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?