3 Jul 2014

A Candid Account of Cabin Fever

I live on an island and this gets people curious. A few friends and acquaintances from the mainland asked me what that felt like, and before I could get a word in edgeways, would muse: 'You lucky thing, must be so much fun! Always a beach close by, and the weather's so fine! Every day's a holiday... No stress, no nuthin!' - They're so sweet that I don't even feel like breaking a little taboo to them...

(Via Tumblr)

The last thing I want is spoil the island life cliché because it actually encapsulates some charmful elements of truth: the quality of life that is specific to islands, closeness/ intimacy to nature and a certain cosiness and security brought about by the scaled-down distances. And yes (in my case), the year-round beach holiday feeling. However this is not all pink hearts and fluffy clouds. Unless you were born with a silver spoon or enjoy the financial security brought by acquired wealth, you will still feel the stress engendered by the need to make a living and get creative in a challenging marketplace, with tough economic conditions to boot, exacerbated by the geographical, physical and commercial limitations of the island.

Then to the tough challenge of finding permanent employment, establishing a business model that yields a revenue beyond the tourist season, or finding a sustainable niche, all of those under the auspices of the local close-knit diaspora (a tough one, this one!), you will likely have cabin fever to deal with, a condition that is not readily discussed out in the open, as it might be wrongly perceived by some as a sign of weakness or some mental disorder. Therefore the chic and glamour and dilettante of island living as purported by the likes of Condé Nast Traveller and Coastal Living do not *in reality* come as intrinsic universal island privileges.

Oak Bluffs Cottage, via Remodelista (photography by Julian Wass)

Seasoned residents and born-and-breds have (had) to deal with cabin fever. It has reached the more select corners of the Bahamas, Mustique, Madeira, Capri, Santorini, Mauritius or Tahiti, in fact all of the isles. Cabin fever is part and parcel of island life, and the smaller the isle, the more acute the 'fever' - I find. Cabin fever manifests cyclically, mostly outside the tourist season (personally I experience it around the equinox season, October-November and February-March time), when you find yourself at odds with your surroundings, stuck in isolation, in the tiny villages and resorts, the same ol' town, the same ol' faces, the same ol' stories that do the rounds, the same ol' repeated patterns, the pettiness of it all.

You feel restricted and it gets claustrophobic, the physical cut-off from mainland and the rest of world gets too much. There's a feeling of powerlessness, no escape, cut off from the buzz of 'real life' as portrayed outside the confines, the imposed protectiveness of the island vs. the hustle and bustle of the cities, the vastness of the regions and continents out there. You feel spaced out (as in not in touch with the reality of the world at large), locked in your own little world, like you live on a grain of sand. The energy is trapped on an island, it swishes around and goes round in circles and you may start going round in circles in your head! You are bound to turn introspective, reflective and nostalgic. A certain weariness and boredom set in. Some might experience an impression of hibernation, being kept on hold, waiting/ pining for something good to happen.

(Via Tumblr)

Gala Darling has aired a few times how cut off from the world she felt when living in New Zealand, and from other sources, I understand that cabin fever over there is due to its geographical seclusion from the rest of the world. Interestingly too, a friend from California who spent a few years in NYC told me how claustrophic she felt there, describing it as a world all to itself, 'a self-centred, navel-gazing island cut off from the rest of the US', and with an insular mentality... From there on, let's extrapolate further. How about those intense and exclusive family, friend or love relationships, where any sense of personal freedom is suffocated? Those may bring in the cabin fever. And the pinnacle of cabin fever, at the exact point that bears its stigma, and pushed to the extreme by the creep masters, with Stephen King who turned it into his trademark. Did you ever wonder that in The Shining, writer Jack Torrance (portrayed by Jack Nicholson on film) was suffering from a psychotic form of cabin fever?

But eh, don't let it put you off! There are ways to circumnavigate the pitfalls of cabin fever. First and foremost, the wonders of the digital age mean that nowadays we find ourselves no further than one click away from the buzz of the world. Secondly, if you have time on your hands, it is best to keep busy (especially in the bleaks of winter) and cultivate at least one hobby that you are passionate about and that will take your mind off the daily grind. Get acquainted with self-help techniques like meditation in order to deal with the troughs of energy, and to alleviate symptoms of melancholy. Take regular trips outside your island, go visit friends and relatives. Just don't keep all your eggs in one basket, all your focus on your little isle!

'Kangaroo Island Sailboat', via Coastal Vintage

As your person of choice to discuss all things cabin fever, I am much more than a casual islander. In fact, I am pretty acquainted with island life as a whole, clocking over 20 years of it: Corsica (4 years), British Isles (16 years), Greek islands, Cuba (and the Cayos), and - last but not least - a tourist trip to San Francisco's notorious Alcatraz! I don't recall cabin fever as such when living in the British Isles, despite the British reputation for their insular mentality (and for their economic model to stand halfway between two continents!).

You understand where I've come from for the purpose of this article: although it is not that clear-cut, cabin fever is not strictly confined to the small islands. I will deduct from my observations that cabin fever is a state of mind, irrespective of location. You are likely to experience it in the middle of the Australian outback, on a poxy little dot on the Indian Ocean, in the throbbing heart of the Big Apple or to get up, close and personal with it in 'the comfort of' your own town or village.

If it does get unbearable on the island, it is best to pack up, spread your wings out and fly off to new shores, to feel the contrast and judge for yourself where it is you truly belong in your heart of hearts. Sometimes all you have to do is leave in order to better come back. Maybe you are too close for comfort and all it takes for you is to find your purpose, embark upon a journey of self-discovery, realise what makes you tick, what drives you, and then make it happen. As for I, as much as I know I won't be island-bound for ever, I might as well try to make the most of a beach life while I'm here.

My mum and Tickle (my little doggie) on our way to the local beaches...

28 Jun 2014

Field Day in the Garden

I'm living it up in the garden right now, and more specifically in that little spot at the back of my parents' land, a patch that includes a patio where I organically 'grow things' mostly in pots, a tiny potager next to it where I grow tomatoes and courgettes (zucchini), and an adjacent plot where... things, errm, grow by themselves.


But let's start off with the potted garden... I have resurrected my dear old classic English rose bush (see above) that I brought back from Manchester in 2011 (I flew it back locked in my suitcase!). Admittedly the rose bush has had its ups and downs, having to adapt to Mediterranean temperatures, but this year it has finally rewarded me with a bumper crop of flowers!

Potted hydrangea

Aside from that, I'm looking after my mum's potted hydrangea, lavender and thyme (which we keep for purely decorative purposes). I am experimenting with cuttings (fig tree, myrtus) and seeds (Eriobotrya japonica and lemon), without success so far, except for the baby avocado tree, grown from a stone. I've also set up a miniature potted mint nursery. I've got some succulents too (aeonium) and a couple of paltry cacti from England that oddly enough used to thrive better in the northern climes than closer to the Sahara latitudes, fancy that?

Wispy lavender swaying to a light breeze...
Small and perfectly formed thyme...
Baby avocado tree, grown from a stone...
Arty aeonium!

The wild plants that grow by themselves do so to my folks despair, since to them a wild garden equals uncouth and neglect – oh, and I'm giving up trying to convert them to permaculture! That little patch of wild is - surprise surprise! - my favourite spot in the whole garden, as much for the kid in me revisiting that TV classic from childhood - Little House on the Prairie - everytime I amble across the tall grasses, but also as an opportunity to satisfy the botanist side of my personality and gauge what grows, what might be tamed, and how rich the soil is.

A male Philaeus chrysops (a curious jumping spider, check out his eyes!)
A cricket playing hide-and-seek!
Fibonacci in action!

The soil is dark, crumbly and fertile and teeming up with life forms (worms, tiny snails, ants, arachnids, bugs and creepy-crawlies of all sorts). My parents estate is located in the plains, hardly a mile off the coastline, on former agrarian land enriched by a compost of sorts, naturally made up of sediments deposited by the nearby mountain chain and aggregated with those from the nearby brook, and kept in fairly good ambient humidity levels, heavy morning dew, humidity from the sea rising at night to the back lands, and moisture trapped in the plains.

XXL Zucchini!

Additionally, the underground water reserves are plentiful, as testified by the plethora of stone wells that the elders built during the 19th century and which only dry up in Summer. My parents have salvaged three of those wells in the garden and all of them have been dredged and are in working order. I've had a few pleasant surprises around the wild patch: wild and lush passiflora, the incredibly fragrant garden mint and other aromatics (melissa, aniseed), chard, bird feed (plantago), cornflower, Queen Anne's Lace (a.k.a. wild carrot), rumex, thistles, bramble (sigh!) and more.

Wild and lush passiflora
Wild fragrant mint
Wild chard

All in all, I do find the gardening a pleasurable experience and a stress-buster. Likewise when I lived in Manchester. Getting physical takes my mind off the nitty-gritty. And sometimes I will just sit quietly in the grasses and observe life at work, butterflies, bees, roaches, ants - fascinating! And for me to keep busy around the garden is also an incredible fuel to my creative inspiration! Maybe you should get down and dirty too (if you're not already)?

Those don't drive me potty!

19 Jun 2014

Pain for Gain - An Ode Against Inhumanity

His name was Satao. He was a beautiful tusker, one of those rare elder elephants with the majestic tusks (a genetic trait), his pride and joy - and ironically his ultimate downfall. Satao was a living legend for conservationists, wildlife broadcasters and safari photographers. And a coveted ambling booty for the poachers. In recent years, he had found shelter in Kenya's Tsavo East National Park, and ironically his refuge was unable to grant him the immunity he deserved. Satao used to hide his tusks in the bushes when he sensed danger because he knew poachers were after them.

In the savannah garden of good and evil where nature's equilibrium is a tall order compromised by persistent human interference, greed won the victory and humanity's waning credibility weakened further. Greed, the root of all our evils that feeds the seven-sin matrix, is turning our Eden on Earth into the antechamber of Hell.

Satao (pict source via The Telegraph, photography by Richard Moller/ Tsavo Trust)

I have taken Satao's death very personally, and I think you should too. What crushes me is that Satao was killed by our human counterparts and this is what makes me question my pride as a human being if that means being associated with those who traded their humanity, their innate humane qualities (according to French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau), for the lower basic needs hierarchy that celebrates instant gratification, fast cash, consumerism and hedonism at all cost, with not much of a care for tomorrow, the consequences and the repercussions. We humans are turning our garden of Eden into a shambles: wastelands, fracked out hills, depleted jungles, displaced indigenous populations, polluted soils, GMO cultures, The Pacific Trash Vortex, all incumbent to our unbridled quest for more that takes our garbage heap to Babylonian heights, except I doubt this would take us one step closer to good, one step closer to God. The Horn of Plenty is now running on empty.

When we gloat about being the superior ones, top-of-the-food-chain masters, maybe we should cut the brag and take it down one notch to the periphery of modesty. Because how can elevated spirits like ours be capable to lower and cheapen themselves, stump rationale and morality, go against their benevolent grain, sell their soul to evil, awaken to sadistic pulsions, trade their honour for the lure of the quick buck and ephemeral satisfaction, go on the rampage to inflict pain and death, on cue, on autopilot.

(By Michael North Imagery)

I look at industrial farming, death on a plate, vivisection labs that practice torture to a 'T', bile farms, foie gras industry, big game trophy hunting, canned meat safaris, zoos, panda breeding programmes, shark culls, BlackFish, Taiji slaughters, Great Barrier Reef dredging and the Faroe Islands cetacean killings - to name a few examples that evidence our doomed interference with the natural world. Where is this Frankenstein nonsense leading us?

The destructive powers of humanity frighten me. They frightened Albert Einstein too when he realised that his participation in the evolution, the advancement of mankind would be turned on its head and used to nuke it instead.

Satao died for his ivory, 45 kgs of it, that will be shipped to the notorious Chinese ivory carving factories licensed by the notorious Zhao Shucong. The majestic elephant's pride and joy will be turned to trinkets. That is all it comes down to.

China, a paradox of a country all to itself, the only communist state to ever enjoy American capitalism to the hilt and to the point where it's taken over most of the US manufacturing marketplace (not to mention Europe's) and has been peddling its cheap wares to us by the container-load. Consumerism has turned cheap and cheerless, our high-turnover fast fashion items that burst at the seams after the first wash.

China has infiltrated African states like Kenya and South Africa with organised crime and corruption ensuring a supply of elephant tusk and rhino horn, sourced from the national parks like Tsavo and Kruger. China has also taken over the mining industry, not only across Africa but also Central and South America. And it seems that depletion is the end word. The West are at risk to be named and shamed as accomplices if their heads of state do not take a firm stance against China's organised destruction of our wildlife and embargo it until it complies.


You have no idea how saddened and angered I am. Behind the scenes, behind the ordained composure of this blog, yours truly is a dedicated animal activist and advocate. Elephant protection has been on my radar since childhood. I have always cultivated respect towards our natural environment and my contribution to its preservation may account for 1/100000th of a grain of sand in the grand scheme of things, but I won't just sit still and look pretty, because ignorance and indifference kill more lives than any form of commitment, no matter how small.

"See the animal in his cage that you built
Are you sure what side you're on?
Better not look him too closely in the eye
Are you sure what side of the glass you are on?
See the safety of the life you have built
Everything where it belongs
Feel the hollowness inside of your heart
And it's all
Right where it belongs (...)"

Nine Inch Nails, 'Right Where It Belongs'

16 Jun 2014

A Belated Tribute to Maya Angelou

We were too busy with our lives to even notice. Maybe, oh maybe, we had even taken you for granted, as a component of the collective psyche. And there, you quietly passed away. Your poetry tip-toed out of mortality into immortality. Please rest assured though that your legacy will live on and here's why.

Your poetry, an accidental art form that conveyed your truth to a 'T', wisdom borne ouf of the school of life, that makes it relevant, relatable, palpable to all walks of life. In every picture of you I've seen, you wear that beautiful broad smile of gratitude for the many lives you'd packed into the one life, and whose experiences had amounted to building into the 3D richness and depth of your character and personality. 

Maya Angelou Quote Art Print, by BelievePapergoods, via Etsy

I too had many lives and in my meltdowns I found my fortitude. You turned fortitude into an art form. The world is made richer by those unique individuals like yourself who worded their life experience into those metaphorical sailing guidebooks on how to navigate the pitfalls, the stormy waters, the impending shipwrecks, the mermaid laments to the rocky solitudes of life, and to keep focused on the ocean's horizon line, on the International Date Line Change that indicates a happier tomorrow to our hapless today. You are one of the select few who succeeded in making this happen, Maya.

(Pict source)

Dr. Maya Angelou, 'Global Renaissance Woman' (1928-2014)

15 Jun 2014

Garden Mint Cordial

At the back of my parents garden lies a stretch of semi-wild land, a former cultivated garden, where wild passiflora, vines, aniseed, melissa and garden mint are growing as nature intended. They came with the soil, the land, and thrive with the seasons, little to no human intervention involved. I do keep an eye on them though and the mint gets my undivided attention, especially at this time of year when the weather is hotting up. Throughout the day, I brew some refreshing mint tea and a few days ago I even threw together this dead easy cordial!

Psssst, if you are partial to a cocktail, consider cutting the cordial with a dash of Bourbon whiskey for a cheat's version of the Mint Julep - yep, my bad!


Serves: 2.5 litres (5lbs) cordial
Preparation: 10 mins
Infusion Time: 3 hours
  • Generous bunch, approx 220g (7.76oz) fresh organic garden mint (full stalks, i.e. with the leaves on)
  • 1l (2pts) still filtered water (at room temperature)
  • 1.5kgs (3lbs) white caster sugar
Pour the water into a large saucepan and add all of the sugar to it without stirring. Bring to a light boil. Add the bunch of garden mint to the pan, a few stalks at a time, pushing them into the water with a wooden spoon. Leave to simmer for a couple of minutes. Turn off the cooker. Put the lid on the pan and leave to infuse for 3 hours with the lid on.


When the time is up, take off the lid, breathe in the sweet minty aroma, plunge a tablespoon in, check the appearance of the cordial (should be slightly thicker than water but not too syrupy, coat the spoon, and have a light yellow colouring - resembling elderflower cordial). It is recommended that you taste the cordial, as depending on the variety of mint used, you may want to leave it to infuse an extra hour. Please note that wild mint will naturally be more potent than the cultivated store-bought varieties.

Filter the cordial through a sieve and preferably into a glass preserve jar that can hold up to 2.5kgs (5lbs) liquid. Leave to cool down completely without any lid on. Once cool, tighten the lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator. Make sure to use up the cordial within 4 weeks.


As a rough guideline, go for 1 part cordial to 1 part water when serving as a drink, and adjust to taste if need be. The cordial may be used to sweeten fruit salads, waffles, pancakes and yoghurts, poured onto ice-cream and sorbets, or as a basis to cheat's Mint Juleps or Mojitos. Perfect for ice teas too! It is a pretty versatile and easy-going cordial indeed! Have fun, y'all!

11 Jun 2014

Guest Post - Coaching, What is it?, by Dina Robison

[Dear friends, a week ago I shared with you My Beautiful Coaching Experience as a client of Law of Attraction coach Dina Robison. Today I have pleasure in welcoming Dina who explains herewith what coaching entails from her perspective as a coach.]

When I sit down to in an attempt to describe what coaching is I find that I’m stuck, as it’s a process or a journey that’s very hard to put into words. And there are a zillion different types of coaches out there with different techniques. To learn about it from one of my client’s perspective, please read about her inspiring journey here.

(Pict source)
A client comes to me – or any coach or program - with a desire for some kind of change or forward momentum in her life. Since I’m a soul mate attraction coach this usually has to do with love but that doesn’t mean sessions revolve entirely around that topic; after all one is more likely to attract the right partner for her when she’s on her soul’s path.

The unique difference between coaching and other methods like counseling and therapy is that it’s intended to empower the client to connect with, listen to, and act on her own inner calling – a dynamic that gives her the power to create or change her life.

As a coach I’m there to honor and hold the client’s highest vision and ideals. I listen and intuitively guide her to discover her own insight and answers. If she were to get off track I gently bring her back to what she wants but I’m never there to tell her what to do. She decides what she will commit to doing as a result of the session and I’m merely there to follow up.

(Pict source)
How does a coaching session work?

I follow a structure that allows my client to check in with how she’s feeling at the beginning and at the end, acknowledge everything that is going well in her life, and then state her intention for that session. From there I might guide her through processes designed to get her energetic vibration up and imagination flowing (getting out of the logical mind) in regards to her intention. Since I’m a law of attraction coach, much of my work is with that and other universal laws in mind. Sometimes a process might be a guided meditation, asking powerful and open-ended questions of her, or just simply listening if need be.

If I observe she’s getting off track or away from her intention I gently bring her back. If she asks my opinion I will give it without attachment. If she’s going forward on a path that I truly feel is not in her best interests I will speak up and say something. Or if I just want to share what I’m thinking, I will ask her permission to share it.

By the end of a session the client has usually discovered a lot and perhaps even changed a pattern in regards to the day’s topic. We discuss what the big insights from the session were what she will commit to doing in the coming week so I can follow up with her next time.

(Pict source)
You don’t need a coach. You can certainly coach yourself in many ways: doing processes and exercises on your own, reading books about coaching, journaling, meditating, getting an accountability buddy to help you stay on track and committed to your goals.

However, having a coach is a great benefit in that she is not too close to you on a personal level and can provide an objective perspective and give you fresh motivation. Friends may have your best interests in mind but their opinions can be clouded by their personal feelings and beliefs and that sometimes may not what you need. Your coach helps you unearth what you need. 

I’ve witnessed my clients grow leaps and bounds in many different ways. Some have attracted partners into their life after coaching with me, one woman deepened her relationship with her partner (and herself!), one woman found her courage to look for a more satisfying job and got one, all have transcended limiting beliefs and thought patterns that were keeping them stuck, and for all of them coaching has helped them move in the direction of their soul’s calling again. 

7 Jun 2014

Guest Post - Our Serendipitous World, by Robert J. Kuntz

[Dear friends, please welcome our first ever guest writer, Mr Robert J. Kuntz, who has kindly accepted my invitation to write an article for La Baguette Magique. It is a great privilege for me to collaborate with Robert, a published American author from the Midwest, currently finishing a book on play, creativity and intuitive processes, and how these all relate to open form, a concept which he is promoting as a pre-theory after 7 years researching the matter. Meanwhile Rob is sharing his views on serendipity...] 

When the wonderful hostess of this equally wonderful blog invited me to guest-write an article I couldn’t help but realize that this synergy had manifested by happenstance. I had happened upon her blog while “Googling” design. The “lifestyle with attitude” became an instant attractor for me, as I am destined to generate, and to encourage in others, a fresh (as in “refreshing”) attitude. A few choice comments between us and we have a different context. And that is what serendipity is partially about: the unforeseen emergence of positive circumstances.

So it was natural to focus upon serendipity as the topic for this article: a short example of how it once played out in my life; how it equates to staying open and inquisitive; and ultimately how it is always present, even when we are not.

The word, serendipity, came into being serendipitously! The writer, Horace Walpole, suggested it after reading a Persian fairy tale entitled The Three Princes of Serendip. He notes that the titular heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.” [emphasis mine]

Horace Walpole
Historically the concept has been related to luck, spontaneity, surprise occurrences and anything that deals with the unexpected emergence of something satisfying, as has been the case with some notable discoveries in science and invention. Just before sitting down to peruse this subject I was thinking about inventions while heating a cup o’ tea in the microwave, that marvelous device that we pretty much now take for granted. Some time later, while reading a few articles, I discovered that the microwave was one of those inventions that had occurred by a fortuitous accident, i.e., itself brought about by a serendipitous moment in time.

This puts to rest the “accidents” as derived from Walpole’s impressions of the aforementioned fairy tale. Let’s now consider the “sagacity” angle.

Sagacity is the quality of being sagacious: wise and discerning in thought.

So… It appears that Walpole was suggesting that serendipity is our ability to discern immediate circumstances to enable whatever uniqueness that exists within these to manifest. He infers, though obliquely, that one has to be present and aware to identify situations that could effect change.

This is why the concept of serendipity transcends accidental discovery. It has been linked to lateral thinking, marketing, and to other channels of thought that leverage intuition and complex cognitive processes. In modern day parlance it could be summarized as being there and being aware.

Circumstances. We all have them. And we always consider ourselves there when dealing with or thinking about them; and thus we can claim to be aware in those instances…

I’m going to take a mental step sideways with the following example. With it I hope to expose not only what serendipity is but also what it can be.

My circumstance was being “in line” at a local store’s cashier stand queued behind several people who were making purchases. There I became aware of two things. None of the people were talking with each other. They were all intent upon the shopping experience: either unloading their carts or otherwise idle and waiting for their turn in the pecking order. This scene was reinforced by the cashier’s mode: greet the customer and perform my duty. I quickly scanned the store. It wasn’t swamped with activity. In fact many of the cashier lanes were closed. It was in that moment that I also became aware of the store’s noise. There were approximately 20-30 people within my viewing range. Live humans, mind you. But all I could hear was the store’s mechanical system working at peak efficiency.

George Carlin’s (R.I.P.) insight about time drifted into my thoughts for inspection as I shuffled forward in “the line”: “There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past.” I would add to this that the mobile present should be considered analogous with the immediate future. So… As it became my turn to “check out” I responded to the cashier’s auto-mode inquiry of “Hi, how are you?” by first noting her name-tag (“Stephanie”) and then saying, “Thanks, Stephanie. I’m great! How’s life treating you today?”

George Carlin
There’s an old axiom that unravels something like this: If you desire change you must first remove yourself from your present circumstances. Stephanie’s demeanor changed due to my open gesture. Her eyes brightened. She smiled. And we had a fine conversation as she performed her duties. A joke I told even had another customer-in-waiting laughing along with us. Natural humaneness is infectious, but we sometimes succumb to the “grind” and lose touch with it due to the latter’s constrictive patterning.

What has this to do with serendipity? Quite a lot if one peers closely enough. There is discovery, change, awareness and sagacity in the above example. The accidental part has been turned on its head, just as it has been through current views about leveraging the power of emergent thinking for commercial reasons. But discoveries don’t only come from science and invention, especially when one adds self-discovery or self-affirmation to such a mix.

Serendipity will always be related to interactions between people, to their ideas, and ultimately to their hopes and wishes. Thus serendipity is about the world and the positive circumstances within it that shape our lives.

Marcus Aurelius
Or, as a great thinker of the past, Marcus Aurelius, duly noted: “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

©2014. Robert J. Kuntz.

2 Jun 2014

Inspire Aspire - My Beautiful Coaching Experience

I was that young urban professional who wanted it all and had it all planned out. I believed that by the time I'd hit 40, I'd have it all figured out on the home front and career path. Then I lost it all. I had to leave the UK and move back with my parents who had retired to a French island. None of that was in my plan. I felt lost, out at sea, but found myself again through perseverance and personal coaching.


I don't want to sound like a Woody Allen script but in my younger years I'd gone through a brief stint of psychotherapy and years of counselling which I'd used as a form of guidance stepstone to support me through a stressful lifestyle. Although those methods had helped me understand myself to a degree, they had also stirred murky waters to the surface and it seemed that the cloud was left lingering there, affecting my clarity like any unfinished business would.

At the back end of 2012, I started a personal journey. I took it upon myself to gear my life in a more meaningful, more compassionate direction in line with my true life calling, looking for clarity in a way that would be constructive, and where I would be in charge of my own destiny rather than play the victim and blame others for any sorry state of affairs.


With a little help from the Universe I came across the self-development scene, from Louise Hay to Marie Forleo, Gabby Bernstein, Abraham Hicks, Jonathan Fields and countless others. I watched The Secret and it was a revelation, it made complete sense to me. Things moved on quickly from there. I connected with Californian Deliberate Attraction Coach Dina Robison via Twitter (blink blink Universe!). In January 2014 I decided to apply for Dina's complimentary 30-minute Soul Mate Clarity Session, via Skype. We hit it off, really enjoyed the interaction and she officially became my coach. As we speak I've just had my 20th weekly session, and haven't looked back!

A coach is a facilitator and not a therapist or psychologist. According to Christy Whitman, founder of the QSCA, the client does all the work. We also do most of the talking. Through relevant trigger questions that are well thought out and a series of fun exercises, the coach gears their client towards finding their own answers, their own truth, to those lifelong questions as diverse as "Is he really the one for me? What am I supposed to do with my life? How can I generate more abundance? How to become at peace with oneself? How to forgive others? How to accept the past?" etc.

My Coach, Dina Robison
As a Law of Attraction Coach, and keeping in mind that we live in an attraction-based universe where the power of thought is key, Dina helps bring those energy levels up. The equation is simple: a positive attitude will attract more positiveness. She fine-tunes my mindset to reformulate any negative self-deprecating self-belief into a positive statement. The stream of consciousness works its magic and clarity finally beckons. A little meditation comes into play at the start of each session to get in the right frame of mind.

A word of warning – as easy-going as it sounds, coaching is no walk in the park. For that idle girly chit-chat over coffee and cupcakes, your best friend will do. Coaching is not a case of "Oh well, I'll just stick to that hour with Dina and then put it aside till the next session". If you just stick to your weekly hour without mulling over your session, feeding it extra thought and analysis and willingness for change, stretching out of your comfort zone and shaking off any old habit, it's not going to yield the expected results in terms of personal growth.

Wildfield Paper Co.
In other words, there is no room for half-heartedness. In fact I don't even commit 100%, I commit 500%. I come from a place of honesty during the session. Whatever troubles me, I instantly share it with Dina in confidence and we nip it in the bud. She coaches in the moment, which means we address whatever is irksome right this instant, starting off with the "intention for the session", which I call "buzzword", ex: empowerment, gratitude, life purpose, status, to feel loved, etc. We stay on the bright side. We understand the effects of the buzzword, turn it on its ear, see the potential for growth and expansion, identify the strengths and benefits. Sometimes an old painful memory resurfaces, I shed a tear, and that's part of the process too. In order to build strong foundations, we need to revisit old ground to come to terms with its outcome and to heal and forgive. And move on.

After the session, I listen to its recording, while adding to my notes. I then practice the new thought pattern, the mantra if you wish. I go over and beyond the weekly homework. I strategise, extrapolate, go off a tangent, generate new ideas that I will then share with Dina in the next session. I get more confident, and with it more boldly creative with my career choices and my expectations from life.

'Saisons' Fabric by Toiles de Mayenne
Oh yeah, I am still planning to have it all, you see. Back to my introduction, I might have lost it all at 40 but I intend to have it all back - and in a way that is better, brighter, smarter and wiser too! And this time around I've got help at hand to figure it all out with. Coaching has empowered me indeed into the woman I was truly meant to be. Forget Restylane, coaching is the best investment I will have treated myself to.

Click here to read my testimonial to Dina.

31 May 2014

The 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings

This year we are commemorating two major historical events. One tragic, as the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, and the other, an ode to hope and promise, as the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings, where Allied Forces (USA, Canada, GB and Captain Kieffer's 1er BFM Commando consisting of 177 elite French fusiliers) liberated France and neighbouring occupied nations from Axis domination. No doubt that every single one of us has a tale or two from our (great) grandfathers or uncles (and the grandmas) who were involved in the war(s) one way or another. I wanted to pay a heartfelt tribute to our lads. They displayed immense bravery - paid with their lives even - to pave the way for the modern Western society as we know it but which we tend to perhaps take too much for granted at times.

You might remember my moving tribute to my maternal grandad, Armand, who worked in transmissions for the French Navy, before joining the US Navy in the Pacific. Oh boy, my grandad, a Général De Gaulle supporter, was immensely proud to have teamed up with the Americans! My paternal grandad, Léon, was less lucky in that he was made a prisoner of war at the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940 and sent out to the work camps of Germany - yet thankfully not the death camps!

'Into the Jaws of Death — U.S. Troops wading through water and Nazi gunfire', by Robert F. Sargent

When Americans landed in Normandy, they brought with them Showtime! Supplies aplenty, modern technology, Jeeps and GMC Trucks, Big Band music, corned-beef, chewing-gums, benzene, Lucky Strikes, cartoons... and Hollywood propaganda! Ask my star-struck dad, a toddler when US Troops liberated our Northern border town of Saint-Quentin in August 1944. "Quand les Américains ont débarqué... c'était l'Amérique !" (When Americans arrived... it felt like America had landed!). This American officer spotted my dad in a crowd of people queueing up for food. He asked my dad to come over, then lifted him up into his arms, tearfully called him 'baby' as he showed my dad a photo of his kids. Then he told my dad he could have whatever he wanted. My dad's eyes sparkled. He felt like a kid in a sweet shop. 'I want gum, Sir... and benzene too for the bonfires!'

Further D-Day Resources:

26 May 2014

Inspire Aspire - Live the Moment

Life is short - Fact. It goes in a flash. Better live it to the full then. Because it looks like in our quest for happiness, the next career move, the next shiny object, a collection, a chunk of mundane moments that are the brick and mortar, bread and butter making of us, slip and merge into days that slip and merge into weeks that slip and merge into months then years... A slow insidious landslide that takes us from the vigour of youth where time is generous and forgiving, to the emergency of old age. Then one day a reality check strikes and you wish you had taken notice.

By Sarah Abbott Art & Illustration
Yet it's easy to not entirely wholeheartedly be present in the moment, to just hang in an 'almost there' buffer place that is halfway between reality and a future hypothesis of wish/ daydream/ hope/ projection and their collaterals of fear and regret. This is called wishing your life away. Hands up, I am still guilty of wishing my life away, projecting into the future (or retreating back into the past!) and not living each present moment as it happens. Maybe you wish your life away too. Yet I can help you break the habit, stop the pattern with a little tweak 'n' trick of mine.

By acknowledging each moment as it unfolds it will not go in a blur nor will it deprive you of enjoyment and the opportunity of what might have been. Just remember that unacknowledged moments are the unsung heroes of our daily lives.

(Pict source)
For the last five years, I have been making a conscious effort to make each and every single day count, no matter how uninspiring and boring the day might look from the outset. I set aside a couple of hours daily to complete Ten Daily Tasks, i.e. ten mundane tasks that are not necessarily fun but that need to be done. At least this grounds my day and keeps procrastination at bay. It gives purpose to an otherwise ordinary day that would have been overlooked with my wishing my life away.

Currently a typical day for me includes the following tasks: to help my mum round the kitchen, water the vegetable patch, take my little dog Tickle for a walk, dedicate 15 minutes to the better good (signing and sharing wildlife protection petitions) via Twitter (@baguettemagique and @MirabelleDesign), check my emails, catch up on any admin/ housekeeping task, go food shopping, etc.

I also make sure that I practice gratitude and find enjoyment in the little pleasures of life as I go through my day, treat myself to a lovely cup of tea, bake a cake, strike a conversation, stop and enjoy a wild flower or a butterfly. Sounds twee and yes I do live up in the sticks but even in town you can be admirative of something (that covetable outfit in the retail store window) or someone (cracking eye candy!), anything that will make your day and won't cost a dime. Pinterest is a great place too to feast your eyes, make you feel good and boost your creativity. Lately my fabulous life coach, Dina Robison, has introduced me to meditation, which is being a great help. The coaching too is incredible and I will dedicate a post to it very soon!

Now your turn, peeps! Do you have any tips you would like to share of how you are taking ownership of each day? And to those of you who are following my Ten Daily Tasks format, how is this helping you? Email me labaguettemagique2009@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

24 May 2014

Work and Play

Here's an ingenious demonstration of practical functional furniture design that brings together a pet of the feline variety and their owner. It's a desk that is nothing to do with the "all work and no play" desks that usually belong to the office cubicle culture. This one here looks like the wooden version of a generous slice of Gruyère cheese, cavities and all. It is expected to get more than a round of applause from cat lovers and more than a passing Cheshire Cat grin from their tabbies, Lil Bub included! In fact, we expect no less than roaring success all round, especially amongst the scores of our design-conscious urbanite friends working in creative studios that are one quantum leap ahead of the game and only too happy to integrate the latest trends into their work environment, a bit like those cool dudes over at Google.

Designer Ruan Hao created the aptly-name CATable for Hangzhou and Hong Kong-based architectural design practice LYCS Architecture. The finished product was proudly featured at this year's Design Milan Week.


Sources: (1) to (3) The CATable, via My Modern Met. (4) Internet star Lil Bub.

Additional Resources: 

18 May 2014

Falling from Grace with Grace

Jérôme Kerviel is alluring and easy on the eye. He cultivates a sharpened edge these days and may look like a rugged fashion model on a casting for Davidoff Cool Water but he's certainly not being portrayed as a role model or some counter-culture hero by the media. He's the disgraced trader from French banking institution Société Générale (SocGen) that is miraculously celebrating its 150 years of trading (short of a resurrection after the 4.9 billion scandal losses directly imputed to JK back in early 2008).

Easy come, easy go? (Pict source)
2008 was a busy year. Europe and the US were bracing themselves for the first chills of the latest recession to date with the demise of Lehman Brothers and Bernard Madoff, the collapse of toxic loans and burst of the property bubble. It was also the year I got made redundant from my fancy Marketing job in the UK. Yeah 2008 was indeed one of those years.

While all of the above was crescendoing to the fore, Mr Dangerflirt had executed a few ill-advised high-risk moves across the financial chessboard that would bring SocGen, his employer, to the brink of a financial fall from grace. Six years later, does that still stigmatise him as a villain? Not in my eyes nor to those scores of keen supporters gathered along his publicised redemption pilgrimage that took him to and from Rome, where he met Pope Francis.

I do actually like JK as a person, his humility, humanity, dignity and quest for redemption and reinvention. He has learnt from his mistakes and he wholeheartedly accepts his share of responsibility in the financial demise. Having said that, I do not condone his actions as a trader. With the blessing of his industry, his chosen profession intrinsically praises a culture of fast cash at all cost - the dirty side of capitalism. The profession encouraged and incentivised him highly for playing cavalier risk-taker with investment funds that would yield him those juicy bonuses and deliver the sky-high dividends to his employer. While the profits were rolling in, it was win-win for the trader-employer combo. Then sh*t happened.

Never vanished nor vanquished! (Pict source)
What I do find villainous and hainous is how SocGen, which had allowed for the shady 'best practices' to take place in its offices, was quick to ostracise, victimise and repudiate its flagship trader for those losses. Yesterday's star became a scapegoat, pure and simple. However losses were to be expected as they come hand in hand with the volatility of the territory. As compensation, the highly-strung SocGen demanded that the trader paid back the 4.9 billion losses it had incurred. The decision was later overruled by the courts.

It's been a long drawn-out courtroom drama affair. Today JK faces a 3-year prison sentence once he crosses the Italian border back to France and he has now appealled to the French President for the case to be reviewed, his innocence claim to be heard, witnesses to be guaranted protection and allowed to testify, and his accomplices to be brought to justice. I wonder whether the justice system will decide to finally see eye to eye as it is always easier and more convenient to bring one isolated man down and shut him up than a bunch of top guys from an influent institution that is connected to the smoke screens of stock markets and the lofty world of politics.

Up in smoke? (Pict source)
Here's a guy fighting a system that made him a star player and unmade him once losses outperformed the wins. These were probably the implicit rules of the game. Off with a Baguette Magique ponder: in order to be both financially and professionally successful, should a trader be nothing short of a financial trickster and a rogue - after all?

17 May 2014

Beauty Review – Vinoperfect Radiance Serum by Caudalie

With French skincare company Caudalie having just released their latest innovative serum, Polyphenol C15 Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum, my product review of their 2010-launched industry-acclaimed Vinoperfect Radiance Serum looks long overdue!

(Pict source)
Living in France, it made sense for me to choose Caudalie because it is a French pharmacy brand, which stands for quality. Besides it is readily available across all French pharmacies, high-street parapharmacy stores and the likes of Monoprix. Furthermore Caudalie fits in with my beauty ethics, focusing on natural ingredients rather than chemicals (no mineral oils), banning nasties (parabens, phthalates, paraffin, sodium laureth sulfates), animal ingredients (their squalene comes from olive source rather than – wait for it - shark!), and animal testing. Additionally Caudalie contributes 1% for the Planet.

Vinoperfect Radiance Serum speaks to my needs as I suffer from a history of sun damage, in the form of pigmentation across the cheek area. From further research, I found out that pigmentation may also be caused by hormonal changes, pregnancy, medical treatments, hereditary factors, ageing, etc. and is therefore not to be linked solely to sun damage. IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) Skin Rejuvenation sessions performed at Destination Skin Manchester back in 2008 had yielded beautiful results to my facial complexion. I had also abided by their strict beauty regimen involving three SkinCeuticals products: Serum 10 (Dual Antioxydant Treatment), Emollience moisturiser and a broad-spectrum UV protector (I have mostly been using their Physical UV Defence and Ultimate UV Defense).


Sun damage crept back up when I moved to the sunny Mediterranean island of Corsica in December 2009, despite wearing sun protection every day of the year and high-quality broad sunglasses whenever the sun is out. Last year I underwent a course of 6 IPL sessions and my complexion cleared up momentarily. I believe I may have finally identifed the culprit ingredient that encouraged dull complexion and pigmentation, urea, which is present in two products I used post-IPL: the Sleep and Peel Resurfacing Night Cream by Filorga and the Retexturing Activator Serum by SkinCeuticals that I had started using as an alternative to Serum 10, as per advice from a beauty therapist. In my experience, not only does urea bring out the sun spots but also makes my complexion duller.

Vinoperfect Radiance Serum does not contain urea, bonus! It boasts complexion-correcting ingredients (amongst which patented Viniferine) that will help tone down (fade) the appearance of sun spots and hyperpigmentation. Viniferine (grapevine shoot extract) makes it 62 times more effective than vitamin C! The serum texture is milkish, slightly sticky to the touch, yet easy to apply and subtly and pleasantly fragranced.


I used the serum every morning non-stop for the best part of five months. It was recommended that the serum be used at night too but I didn't follow suit. I was actually quite concerned at how fast the serum was going, in comparison to the SkinCeuticals serums, and at 43.00 RRP ($79.00 RRP/ £45.00 RRP) a bottle gone in less than 4 weeks, it ain't a cheap treatment.

Did I notice any results? Now those ladies who believe in beauty miracles in a jar/ bottle are in for a disappointment. No product will magically erase sun pigmentation. More extreme measures like chemical face peels or laser/ IPL performed at cosmetic clinics will yield a great finish, yet without the guarantee that pigmentation won't creep up again. Back to our serum, I did notice that some small pigmentation spots had shrunk and faded dramatically in colour, whereas larger pigmentation marks had remained the same. What I did notice though was the complexion in its overall appearance had a healthier glow, a radiance, like I had been on a spa holiday. But as I said, only minor imperfections (tiny sun spots) had shrunk and faded noticeably whereas the larger more stubborn marks had only paled down by a shade or two but remained unchanged in size.

Although I might still purchase the Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, I will happily give Caudalie's latest Polyphenol C15 Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum a try, and in the meantime I am on the brink of ordering the Radiance Perfection Serum by REN, another brand that rocks my ethical beauty boat!

Pluses:
  • Fresh pleasant subtle fragrance
  • Milky texture makes it easy to apply
  • Focus on natural ingredients and no parabens
  • Against animal testing
  • Reputable brand and honest product
Minuses: 
  • Pricey (RRP 43.00/ $79.00/ £45.00)
  • Seems to go faster than the more liquid (water consistency) serums
  • No dramatic results

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