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, embrace 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.

'Thoughts of Future' by Lindsey Carr, via Artboom

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 with my own pup: 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.

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.

Lost and found again... Britney Spears (Pict source)

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.

Then my obsession turned to resentment. 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.

Vintage Rotary Phone, via Anthropologie

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) 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 so-called friends and then I deactivated the goddamn thing. I felt better instantly. Relieved. Off the delete tsunami, I reconnected with someone who showed their concern.

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.

2 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' volatile 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!

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.

'Fox Glance', photography by Sam Morris

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.

Orangutan photography by Greenpeace

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.

'Exotic', oil on board by Chris Buzelli

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 cool, calm 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.

4 Oct 2013

Inspire Aspire - Huh, "Too Old", Did You Say?

Ok let me rephrase that: you've just told me for the umpteenth time that your life isn't fulfilling, you're not happy, you feel stuck, it feels like you're missing something, and you want more! OK I get it. And now in the same breath, you're telling me you're too old? Too old to turn over a new leaf and start over a new life... Too old to take up a new hobby, learn a new skill... Too old to take up travel, venture out, change your ways, shake up your routine... Too old to shake up that booty out of the comfort zone and shimmy down the road to a lifechanging moment... Huh, and you * really * want me to buy that and go down your list of excuses cos I bet you've got more? Like you were born in the wrong country, or you're scared of catching some disease, or you have too many freckles on your nose... Huh?

Thing is you're reading this and I bet my bottom Dollar you're not even 35 years of age... I gotta rest my case. Please though do read this amazing bio summary piece written by Louise Hay in her latest newsletter to date entitled "Your Future Is Always Bright", and I promise that you're in for a reality check!

And as a P.S. please remember that we are the ones responsible for creating our own boundaries and limitations. So if you are desperate for that change in your life, tell your mind to shut up and kick excuses in the teeth! Then, to paraphrase Nike's motivational mantra, just do it! You won't get any wishy-washy sympathy from me. You can do it for sure and I'll see you on the other side! High five!

Nike T-Shirt Design by Mats Ottdal, via Typedeck and Designspiration

P.P.S: Age is no excuse and it's never been too late for Fred Beckey to live his passion either! An accomplished mountain climber, he tackled the Dolomites for the first time at the tender age of... 89!

25 Sept 2013

Product Review - Weleda Sage Deodorant

I wanted to write a review about this deo as soon as I came across it a couple of months ago, because it is in line with my quest for a simpler back-to-basics chemical-free life and fits right with the less-is-more kind life mantra. Chemical deos have had bad press in recent years as research has demonstrated their possible link to breast cancer, so if like I, you are getting increasingly weary of the chemicals you put into your body, then you are gonna make friends with this deo! 

It wouldn't be an overstatement for me to say (and I bet this applies to you too) that since my teenage years, I've used every deo under the sun, from the cheap run-off-the-mill supermarket products to the pricey packaged-up designer fragrance house labels, via French pharmacy niche brands. Deployed in all sorts of formats too: roll-on applicator, aerosol/ non-aerosol spray, or solid. From the gentle to the “anti-white marks” (did those work for you btw, cos they didn't for me?), via the aluminium-based (i.e. anti-perspirant) and aluminium chloride hexahydrate perspiration blockers that relieve hyperhidrosis, i.e. excessive perspiration (Driclor Solution). Some more natural, plant-based deos, some a pure chemical-based Molotov cocktail backed up by a flurry of technological-sounding ingredients and far-fetched advertising! Meanwhile in my quest for armpit perfection I'd even flirted with the idea of having botox injections in them in order to stop sweating altogether! What a health hazard this would have been! 

First things first. Perspiration is a natural process and shouln't be tampered with. Therefore perspiration blockers may be effective (in the sense of successfully combatting perspiration), yet they are not health-friendly, as we humans do need to sweat in order to regulate the temperature in our bodies, and to release toxins from our system. I only used perspiration blockers briefly, and circumspectly, until my sweat glands became painful to the touch and then I stopped it. Meanwhile none of the other deos did the trick for me. At work I suffered from stress-induced cold sweating, with sweat trickling down my underarms (no matter the weather and time of year), and this in turn triggered an odour which daily showers, lashings of shower gel, monthly salon waxing, constant deo top-ups throughout the day, and cutting down on spicy foods, didn't eradicate – or at least minimise. This undermined my confidence

Then I did two things. I left my deo at home cos I felt that the more I used it during the day, the worst it got. And I embarked upon permanent underarm hair removal sessions. The sweat was no longer trapped around hair follicles and it seemed to me that sweat became less “pungent”, shall we say, as bacteria that causes odour was no longer trapped in those now destroyed hair follicles. This alone increased my confidence. 

I carried on using my usual supermarket brands until that day I went round one of those parapharmacy stores in France and came across the Weleda Sage Deodorant, described as "neutralizing herbal fragrance with pure essential oils". Weleda is a reputed company established in Switzerland and Germany in 1921 as a drugs manufacturer, and in France in 1924. That same year it launched a range of health supplements and skincare products. Since then Weleda has been promoting its no-nonsense natural plant-based offering. I remember my mum buying their sun protection products, and vitamin-rich food supplements that would give us kids a kick in the morning. 

Until recently, I'd been of the opinion that plants are not as efficient as chemicals, and plant-based deos left me perplexed. But now I knew for sure that chemical deos were dangerous and that most didn't work. When I tried Weleda's deo, it completely changed my life! 

For starters we don't need a chemistry degree in order to work out the deo's ingredients list. Listen to this: Alcohol, Water (Aqua), Fragrance (Parfum)*, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Ammonium Glycyrrhizate (Licorice Root), Limonene* (Fragrance from natural essential oils), Linalool* (Fragrance from natural essential oils), Geraniol* (Fragrance from natural essential oils), Coumarin* (Fragrance from natural essential oils). By the way, do check out Weleda's fabulously illustrated ingredients database.

The smell is fresh, clean, crisp and tonic. Not the kind of adjectives we would use describing those supermarket sprays! The deo is presented in a see-through glass bottle with reusable spray and packaged up in a carton box. I would recommend to either keep the spray in its box or in the bathroom cabinet as direct light might alter essential oils. 

I still sweat, but as we know, sweat is a natural process that needs to be allowed to happen. What I've noticed though is that the astringent properties of sage and tea tree leaf oil + the other essential oils purify (disinfect) the skin and neutralise the smell by a comfortable 85%, I reckon. Much more effectively than your chemical deos out there that get your sweat glands in overdrive!

The Weleda deo is also available as Wild Rose Deodorant (for a floral note) and Citrus Deodorant (for a fresh note). 

  • Unisex deodorant
  • Fresh pleasant smell
  • Non-aerosol spray
  • No chemicals including no parabens, preservatives, stabilisers, colourings, or aluminium salts
  • Doesn't stain clothing and no caking effect on fabrics
  • No powdery marks on skin
  • Economical as a little goes a long way (about 4 months' use out of a 100ml spray)
  • Although more pricey (RRP US$14.00) than an average deo, it isn't as pricey as you would expect from a niche brand!
  • Reputable brand and honest product
  • Simple yet not naff packaging
  • Weleda brand products may not be widely available round the high street, but you can order online! Check out Weleda (USA) and Weleda (UK) for details.

15 Sept 2013

Inspire Aspire - Keep Going No Matter What!

Are you (or do you know) a blogger from the dark side? A blogger from the dark side has already clocked some mileage with their blog - via a somewhat hopeful/ hopeless relationship that's spun longer than a couple of yards (ooops I meant 'years'!) and 200+ posts, and you check your visit stats and they're not good, and the tracker indicates that your friends don't even bother with your blog anyway (yeah you lot, you are busted and thanks for your vote of confidence!), and if we are to believe that shameful barometer of success like Google Friend Connect  or your Facebook page to be testament to popularity and yours cries out 'Wallflower' and 'No-one Gives a Fig About My Talent!', then maybe oh maybe you need...
  1. To rid of said tracking devices altogether
  2. To stop checking those stats (life is indeed easier when we live in a state of blissful oblivion!)
  3. A reality check that is apt and to the point, in the form of an Albert Einstein quote... (Who else to instill a waff of intelligence, credibility and common sense into us, therefore with no risk of sounding airy-fairy!)
via Indulgy

Because frankly my dear, as much as you should never lower yourself and your self-esteem as to allow yourself to be jealous of any woman whoever she might be, you should never give up because success hasn't yet showed up on your doorstep. Patience, perseverance, resilience, self-belief and self-esteem will pay off eventually. Just that the audience who are interested in you haven't yet found out about you and discovered your talents! It's as simple as that. Because in this world, in business as in love, there is someone for everyone. Just that getting matched up may sometimes take some timely adjustment.

In our popularity-obsessed culture, it would be tempting to associate popularity with quality. Please don't! I know (and sure you must do too!) of a multitude of popular blogs that are actually mediocre in content and style! So whatever you do, don't give up! Because to give up would be to give that mediocrity out there even more power.

14 Sept 2013

Tickle My Fancy!

I am excited to update La Baguette with some new pictures of Tickle, my Jack Russell Terrier - and pet mascot - 'on location' and well settled into his new life as an islander (such a change from his origins as a Mancunian dog!). Tickle has also developed a love affair with the local beach and perfected that beach bum persona, while also flexing those leg muscles as my loyal walking companion down the coastal paths and mountain roads (or to the lighthouse with my brother). From those photos you wouldn't be wrong to assume that life feels like a permanent holiday for my canine friend, certainly a world apart from that ghetto fabulous suburbia lifestyle!

8 Sept 2013

Total Recall - LBM Features

Welcome to Total Recall Day 8! Just so you're aware if you are catching up with us, for the last week we have been rummaging through La Baguette's blog archive (270+ posts) at the pace of 5 posts a day organised around a theme previously covered. So far we have covered ethical food, free spiritedness, travel, love (yes!), media & comms, fashion & beauty, and product reviews. And we'll end our Total Recall today with features.

La Baguette digs typography! (pict source)

At La Baguette, we've run a few features since coming into existence four years ago. And here's our crème de la crème for your eyes only:
  • Inspire Aspire (Feb 2013 - ongoing) >> This feature is set to recur and expand, as I am exploring personal development topics in more depth, as part of a personal awareness that turned into a journey and then a lifestyle choice. I have big plans too, which I will unwrap to you guys in due time, so just stay tuned!
  • FRF - Five Random Faves (Jan - Mar 2012) >> Each month I raised awareness of 5 faves of mine, in terms of products/ services/ ideas/ campaigns, from a classic film like 'Lost in Translation' to Stella McCartney's Meat Free Monday, via The Elephant March, and more!
  • Month in Bloom (Feb - Sept 2011) >> Monthly feature with the local Corsican flora as the star of the show, in a what's in season kinda approach. The photos taken are a tiny sample of a vast plant image bank I have compiled over the last 3 years.
  • A Week-End Wonderweb (Nov 2010 - Mar 2011) >> Each week-end I dedicated a pictorial post to the best of web around a particular theme, anything from Typography to Winter Wonderland to Art Deco... It was a short and sweet yet highly visual article, and great fun for me to compile!
  • A Working Week of Spook (Late Oct 2010) >> If you want random, this is as random as it gets! A pre-Halloween taster packed-full with cinematographic references to some of the best horror movies ever made, matched by scary photo montages. I had fun like no other on Photoscape, experimenting on pictures I had taken, going low res and high saturation! Amateurish and low budget had never cut it so good!
And La Baguette is curious by nature! (pict via ProGood)

Going forward, new features will come into play in La Baguette, so make sure you don't miss out! In the meantime, that's it for our Total Recall feature. It's been an interesting journey of reminiscence, which I hope you enjoyed as much as I did!

Thanks for your loyalty to this blog and please don't hesitate to drop me a line! Comments, ideas, advice, suggestions, partnerships etc. are soooo welcome!