Thursday, March 31, 2011

Things We Love Thursday

 We love pretty pictures by talented artists like Jacqui Oakley
not just on Thursdays but all week round.

Ell-Leigh Loves:
  • This week I've decided to try a few more of the recipes in the Crazy Sexy Diet book, and so far it's gone great! On Monday I had raw veggie "noodles" in a Thai inspired "peanut" sauce and yesterday I tried the Sweet Potato and Bean burgers - they were so good.
  • Reading is on my list again this week, I hit the library yesterday and one of the books I took out that I've started reading is No Impact Man: Saving the Planet One Family at a Time by Colin Beavan, and so far it is a really interesting and entertaining read. I'm also about 100 pages from the end of Small Island by Andrea Levy, this book just keeps getting better! It's just such an interesting book.
  • Watching movies is my third thing I've loved this week. Work has been really slow for me this week which has left me with plenty of spare time, so I spent Tuesday afternoon watching Dracula and Everything Is Illuminated, before I hit the video store and spent the evening watching Supersize Me for the first time... When I don't watch movies often I sometimes forget how much I love them!

 cake cake CAKE! 
(sourced from the impeccably pretty Hard to Remind, Impossible to Forget)

Lauren Loves
  •  Hot Chocolate - Here in oz hot chocolate drinking weather is finally upon us again! After a ridiculously humid summer which made hot beverages seem a choice of the insane, autumn has brought with it drizzly days and cool(ish) breezes, and once again hot chocolate getting is at the top of my to do list. If all my drinks came with the hot chocolate cakes featured above, well then, that would just be heaven.
  •  Lemon tree lemon tree lemon tree!! - Last week I mentioned how excited I am about growing tomatoes, you can only imagine how excited I am to be growing lemons! Given my history of going through a serious number of lemons, this bit of gardening should be an exercise in thriftiness as well as tastiness.
  • Getting organised – I love to feel organised but, alas, I’m naturally not so good at it. I’m not a very visual perfectionist kind of person, so putting things away in their place isn’t always my first priority. I am a big planner and a big dreamer, however, and once the two combine I’m often left with a room that looks like it’s been mercilessly anti-robbed, where people have come in and dumped pointless stuff everywhere instead of taking any away. This week I’ve put my foot down, though, and have really begun getting everything together. Mercury being in retrograde and all, this isn’t the opportune time to let my organisation slip.

Book Review: Never Let Me Go

“You’re waiting, even if you don’t quite know it, waiting for the moment when you realise that you really are different to them; that there are people out there, like Madame, who don’t hate you or wish you any harm, but who nevertheless shudder at the very thought of you – of how you were brought into this world and why – and who dread the idea of your hand brushing against theirs.” (p. 36)

Lauren's Opinion:
Never Let Me Go is the story of a group of children, their growing up and their dealing with the expectations that life has for them. The thing is these children aren’t quite normal children and their lives, while at first seemingly regular, are far different from anything we could imagine.

This book is slow and heartbreaking and Ishiguro crafts the words so delicately that at times the prose nears poetic. The central idea of the plot is made early on and quite clearly. I know as a reader I understood it quickly, but it’s an idea so horrifying to really comprehend that I still spent the whole story hoping that I was wrong.

Narrated by central character Kathy H, her account of her childhood and adolescence is tragically cheerful and the description she gives of the English countryside, her school buildings and friends is stunning. Ishiguro is a master of creating intelligent characters with great psychological depth, and from the seemingly incidental characters like Moira B and Jenny B, to the supporting leads Tommy and Ruth, he has obviously taken great care to bring these people to life.  

I first heard about Never Let Me Go when Kater posted about it on All This Happiness, and after reading her review and watching the film trailer I couldn’t believe this book hadn’t caused more hype in my world, though judging by the string of awards it won and was nominated for, it obviously did in the book world. The film is finally being released here today (!) and I’m really looking forward to seeing it. I’d really recommend that anyone who wants to see the film get a hold of the book first, though from all accounts the movie version is just as wonderful.

A look at the film trailer, just to whet your appetite:  

Ell-Leigh's Opinion:

Ishiguro tells the story with such precision and subtlety, creating the world of a young schoolgirl with such wisdom it’s as if he had grasped it straight from reality. The tension builds delicately and remains as a shadow informing each moment. The characters are so relatable and truthful that the questions of ethics and morality affect deeply, all the while the full extent of the reality isn’t yet known. It’s a book so complexly and beautifully written it’s difficult to piece together sentences about it, it’s a book that will both satisfy and confront you. It is brilliant, a precious gem.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Awkward Equals Feminine

Is the rise of the 'socially awkward' girl a dangerous fashion or a flighting fad?

Searching back through my consciousness, I can’t pinpoint the moment when I first heard someone label themselves as ‘socially awkward’ or ‘socially retarded’. But I do know that I never questioned the choice, I completely bought this new brand of cool hook, line and sinker.

At first this language and labelling didn’t trouble me, in fact I rejoiced in there being a popular social movement that I could easily slot into. As a late teen it was so easy to define any lack of self confidence as cute awkwardness or a disregard for having social skills. You could clumsily kill a conversation with a cute boy or alienate an important connection during introductions and instead of being humiliating it would add to your cool cred. The more it went on the more deliberate sabotaging of social situations became almost like a sport. I knew friends who would happily boast about how awkward or tactless they might be, when in actual fact they were some of the most confident and out going people I had encountered. Being socially awkward became less of a trait and more of a style, and it was just about as chic as you could get.

As I got a bit older and moved away from spending every waking moment surrounded by a gaggle of friends, though, this attitude became less convenient. I learnt quickly that if I didn’t make a move towards confidence I would also never make any new friends or work connections. Making doe eyes and shyly not answering questions just doesn’t impress the directors of theatre companies or actors that you might one day want to hire. There’s actually not much room for cute in our fast paced world, and if it’s hard work getting you to elicit some semblance of an intelligent response to the most basic questions, then people will quickly pass you by.

So I grew a bit of a spine and moved on from this particular phase, probably a process that most people would call growing up. I wouldn’t say that I’m the definition of cool, calm and collected, but I’ve certainly changed the way I view social interactions in the last couple of years. I’ve also changed my mind about this trend depicting awkwardness as the height young femininity and what it means for my generation.

The awkwardness fad seems to be linked to being ‘girly’. It plays on the idea that ‘hot boys like smart girls’, and that there’s something mysterious and alluring about the quiet girl in the corner. More than just a traditional sex thing, though, is the rivalry it builds between female friends. It’s not exactly expressed outright, but it’s pretty clear to see that the girl who is the most quirky and off-centre (read: off putting) is the one who is winning at this sort of opposite social interaction game; the more inept your people skills, the higher you rise.

Developing as a group of twenty-somethings, particularly twenty-something girls, who don’t want to fend for themselves socially, who think nothing of offending people or humiliating themselves because they can just pass it over as cool, is worrying. Deliberately pretending to not have opinions, personality or confidence is no way to work towards having fair and stimulating relationships with other people. Regardless of how much it makes them want to pinch your cheeks, it’s fair to say this kind of behaviour doesn’t inspire many people to respect you.

But maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe this is just my version of those who cried, “His hips are a portal for the devil!” about Elvis Presley. After all when I google ‘socially awkward’ I just get a bunch of pictures about Kristen Stewart and un-clever memes, neither really making me anxious about the state of young girls’ ability to socially interact. Or maybe it’s just a thing that happens amongst the people that I mix with, a very tiny dissection of society to be sure…but I just don’t think so.

As I try to understand this movement and our motivations when subscribing to it, I am puzzled. I think maybe we are all just a little bit scared about having to grow up and be ‘women’ now, whatever that means these days, and we’ve realised that there’s a way out of it. It’s kind of a Peter Pan ideal for girls, involving emulating the three year old with the wide eyes and pout hiding behind her mother’s skirt and not answering the “big adults’ questions”.

I have to ask, when did we start excusing being scared with being awkward and shy, when did we decide that that was a good choice to make? Shy girls have long held their place on the social spectrum, yes, but this obviously isn’t all true shyness. It’s playing pretend about how strong and poised we can really be, and it’s damaging to our image as a whole and as individuals.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Bag for Every Occasion

Essential Baggery

Having spent three years working in the accessory department at Myer, I know a thing or two about handbags, including how addictive collecting them can be… From experience. Out of my huge collection of handbags I find that a few types are essential with the others just being fashionable extravagances (nothing wrong with that!).

The OUTRAGEOUS day bag
For days when you’re feeling like a Hollywood starlet but don’t feel compelled to put the outfit together, this statement bag never fails with a pair of jeans, flats, a plain top and a cardi – and don’t forget some flamboyant sunglasses to finish the look!

The STATEMENT clutch
For nights when only a little black dress will do, The Statement Clutch delivers quite a punch to your look. Studs, leather and metallic for a rock star, sequins and gems for ultimate glamour or floaty and pretty for something more feminine, these clutches can determine the style of countless sparkling evenings.

Some call this guy the “everyday bag”, or the “default bag”, but I like to think of mine as my reliable sidekick, or like my trusty steed if I were the hero in a cowboy film. This bag has the ability to work with practically my entire wardrobe, is large enough to hold a water bottle and/or novel for the train, without being too bulky or heavy. Look for tans, creams and charcoals if you’re sick of black, or spice it up with a little patent shine.

The most grown up of all handbags, the classy black tote can be found in its natural habitat in the hands of successful stylish ladies across the globe. Often frequenting job interviews, important business meetings and quick plane trips to the big cities of the world, these bags lend a touch of sophistication no matter what your day has been like. Look for styles large enough to fit an iPad/laptop/old-fashioned-notebook/pile of resumes, then dust off those Queen Bee black stilettos and start climbing that career ladder!

Want to look as though you stepped straight off the set of Mad Men? Gone bonkers for that late 60’s look after watching Factory Girl or The Graduate on the weekend? Well, this bag might be your first step to capturing the style of days gone by. Purchased while op shopping long before it was cool, my navy genuine vintage bag gets comments from strangers practically every time I wear it. A vintage bag is an easy and eye catching way to add a little retro glamour to your look.

As the sun sets on the plastic shopping bag, more and more stylish types are spending their hard earned cash on cloth bags reminiscent of the type we had to take on library day in Primary School. These multi purpose practically-anything-holders will be your new best friend at the markets, heading to the pool, taking books to Uni or even going to the library. More resilient than a “green bag”, these are a great way to save the environment, one fashion statement at a time.

Monday, March 28, 2011

How To: Yoga

Step One: Don't be a donut, obviously.

So, you’ve been thinking lately about yoga? “Fraudulent fad or fabulous fitness?” you ask yourself when you walk past a ‘studio’ and see the rows of grunting, sweating and yet beautifully limber people stretching and sliding and slipping around on coloured mats. It looks simple, but you’ve been told it is a painfully difficult discipline, and you’re not sure where to even begin with finding the right class for you. Well, you’ve come to the right place, my little yogi, let me answer some of your questions. 

What is Yoga?

Yoga Australia gives this definition of yoga: 

“[Yoga] is recognised as an ancient system of belief (a practical philosophy or darsana) derived from the Vedic tradition of India and the Himalayas, more than 2500 years ago. It is a system of belief that recognises the multi-dimensional nature of the human person, and primarily relates to the nature and workings of the mind, based on experiential practice and self-enquiry.”
From a ‘lay person’s’ (meaning not a yoga practitioner) point of view, I would define yoga as a form of exercise that focuses on building your physical fitness by exercising your mental fitness. Confused? In a yoga* class, you move through a series of postures (poses/stretches) that strengthen and stretch your body. Yoga allows and expects the practiser to completely connect their mind with their body, the more you can focus on the pose you are holding and the more you can tune in to your body, the better you become. It teaches you to focus solely on one thing at a time and so trains both body and mind simultaneously. Think of it as a moving meditation. 

Are There Different Types of Yoga?

There are many different types of yoga, too many for me to detail, so I’ll take you through the types I’ve tried myself. 

Hatha Yoga

The term Hatha Yoga actually can be used to describe all yoga, but if you’re looking at taking a Hatha class it will likely be quite a basic form of yoga that takes you through slow, meditative poses. In my experience, Hatha Yoga is lovely and gentle. If you want to feel flexible and relaxed after a class, try Hatha. It’s usually a great type of yoga to try if you’re a beginner as it’s not too physically strenuous or demanding. Don’t think you won’t get a workout with Hatha though, you’ll still be holding poses, stretching and moving.

Bikram Yoga or Hot Yoga

You probably can’t get further away from the description I just gave about Hatha Yoga than Bikram. Bikram Yoga involves completing twenty-six poses, a mixture of standing and floor, and two breathing exercises in a highly structured ninety minute class…all in a 37 degree Celsius room (that’s about 98 in Fahrenheit). Bikram is intense and, so says the people who teach it, intensely good for you. If the instructor is doing their job properly, every Bikram class should be exactly the same, which has its pros and cons. If you’re thinking that the twenty-six poses (you can see them all here) seem deceptively easy looking, you’d be right. Nothing is easy in a room that super heated. That said, when warmed at that level, your muscles become amazingly flexible, and in a Bikram class you’ll find yourself doing things you never thought possible (and sweating more than you’d ever thought possible. We’re talking serious perspiration people!). 

I tried Bikram last year and loved it; I can honestly say I’ve never felt so good during exercise than when I was doing the floor series, especially when I was expecting to feel so bad. It is pretty hardcore stuff, but after growing up as a gymnast that’s the kind of exercise I’m used to. It’s purportedly great for everything from your cardiovascular health to your immune system to stopping junk food cravings, and after going I can see how it might be. If that’s not enough, can I just add that everybody, and I mean every body, looked simply amazing at my Bikram class? There are some ‘rules’ that it’s best to stick to, such as not eating in the two hours before class, so make sure you do your research before heading along. Bikram classes can be expensive, and sadly it isn’t exactly in my current price range, so I have given it up (for now) in lieu of cheaper options. I highly recommend giving Bikram a try if you’re looking for a challenge, but keep in mind it’s not for the faint of heart! 

Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa Yoga is the yoga type I currently practice. Like Hatha, Vinyasa Yoga classes can vary a lot depending on the instructor you have. Essentially, Vinyasa focuses heavily on connecting breathing to movement. It can be a bit more aerobically stimulating than a Hatha class, and you should really find yourself stretching, strengthening and sweating. Expect to have some sore muscles after this one, and if you’re looking for a visible (but not Bikram extreme) physical difference, then Vinyasa is the place to start. 

How Do I Go? What Do I Do?

First step to becoming a yoga-god? Do some googling. You need to start by finding out what types of yoga classes are offered in your area, where, for how much and when. Some classes have a ‘first time’ or introductory offer, so you can give it a go at a cheaper rate or without having to buy a whole month or term pass. You might find a class that suits you right away, or you may have to try a few, but the important thing is to give it a solid try.

If you have your own, it’s always a good idea to take your yoga mat with you, if you don’t you might be able to borrow or hire one when you do your class. Wear comfortable exercise clothing, I always find tighter is better than looser because you’re less likely to get entangled with all the twisting going on. As with any exercise, take a water bottle with you and make sure you’re eating correctly to have enough energy to make it through.

Will I Look Stupid?

No. You might feel stupid, you might fall or wobble or twist the wrong direction or let out an accidental yoga fart, but everyone in the class was a beginner once and they’ve all been there. Trust me, if they’re doing their practice correctly, no one should be noticing anyone other than themselves. If you go regularly, I find that improvement in yoga is amazingly rapid and pretty soon you’ll feel like a pro (pro-ish. There’ll always be that crazy yoga lady up the front who has been practicing for fifty years and looks like an upsized Praying Mantis to remind you that you’re not a pro yet). 

Every yoga class I’ve been to, even Bikram, has levels within each pose that allow for you to either stop and concentrate on perfecting a basic posture or continue on into a harder pose. You should never feel pressure to work past the level that you feel comfortable with or to do something that’s badly painful or just not right for your body. 

Why Yoga?

Exercise is, generally speaking, something a lot of us need to do more of. Yoga offers a very beneficial and mostly more gentle and relaxing way to do this. Because it’s also so meditative, it is a great treat for your mind as well as your body. Lastly, most yoga is conducted using Sanskrit, which is a beautiful language, and words like asasana and chaturanga dandasana will become part of your vocabulary, for which there are no negatives! 

Yoga might not be right for everyone, but it seems to work for a huge variety of people. If you’re interested then I suggest you get up off the computer and try it out.


*To be clear, we’re really talking about a Westernized version of yoga here. The term yoga originally was used to describe a religious practice much more heavily centred on meditation and not so much on physical exercise as it is today. There’s widely acknowledge to have been a marriage between more modern and Western exercise and the traditional yoga practiced by Buddhists in what it is we practice now, but hey, why not combine all the good bits of everything, right? 

**Too corny? Probably. Will I change it? Nope.

Crazy Sexy Update: Week Two

DAY NINE: Today, if there’s something to be pissed off at, I’m pissed at it, with an enthusiasm and fury like never before. I’m pissed at my bank. Pissed at my GPS. Pissed at the fuzzy caterpillars on the sidewalk. Pissed at the smell downwind of the pet store that makes me miss my puppy. Most of all I’m pissed off at all the freakin’ restriction on my diet – went to dinner with my sister and my dad and ordered side servings of salad and broccoli as they were the only vegan and gluten free things on the menu. Conclusion: Italian restaurants aren’t very Crazy-Sexy-Friendly, and I may have some bottled up unresolved anger issues I was previously unaware of.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Letter To My Hometown

Dear Toowoomba,

How you been? We don’t hang around as much anymore. We were pretty tight for a couple of years there though, nearly two whole decades we lasted. But you can’t have too much of a good thing now, can you?

Sometimes I’m not overly flattering towards you, I mean, I know that you know sometimes I tell people more about how I was born in Melbourne than how I grew up in you, even though I was only in Melbourne for a few short months. I pick my timing though, for the people who I think will reply with a, “Oh Toowoomba! My mum just retired to there, it’s lovely!” I give them the answer about you. For those who are going to do a, “Oh Toowoomba…wait…where is that again? Isn’t that some small country town?” I might stray more towards pretending to be more cosmopolitan…

I hope you’re not offended by this. Of all of us, you should know how much appearance matters these days; you do after all go to a lot of effort to maintain yours. Your colourful gardens, parades, historical buildings and the phenomenal number of schools are all put in place to make you seem family friendly, lovely and quaint.

Now we all know that’s not all there is to you, with your ‘gruesome murder rate’, insane amounts of drugs and crime and unbelievable population of bogans (seriously guys, a facebook page?), but I was actually pretty happy to grow up with these things. After all, if I can feel safe walking down a Toowoomba street at 2am, I can pretty much feel safe anywhere. I am un-phaseable when it comes to going places alone, when drunken men slur at me on a night out on the town I simply walk by, knowing the self defence course it was recommended I take in high school has taught me how to deal with them if it’s ever necessary. But it’s usually not, because the confidence you taught me means they pretty much leave me alone. I owe you one, Toowoomba, for helping me cope out in the big bad world.

People call you ‘the womb’ for short, and I guess that’s pretty smart. I am certainly a product of you, whether I like it or not, and though I’m not sure I’ll ever return to live permanently, I’ll probably always carry traces of you in my character. We’ve had some good times, some great times even, and every time I go back to visit I’m reminded on every street corner I pass of the memories you hold. So cheers to that, Toowoomba.

Until next time,


Dear Toowoomba,

We had some really good times you and I. We were like best friends; we practically knew everything about each other. I would stroll through Queens Park in the dry winters or hot summers before I got my license - even after I got my license – I was just so fond of you. Many sunburnt days were passed walking through the city centre, shopping and chilling out at Grandie, or going to the movies at Strandie, or meeting for coffee at the McCafe. I even studied there, spending hours lying about the Quad between classes discussing plays, drinking flavoured milk and eating chips and gravy, the Refect’s speciality. I soaked in the Toowoomba night life, freezing my arse off in short dresses and heels in winter and dancing on the Fibbers dance floor to “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne on many a Friday night. I knew your streets backwards and there was barely a destination I had to Google Map to find. Those were the days.

I remember when the first Sushi stores opened – so metropolitan – and when a Smiggle franchise opened its doors half a year after my studies had finished. You were growing up a little. But by this time I’d seen a bit of the world; Houston, New York, Las Vegas, LA. Even a week at Mooloolaba had me noticing how out of date and full of flaws you are (they have a Moroccan restaurant there!).

So you can’t blame me when I jumped at the chance to move to Brisbane. Sure, it’s not NYC, but it has an international airport and restaurants that sell Nepalese food. It has a public transport system that’s actually practical. It has more than one cute boutique-clothing store aimed at my age group. I wouldn’t have to drive for an hour and a half every time I wanted to see a play that wasn’t being put on at one of the two theatres at home.

I’m doing really well. My new place has two pools and a gym (no need to trek to Milne Bay here!), I’m close to heaps of great shopping centres that would put Grand Central to shame and probably make Garden Town run into a corner and weep. I’ve been to the theatre once already, and am going again in a week’s time, I went to the markets yesterday and am planning to hit The Valley for some fine vegetarian cuisine from Grill’d.

I hope you don’t hold it against me. I’ll come back and visit, often. Half of the best people I know still live within your city limits. This isn’t the last you’ve seen of me, not by far. Just don’t be insulted when I conveniently side-step when answering the question “where did you grow up?”


Saturday, March 26, 2011

How To: Meditate

 One of my teachers once told me that Buddhist monks began the practice of joining fore finger to thumb when meditating as a 'self timing' device. When their fingers parted, they knew they had done enough.
Picture found originally here.

I was lucky enough to go to a school that, while Catholic, was quite expansive and progressive in its religion teaching. Not being one myself, I wasn’t supremely interested in the religious studies we did which pertained purely to becoming a better Catholic, but I was really engaged by the other material we studied; profiles of all of the major religions and a few smaller ones, in depth studies of texts and practices and day trips to synagogues, mosques, museums and cemeteries.
During my time at school I had two wonderful teachers who taught us a lot about meditation practice. My interest in meditation really began with them and through my own research and further study has increased. Below are outlined some of my favourite ‘do it yourself’ meditation exercises.

Food Meditation or Eating Mindfully
We always did this meditation at school with Allens Snakes. To this day yellow snakes (only Allens though), are one of my very favourite things to eat. You’ll need food, preferably just one ingredient by itself, say a carrot or piece of cheese (or an Allens Snake!). This meditation uses questioning to keep you focussed and experiencing the present moment.
*Sit comfortably, close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply and settling your mind some.
*Take the piece of food and lift it to your nose. What does it smell like?
*Put the food in your mouth, but do not chew, just let it rest on your tongue. Does it feel heavy? Is it releasing any flavour?
*Slowly move the food around a little, you can squish it or suck on it if you want. Focus now on the flavour coming from the morsel, what can you taste? Is it sweet or savoury? Salty or creamy?
*Now you can chew the food, but still focus on the textures and flavours you’re experiencing. When you’re done, swallow it. What kind of aftertaste is left?

Listening Meditation
This one’s really simple. I usually find it best to lie down in a still room with the windows open. This is all about listening, so try and make sure there are no really loud televisions or music players near you.
*As you lie, slowly narrow down you’re ‘field’ of listening until you’re focussing only on the sounds your body makes; breathing, beating, pulsing, maybe twitching or lengthening as you ease into relaxation.
*Then, stretch your listening outwards, until you’re focusing on sounds from around the room. Does the furniture shift and settle? Is there a ticking clock or are there any animals making noises?
*Gradually, shift your listening outside the room. Can you hear neighbours talking? Birds in the trees and traffic passing by?
*Now focus on the sounds farthest away from you, see just how far you can hear. *Next you need to draw your listening back in, first into the surrounding outside, then back to your room, then to your own sounds, until all you can hear once again are the noises of your body.

Plain Old Meditation
This year I began practicing what I call ‘plain old mediation’ in earnest. All I literally do is sit on a flat floor cushion, legs crossed (although I don’t see that it would make a difference in a different position if you were sitting up straight and well supported) and breathe. I make sure that my breaths are long and slow, and that the exhalation is the same length as the inhalation (we have a tendency to breathe shorter out than in). Then I slowly start to let go of my thoughts, trying to slow my mind down a little and relax into the stillness until there are no thoughts and all I’m doing is sitting and breathing. I wouldn’t say it’s hard, but it’s not instantly achievable; thoughts whir back up the moment I let myself lose focus or get distracted. It’s definitely not something to get angsty about, and I think that’s where a lot of people get tricked up with mediation; the angrier you get about not being able to ‘do it right’ the more you’ll over think things, when thinking is something you’re trying to get a break from.

I don’t like to put a timer on my mediation, I can usually just tell when I’ve had enough and I think a buzzer or alarm would jar me about. I do like to see sometimes how long I’ve mediated for though, and so far my average is about ten minutes, which I’m pretty impressed by. I find that on the mornings that I do meditate I seem to have hours extra in the day and am incredibly productive. I’m able to focus clearly and don’t try to multitask and spread my energy around all day long. It’s definitely proven a great habit for work outcomes, and I think mentally as well.

I’ve done other types of meditation (think a two hour walking and bowing stint at a Buddhist monk-in-training temple) and have really enjoyed all of them. These three are my basis, DIY at home options, and a good place to start if you’ve never meditated before. Additionally, there are literally hundreds of guided meditation recordings on youtube, and if you’re finding it hard to lead yourself through I recommend you give one a go as well. Happy meditating!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Remember the Days of the Old Schoolyard? We Used to Laugh a Lot! Right?

Boy do we have a lot to say on this one! Be warned, it's lengthy and you may want a beverage. Don't worry, we won't bully* you in to reading the whole thing!

Ell-Leigh Says:

Having gone to an all girls’ school from grade two I’m happy to say that the closest I got to physical bullying was when one of my friends slapped the other during a heated argument in the tuckshop in grade 10. I wasn’t there at the time, but news of it spread through the school like head-lice (exponentially fast without anyone having any idea of its origins – time to whip out the trusty ol’ lice comb). As it goes however, I learnt more than my fair share about manipulation and psychological bullying, and after years of being told “so and so doesn’t sound like a good influence”, can sniff out a bitch with bad intentions from three blocks away.

As the media has made us quite aware, bullying can harm a person not only physically but can emotionally scar much deeper, and for much longer than the bully might have intended.

I’ve watched enough family based sitcoms and Glee to know that standing up to a bully without an adult behind you usually ends with a black eye or being covered in sticky partially frozen liquid.

I’ve watched enough Criminal Minds to figure out that the sidelined freaks that are picked on as fourteen year olds become psychopathic football team murderers at 17.

I’ve watched enough Youtube footage (mostly from television) of phone-recorded fights between school kids and seen enough outrage from adults who are convinced that there wasn’t this much violence before the camera-phone came along to know that awareness is critically low but increasing.

I’ve heard enough from my Mum about cyber-bullying to know my little sister can give up the hopes of getting a Facebook profile before she turns twenty-one.

I’ve watched enough of the news to know that we don’t seem to be getting any better at solving the issue, and I’ve had enough work experience to know that bullying isn’t exclusive to the schoolyard.

I’ve also watched enough interviews to know that many of the world’s greatest performers, brightest minds and interesting personalities were bullied in their high school years.

It must be hard when justice seems to only exist in comic books and tv shows. Turning the other cheek isn’t something that comes naturally, and it can’t be surprising when victims of bullying lash out against their offenders after months or possibly years of verbal abuse and physical assault. It’s hard enough being a teenager, being different to those around you, trying to establish some sort of identity without daily harassment, but with it it’s near impossible to keep your head. It might feel like the safe world around you is crumbling down, you aren’t safe at school, you aren’t safe at home and in between is just short moments between two nightmares.

This, however, doesn’t justify being violent to your bully. It might taste like sweet revenge or just desserts at the time, but lashing out is never going to be something you can be proud of. It might teach the bully a lesson to a certain extent, sure, but then you’re left to face the consequences.

If you are a victim of bullying, whether it be physical or emotional, you are stronger than you realise, and you can make it through without turning to violence. It sounds cliché, but you must let an adult you trust know what you’re going through and how you feel, and chances are after you tell them it will be a load off your shoulders, and you’ll feel a lot safer. You can make it through whatever humiliation they throw at you, I promise, just prove to yourself that you can. The only person who can make the decision for you to give in is you. No one can give up for you. Stay true to yourself and watch as you grow up to thrive and eventually, one day, those bullies will be so far in the back of your mind cause there is just too much brilliant stuff going on in your life to leave room for them.

High School finishes, your life changes and you can make more decisions about how you spend your time and who you spend it with. Time and love can heal all wounds, and when you put effort into acknowledging your talents and amazing-ness you will mend even quicker. It sucks when people say that High School isn’t forever, but it really isn’t, and now that I’m almost 5 years out I barely think of my time there at all. I have a bit of latent baggage from the era, but who doesn’t? I’m working through it and probably will be for a while, but I’m leaps and bounds from where I was four years ago. Society makes out like High School is the best time of your life, and that youth and beauty are the only things worth having. Well, I put it to them that they’re full of crap, cause I’m pretty sure I’m much happier, vibrant and awesome now than I was in grade 11. Most people I know agree with me (not that I’m more awesome, but that life in general is more awesome). You just have to hold on to find out.

And, if I wasn't convincing enough, here's a video of Colin Farrel arguing my point! 

Lauren Says:

Youth bullying is regularly a topical issue in Australia, and recently the discussion has become particularly heady with the release of an appalling video showing a bullying incident in a school yard. The resulting interviews, talk show segments and opinion articles that always come from such a conspicuous show of an otherwise far too prevalent but somehow easily avoided topic have the media in a frenzy, bragging exclusivity and unseen new angles. It always amazes me just how many people are slathering to get in on the action when it comes to a situation like this, how many are keen to publicly put forward their own opinion about what has happened and how it could have been avoided or could be solved. Does no one else find this an incredibly difficult issue to talk about?

Being a reasonably opinionated person, I enjoy discussing the current goings on of the world, but I’m not immune to awkwardness or criticism. Youth bullying is not only a difficult to solve problem, but an incredibly personal topic for many, and as such emotions run high whenever the subject comes up. Not liking to cause undue offence, I’ve learnt to tread carefully and listen closely in areas where I don’t have apt experience, knowledge or solutions. So I won’t be discussing youth or schoolyard bullying here today, because I know that I don’t have the expertise to make a positive contribution. What I will talk about is bullying in the realm of young adults, a topic I am far better versed in, currently being a young adult myself, and where we are finding ourselves with bullying as a part of our lives and relationships.

Bully seems to be a word dropped from the descriptions of adults. Between young adults, I find, bullying isn’t really a subject discussed. The word seems almost immature, like something we should have left back in a time when we still imagined that nothing in life would be so difficult as passing our year twelve exams. It’s an issue that is remarkably prevalent though, incredibly so, and our not naming it allows it to lie unfixed and unrecognised. We go so far to not acknowledge the problem that we almost celebrate it, our media encouraging judgement passing and ‘shaming’ on every topic and person we can get our hands on. It’s a far more ingrained problem in our society than many of us want to think, and so instead we gloss it over with sayings like ‘that’s just how girls are, they’re bitchy’ or ‘young men are always competitive’ and refuse to face the truth.

The difference, I’ve found, between bullying at school and bullying in the adult world, is the relationship the victim has with the bully. It goes without saying that all cases are different, but often in childhood the bully is seen as the enemy; things are black and white in that the bully is bad and the victim good. Things change with time, though, and by adolescence the bully is also often the friend and the role model and it’s not so easy to dislike them. By the time people you’re in your twenties, it becomes pretty uncommon to interact at length with people outside of your social circle, and we see bullying breeding within friendships.

It’s often less blatant than what exchanges between eight year olds, there’s more room for subtlety and passivity and what once needed words to be shouted can now be conveyed in a mere look. Just because we are older doesn’t mean that bullying always focuses on issues any more deep or meaningful; we judge people for the music they listen to, the movies the like, their clothes, their hair cut, their university course, their car. By picking on the most obvious things, we directly target self confidence and limit self expression. We take judgements far beyond ‘helpful stereotyping’ and into exclusion and cruelty and we do it for no good reason.

You might notice I’m saying we a lot; I certainly don’t think that I’m immune from this. As people grow older, the line gets shaky between who is a bully and who is a victim, and things are not so clear cut. When I look around the people I know, we all make these judgements but we’re all also victims of being judged. The quiet gossiping behind other’s backs and sarcastic patronising of each other end up meaning that few feel comfortable or secure all the time, a sad state of affairs when you’re talking about just hanging out with your friends. The weird thing is, though, that we’ve all grown to become used to it, to somehow accept that this is how adulthood is and to treat the issue almost as something innocuous and meaningless. The idea that ‘life is tough and people are complicated’ excuses the fact that sometimes we don’t all choose to play nice. It’s like being initiated into adulthood included being hit with a wooden paddle of realisation that we’d all just quietly bully each other to make ourselves feel better until we eventually got either old and bored of it or moved on to bigger fish to take down.

James Cook University defines bullying as such:

“Bullying constitutes unsolicited, offensive treatment through vindictive, cruel, malicious or humiliating attempts to undermine an individual or group.”

I challenge any late teen or early twenty-something to think carefully about whether they indulge in bullying behaviour, whether it seems severe or harmless. If we want childhood bullying to stop, we might need to think about the role models we’re providing them with and get our act together.

*Oh the puns! Please don't judge us, for that would be bullying and bullying is bad, surely you've got that if you read all the way down to here!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Things We Love Thursday

Lauren Loved

  • I’ve mentioned before that I do a little volunteer writing for Life Music Media, and this week I did my first interview which excites me no end. It was an email interview, so it involved doing a little research, compiling some questions and emailing them to the band. Once they reply with answers I do a little editing, maybe put together a blurb for the beginning, and we’re all ready to publish. I’ve always secretly dreamed of becoming a Parkinson like figure, or even an Oprah (on her awesome interview days), and starting off in email format was a nice, relaxed first step.
  • Growing tomatoes! To be honest, I don’t really like eating tomatoes as they are. But I have big plans for the babies growing on my balcony, mainly ideas like chutney and sun-drying and spaghetti bolognaise. At the moment they’re small and green and tiny and incredibly cute (for vegetables…I mean…for fruits!) and the way they get visibly bigger overnight is kind of like magic (can you tell I’ve never really gardened before?)
  • Nail painting. I forget about my nails a lot, which makes the times that I remember them and paint them super exciting! At the moment they’re pink, but they’ve also been orangey-red this week, and there’s a planned transition soon to pastel-y green. 

Ell-Leigh Loved
  • Swimming - my apartment block has two pools, and lately it's been too hot not to utilize them! I never enjoyed swimming as a fitness activity, but lounging around in the cool water is so relaxing on a hot afternoon!
  • Healing Quickly - It's Thursday and already I'm back in the ring after Monday night's bout of Flood Flu. Although I put Tuesday aside for recovery, by Wednesday I was back on my feet and today I was back at the gym. Usually I'm moping about for days when I get a tummy bug!
  • Other awesome things that I love: Using long lost shower products you forgot you had - Getting organised - Finding Crazy-Sexy-options at nearby restaurants that aren't boring - Working Out - Novels that are so creative and beyond your understanding that is blows your mind - This tweet from Kristen Vangsness (@Vangsness):

Event Review: Brisbane Comedy Festival

Stand up comedy has made a big resurgence in my life over the last couple of years. Growing up an avid fan of Seinfeld and the accompanying stand up segments, and with fond memories of the Bill Cosby cassettes my father used to play on long family car trips, I was happily immersed in comedy as a youngster. I found it hard, though, to really access comedy as a teenager, and it wasn’t until the very end of my high school and the beginning of university that programs like Thank God You’re Here and Spicks and Specks started introducing me again to contemporary comics.

Moving to Brisbane meant much easier access to stand up, and over the past couple of years I’ve taken full advantage. Be it amateur or professional, pricey or free, international acts or local, the Brisbane Comedy Festival always comprises of a great mix of shows, and marks the highlight of the Brisbane comedic year. This year I decided to attend three shows in hopes of seeing a solid variety.

Firstly, I headed along to a preview of Tom Ballard’s 1989. Tom’s been a favourite of mine since I scored free tickets to his show at the festival last year, freeness always scoring points with me. He’s a clever boy, and the maturity of his work has grown exponentially over the last year. Known best for his role as Triple J breakfast co-host, and also for his relationship with Josh Thomas, Tom’s set is worth seeing to get a glimpse of a more candid and less censored personality. Carefully constructed to be quite personal and touching, Tom’s current show is a story of first love, first heartbreak and first mardi gras eventuated threesome. It’s hilarious, but not altogether light hearted, and he marries personal narrative well with increasingly line pushing puns and jokes.

The second event in which I partook at the festival was the free Livewired show, which actually takes place every Sunday, festival or no. The show usually features 4 comedians and an MC, with the first three shorter acts often involving local talent closer to the beginning their career, and the fourth a more well known professional comedian. Heading along to Livewired during the festival is always extra exciting as you can usually guarantee the line up will be stellar, and this year did not disappoint. MC Justin Hamilton conducted the night with ease and headliner Melinda Buttle, though seemingly very ill, gave a solid set. In between, Matt Kenneally, John Cahill and Matt Ford all had the audience engaged and laughing, a difficult feat in the middle of an open auditorium with theatre entrances veering off all sides and the ticketed shows’ calls being made over the top of the sets.

Finally, I made my way to Bulmer’s Best of Edinburgh, the tickets a present for a friend’s birthday, and was quietly chuffed (relieved) with my show choosing prowess. Gordon Southern, Stephen Grant and John Robbins excelled, the audience doubling in laughter within minutes, lagging between sets kept at nil. The UK comedians possessed an ease for story telling that their Australian counterparts haven’t, the perfect mix of descriptive yet concise, and boy, did these guys have some stories to share. From being mugged and then accidently becoming the mugger to being stuck at an IKEA store opening gala with nothing to buy and no way to get off the one way maze track, the comedian’s tales kept the audience entertained from the show’s top to tail. The show was performed in the Powerhouses’ Visy Theatre, a spacious but still intimate venue, and throughout the evening audience interaction was easy and fun, all three hilarious with their commentary on the spectators yet mindful of keeping it light hearted.

I highly enjoyed my overall experience at this year’s Brisbane Comedy Festival, and will be sad to see the season end. (Not too sad though, because I plan to catch a few more shows at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in a couple of weeks time!) The shows were all relatively cheap, or free, I didn’t pay more than $25 for a ticket, and the entertainment really high quality. The festival ends this week, unfortunately, but in case I’ve gotten you in the mood for a giggle, here’s a short video of one of the best comedians I’ve been able to see live, who incidentally sat behind us during Best of Edinburgh.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why My Dog is My New Role Model

I love my dog. He is probably the best living thing in the universe. I love him, so much, my friends make fun of me for my constant baby talk and when I’m lying exhausted in my bed after a hugely long day and I hear his little whimper outside my door I cannot resist letting him sleep on my bed (despite the fact that his snuggliness ensures I don't sleep a wink the entire night). He is my fluffy baby, my furry little shmoo shmoo, who enjoys playing catch, licking my face when I least expect it and rolling around in stuff that stinks the day after we bath him.

He isn’t always a fluffy white angel in disguise, no indeed. As well as the abovementioned post-bath-stinky-roll scenario which occurs almost once every month, he also has a habit of bringing rocks from the driveway inside, running out of our yard when it’s foggy (as he’s white and little the fog makes him really hard to see for passing motorists) - nearly giving us all heart attacks in the process -, and is an attention hog making procrastination a breeze whenever he’s about. He also likes to tear apart any dirty tissues he can get his paws on and claim any underpants he finds as his new and most coveted possessions. Not to mention how grumpy, unfriendly and gosh darn loud he is whenever tall redheaded/male friends show up for a visit.

These things aside, there are a number of things my dog does that fill me with joy, that I’ve recently decided would be good things to emulate in my own life, minus the drool-y chew toys and face licking (unless entirely necessary).

Firstly, my dog is not ashamed of how incredibly excited and joyful he is when I turn up. He jumps and he runs and he looks up at me with those eyes and he follows me around for at least two minutes (which is a lot longer than many guys have followed me around, btw). He gets so excited his face seems to squish back awkwardly, like he has some weird head defect.

He also isn’t afraid to let you know that he wants to play, or go outside, or let some passing stranger/cat have a piece of his canine mind. Dogs cannot catch “their first album was better” syndrome, that pompous, too-cool, douchebaggery rife throughout our nightclubs, cafes and universities. Denying your enjoyment of something should never be cool. There is far too much sorrow and pain in the world to love something half heartedly, and just because Triple J doesn’t play their most recent album, or your friend thinks it sucks doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy it if it brings you enjoyment. When my dog greets me with more enthusiasm than a bus full of first graders on an excursion to Sea World in the morning as I wipe sleep from my eyes on my way to the toilet it makes me I feel awesome, despite having just woken up and needing to pee. Greeting others as you genuinely feel you want to (with exceptions to those you don’t like so much perhaps… Courtesy is a good thing) will probably make you and the person you’re greeting a lot happier than a “hey, yeah I can’t stay long, but” aren’t-you-lucky-I-can-fit-you-into-my-busy-highly-superior-life-semi-put-down hello. Own fully your enjoyment when you have it, because, as the cliché goes, life is too short not to, my friend.

Secondly, my dog loves to have fun. My sister won an ugly fish toy about five years ago at the local show, and from when my dog was about four months he has played with it non-stop. First he tore apart it’s fins, then it’s stuffing was ripped out, the fish’s eye had to be removed as it was a choking hazard, and now the weary blue and yellow plush shell is all that remains to be tossed and brought back again. When friends visit they flinch in horror when they see it, and when my shmoo hands it to you far too often for comfort you end up with the drooly end. And sure, it’s pretty gross if you’re me, or some poor fellow my dog has decided to dote upon, but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t know what gross is. He poops outside on the grass, gets excited when he can dig up a lawn grub and eats unwanted foodstuffs off the floor. He has a sense of fun and everything can be made into a game (except perhaps bath time… and personal hygiene is a very serious matter after all).

Sometimes I look at my life, look at my choices, and wonder where all the fun went. I divide my time into chunks usually consisting of; eat this, exercise, study, appointment, write, yoga and relaxation (if I’m feeling balanced) and then on many a Saturday night I have “drinkies at such-and-such’s”, or “Out on the town with Suzie blah-blah” scribbled in, and that is when I schedule the fun in. Most of these nights barely meet their week’s worth of fun quota. Then I’m stuck with an entire month where barely any fun had been had at all. And I ask you, what kind of month is that? Not the kind of month I want to have often, that’s for sure. So my second thing that my dog does that I want to emulate is a no holds barred sense of fun. Even defecating on the lawn seems to hold some kind of secret fun to my dog, and he even has a good time just playing by himself or running about in the grass. He doesn’t need to get boozed up on a Saturday night, dance like a slurry and flirt with some stranger to have fun. I’m going to take an educated guess and say I don’t need to either (although doing those things can be pretty fun every so often).

So as you can see, my one-year-old maltese-cross-shitsu-cross-pappion mutt is my new role-model, and rightly too. If I have half as much fun as he does, and is half as awesome as he is, I’m pretty sure I’ll be living a freakin’ fulfilling life. What more can you ask for? … Well, maybe he could stop peeing on the carpet.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How To: Take Yourself On A Date

Ever felt the need to just get away from, well, everyone else?
Artwork by the fabulously talented Abbey McCulloch

I could rave on about the reasons why people who are comfortable spending time alone with themselves are happier, more successful and have deeper and more meaningful relationships with others. I could write for hours about how our society doesn’t cater for our need for time out with ourselves, and get precious about how it’s turning us into a bunch of shallow, unstable, unaware gadabouts. I could whinge about how celebrity culture attacks any want to get to know, like or accept ourselves and grows instead a burgeoning need to want to be like somebody else.

Or I could just tell you what I know as a plain old truth, and that is that making the decision to regularly and purposefully spending time outside of the house doing things by myself was one of the best decisions I have made in my adult life.

Tips and Tricks for Dating Yourself

*Do it purposefully; plan your solo adventure and get excited about it. Write it in your diary and make it a resolute booking. There’s nothing better for the self-confidence than demonstrating that you value your own time.
*Do something you know you’ll enjoy because a) it’s easier to forget about being conscious of your loner-ness if you’re having fun and b) because there will be no other time when you’ll be allowed the selfishness to do something exactly the way you want it.
* In regards to other people: it takes time to realise that other people out there really just are not paying attention to you all the time, even if you are alone. But if you’re not convinced, or the gazes of others, imagined or otherwise, are making you nervous, take five minutes to listen in to the conversations going on around you. Did any of them start with, “Well gee…I think that girl next to us is here by herself!”? No? Of course not. I think that mostly we worry about what we’ll think of ourselves once we’re in a place where there’s no one else to obsess over.
* Wear your favourite outfit. Today you’re dressing for your eyes only, so impress yourself.

Where to go:

Places to Start With, or, Places I’ve Found Easy –

Art Galleries

All of these places are completely great choices for attending solo, there’s no real expectation that you’ll be there with other people and there’s little routine to fit in to, so you can come and go as you please.

Places for a Challenge, or, Places I’ve Found More Difficult –

Small venue art exhibition openings
Public conferences
Antiques shopping

These guys have challenged me in the past. The first three involve situations in which people really do expect you to mingle with them, not such a good way to kick into really getting introspective, and the last I’ve just found depressing when done alone for more than an hour.

What to do:

As I said before, anything that takes your fancy. Want to get icecream as you stroll down the street toward the cheap pedicure place? Do it. Want to go for a beach swim before heading to the local grocer and buying all the things you need for a picnic for one? Why not?


Spending time with yourself is a guaranteed way to give you a little perspective on life, especially if it’s been a bit stressful. Sometimes we can get so caught up in what other people say and want and think that we forget to chill out, think relatively and take pause. Taking a few hours to go out completely alone will give you time to reassess and make sure your life is still headed in the direction you want.

I really enjoy going out alone, I think of it almost as a regular, fun form of meditation. Learning about yourself can be a challenge, and doing anything that forces you to face up to yourself and really observe what’s going on can be scary. But it’s necessary, it’s the only way we can give ourselves permission to carry on with our full blessing. So go on, get out there!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Crazy Sexy Update: Week One

WARNING: This article contains over-sharing. Over sharing about poop, and other things.

Day Two:
Today I felt lame, really lame. Tired, out of sorts, exhausted – this wasn’t helped by the fact that I spent all day craving food that wasn’t what I packed in my to-go lunch and dinner bag since I was working away from home all day til 8. Working hard at work while working hard at detoxing is FREAKIN’ hard work, let me tell you.

Day Three:
Today was fine until I went a little off script for dinner – I was just going to not eat until I got home, but when I got there I was so hungry, and I’d never been to a sushi train before, so I incorrectly thought they might have some brown rice options, but alas they did not. So white rice was eaten, but otherwise I ate crazily and sexily. And I felt fabulous too!

Things You Should Just Have

A few weeks ago I went for a run. At the time I hadn’t been doing much serious sweat inducing exercise, just walking, maybe jogging up and down some stairs if I was feeling particularly fit that day. So I bounded off down the road, runners tightly laced, iPod on full ball, brimming with enthusiasm.

The following day I couldn’t bend. That is, bend, period. All of my muscles, they ached, they burned, they refused to move at all.

This led me to buy a jar of Red Tiger Balm after I borrowed some from a dear friend. It was heaven in a tiny jar for my sore, stiff all of me. It was one of those things that someone should simply always have, and on realising I didn’t have something so integral to normality, I started to wonder what else from this inventory of necessities I was lacking. So I compiled a list of things that One should simply, just have:

So brilliant in so many ways, Red Tiger Balm comes in a conveniently small jar, smells like cinnamon and eases muscle pain without having to use very much of it at all. 1 Jar can last for many applications; will fit right in in your first aid kit.

The first time I discovered “pawp” as it’s colloquially known was as a young lass helping my Nanna cook. She kept the a red tub of it on her microwave for kitchen related burns and mosquito or sandfly bites, all of which are quite common when you cooked as much as my Nanna does and live in waterfront housing in central Queensland. Later I came to own my own tube of the fruit I loved fermented but loathed fresh. Great to use as lip balm or to gloss over a coat of lipstick, great for bites, stings and burns, reliable, multi-purpose and reasonably cheap.

Ever had a splinter? I know I have – once I had one so large in the ball of my foot I couldn’t stand on it and had to call in sick to work. It was really more like a stick than a splinter. I like to refer to the Easter over which it happened as Splintergeddon. So in case of rogue pieces of wood lodging themselves in your person, be equipped with a pair of tweezers, and what I like to call a “splinter get-er out-er” - a utensil with one pointy needle-like end and a tiny hook on the other end. If you know of its actual name don’t hesitate to let me know.

If you’re anything like me, you can never find a needle when you need one. At least, that was what I was like until I took a basic sewing kit home with me from a hotel suite I stayed in once! I somehow manage to lose buttons off of things and bust shirts open in the bust region quite frequently, and being away from my mother and her large collection of needles, pins and cotton reels makes mending problematic. How good it is, however, to have your own sewing kit to bring your button-less, dropped-hemmed, holey garments back to life as good as new – sure is cheaper than buying new ones!

It’s really hot and your regular deodorant isn’t cutting it, or you’re going clubbing and dancing makes you so sweaty people mistake you for contestants on the Biggest Loser. Solution? Wear dude’s deodorant. Not only will you smell like you’ve been making out with the Old Spice ad guy, but the super-powered deodorant will hide your little-lady-armpit-stank with ease that chick’s deodorants never seem to be able to.

These guys are beneficial for so many things. Tea Tree is great for skincare; a few drops in some boiling water and you give your face steam a kick, rub some onto your legs after waxing and the regular unsightly redness is halved (especially when icepacks are used as well), and at it’s name acne collapses in fear. Eucalyptus oil helps to clear the sinuses and battle colds, take those black-shoe-scuff marks off lino and get rid of stubborn sticky messes. Both are natural antiseptics, so great for cuts and scratches. Having one or both of these guys at hand will be worth the trouble!

So there is my list so far. I hope it helps even just a little – if you have any other suggestions of things that you think are useful to “just have”, please let us know by commenting!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Correspondence: A Letter to My Skin

Dear Skin,

I’m writing to apologise. I know you were enjoying the extra care I’d been giving you the last few weeks, and it was really nice to see you being clear and gummy again. You were glowing!

Then I decided to go on a cleanse. We’d been getting some reports from digestion that it would be necessary to do so soon. Now you’ve got an itchy rash happening and pimples are coming up from so deep they possibly originated in our soul. Your job is hard enough without rogue toxins trying to escape through you and me piling on cloggy make up to disguise them.

You’re much more important than I give you credit for. Sure, I praise you when you look good on my face, but I still paint all over you to “improve” what you’re trying so hard to create. You do so much more than just look good though, you sweat, heal when I hurt myself, make Goosebumps when it’s cold, hold my insides, uh, inside. And just when I start making some effort to repay you for all the hard work you do I decide to pump a crap-load of crap out through you to “detoxify” my body.

I hope it’s worth it, not just for my sake, but also for yours, because not having all of that toxic waste around should make it a lot easier for you to do your job and look fabulous while you’re doing it. I also promise I’ll continue to give you the products and support that you need throughout this long process, and will try not to wear too much make up where possible. I would like to remind you about how I’ve stuck with my “no sunburn in 2011” resolution, and assure you that my new pledges will be just as successful as this one has been.

I speak for all of us here at Ell-Leigh when I say we want you to know that you aren’t going through this detox alone and that we’re here if you need someone to talk to. As you know a body is full of complex systems that have to support each other to function, and although it may feel lonely, out there, away from the digestion and cardiovascular organs, we want you to know that we appreciate your work and recognise that the last week has been hard for you.


(Ell-Leigh’s Brain)

Dear Skin,

Guess what? Today, at a skin care shop, the consultant called you normal. Did you hear it? “Let’s see, your skin type looks pretty normal…” she said. Well, wasn’t I chuffed! I mean; normal! What a first.  

We do not have such a kind recent history, you and I, and I’m sorry about that. You were never quite what I wanted you to be, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t treat you quite how you would have liked, either. You see, I always dreamt of having that glowingly clear, porcelain type skin, the kind that people liken to a baby’s bottom. You, well, you were not quite that; I can most certainly assure you that my face cheeks have never been compared to those of an infant’s posterior. I’ve kind of really resented you for that, which in hindsight is not really fair, because how did you know I wanted you to look like bottom? You’re a face. Yes, Skin, I’d say we hit a bit of a rough patch during puberty, and it was more than just a case of simple miscommunication.  

Too oily in some places, too dry in others, too sensitive all over, over the past few years I’d label you passable at the best of times, at the worst downright awful. It’s hard to remember a time as a teenager that I wasn’t constantly on the alert for the pimples you grew on my face, both driving me crazy and being generally humiliating. I can, in fact, remember the very first one there ever was. I was only in Grade Six at school (so young!) and I remember a boy asking me what it was. “It’s just a pimple,” I tried an air of nonchalance. The reply? “Wow. Geez.” Yes, geez indeed.

Of course, I wasn’t exactly helping you out with my icecream scoffing, chocolate adoring* ways, was I? I was intelligent enough to understand that my diet, what it contained and what it lacked, was inextricably linked to the condition of you, Skin. With this nutritional knowledge I didn’t really change my ways, though, I just kept hating you and the seeming injustice of it all, eating more chocolate and icecream and sometimes icecream with chocolate, all the while your condition continuing to worsen.

Skin, for a long time, I regarded you almost as an enemy, which is not really so positive with you being my body’s largest organ and all. It wasn’t our best time, and I suggest we put it behind us, Because, you know what? Things are getting better now. I mean, obviously, since someone looked at you today and decided that you looked perfectly normal and all. Puberty’s over, and suddenly, thankfully, I don’t have to worry about you so much anymore, which leaves a surprisingly large void in my time. I’m beginning to realise just how much of my thoughts have been focussed on you, so tied up you were in every aspect of my life. From eating to sleeping to what make up I used and how I could cover the blemishes up, how much I was stressed and whether certain types of exercise made you look worse or better, I could take you into consideration with nearly every decision made.  

On the positive, now, not only do I have a lot of free time to do things other than frown at the mirror, but I also have a really good knowledge of nutrition, how my body operates and my specific needs and what to look for in friendly, natural ingredient based skin care products. I’ve finally come to my senses and eased up a bit on the icecream/chocolate scenario, adding more raw veges and large amounts of detoxifying lemon water to my diet instead.

Without having to try and ‘fix’ you, I wouldn’t have become so interested in healthy living, and I’m pretty grateful that you guided me down that path. Also, not growing up with the snazzy looking, bum-like skin I wanted made me think about the other things that made me attractive and acceptable, things a bit more permanent than my looks.

Skin, I haven’t been too nice to you and I’m sorry. You do your best, I know you do, and I promise to keep doing my best to help you out as well. We make a pretty good team, you and I. Tonight, I drink a big cup of pure old water in your honour.

Cheers Skin.


*For the doubters out there: during that time I single-handedly proved that for some of us (me, at the very least) chocolate definitely is linked to skin blemishes. I used a system of trial and error, the trial and error both ending up being the eating of copious amounts of chocolate, and the evidence undeniably pointing toward chocolate being an awfully terrible choice for my skin. So...there!
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