30 Jan 2016

Rose & Gold for Valentine

Valentine's Day is an invitation for LBM to feature some pretty homeware pieces that incorporate topical pink and gold/ brass in their subtle shades. I chose subtle because we don't always like our colours to go bright and overboard, especially those as powerful and statement-prone as pink and gold. Because most of us do not want our shrines to resemble the Barbie dollhouse or Barbara Cartland's boudoir or Liberace's quarters. I am aware of some lifestyle bloggers out there who make (bright) pink their statement colour but in general terms, subtle goes a longer way as it defies trends and defines longevity.

Lace Cheeseboard in Rose by Suite One Studio

Those pieces here, touch with your eyes or get inspired further and leave a hint for your beloved to purchase. Or just summon the power and go treat yourself! Those items are not just for Valentine's by the way; they will equally suit a forthcoming bridal shower, wedding party, housewarming do, anniversary celebration and other family engagements!

P.S: If you are single and Valentine makes you look away, treat yourself to being your own Valentine and fix yourself a 'Me Date'. Get yourself a bunch of flowers (or a plant), a box of your favourite chocolates, and cosy up at home for a night in with yourself. First have a nice relaxing bath, then snuggle up on the couch to catch up with that great movie/ documentary you'd been meaning to watch, or immerse yourself into a good book. If you fancy your solo self to go social, schedule a night in around a lovely home-cooked meal with a posse of those single friends of yours!

As for the coupled up, Valentine's Day should be a reminder of what every day should be like: filled with mutual love, respect, praise and appreciation! In other words, every day should be Valentine's Day. And that doesn't cost a thing!

Burlap Tray in Rose with Gold Stripe by Suite One Studio
Gold-Dipped Ceramic Cake Serving Set by BHLDN
Vintage Copper Chocolate Bar Molds (Made in England, c.1850), by Coppermill Kitchen via Food52
Brass Money Clips by SIN, via Food52
Birdy Side Table (detail) by Urban Outfitters
'Two Peas in a Pod' Greeting Card by Rifle Paper Co.

23 Jan 2016

Blogposts with Attitude #BWA - January 2016

January, the bleakest month of the year? Oh my, gimme some flowers! A bittersweet after-party tinge in its early moments might behold - as 'the year after the year before' - it quickly turns into a time to take stock and mull over the year past, draw conclusions and move on, empowered. In other words, a time for introspection, reflection and decision that morphs into a time to set the tone for the year ahead and wear it proudly on our sleeve like our Sunday best in order to face the brand New Year in a more resolute - and upbeat - fashion.

Café au Lait Dahlia Love by Erin Benzakein @ Floret

January is not over that it has already yielded some productive results out there in blogland. It has certainly been a month where hearts have been poured, eyebrows raised, and voices heard. Introspective, reflective, or in a more direct address, the issues raised I have enjoyed reading every word of it! Probably because they put a fresh and honest perspective, stated their values loud and proud, and brought not only an emotional connection but also a rational one.

For these reasons, the posts I have listed here struck more than a chord with me. They have lifted me, inspired me, fuelled me with renewed energy and kickstarted me more firmly into my year ahead, in terms of personal and professional achievements and aspirations. I am positive that you too will draw some benefits out of them.

So, here we go, in chronological order, my five favourite posts this month. Enjoy the read and feel free to add on to the list: -

No.1: A Manifesto by Kathryn Sharman @ Kat Got the Cream
As your lifestyle blog is growing and evolving, you will need to set out or rewrite clear rules as to what your blog is about - and your approach to your craft. Monetisation/ brokering will invariably crop up, sometimes perceived as a bone of contention. Some readers will enjoy the rstyle ride with you and others won't. I have no problem with blog monetisation as long as it is cleverly incorporated within the fabric and the essence of the blog without overpowering it with affiliated shopping lists post after post. Kat struck that fine balancing act with flying colours, and hats off to her! Yet undoubtedly you will still get some readers who begrudge the union of blog and cashflow, so Kat laid out the terms as her Manifesto. A great idea for us bloggers to consider seriously and incorporate into our blogs, just to be sure author and readers are on that same page!

No.2: Will Blog Survive 2016? by Holly Becker @ Decor8
A question asked by a blog that is an authority on blogging and has already witnessed the rise and demise of many blogs in its one decade of existence, going from strength to strength to inspire our homes with consistent high-quality content. Here Holly gives us her views on the state of blogging vs. monetisation (flavour of the month?). She comments on those blogs out there who churn out sponsored post after the next, slapdash a little line of text and an endless content of affiliated links, making those blogs little more than shopwindows linked up to the cashpoint registers of the big brands. Individuality and integrity of voice and character and personality are killed off in the process. This puts the future of impartial informative blogging 'from the heart' at stake, a little like that good old chestnut, freedom of the press. And the quest for quick buck might end up a piped dream for that new generation of fame-hungry bloggers on the scene...
Erin Benzekein and her husband, Chris @ Floret

No.3: The Life & Business 3-part series on Design*Sponge dedicated to Erin Benzekein and her award-winning flower farm, Floret
I had heard of Erin previously and come across her beautiful arrangements of organic, unusual and old-fashioned flowers on her Instagram account, that got me sold! Then treble whammy in one swoop with the Design*Sponge coverage! I came face to face with a business off the beaten track, that is a success story and a winner on many levels: all about emotional intelligence and a floral immersion, our relationship to flowers that goes beyond the bouquet and delves deep into childhood memories and nostalgia, and 'just about tamed' natural beauty captured off the cuff and ingratiated in high-quality visuals. A family-centred, nature-friendly concern that is a social media eye-pleaser, and most of all a lifestyle aspiration to those in search of accomplishing something of worth in their lives, off the rat race tracks, out in the country, where they can satisfy both their intellectual and physical strengths. This is the sort of business that gets me enthused beyond enthused! Erin shares hints and tips on how she is growing her company. Take a leaf out of how Floret is flourishing and be guided by your passions! Do check Floret's About section for more inspiration.

No.4: The Secret We All Want to Know by Tara Austen Weaver @ Tea and Cookies
The creative process fascinates. To the extent that some of us want to unfold it and undress it down to its bare bones, peel off the layers and dissect it, find out the magic formula, turn on that switch by the cortex that will turn us into a writer. Good news is we all are creators - often unaware of it - whether it is fixing that bit of kit or cooking up a meal or salvaging a patch of land or doing a collage for the kids or styling hair. The bad news is there is no magic formula on how to become a writer. Tara - a published author - explains this compellingly and sympathetically, and links in a few resources from her blog, all must-read items. Mostly though, she can't emphasize enough that the creative process is an individual, personal one. It is about being one's own voice. And there is no magic formula or Idiot's Guide, rather than the fact that you should just write and keep on writing, because practice will help perfect your craft.

No.5: Here's a Space for You by Danielle Hampton @ Sometimes Sweet
Writing is about being one's own voice and being in one's own space. As an established lifestyle blogger and former English teacher, Danielle understood the importance of writing early on in life, encouraging her pupils to journal. And this is one of the best ways to get creativity going, to stimulate those creative juices. And encouraged and fostered early on in life, this can only feed into one's personal journey down the creative process. A fun and mind-expanding exercise!

18 Jan 2016

Wedding Cheers!

I'd kept this under wraps and there had been no hint of it in my blogs. Understand that I am a private person, fiercely protective of my personal life, and like to keep it that way, only sharing a milestone moment in a few chosen (almost discreet) words. And this milestone right now is circled in a couple of wedding bands!

Roby and I got married recently! We held a private ceremony amongst a very small circle of close family members. It was all about simplicity and honesty. To us, what matters is not so much the theatrics of the big day than the deep significance that marriage, love and commitment behold. It is not so much about the big day than what comes after the big day - yeah the day after - and I need to point this one out, because I might be saving a few marriages in the process. It appears that way too many people out there are still getting married for the wedding day rather than for the marriage! And this is where it all goes pear-shaped!

Oh, I do love browsing through the sheer elegance of Style Me Pretty and BHLDN, don't get me wrong! But for me to dedicate a hefty budget and - let's say - months of careful planning, or to delegate this to the expert hands of some wedding planner, to ensure the hush of the confetti is coordinated to the hush of the sugar rose petals sitting atop a profiterole, that or I shall lose my beauty sleep, get hot under the collar and break into a sweat... Well the arrangements and lavishness and pretence and whatever it might be called was no bridal priority of mine - or Roby's. As much as I am a sucker for design and pretty packages, neither my husband nor I needed our wedding day to be a showcase for it. Because what matters most to us is not the packaging, it's what is inside it; a love that tastes sweet and genuine and is solid and enduring, rather than a love that just looks pretty - and somewhat manufactured. This is one of the reasons why we kept it low-key.

Here is a little household fun to brighten up your Monday - not to be taken literally at face value, but rather with a generous pinch of salt - as some might read it as a sexist misinterpretation of marriage. Those inexpensive wedding presents are from Housing Units, an old haunt of mine back in my Manchester days...

Meanwhile check out our Mirabelle lifestyle feature on our wedding!

Amore Pair of Mugs Gift Set
Amore Mr and Mrs Bottle Gift Set
Amore Mr and Mrs Keyrings

23-Jan-2016 Update:

My heartfelt thanks to my coach, Dina Robison!

Woohoo! A past client of mine that came to me exactly two years ago just got married to the love of her life! I'm so excited for this couple glowing with #LOVE... Posted by Dina Robison - Deliberate Attraction Coach on Friday, 22 January 2016

13 Jan 2016

Awesome Acts of Kindness for the Earth!

No better way to kick the New Year into shape than with La Baguette Magique! In this mini-series, we have it all covered: Self, Others and good old Mother Earth! In our previous article, I gave you 3 Hints 'N' Tips to make the friendlier You: getting back in touch with a long-lost relative or friend, treating your loved ones with one of your creations, and connecting you to the local community with a little banter...

Now how about addressing what good we can bring to the Earth, in three easy steps...

'Gathering', oil on canvas by Martin Wittfooth, 2015

For the Earth #1:
  •  Make it last! If your fixtures, fittings and homewares are not plagued by the dogma of planned obsolescence, you should be able to get some mileage out of them. Thus go easy on style fads and trends that encourage us to constantly reinvent our surroundings by replacing the old with the new. As long as that kettle is still in working order, or that family heirloom sofa still looks and feels good, why give in to the temptation of replacing them? Give the Earth - and your purse - a hand by making your belongings last longer.
For the Earth #2:
  •  Don't be owned by objects! This is an extension of #1. Basically less is more. The model wants us to keep buying and we may have Father of Public Relations Edward Bernays to blame for this, but can we not just shop with our eyes sometimes? Bernays engineered the desire and compulsion to buy and linked pleasure with purchase. Up to us to put the brakes on. Another good point for the earth - and the purse!
'Dukkha', limited edition print by Lindsey Carr, via Etsy

For the Earth #3:
  •  Leave nature alone! That sounds like a given but we need to state it loud and clear, especially as regards those sensitive natural areas of the world, with fragile and threatened ecosystems. They are paying the price for their beauty by attracting hordes of tourists. Even if tourism is branded as ecotourism, it still puts undue pressure on the environment. Those cruises to the Arctic 'to watch the melting icebergs before it's too late' is short of vain and self-centred! It is a full-blown aberration!

There you have it, my friends. Our list of Acts of Kindness for Self, Others and the Earth is far from exhaustive. It is a taster, a starting point to a form of contentment in life and to a thought process. If you seek further inspiration, do check my Inspire-Aspire series. Have a wonderful year!

9 Jan 2016

Awesome Acts of Kindness for Others!

No better way to kick the New Year into shape than with La Baguette Magique! In this mini-series, we have it all covered: Self, Others and good old Mother Earth! In our previous article, I gave you 3 Hints 'N' Tips to help get your Self on track to a leaner and fitter You: no animal lurking 6-inch deep in Hollandaise (sauce) or your face cream or the collar of your coat. The TV got sent off on a permanent vacation, and social media overtime got over with!

Now how about addressing what good we can bring to Others, in three easy steps...

'Madonna & Child' Paintbrush Portrait by Rebecca Szeto

For Others #1:
  • (Re-)connect with a family member or friend. No better time of the year than when the year is young and fresh! Plus Mercury Retrograde is on, which means that verbs starting with 're' get priority in our lives: rethink, redo, review, revisit, reconnect... We have a way at getting caught into life and slipping off the radar, slipping away to do our thing, and friendships start falling off the wayside, and aunts and cousins get neglected. Sometimes a little tiff got in the way of our relationship and we started to stay away for longer, making excuses. And then it gets harder and harder to pick up that phone or knock on that door. And then you know what? One day, all is left is a bunch of regrets. Spare the heartache and get in touch! If it feels a little daunting, why not put pen to paper first? You could even forgo paper for a nice little card that has a picture of their favourite plant or animal or monument... Even more of a personable touch, design that card from scratch!
For Others #2:
  • Forgo takeaway and ready-made for your loved ones, and bake a cake instead! Or build something from scratch, or create a little art! It needn't be the 8th wonder of the world (although it could!). It could simply be a nice vintage wooden crate from your attic repurposed (another 're' verb for us!) into a side table. Or something as unfussy and free of charge as a handful of squash seeds from your heirloom collection or a selection of plant cuttings as a little impromptu gift to the garden lover in your life. Just to show them you care and think about them. A little pressie that comes from the heart and is directly connected to you in history. Not a shop-bought object. Something with presence and soul and connection and history.
'Decorate with Flowers...' by Oh Joy!

For Others #3:
  • Strike up a conversation with someone whose name you don't know! Down the local shop, or the beach, or while waiting for the tram, and make that person their day! Conversations don't have to last for ages. Start off with a heartfelt compliment over their hairstyle or scarf or dog, or a positive (funny even!) comment about the shop you are both stood in, or other immediate common ground. I've struck up some awesome conversations with people I had never met before. Being a dog-owner has certainly helped me in that department! I've had my spirits lifted just out of random conversations (and theirs too!). Also why not consider leaving a friendly comment on a blog you follow? That's another little nod of encouragement that goes a long way.
How easy and light-hearted was that? I can tell you want more! Here we go, let's do it for Round 3: Awesome Acts of Kindness for the Earth!

8 Jan 2016

Awesome Acts of Kindness for Self, Others and the Earth!

There are two ways to consider the New Year, according to the half-empty vs. half-full paradigm. You may either equal New Year to getting one year older, or... one year wiser! If your cup is decidedly looking half full, count me in! And bonus, I'll fill it up to the brim with a short series of Hints 'N' Tips on making this New Year kinder, not only to Yourself but to Others and the Earth!

The Ultimate Crudité Platter with White Miso Dip by The Clever Carrot

We're not selfish, but we'll get started with Self! It might be something to do with the fact that if you want change in your life, you should instigate that change, start off with yourself, rather than rely on others to instigate it for you. Anyhoo, let's bite those bullet (points)!

For Self #1:
  • Make friends with veg and pledge to become a vegetarian! The best way is to build this up gradually, starting off with the legendary Meat Free Monday (or whichever day of the week is most suitable to you, like a day off, when you are relaxed). To forgo meat one whole day a week is actually easier than you might think, and from then you may up the ante! The web is a treasure trove of veggie recipes (Pinterest is a fun starting point!), and most quality culinary blogs like The Clever Carrot  have vegetarian dishes on the menu. Meanwhile The HSUS have devised The Guide to Meat-Free Meals, which is set to get you on track. They also have a comprehensive meat-free recipe section that includes a wide array of enticing dishes, from entrées to desserts, via breakfast, kid-friendly and even treats for your pet companions! Sign up in order to get a handy recipe each week, like I do! And eh, PETA is at it too, with a comprehensive recipe section and another one there too covering dishes from around the world! And - if you are considering the next step up to veganism - you can order your Free Vegan Starter Kit!
Try to fathom the figures! 'Numbers of Animals Slaughtered in the U.S.: Per minute -- 38,627 * Per hour -- 2,317,596 * Per day -- 55,622,293 * Per year -- More than 27 billion!' (source: PETA Vegan Starter Kit and Vegetarian 101).

Rooney Mara, photography by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for Vogue: The Editor's Eye book

For Self #2:
  • Wear kindness on your face and wrap your body in it too! Not only do we have to worry about the toxicity of ingredients, but also how earth-friendly or cruelty-free they are. Help! Leaping Bunny to the rescue! Do you bit: Pay attention to ingredients, and right off the bat, rule out environmental foes (phtalates, sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, palm oil derivatives, etc.). And steer clear of brands that still condone animal testing (the softy word for vivisection). Aim for brands and products that aim for less to no cruelty whatsoever. Yet consumer quest for anti-cruelty is no mean feat because what goes on under the surface, deep inside jars and tubes and the interweavings of fabrics and materials is even more opaque and insidious than with food ingredients. For instance, a haircare manufacturer might use very generic/ loose wording like 'squalane' in its shampoo ingredients list, and skip any details under secret formulation privacy laws. Meanwhile uninformed consumers are unlikely to tick on 'squalane' when they actually should! So beware what lies beneath the safe-sounding words! Squalane is a substance sourced from gulper shark liver, that lends shampoos, hair conditioners and face creams their distinctive texture and non-greasy emollience. According to a study by Bloom Association, 3 million deep-sea sharks are estimated to fall foul of the squalane industry each year. You'll have to 'thank' the likes of L'Oréal for their helping hand to the shark fin soup industry in their relentless shark hunt that in turn is leading oceans to turn shark-free!  All in all, stay vigilant and conduct your own research.... And be kind to life by saying no to leather and fur, and the 'uggly' truth about the trade! Pamela Anderson's vegan Pammies boots are the anti-cruelty - and trendy - answer to Ugg! If you seek heels, Pamela's teamed up with French designer Amélie Pichard. And since 'Compassion is sexy', who said vegan shoes were not fashion-friendly?

    For Self #3:
  • Shut down the TV and cut down on social media! You'll thank me later. So no, you don't need to channel any more of your personal time into yet another social media platform and wear its button on your blog like a badge of honour! Snapchat, Periscope, you bet, what next? You have a life to live, and to live it is not to fritter it away online. Life happens offline! As for the box, I haven't watched it since last October and I do not miss it one bit (OK, apart maybe the odd documentary or film, and 'odd' implies said feature to be 'greater than average'). Anyway it had become painful for me to watch the news and witness how biased the media have become, as the voice of the state (and EU superstate), and how they peddle the terminology and smarmy tone of voice and skewered undertones, and inseminate us deep with the thoughts and reactions they want us to have for ourselves and make ours, as they are recreating a reality. A BS propaganda that I do not want to be a part of! Freedom of the press, ha-ha! Free your mind (and time!) from the news that is no news! 
Munch on another celery stick and catch us in our next post: Awesome Acts of Kindness for Others!

2 Jan 2016

2016 More or Less

Enters New Year. As it swooshes down the catwalk of time, to the sound of firecrackers, bows of appreciation and glances of envy, it needn't bow out to the boos. New Year, unlived yet enlivened, spells a frisson of hope and promise and tipsy delusion, as we prepare to wear it and kiss it and taint it. Enters New Year and Exits Lady Macbeth, the year that was and is no more. New Year comes dressed up with little more than an itsy-bitsy accoutrement of fantasies dressed up as resolutions.

Park La Brea Housing Development, Los Angeles, CA, photography by Jeffrey Milstein, via Wired

Resolution, little more than the promise to self to make this year 'better', according to parametres that each self holds within the safe of their hearts and minds. Resolution, the quick-fix, short-lived counter-balance remedy to the obligatory guilt trip that seals off holiday indulgence, and all of our slack and sloven moments that took the year past, past its prime.

However we wouldn't be hard put upon if we took a long hard look at the way we conduct our lives - or rather at the way we conduct Life.

Beverley Hills, ibid

To look in the mirror, past that face that is looking back at you. See the bigger picture. Take a bird's eye view of Life, beyond the picket fence of fenced-in existence and suburban linearity. And that is when the realisation might happen. That collectively humanity are the result of what collectively humanity create. What we put in, we get out, with all the consequences that impact our environment in its broadest, wildest - and wisest sense. The natural world we have remade to fit the human vision of a humanised world, where nature is tamed, dislodged out of its environment, flattened out, plasticised and monetised.

Life is beautiful and precious. Life is an entitlement and a right. Yet humanity in its inhumanity will disfigure it or kill it, as the world is wasting away under the waste it creates. Now do we still want to be single-mindedly navel-gazing at the size of our waistlines and base a resolution around that - even build a social media audience around it, when we need to look at the bigger picture and rethink society as a whole... Here is a New Year's resolution that is worth its weight in gold: this year I shall not keep up with the Joneses!

P.S: Make 2016 a year that counts, by following La Baguette's mini-series, Awesome Acts of Kindness for Self, Others and the Earth!