Saturday, April 30, 2011

How To: DIY Beauty Products

Image courtesy of Keeper of the Home, where there is a fantastic article on why and how you should be making your own beauty products.

It is rare these days that anything we buy is actually worth the money we pay for it, and while that’s what makes it special sometimes to splurge on something pretty or useful, it is always nice to be left with some spare change at the end of the day. I have long been a fan of do it yourself, home made beauty products for both financial and health reasons, and I thought I’d share my top ten favourite finds with you today. 

Honey
Oh praise to you the lord our Honey! Honey is packed with nutrients that are great for the skin when applied topically, and while very moisturising, is a fantastic treatment for blemishes as well.
It’s a very common misconception that oily skin needs to be ‘dried out’ and not moisturised, something which will actually exacerbate the problem far more as the dried skin becomes irritated, the sebum glands go crazy trying to rehydrate the skin and blemishes fail to heal over properly. The beauty of honey is that, while moisturising, it won’t leave any coating or heavy residue to make you worry about blocking pores or causing breakouts. 

It is important to try and use raw honey, the heating techniques used to process honey can wipe out a lot of the nutrients. Manuka honey, if you can get your hands on it, is particularly great for skin. To apply either simply dab the honey on singular spots and leave to work overnight, or spread on thinly as a facemask, leave for ten to twenty minutes and then remove with warm water. If you want to get really serious, while using the honey mask hold your face over steaming water for a few minutes to really allow the honey’s nutrients to sink into the pores. 

Egg Whites
Looking for the perfect face mask to leave you looking bright and perky before a big night out? Look no further than the egg carton in your fridge. 

Beaten egg whites spread on the face and left for ten to fifteen minutes will tighten the skin, toning and brightening for a picture perfect finished look. You really won’t use more than one white, so while it might be tempting to whip up a bowlful in the name of decadence, remember the thrifty element to this exercise. If you want, use the left over egg yolk as a conditioning mask for your hair. 

Steam
The very first piece of advice I would give anybody having difficulties with oily skin, blocked pores and acne is to steam, steam, steam! Steaming allows the pores to open, which in turn allows the other products you are using to work even better. Keep in mind that acne is not just a surface problem; the toxins rising out through your skin and the infections they cause start in the deep layers of your skin. Rectifying the problem will be made a much quicker process if you can have some access to the root problems, which is where steam comes in handy!

Steaming is incredibly simple. Firstly boil some water (if you’re worried about the steam being too hot, especially if your skin is sensitive or drier then don’t quite boil), pour it into a basin or bowl and place your face over the top. For bonus points cover your head and the bowl with a towel. I like to steam twice a week for three to five minutes if I can, and when I stick to this routine my skin is much much clearer, brighter and healthier looking. 

Scrub
Perhaps my very favourite on the list is this scrub, the original recipe for which I found on Skye's Princess Portal (now The Lost Princess). It’s a sugar based scrub, and while I normally use white sugar, I have found that brown sugar creates a much softer scrub perhaps more suited to those with drier skin.

For the scrub simply combine a couple of tablespoons of sugar with one to two teaspoons of rosemary (I usually use dried, but fresh would of course be better!) and one clove of crushed garlic. I prefer to use the mince garlic you can buy in supermarkets in tubes for this, as it’s a little less intense and easier to work with. I find that fresh garlic can be a little burny on my face.
The garlic in this recipe is very antibacterial and so great if you’ve got any blemishes you’d like clearing up. Also, it just adds a nice cleansing property to the exfoliation of the sugar. The rosemary promotes circulation and leaves my skin glowing. 

The Oils

Olive Oil!!
Olive oil, you are my hero. Did you know that one of the best ways to clean away oil is with oil? In fact some oils, such as castor oil, can do such a good job that they actually dry out not very oily skin! In the past I have used olive oil simply as a cleanser, which involved massaging the oil onto my face and wiping off with a warm facewasher. I mainly use olive oil as a short mask after steaming, when it can seep right down into my pores and really moisturise.

I also love to use olive oil on my hair. I’ll usually use it at night time when I know I’ll be washing my hair the next morning. I apply it by simply putting a tiny amount on my hands and running it through my hair like any regular serum or conditioning cream. After a thorough wash out the next morning my hair feels incredibly soft. 

Jojoba Oil
There are people out there who swear by using jojoba and nothing else as a moisturiser and when I finish up with my current (and devastatingly discontinued) Lush face serum, this is the direction I’ll be heading in next. Jojoba is scientifically proven to be just about as close to the actual sebum our skin produces as you can get, and so is great for moisturising and toning the skin. 

I’ve found it pays with oils like jojoba to sometimes pay a slightly higher price for a higher market product. I’m not sure why or how, but there can definitely be a difference in essential oils depending on how much you fork out. 

Rosehip Oil
Rosehip oil is great for a multitude of skin ailments, from dry patches to uneven colouring to eczema and other inflammatory issues. Apply rosehip oil to the areas you think need attention and watch it work its soothing magic. 

Tea Tree Oil
Searching for a spot cure to curb the mess that all the Easter chocolate is going to make on your face? You need not pay loads, all you simply need is to buy a bottle of tea tree oil. Tea tree is usually the main ingredient in any spot treatment anyway, so why not go straight to the source and get all of the tea tree benefits undiluted and free from preservatives and toxins? Dab tea tree onto any spots, cuts or scrapes as antiseptic healer. 

Peppermint Oil
I’m currently big into using peppermint oil as my ‘cure all’ for mild ailments. This week I’ve added a few drops to some steamy water to create a breathable (and much better for you) cough lozenge and nasal decongestant. Also, one tiny drop massaged onto the temples will cure a headache perhaps bought on by stressed out, over tight muscles and make you smell like a candy cane. 

Sleep, water, diet, lemons, green tea
We end on that tired old note, that while given time and again, it seems everyone just wants to ignore. The best way to look amazing on the outside is to treat your body amazingly both inside and out, which includes getting plenty of sleep and rest, curbing stress, drinking as much water as you possibly can (I’m still a huge believer in adding lemon juice) and watching your diet for an overload of sugar and icky preservatives. I have also found that drinking green tea has done absolute wonders for my skin.

So there you have it, my list of easy at home beauty tricks that will hopefully have you feeling and looking bright and beautiful. If you’re looking to really blow out, my favourite combination of these is beginning with a steamy face steam, then massaging olive oil into my skin (you can add some to you hair here too), followed by an invigorating sugar scrub and finished off with a honey mask, cup of tea and bed time.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Role Models and Mentors, Where Art Thou?

Perhaps if I wore a toga my mentor would appear?
Picture of Mentor and Telemachus from this informative site.
Oh the mythical being of the role model, touted as one to emulate, scrutinised in behaviour and lauded in success. If we’re all supposed to have one, then why is it so hard to find one? 

Throughout my school and university days, I was told time and again that ‘in time’ I would discover role models and mentors who could guide me throughout my career, give me an example of where my path might lead and encourage me to work to my fullest potential. ‘In time’ I was going to somehow meet these people, whether literally or through their work, and when I did I would know that they were the ones. The thing is, I’m not sure I have yet, and with so much credence given to how they would ‘shape me’, I’m wondering whether I should continue to wait around or just get on with it. 

In my mind there is a definitive split between the role model and the mentor. A mentor, firstly, is somebody you have contact with. For someone to be a mentor you need to be on first name terms and they usually need to take an interest in you for the relationship to work. They will offer advice, perhaps share contacts and opportunities, take time to view your work and be open to your questions. A role model, on the other hand, can be a little bit more removed. On a professional plane, I view role models as people who you more or less quietly stalk and then try to emulate. You may not have met your role models and you may never, but you make an effort to keep tabs on what’s going on in their lives. Role models also have the handy ability to be neither current, living nor actually real if that’s what floats your boat. You may choose to designate a television character chief style role model responsibilities, or be inspired by a person’s actions during a certain period in time. 

Even though I feel pretty confident in my abilities to define role models and mentors, when I get to thinking about who mine I are I do sometimes draw a blank. Sure, there are people whose work I like, people whose lives I would like to live for a day, but do they really inspire me to get out of bed in the morning and make every day the best day ever? Perhaps I need a role model who was really good at identifying and latching on to their role models? 

After this rather confusing train of thought I think usually begin to ponder that maybe I don’t need a mentor anyway? I mean, I’m doing pretty well by myself, aren’t I? At this point I consider how my day has gone so far. This morning, for example:

  • Stayed up until 1:30am writing a CD review which when re-read this morning was entirely filled with spelling errors and a few completely made up words.
  • Woke after yoga class had already begun, so stayed in bed eating Easter Eggs until 8:30am.
  • Washed up last night’s dishes.
  • Ate breakfast.
  • Went shopping and bought new work shirts plus fancy pants usb tv tuner for laptop.
  • Came home to work on articles, spent time instead installing new tv tuner.
  • Ate chocolate while waiting for tv tuner to tune.
  • Ate yoghurt while waiting for tv tuner to tune.
  • Realised that tv tuner wasn’t going to tune anything inside my bedroom with crummy little included antenna, so moved outside to balcony to get better reception.
  • Sat on cold balcony tiles in cold wind and waited for tv tuner to tune.
  • Wrote role models/mentors article while waiting for tv tuner to tune.
Yeah…I don’t need no mentor or role model to guide me through productive living! Look at how well I’m doing! At this point I shift to ease the pain in my legs from half squatting on my cold balcony and look down to discover possum poop squashed onto my hand. Ok…well…perhaps. 

So where am I going to find myself the shining beacon of a person who will lead me along the path of professional (and life would be an added bonus) success? Will they one day come into my work, stunned at my obvious innate talent for being amazing and demand to have a hand in my life ongoing? Probably not. It seems like I have to do the hard yards with this one. 

Role models are easier, I think, to come across. If I look at my twitter feed and bookmarks folder I have a pretty definitive starting list of people to consider. I may not want to emulate every single detail of each person, but there are definitely traits, talents and tips that inspire. 

Mentors are a little bit more difficult. Is it just me, or is introducing yourself to somebody you admire, requesting that they take a vested interest in the success or failure that is yourself and hoping that they agree not one of the scariest situations imaginable? There are programs, many, that offer mentorship for artists, usually twelve months long and involving a certain number of scheduled meetings and some kind of project or outcome at the end. Most of these, though, I notice, require the mentoree to provide or at least suggest a possible person to act as the mentor. I do think that perhaps the mentorship process has to occur quite organically, with a guidance seeker finding, meeting and developing a relationship with a guidance giver, and that perhaps the word ‘mentor’ is often not actually used in these relationships at all. 

My answer to myself then? Be patient, wee grasshopper, you mentors and role models will come in time. Until then, waste less time tuning your television and perhaps have a go at doing your laundry instead. There are, after all, some things I can do without be told to at all.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Things We Love Thursday


Right now, I'm loving all things red and knitted (not to mention the site these come lovlies come from). Gloves, hats, blankets, socks...winter can bring it on! 

Just a quick one this week, not because we're both not drowning in things to love, but because we're just so busy with them all!

Lauren Loves:

A list of the little things that I love this week:
multivitamins, cuddly blankets, tasty cheese and snappy crackers, letters from friends, boardgame nights, wardrobe purging, snoozy tea, library time, pretty hair, delicious salmon, easter chocolates and their sparkly wrappings, drinking water by the gallons and weekend anticipation.
Ell-Leigh Loves:
Some of things I'm loving right now (all the way from Hawaii!): shopping, shopping and shopping some more!, reading (Wicked right now, for those with an interest), eating out in wonderful new restaurants, discovering cracker vegetarian meals in a world sometimes not so vegetarian friendly.

And from both of us, to all our new followers, readers and commentors, we're loving you!

Melbourne In Review - Part One


Melbourne
So, as you probably read (we certainly weren’t keeping it quiet) Ell-Leigh and I both headed off on holidays a couple of weeks ago. While Ell jetted off to the sunny climes of Hawaii (Hawaii!), I took a much shorter plane trip down south to Victoria for a family party in Ballarat and then a stay in Melbourne. Today’s post was supposed to be a full run down of my trip, but I discovered that there was simply too much to share, and being stricken with a not very bad but still making me want to only curl up and watch Gilmore Girls and eat Easter chocolate cold, I decided to split the post in two. So, today I will take you through accommodation and sightseeing, next week will come shopping, show-going and eating! Hurrah!
Accommodation
For our stay in Melbourne I chose The Brooklyn Arts Hotel. On the page, The Brooklyn seemed to fit all my requirements; price, location, great reviews, and as an added bonus owner Maggie only charged our twin share as a single room when my sister went away for two nights on a driving tour. Top it all off with a quirky and friendly webpage which suggested an out of the ordinary stay and included breakfasts and we were decided. Happily, off the page and in real life, The Brooklyn Arts Hotel was as lovely as hoped.





the street we stayed on (The Brooklyn is the building farthest left)


Puppies!!
oh so cute!



Our colourful little room had two comfortable single beds, a sink and mirror, a little writing desk and the most amazing heater in the world. We shared a bathroom with one other room, though never had to wait for use, and attached were two toilets. The facilities were always clean and they were decorated nicely with a rustic feel. I did wonder how comfortable one might be in the open air toilets in the dead of a cold Melbourne winter, though finding any warm bathroom in the Melbourne chill is a possibly difficult task. 

 
Breakfast included a choice of gluten free breads, an amazing range of spreads, yoghurt, tea and coffee makings and friendly banter amongst guests and staff. The back garden sheltered chairs and tables set up for reading, working, or taking afternoon tea and was home to two delightful dogs.
our bathroom + yours truly
The Brooklyn Arts Hotel is located in hip and happenin' Fitzroy (this is purely guidebook speak, the locals would not use this language. That said, it's certainly the hip and happenin' part of town) and within walking distance of Brunswick and Johnston Streets, with a tram stop one block down and the city a very cheap taxi fare away when late nights negate public transport.
I loved the non-sterile feel of The Brooklyn which allowed me to feel much more comfortable and welcome throughout my stay than I do at 'regular' hotels. I would definitely reccommend The Brooklyn to anybody heading to Melbourne.












Sightseeing
Certainly, there is much to see and do in Melbourne and I split my time between touristy sightseeing and more specific activities. Here are a few of my picks for best of sight seeing in Melbourne. 

City Circle Tram
Melbourne is famous for its trams and for good reason. They run often, are quick, easy to navigate and though there are newer models out and about, many are still quite old and give a sense of history and pomp your day to day journeying. The City Circle tram is free and runs a rectangle right around the city centre, with running commentary played over speakers about upcoming historical buildings or interesting sights. The City Circle is a very good and wallet friendly way to get acquainted with the area and pick out places to return to. 

tram

Dreams Come True Exhibition (or the Disney Princesses) at The Australian Centre of the Moving Image
ACMI, as it is more easily written, is located within Federation Square in the heart of the city. The Dreams Come True Exhibition, which, sadly, ended yesterday, was housed in just one of the large exhibition areas located in the centre, and even without the princesses I would suggest ACMI is very much worth a visit. 

Dreams Come True was a very special exhibition of the art and work behind Disney’s classic fairy tales and their princesses. While I was already excited to see the films themselves deconstructed and get a ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse, I was amazed at how engagingly the exhibition was presented. With each section dedicated to a different princess, chronicling the differences in techniques and technology behind the each of the film’s creation, it was a very informative show. 

Tutankhamen Exhibit at the Melbourne Museum 
I’m always a little bit wary when I have to buy tickets in advance for a museum exhibit, because it generally means crowds, and being a shorter person this generally means viewing can be difficult.
While the exhibition was certainly crowded, it was set out in a way combated this well, with small glass cases of various ‘tomb artefacts’ scattered around each room, with written panels both at the base of the exhibited item and at the top of the case. The display included a huge collection of relics taken from Tutankhamen’s tomb, plus information on what his life might have been like, his family, and the uncovering of his burial place. 

State Library of Victoria
Now that's what I call a library
While a library might not be everyone’s cup of tea to visit, I love to see how grand libraries are set up, particularly because ours here in Queensland, while pretty great, doesn’t have the grand architectural aspect of others.
The State Library of Victoria also, I must add, provided me a very welcome warm and dry retreat on a morning of not so welcoming Melbourne weather, complete with free internet and some very interesting photographic displays

ANZ Gothic Bank Building
An outside part of the actual bank!
Not the fancy roof of the bank...but of some other buidling
There was something grand sounding about the ANZ Gothic Bank Building that caught my attention on my touristy guide map, and I made a note to check it out if I happened to be close.
While mostly easy to navigate, I did find myself becoming slightly disoriented when in the central business and shopping parts of the city, and I have to admit I did enter one building thinking that it was the ANZ building I wanted to see, only to take interior photos and exit to see a sign pointing to the actual building in the opposite direction. I didn’t stay long at the bank once I finally got there, but it was indeed grand and gothic and distinctly reminded me of the bank the children are taken to in Mary Poppins, the bank in which all the scary men sing about tuppence. It’s definitely worth a solemn squiz if you’re ever in the area. 

The National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria is actually split over two different venues on opposite sides of the Yarra River. This should not be confusing, but after all my careful laying of plans and pouring over the incredibly thick gallery guide book to choose which exhibitions I wanted to see in my limited time, I somehow still went to the wrong one! Luckily it was only a short tram ride to the other gallery and I was still able to get back in time to see all I wanted, but it was rather embarrassing to return to collect my cloaked bag only minutes after handing it over (cloaking, by the way, is the most genius of ideas when you’re travelling to relieve sore shoulders and backs from heavy, tourist stuff filled bags). 

this one got my vote, sketches all done in biro.
I visited two of the gallery’s current exhibitions, ManStyle and Top Arts: VCE 2010, both of which were incredibly interesting. ManStyle took a look at men’s clothing, particularly the suit, and how it had adapted to change and caused change over the centuries. Top Arts is an annual display of the best of Victorian year twelve art students' projects, and it was a simply amazing and inspiring collection. There was an viewer’s choice vote at the end, and while I loved and voted for Freya Alexander’s ball point pen on cardboard drawings, I believe Philip Hickingbotham’s portrait of his father drawn in charcoal (!!) will win. It was honestly one of the most moving piece of art I’ve ever seen, and purely amazing considering it was created by someone so young. Oh the talent! 

charcoal...amazing.
Both images from The Sydney Morning Herald's slideshow of all the selected artwork. Definitely worth a look!

 Stay tuned next week for Melbourne in Review - Part Two: Shopping, Show Going and Eating!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sport: What is it Good For?

Sports and exercise have been a significant part of my life since I was very young. I began gymnastics training when I was in Year One, or five years old, to counter a low muscle tone problem (call me the runt of the herd) and soon my sister and I were both training as competitive gymnasts. I continued gym until my last year of school, when I was nearly seventeen, at times training up to twenty hours per week and competing in regional and state competitions.

Of course growing up, then, my family were big into watching gymnastics on television, and went to a few national and international competitions to watch as well. It wasn’t just gymnastics, though, that we took part in; we were big cricket watchers, tennis fans and Brisbane Lions (a team in the Australian Football League) supporters. Sport was a big part of our lives, whether we were cheering for a team or competing as part of one.

Now that I’m older I’m noticing a big difference in the way that my peers and I relate to sport. None of my friends play sport in terms of being part of a team and attending training or games, instead they exercise solo in pursuit of increased fitness, health and physical attractiveness. We take yoga classes, head to the gym with music player and headphones in tow, go for morning walks and afternoon jogs. Of course, these activities are very beneficial, but I wonder if by separating exercise and sport in such a way we are missing out on something.

When sport is played in teams, or even when a solo pursuit, like running or swimming, allows a person to be part of a track team or swim team, a large proportion of the benefits of playing come from the social aspect as well as the exercise. There is the feeling of being united toward one common goal, the knowledge that everyone needs to help each other to do their best and work together, that brings people together and is a bond unique to sporting activities. The dichotomy of sport, the idea that, even though it may be ‘all about having fun’, at the end of the day you will either win or you will lose, is a much more simple environment than we normally operate in. In sport there is a clear goal, an obvious desired outcome, and everyone is on the same page as to what’s trying to be achieved. This can bring people together in such a way that work situations or general ‘socialising’ activities doesn’t. It is a bond that can overcome economic, racial and ‘life experience’ type boundaries, and allows people of differing backgrounds to unite in a common cause.

When I say that I and my friends no longer participate in group sport, it should be said that most of my friends come from my school or university days. Because I don’t regularly mix with people outside of these groups, I often think that perhaps my social circle is quite small, after all these people are mainly my friends because they are like me; we have similar opinions on most matters, we like roughly the same music and movies and we do the same sort of things on the weekend. When it comes to sports, though, much like neighbours or family, you rarely get to pick your fellow team members. Instead you are placed among people who have, in the least, one thing in common; the physical activity you have chosen to be involved in. Sure, you may have other common interests, in fact I’d guarantee that you would, but sport can act as the catalyst for the meeting of people more varied than in other situations.

Not only does sport unite participants, but it has a similar effect on supporters as well. To give a little bit of history, the Australian Football League used to be the Victorian Football League before it expanded and became national, and while there are supporters in Queensland (we now have two whole teams after all) the sport is crazy big in Victoria. When I travelled down south recently, it was comforting and exciting to be amongst the die-hard fans, to be asked everywhere I went if, being from Queensland and all, I supported the Lions. Fans wore their team’s scarves, the more bold dyed their hair team colours (I should point out that this was much more rare). There was a sense of community, again a sense of everyone working towards the same goal, which was really nice to be a part of, and made me wish I shared that bond with people more back home.

For friends who have never been to big live sporting events, the best I can liken the experience to is live music. The atmosphere, the tension, the enjoyment of seeing someone you admire do their thing in the flesh; it’s exciting. It’s fun. As much as advertising and marketing and publicity and ‘celebrity’ tries to encroach upon the sporting world, in the end that’s still the crux of it for me; it’s fun. And while fun, just plain and simply having it, isn’t promoted as being the most important life priority these days, I feel that it is very important. Perhaps if more of us started focussing on injecting a bit of good ol’ fashioned fun into our lives, we would be less stressed, tired, anxious and depressed, and perhaps we would be happier and achieve more in our lives in general.

All in all, I’m thinking that I would like to make an effort for sport to be a bigger part of my life. I’ve been thinking for awhile about sport’s importance, thinking spurred on by last year’s Queen’s Christmas Message, of all things, when Elizabeth spoke about the significance of sport and community (you can watch the speech below, skip to about 3:10 for the sporting section). I think about the people I could meet, connections I could make, skills I could learn and fun I could have, and it seems a win/win situation for me. Obviously made more win if whatever team I was on won the game, but it’s not about that (but it would be nice).

So, how about you? Does sport have a place in your life, are you part of or do you support a team, or do you turn your nose up at the whole idea?



Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Killing Insects: The Moral Dilemma

I have a complicated relationship with cockroaches. When my family first moved into our third home we suffered a deluge of cockroaches swarming our home as soon as we flicked the light switches off. This wasn’t helped by the fact that for a large period of renovations our back wall consisted of a tarp (safety!). For months it didn’t matter how much surface spray we flooded our kitchen in, they just wouldn’t seem to go away. The renos finished, still the Cockies remained, until one fateful day.

In order to transform the tired old small Queenslander my parent’s had purchased into an entertainer’s dream home, it was necessary, according to my Dad, to add a large deck on the back of the house, since the previous deck was soon to be a room. In order to do that he would have to chop down the huge palm tree which sat directly behind the old deck. So Dad called some of the other Dads from around our place to bring their chainsaws to help him complete the tough man-work job of cutting down the tree. Had they known the horror in store, I’m sure they would have asked for more than just a six-pack for their assistance.

(Don’t worry, no one loses a limb in this story... And the whole debacle was disappointingly less lumberjack-esque than I’d envisioned.)

Dad and one of my sister’s friend’s dads prepare to cut down the tree, chopping a small chunk of wood out in order for the tree to fall in the correct fashion, that is, not onto the house. And then the got their chainsaw ready. They cut into the tree.

And cockroaches, hundreds of them, like a scene from The Mummy, pour out of the dead tree and onto our lawn, scattering in every direction.

After a few months it was as if they’d disappeared. Our house was relatively pest free, the kitchen and bathrooms no longer ruled by our insect overlords. We were finally free.

My fear of cockroaches isn’t tied so much to the fact that they’re dirty, or can apparently live through nuclear devastation. No, it is more that I remember back to a time when they ruled my house by night, and personally victimised my little sisters and myself each time we’d turn off the light.


Lauren asked me a few weeks ago what my stance on bug killing is, seeing as I’m vegetarian and generally against humans killing other animals for little to no other reason than they’re delicious or in our way. After a few moments pondering, I replied that it depends on what the type of bug is, whether it could be harmful, whether I’ve got the balls to actually go near it in order to squash it under my shoe, and whether it is small enough to avoid lengthy clean up procedures. It is a moral dilemma though. Live and let live, after all, and what about the ol’ Paul Mccartney quote about slaughterhouses having glass walls? That little bug couldn’t help that it was born a fly/moth/mosquito/beetle etc. and it could have just as easily been born a pig, cow, duck or chicken, the animals I put so much effort into not-killing… had it’s parents not been insects… Obviously.

This weekend my mother saved me from two giant cockroaches (seriously, they breed ‘em big up North) after my feeble attempts to bug-spray them were unsuccessful. They were so big my Mum needed one of those larger, “man” size tissues to clean off the half of it that was left on her shoe. They were big, scary and crawling all over the couch where I was going to sleep. What was I meant to do? Shoo them away and then choke to death on them when they crawl on my face in the middle of the night? No thanks, pass me the bug spray… And then after a bit of squealing get my Mum for me.

The decision whether or not to assert yourself as a dominant species really depends though on what type of bug you’re talking about/is threatening your welfare. I feel they can be split into a few different categories:

Harmless: These guys tend to keep to themselves and eat a pesky fly, aphid or mozzie every so often. Should be left alone and not killed, resulting in good karma and fewer annoying insects inhabiting your home and garden. Example: The Daddy Long Legs spider that hangs out behind your loo, the Lady Beetles on your Rose garden.

Annoying but mostly harmless: Sure, these guys might drive you bonkers, but they’re just doing their thing. Should be mostly relocated. Killing them is bad juju, but acceptable if the only alternative is throwing your expensive computer down a flight of stairs. Consider the annoying buzz a test from the universe/god to make you a stronger, more patient and calm person. Example: the fly.

Harmless but scary looking: These guys are the ones whose shiny exoskeletons have been used in designs for horror film monsters since the genre began. They cause fear and screaming wherever they roam. These guys are where my moral stance goes slippery slidey, as when I see them my brain shouts, “Kill! Kill!”, but my heart says “What did they ever do to you?!”, and I find myself stuck in a ethical conundrum. Spiders are scary after all, but just because they freak the living heck out of me, does that mean it deserves to die? What is life like for a spider? And what does it mean to take that away? If the arachnid is clever he would have scarpered by the time I get to the questions of morality and existentialism, if not, he may get a fatal thong (flip-flop) to the face depending on which way my moral compass is pointing on that day.

Harmful and/or Scary: They carry diseases, or they bite or sting you. These little bastards seem to live entirely to make humans suffer (see paper wasp) or itch uncontrollably (see: mosquito). Some are even deadly. If it could kill me, I like to kill it before it gets the chance, especially if it’s small enough to flick off my weapon of choice, usually a shoe. If it’s going to suck my blood, it can prepare to meet its maker. If it’s going to make a painful welt that won’t go away for days despite how long I leave a cold compress on it, I’ll try to make the process quick and painless. This is especially the case if I know they’ll get violent when threatened (see: wasps in general) and children may be around.

Too big to kill without having to buy a ShamWow or plot at the local cemetery: These guys are the type that Aussies like mention to Americans and Brits in order to give them reoccurring nightmares for all eternity. Their sizes are often compared to dinner plates. These guys, if mostly harmless, may scare the bejeezus out of you, but if you were to kill them, they would be far too big to flush down the toilet, and it would probably be necessary to hold a burial for them, since they’re practically the size of most pets anyway. The Hunstman Spider is an example, and these guys apparently love to eat cockroaches, so if you can stand their eight beady eyes on you while you watch Sex and The City you’ll probably be much better off for having one around, as long as you don’t get in their way. If you can’t stand the thought of their hairy bodies being within a five metre radius of you, it is much better to call for a braver person to relocate them to a garden or pretend they aren’t there.

So there is the conclusion of my search into my own ethical stance on killing bugs. After all, many religions –Christianity, Buddhism - teach that killing and causing destruction is wrong. The bible doesn’t say, “Thou Shalt Not Kill… except-crickets-those-jumpy-little-assholes-freak-me-out”. It is a known fact that animal abuse can be linked to domestic violence and serious crime. Where do we draw the line? When does it become okay for fishing trawlers to “accidentally” kill other species of fish in the process of their catch? When does it become okay to genetically modify chickens and turkeys so that they can no longer walk properly? If it’s okay to kill a harmless spider, what other harmless things is it okay to kill?

Where we draw the line in our everyday lives is where we as a culture push for the line to be drawn in industry. How we behave towards animals, let them be our pets, our meals, or even, dare I suggest it, the insects which happen to come near our living spaces should align with the ethical standards we hold for ourselves and want our children to also uphold. When we relocate a harmless spider instead of giving it the stomp of death, do we not teach our children that a more peaceful world can exist if we simply make an effort? When we refrain from squashing the Daddy Long Legs that lives in the bathroom don’t we teach our children about the delicate balance of living things that needs to be sustained within an ecosystem?

I don’t know, but maybe we would all have a much better karma if we put some serious (over) thinking to good use on topics such as this one.

(But let’s not even get me started on the ethics of using fly spray. Call me over sensitive, but I’ve felt bad about that one ever since I saw Schindler’s List).

Monday, April 25, 2011

On Planning and Packing

Packing is important; don't get it wrong.
Image here.

Holidays can be a tricky business. As much as imagining long, languorous, stress free holidays is what a lot of us spend a fair portion of our time indulging in, it’s fair to say that the common experience of holidays isn’t always so pleasant.

I’m no expert on holidays, but I have done my share of trekking to both local and more far flung locations. Today I’ve put together two lists of my favourite tips for both planning and packing for a holiday, because sometimes it’s all in the prep.


Image originally from Vogue Italia, found here.

Planning

Planning a holiday is a very personal process and we all go about it different ways. Some people, myself included, like to be completely in control and across all the details before they leave. Others prefer to leave things up to chance and give themselves room to be more spontaneous. As with all things in life, there is no one right way to plan a holiday, but here are some tips to hopefully keep you organised and stress free while still having an adventure and exercising some impulsivity.

  1. Be realistic about your decisions: You always need to think seriously about the big and important factors of your holiday and you need to make sure that you’re thinking about these things realistically. Consider where you’re going, who with, how you’re getting there and what you plan to do, and make sure that the conditions tied to each of these match up to your expectations for the trip. The number one thing that causes a holiday to be a let down is the dream holiday you take in your head before you even set foot out the door, to which no real experience can match up. If you’re going away with a friend who only likes to party, well, keep in mind that they might not be up early every morning to go sightseeing with you. If you’re heading along to a wintery wonderland, packing your slinkiest, sexy outfits for day to day wear because you’ve envisioned yourself having a wicked fling with a foreigner may only end in frostbite. There will be luggage weight restrictions, less than ideal weather conditions and jetlag to contend with, but knowing the ramifications of your holiday choices will mean you are prepared for them when they come along and they won’t ruin your picture perfect holiday dreams.

  1. Plan to be unplanned: If you’re like me, it can be very easy to quickly allot time and schedule it away on every day of your holiday. While planning can be useful, it’s important to keep some free time for spur of the moment activities. Especially if you’re headed somewhere new, you’re bound to come across exciting options you hadn’t known about before you arrived, and it’s unpleasant to have to try and ‘work something in’ on your schedule when you’re on holidays. Isn’t the insane busyness and time restrictions what we’re trying to take a break from on holiday, after all?

  1. Do your research: That said, I find it best to head somewhere with a solid idea of the place, people and things I might like to do. Finding out what major religions and political groups operate in the area you are visiting is practical and will assist you in not overstepping cultural and legal boundaries. If you are going somewhere where the spoken language is different to yours, pick up a dictionary and have a go at learning a few phrases. Not only is it heartening for the locals to see a tourist who has invested some time and effort, but being able to ask for directions to toilets, order food and find out prices can be a big time saver. Also, make sure you know the currency conversion rates between your normal money and what you’re spending while you’re away. While paying 1000Yen for a meal in Japan is perfectly reasonable, spending 1000euro is extreme!

  1. Plan to enjoy yourself: Surely we all know by now that going in to anything with a negative attitude is guaranteed to bring the whole experience down, right? Why then do I still see so many people at airports sighing when the line is long, whinging on the train that the hotel probably has muddled the reservations or walking down the street complaining that ‘the food here sucks’. Have a negative attitude and expect a crappy holiday and your mind will tune itself in to finding all the signs that you are correct, and the holiday you experience will be hell. You create the world around you with the world in your mind, people, so why not make holidays the time to practise working with a new, positive mindset. Look for the signs that you’re having an awesome time and trust me, they’ll be there.

Image by Chrissie White

Packing

  1. Know what’s going on: It’s really difficult to pack for a holiday if you haven’t planned one, so firstly make sure you’ve read the above planning section and have a clue as to what your holiday might entail. Think about the weather you might encounter, whether you’ll be partaking in outdoor or indoor activities, what kind of shoes you’ll require and how you want to look and feel.

  1. Take your time: Everyone knows that leaving holiday packing to the last minute will astronomically increase your chances of encountering an ‘I bought fifteen t-shirts but no pyjamas or underwear’ type situation. For longer holidays, I like to stick a post-it note or two to my desk about three weeks before I leave, and gradually jot down the things I want to take with me as they come to mind. Before I put anything in my suitcase, before I even get the suitcase out in fact, I make sure that what’s on the list fits in with my plans, and will coordinate with other items, because taking three shirts you can’t wear with any of your skirts or pants is just a waste baggage weight. Ask people who have done some travelling what the number one thing they would always pack would be, and think about whether you should include that too. I always pack a spare plastic shopping bag; just in case I need to transport any wet swimmers or towels or rained on clothes or dirty shoes. I know my mum always takes her little book light so she can read whenever she wants, and my sister recently purchased a remarkably tiny and comfortable self-inflating mattress that makes any camping or unforseen lack of accommodation a much more pleasant experience.

  1. Theme it: When you think about it, there’s usually a reason that you’re going on a holiday, and it impacts where you’re going, who with, for how long and the emotions you have connected to the trip. For many young people heading overseas their holiday is their first real taste of independence and adventure. Some people will head away after a breakup or a marriage breakdown and might want some quiet time alone, or to do the opposite and let of some steam and go a little crazy. Some go away for career advancement, some to celebrate a birthday, some just to get away from their normal lives for a little. Whatever your reason for taking a holiday, make sure you pack clothes and items that are appropriate and that will encourage you to live out your desires. There’s no point in going away to Spain looking for a Mediterranean romance and taking your daggy home clothes that make you feel like a lumpy couch cushion, is there?

As I said, there’s no right way to holiday and I certainly don’t know it all. The most important thing is that what you’re doing makes you happy, because that is the point of a holiday after all! So if planning dates and packing lists is stressing you out, I say to hell with it; book a plane ticket at the beginning and end and leave the rest up to chance until you get there. Your holiday should allow you to get a little bit more in tune with yourself, enjoy what you experience and refresh your perspective, so above all else make sure you’re doing what feels right for you.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday Correspondence: A Letter To A Bad Friend

Kate Writes:

Dear Bad Friend,

I can remember the first time we met. You were very mysterious and charming and, like any new friendship, you captured my interest with a force I found myself unable to control. I know that sometimes I can come on a little strong, but I think there is a pretty definite line between ignoring a crazy person and ignoring someone who just wants to know if you’d like to catch up for a drink. And I would like to think I am the latter.

Time and time again you have let me down. I remember when we had planned to go away for the weekend. I was so excited that I baked biscuits for the trip but, the night before I was to pick you up, I messaged you to see if there was anything specific I needed to bring. It was as though we had never spoken about the trip, you had forgotten all about it and had made plans to see other people. And while you apologised profusely for letting me down, it didn’t stop that little niggling thought in the back of my mind that asked, ‘why do I even bother?’ and, ‘you don’t really want to be my friend so why do I still want to be yours?’

When we first started this ‘frelationship’ you were wonderful. You sucked me in with stories of your life and what you hoped to accomplish. I felt like I could really be myself around you and wondered if you felt the same.

You see, Bad Friend, that is the very worst thing about this whole situation. You are such a bad friend that it makes me want to be your friend even more. It’s like being attracted to the ‘bad boy’ and hoping that you’ll eventually be able to change their horrible ways with your wholesome and positive outlook. But alas, I fear there is nothing to be done for you. You’re not the first Bad Friend I’ve encountered; not by a long shot. This in itself makes me think I am a masochist who loves being ignored and treated badly. But I don’t, Bad Friend! In fact, I bloody hate it when you don’t return my messages or call me on my birthday! You don’t even offer an excuse for your poor behaviour and that makes the way you behave even more infuriating. You never ask me how I’m feeling or how my life is. I think you should know by now that if I’m going through a major life crisis, I’m not going to offer that information freely!

You need to learn to be more attentive to the needs of the people who love you. I’d really appreciate it if you would be the one to message or call first. I know I am a fairly confident person, Bad Friend, but just once I would like you to organise to see me…and be excited about it! I feel like I’m stuck in that terrible movie ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ and I should cut my losses and move on. You and your treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen ways won’t last forever. I will eventually lose interest in you, Bad Friend…and I think that would be a terrible thing because I honestly believe you are a great person and would feel terrible if we parted ways.

I’m sorry if I’m the one at fault here but I really don’t think I’ve done anything out of the ordinary. I treat you exactly the same as all my other friends. The only difference is that you don’t reciprocate the way my other friends do. Yes, that’s right…it’s not me, it’s you! The things you do (or should I say DON’T do) are noticeable to me in a way that you always seem to have my attention. And it isn’t always a good thing.

All I’m asking for is a little bit of common courtesy. I’m not your parent, I shouldn’t have to tell you how to behave. I wish I could flick a switch and you would turn into the good friend I know you can be. I’m going to give you one more chance, Bad Friend. And then I’m going to tell you I’ve given up. You take up too much of my time for such little, or worse, no reward. I want to be able to feel happy when we’re together, not worried about whether or not I’m ever going to hear from you again.

There should be a club for people like you so that people like me never run into you and waste their lives trying for nothing. It would save so much time and heartbreak. You can hang out with people of your own kind. I’m sure you’d enjoy all the one-sided conversations that go on forever and have no point. And you’d never have to worry about calling anyone back because nobody would care enough about you to give you their phone number.

Throw me bone, Bad Friend…I’m not asking for the world, truly.

Sincerely,
Kate Stark.

Lauren Writes:

Dear Bad Friend,

You’ve been around for a long time. You’ve taken shape in various incarnations over the years, popping up as one acquaintance or another, but have always been recognisable with your trademark snickering and a self esteem bruising blow.

We’ve had such fun at times, Bad Friend, that it has been hard to recognise you for who you are in the beginning. You and I have eaten together, listened to music and watched movies, giggled over crushes and taken up each other’s causes. We’ve talked on the phone, we’ve IMed and we’ve emailed, we’ve shared everything down to the tiniest of details. That’s the way it always starts; with me smitten with your charm and delighted with the friendship you offer, and sometimes the good times seem to roll on and on.

But then, all of a sudden, you decide I’m not good enough to be your friend anymore. In your mind I cross, for some reason or another, over that line; that very thin and flimsy divide between the people you think are cool and the people you think aren’t. Perhaps I choose to wear the wrong type of clothing, perhaps I unknowingly snub you in some way, perhaps you feel threatened by or uncomfortable with some part of my character. Who knows? I, at least, am always left guessing.

Luckily for me, there have been far more versions of Good Friends, more Caring Friends and Supportive Friends, than there have been of you, Bad Friend, in my life. I’ve never had too hard a time picking myself up and dusting myself off after the whirlwind of your visits. There have been times when you have rubbed off on me, and turned me into a Bad Friend who continually whinges and pities themselves after your inevitable hurtful departure, but luckily my friend repertoire holds many of the Patient Friend variety, and I (hopefully quickly) work myself out of this phase.

You’ve taught me a bit about self respect, Bad Friend, but I’m not going to go all Christina Aguelira and thank you for the lesson, because I don’t think the way you taught it was at all necessary. I have grown into an adult who values my time enough to not waste it on the likes of you, one with a keen eye to sort between the stayers and the more fickle minded.

Bad Friend, I’ve made the decision to never make acquaintance with you again. I know that you are unpredictable and like to hide in the most unseeming of characters, but I will be trying my best. Do us both a favour and stay away?

Sincerely,

Lauren

Friday, April 22, 2011

Conforming to What?

Image source here.

Lauren Says: 

Conformity is such an issue once you hit teenagerdom, such a frustrating, pointless issue. As a kid you don’t care if everyone else likes the same stuff as you, that doesn’t make it any less cool for you. If anything, liking the same thing as everyone else helps you fit in when you’re under twelve. Hit thirteen though, and it’s like a switch is flicked to snob setting, and all of a sudden liking the same band or movie as other people becomes trĂ©s uncool (give it five more years, and so does dropping French into your everyday language).

It gets worse as you get older, and once university begins there’s a nearly obscene race to know of the most obscure musicians, espouse wanky crap about artists and forms no one has ever heard of, be inspired by authors who only wrote on novella, in Greek, about the tragedy of the human experience. Everything from hairstyles to fashion to stationery brands becomes involved in this competition to be most different from the crowd, to not ‘conform’.  

But what exactly are you conforming to? Does liking the new Katy Perry song really define anything about you? It certainly doesn’t make you the same as every other Katy Perry fan, surely we all realise that, there are just too many variables there. So why all this inane pretentiousness?

I have to say, I’m a bit of a snob myself when it comes to sharing my preferences around. If I like a band that’s not so popular in Australia yet, I sometimes don’t spread word too far around about the music, just because I like some things to be special and don’t always want to be involved in everyone else’s dialogues. I like to think that my experience has been unique. I think we all feel this way about certain things, and that that’s ok. What I don’t think is that we should deliberately avoid liking things that are more popular just because other people do. It’s plain silly, really, and the only impact this brings about is that we miss out on good things.

It should also be stated that choosing to take the ‘road less popular’ is still making a choice to be like a group of people, the ‘road less popular’ people. It’s certainly not a unique choice to make. Which is fine, except I’m not sure it’s a very good choice to make either. Choosing to dislike whatever anyone else likes really sets you up to have limited options.

I think it’s time to put a stop to this circus, or at least, I’m going to. It’s just so tiring, isn’t it, always avoiding the trend? Wouldn’t it be easier to simply be, to like what you like, dislike what you don’t and stop caring about everyone else? Let’s save the word conforming for the big issues like patriotism and gender roles, things you can actually conform to, and leave our taste in music, media and clothes out of it.

Ell-Leigh says:

To conform or not to conform, that is the question… Whether tis nobler in the mind to covet the EPs and Albums of obscure indie bands no one has heard of, or to, okay, I give up... Er, listen to Britney’s new album until you know all of the lyrics by heart or such and such a “total sell out band who’s first album was clearly superior” ’s third or fourth album because you simply like it. Of course that’s not the only way one can conform – but it seems to be one of the most prevalent in my life at the moment. So I’ll focus on that one.


This week I read Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. The general gist of the book goes like this; Annie has just realised that she’s wasted the last fifteen years living in a go-nowhere town, dating Duncan, a university lecturer obsessed with a recluse, obscure musician from the 80’s named Tucker Crowe. When they are sent a cd of never before heard, unfinished demo tracks, Annie brushes it off as incredibly inferior to the finished product, an opinion which Duncan not only disagrees with, but considers a huge cultural faux par. After both expressing their thoughts through articles on Duncan’s Tucker website, Annie receives an email thanking her for her kind words and agreeing with what she’d written– could it be the real Tucker Crowe?

It is a great book, and I devoured every page. I made a point to underline and circle the page number of this particular quote; There was a same need for obscurity, the same suspicion that if a piece of music had reached a large number of people, it had somehow been drained of its worth (p133). Sure, sometimes a song is massively over played and you want to rip your ears off whenever you hear the lead singer of Kings of Leon singing about how his Sex is on Fire. (It’s been said once, and I’ll say it again, your doctor can give you a cream for that.) However, surely the merit of a song can’t rest on its obscurity? It’s a bit like the whole tree falling in a forest thing; if a good song is played but nobody who hears it wants it to stay as obscure as possible, does the song really exist? Surely there have been some incredibly beautiful, outrageous or just plain awesome songs written that have never gotten big, or gotten heard by many people at all – the question is, does this tarnish the song’s actual brilliance, and if not, for those who do hear it, does it’s obscurity really make it better? A superior song, culturally?

Why should we conform to not liking a certain band just because everyone else has heard of them? Doesn’t getting voted into the top ten of the Hottest 100 ensure that the song is actually good, not the opposite (this doesn’t count for music by The John Butler Trio…). Perhaps, as someone recently told that she was out of her uncle’s will because Britney’s new album was on her iPhone, I’m a little biased towards the idea that the hugeness of an album doesn’t make it inferior, and that conforming to the snobbery of popular music is just another way to disregard your true feelings. How can you stay true to yourself when you brush off an album because critically, or socially, it is considered poor taste?

I have concluded that it all comes down to being content and happy with who you are; whether that means your iPod is filled with Gaga or Dylan, obscure demos from unheard of screamo bands or gigs of pop music from the 90’s. It’s really just a case of owning your taste in music and not letting others’ opinions let what that music means to you change. I love Jeff Buckley; one of my besties described it as having “more wailing than the South Seas” (BONUS POINTS for MEGA-PUN). That doesn’t mean that either of us is more or less superior, culturally speaking than the other, it just means that I like my music deep, mournful and dramatic and she likes hers with a smidge less of the angst. Before I had the epiphany that popular music doesn’t necessarily equal bad music, I used to hate Lady Gaga because I thought she was a musician who hid her lack of talent behind flashy costumes, film clips and leotards. Now I have all her albums and love them, because they’re fun. Sure, some of it is “bad”, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to love it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

TILT: We're on holidays!

Another beautful illustration by Jaquie Oakley
My ‘M’ Themed Things That I Love:

Mojitos, Mai Tais and other various cocktails… Yes, even one served in a pineapple. Living the dream, people!
Maui and the other Hawaiian Islands I’ve been to so far. They’re beautiful, and it’s great to learn about the Hawaiian history and culture as I cruise along between ports.
Me Time, lazing in the sun by the pool, reading Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby and veging out at the all you can eat buffets.

Lauren’s Things That I Love:

Visiting somewhere new where you know no one and can do whatever you please.
Enjoying a holiday after you’ve worked hard to get there.
Eating deeeeeeelicious food all of the time.

Book Review: Small Island


Image credit: booksandreviews 
Small Island by Andrea Levy follows the story of two unconventional couples, one Jamaican and one English during WW2 and it’s aftermath. The year is 1948, and Queenie, whose husband Bernard is yet to return from his service in the war, is trying to make ends meet by renting out her upstairs rooms to Jamaican lodgers. Hortense, a prim and proper Jamaican woman has made the journey to England to be with her husband Gilbert, however she finds that the Motherland isn’t much like the grand, lovely England she had pictured in her mind. Both women have to find their way as the reality of their situations crush their big dreams. As their stories interweave, you are truly transported to another place and time.

I’m someone who has always been reluctant to read novels set in different eras due to the characters often being unlikeable and far too modern for their settings and not actually have much 'character' about them, or being too era-based for a modern reader to actually engage with. It is a tough balancing act for many writers, but the characters in this novel are charming, unique and thoroughly fascinating and didn’t lose my attention for even a page, despite the historic setting. This novel offers stories that are so heart wrenching and truthful about characters so interesting and colourful it is difficult not to adore it.

Benedict Cumberbatch* as Bernard in the BBC Mini-Series.  Source BBC

This novel was really eye opening for me in terms of the role that Jamaican soldiers played in the allies' war effort in WW2, and the racism that the early Jamaican immigrants faced in England. Although it is greatly a dramatic novel, it has many humorous moments. I saw the novel in a second hand bookshop a few weeks after seeing the mini-series on ABC, and I'm so glad I bought it. It's one of those books that has so much more within it's pages than it's filmic counterpart could include (minus that slightly tacky final flash forward to today scene, if you've seen it you know what I mean...).
Queenie (Ruth Wilson) and Michael (Ashley Walters) from the Mini Series. Source BBC
*Gave that bitch Benedict Cumberbatch. Bitches love Benedict Cumberbatch.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How To Be Vegetarian/Vegan Without Being A Jerk

When I first became vegetarian my family were really interested as to why. Why give up something so delicious? Won’t it affect your social life? Can one person changing their diet really make a difference? I would meekly reply something like, “I want to live peacefully, uh, it’s better for the environment, and uh, factory farming is really different to where most people think their meat comes from…” and then scamper away. In fact the day I became vegetarian an English backpacker questioned my beliefs the most intensely they’ve been questioned since I ticked the vegetarian box. It is difficult to argue your opinions when the person in question can’t see the point of your efforts, and it’s even more difficult to explain your beliefs when it requires you to delicately tell the people you love dearly that in essence their belief system is hurting adorable piggies and killing the planet, without making them feel like you think they are heartless bastards.

This was the first problem I faced. Letting people know why meat was no longer a staple on my meal plan. The second problem was the concerned parent/friend who was worried I’d be malnourished and end up with a puffy belly from protein deficiency like the kids on World Vision ads.

Needless to say I agreed (although it didn’t last long) to eat one or two eggs a day and make sure I eat beans and lentils until I turned into them.

(Aside: The whole “getting enough protein and iron” thing is an issue which turns many wannabe vegetarians off the diet change, but this needn’t be so, as it is quite easy to get enough protein in your diet from eating a range of nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, non-meat-animal-protein and trusty old whole grains, and iron can easily be delivered through leafy green vegetables (or, if necessary, vegetarian iron supplements). People have been following a vegetarian diet for hundreds of years and not dying because of it, if you’ve made a decision to chuck the “toosh” as Kris Carr puts it, then you should be clever enough to educate yourself and make sure you’re protein and iron intake is sufficient!)

Assuring your concerned friends and family that your diet is healthy can be difficult, especially if you’re the first person they’re close to that has made such a dietary change. Sure, you could rant for days about how it is much more acceptable to follow ridiculous fad diets to lose weight than it is to give up eating a perfectly interchangeable food type in order to express your moral views – but I would suggest that you don’t. Assure your loved ones that you’ve educated yourself on the topics of iron and protein intake and that you love lentils so much you could marry them, and let the conversation move onto something else.

Being peaceful and gentle with your discussion of your vegetarianism will help the “issue” dissolve into a simple, responsible fact. Having heated, angry arguments about it just makes more anger – in my case, the opposite of the reason I wanted to change my diet in the first place. Just because they don’t see your point of view now doesn’t mean they won’t down the track. Lead by example, and if you feel the need, offer delicious recipes so those interested could consider starting “Meat-free Mondays” in their house. Slow and steady wins the race, and arguing your point probably won’t convince anyone that what you’re doing is right, because it forces them to defend their way of life all the more fiercely – that never changed anyone’s mind.

Don’t be surprised if you find some unlikely opposition. A lot of my family was a little supportive of my decision (or they just didn’t care that much), however I got some rather vocal opposition to my vegetarianism from an aunt who was really the last person I’d have expected to argue against it. You could argue for hours with them, but this is another case where I recommend gently letting the tension slip by, as discussed above.

Being vegetarian or vegan is a lifestyle choice that often comes with a sense of superiority. I know it well and used to quite often consider it when my low self-esteem led me to criticize others – “she may be pretty or clever, but I bet she isn’t vegetarian”. There really is no need for this, and as I’ve come to a better understanding of myself (especially while on Kris Carr’s 21 Day Adventure Clease) and my thought patterns this kind of thinking is on it’s way out. After all, we’re all on this planet together, working as one. If we want to stop harm to animals, we should first stop all of the harm we cause ourselves, the old “don’t point out if your friend has a splinter in his eye, when you have a log in your own” thing (uh, thanks Jesus). Being kind to one another is the first step to making a kinder world for all of us (piggies included!).

To complete this post, I would like to offer this little video which I first found on Gala Darling’s website:


image source: pjchmiel.com

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How My Silly Small Fears Do Good

Spiders are one of my silly small (big) fears. I was going to put an actual picture of a spider up, but they all made me a bit squeamish, so instead I give you nail scissors spider, because as a child I also had a fear of having my nails cut. Creepy Scissor Spider found here

We all have them. The ‘silly’ fears and phobias that we laugh at, based on nothing tangible but still making us jump. Or at least I hope we all do, because I think these ‘silly’ fears might serve a bigger purpose.

I separate these fears from my proper fears by matter of experience. For example, I am afraid of someone breaking into my house while I’m sleeping because it’s happened in the past and it was damn scary. That, because it’s possible, I put down as a legitimate fear.

Laying awake at night, listening to noises that might just be in your head, sure that someone is working their way in to get you is not healthy, it’s crippling*. My fear of spiders, which I class as a silly small fear, is not though, it’s actually kind of helpful. Let me explain how: when I’m putting on my shower cap before having a bathe, I’m thinking of nothing other than looking inside, stretching it over my hair, securing it in place. I’m completely focussed on the now, there is no worry about work, about my appearance, about what I’m going to eat or what time I need to leave. It’s all shower cap. You know why? I’m absolutely convinced that one day there will be a crazy, man eating spider hiding inside. This fear though, instead of really negatively impacting my life, just allows for shower cap time to be almost meditative, as I focus completely and solely on one action at a time. It’s a fine line, but I find encouragement in draing it.

I also class my dislike of flying as a silly small fear. Logically, I know all the statistics about air travel being much safer than road travel, and I’ve never experienced even the slightest issue when flying. Get me in a plane, though, and I am constantly aware of my surroundings, the sensations of the motion, the muffled announcements coming from the cockpit and the statistical readings flicking onto the television screen about altitude, speed and air temperature. When flying, again I am completely in the now.

From this I learn about the amazing focus and attention skills I have when I apply my mind to only what is happening in the moment. Of course, I’d like to not only use these skills when I’m freaking out about something, but I think it’s almost like a natural jolt or practice technique to get me back where I’m meant to be mentally. Is the lesson here to do things that scare me more often so that I completely focus? Possibly it is.

Do you have any silly (or maybe not so much) small fears that help keep you in the present?


*Disclaimer: I’m actually nowhere near as scared of robbers as I was before the idiot tried to break in. I scared that fool away like nobody’s business and now consider myself the ultimate intruder defence system.  

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