Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Letter to 2016

It must be said, you've garnered a bad rep this year. It seems like almost everybody is keen to leave you in the past and start anew. Admittedly, you have simultaneously been one of the worst years, but in many ways, one of the best for me. At the beginning of the year, I started my final semester of University. It was one of the hardest but also one of the most fulfilling. The stress of deadlines and late nights studying literary theory, social issues in France and game mechanics were relieved by moments of pure joy with family and friends. This year I turned 21 and celebrated at a long table dinner under the stars with the people I would never wish to take for granted. I felt so thankful to have such amazing beings in my life. The year then took a turn for the worse before we even reached the halfway point. My Opa passed away and I struggled to come to terms with it. He was such a prominent figure in my life; throughout the rest of the year I would dream about him and wake up choking back tears.

The months of June to August were the highlights. In an effort to both celebrate my graduation and prolong the inevitable need to face the 'real world', I flew to London where I undertook two internships. Those two and a half months allowed me to learn more about myself than I ever thought possible. I made up for years and years spent cowered in the corner and inside my shell by dancing, singing and dating. I fell in love with people and the big wide world. Most importantly, the trip equipped me with the skills and determination to never give up. This was much needed once I returned home. September through to early November was one of the darkest periods of my life. You really shook my confidence, my self-esteem and general well being, 2016. I felt aimless, lost, frustrated and wishing I were anywhere but home. Nothing seemed possible and on top of that, worldwide affairs and the passing of so many prominent, much loved figures hardly helped to lift my spirits. But then the fog dispersed a little and I learned that things take time. I thought I was ready for the instability of life post-university, but I still envisioned getting my 'dream job' the first few months after graduating. I now know this was unrealistic. While it is scary, I think I needed to realise that life is no straight path. With the support of friends and family, I have some faith that everything will be alright in the end.

I feel lucky that you made so many things possible 2016, and while there were many terrible moments, I accept that the majority of these are the result of this new chapter in my life. You made me realise that time stops for nothing and no one and I can either spend it dwelling on the things that aren't going right or thinking up new possibilities when they don't go exactly to plan. You matured me, 2016. While I almost mourn losing the very last shreds of my adolescence, I am thankful that you've shaped and hardened me into the woman I am.

Sincerely,

Carina.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

It was the Night before Christmas...

 
There's something so inherently magical about Christmas Eve that I still feel as a grown woman. It's one of the only nights of the year in which the neighborhood is veiled in silence, as if in shared contemplation of the magic that is about to take place. The Christmas rush is over and all that's left to do is relax and relish in the age old fairy tale that we have weaved. A little part of me still wants to take out two carrots and two cookies for Santa and his reindeer. Even when I became old enough to realise the truth, finding cookie crumbs on the saucer and teeth marks indented into the carrots was always such a thrill. Christmas morning always smells like fresh summer air, feels like a gentle breeze and the kiss of sunlight on bare arms. Time seems to halt and we're left to just be: to enjoy the simple things such as good food and good company.

I hope that wherever you are, your Christmas story this year is a good one.

Friday, December 23, 2016

5 Christmas Traditions/Customs from Around the World

One of the best aspects of Christmas for me is the traditions that take place during the lead up and on the day itself. For me, these traditions consist of mass on the Eve and lunch at my grandparents' house on Christmas day proper, which I'd say is pretty stock standard but I love it all the same.

Below are 5 Christmas Traditions/Customs from Around the World that I found to be particularly interesting. I find it fascinating how a somewhat universal holiday can have such variation when it comes to the traditions it has inspired. It's so sweet to think that even the littlest things can help to shape a Christmas story that is indicative to a given culture. Around the world, people will be celebrating this special day, but none will be quite the same.

1. Pepparkakor (Sweden) Swedish custom says that these gingerbread/spiced biscuits should be placed in the palm of the hand, after which a wish should be made. Then, using an index finger or thumb from the other hand, the biscuit should be tapped in the middle. If it breaks into three pieces, the wish will come true. (And if not, one would still be left with a delicious biscuit. It's a win-win situation!)

2. Christmas roller-skating (Caracas, Venuzuela) In the capital city of Venezuela, roads are closed between 16 and 24 December to allow people to roller-skate to the morning Christmas mass.

3. Loksa throwing (Slovakia) On Christmas Eve, the senior man of the household takes a spoonful of loksa pudding and throws it at the ceiling. The more mixture that sticks means the richer that man’s crops will be for the following year.

4.Christmas with the Colonel (Japan) Ever since an ad campaign stating 'Kentucky for Christmas' came out in Japan in 1974, it has been tradition to feast on KFC the night before Christmas.

5. La Befana (Italy) Originating from Southern Italian folklore, La Befana (an old woman) was visited by the Three Kings, who asked for directions on their way to visit baby Jesus. In exchange for her hospitality, the Three Kings invited her to come along on their journey, but La Befana declined. Regretting her decision after their departure, La Befana decided to join them but could never find the Three Kings nor baby Jesus. Legend goes that La Befana now flies her broom around on the night before the Jan. 6 Feast of Epiphany, which commemorates the Three Kings' meeting with baby Jesus, leaving candies and toys in good children's shoes and coal in bad children's stockings along the way.

Source 1 | Source 2 | Image Source: Made by Mary

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Peek Inside My Diary #2



This song is:
Quiet car rides along the deserted highway late at night, Hej cafe in London, fireplaces, Borough market and Druid St adventures, a warm cup of coffee, a gentle smile from the barista, dreams of the past and hopes for the future, Autumn leaves crunching underfoot, loneliness and loveliness, journals, my bed, fairy lights. Feeling whole, feeling alive but feeling wistful. Forever yearning for the feeling of home, for somebody’s arms to hold me.

I have taken up a new writing prompt practice: playing a song that's close to my heart and writing down whatever comes to mind. When suffering periods of writer's block, I've found it the best way to get things moving again. First thought best thought.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wonderful Wednesday 08

 
Much like last week, I have had another full week at work and I am simply relishing in the thought of having two days off on Christmas and Boxing Day (which I wasn't expecting at all!). As I mentioned in my last Wonderful Wednesday post, I wasn't feeling all that chirpy, but things perked up for the better by the end of the week.

Here are some Wonderful things from a Wonderful Week

A very appreciative customer. An old lady came up to me at work the other day and asked in broken English if I spoke Spanish. I replied that I understood a little Italian, having studied it at High School. She then proceeded to say that she was looking for a specific product. It took a bit of time to understand what she was after, as my Italian is very very rusty. I could gather bits and pieces of information, but struggled with replying to her in Italian. In the end, we understood each other enough and I was able to help her. Her immense appreciation warmed my heart so much and made my entire day.

A surprise gift. My work gave each employee a gift voucher for the store as a Christmas gift. Working at Kikki-K, I always have my eye on so many products. It was nice to be able to justify two purchases as a little gift to me from me.

Catching up with family. I finally found a time that suited both my brother and myself to catch up. Despite still not seeing his travel photos, it was so nice to spend time with him, my mum and sister, as it always is.

Seeing La La Land. A friend of mine was determined that we go see the advanced screening before he left to go overseas for two weeks, and I was only too happy to oblige! Oh my goodness, this film is absolutely gorgeous and has had me listening to the soundtrack all week! Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are obvious faves, but together, they are a perfect on screen couple with fantastic chemistry. This movie will have you wishing you could dance and sing in the streets and will inspire you to continue pursuing your dreams.

Get an added dose of wonderfulness with other ‘Wonderful Wednesdays’ posts found all over the bloggersphere. Check out creator of 'Wonderful Wednesday' Sally Tangle along with posts by Jo, Helen,Michelle, Sarah, Kate, Cat, Sam, ElKerri, Jasmin and Lynsey.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas in Australia

I'd never questioned the Australian Christmas in depth before my trip abroad this year. It was oddly a hot topic amongst the Brits (and Americans) I met. They seemed incredulous to believe that Christmas could be anything but the cold, snowy version they grew up with. One girl even said we should just 'move' Christmas to our Australian winter.

Thinking about it, Christmas here is a weird amalgamation of English and European traditions and imaginings that we have somehow passed off as normal. It's not unusual to have a roast on Christmas day despite the fact it's boiling outside. Christmas cards and wrapping paper show depictions of snow, mistletoe, holly, the north pole, fireplaces. The store I work at even sells packets of fake snow. It almost seems ridiculous to be pushing something that is unachievable and unrealistic. When I was younger I wished for nothing more than to experience a white Christmas. I felt I was missing out on an experience that was apparently so intrinsic to the 'true' festive experience.

I've since grown to love Christmas in Australia. I'll admit, it can get unbearably hot, but I'm not about to trade the wearing of sundresses, gorging on fresh cherries and mangoes, afternoon swims in the pool and balmy evenings on the beach for anything else. Christmas here is pretty sweet.

Image via Pinterest

Monday, December 19, 2016

What Can I Do?

 
I won't pretend to know everything there is to know about Aleppo because I don't. Whether it is due to my own inactivity in regard to current affairs or the dire state of mainstream media here in Australia in which worldwide news is almost an after thought, I felt and still feel ashamed by how little I knew about the crisis. I have been trying to keep informed over the past week and above all, be informed of how best I can help.

I know it can be overwhelming in situations such as these to know exactly what can be done within your means. Every single day I try and think of things I can do to make just that little bit of difference, but often feel short on time or money. I'm learning that it's crucial to be in the know and to be vocal about these things, and with Aleppo, the whole world needs to be talking and paying attention.

But as powerful and effective a tool that social media and its associated hashtags can be, I realise that it alone cannot solve the problem or help ease the pain. I feel particularly crushed by what's happening in Aleppo in juxtaposition to my day job in a shopping centre filled with things that I don't need. Instead of having a couple cups of coffee or treating myself to a number of bath bomb from Lush, I decided to donate to the Red Cross. It still doesn't feel like enough but it is something. And when it comes down to it, I would rather do something than nothing at all.

If you live in Australia, I would recommend reading this article all about how you can help, but many of these points can be applied to wherever you live in the world.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Inspiring Artists | Monica Rohan

 
Taken by the vivid colours, patterns and realistic imitation of fabrics and textiles, the work of Monica Rohan initially struck me as whimsical. Upon further research, I discovered that Rohan's works are a 'reflection of the genre of autobiography through a mysterious form of self portraiture' (ref). Intriguingly, none of her works show the faces of the women, as the figures are often seen burying their heads in flowers, hedges or blankets. Their unusual stance and sometimes even bodily contortions hint at something more troubling: 'isolation and human frailty' (ref). 

While aesthetically pleasing to the eye, I eventually realised why I often see myself so strongly in her pieces. Sometimes we all feel like we're floating and falling through life, like we're constantly overwhelmed. As Rohan remarked on The Design Files: 'I think of the figure as being the part that allows access for the viewer to feel some kind of emotional reaction, to imagine themselves in the same kind of position, hiding in a hedge or drowning in a floordrobe or sinking into a rug.' (ref) I almost find refuge that Rohan's works are a medium through which these feelings can be articulated when words are perhaps inaccurate.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Snazz Up Your Pav

 
What's an Australian Christmas without a pavlova? Admittedly, the iconic pav was never a favourite dessert of mine in the past, but I accredit this to the fact that I had only tried the sub-par supermarket kind. A homemade pav made well is a marhamllow-y mound with a crisp exterior that simply melts in your mouth. Add clouds of cream and a scattering of jeweled berries on top and you have heaven in a dessert.

Pavlovas are excellent for entertaining as they're fairly easy to whip together and the possibilities are endless when it comes to toppings. While the aforementioned combination is exquisite, it's so much fun playing around with flavours and showcasing the best seasonal produce to creating a truly stunning dessert. This week I made a mini batch of mini chocolate and raspberry pavlovas based on Nigella's recipe and they came out too cute not to share. Adorned with some pansies, they make for such perfect desserts and would surely make anyone a serious contender for host/hostess of the year.

If chocolate isn't your thing, there's no shortage of inspiration on pinterest, so much so that it is almost overwhelming. It took the liberty, therefore, of compiling a short list of the most gorgeous pavlovas I have seen. It goes to show that a classic can still be reinvented to become extraordinary!

Friday, December 16, 2016

How to De-stress | Tips from a Self-Confessed Stress Head

 
A couple of months back, I read an Instagram post by Maria about mental health and how she noticed that a primary indication of her stress levels was her chewed fingernails. I immediately related as I have been a chronic nail biter for years. As much as I hate it, I have really struggled to bite (ha) the habit despite my best intentions.

I stress quite frequently. In fact, I stress quite a lot and it's in these moments of stress that I take it out on my poor fingernails. I've been using an app on my phone where I record all the instances in which I find myself biting my nails and it has really helped me realise that it is directly linked to moments in which I have time to myself (ie. during 'down time'). In these cases, my mind goes into overdrive as I stress about pretty much anything and everything.

I've been taking small steps to combat this in attempts to break the vicious cycle of stressing and nail biting. And although I know not everyone has this habit, I thought it would be fitting to share some tips on How to De-stress during a notoriously stressful time over the festive season.

Practice Gratitude This is something I never thought I would stick to, but ever since writing weekly 'Wonderful Wednesday' posts, I've noticed the world of difference practicing gratitude can make. Most of the things I worry about have to do with my future and frustration about the fact that I'm not where I want to be career wise at this point in time. Gratitude helps you take a step back and realise there are so many things to be grateful for. It's entirely possible to be both ambitious and not take for granted the things you do have even if your circumstances aren't what you initially envisioned.

Colour in Adult colouring books are hardly a new phenomenon. We've all heard the benefits, but I still felt like re-iterating how helpful it can be. I used to take art classes and was actively more creative (in terms of drawing, painting etc) than I am now. Colouring books are the perfect solution if you are stressed and feel like you need an easy creative outlet. All the materials are there: all you need to do is pick up some pencils and get started.

Read a Book Sometimes you just need to get outside of your head for a while and books are the perfect way to do this. In particularly stressful times, I naturally reach for more light hearted reads. They're great to read on the commute to work if you take public transport and audio books are ideal if you drive. Of course, reading a book is also the perfect way to wind down in the evening. I'm still guilty of looking at screens before I go to sleep, but when I do read, I fall asleep much faster and am less prone to being kept up late at night with an insurmountable number of worries.

Write it all out Whether it be through making lists, using a bullet journal or free form journaling, writing everything down just somehow makes everything a little bit better. Don't ask me how; all I know is it has been working wonders for me!

Meditate This is something I thought I would never take a liking to but it has seen me through trying times. You don't necessarily have to keep an every day schedule. The beauty of meditating is it can be done anywhere and whenever you need it most. There is no shortage of resources either in terms of apps if you're unsure about how to start.


The most important thing to keep in mind is that your well being and mental health are of the utmost priority. De-stressing can even involve simply making time for things you enjoy. From one stress-head to another, you owe it to yourself to take care of you.

Image Credit: via tumblr

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Cookbook of the Month | 26 Grains

Think you know all there is to know about grains? Think again. I sure did. I was admittedly undecided about picking up this cookbook because grains are not something you would otherwise get excited about, am I right? Considered a staple, I had always thought of them as something to bulk up meals, rather than being the star ingredients. After an eye-opening visit to 26 Grains in Neal's Yard and consequent purchasing of the cookbook, I now know to never underestimate grains again. The way you treat and cook with grains can mean the difference between an ordinary bowl of porridge and an extraordinary one. I know which option I'd take, even if it involves a bit more prep time!

26 Grains has become my go-to cookbook not only this month, but the months previous. It is filled with both time saving recipes and ones that take that little bit more effort, but each meal I have tried has made me rethink the basics. Alex has elevated otherwise simple meals without any unnecessary fuss. Over a recent period that has seen me lack the motivation to get creative in the kitchen, her approachable recipes mean I can whip something easy up that doesn't compromise on taste.

I have so far tried and loved these recipes: Hazelnut and Butter Porridge, Blueberry Porridge, Porridge Pancakes, Spelt Salad with Beetroot, Feta, Chickpea and Apple, Coconut and Butternut Squash Curry with Black Sticky Rice, Tomato Coconut Rice with Halloumi and Avocado, and Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Cinnamon Cookies.

If that's not enough to whet your appetite and convince you to get your hands on a copy of 26 Grains, then this recipe for chai spice will, which makes for the perfect cup of comfort for those experiencing a cold December. Alternatively, this chai spice added into Alex's recipe for homemade almond butter will make you wonder what life was like before the phenomenal condiment graced your taste buds. It can be enjoyed on toast topped with fruit, on pancakes or straight out of the jar. The spiced almond butter also makes for a perfect veganised chai caramel for caramel slice...Watch this space, because I'm currently trying to create the perfect recipe!

Chai Spice by 26 Grains
5 tbsp ground cardamon
2 tbs ground cinnamon
1/2 tbsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
Good grinding of black pepper
1/2 tbso freshly grated nutmeg
40g coconut palm sugar

Mix all the ingredients together and store in a jar in a cool, dry place for several months (most spices deteriorate after a year).

To make a chai spiced drink, mix 1 teaspoon of the spice blend with 250ml milk of your choice and heat gently, stirring continuously.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wonderful Wednesday 07

The past week hasn't been the greatest if I'm going to be perfectly honest. Sometimes you've just got to accept that some weeks will be better than others, and things wont be bad forever. Despite this, there were a number of little moments that put a smile on my face.

Here are some wonderful things...
Pho with a friend On Thursday I went to Leederville for coffee and Pho. It was my first time eating Pho and it was delicious! A Vietnamese noodle dish, it had such a clean taste with a bit of kick from the chili. The place we went to was just generally the cutest and I was particularly smitten with the tea pot and cups that the green tea was served in.

Spontaneous night trips to Fremantle My shifts have increased the past week meaning I don't have as much time in between for leisure. I usually come home just wanting to sleep! But, ever the adventurer, I notice when that I feel a lot happier when I make the effort to go out, even if it's just somewhere local in the evening. Walking along the cafe strip and near the harbour in Fremantle is one of the most relaxing activities after a day at work.

Re-visiting Fremantle Arts Centre As a final outing with a friend before she set off to Asia for a month, I met up for coffee on one of my days off and made another visit to FAC. I feel like I have mentioned this place far too many times to count (including in a recent #localloves post) but I really do love it so much!

Reading Womankind on my commute I finally got my hands on the latest issue and all I can say is that it makes the journey to work so much more bearable. This magazine never lets me down!

Get an added dose of wonderfulness with other ‘Wonderful Wednesdays’ posts found all over the bloggersphere. Check out creator of 'Wonderful Wednesday' Sally Tangle along with posts by Jo, Helen,Michelle, Sarah, Kate, Cat, Sam, ElKerri, Jasmin and Lynsey.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

5 Tips to Motivate Reading

Sometimes it feels like life is a constant juggling act and it can so hard to find a happy balance. For me, this precarious balance is between working, day to day errands and finding time to do things I enjoy. One of my favourite past times is reading, but it seems I go through cycles in which I'm either getting through novel after novel at full speed ahead or barely picking up a book at all. The past two months have been the former.

I would really like to strike a balance in my reading habits because it's not only an outlet I enjoy, but one that can make me feel a sense of achievement.

If you're like me and experience occasional slumps in reading, or would just like to read more, I compiled 5 Tips to Motivate Reading.

1. Compile a list of 'to-reads' I've never known a reading slump that can't be fixed with a good 'ol browse on Goodreads and consequent 'to-read' compilation. Once you discover just how many amazing and promising titles there are, you'll be itching to get reading again!
2. Watch some Booktubers Energy and enthusiasm is infectious. There's nothing I love more than hearing and watching people get excited about their latest read. At the moment, I have really been enjoying Booksandquill's videos, Sunbeamsjess' monthly book reviews and the Banging Book Club collab. videos by Lucy, Hannah and Leena.
3. Bring a book with you everywhere you go And I mean everywhere. The amount of time I waste on my phone when I forget to take a book out with me is something of which I'm not at all proud. Reading a book is the best way to kill time during your commute, in a doctors waiting room or if you find yourself on your own for a chunk of time during the day.
4. Join a book club This isn't something I have done or am doing, but I have always wanted to! Based off the experience of studying English at University, it helps having a set time limit to complete a novel. In addition, knowing you'll be discussing a book will motivate a deeper engagement with the text.
5. Read Seasonally. What I mean by this is, pick up titles that set the tone for the coming season. Our anticipation for what the change in seasons will bring can be encouraged by the books we read. Christmas is an obvious example: maybe you'll feel inspired to get out some classic Christmas tales and snuggle up on the couch. For Spring, you may find yourself reaching for something light-hearted and nostalgic such as The Secret Garden. 

Do you have any tips or advice? Feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions below. 
Image credit: Jo Rodgers 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Poetry | Words for the Soul

 
Consider this a tribute to some of my favourite poets and their poems. Having never been much 'into' poetry in the past, I have grown to love how ambiguous it can be. I have grown to love discovering flecks of truth or things of which I can relate, and for every other part I can't understand, I have come to appreciate every single carefully chosen word and the rhythms the poet creates.

If you're a self-confessed poetry lover, I'd be interested to know who your favourite poets are, what poems you ardently whisper in the early AM and what poems you wish you could shout at the top of your lungs on the highest rooftops. Isn't it quite something that poetry can be read whichever way and so many other ways in between?

Home (extract)- Warsan Shire
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well.

Wishbone (extract) - Richard Siken
With this bullet lodged in my chest, covered with your name, I will turn myself into a gun, because 
it’s all I have,
because I’m hungry and hollow and just want something to call my own. I’ll be your slaughterhouse, your killing floor, your morgue and final resting, walking around with this
        bullet inside me
‘cause I couldn’t make you love me and I’m tired of pulling your teeth.

I Wrote This for You - Iain Thomas
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

Milk and Honey - Rupi Kaur
how do you turn
a forest fire like me
so soft i turn into
running water

shadows that spill over naked spaces - A.Y 
tell me,
isn’t it tragic?
to open yourself up
like a museum,
to turn yourself
inside out, only
to have everything
stolen under the
night. 

Unbloomed - Allen Ginsberg 
Be careful, you are not in wonderland

I’ve heard the strange madness long growing in your soul

but you’re fortunate in your ignorance

in your isolation

you who have suffered

find where love hides

give, share, lose

lest we die, unbloomed
 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Peek inside my Diary

Written on a day when my wanderlusting heart felt particularly heavy but hopeful for all the 'what ifs?' I had swirling around in my head.

I want to...
be a tumbleweed at Shakespeare and Co. or an au paire in Paris. walk the boroughs of New York and the streets of Quebec. teach english in Italy. take a cycling tour to the gardens of Monet. eat porridge in Copenhagen and drink coffee in Amsterdam. sketch the portraits at the National Portrait Gallery. take a florist course in Perth. write in a Moleskin journal in a cosy cafe on a rainy day in Paris, London and Melbourne. go to a musical festival in Budapest. drink wine on the U-Bahn in Berlin. learn Dutch, learn Swedish, better my Italian and French. take an art course in Tuscany. go to a tulip field in the Netherlands. see the northern lights. show a tourist around my town. attend a Dine With in a foreign city. dance along the Seine in the spring. 
I want to never stop dreaming. I want to never stop seeking possibilities.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Books I Read in November

November felt like a long, drawn out month. It started off quite promising, with Flaneuse setting my sights on adventure once more. Midway through, I picked up Pure Juliet and found it to be an enjoyable read to slip in and out of for the most part. The end of the month was accompanied by Sula, which was rushed and read more carelessly than I would have liked.

Last month I traversed some of the most glorious capital cities in the world, got a glimpse into the mind of a genius and witnessed a tale of two young girls in black mid-west. This was what I thought of each experience:

Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London - Lauren Elkin
Flaneur: A French noun that historically refers to a purely male figure who 'saunters around observing society'. In her book, Elkin begs to differ that only men have, and can, participate in such an activity. As a passionate wanderer herself, Elkin felt inspired to tell her story and the stories of other notable women in the past, which see the reclaiming of space in the city even during times in which women were restricted. In this nuanced analysis of urban life, Elkin transforms the image of the flaneur into the flaneuse; of women who were bold enough to pound the pavements of London despite Victorian social mores (Virginia Woolf), protested in the streets of Paris and reported from war zones (Martha Gellhorn) plus many, many more.

This book is a beautiful blend of personal memoir and historical non-fiction. Contrary to a couple of reviews I have read, I quite enjoyed reading about Elkin's own personal experiences, as I not only relate to her love for urban life and desire to travel, but I felt they helped prevent the book from being saturated by facts. Indeed, while it read like an academic paper at times, I found it to be a pleasurable, and even sometimes whimsical, read.
4/5

Pure Juliet - Stella Gibbons
Juliet has always been a peculiar child. Her mother likes to joke that she is more interested in elephants than she ever would be in boys. She spends days and nights in her room solving complicated mathematical equations. And she never seems to be in the present; she would rather occupy her time pondering the nature of coincidences and it is this intriguing interest that she will dedicate the rest of her life figuring out.

I liked this book. It had wit, charm and the main character Juliet was so peculiar that I didn't lose interest. But it was forgetful overall, especially as the ending was quite a let down. It was like a beautifully shot film with an absence of depth. I found it hard to empathize with any of the characters and the biggest let down was Gibbons failure to address how, exactly, a maths prodigy thinks about and solves the mystery behind 'coincidence'. This is obviously no simple ask, but without a solution, I wonder why it was written at all.
2/5

Sula - Toni Morrison 
I've been slowly getting through Morrison's body of work, with adequate spaces of time in between each novel. Every time, I fall in love once more with Morrison's prose, and Sula is no exception. Sula focuses primarily on a friendship between two black girls that is shattered one day after a tragic event. The story spans their paths into adulthood, with Nel Wright chosing to stay in 'Bottom' (the poverty stricken black neighbourhood in Ohio), and Sula escaping to the city. Upon her return to Bottom, she is ostracized from the community and eventually from Nel, as she is seen as a rebel and seductress.

Much like all the other titles I have read by Morrison, Sula provides a harrowing reflection of what it means to be coloured and female in America and what hardships these women faced in the 1920s specifically.
3.5/5

Friday, December 9, 2016

Nostalgia & Saudade | A Playlist


One evening I found myself listening to a particular song and, not for the first time, I felt a very specific emotion. The best way to describe it would have to be nostalgia void of the visual stimuli, the rush of memories, or that elusive feeling you get of a specific time or place from the past. This feeling has always haunted me in a way because it's so hard to define.

Before, I simplified it as a nostalgia for something you never had or experienced. But in my inherent desire to pursue accuracy, this troubled me, as the definition of nostalgia is 'a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past'. Even if this past was one that I wasn't alive to experience, it falls short. (I'd say 'Golden Age thinking' would be more appropriate for such a situation and this certainly isn't how I would describe how I felt).

After a little research, I found possibly the closest term that I'll ever come across that satisfies this feeling. The Portuguese term Saudade is defined as 'a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present...it's not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.'

This got me thinking about a lot of things, predominantly how freaking amazing and magical music is that it can evoke feelings I never even knew existed before further investigation. It had me pondering the English language and how many more discrepancies exist between an emotion and an accurate description or term. It then had me appreciate how incredible languages other than my own native tongue are.


But I digress. The main purpose of this post is to share some of the few songs that have tugged at my heart stings in a way that's just that bit different to others. This playlist consists of songs that provoke feelings which exist somewhere between nostalgia and saudade. It is both a fond reminiscing of moments in the past and a yearning for something I never had. What that something is I'm not quite sure. Maybe I'll never know in my lifetime. But for what it's worth, it's thanks to the specific effect that these songs have on me that I feel inspired to reevaluate my life, to get out there and make the most of it.        

Background Image Credit: Tiina Törmänen                 
                                                   

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Fremantle Art's Centre x Light Geist | #localloves

 
 
Fremantle Art's Centre (FAC) has to be one of my favourite places. For starters, it is situated in my favourite towns in Perth. Named one of the top towns by Lonely Planet earlier this year, there is always something quirky going on in Fremantle, such as live music acts, art exhibitions and festivals. But even if one were to brush these attractions aside, Fremantle is generally one of the nicest places to chill out: it has the beach, a plethora of local businesses and more cafes than you can poke a stick at.

FAC to me embodies everything good about this port city town. Once an asylum, the historic building and surrounding premises was transformed into an art gallery with a stunning courtyard cafe. On a recent visit, I not only indulged in some treats from said cafe, but also in the recent exhibition Light Geist. And I was truly mesmorized.

While the works don't translate all that well through my photos, they were absolutely breathtaking. The program described the works in the exhibition as 'throwing light to transform the gallery. Projected light in Light Geist does not rest lightly on a flat surface. Rather, it enlivens architectural space, animates three dimensional forms, and even makes the ground beneath us seethe...the light is powerfully generative and creates energised landscapes'. These landscapes were immersive to a whole other degree.

The third image is an animated piece of a work by Aboriginal artist Ngamaru Bidu titled Walyja Ngurra. Aboriginal art is highly intricate and is never the case of 'what you see is what you get'. Without knowledge of Aboriginal art and how the artists envision, depict and see their native land, it can be hard to understand. This particular piece is drawn from the landscapes that the artist calls home and relies heavily on the use of waru (fire). Painted form an aerial perspective, it is 'charged with 'information about plant species, the multiple stages of regeneration, Bidu's narrative of walking through this country with her family, and their deep ancestral connection to these places'. A highly interactive piece, visitors can walk through the space and 'bathe in intense chromatic light'. In doing so, the animator of Bidu's work hoped to emulate what paintings to Martu artists such as Bidu are like; that is, 'animate; charged with the country they paint...ancient, ever evolving and filled with knowledge'.

The first two images are from a piece I found particularly impressive. Titled Hive Mind, the artist Sam Price explores 'the relationship between human consciousness and the digital world' through his installation. Consisting hexagonal foam shapes assembled on a wall, the hive mind 'flickers with points of light and creates the illusion of the cerebral form physically undulating and pulsing with neural energy'. These projections were directly based off scans of the artists brain which gave fascinating insight into the workings of his mind and how it responds to stimulants such as screens and digital technology. 

There was also one other piece on display that I was sadly unable to capture. Overall, Light Geist was one of the most phenomenal exhibitions I have had the pleasure of experiencing this year. I never know what to expect when I visit FAC, but I always know that I will walk away seeing, thinking and contemplating the world differently. 

Find out more about FAC here

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wonderful Wednesday 06

The Christmas fever has definitely begun as work has been getting busier. I'm surprised I'm still sane after listening to Carols on loop for more than a month and the thought that I still have a good three weeks of it to go isn't exactly exhilarating. None the less, I have been happier than ever as my evenings and days off have been spent doing some wonderful things with wonderful friends.

A gallery and coffee date with one of my oldest friends to celebrate her 22nd birthday. I kind of like how birthdays are a lot more toned down now that we're older. I prefer having a casual catch up so I can actually give more time and attention to the people I love on their special day.

Pecha Kucha, ramen lab and creme brulee in that order and on the one night. For those not aware, Pecha Kucha is an initiative that takes place worldwide. It essentially sees people make presentations with the accompaniment of 20 slides, with each slide lasting 20 seconds. Anyone is able to put their hand up to present before the event takes place, and this allows for such a diverse range of presenters to have their voices, ideas and stories heard; whether they be business people, architects or artists. After the event, my friends and I went to a new ramen place called Ramen Lab, where we feasted on some of the most artistic ramen I've ever seen. We ended the night at a French restaurant which was probably far too pricey for our budgets, but as we just got dessert, we felt it was justifiable.

Cold evening in Fremantle I caught up with some other old friends on Friday in Fremantle. It has been uncharacteristically chilly in the evenings, so we were all rugged up. We spent the evening along the shipping docks and on the cafe strip catching up.

Fancy fries and an evening at the moonlight cinema A new fish and chips place popped up in Northbridge recently and my foodaholic friends and I were eager to check it out. Despite paying $15 for cone of chips (it was very large to be fair), they were the most decadent we've ever had, with lashings of mayo and a modest sprinkling of truffle on top. That evening called for more apparent decadence as I went to the outdoor theatre to watch Bridget Jones' Baby with a picnic consisting brie, crackers and nutella hot chocolate. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie too!

Get an added dose of wonderfulness with other ‘Wonderful Wednesdays’ posts found all over the bloggersphere. Check out creator of 'Wonderful Wednesday' Sally Tangle along with posts by Jo, Helen,Michelle, Sarah, Kate, Cat, Sam, ElKerri, Jasmin and Lynsey.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Out of the Ordinary Gift Ideas

Some of my most memorable gifts have been those that were a little out of the ordinary. I'm a big advocate for gifting experiences rather than things, and if I do gift 'things', I like them to be meaningful. I wouldn't go so far to say that Christmas is a non-event in my family, but over the past couple of years, we have really reigned in the amount of gifts we get one another simply because most of us have reached an age in which we don't feel like we need or want anything in particular. When gift buying started becoming something we did just because it seemed obligatory and we were buying for the sake of buying...I think it lost all meaning.

There's obviously nothing wrong with wanting to show how much you appreciate someone and buying a gift can be one of the most wonderful ways of doing so. But if you're struggling with ideas this Christmas, I thought I would compile a list of  'Out of the Ordinary Gift Ideas' which 'give' in more ways than one.

Gifting Experiences
The sky's the limit with this one! It may require you to think a little creatively, but it's such a fantastic idea because it shows that you've put a lot of thought into what a person enjoys. It also gives the receiver something to look forward to in the New Year. Gifting experiences is also great because it can suit all budgets. Here are just some ideas:

  • Coffee vouchers Promise to take someone out for a coffee, or two, or three or more! My mum loves these gifts the most. As we (her children) grow older, she really values time with us more than any run-of-the-mill gift.
  • Tickets to the theatre/concert/music festival I'm lucky to have attended a modest number of live concerts and shows in my time. In doing so, I have learnt that, despite the high price you may pay, they are some of the most worthwhile experiences out there especially for keen music/theatre fans
  • Tickets to an art/craft workshop Do you know someone who has always wanted to learn how to draw? Perhaps they would like to take a flower arranging course? There are so many options out there that suit all kinds of interests
  • Dinner for two at a fancy restaurant For most people, fine dining is hardly a regular occurrence, which would make a gift like this one extra special
  • A weekend away I think we can agree that no-one would turn down a holiday. While this can be on the pricier side, a weekend away doesn't even need to be anywhere exuberant. Perhaps there's some hidden gem of a place an hour out of your hometown. Going anywhere that isn't at home is sure to refresh and revive.

Those gifts that just keep giving
Another great idea is to gift something that will provide sustained joy, fulfillment or excitement throughout the year.

  • A Magazine Subscription This obviously depends on the person, but if you know a magazine lover, this would be ideal.
  • Books This goes without saying. Books have the ability to attain that special personal quality and are objects that can always be treasured.
  • Plants I'm a firm believer that filling a home with plants can positively lift your mood. There's a plant out there for everyone (ie. for attentive nature enthusiasts and even those who may forget to water)
  • A membership Know someone who loves art? A yearly membership at the state gallery would be ideal. Perhaps you know a history lover? They may appreciate being a member of the National Trust. Incentives which allow privileges and special events for members allow the gift receiver to fill up their calendar with exciting things to look forward to throughout the coming year. 

Have anything else to add to this list? Feel free to comment below!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Youtube Channels to Watch


Confession: I'm a bit of a Youtube binger. But who can blame me when there are so many inspiring channels to pick and choose from?

I've got to say, my feed has never looked better as I have been discovering a whole bounty of amazing ladies lately. I always wait in anticipation for their next upload and drop everything once I spy a new video in my subscription box.

I thought I would share my top 5 faves of the moment (but there are certainly more!). You can tell that these Youtubers work so hard at what they do and they deserve all the exposure that they can get.

I'm always on the lookout for more channels to follow, despite the fact I already spend a good chunk of my free and not so free time on Youtube, so if you have any recommendations send them my way!

Channel: Lucy Moon
Watch for: Lifestyle, advice, fashion, social commentary
Favourite videos: Cruelty Free Skincare | What I've Found So FarHow to Lose Your Virginity, I Am Not a Millennial, Lucy Moon's London | My Favourite Places, Pretty much all her 168 Hours vids. if I'm gonna be real.
What I love about her: Lucy is one multi-talented, self-aware and intelligent gal. Her channel strikes the perfect balance between providing 'care-free' entertainment (think monthly favourites, music recommendations, travel vlogs etc) and social commentary/advice about difficult topics. She is approachable, says what she feels and produces content she is passionate about. I have to say that she is one of my biggest girl crushes and the kind of person I would love to talk with for hours on end over bottomless cups of peppermint tea.

Channel: justkissmyfrog
Watch for: Books, lifestyle, social commentary, advice
Favourite videos: Youtube Is Dead | A Slam Poem, We Are British | A Poem, Alternative Small Talk, Practical Tips for Loving Your Body, HOW CRUEL IS MY MAKEUP BAG
What I love about her: Leena is the kind of woman I wish I could be more like. She is feisty, refreshingly outspoken, exuberant and unafraid to speak her mind. She produces such interesting content and really makes me second guess things I wouldn't otherwise be aware of or allocate attention to. She's also enviably articulate, creative and one helluva spoken word poet (I have SO much love for Alternative Small Talk). Indeed, her spoken word videos are my personal favourites of hers. Her channel is a treasure trove just waiting to be explored and you'll walk away all the richer.

Channel: Jessbeautician
Watch for: Food and beauty
Favourite videos: ALL her what I Eat in a Day related videos. Hit 'em up!
What I love about her: For starters, Jess is just so sweet, making her videos such a delight to watch.  While her channel is a mix of beauty and food, it's her food related videos that I devour. She is a vegan and creates some of the most inventive plant-based meals I have ever come across. As a vegetarian myself, her recipes inspire me be more creative in the kitchen. She proves that there are no restrictions or lack of variety in a veggie diet if you're willing to put time and energy into creating wholesome meals from scratch. I really appreciate the time and effort she puts into her videos; over June and November, she filmed 'What I Eat in a Day' videos every day/every second day and I always learnt something new.

Channel: sunbeamsjess (and extrasunbeamsjess)
Watch for: Lifestyle, books, fashion, beauty, student life
Favourite videos: Back to Uni Lyst Lookbook, UNI ROOM TOUR 2016, SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER BOOKS, Vlogmas.
What I love about her: I have to say right off the bat that Jess' voice is so calming and therapeutic. More often than not, I watch her videos in the evening as I've found it to be the perfect way to calm down. Aside from this, there are a number of reasons why I love Jess (of course!). Her style is so unique and while I don't share the same taste in fashion, her lookbooks always blow me away. She is also so well spoken and intelligent: despite not labeling herself as a 'booktuber', her book reviews are probably the most insightful I have come across thus far. Finally, she is my favourite vlogger. I discovered her last year while still at Uni and her commitment to her studies and practical advice throughout her monthly vlogs boosted my motivation. Even now, as a graduate, I still find her vlogs motivational!

Channel: What Olivia Did

Watch for: Fashion, beauty, lifestyle
Favourite videos: My Record Collection Part 1, My Record Collection Part 2, 48 Hours in Venice, New York Hidden Gems, OCTOBER FAVOURITES
What I love about her: As a long time reader of her blog of the same name, I've always got the impression that Liv is one of the most kind hearted people out there and her content is always creative and feel-good to boot! This extends to her youtube channel which is filled with all kinds of lovely things such as lookbooks, travel vlogs and my personal favourite, record collection videos. Liv's taste across the spectrum of fashion, lifestyle and music is top notch and I can't think of anyone who wouldn't love her sweet demeanor and positive vibes.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Beauty | Natural Skincare with Goodness Natural Beauty Lab


I won't pretend that I'm at all knowledgeable about beauty and skincare because my routine has always been about as basic as it gets. But even with my limited expertise (and consequently, my limited collection of makeup and all things beauty related), I have been wanting to be more conscious about the products I use. Not only does this come from increasing awareness of the unnecessary cruelty behind far too many well known cosmetic brands, but it is also the result of quite a frightening incident which essentially saw me house bound after an allergic reaction to a certain facial cream last year. My face swelled so severely that I simply did not want to go out in public because I looked so terrible, but it was also incredibly painful.

What I learnt since this particular incident is, first and foremost, it pays to test any product you buy on a patch of skin before you slather it all over your face and or body. It was silly on my part not to, but now I know to never risk it again. Secondly, I realised that the cream that provoked such a harsh reaction had an ingredients list as long as my arm, most of which I couldn't even identify. While other skin care products I used throughout my teens to early adulthood never caused me problems like that one offending product, I felt uneasy that they too were filled with 'unnatural' ingredients. I realised that I no longer wanted to put those nasties on my skin and I vowed to slowly change my routine.

Goodness Natural Beauty Lab is a recent discovery and a brand that I feel ticks all the boxes. Goodness prides itself on using all natural products, with avocado, chia and coconut oils being their star ingredients. I have been using their products for over a month after purchasing their samples kit, and I have loved the experience. The moisturisers, cleanser, chia facial oil and facial scrub all have the same fresh smelling scent and you can tell there's nothing artificial about them at all. The effect they've had on my skin has been positive so far: although breakouts are not likely to ever disappear (unfortunately), the products have helped to brighten up my face and just made it feel healthy and refreshed. As a person with combination skin, the gentle scrub is my personal favourite product, as it has helped with dry and flaky patches.

There's nothing not to love about Goodness as they have taken care to eliminate the negative aspects behind 'mass-produced' skincare brands. Their products don't test on animals, are biodegradable and their packaging, aside from being so darn gorgeous, is recyclable. I think Goodness has nailed it, and for such reasonable prices, I think I will be using the products for a long while.


Products in sample box: every evening cream, every morning moisturiser, every week face scrub, every day cream cleanser, chia seed oil.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Inspiring Artists | Ruby Pilven

 
All I can think about when I see these stunning handmade porcelain ceramic pieces by Ruby Pilven is: how could you possibly be unhappy if one of her vases were a centre piece in your living room? Or if you were rocking her jewellery? Or eating dinner off her plates? It comes as no surprise, then, to read on her website that 'Ruby wants her ceramics to inject joy into everyday life….making it that little bit more fun.' Her passion for the craft and her genuine desire to positively impact the day to day life couldn't be more evident.

I have been coveting her vases for a long while now and one day, I really do hope to get my hands on one of my own. But for now, I will continue to drool over her wares and stunning studio on her instagram. Her feed really is candy for the eyes.

Life After An Undergraduate Degree | To Postgrad or Not to Postgrad

Perth WA 6000, Australia
As I wrote in a past post, your twenties can be a real mixed bag of emotions, changes and general what-do-I-do-with-my-life and who-am-I moments. For those of you who, like me, have spent pretty much your whole life in education, life after University may be part and parcel of the general sensation of feeling lost. For as long as I can remember, a large portion of my identity has been the fact that I was a student. So what happens when this is no longer the case?

I have struggled over the past couple of months and feelings of hopelessness were inflated because of unemployment woes (which I wrote about here). Thankfully, I at least have a solid idea of what I don't want to do. That is, I don't wish to pursue a postgraduate degree at this point in time.

Depending on your friendship circle, your experiences on this may differ/have differed from mine. As an ever conscientious student who always strove to do well, making the decision not to return to University for higher study was kind of just...weird. I hate to say it, but for some reason I felt like a failure, a lost cause, like I wasn't using my potential, especially since lecturers and tutors encouraged me to consider further study. These feelings of aimlessness and confusion were compounded by the fact that a lot of my peers are pursuing masters degrees. Even my brother, who for a long while was the 'troubled' child in our family, is set to begin his masters next year. I can't quite explain the feelings of inadequacy and doubt that all this provoked in me. But essentially, I think it's down to the false misconception that you can only be successful if you complete higher studies.

It's been hard to adjust to a life in which formal education no longer plays a part but I'm glad I didn't make the decision to rush into further study. Obviously, for some students, higher education is a necessity for certain careers. And then there are students who do it because they are passionate about academia. But for me personally, I know my decision is the right one because the alternative would see me studying a masters degree simply because I don't have a clear idea of what else to do with my life. I definitely won't rule it out entirely, but for now, I'm glad I realised that doing a masters would've posed as a very costly distraction from my general uncertainties about the future.

There really is no set path in life and definitely no reason to do something just because it may seem the 'done thing' and this stands for going to University at all. For now, I'm going to focus on working, saving, looking out for volunteering opportunities and figuring 'it' all out, whatever 'it' may be. Whether that does end up leading to further studies or not, I feel a lot better knowing that some things just need time and that it's okay to feel lost at times.

If you have any similar experiences, stories or advice I would love to read about them!

Friday, December 2, 2016

PICA x Pip & Pop | #localloves

 
Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) is the leading contemporary art gallery in Western Australia. With an ever changing and always engaging program, you never know what you might find upon entering the gorgeous heritage building in Perth's cultural centre.

PICA has showcased some of the best Australian and international visual, performance and interdisciplinary art. However, it was a recent visit that truly blew me away. 

When Happiness Ruled by local artist Pip & Pop, (who I can only imagine to be an all round magical human being) was one of the most visually exquisite exhibitions I have seen. The official program had this to say:

'Pip & Pop is obsessed with representations of paradise, illusion and wish-fulfillment described in folk tales, mythologies and cinema. Her wonderfully immersive and color-saturated dreamscapes draw wide inspiration from the edible fantasy world of Cockaigne, platform video games and Japanese stories of spirits residing within objects and nature'.

A kaleidoscopic landscape consisting kinetic sculptures, coloured sugar and other bits and bobs all doused in glitter captured my wildest imagination.

When Happiness Ruled runs from 12 November - 24 December. Find out more about Pip & Pop here.


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