Modern Map Art – prints for wanderlusters

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that sponsored posts are very few and far between on here. That’s because
a) I’m not enough of a big-name blogger for people to want to send me free stuff, and
b) if I wouldn’t buy the product with my own money, I won’t endorse it.

When Jennifer from Modern Map Art contacted me with a offer to test out her new business, it was a case of perfect timing; I’d actually been looking for a map of Melbourne to frame and display in my home for months, and couldn’t find anything that I liked and was also reasonably priced.

After a round-the-world honeymoon in 2016, Jennifer decided to combine her life-long love of maps with her new found appreciation for the cities she visited into something special that other people could enjoy, too. Now, she has a gorgeous line of not only print maps, but also throw pillows (!!!) and phone cases, featuring maps of your favourite locations – and if she doesn’t have what you want in her catalogue, she’ll gladly put a custom design together for you!

I received my posted wrapped in tissue paper and packed safely into a thick, cardboard tube – it was in perfect condition when it arrived from the US to my front door here in Melbourne, Australia. I was really impressed with the quality of the paper used – as per the information on their website, “the posters are made from a museum quality matte paper, and Ultrachrome ink.  The ink is rated to last over 100 years, and 200 years if properly framed and maintained.”

And it looked amazing set in a simple, bold, black frame, up on the wall with some black and white Melbourne photographs a close friend gave me a few years ago 🙂 I couldn’t be happier with the finished product, and I dare say we may end up with a few more maps on our walls after our big upcoming trip!

I also wanted to ask Jennifer a few questions about her brain child, so before you head over to her store (signing up for their mailing list will score you 10% off, by the way),  get to know her a little better..

 

 Hi Jennifer! Tell us about your business – what exactly do you do?

Modern Map Art takes ordinary street maps and turns them into wall art.  We use open source maps and alter the colors and add text to create beautiful pieces.  Recently, we also launched custom.modernmapart.com, which allows people to create their own maps.  You can choose from building maps, street maps, or topo maps and create your own pillow, poster, phone case, or t-shirt.  We then print and ship the item to you within a few days.


What gave you the idea to actually start this business?

I’ve always been passionate about maps since I was little, and wanted to create some maps to represent the places that I’ve traveled to display in my own home.  People love them when they came to visit, so I started selling them to friends and family and then online.


You have so many maps in your catalogue! Which ones are your favourites?

Personally, I like the ski maps.  I think they’re a good representation of taking something complicated and making them very simple.


There are quite a few map prints starting to find their way onto the market now; what makes your product different?

We print on museum quality matte paper and have over 500 cities available.  We’ve also got a lot of variety with our pillows, country maps, phone cases, and a lot of other great products on the horizon.

 

You must be getting idea for your maps from somewhere.., where are you off to next?!

Greece!  I’m off in a few weeks and I’m very excited.

 

 

* Disclosure: While Modern Map Art generously gifted one of their maps to me,  the opinions contained herein are entirely my own, based on my experience with the company. *

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Melbourne Tea Festival 2017: all of the tea you should be drinking!

Melbourne Tea Festival 2017
http://www.melbourneteafestival.com.au/

I couldn’t have been more excited last year when one of my best friends told me Melbourne had a tea festival; this year, I didn’t need any prompting.

Off we went to Tea Palooza; we being myself (the avid tea drinker) and my husband (the food truck fanatic). He heard Ghost Kitchen were back this year and wasn’t passing up the chance for their popcorn chicken.

We arrived not long after opening, and it was noticeably smaller than last year’s. Husband worked it out almost immediately;  last year, Melbourne was in the throes of a matcha trend, while this year it seemed that chai was the in thing; apparently there are less chai dealers than matcha ones It was also a little disappointing to find that not all of the vendors on their program sheet were actually there.

But onto the tea… I did get around to trying a few, and obviously took some home with me. For those of you who didn’t make it to the tea festival (and actually care about tea!), here’s what’s worth trying!

 

TRIED:

1. UMTEA: Champagne Rose
http://www.umtea.com/
This was nicer than I expected it to be – sweet without that overpowering syrupy taste, and the rose flavour was subtle enough to be delicious  (anyone who’s had something with wayyyy too much rose flavouring in it will know what I mean). Kinda sad they didn’t have more teas brewing to try!

2. The Fitzroy Naturopath: Organic Turmeric Elixir
http://thefitzroynaturopath.com.au/
With its trendy superfood label, turmeric is “in” at the moment, so when I was offerrd a taste, I wasn’t expecting much – blended with lemongrass, it was actually really good! Husband commented that he felt like it would be the perfect thing if you were sick with a cold or flu. While I didn’t end up buying any on the day, I’m not ruling out an online purchase…

3. McIvers: Bolshie Brew, Tramtracker
https://www.mcivers.melbourne/
Both really good, strong black brews – would happily drink both of them again, but found a third option that I liked best and purchased (see below).

4. Cloud Nine Teas: Sencha, Gyokuro
http://cloudnineteas.com/
Honestly, I wasn’t impressed. I was actually pretty disappointed; I was really hoping to take some gyokuro home with me, but it didn’t taste like gyokuro (or at least not like the varieties I tried in Japan that I fell in love with) – just tasted like an odd type of sencha. The search continues…

5. Ito En: Genmaicha
http://www.itoen.com.au/
This was fantastic – really delicious, but not overpowering nutty, toasty flavour. Only reason I didn’t buy some is because I was just given a bag of genmaicha from Ippodo Tea!

6. Matcha Matcha: sweet matcha (cold)
https://www.facebook.com/matchamatchacafe/
I didn’t think I’d like this much,  and it was far too sweet to drink much of, but it was surprisingly nice!


TOOK HOME:

1
. McIvers: Vic Market Mornings
https://www.mcivers.melbourne/
This was my favourite from the McIvers range – the perfect strong, black tea to enjoy on a cold, lazy Sunday morning with a good book and a fluffy dressing gown.

2. Tea Angle: Smokey Lapsang Souchong
https://www.teaangle.com/


This was a new one for me – I’d never heard of or tried anything like it before. It tastes like a cold night sitting by an open fire. Great on its own, but I also tried it with a tiny bit of milk, and that was really good, too.

3. Faraaz Tea: Red Hibiscus
http://www.faraaztea.com.au/
I bought this last year for the first time as a reminder of the tea I drank in Egypt. I recently discovered a better way to drink it rather than just as hot tea; mixed with a little bit of T2’s Mint Mix tea, it makes the perfect iced tea to fill my water bottle with and sip on at work all day – so much better than water!

4. Rico Coco’s: Chocolate Tea
http://www.chocolatetea.com.au/
Chocolate tea. Magic. It couldn’t be more simple – just cacao husks/shells, and some cacao nibs. Add hot water and its a hot cup of drinkable chocolate. And it has no caffeine, which is why it’s my tea of choice before bedtime – it’s like drinking dessert before bed! Oh, and it’s organic (good for you) and FairTrade (good for the Peruvian plantations that supply the cacao). Everyone wins!

5. Storm In A Teacup: Breakfast Tea
http://www.storminateacup.com.au/

My favourite loose leaf breakfast tea – despite the dozens of other black teas I have at home  (yes, seriously, more than one dozen), I’m onto my third bag of this since discovering it at last year’s tea show. When I work from home, I brew a big, strong pot of this first thing in the morning, and its the perfect start to the morning. Also gets a great run on lazy weekends at home.

The Amazing Mill Market, Dayelsford

The Amazing Mill Market
105 Central Springs Rd, Dayelsford, VIC
http://www.millmarkets.com.au/

HOW HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF THIS PLACE?!?! It’s heaven!!!

Mum and dad have temporarily re-located to the countryside, and we paid them a visit  recently. Mum told me she knew exactly what we’d do with the day; there was this awesome market full of vintage and antique and old ephemera that had my name all over it. How impressive could it be if I hadn’t heard of it? Mum, you were totally right.

With three locations (Dayelsford, Geelong and Ballarat), the Mill Markets have “something for everyone who visits with vintage clothes, vintage furniture, memorabilia, art, glass, jewellery, books, antiques and collectables to name a few.” And with an accumulated total of 12,000 square meters, if you can’t find something you like, you need to have your head examined.

We were in there for two or three hours in the end (I think), and I could have comfortably used two or three more. Luckily, they have a café on site in case you need to refuel. They also have staff roaming the store, offering to carry your loot to the front counter to wait for you. And with that much to trawl through, that’s helpful; I could have re-decorated my home and wardrobe fifteen times over. But, I resisted – I came home with some beautiful new wrought iron fleur de lis book ends, a vintage Jules Verne and an adorable little globe. Husband got a book, too, and a gorgeous Abita beer glass. I think the lot cost us around $70, which I thought was very reasonable.

That said, I plan to return soon after Christmas. Because they’re open 7 days a week, and how could I not?!

The Art of Banksy, Melbourne

The Art of Banksy
https://theartofbanksy.com.au/

“The Art Of Banksy will serve as a welcome reminder of the explosive impact of the artist’s works, and of the powerful potential of street art. And that can’t be a bad thing” – Timeout

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To stay anonymous in a world where social media is king, is not an easy feat. To do so whilst being the world’s best known street artist should be impossible. But Banksy somehow continues to pull it off.
Having started his “career” in London many moons ago, he’s made his way around the world, leaving his mark (and political messages) in just about every corner of the globe. There may not be much to know about the guy, but his artwork utterly captivates me. When I found out that an exhibition of his work was coming to Melbourne,  I bought my ticket immediately.

“Bringing the historic streets of London to the steps of Melbourne, the exhibition will take visitors on a sort of journey, exploring the questionable genius of the world’s most infamous street artist with a retrospective of over 80 of the artists’ off-street masterpieces.
Most famously known for his stencilling technique, Banksy’s artwork combines dark humour with underlying political messages and social themes, which have made him one of the biggest contemporary artists of our time.

Curated by the artists’ former manager, Steve Lazarides, the exhibition presents the largest collection of Banksy artworks to reach Australian shores, including the iconic ‘Girl with Balloon’, ‘Flag Wall’ and ‘Laugh Now’ pieces. The exhibition also includes three pieces that have never been publicly exhibited.

All pieces included in The Art of Banksy exhibition are original works and limited edition screenprints by Banksy himself, which are all unique in their form.”

I’m not sure I can really explain why I’m so drawn to his work. Street art has always held an enormous appeal to me, it really gets to my core. The messages that speak to me through Banksy’s work mean something to me. They’ll mean something different to everyone, I’m sure,  and that’s the beauty of art. Here’s a bit of a look..

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“There are no exceptions to the rule that everyone thinks they’re an exception to the rule.”

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“It takes a lot of guts to stand up anonymously in a western democracy and call for things no-one else believes in – like piece and justice and freedom.”

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“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”

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Its running until January 22nd, so grab a ticket. And if art isn’t quite enough to entice you, there are rotating food trucks and a beer garden…

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Through my eyes: Melbourne, June 2016. Winter is coming.

Just a few recent snaps of Melbourne coming into winter this year. Because this city, to me, is at her most beautiful at this time of year; when you’re as likely to get clear blue skies with cotton candy clouds as you are the get misty, foggy days. When you see the cafes lit up with that gorgeous golden glow early in the morning to caffeinate the city workers. When the beautiful winter coats and leather boots start to appear on the streets’ catwalks and leaves the most stunning shades of red and auburn and orange and gold litter the footpaths. When the rain washes it all away and everything becomes clean and new again…

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Melbourne Tea Festival 2016 (and all the teas you should be drinking!)

The Melbourne Tea Festival. Or, according to my husband, “Tea Palooza.” Whatever you wanna call it, it happened on Sunday, and it was awesome!

Held for the first time at the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre,

The Melbourne Tea Festival is an interactive experience designed to help people discover and experience specialty tea; encourage and grow passion for tea through education; and showcase quality specialty tea providers. The festival day has two elements, a tea market and a program of ticketed workshops.

If you bought your tickets online before the event, they were only $12, and entry included a little tea cup to carry around for the day so you could taste as much as you wanted. Workshops cost a little extra, so we didn’t participate in any of them, and instead just went to sample and shop. Ok, I went to sample and shop; husband came along because there were food trucks, and his favourite ones, at that.

Included in the food truck line up were Sliders on Tyres, Nem N Nem Vietnamese street food and Kurbside Kravings, but the ones we were there for were the Don Lopez El Cubano Food Truck, doling out the most incredible roast pork Cuban sandwiches, and Ghost Kitchen, purveyors of my husband’s all-time favourite food truck fare – their popcorn chicken is spectacular.

Delicious sweet food was abundant, too (yay for my, the sweet tooth), and I absolutely couldn’t go past the rich, fudgy chocolate whoopie cookies stuffed with matcha.lab matcha cream from Alpen Delicious’ The Whoopies Range.

I also absolutely loved the salted caramel chocolate tart, and the matcha red bean strawberry stuffed daifuku from Chocolette Patisserie.

But enough of the food for now – let’s talk tea! I came home with a pretty decent haul, and sampled quite a few more. Here’s what I tried and what I took home….

What I tried:
– Larsen & Thompson: Lemongrass & Ginger Tea
Light and delicious and great to settle an upset stomach

– the art of tea: Tasmanian Breakfast Tea
I actually tried this one back at Salamanca Market in Hobart a few weeks ago, and it’s a really lovely black tea – a blend of Chinese grown large leaf Yunnan & Keemun

– T2: all of the tea
I’ve been a big fan of T2 for years now; favourites include Melbourne Breakfast Tea, Madagascan Vanilla, Pumping Pomegranate, French Early Grey, Strawberries & Cream and Geisha Getaway.

 

What I took home:

– matcha.lab: matcha pack – 60g pack of organic matcha + bamboo chashaku + bamboo chasen whisk for AUD$45.00
I really enjoyed the matcha I tasted from matcha.lab, and obviously their association with the aforementioned whoopie cookies didn’t hurt, and I needed a whisk and I figured why the hell not go the whole nine yards?! Great purchase!
* WHY MATCHA.LAB? They promise superior organic stone ground matcha from the tea fields of the city of Nishio in the Aichi Prefecture, Japan’s leading producer of matcha, and crafted to ensure the highest concentration of nutrients and antioxidants. They also use small tea leaves, resulting in a higher concentration of antioxidants compared to other brands.

– RicoCoco’s Chocolate Tea: 40g packet for AUD$12.00
This magic little formula actually tasted like a cup of chocolate. Not imitation hot chocolate, but like your actually drinking smooth, liquefied chocolate… wow.
* WHY RICOCOCO? It’s made from shell of the cacao bean, and thats it! It is not a flavour infused tea, nor a processed tea. This is 100% organic, free from GMO pesticides and Freetrade.

– Faraaz Tea: Hibiscus Tea 30g gift pack for AUD$7.00
It was actually the husband who spied this one, remembering the amazing hibiscus tea we drank in Egypt back in 2013. The massive crowd around their stall told us that they had the good stuff, and so they did!
* WHY FARAAZ? They believe in contributing positively to society on a global scale and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Their goal is to make sure you get the best tasting herbal and fruit tea, to feel great after drinking it, to provide exceptionally high quality products and services that are competitive in the global market, and to dedicate themselves to ensuring customer satisfaction world-wide.

– Storm in a Teacup: Breakfast Tea 50g pack for AUD$7.00
I love this tea – it’s a good, strong, old faithful, served at quite a few cafes these days. As much as I love fancy flavoured black teas, I also like to have a good, trusty breakfast tea handy.
* WHY STORM IN A TEACUP? They know their tea inside out, have great respect for the tea rituals of the world, embrace the precocious elevation of tea’s place in our culinary society. Basically, they’re all about tea.

– Zen Wonders: Taishiro Matcha 50g packet for AUD$20.00
Last but not least, a packet of culinary grade matcha – I loved the taste of the ceremonial grade, but didn’t have the extra money to spend on it. That said, this culinary grade is still fantastic as a tea, and an exceptional matcha latte addition.

* WHY ZEN WONDERS? They believe that nourishing both mind and body is a simple, yet powerful discipline to embrace a meaningful and happy journey through life. They source their matcha from the Uji Region of Japan, known to be the best area for production of superior matcha green tea because of the lack of pollution, rich soil, and wide range of temperature between day and night.

 

What I want to try next:
– Travelling Samovar Tea House
Their range looked incredible, and they have Gyokuro tea, my absolute favourite green tea varietal!

– Impala & Peacock Tea Room
They do high tea – if there’s anything I love more than tea, it’s tea with scones!

 

In the mean time, though, I think I’ll make myself another cup of tea and dream about those whoopie cookies… I hope this festival is back again next year!!

Eat for a good cause with HealthBreak: The Lunch Shout

What if you could get a delicious lunch delivered to your workplace and help fight hunger at the same time?

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Enter HealthBreak, a new social enterprise that’s working to make a real difference in Melbourne. In their own words, they’re…

… in business to create an amazing Foodie lunch service, but rather than distribute profits to shareholders we also distribute 100% of profits to Melbourne’s Food Charities and Welfare Agencies to fight hunger in Melbourne.

Each and every day countless Melbourne men, women and children are turned away from the soup kitchens and welfare agencies because there isn’t enough food relief available. It’s called Food Insecurity and coupled with the massive amount of Food waste, there’s a real need to have these problems addressed.

It’s not a real flattering image for the city that’s been voted “most livable” five times in the last few years.

I may have been approached by Rob from HealthBreak to spread the word, but little did he know this is something I actually do feel very strongly about. Mum and I were actually talking about it the other night at dinner, about something dad taught me; I remember vividly the first time I was out to lunch with dad and a homeless man approached looking for money, and dad offered to buy him lunch instead. Since working in the city, taking a leaf out of dad’s book I now do my best to regularly go and buy a sandwich for someone who looks like they might need it, but it’s going to take a lot more than that to effect real change.

Enter Rob and Annette, and HealthBreak. Their plan is this:

For each $13.50 lunch combo sold, we donate 70 cents to a leading Food Charity so they can provide a meal to a Melbournian that’s doing it tough. Rather than distribute a dividend to shareholders from profits (after our operational costs), we distribute it all to Welfare Agencies and Food Charities via a microgrants program.

We also hope that our quality nutritious lunches will help support the health and wellbeing of Melbourne’s workers and by purchasing through us, it will help small businesses and suppliers in the local Food Industry to remain financially viable and contribute even more to our local economy.

And they way you can get involved and help them get his off the ground is by joining their crowdfunding campaign, THE LUNCH SHOUT. Follow the link to find out more, but basically, you can shout yourself a nice lunch, or your friends or family of colleagues (hint hint, bosses!).. So easy! Pledge $13 and you’ve got one lunch coming your way. Pledge $40 and you get 3 meal + drink combo vouchers. Got $140? That’ll get you a cooking class, a 6 person serving of Four Nonnas Artisan Pasta and a meal for someone in need.

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And obviously, being the food lover that I am and advocate for healthier work lunches (particularly when the majority of CBD office workers don’t move nearly enough during the work day), I wanted to test it out for myself; as I’ve said before, invitations are lovely, but I’m not endorsing anything I wouldn’t pay for myself. I ordered a Four Nonnas Roast Vegetable Lasagna; most people don’t get enough veggies in, so this seemed a more fun option than a salad.

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It arrived all packaged up in a plastic tub within a thick plastic bag. The label has ingredients, cooking instructions and nutritional information. All the basics and essentials. I followed the instructions, heating it first in the microwave and then in the oven – it turned out perfectly, although you could certainly just microwave it longer instead of using the oven.

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Being Italian, I’m a bit of a pasta snob, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high, but the worry was unwarranted – it was delicious! Especially as a healthier midweek lunch alternative; it was packed full of veggies, well seasoned, and really delicious, as well as being a good serving size – not so small that I was still hungry afterwards, not so big that I felt sick. Would definitely order this again, especially for those colder Melbourne days at work when you want a bit of comfort food without all the extra unhealthiness.

Other meals include Sri Lankan curries from Candy ‘n’ Spice, Slovak goulash with dumplings from Real Meal Kitchen, and pork & prawn dumplings with dipping sauce from Crave More. The Four Nonnas pastas have my attention now, though; next on my list has to be their organic mushroom ravioli with truffle oil…

Oh, and if you join their mailing list or attend a Facebook event tomorrow (Tuesday 17th May) to promote The Lunch Shout and draw prizes, youll automatically be in their prize draw to win free meals and other great foodie prizes 🙂