Thursday, July 29, 2010

praise you

Andy and I were watching the MTV "Geektastic" Top 50 Countdown when we came across this gem. Not surprisingly, Andy's first reaction was to point and laugh... "look at those idiots!" Mine was to sigh wistfully and say "that looks like so much fun!" I would rather be one of the people at the centre, blissfully creating something beautiful, than those at the periphery, shifting around uncomfortably and being snarky. Of course, it takes guts to disassociate ourselves from other people's criticism and completely let go. I don't think I would be brave enough to be a part of the Torrance Community Dance Group... Thankfully, these people are, and I can experience a smidgen of their joy, just by watching them.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

10 Day Cycle

So another 10 days have passed, and it is time to embark on a new "cycle".

Last week went well. It was the final week of my break so I took some time to relax and get a few things done that I had resolved to do, like exercising and writing. I also fired off some emails (on the advice of the lovely Corrine at Frock and Roll) and received some heart-warming replies. I organised my desk and bought all my textbooks for uni. I attempted both recipes: Alicia's juice was yummy and Skye's mousse was delicious. I made the mousse for my friend Kimberley's Masterchef finale party - I had been on team Adam since Skye left, so over the moon when he won! I didn't get the laundry done.

Things to read

Confession... I was distracted from my reading list by Annabel Crabb's Rise of the Ruddbot... but I need to educate myself in preparation for the election! I did finish Living Dolls, which was brilliant.

So this week I'm going to be a little more realistic and just allocate one fiction book...

I have read the first chapter and been meaning to continue for a few months, and now I feel as though I am in a place that reflects the tone of the book... thoughtful, whimsy, optimistic and reflective. My friend has the audio version, which Obama narrates himself... divine.

And one non-fiction book...

I am almost halfway through this (after receiving it in the mail from Amazon last night) and it's wonderful.

Things to try

Transcendental meditation Sarah Wilson wrote about this on her blog last week. I am very skeptical so I never thought that I would even entertain the thought of taking up meditation, but the benefits seem amazing so I have decided to give it a try. You can read Sarah's article here.

Recipes to try

A couple of recipes from Cannelle et Vanille...

Hair and makeup inspiration

I am finally getting my hair redone today. I have been contemplating which colour to go for and, at this stage, I am enamoured of exquisite Australian model Samantha Harris in this Little Joe runway show.* It is the perfect, understated shade of brown that has none of that dreaded red tone that I hate (on me, I love it on other people!)

Her makeup is beautiful, too.

Things to do

Go to a dinner party tonight

Fill out the iStudiez app on my iPhone

Get ahead with my Law and Women's Studies reading; watch some movies for my English unit

*Enamoured "of" sounds off to me, but I did my research... "with" is grammatically incorrect and "by" would mean that Samantha is enamoured of ME. Just thought I'd clear that up in case anybody else thought that it sounded wrong... It's probably just me, though!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the beauty philosopher

I did this interview with The Beauty Philosopher a few months ago, but, in my ever-disorganised state, I completely forgot to post a link on here, until now.

I absolutely love beauty, which I'm sure comes through on this blog, but I made a conscious choice not to be, exclusively, a beauty blogger. The main rationale is that there are a lot of other things I love writing about, but there is also the fact that there are so many amazing, talented, passionate, knowledgeable beauty bloggers out there who I just cannot compete with! The Beauty Philosopher is one of them. She is also a beautiful, romantic wordsmith with amazing style.

So here is my interview, in which I chat indulgently about my love for cosmetics, where it originated and some of my all-time favourite products. Enjoy!

“People often say that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.”
— Salma Hayek

Sunday, July 25, 2010

some things I'm loving this week

I am toying with the idea of doing a few recurrent series of posts. Some of my favourite bloggers do it (Sarah Wilson, Yasemin Turker, Sarah Ayoub), so I thought I would shamelessly imitate them. I'll start with "10 day cycles" (every 10 days, just to be clear) and weekly "some things I am loving", every Sunday morning. I stole the latter from Primped, because I love Yasemin's weekly "5 things I'm loving this week" posts. Of course, mine will be a little different because there will be no video (I'm sorry, I'm just not technically savvy enough to figure that out) and I won't be showcasing (just) beauty products... plus I'm not going to restrict it to five things. I hope that this consistency will make me a more reliable blogger while I'm busy with uni, which starts again tomorrow. Even if I don't have the time to update as frequently as I'd like, at the very least I'll have those posts up regularly.

So here are my lovable things of the moment...

1. Mad Men Season 3
The fourth season of this brilliant series goes to air tonight in the US, so my brother and I decided to reacquaint ourselves with the show this weekend, in anticipation. Mad Men is just so irresistible it is such an elegant, slick show with a subtle richness and depth. Tom and Lorenzo do fantastic recaps after each episode, as well as gorgeous "Mad Style" posts.

This collection of political commentator Annabel Crabb's funny, insightful columns is essential pre-election reading. It's so compelling that I've abandoned my planned reading list for it. Also worth watching is Annabel's interview with Julian Morrow on The Monthly's Slow TV.

I read this article by my favourite tweeter Alain de Botton the other night and found myself nodding along vehemently. As an atheist, I often feel a little dejected. After all, we don't have our own schools, congregations or meeting-places... A little unfair, no?

In this article, Alain explores the ideas ruminated by 19th century French sociologist Auguste Compte. An atheist himself, he proposed a "religion of humanity", involving secular churches, sermons and art, the essence of his philosophical-religious world-view being "connais-toi pour t'ameliorer" or "know yourself to improve yourself". Unfortunately, poor Compte was largely ridiculed and ignored, and he died without seeing any of his proposals take hold, which is sad. As Alain concludes, Compte's thinking "attempted to rescue some of what is beautiful, touching, reasonable and wise from what no longer seems true"... which is beautiful in and of itself.

© Cannelle et Vanille (reproduction only permitted upon request)

I was directed to this beautiful site by Sarah Wilson. Aran is a food stylist, photographer and trained chef who utilises her talents to share mouth-watering gluten-free dishes and their recipes on her blog. She truly embodies the "mindful eating" movement savouring not only the meal itself, and the nourishment it provides our bodies, but also the art of creating and sharing it with others. I'm so excited to try some of her recipes next week.

I have been using this luxurious cleanser for the past month and it is magnificent. Described as "possibly... the best cleanser in the world" by Vogue UK, it leaves my skin feeling balanced, nourished and silky soft every night. A cleanser/toner/exfoliant in one, this is now a staple in my beauty regime. I don't think I'll ever let this gem go! Available exclusively in Australia at Mecca Cosmetica.

Kimberley at Glued to My Chest pointed out this whimsy, witty photo story by cute Melbourne author Andrew McDonald... you can click on the link above to take a peek.

I think I'm in love (the suit! the smile! the face!). Sorry, Andy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

the one hundred

Last year, I started writing a list of things that I want to do in my lifetime. Some people told me that I was being morbid - assuming that "in my lifetime" was synonymous with "before I die" - but I'm hoping for the best, and that is that I will be lucky enough to be able to achieve all of these things, somewhere along the line. These are the things I have already accomplished.

1. Travel to Paris

2. Live in a foreign country

3. Travel alone

4. Buy a house

5. Go to Edinburgh Comedy Festival

6. Take dance classes

7. Have a fluent conversation in French

8. Run a marathon

9. Take cooking classes in Greece

10. Take a road trip around Europe

11. Adopt a dog from the pound

12. Join a charity

13. Go mountain hiking in New Zealand

14. Get a doctorate

15. Get published

16. Learn Italian

17. Take photography classes

18. Travel to every continent

19. Learn massage

20. Meet a kindred spirit

21. Give blood

22. Live in a seaside town

23. Swim with dolphins

24. Travel around Australia

25. Become an organ donor

26. Be a mother

27. Learn to surf

28. Fall in love

29. Go on an African safari

30. Go skiing in Canada

31. Walk the Great Wall of China

32. Go on a backpacking trip

33. Learn Yoga

34. Achieve all High Distinctions for one semester at uni

35. Learn and memorise four piano pieces

36. Attend Glastonbury festival

37. Learn meditation

38. See the Northern Lights

39. Swim in geothermal pools in Iceland

40. Travel to Israel

41. Learn to make my own clothes

42. Have a beautiful home

43. Go to lifestyle retreat in Australia

44. Spend a summer in Paris

45. Buy a hammock for my backyard

46. Spend New Year’s Eve in New York

47. Ride a bicycle around The Netherlands

48. Swim under a waterfall

49. Learn Pilates

50. Make beautiful cupcakes

51. Do a first-aid course

52. See a Broadway play

53. Own a business (or part thereof)

54. Work as a teacher (at university, school or TAFE)

55. Attend a fashion show

56. Take art classes

57. Study Buddhism

58. Fly first class

59. Attend an Olympic Games

60. Sponsor a child

61. Do volunteer work overseas

62. Give $20 to a beggar

63. Go to a Christmas service at Notre Dame

64. Learn to snowboard

65. Grow and cultivate a beautiful pink rosebush

66. Watch the sun rise over Machu Picchu, Peru

67. Create an inspiration scrapbook for my daughter

68. Find inner peace

69. Build perfect capsule wardrobe

70. See Miami

71. Buy a Chanel bag

72. Go to Borneo to walk amongst Orang Utans

73. Go camping somewhere beautiful

74. Donate a park bench and dedicate it to love

75. Host a beautiful Christmas Day BBQ

76. Read every book on my bookshelf at any one time

77. Write a memoir

78. Buy a car that I really love

79. Read a book in French (and understand it)

80. Learn to make five beautiful cocktails

81. Attend a film festival

82. Eat pizza in Naples

83. Learn basic Mandarin, Spanish, German, Japanese, Arabic & Russian

84. Take a regular cooking class

85. Own a beautiful piece of art

86. Be a godmother

87. Go to the beach every morning for a summer

You may notice that I called this "the one hundred", yet there is only 87 things on the list... I think I'll just keep adding as I go.

Do you have a "Bucket List"? Is there anything close to your heart that you would like to accomplish?


"A birth is not really a beginning. Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else’s story."
- The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield

I have been giving this quote a lot of thought lately. It's something that I had never really considered before but now I cannot get it out of my mind.

I was given my middle name, Valerie, after my Nana, my mum's mother. When I was young, I found it embarrassing. I thought that it was such an old-fashioned name. When people would ask me what it was, I would refuse to tell them. Once, in a conversation with my mum, I mentioned how much I hated it. She was upset, of course. She pointed out that, firstly, it was a beautiful name and, secondly, I should be proud of being named after such a remarkable woman. Since then, I have flaunted it with pride, and it's become part of my pen-name. I had always assumed that my Nana had no impact on my life, since I barely knew her. Of course, I was wrong. I've learned that people don't really leave this world, upon their death. Their essence lives through the people they influenced during their lifetime.

I have don't have many memories of her. It is something that has always saddened me, since I know that we would have been close. I have learned so much about her from my family that I feel as though we are connected, somehow.

I have little glimpses of memory of my Nana, in the recesses of my mind. Her running after me in her backyard, telling me stories about her childhood. Us swimming in the pool together, watching Play School on the couch, going for walks together with my doll's pram. Me having a tantrum because she wouldn't let me sit in the front seat of the car. My mother and I waiting for her at the playground when she had forgotten to come. My mum and her dad searching for her all over the suburb after she had escaped the house and gotten lost. Visiting her in the nursing home when she kept calling my Pop "Paul", the name of their son with the greatest likeness to his dad. I think that was the last time I saw her.

Those memories are precious to me and I hold them dear to my heart. I've realised that what is even more special, though, is the insight into my Nana that I can gain though observing the people who knew her, who are still in my life. The fact that my Pop visited her in the nursing home every single day until she died. Even though he is happily remarried, he still tears up every Christmas, at the thought of her. My mum's best friend is, by her own admission, almost an incarnation of her mother, who she misses dearly. My mum, her sister and her five brothers are still incredibly close. They are all shy like their Dad, but, when they come together, the openness and wittiness they inherited from their mother surfaces. Almost all of them have been in only one significant relationship, just like their parents', whose love story set a standard for their children.

I can even see parts of Valerie in me. We both fall asleep in the cinema during boring movies, for example. She also loved to read. When she started losing her memory, she would jot down all the plot points of the story on her bookmark so that she wouldn't have to go over what she'd forgotten. She also studied arts at university, although she did it in her forties, not her twenties. She believed that being happy was more important than anything else, and didn't bother worrying over, what she considered to be, the "small stuff". Something that I can definitely relate to, but don't always abide by. She loved her husband Steve with all her heart, just as I love Andy.

So this is what has been on my mind lately. That, even though I barely knew my grandmother, she has impacted my life in a profound way. Her spirit lives on through her children and the grandchildren who never met her, and will continue to live on through our children and our grandchildren, and so on. These thoughts have made me appreciate that being significant is not dependent on how much money we make or how high we climb on the career ladder; it's about the way we effect the people we come across during our lives. Just as Chuck Palahnuik says, "the goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will". That something doesn't need to be a beautiful piece of art, a musical masterpiece or an incredible novel; it is as simple, and as effortless, as sharing your love and yourself with others.