive oil
2-3 skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into thick strips (I used salmon instead)
1 onion, chopped
1 1/3 cups of short grain rice (uncooked)
3 tomatoes, chopped
pinch of saffron
400g can of chickpeas
150g green beans
1 red capsicum, sliced
750ml chicken stock
500g of prawns, peeled
2 tablespoons of parsley
1 lemon wedges (very important!)
Optional – 8 mussels, 1 calamari, cut into rings.

1. Heat oil in a large, deep fry pan, add chicken or salmon. Cook until just browned, remove and drain

2. Add onion to the pan and cook until soft and golden. Add rice, tomatoes, saffron. Stir for 1 minute on a medium heat.

3. If using chicken, put it into the pan. Stir in chickpeas, green beans, capsicum and stock. Cook for 15 minutes uncovered. Don’t stir!

4. Stir in salmon, prawns, and other seafood. Leave it to cook uncovered for 10 minutes, or until the rice and seafood is cooked. I like to leave it for a bit longer to get the base crisp and caramelised. Don’t stir!

5. Serve up, Sprinkle with parsley, squeeze lemon on top.

Note: One time, I ran out of saffron, and I used ½ teaspoon of turmeric instead. Then I thought, what the heck, and also added ½ teaspoon of cumin, and a pinch of cinnamon and paprika. Not very authentic, but damn it tasted good.

(This recipe is based on a recipe published by the Heart Foundation Australia)

Fashion Designer Label – Antipodium

I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to Fenalla Peacock, one of the creative forces behind London fashion label Antipodium.

In 2006, Antipodium first launched a small collection of chic basics in London, designed to fill what they saw as a gap in the market. The clothes were an immediate success, and following London Fashion Week the same year, Antipodium received significant high praise and fans like high profile model Alexa Chung.

Personally, I really adore the simple forms, quirky details and effortlessly cool style that is signature to all Antipodium’s collections. Their collections look like a wonderful mishmash of art and pop culture, mixed up with fashion and irreverent charm!

I got a sneak peek into Antipodium’s latest AW 2010 “Ab Fab” Collection – born from a collaboration with 4 indigenous artists in the remote West Australian outback.

Antipodium Fashion Label

The result was a collection of striking pieces in bright colours, prints and muted basics. I love their tongue in cheek garment names like: Up Chick Creek, Ab-Original Tee, Hook Up Dress.

Above left, I’m wearing a Dreamtime Dress, made from silk, featuring a beautiful print of a painting by indigenous artist Barbara Merritt. It’s really, really lovely!

On the right, I’m wearing a simple Hunt & Gather Dress. Simple, drapey, and versatile.

Antipodium Fashion Label

On the left, I’m wearing a Dreamtime Top with a Holy Knit! mini skirt. Love that skirt! Probably one of the best mini skirts I’ve tried on!

And on the right, I’m wearing the Holy Knit Skirt again with a Tucker Tee.

You can check out the whole Ab Fab Collection on the Antipodium website.

Or buy Antipodium clothes from these online stores:

Antipodium at Fashion Artiste

Antipodium at Frock Shop

Antipodium at ASOS

I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of Antipodium at the Melbourne Fashion Festival.


If Only Squishiness Could Last Forever

Karen and Liam by the River

It was sunset by the river.

My husband and I walked, talked and enjoyed the cool evening and all the gorgeous muted colours around us.

We stopped by a grassy park, and we let our 11 month old baby crawl around and chase the birds.

We managed to take some photos in the dying light, and I am so in love with the results.

This was my favourite photo. Liam being tickled in the tummy, and me with a hopelessly contented smile.