11 Apr 2014

Talk Dirty To Me

Out with the old and in with the new is how I'm feeling right now! I've always considered Springtime as a second chance for those New Year's Resolutions that came undone on the cutting room floor of our lives. Days are now drawing out, weather getting balmier, and we get infused with a sugar-like rush of enthusiasm, a fresh burst of energy, new ideas (or at least a fresh perspective on those ideas that got shelved over the Winter), a boost to budding projects and a general sense of rebirth after the drab of the cold season.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) might have taken its toll on some of us, but now it feels like the 'sap' in our bodies is making us feel jiggy with it, as we are sprouting leaves and buds and new growth and start blossoming under the auspicious higher vibration that is now ruling our days. And there is no better time than now to play domestic god(desse)s to the clutter and dustmites of our homes. Out with Winter dirt and in with the sparkle... And shake that booty while you scrub!

'Magic Balls' (for cleaning vases and decanters) from John Lewis
'Squirt + Mop Hard Floor Cleaner' by Method
'Natural Fibre Scrubbing Brush' from Maison Empereur
'Cotton Bobbin Wall Hooks/ Drawer Pulls' from Not On The High Street
'Sailors Whisk Brush' from Labour and Wait
'Limited Edition 1900 Box' (with styrax incense-coated paper strips used as natural air freshener) from Papier d'Arménie


26 Mar 2014

Surf it like Neistat!

Some nights the interwebs have a way of getting things juicy, the way we like them. I can't quite fathom how they brought me to film-making sensation Casey Neistat but - let's put it that way - I've enjoyed the journey as much as the destination. It started off with the latest newsletter from Matador featuring Casey's latest adventure, '17 Tips To Travel With Style'.

Photography by Winnie Au, via Refinery29
This was a AHA moment, what with this cool dude in an office suit who skips the commuting train and the coffee rounds and the conference room to take to the ocean waves and the mountain slopes and the dusty roads and the plush pads, with shitloads of attitude to boot and a bit of a chip (or microchip, we're not sure) on his shoulder! It's also fanstastic kudos for cool fashion brand J.Crew who sponsor the shindig, our internet superhero wearing their Ludlow Traveler suit and putting it to the test in extreme wear and tear conditions (by office standards)! What's for sure is that although I might still look at the office water cooler the same way, that Ludlow won't get that same look from me now.


20 Mar 2014

Oh, Hello Spring!

Spring is my favourite season! Just the sound of it makes me 'spring' into action after the bleaks of Winter, as I awaken to the new possibilities the year has to offer after I spent the winter strategising and researching business opportunities. Spring feels like a renaissance. Corsica awakens too. In fact, it unfolds with Spring. The air is sweet with the aroma of heather whose clusters burst out on the exposed hillsides. Rosemary is in full bloom and a magnet for pollinators that are buzzing out of the woodwork and filling the silence with the reassuring sound of nature at work. Songbirds are now joining in the chorus as they celebrate the coming to being of a brand new day, at the perfect point when night breaks into dawn. Meanwhile cytisus and genista are opening up to the world and casting their bright yellows into the delightful pantones of green that velvet-clad the rocky landscapes that tumble into the sea.

Not meaning to sound pretentious, but I've literally photographed thousands of wild plants since I first set foot in Corsica 4 years ago. Yet when it came to choose one that would symbolise Spring for this post, I thought about a happy compromise between this island and that other island, Britain, where I spent 16 years of my life. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the delightful Centaurea cyanus (British Cornflower), brought over to you by a bag of seeds from the honorable Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, no less!

The Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) peps up meadows, fields and prairies


3 Jan 2014

Day 3 of 2014

How are you feeling today? How has 2014 been to you so far? Kind and promising? Still bright and shiny and fanciful like a brand new toy, the latest gadget, glued together by unbroken promises and dreamy glances? Is it feeling light and airy and fluffy, unsubstantially floating like some cotton-candy cloud above your head and filled with hope's helium? Does 2014 still fit you like a glove, or do I need to check that again with you in six months' time, find out where you're up to in life?

2014 Calendar by Becca Stadtlander

That's how the first few days of January tend to feel like, and day 3 is probably the peak of our own induced paranormal activity. Those days are doomed, they bask in their own fleeting glory, as the messengers to self of secret desires, silent wishes and unfulfilled passions. Those very desires, wishes and passions that came undone, unconsummated in the past year, for whatever reason, resurface like blasts from the past before they dissipate again like a puff of haze off a genie's bottle.

Talking of the past year... How was it for you? Was 13 your lucky number? Your nemesis? Are you still hungover from it? Do you need more time to recover from what might have been but never was? Is its timeline nothing but a flatline on your screen akin to a lesser heartbeat and life slipping away? Is your brain on autopilot, dogged by dogma's paradigms, drowned in that ambient supermarket humdrum that cosies you into the comfort zone only to get rudely interrupted by dead-end jobs and sky-high mortgages and rip-off loans and screaming kids and a partner you once loved, that keep popping in your head on a loop like those red lights in life's control room - and as if that wasn't bad enough - come shouting at you across the aisles on the tannoy. And off goes another year.

Close-up of a Japanese love lucky charm
Successes and the lesser successes... Or shall we poetically repackage those as the peaks and the valleys - beautiful Technicolor Cinemascope allegory wrapped in Dolby surround sound! The peaks - emphatic, majestic and mystical like Mount Kilimanjaro. Or abrupt, ominous and omnivorous like Torres del Paine. The valleys - comfort zones of sorts that look sweet and harmless enough, yet drill holes in the mind, valleys as expansive as the eye can see, a sweeping 360° view that tumbles down into the sea, still aiming for the sky and yet separated from it by a limit the human mind created, a line the human eye defined as horizon, a trickster of a limit without a limit. Man sets its own limits. And those limits are often nothing more than an illusion fed by fear. Fear is a controller. And you are welcome to keep being controlled by it. But I am sure you know that sometimes the way to a feat is via defeat.

And after hours, when it's just you alone with yourself, what is the thought that you hone and polish till it shines so bright it turns to a sun in your head and illuminates your face with a smile which only the divine may see, a sun that keeps you awake at night only to pale down to a trace as dawn rises? Do you ever admit to yourself that somehow you could have handled your year(s) differently? Do you ever hold your breath, harbour a doubt, as you surrender your truths, sign off from expectations others have off you, unplug your machines, clock out of work and step into the suburbia you once called home and get home to a partner you once loved, and shut down into a limbo state of stability and routine which now has got you wondering?

'Wash Series 5', contact paper on arches, 24 x 19 inches 2010, by Matt Shlian
There is no Judgement Day. I am not here to push buttons, point the finger, pull the proverbial trigger or get those mixed feelings even more muddled up. The head feels fuzzy enough on the aftermath of a celebration that shimmied the night away on the borderline between truth and fantasy. Celebration of what is now over and celebration of what is yet to be. And as we slip in and out of the New Year's Resolutions territory, said resolutions are nothing more than premises to promises that we validate to ourselves and others before letting them slowly swoosh off to a crunch come Twelfth Night, on the eve of The Epiphany. Resolutions are like those pretty yet cumbersome present wrappers we'd shed earlier on Christmas Day. You can either let them swoosh off to a crunch or pick them up, turn them into opportunity where others give them a vacant gaze. And now that's what I call an epiphany: to embrace the synergy a new year offers, seize the moment, take a chance, follow your heart, push off those limits you created in the first place and break out of your old patterns.

If anything, do yourself a favour. In the grand scheme of things that architect each moment lived into one less moment to be lived, do make sure that you make THIS year - yes, 2014 - count.

25 Dec 2013

Happy Holidays!

I had meant to post this earlier in the week but I've been busy running last-minute errands (like surely most of you have), and... then got caught in the holiday spirit and ended up all baked out! Come Christmas, Easter, birthdays and other party celebrations, I am pâtissière in residence, delighted and proud to be assigned to bake those gâteaux, cream cakes and other sweet nothings for friends and family who come and ask for more (best compliment!)... and this Christmas has been no exception!

I put together a tropical classic, namely my Cool Coco Yule Log (back by popular demand!), this time served with a fresh zingy litchee, carambola (starfruit) and passion fruit salad, yum! There was also a 'novelty' Kugelhopf that I baked from scratch for afters - 'novelty' cos I had never made one of those before and cos I used candied Corsican citron (citrus medica) in lieu of lemon rind.

Oh, and I won't even get started on those naughty but nice canapés I whisked together by the tray last night for an apéritif with a difference, juggling melba toast, paper thin slices of walnut bread and bite sizes of gingerbread, covered in anything from homemade tapenade to mushroom and mustard pâté, salmon and ginger paste (had to make allowance to the non-veggie amongst us!) topped with sundried tomato shreds, via fig preserve and other spur-of-the-moment spread concoctions of mine!

Got sloshed with mum on cherries soaked in kirsch (cherry brandy) later on last night after dessert and that was fun too! Anyhoo hope you had/ you're having a great Christmas wherever in the world you are right now, and that you will end up the year in style and on a high note! If 2013 ever was a bit 'so-so' for you, then don't linger on the bad bits and tell yourself that the coming year is gonna be a rocker! If you hang around this blog, I promise you loads of more uplifting 'Inspire Aspire' moments, and we'll sail that coming year on the crest of the wave together! Mwaaah for now, peeps!

17 Dec 2013

Inspire Aspire - Practice Gratitude

Gratitude, an awe-inspiring, slightly enchanting word, asks us to reflect upon and express gratefulness for what we already have in life, to count our blessings and adopt the 'Half-full glass' approach. Sounds pretty easy, yet many of us relegate it to the back of our minds in our never-satisfied quest for the next thrill, the next material purchase, competing with the Joneses and mistaking 'what is' for 'what should be'.

'Moog 2012', by DKNG Studios
Let's start off with our current situation in relation to gratitude:
  1. If you are already practicing gratitude to a 'T', this article will only encourage you to keep going at it (as a daily exercise), and consider gratitude as a positive affirmation that leads you onto the right path to a better self. Gratitude will reverberate and attract good things into your life and bring abundance - if it hasn't already!
  2. If you are a novice in the field like yours truly, I humbly suggest that we join forces for the journey of self-discovery and appreciation, and keep nudging encouragement to one another along the way!
  3. If gratitude hasn't been on your radar lately for one reason or another, it's never too late to remedy this in a few easy steps and for no longer than a couple of minutes a day! Practice makes perfect.
As we're rounding off 2013, now is a good time to unwind, take a quiet and solo moment out of our day, stay kind to ourselves while taking a non-judgemental look at the whole spectrum of our personal achievements over the last 12 months - that means the biggies and the teeny-weeny bits - and then extend our gratitude to those achievements. Then embrace other areas of life in other time sequences for which we are grateful. Open up our heart and express gratitude firstly in our head and then on paper (in a little notepad) in such a way that this will prepare us to hit the new year in a positive vibrational mindframe.

'Retrospector #4', by Jazzberry Blue, via Society6
A wise humble monk and interfaith scholar, Brother David Steindl-Rast has demonstrated to us lately that only gratitude brings happiness. Not the other way round. This is worth a ponder. Live in the now and be grateful for what you have. "It is not happiness that makes us grateful. It's gratefulness that makes us happy." (DS-R).

In my journey of self-discovery and personal development, I have come across the importance of gratitude from varied converging sources. Celebrated life coaches, high-profile mentors and self-help consultants will either bring it to our attention at some point or repeatedly drum it into us as part of the process that will kick-start us into gear to achieve what we most dearly want out of life! Louise Hay, Bob Proctor, Jack Canfield, Marianne Williamson, Marie Forleo, Mastin Kipp, Gabrielle Bernstein, Karen Salmansohn and countless others praise the power of gratitude. Jack Canfield even packages it up nicely into a Daily Gratitude Journal, where you are invited to list five things you are grateful for daily, with the addition of inspirational quotes to keep you going.

I got myself a little pad and I invite you to do the same. In that pad, I collect nice positive uplifting things: thoughts, quotes, quips, creative endeavours (poems, doodles), wishlist, dreams - and my gratitude list. I have what I call 'my core gratitude list' which features 10 things I am most grateful of in my whole life. And then at the end of each day I consciously set aside a moment of 're-alignment' with myself, where I mentally list things that happened during the day and for which I am grateful and proud. You may write down your daily gratitude items if you so prefer.

Yesterday I expressed gratitude for that cute little Jack Russell Terrier pup and his mum whom I came across on my country walk: that bouncy little guy made my day! I also expressed gratitude for the fact that my insurance company had refunded me for a policy misquote (a nice surprise through the post!). I was also grateful for the lovely sunny weather (something you do appreciate after 16 years spent in the rainiest city in the U.K., namely Manchester!).

As you can see, gratitude doesn't need to come all trumps in big flashy letters like being thankful for that great friendship or living the dream (whatever this might be). Gratitude also incorporates the more mundane and subtle aspects of life, like a beautiful sunny day or crossing the path of a rare wildflower... or that of a puppy!

“Gratitude is the law of increase, and complaint is the law of decrease.” - Florence Scovel Shinn

9 Dec 2013

Nobody's Girl (Part 2)

I befriended total strangers from the Facebook groups and communities I had joined, and around a common passion we built a rapport. I wouldn't call it friendship, just exchanging a polite comment or two, clicking a 'like' on their page or promoting their business to the rest of the crew. No high expectations, no disappointment to be had, no shared history and other luggage. It actually made it easy for me to make friends with those. One was a talented Africa-based wildlife photographer, another was a shark advocate biologist from South Africa, another an interiors designer from NYC, there was also a motivational business coach from Australia. All in all, these people weren't gonna be the cause for my exasperation and FB PBs (Problems)! I was gonna be the cause - my own best/ worst ennemy.

Crystal Renn for Vogue Mexico, April 2011, photo by David Roemer (Pict source)
As weird as it may seem, my problems were going to stem off my snooping on my 'real friends' and in pure drama queen stylee, escalate till they made me ill. Real friends: we share common history, we are invested in the relationship on one level or another, we may have vested interest in that relationship, and besides it is hard not to have (high) expectations off them. High expectations invariably lead to disappointment and resentment. You get it.

FB brings to light areas of our friends' personalities we might have chosen to ignore, given the choice, things that had actually been staring you in the face all along until they got splashed out for all to see, like, share, comment upon or ridicule.

Lost and found again... Britney Spears (Pict source)
I know me. I know what I'm like. Especially whenever feeling bored and lonely. Start clicking on those friends' profiles and examine them carefully, look at them photos and read them captions, and hop off a tangent to their own circle of friends, and repeat the process. Before I care to realise, I am playing detective, piecing together bits of info, clues, codenames and links to achieve 'the bigger picture', a distorted Grail of truths and untruths - and misunderstandings galore! These findings - no matter how true - won't make me a happy bunny.

Then I go back to my FB page to find out that my witty quip only got one 'like', and this wasn't even from one of my fave friends! Then I notice that a friend posted a naff acronym as brief as 'WTF!' and straight away gets 15 'likes' and half a dozen comments! Yeah, FB hardly rewards the Shakesperian-inclined. The closer to trash TV you stand, the better you stand a chance to be noticed.

Vintage Rotary Phone, via Anthropologie
Then my obsession turned to resentment (back to para.2 above). I thought, I believed, that so-and-so would love that music tune from back in the party days but nope! Besides it looked like everyone else on FB was having the time of their lives, whizzing a quick update between parties, accessorised with the best arm candy in town, while I - poor I - was stuck on my laptop still trying to figure out who had got lucky with whom... Nat, it was time to get a grip, for goodness sake! I am no teenage wallflower, I'm actually old enough to be her mum and know better!

I'd wanted out for a long time already, realised I had been unable to pace and trust myself with it, unable not to get my imagination into overdrive, caught in paranoia and a drama I'd created for myself. FB made me ill.

Then a seemingly insignificant caption finally nailed it for me, after I had unsuccessfully tried to distance myself from FB. Randomly snooping, I found out that a male friend had posted a photo of some girl he fancied and captioned it 'She's my girl'. And this had an effect on me. I came to the realisation that everyone in that circle had (or seemed to have) a girl/ guy, girlfriend/ boyfriend, lover, someone special, that mattered to them, no matter what.

In the stark light of my computer screen, I came to the realisation that - on the contrary - I was nobody's girl and this had been staring me in the face for a long time - as clear as you can get. And sadly my self-love and self-esteem had brittled away with it. I came to realise that I'd been hoping to be noticed, cared about, loved, made to feel special. To matter. Suddenly it felt like no-one gave a f**k, so I might as well deactivate that account and no-one will even notice.

October had been a stressful month for me for other reasons, and one night I decided to stop FB from taking over my life and erode my self-worth any further. I unfriended a pack of friends and then I deactivated the goddamn thing. I felt better instantly. Relieved. Yet off the deletes, there was a guy from the other side of the world whom I didn't want out of my life. But then I thought - surely if I do remotely mean something to him, he will notice I'm gone and find a way to reconnect. We have.

Twinkle, Little Star! (Pict source)
Meanwhile I am not ruling out that I won't reactivate my FB account in the near future - but this will only happen when I feel ready and in control - rather than controlled by it! Until then, I will happily stay away. Social networking has brought to the fore the fragility and ambiguity of friendship. It has also brought to the fore the fact that true friendship should not rely upon the likes of FB or Twitter & Co. in order to thrive, nor should social media dictate the value and depth of a friendship.

As for being Nobody's Girl, I'll take that back. A girl, whatever her status - single, married, divorced or widowed - is not nobody's girl. In fact, she cannot be nobody's girl. She is somebody's girl. She is hers, herself, her own. She comes into her own by being her own girl. You'll never walk alone again once you've realised that you have yourself by your side. Stand proud and walk the line!

Nobody's Girl (Part 1)

Something had to be done. I was down that rocky self-love pilgrimage like I've been for the best part of 2013, when I came to the realisation that Facebook wasn't/ couldn't be a part of my journey anymore and I had to let it go. For the second time - and yes I should have known better that first time around.

Heidi Klum tells it as it is!
Oh, Facebook and I had been in a complicated on-off relationship since 2008. I signed up to it originally under false pretences, namely due to my job in marketing, where the team were encouraged to 'promote' certain causes and raise awareness in our 'me' time and connect with PR/ design execs and marketing affiliates. Work colleagues and personal friends and acquaintances got intermingled on my friends list, sitting side by side on my screen and leaving me slightly unnerved at the 'friend' tag that suppliers, clients, co-workers and bosses suddenly fell under. This 'one size fits all' tag devalued the very notion of friendship - whose value I hold with high regard.

Before long, one of our PR agents was happily streaming her bar-mitzvah photos by the truck-load, while - in a case of unvoluntary voyeurism - I would also witness co-workers' holiday snapshots and their family time intrusion onto my timeline activity stream blurred boundaries further. I think that back in those early FB days, the concept of filtering hadn't reached any of us just yet.

The Blogcademy Melbourne, via galadarling via Flickr, photo by Lakshal Perera
I tried to play it cool and started to pretend to be myself on FB, unveiled the real I beyond the marketing girl, and then exposed my community to my 'likes' and 'shares' and (carefully-written) notes. Problem is, I liked the unlikeable: Courtney Love, Queens of the Stone Age, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, A Perfect Circle, Slipknot, etc. My music tastes weren't obviously gonna cut the mustard as they weren't in line with the company's brand image, core values and product offering - and NO I didn't happen to work for Interscope or Roxy or Converse!

I got tired of being pigeonholed cos of likes I was supposed to dislike and dislikes I was supposed to like. I wasn't gonna play games anymore. I had the outcome all mapped out in my head. One night, I unfriended each one of my 'friends', painstakingly unliked my likes, deleted every post I'd written, every comment I'd added, until I got my FB page to its bare bones. Then I deactivated it.

'Pangolin!', photo by BTphotographic (Benjamin Tupper), 24/03/2013, via Flickr
Roll forward four years. Surprisingly in the interim FB had still managed to seep into my inbox, advising me from time to time about a friend who wanted to 'friend' me. My account was deactivated - not closed. In late Summer 2012 I gave FB another chance, mainly in order to keep easy contact with a couple of friends from overseas - without the costly phone bills or hassle of email.

Then my circle widened up to co-workers, exes, former friends and about everyone and anyone. In my quest for popularity and to bridge that void within, I threw caution to the wind and went for quantity over quality! Besides I seized the FB opportunity as a channel to broadcast wildlife and animal welfare causes close to my heart - and this really resonated with my value system: charities and NFP organisations, environmental foundations, business networking groups... Shark-friendly advocacy communities... Cool fashion and lifestyle brands like Roxy and Billabong... Amazingly I made 'friends' with some cool dudes whom I had never met in real life. So then, what was gonna bring me to end it with FB? (to be continued...)

Further Reading on the Adverse Effects of FB: 


A Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela passed away peacefully a few days ago, aged 95. Peace had been his disarming strength and an inspiration to all of us. Starting off a young promising lawyer with the wrong skin colour, he - like Martin Luther King - had had a dream of a better world.

Nelson Mandela (pict source: Getty)
Mandela disapproved of the apartheid instored in his home country of South Africa and, as a result of his 'subversive' ideas on peace and freedom, was sent off to a penitentiary where he would serve 27 years for 'the crime' of defending race equality between white and black and the educational and work rights they deserved. Mandela would be made to break rocks as punishment, yet his spirit would remain unbroken. Eventually international pressure got the better off the government in place and the president bowed under pressure to free Madiba (as he was affectionately known as) - and the rest is a piece of history immortalised.

'365 Days of Hand Lettering : Day 167' by Lisa Congdon
Mandela could have harboured resentment and angst and revenge as he came out a free man in a country that had taken away his civil rights and a big chunk of his life, but he arose a hero, humble, reflective, wise, sporting a contagious smile and grand ideas for his country. His life took a turn for the better, as the new president of his home country, winner of the Peace Nobel Prize, and a living model of unity and equality, transcending racial origins, religious views, political afflilations, as he would rub shoulders with heads of state from British royalty to Bill Clinton via Fidel Castro. He would meet up with The Dalai Lama, The Pope, and 'A' List celebrities would come visit him.

Nelson Mandela became a symbol of redemption and reconciliation and the example par excellence that if you believe in and defend your ideas strongly enough, no hurdle will stop you.

1 Dec 2013

The Fast & The Gone Fast

Oh my, just found out about Paul Walker's fatal car crash in Valencia, California, aged 40! Gone so soon and too young to die - like James Dean, back in the day.

I'd always had a thing for the star of The Fast & Furious franchise, more than I did for Vin Diesel, I must confess. Paul was my secret crush, the regular guy next door, supa easy on the eye, with bleached surfer looks, a gaze you could dive into and lose yourself, a contagious smile, love for speed and daredevil action, and with more than a spark in the eye! Aside his filming career and Davidoff modelling stint, he was also an educated and big-hearted chap, involved in humanitarian projects - and - an animal lover. All in all, he would wipe out my disaster catalogue of exes and elses with his charm, style and substance as fantasy boyfriend material! He was that kinda guy who had that kinda effect on a kinda girl like I. I would have brought him home to meet the parents, no problem! Rest in Peace, dude. You will be sorely missed by zillions of us. Condolences to your loved ones. And stick to the slow lane, up there in Heaven!

Paul Walker in 'Vehicle 19', Ilze Kitshoff - Ketchup Entertainment - via Los Angeles Times


28 Nov 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

All the way from Old Europe, I would like to wish all of my American friends a Happy Thanksgiving!

I was going to browse through the Martha Stewart website in search of pictorial Thanksgiving inspiration, but I knew that pictures of roasted turkeys would irrevocably turn up and - as a vegetarian - it would be a fallacy and frankly inappropriate for me to post anything to do with dead birds on plates - although ok yeah I was brought up a carnivore (yet beside the point).

Then yesterday inspiration took more resonance after I read Soul Mate Coach Dina Robison's eNewsletter. Her Thanksgiving thoughts and gratitude went to the North American Indians, whose land had been forcibly taken over by those pilgrims, preachers and other settlers from Old Europe. Dina said: "Though a special time to get together with loved ones, it's also a holiday that evokes mixed feelings for conscious individuals due to the real violent history that goes along with it and the collective sadness felt for the loss of the beautiful Native American people and culture."

'Old White Man' (c.1908), by Edward S. Curtis, via The Library of Congress
Europeans had come over to America to start a new life (so did some of my ancestors over a century ago), making way to a self-proclaimed 'New World', a European outpost solidly grounded on the society values of western civilisation, with a slant re-interpretation/ re-adjustment of them and - yes - a strong emphasis upon liberal economy and spirit of enterprise.

Ultimately America - the USA - would set the pace and tone to ROW (Rest of World) as the modern 'civilised' trend-setter and a cultural and/ or business model to aspire to. Talking from experience, the reality - or illusion - of The American Dream still sets pulses racing over in Europe. I too am fascinated by the US - from an artistic and geographic perspective mainly (those huge expanses of landscapes, WOW!).

As a European, Thanksgiving is not part of my culture and I have no intention to cast judgements or upset anyone whatsoever. I just thought though that, like Dina, I would pay tribute to those native Americans who tragically lost out on their own land, history and legacy, so that Europeans could build their Utopia.

24 Nov 2013

Inspire Aspire - Ready For Your Close-Up?

I have one simple yet complex question for you. Think carefully before you answer it. Do YOU love YOU? Please just pause for a moment and reflect on the question and answer it in all honesty, i.e. don't say 'Yes' if you mean 'No'.

If your answer is 'Yes', well done! I am no clairvoyant, but I guess you should feel pretty balanced and content in your life, or at least able to face adversity without compromising your self-beliefs and personal core values. You show gratitude towards yourself, you are aware of your self-worth and don't allow others to compromise or undermine it - by putting you down or walking all over you! You are in control, in the driver's seat.

'Marilyn Monroe 28' (1967), by Andy Warhol, via Artsy
Now if your answer is 'No' or 'Not really' or 'Not at all', please rest assured that it's not the end of the world in itself, however what comes next might come as a bit of a shocker to you and be akin to one little bitter pill to swallow. If you don't love you = No-one can love you - & - If you don't love you = You cannot love anyone.

That's right, and I'll paraphrase the above statement some more to drum the message in. If you have no love for yourself, how can anyone have love for you? In order for someone to love you, you need to love yourself first. You can't expect others to love you if you don't first and foremost love yourself.

Oh yeah, here we go again - you might think. Something to do with self-help, personal development, whatever they call it down at Hay House or on Super Soul Sunday...

'The Skull in Gold, Negative', 2012 - by Bill Claps, via Artspace
We are not talking fashion trends here. The love of self, otherwise known as self-love had done the rounds way before personal development got trendy, filtered down the café societies and became accessible from the comfort of your latest smartphone app. Psychiatrists and psychologists have long linked self-love to increased confidence, happiness and self-respect. And self-love naturally attracts the love from others to you - and reciprocally your love of others.

You can't expect off anyone what you can't give out yourself. Same applies with kindness, generosity, tolerance, empathy or respect, etc. You can't respect anyone or expect respect off anyone if you don't self-respect first. What goes around comes around. We are indeed skirting round the Law of Attraction here and it makes perfect sense.

If You ♥ You = You Get ♥

(Pict source)
To love oneself goes beyond love itself. It means to be kind to oneself, be our own best friend, acceptant and respectful of oneself - warts et al, and this chain of events leads to others being able - and made allowed by us - to love us.

To some of us, self-loving might either sound complacent or total mumbo-jumbo and there is no wrong in that. Self-love is a process, a journey, not an overnight result. Being aware of its importance is one first capital step in the direction that will change the way we approach business, friend and love relationships once and for all.

To some of us, self-loving might already be music to our ears, although we might keep quiet on the fact that self-love wasn't achieved overnight, that it took years well into adulthood, through painful personal experiences like feelings of worthlessness and powerlessness, fear of rejection, self-loathing, self-harming, complicated family rapports, pretend friendships, tense office politics, not to mention those disastrous 'love' relationships with the douchebag brigade!

Ready for her close-up? Gloria Swanson in 'Sunset Boulevard'
The best way to approach self-love as a novice is by doing 'some mirror work' as Louise Hay candidly describes it. Every single day, she spends a moment with herself by looking in the mirror and saying to her reflection 'I Love You'. She says it meaning what she says. By telling herself 'I Love You', she comes from a place of honesty. She acknowledges herself, gives herself attention, importance, recognition, self-appreciation, gratitude and compliment. It is a powerful positive affirmation. Please note that self-love isn't to be confused with narcissism (which is an excessive, obsessive, compulsive, distorted and therefore negative idea of self-love).

The method takes a bit of getting used to. It did for me. I only started it properly three months or so ago - and some days I really have to force myself to say the words. But I know that I am giving out a positive vibration and positive attracts more positive into my life, so this is time well spent. And the self-love mantra has helped me refocus on many areas of my life and be self-centered (this doesn't mean selfish) and empowered. For the first time ever.

22 Nov 2013

We Can Make it Possible - Together

Look what I proudly got through my email a few moments ago: my Donation Certificate from Animals Australia, via their Make It Possible website, where I pledged to make a world without factory farming a reality, by personally choosing to 'Be meat-free'! Alternatively you may select to 'Refuse factory-farmed', 'Eat fewer animal products' or 'Make a Cash Donation'.

I'm actually a seasoned vegetarian but I do pledge to remain so until I die - not planning to be one of those 'trendy' veggies that don't eat meat when it suits them and then throw caution to the wind at the sight of vol-au-vents at a buffet, grandma's clam chowder, the office Xmas party or that hasty Friday night shop that involves a basketful of meat-laden convenience food - cos well, them ready meals are so... convenient!

The short 'Make it Possible' documentary (also available via YouTube) came out about a year ago but is still as relevant as ever! It makes for compelling viewing about the cruelty behind the closed doors of factory farming, where animals are born to suffer a life of utter misery, pain, imprisonment, crowdedness and lack of human compassion before being slaughtered to finally end up nicely packaged up on supermarket shelves or on our dinner plates with all the trimmings. Animals are not treated as living creatures which feel pain and emotion. They are punished for a crime they didn't commit. They are treated as mere commodities, objects whose only purpose is to feed us. On earth, the current ratio of factory farmed animals per human is 10 to 1. That makes sweeping the issue of factory farming under the carpet a tad cumbersome, doesn't it?

If you already are a veggie - and you feel I'm preaching to the converted - please bear in mind that the battle isn't won yet. We need to spread the word and share films like this one. If you are a die-hard carnivore, surely the video cannot leave you unmoved at some point. Yet if you read this blog, you will have the level of consciousness that will allow you to be open to question and reconsider your views and habits. Then how about starting off gently with the Meat-Free Mondays? Or start cutting down on some types of meat, like burgers? For the more daring of us, how about opting for a vegetarian Thanksgiving and/ or Christmas? That might sound controversial, but eh you might surprise yourself and convert one or two more guys in the process! At least this will make it one season to remember!


19 Nov 2013

Inspire Aspire - Morning Meditation with Karen Salmansohn

First time I ever came across best-selling author, illustrator, self-help "facilitator" and ex-creative director Karen Salmansohn (whose tongue-in-cheek domain name I love, btw!) was on Pinterest (an endless source of inspiration to me!), via one of her many inspiring graphic design posters.

By Karen Salmansohn
Pict source: Urban Outfitters
The association of graphic aestheticism and food for thought carried out by relatable words of wisdom enchanted me and piqued my curiosity. Before long I had joined Karen's Facebook page and Twitter fanclub! Meanwhile Karen is fondly described by journalists as "Deepak Chopra Meets Carrie Bradshaw”, so you get the picture of depth of character and personal development packaged up in style. A win-win duo of elegance and substance, form and content.

Today while browsing through Twitter, I stumbled across her 'Morning Meditation' video which got me in a state of relaxation in the time it would have normally taken me to sneak away from the 'home desk' to get up to no good, i.e. down to the larder to scoff half a pack of biccies while brewing up that cuppa!

In our world of chaos and trouble - and while having a thought for the casualties of Haiyan - I can't wait to share this little animated treasure of peace with you. So then, make yourself comfy and click the button below... Off you go to a well-deserved little moment of self-indulgent bliss! And no sneaky biccies, please, he-he!

P.S: I've even just treated myself to Karen's 'Prince Harming Syndrome' eBook, praised and recommended by Oprah herself! The eBook has just landed in my inbox and I can't wait to read it and obtain solutions and the closure I so seek from those heartaches and hopefully move on with a clearer mind and heart to the love I truly deserve in life! Will keep you posted on my progress, folks! 2014 is gonna be a cracking year, I can feel it already!

16 Nov 2013

Inspire Aspire - Color Your World With Kindness

Want something for the week-end, yet not exactly sure what it is you want? How about something cute, light-hearted and meaningful? If you only have a couple of minutes to spare, then I'll keep the chit-chat to the point and let you view this short animation film I randomly came across via Tiny Buddha.

Here's the lowdown: a community of good people got together as The BetterWorldians in order to promote and initiate positive change around them. You can interact with them via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, wihere they pledge to fund surgeries allowing ten children to walk for the first time, as soon as their 'Color Your World With Kindness' animation film reaches one million views! To this effect, The BetterWorldians have made a partnership with CURE, a non-profit organisation that operates hospitals and medical programmes in 29 countries worldwide.

The BetterWorldians explain: "With this Campaign of Kindness we're launching a worldwide challenge for all people to make it A Better World in any way they can. Small actions make a big difference!"

So there you go guys... Watch the video, share it and let's make sure that together we help boost those viewing figures up for a worthwhile and noble cause!


15 Nov 2013

Rock the Twitterverse

In case you'd been missing me lately on the blog front - whether here at La Baguette Magique or a hop away at my sister site Mirabelle Design Inspiration, I wasn't actually that far off...

Because if you just can't get enough off me (awww!), surely you're aware that you can catch me in other ways: via Pinterest for my visual boards (I am a closet image bank curator!), and @baguettemagique + @MirabelleDesign for my thought-provoking tweets - and pertinent retweets like those included hereby.

I am known to linger on Pinterest on some cosy late nights, lounging with my laptop in bed, chasing inspiration whenever the travel bug bites me: Hit the Road, Jack! is one great escape, or if you wanna hang around the cool crowds, Bohemian Like You does the trick! There's plenty more stylish boards to browse, like Personal Project Café (an ambition I hope to materialise!) or Palm Springs Hideaway, a sleek streamlined atmospheric design-led Southwestern theme with a Stepford Wife/ Barbie Doll vibe to it!

Meanwhile Twitter and I have shared an on-off affair for the last 4 years (sometimes off for weeks on end!) but a few months back I revived my interest in @baguettemagique as a platform to circulate my environmental/ ethical/ ecological information (gleaned via my numerous official newsletter subscriptions), and circulate petitions, most notably against ivory tusk trafficking, shark fin fishing, deforestation, palm oil cultures and animal cruelty.

As a contrast to the seriousness and gravity of the information permeating @baguettemagique - and in pure Gemini duality (two-faced!) style - I decided to keep @MirabelleDesign as the light-hearted twin, solely concerned with all things culture, design, fashion, beauty and fluff... and some meditative quotes and personal insights (cos that's just the way I am!).

So then guys and gurls, I am never that far away from you after all! If I'm not here, you know where to find me. And if you wanna find me to the sound of music, it's even better: check out my groovy Grooveshark (in progress!) and let's get into the groove!


10 Nov 2013

Lest We Forget

We had been given no choice. We were working-class lads who'd been taken off the factory floor or agricultural field and summoned to serve the powers that be for a war we had little or no understanding of.

Our infantry battalions marched on for days and nights and we fought as we were ordered, a horrid relentless raging battle that symbolises the absurdity of the human race. To kill or to get killed. Those who disobeyed military orders were simply shot down 'to set an example' to the rest of us.

'Stormtroops Advancing Under a Gas Attack' (1924), by © Otto Dix, via National Gallery of Australia

As much as the humanitarianism of our luminary counterparts (free thinkers, scientists, professors, etc.) had helped raise awareness and manifest, support, promulgate and protect all aspects of educational, philosophical, social, legal, political and technical progress and advancement aimed at bettering the life conditions of our peers regardless of their social origins, for the greater good of all individuals as the ultimate purpose, the abnegation, destruction and annihilation brought about by war came as a contradiction.

Our regiments were deployed to the front battlefields of The Somme, Chemin des Dames and Verdun to feed the heavy cannon-fodder artillery machines, while a clique of portly generals and high commanders watched from a safe distance, smoking cigars, clinking Cognac glasses and pushing clusters of batallion figurines across a battlefield map that might well have been a chessboard.

The irony of it was that we were sent to fight working-class lads who'd been taken off the factory floor or agricultural field from the other side of the border and summoned to serve the powers that be for a war they too had little or no understanding of.

Reality was stranger than fiction! 'Paths of Glory' (1957), by Stanley Kubrick, with Kirk Douglas
One day when the battle wasn't raging on in our neck of the woods, three of my comrades and I had a chance encounter with a couple of those lads on our way to the river, ordinary folks like us, with a wife and kids back home. We quickly realised they weren't out to kill us. They looked weary, sick with anguish like us, they too had witnessed the unspeakable horror of the front, and a part of them had died in the soggy trenches, across the desolate no man's lands, through to the muddy fields strewn with putrescent corpses and body parts, and agonising comrades begging to be shot dead as death was their only deliverance from this living nightmare.

We swapped a cigarette or two as an ice-breaker. Then we got those old crumpled family photos out of our pockets and we showed them to those guys. They did the same. We kept quiet for a moment, fighting back emotion, standing next to one another in silent dignity. Then we smiled, exchanged a few words, despite the language barrier we did understand one another. We knew the odd German word, "Krieg, großes unglück !", we used sign language, we nodded together empathetically. One of us even started humming 'Mademoiselle from Armentières' and we swayed along to the song.

Then a younger lad from their regiment - who couldn't be older than 15 - came up with a football and we all started kicking the ball around. We ran around like reborn teenagers and we cheered as each team scored. I couldn't remember the last time I had laughed. We played for 5 minutes, possibly longer, who knows? Then we patted each other on the back as we parted, wished one another luck and went our separate ways. The night after this encounter, each one of us prayed to God that we would stay safe, and that they too would stay safe, and that if we were to see them in person again by a curious twist of fate, it would be like today - as friends. To swap a word, a smile, a cigarette, and to kick a ball around. Like friends. The most human and humane act of friendship that comes to mind.

6 Nov 2013

In Advance for Advent

Even though we still have some way to go 'til Christmas and we haven't even reached Poppy Day yet, the festive season seems to be creeping up on us slowly but surely. And in those early days, we are still fairly light-headed and excited by the anticipation and magic of it all... until the media and the high street will force-feed us Christmas like geese about to be turned to foie gras.

So while I'm still feeling in the mood, I couldn't resist this beautiful Advent set featuring the Advent Biscuit Tin and Susie Watson Limited Edition Cloth Advent Calendar both introduced by the latest Biscuiteers newsletter that freshly landed in my inbox this morning as I was munching on mini-croissants (ah the delight of continental brekkies!).

The only dilemma we might encounter here though is that those little colourful biscuits on display look way too cute to be eaten! What do you think?


31 Oct 2013

A Date with the Halloween Guys!

Come on, we do like to flirt with a little controversy over here on La Baguette! And what's more appropriate to set the date than Halloween? Are you up for it? Dare to introduce that somewhat elusive edgy boyfriend that makes your heart aflutter, that slightly scary-looking 'squeeze' that makes you feel as high as a kite, to the parents and/ or to those conservative biased friends of yours... Tis the night to go the full hog, emancipate those stuffy principles, challenge those unspoken limits, push and shake the clichés, and twist and turn the boundaries around what defines boyfriend material from the rest. Meditate, then take a deep breath, stay calm, cool and collected and take the dare. Expect the odd reservation, timid nod and suspicious glance from your folks, actually they need a little time to adjust. But bear in mind that they might turn out to like loverboy after all and end up getting on with him like a house on fire! Bonus!

You know I know that you know... How mum disapproves of tattoos and long hair on men, and how dad can't stand music that strays one note away from jazz, and that he associates a motorbike owner with the Hell's Angels.... Too bad! Tis the night to prove them wrong. Because often behind the crazy off-centre image, behind the apparent hard-to-crack shell is a good guy with a little insecurity, either still looking for himself or out to stand out to show all and sundry that his exterior is a reflection of his interior: creativity unleashed. Take Rob Zombie: he's definitely one of them... And - despite not being everyone's cuppa - he is definitely cool, edgy and talented! I've got my eye on him! Happy Halloween, you lot!

Rob is as hot as a real life zombie + he's a singer and film-maker!
Benefit Cosmetics via Twitpic


29 Oct 2013

Inspire Aspire - Shall We Move Mountains?

The other day, a friend of mine asked me: "How do you eat an elephant?" What an incongruous question to both a staunch vegetarian and elephant devotee - I thought - but it piqued my curiosity nonetheless. As I coudn't come up with anything remotely clever or tongue-in-cheek, I just shrugged my shoulders, waiting for some exciting off-limit far-fetched smart answer. Ha-ha then I got it... Wait for it: "One bite at a time" was the answer!

Come to think of it, it's like this clever little infographic here that humbly claims to help us better our lives with easy simple steps. And by easy, I mean no gimmicks, no super IQs, no high-tech, no psycho babble nonsense. Just one bite at a time.

Here's the deal; By starting small, one step at a time, you will move mountains. It's by starting with the little things that we will make those noticeable improvements. A little introduction of sorts to greater things like A Course in Miracles or Gabrielle Bernstein's May Cause Miracles. Cool stuff!

Source: Lifehack. (Click on the link for higher definition).
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