Menopause Mayhem

Dare I say it…I may be hitting menopause! I’m approaching that dreaded stage in a woman’s life where we start drying up like the Sahara Desert. I have another 260-ish days before I turn the BIG 4-0, but the signs are there.

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It all went downhill when I turned 30. Just when I’d snagged my better half and was finally getting a regular shag, my metabolism decided to slow down to a snail’s pace. Nine years later, I’ve turned into what looks like the feral offspring of the Michelin man. I’ve become a beached whale. My waistline has been missing in action since 2010. My former size-8 frame has obviously gone to a better place. I picture it sunbathing in some exotic location with a mojito in hand. Forget a 6-pack. You can’t even describe my jelly belly as a muffin top …..I’m shaped like a keg!

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I’ve let myself go to the extent that nothing in my wardrobe fits me. I know I need to get off my ass and be more active, but the motivation is simply non-existent. I work up a sweat just watching fitness videos via YouTube. Forget sit-ups or downward dogs, the only exercise I do these days is lifting a Krispy Kreme into my mouth. I’m a couch potato…my bum’s fused to the sofa. I have a yoga mat and a treadmill in the lounge, on the off chance I feel inspired to work out, but most days it’s a Mexican standoff. The tension is palpable, it’s a daily confrontation between me and the exercise equipment. The first who blinks loses (me, hands down – every time!).

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Then there’s my emotional eating habits. The roller coaster ride of binging on food when I’m happy, on a downer or bored. Even when I’m tired of eating…I still have this strong craving to drown my sorrows in a packet of Oreos. I have a theory that my hormones are all over the place. These days, I’m not just emotional when Aunt Flo comes to visit every month, it seems to be a weekly thing. At its worse, my hormonal outbursts consists of tears and tantrums, with a few glimpses of laughter in between, almost like four seasons in one day. It’s a vicious cycle. My poor better half doesn’t know whether he’s dealing with Jekyll or Hyde. Lucky for me he has a soft spot for both.

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But wait, there’s more. The bazoongas have started to sag…one’s heading east and the other is running in the opposite direction. The jugs aren’t so perky these days, they’ve lost that B-B-Bounce. They need a bit more pep, a little pick me up, maybe a tweak or two? It gets worse. I can’t seem to hold my bladder like I use to. There’s nothing worse than coming home after a night of boozy frivolities and you’re busting to pee! As you accelerate up the driveway (pedal to the metal, full throttle style), I’m simultaneously un-buckling the belt and undoing the pants. I often find myself performing the hot shoe shuffle as I stand at the front door, searching for my keys, saying a silent Hail Mary hoping desperately that the No. 1s can hold it in for two more minutes. By the time I reach the throne, a minor tinkling accident has leaked out.

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To top it all off, there are the sweats. There could be a blizzard outside, yet all I want to do is wear is a pair of socks (and only a pair of socks – much to the delight of the better half). My partner is as snug as a bug in a rug, tightly cocooned under the sheets, yet I’m lying on top of the doona sweating like I’m on death row. I could be doing the most mundane of tasks, but I’d be showing tell-tale signs of perspiration. Despite the super strength deodorant I wear, I’m so conscious that the body odour follows me around like a bad stench!

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I admit, I’m no spring chicken. I’m certainly not getting any younger, skinnier or prettier. My thirty, flirty and thriving days are coming to an end. As I approach the naughty forties, this swan is fast becoming an old goose!

Imagine….

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John Lennon was onto something extraordinary when he wrote Imagine, a song with a simple melody backed by a profound message of peace.

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Everyday we’re bombarded by tragic news headlines centred on terrorist acts, wars, murders and mass shootings. The 24/7 rolling coverage showing violent and horrific crimes headed by the worst of humanity are all aimed to generate anger, create fear and overwhelm us with despair.

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These racially charged attacks against innocent lives are further fuelling the simmering hatred and the growing tension between different ethnic groups, doing more to antagonise and divide people based on bigotry and race. Which leads me to the question, why can’t we all just get along?

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I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. So, I won’t attempt to explore this subject matter with an in depth analysis. Instead, I’ll take a boofhead friendly approach in assessing this issue. Firstly, I’d like to use our canine companions as an example of tolerance. Dogs are oblivious to factors such as an individual’s gender, sexuality, heritage, religion or even the football team their owners’ follow. The truth is, dogs don’t care whether we’re black, white, rich, poor, young, old or where we stand on the social hierarchy. Instead, dogs look up to us like the sun shines out of our arses, without any form of prejudice.

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I’m not suggesting that we all bend down and sniff each other’s nether regions but dogs are unconditionally loyal. They love us just as we are, free of judgement or any preconceived notions based on our social, racial, ethnic or religious status. Wouldn’t it be great if we could see the rest of humanity in a similar light?

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Let’s dig a little deeper with this topic. Is racism inherent in people or is racial intolerance a learned behaviour? Visit a crèche for toddlers (preferably in a multicultural setting as an added bonus)…..you’ll notice a childcare centre is like the United Nations, albeit, with a playground. I’m amazed at how young children form budding friendships with other rug rats without any hint of cultural or ethnic bias. These pre-schoolers can barely talk, let alone understand each other, but it doesn’t stop them from having fun and enjoying each other’s company. I truly believe that any form of discrimination is an action or conduct that’s taught or learned from what we see, hear and experience amongst the people we encounter.

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If we all took a step back and look into the eyes of our babies, young children or man’s best friend, with Lennon’s Imagine playing in the background (and a cheeky drink in hand), the world might actually learn a lesson or two about peace and love.

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Imagine a world without borders, where we didn’t have labels that defined our race, cultural background, religious beliefs, social status, our gender or sexual preferences, lifestyle etc. Instead, it was one planet where we assimilated with each other, did more to understand one another, found means to embrace our differences and accept diversity, and developed greater cohesion or mateships as oppose to attacking our neighbour.

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We’d soon recognise that we all have similar needs, desires, hopes and dreams. Regardless of who we are, where we come from or which side of the fence we sit on, we share the same fears, frustration, anger, sadness and despair…but it’s the barriers we build (whether geographical, physical or emotional) that divide us. It’s time to break the barriers and come together, right now, to unite as one.

Like Lennon, I may view the world through rose-coloured glasses, but I’m not the only one.

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Imagine

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today… Aha-ah…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

LENNONS 25TH

References

Imagine
Writer(s): John Lennon
Producer(s): John Lennon Yoko Ono Phil Spector

 

Losing My Religion

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That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion…

I’m lost, confused and disillusioned. Nothing makes sense to me about God or religion anymore. These days, I find myself questioning the very values and belief system that was once at the core of my existence.

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I’ve reached a crossroad in my life and now I sit on the fence when it comes to my faith. I’m probably more of a doubter than a believer and more agnostic than an atheist. I’m plagued by guilt and fear of going to hell (and my hair can’t stand the heat)! It’s the one principle stopping me from being more definitive about my opinion on whether God exists or not.

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I was raised a Catholic, attended church every Sunday, prayed most nights (to be a supermodel – never happened) and was surrounded by a devoutly Christian family. But the world, the people I’ve immersed myself with and personal experiences has taught me more about how to live a loving, positive life than the dogma that dominated my upbringing.

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Sadly, religion doesn’t always unite people. In a lot of instances, religious conviction divides families, communities, even nations around the world (more than a soccer game in the UEFA league). We witness every night on television the effects of hatred caused by extremist beliefs. Who’s to say one religion is more ‘right’ or ‘better’ than the other. At the end of the day, whatever floats your boat. But faith could be the biggest bunch of bollocks ever, up there with the Kardashians and Donald Trump.

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Every religion has elements of brainwashing or a cult like hold over its members. The moment you lose your right to freedom of choice as a result of religious persuasion is a violation to human rights. Life throws curve balls at you every day, therefore every individual has the right to make rational and logical decisions based on their own circumstance as oppose to the teachings of systematic indoctrination. Let’s face it, “the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you, may not be right for some”.

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I’ve learned to keep an open mind, not to judge people based on whether they’re Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Scientologists, Pastafarians, Collingwood supporters etc It’s not your beliefs that make you a good person, it’s your actions and behaviour. You can go to church, a mosque, synagogue or temple as often as you like; read the Bible, the Torah or the Quran daily, but it doesn’t mean you’re more righteous or virtuous than a person who attends the footy every weekend. My theory is, how you’ve inspired and encouraged those around you, your integrity, kindness, generosity, patience, understanding and the love you’ve demonstrated will have a huge impact on others, and consequently will be your lasting legacy. Ultimately, it’s how you respect and treat people that matters.

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References

‘Losing My Religion’

Writer(s): Bill Berry Peter Buck Mike Mills Michael Stipe
Producer(s): Scott Litt R.E.M.

Giant Marvels of Melbourne

The Design Statement

Melbourne is a vibrant, urban metropolis of skyscrapers, giant structures towering upwards to dizzying heights. The heart and soul of the city is a concrete jungle of high-rise commercial and residential buildings constructed in a fusion of architectural styles, which suits Melbourne’s evolving cosmopolitan landscape.

Below are a selection of Melbourne’s most noted skyscrapers:

Eureka Towers

Standing at a height of 300 metres, Eureka Towers is one of the world’s tallest residential structures, consisting of 576 apartments in addition to office, retail and hospitality facilities.

120 Collins Street

Designed in collaboration with Hassell Architects and Daryl Jackson, this 53-storey landmark echoes characteristics of art deco architecture, including a central mast and setbacks similar to New York’s Empire State Building.

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Located at the ‘Paris’ end of Melbourne, 101 Collins is a monument epitomising style and class. The building facade is accentuated with glass buttresses, while the focal point within the interior are the travertine columns and…

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There’s No Joy in Darkness

 

Hello. It’s only me. Is there anybody out there? Can anyone hear me? I’m on the flip side of heaven, the other side of hell. I’m existing in no man’s land of purgatory, languishing in limbo, slowly wasting away the days through constant stormy weather. Suffering under dark clouds hovering over me, a downpour of rainy days and relentless winter blues.

 

Does someone else feel my pain or understand the fear and anxiety that tortures my head on a daily basis?  I pray to a God that I barely have faith in, in the faint hope that someone or something out there in the universe hears my cry for help. I simply just wish for my luck to change.

 

I’m sick of pretending to be in a happy place when in all honesty, I’m breaking down and falling apart on the inside. I’m lost and disillusioned. I’m losing the race and close to giving up. I have no strength to keep fighting this battle.

 

Life is passing me by at such lightning speed while my own tiny sphere has stalled. I don’t fit in within this ‘dog eat dog’ world. I want to scream, I want to shout, but there’s no one to turn to. I want to cry, but I’ve run out of tears. I’m running on empty and my soul is broken.

 

I wish things were different. I yearn for my life to finally head in the right direction. I’d love to get back on track, for my hopes to go to plan and for my dreams to come true. I miss that feeling that anything was possible…that I can conquer the world.

I just want to be happy….

Spiritual Marvels of Melbourne

The Design Statement

Have a little faith, this post is not focused on any religion. Instead, the post is a visual tour of some of Melbourne’s most architecturally acclaimed churches. Praised for their majestic design, these houses of worship will enlighten you with their grandness and history.

St Patrick’s Cathedral

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Designed by William Wilkinson Wardell, St Patrick’s Cathedral is a prime example of Gothic-Revival design. Located on the edge of the city grid, the structure is laid out in the style of a Latin cross, incorporating a nave with side aisles, transepts flanked by side aisles, a sanctuary including seven chapels positioned in a chevet around it, and sacristies.

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A cross six metres in height sits atop of the main spire. The pinnacles of the Cathedral tower upwards, representing heaven above, while the gargoyles perched around the church are trademark features befitting the Gothic aesthetic.

St Paul’s Cathedral

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St Paul’s Cathedral represents the signature style of ne0-Gothic transitional architecture. Designed by William Butterfield, the cathedral consists of three giant spires, with the…

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Iconic Marvels of Melbourne

The Design Statement

Flinders Street Station

I love Melbourne, a city that is defined for its vibrant atmosphere, a passion for sport and a hub for fine food, wine and great coffee, often embraced through its cafe culture.

As a tourist destination and from an architectural perspective, what is quintessentially Melbourne? Nothing else epitomises Melbourne more than the following landmarks, which form the very fabric of this fine city: Flinders Street Station, the Shrine of Remembrance, the Rialto Towers, the GPO, the Arts Centre, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Luna Park and Melbourne Star.

Flinders Street Station

Built in 1910, Flinders Street Station is the heart of a comprehensive railway network in Melbourne. The facade of this iconic structure was a result of a worldwide design competition awarded in 1900 to JW Fawcett and HPC Ashworth.

Shrine of Remembrance 

Constructed between 1928-1934, the Shrine of Remembrance was built in honour of the men and women of Victoria who served in the First World War. The structure is…

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Heritage Marvels of Melbourne

The Design Statement

5efbb110-cee7-4119-b4b6-9f634af95ffc-2060x1236Like most cosmopolitan cities around the world, Melbourne is characterised for its concrete jungles, dominated by modern skyscrapers with shimmery glass facades. But scattered amongst these contemporary structures are buildings noted for their classic architecture.

The very fabric of Melbourne consists of heritage listed buildings, recognised for their historical, cultural and architectural significance. This post is a visual exploration of some of Melbourne’s most iconic landmarks including the Royal Exhibition Building, Parliament House, the State Library of Victoria, the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Old Treasury Building, and the Melbourne Town Hall. Each of these structures have a common thread, the very essence of their construction is linked to their traditional charm and majestic designs.

state_library_of_victoria_-_right_sideThe majority of these landmarks (such as Parliament House, the State Library, Supreme Court and Old Treasury Building) were constructed during the Victorian era, a period that saw a renewed focus towards classical renaissance architecture. The classical  aesthetic is characterised for central pediments, a Corinthian style portico, Ionic columns and grand archways. 

The Royal…

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Deconstructing Gehry

The Design Statement

Frank Gehry is a trailblazer in contemporary design, often considered as one of the most highly acclaimed architects of the 20th century. An iconic genius in post-modern architecture, Gehry thrives in pushing the boundaries with his complex, avant garde concepts. Gehry’s bold structures rebels against the status quo, shifting away from the paradigm that ‘form follows function’.

As a proponent of the deconstructivsm movement, Gehry’s projects are defined for their striking profiles, mixed with undulating layers of elements, resulting in structural facades that are both complex and bold. His style of producing abstract constructions are combined with his use of malleable metal finishes juxtaposed against more traditional building components like concrete or bricks.

Gehry portfolio of projects are characterised for their use of unconventional materials, incorporating structural elements manipulated to produce rippled forms and irregular shapes. Although Gehry’s creative vision was inspired by the DeCon architectural style, the silhouettes of his spectrum of famous landmarks mixes a new age revival of cubism and futuristic aesthetics.

Below are a snapshot…

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If It’s Broke – Fixer Upper

The Design Statement

Who said country style was dated? Certainly not the hosts behind the hit lifestyle show Fixer Upper, featuring the husband and wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines. The dynamic duo are the creative minds behind several major renovation overhauls.  They turn run down, dilapidated homes into farmhouse chic.

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Don’t judge a book by its cover. With Chip’s construction expertise and Joanna’s creative vision, they can upgrade any beat-up rickety old property into a home that exudes southern charm and comfort. The pair are bold enough to take on any property, regardless of its condition, and transform the house with a fresh facelift and an interior makeover. While most buyers would view such dwellings as a money pit and shy away from such projects, Chip and Joanna see nothing but potential.

Joanna’s aesthetic is characterized for its modern, country style chic. Her passion for vintage fixtures, unique flea-market pieces and up-cycled…

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Modern Marvels of Melbourne

Melbourne’s central business district is renown for its eclectic mix of architectural styles. The cityscape is blanketed with skyscrapers, featuring shimmering façades and rectangular block silhouettes, a trend that dominated the 80s era. These post-modern forms are nestled cohesively together with heritage structures typified by Romanesque and neo-classical designs, linking back to Australia’s federation period.

Since the millennium, a greater movement towards contemporary architecture have eclipsed the city and its surrounds. The following is a small selection of landmarks and commercial buildings that stand out for their edgy, distinct and innovative style.

AAAMI Park

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AAMI Park by Cox Architecture

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AAMI Park by Cox Architecture

NAB Building – Docklands

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NAB Building – Docklands by Woods Bagot

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NAB Building – Docklands by Woods Bagot

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NAB Building – Docklands by Woods Bagot

Federation Square

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Federation Square by Lab Architecture Studio & Bates Smart

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Federation Square by Lab Architecture Studio & Bates Smart

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Federation Square by Lab Architecture Studio & Bates Smart

Swanston Square

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Swanston Square by ARM Architecture

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Swanston Square by ARM Architecture

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William Barak, the last traditional ngurungaeta (Elder) of the Wurundjeri-william clan

Design Hub

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Design Hub by Sean Godsell Architects

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Design Hub by Sean Godsell Architects

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Pixel Building

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Pixel Building by Studio 505/Umow Lai

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Pixel Building Studio 505/Umow Lai

Royal Children’s Hospital

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Royal Children’s Hospital by Bates Smart

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Royal Children’s Hospital by Bates Smart

Melbourne Theatre Centre

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MTC Southbank Theatre by ARM Architecture

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MTC Southbank Theatre by ARM Architecture

Storey Hall

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Storey Hall by ARM Architecture

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Storey Hall by ARM Architecture

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Storey Hall by ARM Architecture

Swanston Academic Building

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Swanston Academic Building by Lyons

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Swanston Academic Building by Lyons

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Swanston Academic Building by Lyons

Image Source:

http://aasarchitecture.com/2013/07/aami-park-by-cox-architecture.html

http://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/news/industry-news/aami-park-wins-lightweight-structure-design-award

http://www.woodsbagot.com/project/national-australia-bank-docklands

http://fedsquare.com/about/history-design

https://urban.melbourne/forum/federation-square

http://www.batessmart.com/bates-smart/projects/sectors/community-culture/the-ian-potter-centre-ngv-australia-federation-square/

http://www.a-r-m.com.au/projects_SwanstonSquare_Barak.html

https://www.rmit.edu.au/about/our-locations-and-facilities/facilities/exhibition-spaces/design-hub/

http://www.seangodsell.com/rmit-design-hub

http://architectureau.com/articles/peter-maddisons-curated-tour-of-open-house-melbourne-2015/

http://www.archdaily.com/190779/pixel-studio505

http://www.batessmart.com/bates-smart/projects/sectors/health/the-new-royal-childrens-hospital-architecture/

http://www.mtc.com.au/your-visit/southbank-theatre/

http://johnmaddenphoto.com/portfolio/melbourne-recital-centre-mtc/

http://www.architravel.com/architravel/building/storey-hall/

http://www.rmit.edu.au/events/all-events/study-information-sessions/2015/october/seh-postgraduate-information-evening/

http://www.lyonsarch.com.au/learning/

http://architectureau.com/articles/interview-with-carey-lyon/

 

 

 

Mildura – The Sunburnt Country

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A six hour drive north west of Melbourne is the regional town of Mildura. Positioned along the banks of the mighty Murray River, Mildura is renowned for its sunburned earth and sweeping scrub-land intertwined with native flora and fauna, typifying the Australian heartland.

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One of the highlights of the area are the paddle steamers that cruises leisurely down the Murray. Another attraction is The Botanical Gardens, an ideal setting to stop and smell the roses.

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Like many country towns, time ticks a wee bit slower in this region of Victoria. Mildura is a close knit community whereby people go out of their way to have a good yarn and say ‘G’day!’. The city embodies a laid back vibe which allows you to appreciate the beauty in the simple pleasures of life.

The Dark Stalker – Part III

At night, I would lie in bed wishing I was anyone but me, praying my life would end to avoid facing the following day. I couldn’t think straight and I felt there wasn’t a way out of my situation. The constant negativity at work mirrored the endless pessimism pounding my head. My spirit had been completely deflated to a point where I just wanted to run and hide from the rest of the world in an effort to numb the agony. The darkness that haunted me was now coupled with severe anxiety. I struggled sleeping, I’d often endure nightmares, waking up in a cold sweat, my chest tightening. Having to deal with work caused panic attacks, making breathing difficult. Yet, I had to hide my fear, meet and greet editors, publishers, graphic designers, copyrighters, photographers and clients with a forced smile on my face, knowing in my mind I was ready to break down and crumble.

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The walls were closing in and the burden was increasingly too heavy to shoulder. In the end I quit. But the relief was only short lived when inevitably, I had to confront the reality of finding another job. I could barely function with the day-to-day routine of living. Getting changed, showering, brushing my hair, doing the groceries – simple tasks were all too hard. I avoided going out. I wanted to isolate myself from friends, family and the entire outside world. If I gathered enough courage to venture out, I would stare at the pavement and avoid any eye contact with other people. I didn’t want anyone to see right through me and the shame, embarrassment, or the failure that I felt I was. I internalised my fears, buried them deep within, trying in vain to erase the dark memories of the past in order to move forward.

After several months of being housebound, struggling silently in my own inner demons, I eventually garnered enough strength to return back into the workforce. The process took numerous therapy sessions, supplemented with medication, to manage my thought processes and to minimize the negativity controlling and dominating my mind. I was encouraged to exercise to force myself to step outside the home and practiced meditation in order to relax. After some contemplation, I opted for a simpler role with less responsibilities at an up and coming public relations firm, to help ease myself back into the corporate jungle. Despite the fact that the job doesn’t have the high-flyer status or the glamourous perks of my previous position, I am more content. Go figure!

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My saving grace is my current partner. If it wasn’t for him, my life would be empty. He’s supported me throughout this journey. His patience, kindness, generosity and love has carried me through the toughest of times. I take each day one step at a time. Every day is a mountain I climb and conquer. I sometimes have to write a ‘To Do’ list of basic chores which act as motivational steps to soldier on. My condition is still managed with daily medication and I cope with the ‘blues’ with the occasional therapy session. However, I am one of the lucky few. Sadly, there are many out there who suffer depression significantly worse under more severe circumstances than me and my heart goes out to them. The thing is, you’re not alone. One of the initial things to do is to acknowledge something is wrong, but harder still, is having the strength to seek immediate support and to keep moving forward and to battle through the daily demons. On a positive note, there is HELP out there.

** If you, or a loved one, is suffering from depression or mental illness, reach out to the following:

www.beyondblue.org.au

www.sane.org

www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

www.ruok.org.au

www.lifeline.org.au

The Dark Stalker – Part II

My condition only exacerbated with the strain of unstable relationships during my twenties, a string of not-so-great partners who came in and quickly left my life further bruised my fragile state of mind. I was so ashamed of being single. I looked for companionship with any guy that showed me an ounce of affection. These men weren’t looking for a deep connection, just easy one night stands with no strings attached. I had no respect for myself and I was a magnet for men who had no respect for me.  Constant heartbreak lead to unbearable pain and the crushing fear of loneliness. At this stage, I knew I required more than therapy to help me claw out of the mess I was in. My psychiatrist ultimately prescribed me with medication. It was the first time I finally admitted to myself that I suffered from depression, which was a further blow to my confidence.

Despite the depths of despair I was suffering, I discovered that my inner pain would only deepen and slip further into a dark abyss. Triggered by work related stress and the lack of support from management, I quickly found myself spiralling out of control with thoughts of failure. The day to day bullshit at work was a relentless grind that was truly paralysing. A sluggish economy, stagnant sales results coupled with a change in ownership and an inevitable structural change, led to a pressure cooker environment. The workload more than doubled consequently, I was working overtime every day as well as weekends. It became the norm rather than the exception.

Sane Australia

Image Source: facebook.com/saneaustralia/photos

My supervisor never recognised the additional hours required to meet deadlines. Yet, when things went wrong, as they inevitably did, he would unleash hell! He would bully, threaten and push me to meet his demands. He would often wash his hands clean of any problems and handball all accountability to his team members, leaving us hanging out to dry.  The business turned a blind eye to the passive aggressive management style fostered by our team leader. As a result, my direct manager took delight in abusing his power and authority, regularly delegating his own responsibilities to his subordinates while he ‘worked from home’.

I couldn’t turn to anyone. The company had an unwritten rule of backing up senior management rather than the staff who busted their balls to achieve results. The fact is, Human Resources are paid by the company and at the end of the day, their overall mission is to support the business and the bottom line….the rest is all collateral damage.

Image Source: facebook.com/beyondblue/photos

** If you, or a loved one, is suffering from depression or mental illness, reach out to the following:

www.beyondblue.org.au

www.sane.org

www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

www.ruok.org.au

www.lifeline.org.au

The Dark Stalker – Part I

I’ve known Lisa since we were immature, pre-pubescent kids running amok in primary school. On the outside, Lisa is an articulate, bubbly girl who oozes confidence and charm. With her classic good looks and a glamorous job in advertising, she had what seemed to be an envious life that involved overseas trips and socialising and networking with high flyers of the corporate world. But her smile was a façade that hid a painful secret which she only recently revealed. Lisa suffers from depression. This is her journey….

Image Source: facebook.com/beyondblue/photos

Depression is a dark shadow that stalks my everyday existence. The paralysing feeling of hopelessness is like a sombre mood that constantly lingers over me. From the time I was 16, I had noticed that I didn’t have the strength to cope with the curve balls that life threw my way. However, as the years passed, my inner struggles only worsened as I faced the trials and tribulations of climbing the corporate ladder, pursuing a career in public relations, being hit with financial pressures and the heart ache of rocky relationships. I hit rock bottom in late 2001 and the depth of despair was beyond overwhelming.

Image Source: facebook.com/beyondblue/photos

Initially, I associated my mood swings with the highs and lows of growing pains during my teens. Unrequited love, peer pressure, the awkwardness of puberty, teenage angst and rebelliousness culminated in a roller coaster ride of emotions which I could usually dismiss and move on from. Yet, by the time I began university, the stress of perfection, exceeding parental expectations, my obsessive desire to succeed academically but never quite reaching my goals caused further strain on my already low self-esteem. It was the point when I first realised I needed professional help. But after two visits to a psychologist, the embarrassment was too much to stomach given the taboo linked with sufferers of mental illness.

Image Source: facebook.com/beyondblue/photos

Image Source: facebook.com/beyondblue/photos

** If you, or a loved one, is suffering from depression or mental illness, reach out to the following:

www.beyondblue.org.au

www.sane.org

www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

www.ruok.org.au

www.lifeline.org.au

Zaha Ha-Did It Her Way

The Design Statement

Her vision is bold, daring and avant-garde. In fact, Zaha Hadid’s work is often considered polarising. You either love it, loathe it or simply don’t get it. However, regardless of the acclaim or criticism, Hadid consistently pushes the boundaries of architecture with her signature space age, futuristic aesthetic.

Guangzhou Opera House Image Source: archdaily.com/115949/guangzhou-opera-house-zaha-hadid-architects

Guangzhou Opera House Image Source: archdaily.com/115949/guangzhou-opera-house-zaha-hadid-architects

Hadid is the first female to single-handedly conquer the field of architecture, a domain that is to this day, primarily a male dominated industry. Her edgy, ultra-modern concepts are well ahead of their time in terms of form and structure and has earned her the honour of the highly prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004. Yet, despite Hadid’s achievements, she’s also had the misfortune of seeing many of her projects fail to come to fruition. Nevertheless, Hadid continues to be an influential figure and a tenacious force with her unconventional…

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The Wright Impact

The Design Statement

“The mission of an architect is to help people understand how to make life more beautiful, the world a better one for living in, and to give reason, rhyme and meaning to life.” Frank Lloyd Wright

Image Source: http://www.wright-house.com/frank-lloyd-wright/fallingwater-pictures/falling-water-fall-house.html

When you think of world renowned architects, one of the most prominent of the modern era is that of Frank Lloyd Wright. As a celebrated icon, Wright challenged the norms of contemporary design, championing the Prairie School of Architecture typified by structures incorporating linear silhouettes with organic forms. A visionary, Wright’s forward thinking creativity steered a design movement towards open plan concepts – where rooms flowed and opened into one another – a practice that was rapidly adopted within residential and commercial developments. This innovative layout inevitably shaped the way we engaged within our immediate surroundings, breaking down physical barriers and increasing human interaction. Wright’s signature aesthetic was inspired by his…

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The Grand Design Challenge Part II – Coarse Lesson Learned

Over the course, we presented projects which pushed us to express our creativity in a tactile form, bringing concepts to life through layers of fabric, contrasting patterns, colours, materials, accessories, and integrating various elements of negative and positive space, silhouettes and contours. The combination of which aimed to connect with the heart and soul of its intended client. Each concept was backed by a narrative, a source of inspiration, turning a creative vision into reality.

The course challenged my mind. I was forced to think outside the square, to view the world at different angles, to see life through different perspectives. Each project we undertook was designed to engage individuals to see a deeper meaning behind colours, texture, contrast, lines, dots and shapes.

There were many occasions I wanted to quit. I dug deep and I worked my arse off. Slowly, I adjusted to the routine of university life, of lectures, tutorials, homework and assignments. I immersed myself in the world of Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Le Corbusier, Mies Van Der Rohe. I took a trip down the rabbit hole to discover the history behind styles ranging from Art Deco, Gothic, Renaissance, Art Nouveau, Baroque, Victorian, Edwardian, Queen Anne, Arts & Craft movement, Rococo, Neo Classic, Scandinavian genres. I learned that 5 Seconds of Summer was not a new-age, hipster term for a ‘quickie’ horizontal rhumba session. More importantly, world issues centred on Justin Bieber or One Direction according to the tween generation (One who??).

Yep, art and design is not black and white – there’s 50 shades of grey and a rainbow of other hues in between. Even today’s learning environment is a whole new world. Back in the late 90s when I was a pimply faced teenager attending Monash University, e-mail was still in its infancy and Facebook wasn’t even a blip on the radar! We’re talkin’ the days of dial-up, when you stared at the modem as it whirred to connect to the internet. Now I’m faced with terms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Tumbler and blogs. Floppy disks have been replaced by USB sticks and who needs a library of books when Google is at your fingertips?

Image Source: http://arcid.uclaextension.edu/miaprogram-2/

However old habits die hard. Despite my age and wisdom, some things just never change. The student lifestyle of two-minute noodles for dinner, leaving assignments to the last minute, staying up till 3am preparing for exams and losing work because your PC crashed – is still a trap for an old goose like myself!

After two years of highs and lows, the course culminated in a class exhibition attended by family, friends, teachers and noted designers and architects within industry. Achieving your dreams was never going to be easy – No guts, no glory. Fortunately the hard work paid off. There were definitely several tantrums, a few meltdowns and a number of sooki la la moments. But I survived. I even surprised myself with the results. I started from scratch with no artistic background, just a pipe dream from my childhood. But you’re never too old to learn something new.

The Grand Design Challenge Part I – Old School v Hipster Generation

Self-doubt is a bitch. It’s like an irritating rash or a pungent odour that won’t go away! Going back to university was met with apprehension. One week into my course in interior design, I was already having second thoughts.  Was I nuts pursuing a career change? Was I delusional chasing my dream of becoming a decorator? Had I made a foolish mistake? These questions pounded my head like a tonne of bricks!

The semester began in July 2013 and kicked off with a week of Orientation. I had butterflies in my stomach as I looked around the room, to be greeted by people half my age! During the ‘meet & greet’ period, one of the guys pointed out that he’d just returned from Hawaii. To break the ice, I started humming the Hawaii-5-O theme song and they stared at me blankly, with utter confusion. I could hear crickets sounding off in the background. I felt my face turn red with embarrassment. My attempt to act cool and bond with the youth of today was an epic fail and backfired dismally. Seriously, I felt like a senior citizen!

Our third day was a guided tour of the National Gallery of Victoria. The group stopped at various iconic collections and exhibits. One of them titled “The Angry Mask” appeared like a three year old smeared a spectrum of paint colours blind folded. I didn’t get it….how could this be considered art? A dog’s breakfast had more appeal than this.

Image Source: http://blogs.uclaextension.edu/Newsroom/photo-gallery/

At one point I was asked to describe what I saw in front of me. It was Mark Rothko’s work, aptly called ‘Untitled (Red)’, a massive rectangular canvas in three slightly varying shades of….wait for it….red. I was dumbfounded. After an awkward moment of silence, the curator rescued me from confusion. To her, the piece exhibited a rhythm of emotion in its rawest form – doom, tragedy and despair. Huh? Are you for real??? Watching paint dry would display more feeling than this. I was way in over my head!!!

Yep, it didn’t take me long to realise that I was totally behind the 8-ball. I jumped in the deep end and I was barely treading water. I initially thought that interior decorating was limited to styling a room with furniture and accessories.  I quickly discovered there’s critical thinking behind every design scheme.

Into the Wild – Where the Wild Things Are

Giraffes

In the jungle, the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight….Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh I was in my own world happily singing this cute little ditty while the better half and I trekked off to Werribee Open Range Zoo on Australia Day. The lyrics played over and over in my head until the mere male asked me, “did you bring the tickets?”  Eeeeeeek! The light in my brain suddenly flicked back on. Bugger me!

Antelope

Camels

Of all the things to forget, it would have to be the admission vouchers! I slammed the breaks and begrudgingly hightailed it back home. Not quite the start I was expecting. What would The Lion King’s very own Timon and Pumbaa say if they were in a pickle like this? ‘Hakuna Matata’ of course, no worries! I looked on the bright side of the situation, we were only four kilometres into our one hour journey. It could’ve been a lot worse, so all was not lost.

Victoria’s own Werribee Open Range Zoo is a wildlife park and is the closest I’ll get to experiencing an African adventure. The ultimate way to traverse through the grounds and witness the menagerie of animals on the premises is to go on a safari tour.

Gorilla

Hippo

Hyenas

The bus tour lasts just under an hour and runs at regular 10-15 minute intervals. The mini sightseeing expedition enables you to get relatively close to Zebras, Camels, Giraffes, Hippos, and Rhinoceros just to name a few. During the short ride, the driver gives you an insight into the animal’s habitat, their quirky behaviours and basic facts and figures about the traits of each species.

Lion

Meerkat

Monkeys

As per the walking trail that meanders past each animal exhibit, the bus tour is convenient for young and old and provides ramps for greater accessibility – ideal for kids in strollers, or those with disabilities or in wheelchairs. For something a little more adventurous, some guided tours allows you access into more off-limit areas of the park, even the opportunity to feed or touch some animals under the guidance of keepers.

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It’s a wonderful facility that’s maintained to a high standard to ensure the animals’ safety and well-being. They aren’t kept in cramped enclosures, instead the animals roam freely within wide open fields similar to their natural habitats. One day is sufficient time to leisurely visit each animal exhibit. Although Melbourne Zoo has significantly more animals on display, its walking tracks are plotted out like a web and certainly aren’t as easy to navigate around as compared to the grounds of Werribee Zoo.

Rhino

Don’t forget to plan your day. Feeding time is the best opportunity to see the animals in action, you can get best vantage points in selected viewing areas. There is a canteen and kiosk, sheltered picnic areas and kids zones with playgrounds. It’s been 20 years since the last time I visited. It’s well worth seeing!!!

Zebras

Tales of a Desperate, Dateless Geek – Part III

Image Source: Popsugar

Each time I was single and ready to mingle, I was on a mission, I was out on the prowl, hovering over my prey. I use to go clubbing with work mates despite the fact that I could barely bust a move. It was a competition. Booze was a social lubricant – it made men brave and women loose. But we all know that a bad set of beer goggles can really fog up your senses. I remember one bloke performing the robot dance beside me, totally cramping my style – I thought I was just too good for him. Next!

I struggled to string an interesting funny articulate sentence together let alone chat up a guy.  I was awkward and socially inept. Ultimately, I felt so desperate that I fell for any guy who wanted my number – don’t get me wrong, they weren’t queuing up for me. I was a loser magnet. In the end, there is such a thing as karma. For every wonderful guy I casually dismissed, I had my heart broken and stomped on just as many times. For most, I was disposable, a notch on the belt. The way to a man’s heart wasn’t through his stomach. It was through cheap one night stands, a few bootie calls and zero commitment.

By the time I hit my flirty 30 years, I saw my friends get engaged, walk down the aisle and start families. I was doomed. It’s hard to go out when all your wingmen are stuck at home looking after their partners, living my dream. My biological clock was ticking louder than a supersonic jet. There’s a line in the flick Sleepless in Seattle that women over 40 have a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than finding a husband1. With my track record, I was set to prove this theory.

In hindsight, I was shallow and superficial. I was so consumed by a guy’s looks rather than their personality. Looks fade, but what a man shares from the heart lasts forever. You get what you give. I realised, the problems weren’t always with the guys, the problem was ME. I had no self-esteem, I lowered my standards so much that I compromised my own integrity. I validated my self-worth by having a guy who in all honesty, just screwed me over. I lost all respect for myself and in effect, I was attracting guys who didn’t respect me. Enough was enough!

Image Source: Popsugar

Love happens when you least expect it. It’s TRUE! I met my soulmate just over six years ago. He doesn’t look like Brad Pitt but he makes me laugh….everyday he makes me laugh! He loves my cooking even though I’m not a domestic goddess in the kitchen. He thinks I’m pretty even though I don’t scrub up as well as a Victoria’s Secret super model. It doesn’t bother him that I can’t hold a tune during Karaoke. He makes my life blissfully happy. Nothing else matters as long as he’s by my side. He’s my rock…I think he’s a keeper!

Tales of a Desperate, Dateless Geek – Part II

Image Source: Popsugar

When it comes to relationships and dating, is it quality over quantity or vice versa? According to a recent study, women will kiss 15 men on average before they settle for that ‘one great love’1. Based on those statistics, I should hang my head in shame. I can count with one hand the number of guys I’ve pashed, and this figure already includes the boy I forced to kiss me when we were 5 years old playing ‘mothers and fathers’! Eeek!

During my footloose and fancy free years, I had a set of criteria, a list as long as The Great Wall of China, and like Santa I checked it twice. If the guy didn’t reach my standards I fobbed them off like there was no tomorrow. I wanted sexy, suave, sophisticated, financially stable, ambitious, smart, caring, honest, romantic, sense of humour blah blah blah. My needs went on and on like a Celine Dion song. If there was no chemistry, too bad so sad, onto the next.  Nice guys came and went. Looking back, I was holding out for perfection….something that obviously does NOT exist.

In between short-lived flings, I experienced dry patches more barren than the Sahara Desert. At one point, I had my mother’s friends arranging dates with their sons. I think one of my friends felt so sorry for me, she tried to hook me up with every single guy she knew was on the market. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that one of the guys she lined me up with was ‘batting for the other team’. Bless her cotton socks – her intentions were good. I was so scared of becoming an old spinster, I knew something had to give. I resorted to drastic measures……I lowered my expectations.

**Keep an eye out for the conclusion of this tale in the next post!**

Citations

1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2532213/No-one-said-finding-The-One-easy-The-average-women-kiss-FIFTEEN-men-enjoy-TWO-long-term-relationships-heart-broken-TWICE.html

Tales of a Desperate, Dateless Geek – Part I

Image Source: Popsugar

Finding true love is like searching for a needle in a haystack. I’m sure a few of us had to pash a few frogs before we captured our very own Prince Charming. I always dreamt of being swept off my feet but I confess, I met some toads along the journey before I found ‘The One’. The quest for true love is a rollercoaster ride and sadly not all relationships end happily ever after. Even fairy-tales are plagued with legends of rocky roads to romance – Snow White got poisoned, Sleeping Beauty was put to sleep and Cinderella lost one of her Jimmy Choo shoes (yikes!) – before each hooked up with their knight in shining armour. Let’s face it, love isn’t black and white, there’s 50 shades of grey in between!

One of our dearest friends recently announced his separation with his wife of over a year. I was rocked by the news. Apparently “Miss Cruella De Ville” had simply lost that loving feeling. I always thought she was hard work, a high maintenance, self-centred, pompous twat. How could this happen to such a lovely guy who catered to her every whim? The idea of ‘forever’ – is this somewhat of a myth in this day and age? It got me thinking, what if it happened to me? What if my better half woke up one morning to realise that only a crazy fool would be mad enough to put up with a drama queen like me?

It’s like one of those profound questions Carrie Bradshaw would ask at the beginning of each Sex In The City episode. To go through the journey again of finding that ‘one great love’ gave me goosebumps and sent shivers down my spine for all the wrong reasons. It’s hard enough trying to mend a broken heart but to hit the singles scene again – I’d be mortified!

Image Source: Popsugar

I’m still scarred by my dating history – or lack thereof. The list was short but the tears were many. Some experiences left me cringing with humiliation. To this day, I don’t think I’ve recovered! From the time I was young, I was never one to stand out in the crowd. Even my first crush at grade 3 ignored me for a red head with freckles. But he did dance with me at my primary school graduation – I was so nervous, I almost peed my pants!

Image Source: Popsugar

It only got worse in high school. For four years, I had the hots for ‘Mr. Wonderful’. He was handsome, funny and athletic. I’d stare longingly at him. But he didn’t know I existed. Whenever he’d strike up conversation with me I’d just stutter and turn into a blubbering idiot. I’d go weak at the knees wishing the world would swallow me up from embarrassment. Unrequited love is a bitch and it was the story of my existence throughout my teenage years.

Image Source: Popsugar

I was such a wallflower. What’s worse, I was painfully shy, with zero personality. I wasn’t a tall, sexy, blue-eyed blonde bombshell. In stark contrast, I was a geeky nerd who was never in the popular group and whose name no guy could remember. Yep, I was THAT girl in high school who never got asked out. By my late teens, I was destined to be the oldest virgin in the world who’d never been touched, kissed or oomphed!

Anthony Bourdain – The Rebel Chef in Cowboy Boots

Wouldn’t it be amazing to travel the world, sample cuisine from the finest restaurants and to write about your adventures from the most exotic cities of the globe? Well, Anthony Bourdain is living my dream – he writes, he travels, he eats – the trilogy to a perfect life!

I’ve only just jumped on board the Anthony Bourdain bandwagon. After watching his appearances as a guest judge in the series Top Chef, I initially thought Bourdain was an arrogant twat. He dished out criticism with an acid tongue to wannabe Gordon Ramsays. Yet it was the same sharp wit that sparked my curiosity. So much so, I was intrigued to find out more.

Image Source: dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3099418/Bourdain-plants-digital-footprint-editor-food-website.html

A recent episode of No Reservations reflected on the beginning of Bourdain’s rise to fame. Bourdain initially gained critical acclaim with his scathing expose on the seedier side of the restaurant industry in the article titled Don’t Eat Before Reading This, published in The New Yorker1. The scandal generated by the piece paved the way to a book deal and the publication of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly2. Its success kick-started Bourdain’s career as a host of various travel and lifestyle programs including No Reservation, Parts Unknown and The Layover and was the catalyst for further book launches. The rest they say is history3.

Image Source: dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2442016/Anthony-Bourdain-apologizes-angry-New-Mexicans-ridiculing-famous-Frito-pie.html

Prior to his celebrity status, Bourdain admitted that he was a “journeyman chef who didn’t create 5 Star dishes or have his own show on the Food Network”4. So, why would a chef achieve so much recognition by slagging off his counterparts in an obnoxious newspaper article? It’s simple, Anthony Bourdain is the Howard Stern of cooking! He’s the antithesis of the sweet and cuddly likes of Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver. Instead, Bourdain is a foul mouthed, crude, sharp shooter without a filter. He’s got the balls to speak his mind and tell it how it is while wearing his signature cowboy boots.

Image Source: edition.cnn.com/shows/anthony-bourdain-parts-unknown

On the flip side, Bourdain is articulate with a quick wit, a dry sense of humour and offers copious sprinkles of sarcasm. His shows are eloquent. As he treks through cities, towns or villages, Bourdain mingles with the locals, visits their homes or drops by at local bars or pubs to discover local cuisine. Each segment delves into hot trends of the culinary world including old style cooking versus molecular gastronomy and comfort food as opposed to fine dining. He’ll explore markets along roads less travelled to reveal unique ingredients. However, in contrast to other lifestyle programs, Bourdain’s series have an edgier vibe, often intertwined with current political or economic affairs, uncovering the heart and soul of a country, its lifestyle, culture and its people. Best of all, he’ll taste test native cuisine from high end restaurants in addition to traditional home cooked meals.

Image Source: facebook.com/AnthonyBourdain/photos/

What makes Bourdain’s story even more quirky is his unconventional start in the industry. He began his career with a summer job in a blue collar restaurant, as a dishwasher and part-time salad man5. In Bourdain’s own words, “it was a place where kitchen employees drank everything in sight, stole everything in stock and screwed the staff and half the customers”. A pivotal moment occurred during a wedding reception held at the venue. The bride stopped by the kitchen and out of the blue, the head chef requested that Bourdain man his station. To his amazement, Bourdain found the chef disappear off with the new bride to do the “vertical rhumba” behind the garbage stockaid. The incident proved to be his teenage epiphany to become a head chef6.

In summary, Bourdain isn’t afraid to rock the boat. You either love him or loathe him. He’s offbeat and quirky. I’m living life vicariously through his worldwide adventures and I’m enjoying the ride.

Image Source: facebook.com/AnthonyBourdain/photos

Citations

1. http://www.anthonybourdain.net/about-anthony-bourdain

2. http://www.anthonybourdain.net/about-anthony-bourdain

3. http://www.anthonybourdain.net/about-anthony-bourdain

4. No Reservation, Dmitri Kasterine’s, ‘Out of the Pan, Into the Fire’ 2000

5. No Reservation, Dmitri Kasterine’s, ‘Out of the Pan, Into the Fire’ 2000

6. No Reservation, Dmitri Kasterine’s, ‘Out of the Pan, Into the Fire’ 2000

Take a Risk, Take A Chance, Make a Change

Every journey starts with one step forward. I’ve been on a hiatus from the blogasphere for good reason. I’ve embarked on a new adventure along the road less travelled. But let’s rewind to the point of where my conundrum first began. Have you ever sat at work, staring blankly at your computer screen thinking “there’s gotta be more to life than this?”

Image Source: livelifehappy.com

I left my last job almost 2.5 years ago. After 7.5 years in a marketing role, I knew I had reached a dead end but I also longed for something different. After a three week trip to Egypt, I came back refreshed with every intention to look for another job. But as I searched and prepared for potential interviews, my heart wasn’t in it…..something felt so wrong. It hit me hard like a tonne of bricks…. I was lost and disillusioned.

I had reached a crossroads and for once in my life, I had no plan to fall back on! I’m a structured, organised person. I never just wing it and go by gut feel. I’ve always been a planner. So much so that when I travel, I bring my entire wardrobe, a range of clothes that could rival the entire Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter collection at David Jones or Bergdorf Goodman – it’s for those ‘just in case’ scenarios. I’ve had goals and ambitions and a deep desire to progress forward in my career. But I fell off the rails with a giant thud! Actually, I bizarrely hopped onto a different track; I took a random ride down an alternative route, with no clear idea where the journey would lead me. The question that loomed was ‘If you could be anything, what would you be?’

For years, I’ve yearned to be a journalist/writer, a fashion designer or an interior decorator. Those ambitions were never encouraged during my high school years.  Given my background, you either became a doctor or lawyer, and if you weren’t smart enough, you entered the corporate jungle. God forbid if I wanted to be a hairdresser, my family would have disowned me and kicked me to the curb.

So as I faced one of life’s major crossroads, I had two options: to follow the straight, narrow and predictable path or take a rough, bumpier ride along the road less travelled? My brain was loud and clear, ‘stick with the commercial wilderness!’. It made logical sense as the corporate world offered an abundance of marketing positions with a stable income. But my heart was adamant, ‘take a walk on the wild side!’. Do I follow my artistic ambitions? The idea of biting the bullet and opting for a career change scared the living daylight out of me.

But it was my better half that paved the way and let me see the light. He challenged and encouraged me to chase the impossible….to follow my dreams, take a chance and to pursue what I’m passionate about. It was an epiphany that was met with considerable hesitation…..but what if I fail????

The fact is….I DID FAIL!!!!  In the months that followed after quitting my job, at the suggestion of my partner in crime, I did a short course in “writing for children”. I’ve always had this aim to pen my own children’s picture book and someday have it published. I loved it! The course got the creative juices flowing. I created a handful of short stories aimed at 4-8 year old children. I even showed my friends’ kids to gain their feedback…ok…it was a bit hit and miss….but it was part of the learning curve. However, the low point was receiving one rejection letter after another from various publishers. That was a ‘jagged little pill1‘ to swallow. The bubble burst. The whole ‘delusional’ idea of becoming the next J.K. Rowling or Roald Dahl went down the drain faster than a sewer rat. I felt deflated! I lost my artistic mojo!

Again, it was my better half who pushed me to get back up…..to do what you love!

So the adventure continues. I’ve taken the plunge and decided to go back to University to follow my other goal of becoming an interior decorator. I’m completely overwhelmed and not quite treading water!!!! I’m giddy with excitement but nauseous at the same time.

The point is, I don’t want to live life with regrets. I don’t want to look back over the years and have those niggling thoughts at the back of my head…’ if only I did this’….’if only I did that’. I don’t want to sit there pondering and dreaming of what could have been, knowing I didn’t try.

It sounds so cliché but when it comes to achieving ‘the impossible’….if at first you don’t succeed dust yourself off and try again2. I have tried and failed and tried again. I’ve probably bought a little shame to the family and have left my parents feeling somewhat bewildered and mortified. Others may look at me as somewhat of an embarrassment. I know I do!

However, the difference between the ‘negative Nancys’ and the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and the J.K. Rowlings of the world is that they turned a dream into a reality and never gave up! Regardless of the outcome, these people gave it a shot and turned the ‘Impossible’ into a ‘Possibility’!

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been all fun and games. I’ve eaten humble pie and it sucks! But over time it becomes an acquired taste (actually, I lie; I still choke on humble pie!). It’s been a tough, hard slog with many setbacks along the way. It’s rough on the self-esteem and this journey has beaten me and smacked me up. There have been many lessons learned over the past 2.5 years. I don’t know if it’s made me stronger and wiser….maybe just a little more thick skinned.

Never Give UpMore importantly, I have the love and support of a wonderful partner who has encouraged me throughout the process. I’ve suffered from so much self-doubt. But he’s believed in me more than I believe in myself. Even though I’ve made mistakes, I’ve stumbled and fallen and as I’ve struggled to get back up, he’s never given up or frowned and looked down upon me. And it makes a world of difference!

Aim high and chase that elusive goal. As per the Nike slogan, ‘Just Do It’! Take a risk, take a chance, make a change2 and give it a try. I’m finally turning things around and pursuing my dreams and following my own path….wherever it takes me. I’m bound to get lost along the way but that’s part of the adventure!

As Mother Theresa said: Life is a dream….Realize it!

Citations

1. Alanis Morissette, ‘Jagged Little Pill’, Producer: Glen Ballard, Label: Maverick, Reprise

2. Aaliyah, ‘Try Again’, Producer: Timbaland, Label: Blackground, Writers: Stephen Garrett, Timothy Mosley

3. Kelly Clarkson, ‘Breakaway’, Producer: John Shanks, Label: Walt Disney, RCA, Writers: Avril Lavigne, Bridget Benenate,Matthew Gerrard

Australia’s Great Ocean Road

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The road is long, with many a winding turn1. No, I won’t lead you astray with a rocking rendition of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”. However, it’s a phrase that best sums up the spectacular Great Ocean Road that contours the south west coastline of Victoria. As you cruise along this iconic motorway, you’ll be captivated by the majestic beauty of some of Australia’s most picturesque shorelines.

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No matter how many times you travel along this roadway, you can’t help but be awestruck by the amazing scenery. For anyone visiting Melbourne, this journey is a must on the bucket list! It’s a 243km (151mi) stretch of road2 with more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie mystery. Beginning at the Victorian city of Torquay (just over an hour outside of Melbourne), the Great Ocean Road snakes its way through the charming coastal towns of Anglesea, Airey’s Inlet, Lorne, through to Apollo Bay, Port Campbell and finally ending at Allansford, close to Warnambool3.

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This is a full day road trip and has got to be one of Australia’s top tourist experiences. If you’re an eager beaver, start the journey early to appreciate the panoramic views, the smattering of observation lookouts and popular tourist landmarks dotted along the way. However, for something more leisurely, stay a few nights at Anglesea, Lorne or ApolloBay, to take in the tranquil, laid back atmosphere of Victoria’s southern coastal region. There is a variety of accommodation on offer, ranging from hotels, motels, to holiday homes, ideal for singles, couples to large groups alike, with options to suit any budget.

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The stunning vistas along The Great Ocean Road are characterised by vivid landscapes and contrasting backdrops, from surf beaches with monster waves crashing against the limestone cliffs, to the stillness and serenity of the surrounding mountain ranges. You’ll wind your way past lush rainforests as the motorway navigates its way through the rolling hills of the GreatOtwayNational Park.

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Above all, you can’t traverse across The Great Ocean Road without stopping at the tourist attractions listed below. These are by far the highlights of the journey and what I consider unique gems of Australia.

The 12 Apostles – is roughly a 4 hour drive from Melbourne4. These massive, 45 metre high, limestone rock formations5 stand stoically, just off the edge of the shoreline. They appear to rise up from the ocean and have been shaped and sculpted by years of erosion. I’ve fondly named each one Hendrix, Springsteen, Lennon, Elton, Elvis, Jagger, Bono, Madonna, Jackson, Lady Gaga & Beyonce!

The 12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles

12 Apostles3

The 12 Apostles (approximately 45 metres in height)

The 12 Apostles (approximately 45 metres in height)

The 12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles

London Bridge – was once shaped like a bridge, hence its name. It was connected to the mainland where visitors could walk across its full span. But it gained notoriety in 1990 when the archway collapsed, leaving two tourists stranded on the outer part until they were rescued by a helicopter6.

London Bridge

London Bridge

London Bridge

London Bridge

The Arch – This is a naturally sculpted bridge, or arch, and stands 8 metres in height7. You can view this attraction from a sealed walkway that leads to a viewing platform.

The Arch

The Arch

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The Arch

Loch Ard Gorge (& The Blowhole) – this is a site of historical significance. In 1878, the sailing boat, Loch Ard Gorge, ran aground and only two of its 54 passengers survived8. It was at this location that the two survivors were washed ashore, one of whom climbed the cliffs surrounding the gorge to find help. Within the gorge is a cavern known as The Blowhole. This cave is a tunnel that extends 100 metres inland that produces thunderous roars as waves crash through9.

Entrance to The Gorge & The Blowhole (on the right)

Entrance to The Gorge & The Blowhole (on the right)

The Blowhole

The Blowhole

The Gorge

The Gorge

The Grotto – again, the constant cycle of erosion has helped permeate and hollow out the limestone which in turn has formed a cavern framed by an archway10. There are steps that descend down towards a viewing platform that allows you to get close to the base of the Grotto.

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The Grotto

The Grotto

The Grotto

The Grotto

The Grotto

The Grotto

The Grotto

The Razorback – the name came about due to its jagged edges that run along the peak of this rock stack. It’s characterised by deep rough grooves caused by constant wave action and salt laden wind11.

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The Razorback

The Razorback

The Razorback

The Razorback

The Razorback

The Great Ocean Road is long and winding, as much as it is spectacular. The impressive coastal views will leaveyou mesmerized. “On the road again, I can’t wait to get on the road again” 12.

Citations

  1. ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’, Bob Russell & Bobby Scott
  2. Wikipedia.com
  3. Wikipedia.com
  4. visitvictoria.com
  5. visitvictoria.com
  6. greatoceanroad.com
  7. greatoceanroad.com
  8. onlyinmelbourne.com.au
  9. Information Sign
  10. greatoceanroad.com
  11. Information Sign
  12. ‘On The Road Again’, Willie Nelson

Sources

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

On The Road Again

  • Writer(s): Willie Nelson
  • Producer(s): Willie Nelson

Top Deck-orators – The Designer All Stars

It’s true. I have a style obsession! I have an instinctive flair for all things fabulously chic, whether it’s fashion, photography, art to architecture. I’m a visual person. Comfort and functionality? Blah, blah, blah – boring! But if it’s eye catching, on trend, with a dash of wow, you’ll have me salivating – and I have no shame!

Sarah Richardson – Sarah’s House – Image Source: hgtv.com

On the flip side, I’m a space cadet with no artistic talent or skill to create my own masterpiece.  This applies to interior decorating. I know what I like, but I struggle at pulling together a look that has panache, you know, what the French call a little ‘je ne sais quoi’. Instead, I’m living my designer dreams through the growing number of home makeover programs that I’m highly fixated with.

Candice Olson – Contemporary Kitchen – Candice Tells All Image Source: hgtv.com

Where do I begin? Sarah Richardson (Design Inc, Sarah 101, Sarah’s House,  Sarah’s Cottage, Room Service), Candice Olson (Divine Design, Candice Tells All), Samantha Pynn (Summer Home), Genevieve Gorder (Dear Genevieve), Jane Lockhart (Colour Confidential), Robert and Cortney Novogratz (9 By Design, Home By Novogratz). I also have to add Shaynna Blaze (Selling Houses Australia, The Block) into the mix for some home grown Aussie talent. Overall, the list is long but distinguished. These people are all visionaries, who bring their ingenuity to life.

Cortney & Bob Novogratz – Image Source: hgtv.com

 Each of their respective programs gives you in depth look into the world of interior design, including the highs and lows of home renovations. With their extensive knowledge and creative talent, they rescue humble abodes from the depths of design distress to breathe new life into any type of home. Using innovative and contemporary solutions, they combine both function and beauty to reveal a room’s true potential. These designers have produced several awe-inspiring room transformations, converting a home from drab to fab, while incorporating the contrasting styles and requirements of their clients to achieve a balanced, cohesive look. No challenge is too big!

Candice Olson – Candice Tells All – Transitional Living Rooms – Image Source: hgtv.com

Below is an insight into the signature design aesthetic of the creative minds behind some of the most entertaining home makeover programs as screened on the Lifestyle Home network:

  • Candice Olson (Divine Design, Candice Tells All) – combines classic structural designs with modern furnishings and bold focal points to create a timeless and sophisticated look. She takes on a minimalist approach with a focus on understated glamour. Of all the designers, she uses symmetry the most in her renovations to add balance to a room. Her easy going personality and comedic sense of humour makes for light hearted viewing. She is by far my all time favourite designer.

Candice Olson – Candice Tells All – Eclectic Living Rooms – Image Source: hgtv.com

  • Sarah Richardson (Design Inc, Sarah 101, Sarah’s House, Sarah’s Cottage, Room Service) – of all the designers selected, she is the most prolific of interior decorators, dominating the TV screen with several home makeover series. Her vision balances traditional and contemporary design concepts with a touch of whimsy. She is environmentally conscious in her design approach, incorporating eco friendly materials, vintage pieces and where possible, giving existing furniture a new lease on life through the magic of re-upholstery.

Sarah Richardson – Sarah’s House – Image Source: sarahrichardsondesign.com

  • Robert & Cortney Novogratz – this design duo create dynamic looks that are ahead of their time. Their concepts are inspired by urban New York and are reflected in their innovative, dramatic, edgy room transformations. They’ve produced renovations that are far from conventional while integrating an eclectic mix of bold, dramatic accessories. They make their own rules and take an avant-garde approach to their home makeovers, often resulting with a mod chic feel.

Cortney & Bob Novogratz – Eclectic Kids Rooms – Image Source: hgtv.com

  • Samantha Pynn (Summer Home) – her designs are nature inspired, ideal for a casual, rustic glam look. Her ideas have a soulful, earthy vibe which comes from the heart. She loves the use of contemporary geometric patterns on various textural accessories including curtains, rugs, pillows or seat covers to add vibrancy to a room. She incorporates affordable accent pieces found in thrift shops or craft stores. Of all the designers, Samantha’s creations are easy to replicate and is ideal for the avid decorator DIYer.

Image Source: facebook.com/SamanthaPynn/photos

  • Jane Lockhart (Colour Confidential) – produces looks that balance both form and functionality. Her room transformations have a vibe that is comfortable and inviting, similar to that of Candice Olson. However, Jane is not afraid to incorporate bold, contrasting colour schemes into her practical designs. Pops of colour is evident, from the walls, ceiling, flooring to textural elements such as curtains, floor rugs, pillows, furnishings and accent pieces.

Image Source: janelockhart.com/portfolio/images/KYLEMORE_2012_022.jpg

  • Genevieve Gorder (Dear Genevieve) – doesn’t endorse ‘matchy matchy’ design schemes and is certainly not a fan of furniture pieces that come in a set. Like Sarah Richardson, Genevieve has the ability of combining a fusion of contrasting styles, particularly mixing old with new. Her designs have whimsical elements for the touch of the unexpected. She loves to layer through accessories and textural accents to add focal points and character to a space.

Image Source: genevievegorder.com/genevieves-renovation/

  • Shaynna Blaze (Selling Houses Australia, The Block) – she can give a room a complete facelift on a budget! She incorporates practical solutions to any interior makeover but she never sacrifices on aesthetics. For Shaynna, vibrancy is paramount to any room transformation. Her creations are fresh and modern and have a cohesive, yet balanced look.

If money grew on trees, I’d love to incorporate their design concepts within my own humble abode. I can only dream to have any of these designers weave their magic and transform my home, with its modest décor, to one of sumptuous class and sophistication. I’d love to colour my world with their infinite ingenuity! It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

Sarah Richardson – Sarah 101 – Image Source: sarahrichardsondesign.com

Yak Testicles Anyone? Enough to Tickle the Taste Buds!

On today’s menu:  Entrée is a cocktail of deep fried scorpions, salt infused grasshoppers and sautéed caterpillars; Mains includes a choice of grilled iguana on a bed of sliced yak testicles or roasted wild boar on a jus of buffalo mucus, topped off with a brûlée of fermented armadillo lungs for dessert. Bon appétit!

Image Source: travelchannel.sndimg.com/content/dam/images/travel/fullset/2015/05/26/bizarre-foods-607-iquitos-peru-ss/bizarre-foods-andrew-zimmern-iquitos-peru-008.jpg.rend.tccom.1280.960.jpeg

I use to gag having to finish off my peas or brussel sprouts when I was younger. But Andrew Zimmern, host of the eye-opening travel program Bizarre Foods, is on a mission to explore the flipside of culinary delights. Bizarre Foods takes you on a food safari beyond the predictable gourmet path. Zimmern journey’s the world on roads less travelled, often outside popular tourist hot spots, to discover local delicacies in striking contrast to the taste buds of your average holiday-maker. His motto is ‘If it looks good, eat it’. That is, don’t knock it until you try it – but Zimmern takes it to a whole new level!

Image Source: travelchannel.com/shows/bizarre-foods/photos/bizarre-foods-around-the-world-pictures/page/7

Nothing is off limits. In Zimmern’s own words, ‘There’s very little that walks, crawls, swims or grows in this world that hasn’t crossed my lips’. Anything edible is fair game, regardless of how strange the dish is, how funky or pungent the odour, where you find it, or whether it’s served raw…or eaten alive! From piranhas, raw sea urchins to guinea pigs, Zimmern has devoured some of the strangest of delicacies that would challenge the most adventurous of appetites. Zimmern proves it’s mind over matter. If you can overcome the psychological barrier, you’ll learn to appreciate indigenous dishes you would otherwise have thumbed your nose at.

Image Source: huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/203787/slide_203787_596231_free.jpg

Zimmern has visited numerous destinations across the globe, including major cities to remote towns that are off the beaten track, from countries as vast as Vietnam, Mexico, Taiwan to Trinidad & Tobago to name just a few. In his quest to experience delectable titbits of the more ‘exotic’ variety, Zimmern exposes the heart and soul of a culture, revealing unique recipes that define a country’s local cuisine. Zimmern often visits markets to unearth unusual fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, spices and other ingredients that are fundamental to a region’s food heritage. He spends time with locals in their homes to observe how dishes are prepared. He mingles with highly regarded chefs, food critics or local fishermen and farmers to uncover the distinct flavours of a country. Zimmern also doesn’t shy away from food sold by street vendors to fully appreciate a nation’s ‘gourmet’ scene.

Image Source: travelchannel.com/shows/bizarre-foods/photos/bizarre-foods-ho-chi-minh-city-pictures

Along Zimmern’s journeys, you learn that indigenous delicacies are usually shaped by what Mother Nature has to offer. Locals make the most of what their surroundings serve up, living off the land that sustains their villages. Food sources include wild animals and vegetation as untamed as the environment in which they’re found. Farming, fishing or hunting are often integral to a nation’s lifestyle and survival. Zimmern points out that in some countries, the culture demands that every part of the animal be used in the cuisines. These are traditions and customs that date back many generations. Ears, tongues, heart, livers, lungs, to penises and testicles…nothing is wasted or spared. One man’s discard, is another man’s signature dish.

Coconut Tree Grubs in Iquitos

My stomach twists in knots at the idea of having to eat jellied mouse nose or a broth of turtle feet. By contrast, Zimmern has no fear. His stomach must be made of cast iron as each morsel is chewed down with a zesty zeal. He’s honest but polite in his opinion of each dish. Zimmern often describes each bite, the flavour, the texture, the aroma in a way to which viewers can relate. To give you an insight, below are a few samples of Zimmern’s taste tests:

Donkeys are a delicacy in China – it’s lean, high in protein and low in fat. According to Zimmern, a serving of stewed donkey meat served cold – ‘it’s fresh, not gamey, great texture, tender – awesome’. Stir fried donkey skin is like ‘chewy meat noodles with a hint of spice’. Sautéed donkey tail is like ‘a pot roast that melts in your mouth – delicious’! By contrast, braised camel paw is ‘an acquired taste, with a funky smell, gamey texture, with a salty gelatinous bite, like chewy jelly’.

Image Source: travelchannel.com/shows/bizarre-foods/photos/bizarre-foods-america-florida-pictures/page/14

Snake is a specialty in Vietnam. A freshly gutted cobra heart is served still beating and tastes ‘milky’. Deep fried snake skin is ‘just like pork crackling’. Snake meat itself is ‘a cross between eel and chicken’. While in Bolivia, llamas are a favourite amongst the locals. It’s a healthy meat to eat and low in cholesterol. Llama brain and tongue with garlic sauce – ‘it’s chewy, not gamey but fresh tasting’. On the other hand, chanfaina, a Bolivian stew of lamb liver, lungs, heart, kidneys with spices like cumin and turmeric – ‘smells like a butcher shop that’s had no electricity for four days. But, it has an intense livery flavour balanced by a seasoning of spices – perfect’!

So, the next time you’re on a gourmet trek, turn to the flip side of the menu and go hard core! Stir fried tarantulas, pickled bulls heart, rotten shark meat, poached buffalo penis, steamed goat testicle dumplings…. Mmmmm, finger licking good! Enough to tickle the taste buds!

Image Source: travelchannel.sndimg.com/content/dam/images/travel/fullset/2014/04/30/7e/bizarre-foods-america-406-ss-007

Summer Chic – Trash ‘N’ Treasure

Take me back to the sweet times
The hot nights
Everything is gonna be alright
In the summertime
Baby, in the summertime
That is where I’ll be1

Summer is the best season for outdoor entertaining. It’s the best time to host a barbeque with family and friends, sit under the pergola with a good book in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, or to dine under the stars….alfresco style!

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Over the summer break, we were given an outdoor daybed, ideal for relaxing and kicking back while soaking in the sunshine in the backyard patio. However, the daybed was one of those unique finds off the streets, as part of hard rubbish collection. It’s what professional designers would refer to as ‘vintage’ furniture. But to the everyday wannabe decorator like myself, the daybed was a random piece of trash with the potential to be one’s treasure!

In a nutshell, the daybed required some ‘tszujing up’, a pompous way of saying….a makeover. It’s no secret. I have an appreciation for all things arty farty. Unfortunately, I wasn’t blessed with artistic genes and I have very minimal creative talent. But it hasn’t stopped me from trying!

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After watching several episodes of Summer Home (see post titled Summer Home – Rustic Glam), hosted by Samantha Pynn and screened on Australia’s Lifestyle Home network, I thought I’d try my hand at applying her simple techniques to updating dated old furnishings. Turning the daybed from drab to fab became my pet project and I was on a mission. I was a do-it-yourselfer (DIY-er) on a budget!

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First, buying a mattress was essential and probably the easiest step in the process. The next stage was to add a touch of summer chic.  In line with Samantha’s approach, I thought of creating a slip cover for the mattress to inject some visual glam. I chose a black fabric for durability and for $10 a metre, the fabric was a bargain! Black was also a versatile shade that mixes well with other colours. After several days of sketching, developing a pattern and marking it out on material, it was all systems go and I began sewing the slip cover together. Sewing isn’t my forte and it was a process of trial and error, but I eventually made a cover that fit the mattress snugly.

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A simple style tip that Samantha uses for greater visual impact is to accessorise with accent pieces. In this instance, I opted for several throw pillows. I managed to purchase six cushions for under $50. Although, each was a combination of different textures and patterns, together they had a cohesive look in terms of the colour palette, shape and size. A unified theme is vital for the overall look to gel together.

Ultimately, it’s possible to update tired, ordinary second hand furniture pieces with a fresh look using practical measures that won’t break the bank. Adding a splash of colour, pattern and texture can provide a touch of understated casual chic.

Now, it’s time to chill out on the daybed and enjoy the sunshine with that glass of wine.

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Citations

1. “In the Summertime” – Thisty Merc, ‘Thirsty Merc’, Warner Music Australia, Ray Thistlethwayte

Kuala Lumpur – A Sizzling Fling

Kuala Lumpur - central business district

Kuala Lumpur – central business district

Kuala Lumpur (KL) is hot, damn hot! As soon as I stepped off the plane, the humidity slapped me right in the face. But it’s not just the weather that’s scorching; it’s the food, the atmosphere and the shopping! After spending just over a week in Japan, I headed back to the land of Oz via KL, with a whirlwind five day rendezvous in this vibrant metropolis.

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From Osaka, I landed in Malaysia’s capital just after midnight. In a lame attempt at stepping out of my comfort zone, I didn’t bother organising transfers from the airport to my accommodation.  But gallivanting alone on a train or bus to my hotel, at such an ungodly hour, in a foreign country, was far from what this ‘precious princess’ was normally accustomed to. So I opted for the easiest mode of transport available, a taxi. I’m such a badass – NOT!

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Kuala Lumpur – Old Railway Station

Kuala Lumpur - Old Railway Station

Kuala Lumpur – Old Railway Station

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Kuala Lumpur – Independence Square

An hour later, I was dropped off at a Sheraton hotel, but NOT the Sheraton Imperial where I was actually booked in. Slightly seething, I embarked on a second cab ride and by 3am, I finally arrived at my accommodation. At that point, KL was sizzling, but not for the right reasons. I got my knickers in such a knot I was more than a little flustered! Ok, in hindsight, it’s not like I was ‘banged up abroad’ and the incident was far from the crazy shenanigans of a Lonely Planet episode, but it wasn’t quite the beginning I was expecting.

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

I’ve never travelled alone. I had every intention to spread my wings during this trip, to loosen up and be an ‘adventurous’ tourist. The aim was to immerse myself in the customs of Malaysia, get lost amongst the sights and sounds of the city, and the hustle and bustle of the crowds. However, after the initial setback upon my arrival, I settled for my usual habit of an organised city tour to explore KL. Oh, I know it’s a bit cowardice and anti climatic, but my obsessive compulsive tendencies steered me away from any impulsive meanderings. So much for winging it!

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

Regardless, the two city tours I did were an ideal way of experiencing the highlights of KL, or at least the tip of the iceberg. Both tours were great for first time visitors like myself. Each excursion was at a laid back, relaxing pace, just the way I like it, lasting 3-4hrs in duration. The first tour focused on the central business district (CBD) of KL, which revealed a patchwork of modern skyscrapers against the charm of historic buildings and landmarks. In fact, it reminded of home (i.e. Melbourne) in some ways, where the beauty of traditional architecture is blended together with contemporary structures.

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

King's Palace

King’s Palace

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King’s Palace

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King’s Palace

The tour involved a quick stop and photo opportunity at the following sights and tourist attractions: Kings Palace, Central National Museum, Parliament House, National Monument, National Mosque, Old Railway Station, Independence Square, Sultan Abd, Samad Building and lastly the incredible Petronas Towers.

Royal Selangor Pewter Factory

Royal Selangor Pewter Factory

 The second tour included a visit to a Batik Handicraft Centre, the Royal Selangor Pewter Factory and a Chocolate Boutique for a chance to purchase locally produced souvenirs. BatuCave was the height of the day’s journey where I slowly ascended the steep 272 steps to the limestone caves, home to sacred idols and statues of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Despite walking at a snail’s pace, surely I got a work out that day! I was soaking in sweat, the heat was sweltering! Along the way, I passed several cute but cheeky monkeys scavenging for food. As you enter the caves, you’re greeted by a few snake charmers, who were more than enthusiastic at wrapping a snake around your shoulders for a pretty penny or two. Certainly not for the faint hearted!

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Petronas Towers

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Kuala Lumpur – National Mosque

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Kuala Lumpur – National Mosque

 Although the Sheraton Imperial is located on the outskirts of the CBD, it’s just a short monorail ride into the heart of the city. Luckily, the hotel is surrounded by major shopping strips which kept me occupied on my last day. KL is perfect for a little retail therapy. The best thing about the fashion is that the clothes fit me. Good things come in small packages (that’s what I keep telling myself). Pants, skirts, and tops were tailored to my short stumpy stature. Sadly, my shopping spree was limited to a handful of items as my suitcase was already jammed full. So much for going berserk and maxing out the credit card!

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

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Batu Caves

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I wasn’t brave enough to try Malaysian delicacies or food of the more exotic variety dished out by nearby restaurants or street vendors. I’m such a pansy at heart, but I can’t stomach an ordeal of ‘Delhi Belly’ or ‘Bali Belly’ or ‘Lumpur Belly’ in this instance. However, I did sample some local cuisine each night at the buffet dinner served by the hotel. Curries, laksas, tom yum soup and like the weather, the food was scorching hot!

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Central National Museum – Muzium Negara

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Central National Museum – Muzium Negara

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Central National Museum – Muzium Negara

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Central National Museum – Muzium Negara

During my downtime, if I wasn’t in the gym, I resorted to lazing about poolside. It was the only time I could tolerate the heat. It helped to have a boozy beverage in hand to cool me down. KL was a delightful escapade, yet all too brief. As I look back and reminisce, it was a short but sizzling fling!

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The Vibe 101 is now Friends with Facebook

Image Source: freelargeimages.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Facebook_Vector_Logo_Hd_06.jpg

A big shout out to all our avid followers and new readers who have recently discovered this eclectic blog about anything and everything. We have great news – you can now follow The Vibe 101 via Facebook! To view The Vibe’s new Facebook site, simply go to our Home Page and near the top right hand corner, click The Vibe 101 Facebook link. Beneath this link, press the ‘Like’ button to jump onto The Vibe 101 bandwagon and keep up to date with our latest posts. Alternatively, click the ‘like’ button (designated by the ‘thumbs up’ symbol) on our Facebook page, situated below the cover photo on the right hand side.

 The Vibe 101 was created by a passionate writer (well, that’s how I see myself), who finally unleashed her creative spirit! Launched on August 14, 2012, the blog re-ignited my artistic mojo. I go through bursts of fervour, but once I’m in the zone, I can easily immerse myself in my writing and you’d struggle to snap me out of it.

As stated in an earlier post titled “Beautiful Blogger Award”, though I’m far from prolific, writing has always been a passion of mine. One of my goals was to publish a children’s picture book but after a year at trying, with a mix of silence and rejection from a number of publishers, the bubble burst. Though I had an airy-fairy dream to become the next J.K. Rowling, I landed on my face with a giant thud! I failed, but I haven’t given up on the idea completely.

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 It sounds so cliché but the moral is to have a go, give it your best, pick yourself up and try again….and again….and again…..maybe approach things differently? There are a myriad of paths to follow that could lead towards your hopes and aspirations. For me, I’ve continued to pursue my lofty ambition through this blog. It’s a pet project that comes from the heart and is crafted with a dash of enthusiasm. It’s what I love and what I enjoy!

 My ultimate goal is for GLOBAL DOMINATION of course! Ok, we’re far from meeting the giddy heights of this target. Ideally, I’d just like to connect with as many people as possible here in the land of Oz, or around the world. It’s such a thrill receiving positive comments from followers and knowing that others out there enjoy reading my quaint pieces. It’s as enjoyable as writing, developing and publishing each post. So don’t hesitate to continue spreading the love by sharing the pieces with your own family and friends and re-posting the articles through your WordPress blog or Facebook.

 In addition to the blogosphere, Facebook is a great medium to extend The Vibe’s own social network. The Vibe’s Facebook page will be a lot more fluid than the blog itself, allowing me to easily post inspirational quotes, thoughts of the day, catchy lyrics or amusing pictures. The blog will continue to focus on my reflections of quirky experiences, the simple pleasures in life and everything in between. Over time I’d love to broaden my writing skills and see The Vibe 101 evolve and reinvent itself to more sharp, witty, thought provoking posts, maybe a little hard hitting journalism? Till then, this new phase in The Vibes short existence will help keep the blog up to speed in the social savvy 21st century.

Like if you Like The Vibe 101

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Dear Genevieve – Hugs & Kisses, From the Stylishly Challenged!

Image Source: genevievegorder.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/GG-SITE-IKEA-KITCHEN-5.jpg

Oh dear Genevieve,

My humble abode is trapped in a 1970s time warp and is drowning in mission brown. Help!

There are days when I wish Genevieve Gorder was on speed dial. I can only dream to have her transform my quaint, dated home into a modern, timeless haven. Genevieve is the Fairy Godmother of interior decorating and is the ‘go to’ creative expert who converts drab and boring rooms into inviting, contemporary spaces. She weaves her magic with a fabulous sprinkle of style and pizzazz as the host of the entertaining home makeover program, Dear Genevieve.

Image Source: .genevievegorder.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/GG-SITE-IKEA-KITCHEN-3.jpg

Genevieve’s signature design approach is similar to that of the ever prolific Sarah Richardson (of Design Inc, Sarah 101 fame). Both women balance traditional charm with contemporary design concepts when it comes to breathing new life into a room. Like Sarah, Genevieve’s vision rarely incorporates ‘matchy matchy’ furniture schemes. Instead, both designers often integrate an eclectic mix of new fixtures with vintage pieces.

Gorder isn’t afraid to use an array of contrasting elements, such as rustic pieces together with mid century modern furnishings, or geometric patterns against a neutral wall backdrop and allocating vignettes to a room through layers of textures and accessories. These techniques offer eye catching focal points and bold pops of colour, giving a space its own character, charm and identity. Genevieve effortlessly manages to pull together a look that is balanced and cohesive, despite the diverse fusion of design fundamentals.

Image Source: genevievegorder.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/GG-SITE-LITTLE-LUXE-2.jpg

What makes Dear Genevieve unique is that it’s one of a handful of programs where clients don’t have to relinquish full creative control to the lead designer. Instead, Genevieve plans together with her customers regarding the overall design direction –  finding out how home owners currently use the space, how they are stylistically, favourite colour schemes, the flow of traffic, what their objectives are with the room in terms of functionality and the mood they want to create. Gorder then provides a sketch of the structural layout for the space, outlining broad concepts on decor while being open to ideas and suggestions given by the clients.

Genevieve then embarks on a fact finding mission, along with the home owners, visiting various shops and suppliers to investigate options for lighting, flooring, textural elements like curtains, rugs, pillows as well as different accent pieces and accessories. It’s an opportunity for the clients to open their eyes to new ideas and to think ‘outside the square’ in order to bring out a room’s potential. In some cases, particularly in earlier series, the clients even get involved in the renovation process.

Image Source: genevievegorder.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/GG-SITE-CONNETICUT-CABOOSE-3.jpg

 In each episode, Genevieve plays different roles from designer therapist, style counsellor to decorator medic. Regardless of how challenging each project is, Genevieve’s vivacious, animated, positive personality is so engaging with viewers, along with her big smile and even infectious laugh! Her charm and ingenuity is reflected in the rooms she has revamped with a little wow factor.

If you’re desperately seeking a touch of style nirvana for your home, just ask Dear Genevieve for some design wisdom. She’s more than capable of rescuing an outdated room from the depths of the twilight zone and tzuj it back into the 21st century.

Image Source: genevievegorder.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/GG-SITE-CONNETICUT-CABOOSE-6.jpg

Image Source: genevievegorder.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/GG-SITE-GEN-REN-MASTER-8.jpg

Image Source: genevievegorder.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/GG-SITE-GEN-REN-LIVING-1.jpg

Image Source: http://www.facebook.com/GenevieveGorder/photos

Top Gun Down Under – Australian International Airshow 2013

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Image Source: The Vibe 101

I feel the need, the need for speed! I was revvin’ up the engine, shovin’ into overdrive1, as we headed towards AvalonAirport for the 2013 Australian International Airshow – which was held from March 1-3. Staged every two years, the public and trade event showcases vintage, commercial as well as military aircraft and is topped off by a thrilling, action-packed aerial display show.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

 I don’t know anyone who hasn’t seen the blockbuster movie Top Gun starring Tom Cruise. If you haven’t watched this sensational film, get with the program! It’s almost every girl’s dream to be swept off their feet by Maverick, Goose or IceMan. Can you imagine standing at a bar and being serenaded by a squadron of handsome guys in uniform to the tune of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”? Just picture it…..‘You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips2’ – somebody wake me up!

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

 My fascination for high powered jets began long before I saw Top Gun. My father’s passion for planes had a huge influence on my own interest in aircraft. An early childhood wish of mine was to become a flight attendant. Sadly I developed a habit of throwing up soon after take off during my youth (Please note, by my early twenties, I discovered alcohol took the edge off my nausea – now who’d have thunk that!). When I was little, I couldn’t wait to see the world, but it was the idea of riding on an aeroplane that made the dream of travelling all the more exhilarating.

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I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve attended Australia’s only airshow but it never ceases to amaze me. Held at AvalonAirport, it’s roughly a 45 minute (or 56.5km) drive south-east of Melbourne. However, due to the overwhelming crowds, it takes an additional hour just to enter the parking grounds. The bumper to bumper traffic from the highway leading into the car park can test one’s patience. But it’s worth it, especially when you’re greeted with several fly-bys from an F18-F Super Hornet.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

 After buying our tickets, we headed straight towards the ground display which featured an amazing exhibition of commercial, historic, recreational and civilian aircraft. But the highlight has always been the impressive collection of military jets predominantly from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and the United States Air Force (USAF). The ‘sexier warriors’, such as the F-16, F-22 Raptor and F-18 Hornets, were strategically positioned around the tarmac, separated away from heavy aircraft and vintage planes.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

 This is the best opportunity for the public to get up close with these combat jets, or majestic ‘eagles’. To see the magnitude of their size – from the breadth of their wingspan, the enormity of their engines, to the height of their landing gear and their overall construction – is a real eye-opener. One of the best parts was witnessing the C-17 Globemaster being taxied off to the runway, having its wingspan hovering above me as it made its way off the tarmac prior to a spectacular aerial display.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

There was also had the chance to meet and greet pilots and crews to get a further insight into the basic facts behind a select number of aircrafts. The public were permitted to climb on board a small number of planes. This was ideal for the more avid fans who were more than willing to line up in the queue which snaked around the exhibits.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

In addition to the static ground display, there were other activities to keep young and old entertained. In the Kids Zone, children could get their face painted or temporary tattoos applied, create paper planes and construct 3D puzzles of jets or helicopters. There were a variety of amusement activities available including a rock climbing wall, ‘bungee’ trampolines and the Avalon express train that followed the main walkway circling the airshow grounds. Lastly, although not my cup of tea, there was also the Arena Action area that featured extreme monster trucks and motocross stunt show.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

 But the culmination of the day was the jaw-dropping aerial display high above. I found myself torn between wanting to watch the spectacular aerial manoeuvres versus my mission to visit and take photos of all the aircraft on exhibit. As I worked my way around the tarmac, I was often stopped in my tracks by the death defying stunts performed by specialty acts including the Breitling Wingwalkers who carried out acrobatic formations while perched on the wings of a vintage Boeing Stearman biplane. Witnessing combat jets such as an F-16, F-22 Raptor and F-18 Hornets zoom by at a jaw-dropping velocity, followed by the echoing roar of their engines several seconds later simply takes your breath away. The finale was the flying formation of four F-18 Super Hornets followed by a simulated airfield ground attack that certainly got the adrenalin pumping amongst the multitude of people who viewed the show along the runway.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

On our drive home, I couldn’t shake Kenny Loggins’ dulcet tones out of my head, along with the classic 80s electric guitar riffs, keyboard synthesizers and drum beats …..

Revvin’ up your engine
Listen to her howlin’ roar
Metal under tension
Begging you to touch and go

Highway to the danger zone
Ride into the danger zone

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

 

 

Love Your Sister – An Epic Journey

If someone told me they’re embarking on a 15,000 kilometre adventure while riding a unicycle across this great southern land we call Australia, I’d tell ‘em ‘ya dreamin!’. But that’s exactly what Australian actor Samuel Johnson has set out to achieve, all to honour his terminally ill sister Connie, who’s fighting a brave battle against breast cancer.

Sam and Connie’s story has been covered in recent episodes of The Project, an Aussie light entertainment television program that takes a humorous view on daily news, pop culture, current affairs and hot topics.

The journey is a year long charity ride, stopping at each capital city as well as some of Australia’s most remote towns and regions including Kalgoorlie, Alice Springs to Albany1. The ultimate aim of this epic mission is to raise $1 million in funding through the Garvan Institute for breast cancer research and to further highlight the importance of cancer awareness. In accomplishing this incredible endeavour, Samuel will also break the current Guinness World Record for the longest distance travelled on a unicycle2.

As seen on The Project, the expedition began on February 15, when Samuel departed from Melbourne’s Federation Square. He was given a massive send-off in front of a large crowd headed by Connie herself, as well as other local celebrities who gathered to lend their support. “What started off as a joke in the kitchen turned into a promise”3 that Samuel is committed and determined to fulfil.

Image Source: loveyoursister.org/connies-bio

Connie’s life has been characterised by courage and strength. She was first diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 114. When she was 22 years old, she suffered a second bout of cancer after a tumour was discovered in her womb5. Today, Connie has 6-12 months to live after being diagnosed with breast cancer that has spread to other parts of her body6.

 In Connie’s own words, she’s “determined not to let cancer define her”7. First and foremost, she is a mother to two young boys, a wife, daughter, sister and friend. Her final legacy is to prevent other women from enduring the physical pain and heartache of cancer, or worse, the knowledge of having to leave loved ones behind. According to Samuel, Connie is “as tough as nails with an indestructible spirit”8 despite the challenges she has faced. Connie continues to have a hunger for life and she’s driven to devote as much time to her family, which is her main motivation to keep fighting this disease.

Image Source: facebook.com/loveyoursister/photos

It’s an inspirational tale, an uplifting story that touched my heart, left me in tears, but made me want to hug the person I love to savour that warm fuzzy feeling on the inside all the more. These curve balls that the universe mysteriously throws at people make you realise to not take life for granted and to focus on what’s important…your loved ones. There’s nothing more significant in this world than family and friends, and Sam and Connie’s bond truly exemplifies this. It’s a simple notion that’s so cliché…..but oh so true.

Image Source: facebook.com/loveyoursister/photos

Thousands of families, including my own, have been touched by someone who’s experienced some form of cancer. My Aunty D died of cancer in 1995. After surviving cervical cancer two years earlier, the cancer had returned and had aggressively spread to her lungs and bones. Throughout her struggle against the disease, she managed a brave smile even during the toughest of days. She maintained a positive frame of mind with a ‘never give up’ attitude to the very end.

Like Samuel’s mission, the fight against cancer is an uphill battle. His journey continues to be chronicled on a weekly basis by The Project, with Friday night updates. For further information on how to donate and get involved in this incredible mission, please visit loveyoursister.org

Image Source: facebook.com/loveyoursister/photos

Sources

loveyoursister.org

The Project, Channel 10, February 11, 6.30pm

The Project, Channel 10, February 15, 6.30pm

Citations

  1. www.loveyoursiter.org Viewed February 12, 2013
  2. www.loveyoursiter.org Viewed February 12, 2013
  3. www.loveyoursiter.org Viewed February 12, 2013
  4. The Project, Channel 10, Screened February 11 2013, 6.30pm
  5. The Project, Channel 10, Screened February 11 2013, 6.30pm
  6. The Project, Channel 10, Screened February 11 2013, 6.30pm
  7. The Project, Channel 10, Screened February 11 2013, 6.30pm
  8. The Project, Channel 10, Screened February 11 2013, 6.30pm

Oliver’s Twist on Fabulous Food

I have a soft spot for Jamie Oliver. His enthusiasm and passion for cooking is so infectious! The acclaimed British chef, with an affable, easy going charm, has a laid back attitude that’s reflected in his down to earth approach to everyday cooking.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

In an earlier post titled “Domestic Goddess Sizzles in the Kitchen”, I pointed out that cooking had never been my speciality. In fact, cooking and I go together like chalk ‘n’ cheese, we just don’t gel. Eating on the other hand is my forte. I love food. But, it’s more than comical that I have a tendency of scorching, nuking and spoiling the most simple of meals like scrambled eggs or even the humble toast. I’ve experienced more misses than hits when preparing food that’s fit for human consumption. Consequently, I have a ‘can’t cook, won’t cook’ mind-set to whipping up a gastronomic smorgasbord.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

 Often cooking programs focus on complicated feasts, and not surprisingly, I find such recipes way too challenging to even attempt given my limited culinary skills. What’s worse is that you need a myriad of gadgets which I don’t own, just to slice, dice, chop, julienne, mix, mash or boil the ingredients. Otherwise, the recipe consists of exotic components you’ve never heard of, or elements you’d rarely use in other meals and your local store doesn’t carry in any case. To top it off, I don’t have the time, not only to prepare the dish, but to clean up the mess afterwards. It’s all too hard and puts me off from bringing my A-Game to the kitchen.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

On the other hand, Jamie’s signature style to preparing a meal makes cooking accessible to the masses, boofhead friendly and idiot proof! He’s recognised that cooking fabulous food isn’t just for elite professionals or experienced cooks. Let’s face it, we don’t always need to prepare Michelin awarded meals for everyday cooking. Jamie’s recipes aren’t pompous or pretentious. When it comes to casual dining, precision isn’t paramount and presentation doesn’t always require the perfection that’s demanded in 5-star restaurants. Instead, Jamie’s twist on a delectable dish centres on simplicity and big bursts of flavour, colour and texture. His meals have a rustic, organic quality, using fresh, seasonal and/or everyday ingredients commonly found in your pantry. Convenience and ease is the key, but taste isn’t sacrificed.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

 Best of all, Jamie Oliver is a chef with a heart of gold and a conscience for social issues. He takes on causes and challenges close to his heart. Jamie’s highlighted the rising levels of obesity amongst young children and has campaigned tirelessly for healthier menus in school canteens. He opened Fifteen, a not-for-profit training restaurant that empowers young adults from underprivileged backgrounds with an opportunity for a better future1. The initiative offers disenfranchised youths with an apprenticeship and first hand experience in hospitality2.  He promotes a healthy lifestyle through the magic of food, with recipes emphasising the importance of affordable, well balanced meals. Through his cook books and various television programs, he has inspired families to get back to basics with home cooking, to source and use locally produced goods and to opt for freshly prepared meals rather than the fast food alternative.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

 What’s refreshing about each of Jamie’s television cooking series is that they don’t rely on his experience and celebrity profile to humiliate and break down aspiring chefs or avid cooks like a drill sergeant, a la Gordon Ramsay. Mainstream television is flooded by reality based competitions, where amateur cooks and professional chefs are under pressure cooker conditions and consequently ridiculed for their errors or critiqued on trivial criteria as a form of entertainment.

 Instead, Jamie’s shows have a casual, light hearted vibe that centres on what cooking programs should focus on – creating practical, well balanced, hearty culinary delights; comforting meals made with enthusiasm and love.

Sources: http://www.jamieoliver.com/  Viewed February 19, 2013

Citations: http://www.jamieoliver.com/  Viewed February 19, 2013

Summer Home – Rustic Glam

Image Source: facebook.com/SamanthaPynn/photos

For my avid readers, you’ll know that I have a penchant for interior decorating programs. To fuel my addiction, Summer Home is the latest series I’ve added to my growing list of favourite home makeover shows. What makes this series unique is its focus on renovating summer homes – or holiday homes as we call them here in Australia. In each episode, host Samantha Pynn, aims to update rundown retreats trapped in a time warp, and transform them from boring to delightful getaways.

Image Source: hgtv.ca/summerhome/photos/#!/9

 The program has a laid back vibe that’s reflected in Samantha’s signature style. I have an affinity for her refreshing approach to decorating; it’s what I define as casual chic. With Samantha, you won’t find ostentatious fixtures, opulent or ornate focal points and quirky decorating concepts. Instead, Samantha’s creations are bright, cosy and inviting. Her designs are based on restrained elegance, understated rustic glam. She combines country with a classic, timeless comfort, yet modern feel.

Image Source: hgtv.ca/summerhome/photos/#!/15

Samantha provides practical solutions to breathing new life into a home. Where possible, she retains existing furniture to minimise costs but refreshes the pieces with new slip covers or re-upholstering. In addition to custom fixtures, Samantha also favours vintage accessories found in local thrift stores or antique shops to maintain a cottage charm.

Image Source: hgtv.ca/summerhome/photos/#!/19

As the homes of her clients are often located along rivers, lakes or set amongst wooded areas, her designs are often nature inspired, so as not to divert from the character of the house. To keep the look fresh, she uses pops of colour with visual elements such as pillows, throw blankets, rugs and ornaments with soft colour pallets, floral prints mixed with muted geometric patterns and delicate textures.

Image Source: hgtv.ca/summerhome/photos/#!/32

In some episodes, Samantha’s major challenge is maximising areas with limited space, creating a room that is both functional and flexible in terms of their layout, purpose and usage. She often achieves this with a splash of paint, new flooring, re-positioning furniture, adding fixtures with sleek minimalist features, dismantling walls or building cabinetry upwards instead of outwards – all to create the illusion of space.

Image Source: hgtv.ca/summerhome/photos/#!/40

In summary, Samantha manages to combine both function and form, transforming rooms that once lacked any artistic direction, and injecting a dash of glam that is visually eye catching yet comfortable and casually stylish.

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Image Source: hgtv.ca/summerhome/photos/#!/22

Image Source: facebook.com/SamanthaPynn/photos

Me, Public Speaking? I’d Rather Go Nude!

One of my greatest fears in life is public speaking. I’d rather jump out of a plane nude, or walk barefoot through a pit filled with hairy tarantulas!

Recently, my little sister asked me to make the customary ‘family member’ speech at her engagement party. I was deeply touched and honored that she considered me, but at the same time I wanted to wet my pants (and throttle her)! Deep down, I secretly thought this was payback for all the times I threatened to flush her down the toilet when we were younger. My stomach began to churn and twist in knots. I had two months to come up with a speech and the pressure was on!

Image Source: publicspeakingtraining.biz/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Suit-guy-infront-of-big-corp-audience-iStock-CROPPED.jpg

Some people are gifted speakers, me….not so much. As a student, at the end of each term, my report card read – “C is a conscientious student but needs to participate in class discussion”. It was a recurrent theme throughout primary school and high school, much to the disappointment of my parents! Despite the many lectures from both my teachers and the folks, it was a lesson never learned and haunts me to this day.

 I can’t recall the source or quote the exact statistic, but according to a survey conducted, a significant number of people would rather die than engage in public speaking. OK, it’s a tad extreme but I can more than empathize with the thought.

I’m painfully shy! I liken myself to an awkward, country church mouse with hermit tendencies. I was the wallflower in high school that never got asked out because I was socially inept with zero personality. Men weren’t exactly queuing up for a date during my footloose and fancy free twenties because I couldn’t chat any guy up (it didn’t  help that I tried to save myself for Brad Pitt)!

Image Source: publicrelationssydney.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Microphone-at-conference.jpg

I’d still be single, desperate and dateless today if the better half hadn’t have made the first move. He was brave enough to introduce himself when we first met. I think he felt sorry for the loner in the tight skirt and knee high boots leaning up against the bar with vodka in hand.

Some people love the sound of their own voice; you know the ones who could talk under water? I’m in awe of those who can dominate conversations over the dinner table or board room meetings. I envy people who are gifted speakers, the best of which can mesmerize and captivate an audience. It does help if you ooze a little charm, personality and charisma. Personally, I believe you’re born with it, it’s an innate talent.

By contrast, talking is my weakness, my Achilles heal. Place me in front of a group of people and this weakness is elevated ten fold and I’m overcome with paralyzing fear! I start to quiver, sweat uncontrollably and I turn into a jibbering idiot. My mind freezes up and turns blank; I struggle to articulate what’s in my head (which isn’t much). Don’t get me wrong, I love attention. I don’t mind walking into a room, wearing something glam with a touch of bling and turning heads. However, when I open my mouth, I struggle to come up with something sharp, witty or profound to say. It’s a challenge to convey a message in a succinct, articulate manner – instead, I fall flat on my face (I guess this explains why writing is my escape).

Image Source: speechmattersaustralia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/public-speaking.jpg

My saving grace has always been my writing. Whenever I had to conduct presentations or meetings at work, I had notes prepared for my own sense of security. So, that’s where my mission began. I began to draft my speech until I realized I had no idea what to write! The avid blogger was suffering from writer’s block! I had to get down to the basics. Like with any good story, you need a captivating introduction, a memorable plot with a middle section that takes the audience on a joyride and a conclusion to tie up the yarn.  I channelled in my marketing experience and similar to a sales pitch, you need to have key objectives and an understanding of your target audience and what they’re after. Research is the key – a broad knowledge and understanding of what you’re talking about!

My ultimate goal was to create a light hearted message about my sister’s road to romantic bliss while hoping the audience didn’t suffer through sheer boredom, and the means to achieve this was to add some humor to the speech. I didn’t want to go down the path of the boring mushy lovey dovey clichés that you find in a Hallmark card – love is a journey not a destination, love is patient, love is kind – Blah! Blah! Blah! What a crock! That makes me gag. Instead, I wanted DIRT, that is, the crazy shenanigans that the youth of today get up to (ideal for my young audience). So I contacted close family and my sister’s friends to dig up some gossip which would form the bulk of my speech.

I certainly didn’t want to write a thesis. I wanted to keep the speech short and sweet – the less time I have to spend talking…the better! Once the speech was written up, the next stage was to practice, because practice makes perfect! I began to rehearse, I’d pace up and down the hallway rehearsing, varying my tone of voice and ensuring the delivery of each joke was perfect. On several occasions I even sat in front of Winston the Wonder Dog and read through my lines. After several rounds, eventually my own dog got bored! He’d look at me perplexed before dozing off. It got to a point where he’d walk the opposite direction as soon as he saw me approaching him. The paw thing, even my own dog got sick of the speech. That wasn’t a good sign!

As the date of the engagement party loomed, I couldn’t sleep. I began to get hives! Even as I slept, my mind raced through what I was going to say. On the day of the soiree, I needed a calming mechanism…..booze! Copious amounts of alcohol helps…it’s the best social lubricant….as they say, booze make men brave and women loose! After a few glasses of vodka, Bacardi and gin – I was rockin’!!!

Image Source: openspeaking.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/public-speaking-coaching.jpg

With paper in hand, I began the speech. I started off strongly, despite the fact my hands were trembling. If I could measure the amount of quivering, it would be off the Richter scale. I lost my spot once but quickly brushed the mistake off. Once the audience laughed at a few comical gags, I knew I was on fire. To my sister’s relief, I didn’t disgrace myself!

In summary, I survived! Woo hooo! Would I ever volunteer or yearn to be nominated for any future public speaking events? Well, like I said earlier, I’d rather jump out of a plane nude, or walk barefoot through a pit filled with hairy tarantulas!

Christmas Greetings! With Love, Melbourne

Flinders Street Station Image Source: The Vibe 101

Flinders Street Station Image Source: The Vibe 101

There’s nothing like summer in Melbourne, especially as Christmas approaches. The city’s lively atmosphere steps up a gear and comes to life even further as the festive season kicks in. Christmas brings such a spirited, vibrant buzz in town. The garlands are hung, decorations adorn street lamps and shop windows are decked out with glistening ornaments and flickering party lights.

Melbourne Town Hall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Melbourne Town Hall Image Source: The Vibe 101

The Block Arcade Image Source: The Vibe 101

The Block Arcade Image Source: The Vibe 101

The mood around the CBD is laid back, yet pulsating and infectious. As you stroll along the city streets, you’ll find yourself weaving in and out of the large crowds of people, some of whom have taken to the festive spirit by donning reindeer antlers or Santa hats. It’s hard not to be captivated by the light entertainment performed by an eclectic mix of buskers and carollers scattered on the corner of busy intersections or positioned outside retail department stores.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

The smorgasbord of bars, cafes and restaurants is the heart and soul of Melbourne. Personally, it’s a great city to wine, dine and ultimately to relax as you gear up for Christmas celebrations. The tantalising aromas wafting through the air from some of Melbourne’s finest eateries combined with the large number of funky pubs and clubs only adds to the sizzling energy and ambiance of this great city.

Burke Street Mall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Burke Street Mall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Myer (Melbourne's equivalent to Macy's, Selfridges or SM Department Stores) Image Source: The Vibe 101

Myer (Melbourne’s equivalent to Macy’s, Selfridges or SM Department Stores) Image Source: The Vibe 101

The hedonistic fusion of awesome music, delectable food, cocktail of drinks and great company is hypnotic to the senses and further intensifies the joy and merriment one would experience at this time of the year. Melbourne certainly knows how to turn on the charm to build up a cheerful party vibe full of reverie. You’ll wish to soak it in and bottle it up

I love Christmas, especially in Melbourne!

Pic 21 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Visual Light Show at Melbourne Town Hall
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 20 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Visual Light Show at Melbourne Town Hall
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 19 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Visual Light Show at Melbourne Town Hall
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Melbourne Town Hall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Melbourne Town Hall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 8 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Hardware Lane, worth visiting for a bite to eat
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 3 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 5 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 7 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Image Source: The Vibe 1o1

Pic 12 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne’s equivalent to New York’s Grand Central Station or The Tube in London
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 9 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Burke Street Mall
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 10 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

The GPO at Melbourne
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 6 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Apocalypse Now!

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end. It’s already tomorrow in AUSTRALIA!!!!” Charles M. Schulz

Image Source: Facebook mamagenerator.net

 

Image Source: HeraldSun.com.au
Picture: Pierre-Philippe Marcou

Image Source: HeraldSun.com.au Picture: Johan Ordonez

Image Source: HeraldSun.com.au Picture: Matt Dunham

Image Source: HeraldSun.com.au Picture: Marko Drobnjakovic

Image Source: HeraldSun.com.au Picture: Hector Retamal

Image Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/world/amazingly-world-survives-maya-apocalypse/story-fnd134gw-1226542199000

Dubrovnik – The Bittersweet Memories

Dubrovnik 1

Image Source: The Vibe 101

I have bittersweet memories of Dubrovnik. I travelled there to catch up with an old flame. But in the back of my head, I knew the relationship was heading straight towards the deep dark void of romance abyss – that is, splitsville. All good things must come to an end, but memories last forever, hence why Dubrovnik will always hold a special place in my heart.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Oh the crazy things we do for love! I visited Dubrovnik just a week after my 30th birthday. The trek from Melbourne to Dubrovnik was an adventure in itself. The journey involved close to an 8hr flight from Melbourne to Singapore. The second flight from Singapore to Frankfurt was just under 13hrs and the final leg between Frankfurt to Dubrovnik was a further 2hr plane ride. That part wasn’t bad. It was the 8hr stopovers at both Singapore and Frankfurt that was draining.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Actually, Changi airport was fun. The free internet, cinema centre and entertainment areas featuring widescreen TV monitors that were strategically positioned near a smorgasbord of shops and café’s, was enough to keep me occupied. It was Frankfurt that was the bane of my existence. There was nothing to do as I roamed around in limbo trying desperately to pass time, while the cigarette smoke wafting through the air was strong enough to gag on. What was worse, I was dragging around luggage while wearing knee high boots with three inch heels. Don’t judge me – I looked hot despite my pain. Besides, I just entered my ‘flirty thirty’ phase of life and I was footloose and fancy free!

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Situated along the Adriatic Sea, south of Croatia, Dubrovnik is a UNESCO listed city and a gem of the Dalmatia region. During the drive towards our hotel, the taxi driver kindly stopped at a popular observation deck overlooking the scenic view of the coastline (it was a sneaky, but effective move to bump up my fare but it was worth it!). It was my first taste of the Old Town of Dubrovnik which was accentuated by a sea of terracotta coloured rooftops.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

The Old Town is the heart and soul of Dubrovnik. As you enter the gates of the walled city, you take a step back in time into a golden era reminiscent of a period where fair ladies and knights in shining armour still roamed. The city is characterised by traditional architecture inspired by Gothic, Romanesque or Baroque designs (I’m not an arts connoisseur, but I’m assuming the buildings are of that vintage). As you stroll along the Placa or Stradun (which is the main city walkway), you’ll notice the promenade is flanked on either side by a myriad of cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Our accommodation was just a leisurely walk outside the city. Each evening, S and I headed towards the historical site for a bite to eat. Even at night the city keeps a vibrant atmosphere as the residents open up their quaint al fresco cafés and restaurants to tourists. During summer, candlelit dinners with the stars above are the perfect way to soak in the laid back ambiance.  Being of Bosnian background, S spoke the language and recommended local cuisines including bureks (a pastry dish) and cevapčići (minced meat, similar to a kebab) which is worth trying.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

I had the chance to explore the Old Town, walking the length of the outer perimeter of the city. Meandering along the surrounding walls is the best opportunity to get a bird’s eye perspective of the lofty bell tower which dominates the main square or watch the sail boats and even the odd cruise liner that are docked in the port. From this vantage point, you’ll be amazed by the town’s timeless, classic appeal. However, based on the information plaque at the main entrance, much of the city was heavily damaged during the Balkans war. Following the end of the war, the town has managed to restore many of the buildings to their original structure.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

As you immerse yourself in the maze of cobblestone streets and corridors of lane ways, you’ll discover prominent landmarks including the Dominican Monastery and church with its large dome; the Great Onofrio Fountain built in 1348 and the Franciscan monastery. Other highlights include the St Blaise Church for its traditional architecture; the Rector’s (Sponza) Palace and its beautiful archways, and the Gunduliceva Poljana which is the site of the busy morning market.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Dubrovnik has an enchanting fairytale charm. Sadly, S was not my Prince Charming. However, I didn’t want this doomed relationship to overshadow my time in this romantic city. Yet, as each day passed, I knew the inevitable was looming. The relationship was coming to its finale and I was trying desperately to hold onto ‘something’ that clearly wasn’t worth clinging to.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

As women, we all know some boys are toxic. There’s a breed of men out there that are like cigarettes. You know you should stay away from them but temptation gets the better of you, until it finally hits you that they’re clearly a bad habit! Ok, this hook up wasn’t all good, but it wasn’t all bad either, it just was never meant to be.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

During the journey home to the land of Oz, I remember sitting at Changi Airport with a heavy heart, staring outside onto the tarmac…I was 30, and single….AGAIN, I thought to myself. There’s a line in Sleepless in Seattle where a man says to Meg Ryan’s character “It’s easier to be killed by a terrorist than it is to find a husband” and it hit me hard. I shed a tear. It was the end of a chapter to another failed romance.

Luckily, this story didn’t end there. Within a few months, I met a wonderful, caring, smart, funny guy who is the love of my life! To this day, this love story continues….

The Sunshine Award

Image Source: Google.com

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey!”

I could whistle that tune all day. It’s such a whimsical and uplifting little ditty. It was the first thing I did when I found out that itchyfeetme nominated The Vibe 101 for the Sunshine Award. It’s The Vibe’s fourth nomination, and I always get a buzz whenever my site is recognised by my fabulous fellow bloggers.

HOW IT WORKS:

1)      Include the Sunshine Award Logo(s) in a post or in your blog.

2)      Share the love and thank the person who nominated you and in your post provide the link or name of their blog and comment what their site is about.

3)      Answer 10 questions about your self from the person/blog that nominated you.

4)      Nominate 10 to 12 other fabulous bloggers and ask them 10 questions.

5)      You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated you!

6)      Link your nominees’ blog/site names to your post and let them know they are nominated via their blog.

itchyfeetme has a passion and wanderlust to discover the world around her. You’ll be taken on a journey as you read her adventures and experiences from the Philippines, Vietnam, France to Armenia and the United Arab Emirates! Check out her blog on itchyfeetme.wordpress.com

Image Source: itchyfeetme.files.wordpress.com

10 QUESTIONS ABOUT ME:

  • Favorite Color: Red, it’s such a vibrant, sultry and sexy colour! Sort of like myself….in a wallflower, country church mouse kind of way. I’m full of contradictions!
  • Favorite time of the year: my birthday, Christmas, Spring , whenever there’s a merchandise stocktake sale.
  • Favorite Number: 4, I don’t know why, but I’ve always been drawn to this number. Maybe it’s the fact that I feel it’s evenly balanced.
  • Favorite Non Alcoholic Drink: Coke, but I’ve cut down because it’s probably corroding my insides!
  • Favorite Cuisine: Korean, Japanese, Italian – I start to salivate just thinking about it. Yum! Yum! Yum!
  • My Passion : Anything artistic – writing, reading, decorating, listening to music, going to the movies – it gets the creative juices flowing!
  • Dream destination: South America, Africa, Maldives, Tahiti, mainland US – I could go on. So much to do. So much to see and still tick off my bucket list.
  • Nicest place been so far : Vienna, Paris, Monaco, Egypt, Rome, Salzburg, Florence, Venice, Phuket.
  • FB or Twitter : Can you believe I don’t have a twitter account? Blimey.
  • Mantra : Carpe Diem…..Seize the Day!

MY NOMINEES:

I’ve nominated the following blogs for the Sunshine Award. I have a weakness for travel and food blogs, or any blog with great photography. Their posts are fascinating to read and the images featured on their sites are amazing! I hope the nominations spread a few positive vibes. Share the love peoples!

http://thewanderlustgene.wordpress.com

http://thebucketlust.com

http://moniquesantiago.wordpress.com

http://timelessdifference.com/

http://onegirlsquestforperfection.wordpress.com

http://travellingtonito.wordpress.com

http://eatlivetravelblog.wordpress.com

http://sh0werstorm.wordpress.com

http://notanothertravelsite.wordpress.com

virginiasite.wordpress.com

thetravellingcardigan.wordpress.com

QUESTIONS FOR NOMINEES

  1. If you had one day to play God, what would you do?
  2. If you could turn back time, what would you change in this world?
  3. If you found $10,000 in an alleyway, what would you do?
  4. Which movie character can you most relate to and why?
  5. Who is the best world leader of all time and why?
  6. What is the best movie of all time and why?
  7. Where is the best city to live and why?
  8. What’s the next gadget that should be invented e.g. flying car, money that grows on trees?
  9. What is the root of all evil?
  10. If you weren’t on a diet and there was no risk to your health, what would you eat?

You are my Sunshine! (Image Source: Google.com)

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD

I always experience a rush of excitement when I’m recognised by my fabulous fellow bloggers. A big shout out goes to theeclecticeccentricshopaholic, who’s nominated The Vibe 101 once again, this time for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. It’s one tiny step closer to a Pulitzer Prize. Ok, not quite, but we’re heading in the right direction!

RULES for the VERY INSPIRING BLOG AWARD. PLEASE FOLLOW CAREFULLY:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

The Eclectic Eccentric Shopaholic is a prolific writer with the skill to post daily about her own reflections and experiences on life in the Philippines. She’s an avid participant in the daily prompt, haiku and short story challenges. Check out the blog on theeclecticeccentricshopaholic.wordpress.com It’s a fascinating read!

 

7 RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ME

  1. I was the nerdy girl in high school who never got asked out. I’d love to say I was the ugly duckling who eventually blossomed into a beautiful swan (i.e. Victoria’s Secret model), sadly that’s not the case.
  2. If I could change a few things about myself, I’d want to be prettier, smarter, and more gregarious. I gotta grow some balls – BIG ONES!
  3. If I could be anyone but myself, I’d be Angelina Jolie – she’s gorgeous, talented, and articulate and she has a whole lotta chutzpah (i.e. she’s brazen, bold & beautiful)!
  4. If I ever met God, I’d thank him for letting me re-sit my economics test without any penalties. I got my exam schedule mixed up and arrived late for my final assessment. Oops!
  5. My biggest regret is that I didn’t follow my dreams to become a journalist, fashion designer or interior decorator. But I’m finally turning things around and creating my own path….wherever it takes me. I’m bound to get lost along the way!
  6. If I could eat anything (and not have to worry about my weight and figure), I’d eat copious amounts of Krispy Kremes, Pringles, Cheezels and Pavlovas – that would just be for appetisers to wet the palette.
  7. The movie character that most reflects who I am would be Josie ‘Grosie’ Geller from the film Never Been Kissed, and played by the bubbly Drew Barrymore. I’m an ever fumbling geek to the core!

 

MY NOMINEES

For my regular readers, you’ve probably figured out that there’s a common theme to the blogs I love to read. Yes, I have a weakness for travel and food blogs, or sites that feature captivating photography. Congratulations to the following blogs as you have been nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Share the love and pay it forward.

http://julieriso.wordpress.com

http://traveller2006.wordpress.com

http://travelphotosfoodandlife.wordpress.com

http://mlitvinskasphotography.wordpress.com

http://cocomoke.wordpress.com

http://randomizer144.wordpress.com

http://alittlethingcalledmetime.wordpress.com

http://eagleborn2fly.wordpress.com

Image Source:

Angelina Jolie,  Never Been Kissed image sourced from  Google

Blogger images were sourced from respective WordPress sites

The Tale of a Wonder Dog!

Pic1

You can’t argue with the saying that canines are “a man’s best friend” (and equally a woman’s). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the bond shared between people and their dogs is special. I can knowingly say this based on the unconditional love we’ve experienced with our four legged buddy – Winston the Wonder Dog!

 Cover Shot

Winston is our nine year old Chihuahua x Pomeranian, who oozes personality, spunk and charisma. But Winston is more than just a pretty face. For a canine he exudes impeccable taste in quality TV programming. In fact, one of his favourite pastimes is cuddling up beside me on the couch to watch The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Keeping up With The Kardashians or The Bold & The Beautiful together. It’s fair to say that we’ve bonded over our love of talk shows, reality TV series and daytime soaps. Despite what my better half thinks, Winston would rather watch grass grow than sit through a season of football or cricket on TV!

 Pic2

Winston’s other passion is to keep people company. He has the ability to put a smile on my face when I’m feeling a little ho hum. He’ll roll on his back with his paws up in the air for a tummy rub, or curl up at my feet and keep my tootsies toasty warm. If I’m struggling for inspiration, he’ll often nestle up against me while I’m working on the laptop and just his presence will perk me up. Eventually the cheekiness kicks in. He’ll interrupt my train of thought by nudging his head under my hand as a reminder to scratch under his chin. Alternatively, he’ll walk all over the keyboard just for a smidge of attention.

 Pic3

Winston loves attention. I may be bias but I reckon he’s a star in the making. Deep down, I think my better half enjoys walking him for the simple reason that Winston is such a chick magnet. Let’s face it, Winston’s a people dog! People are naturally drawn to him and he always laps up the affection he receives from random strangers. He’d never make a great guard dog.  Guests at our humble abode are generally licked to death and if you dangle food in front of him, Win would be putty in your hands!

Pic6

In addition to his playfulness, Winston also has a protective nature, similar to the way a mother watches over her brood. He exhibits what I refer to as ‘grandmother tendencies’, where he waits for us by the front window until we come home from work, a night out, or even a short trip to the supermarket. Whenever I hear the pitter patter of his paws on the wooden floorboards, I know he’s following me like my shadow around the house. On one occasion, I organised for my parents to babysit him during a weekend escape. According to my folks, Winston waited in the hallway in vain, hoping that my partner and I would come home, demonstrating how loyal he is towards us. Winston won’t sleep until the two of us are in bed, at which time he finally clocks off for the evening.

Pic5

He greets me each morning by standing on his short hind legs and tapping his front paws onto my side of the bed until I pat him in response. If I choose to ignore him, he’ll start moaning with worry. In fact, Winston has an instinct for sensing when I’m in pain. A few months ago, I stubbed my toe on the coffee table and groaned in agony. Just recently, I had a serious coughing fit where I was in tears.  In both instances Winston rushed towards me with such an alarmed, concerned look on his face as if to say ‘Are you OK mum?’

Pic4

In retrospect, I was never a big animal lover. When I was young, like all kids I enjoyed the idea of owning a pet, while not fully understanding the responsibility involved in looking after them. However, since meeting the better half, I knew I had to broaden my mind. Basically, for the relationship to work, the choice was – him and me, or, – him, me and a dog. And the dog will always win hands down when it comes to my partner. So, I sucked it up….and I’m glad I did!

Pic7

Ultimately, the best moment is when Winston stretches his neck, looks upwards and stares longingly at us with his adoring eyes while his tail wags with enthusiasm.  Even when he smells of some strange pungent odour, you just want to cuddle him. Winston’s at his happiest snuggled between my better half and me.

Pic8

In the past two years I’ve learned how much joy a dog can bring into your life. It’s their unconditional love, unwavering loyalty and the strong bond that they share with us that melts my heart. In a nutshell it’s the simple pleasures that make adopting a dog (or any pet) oh so precious.

Liebster Blog Award

Image Source: Google

What does Liebster mean? Or should I be asking, who is Liebster, when is Liebster, where is Liebster? Do I want to be Liebstered? Sounds like a game of Jeopardy. Either way, I’m certain it’s a great award and I’m very thankful to be nominated. In fact, I’m over the moon! A big shout out goes to theeclecticeccentricshopaholic for nominating The Vibe 101.

The Eclectic Eccentric Shopaholic

HOW IT WORKS:

  • When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you.
  • Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (make sure you tell them you nominated them!) and ask them 11 questions.
  • You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated you!” (You can google the image, there are plenty of them!)
  • PS: Make sure the blogs you chose have 200 or LESS followers

11 RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ME:

  1. I had hopes of becoming an accountant but my debits and credits never balanced
  2. Someone told me that the word ‘gullible’ was taken out of the dictionary – I believed them!
  3. My favourite drink is a vodka lemon and lime.
  4. I like to bust a few dance moves after a few vodka lemon and limes (it really doesn’t take much).
  5. I’ve travelled to 19 countries outside of Australia – Egypt, Malaysia, Japan, Croatia, Thailand, US (Hawaii), Fiji, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, New Zealand, UK, Netherlands, Italy, Philippines, Singapore, China, Belgium – I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg of what this world has to offer. There are several more destinations to tick off my bucket list.
  6. I’ve got former teenage tennis sensation and world number one, Martina Hingis’ autograph. If only I knew where I put it.
  7. When I was younger, I use to have imaginary friends called Brenda and Alan (we’re not in contact anymore)!
  8. There’s only one woman I’d turn for ….. Angelina Jolie. Enough said!
  9. If I could have a dinner party with anyone dead or alive, I would dine with….Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, and Mahatma Gandhi – icons of peace.
  10. If I knew I couldn’t fail, I’d be a fashion designer, an interior decorator, a journalist and an artist.
  11. I used to collect all my school lunches and keep them under my bed until they got mouldy. I didn’t always like the sandwiches mum prepared (sorry mum!) but I felt too guilty to throw them in the bin….go figure!

QUESTION TIME:
1) What’s the best part about being you?

My lips! They’re pouty, not quite Jagger lips, but still very kissable!

2) What’s the worst part about being you?

I’m painfully shy and socially inept until I have a few vodka lemon and limes.

3) What do you wanna be when you grow up?

My ultimate dream has always been to become a fashion designer.

4) If you’re about to have your last meal, what would it be?

I’d ditch the diet and have an all you can eat smorgasbord of junk food twice over….Krispy Kremes is the first thing that comes to mind!

5) Most influential person in your life?

Beside my wonderful mum, I always wanted to be like my Aunty B. Aunty B was confident, feisty and had a great sense of style

6) Favourite book.

I can’t decide, The Kite Runner ,The Bronze Horseman, The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo….Ok I admit…The Twilight Series

7) So I invented a time machine. ^^ What time and place would you like to visit?

1950s Paris – a period of timeless chic, elegance, class and pure charm.

8) Your idea of paradise is…

a tropical oasis, reading a good book with a cocktail and a smorgasbord of junk food…including copious amounts of Krispy Kremes.

9) Favourite thing in your closet.

My cocktail dresses and my ruby red lipstick.

10) If you can have one superpower what would it be?

I’d love to be both invisible and have the ability to fly – I like the sense of freedom this power brings.

11) Can’t leave the house without your…

house keys and underwear

MY NOMINEES:

I’ve nominated the following blogs for the Liebester Award. I have a soft spot for blogs with a travel theme and/or blogs with captivating photography. Their posts are fascinating to read and the images featured are amazing! I hope the nomination spreads a few positive vibes.

http://gracekimpai.wordpress.com

http://freelancewanderer.com

http://naturaleuphoria.com

http://christineestima.wordpress.com/

http://introvertlybubbly.wordpress.com/

http://jasssanderson.wordpress.com/

http://bellabagnidilucca.com/

http://sueannm66.wordpress.com

http://runawaykiwi.com/

http://fotodivivi.wordpress.com/

http://looneyatoms.com/

MY QUESTIONS FOR YOU:

  1. If you had one day left to live, what would you do?
  2. If you could have dinner with anybody, who would you dine with?
  3. If you were given the task to achieve world peace, how would you achieve this objective?
  4. If there is a God, what would be the first thing you would say to him/her?
  5. What would you change about yourself and why?
  6. If you could be anyone but yourself, who would it be and why?
  7. If an alien knocked on your front door, what would you do?
  8. If you won $1 million in lotto, how would you spend it?
  9. What’s your biggest regret?
  10. If you were given three wishes, what would you wish for?
  11. If your favourite movie star asked you out on a date, where would you take them?

Image Source:

Wikipedia (Angelina Jolie, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa, Martina Hingis)

Wikimedia (The Kite Runner, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)

paullinasimons.com (The Bronze Horseman)

The Shenanigans of a Wonder Dog!

Winston the Wonder Dog was adopted from the RSPCA over two years ago. From the moment we spotted him, Winston charmed his way into our lives and we were putty in his paws! However, it didn’t take long to discover that Winston wasn’t the sharpest dog in the kennel; he’s more cute than smart, and we say that with love!

Winston wasn’t toilet trained when we brought him into our humble abode, much to my chagrin! Let’s just say there were puddles left behind and ‘bombing raids’ dumped throughout the house during the day and night, which made my obsessive compulsive cleaning tendencies rock into overdrive. I’m even more mortified with his habit of leaving a trail of No. 2s whenever we’re inside the vet’s clinic. You’d think he was laying cables! My partner and I would joke that Winston could churn out turd like a Mr. Whippy Ice Cream Van!

Well, after two years, and many treats later, Winston’s only just managed to learn to sit; even staying on the spot is a challenge. Forget dropping, rolling over or fetching. He may not know the basics of dog etiquette 101, but Winston certainly knows how to fly! Secretly, he must have a pair of magical wings stashed somewhere in the garden. My better half and I spent many weekends and hundreds of dollars fixing up the back picket fence that stops Winston from wandering into the garage and front yard. He’s surprised us on the odd occasion with his Houdini act, as we’ve found him waiting in the garage and poking his face from under the roller doors as we head up the driveway. He must pole vault his way over the fence because Win wouldn’t have the brains to dig under the barrier.

What he lacks in tricks he makes up for in appetite, for a dog so small he has a bottomless pit for a stomach! When I’m preparing dinner, he’ll hover around the kitchen like a vulture, and with his eagle eye, he’ll zone in on any crumbs that end up on the floor. He ploughs through food like a vacuum. I once found Winston inside our pantry scoffing down whatever he could reach given his short stumpy legs; even the threat of me shutting the cupboard door didn’t faze him at all.

Strangers used to mistake him for a corgi due to his podginess. I was shocked when our local pizza guy called my dog the ‘F’ word…..FAT!!!…F – A – T ….FAT!! I desperately tried to convince myself Winston was just big boned, full figured, a healthy plus size…it took a good six months of exercise and a controlled diet to shed some of his weight.

On a more embarrassing note, like all dogs, Winston gets a kick out of humping peoples’ legs and sniffing their butts, in no specific order. He’s not discriminatory in his choices either. Everyone’s fair game, from tradespeople, guests or even my own mother! What’s worse is the challenge of prying him off the person’s calf. Another one of Winston’s more comedic gestures is to grab a shoe (usually mine!) if my partner or I are on the phone. He’ll pick up the shoe with his mouth and carry it into the living room, even though all the shoes are almost as big as him! It’s Win’s way of saying, ‘Hey, get off the phone, look at me and show me some love!’

Yes, on the odd occasion, Win does show a little too much attitude. He once made a German shepherd cowl into the corner of the reception area at the vet’s clinic with his barking. Let’s face it, it’s the Chihuahua in him that brings out his feistiness and spunk. But deep down, Winston suffers from small dog’s syndrome. He thinks he’s tough, but he’s a pansy at heart. Winston wouldn’t want the other dogs in the neighbourhood to know, but he’s actually quite dainty…he hates to get his paws dirty and loathes getting his fur wet in the rain.

Despite his shenanigans, we wouldn’t want Winston any other way. He makes us laugh. These classic moments are what make him special. We love him, just the way he is.

Beautiful Blogger Award

Writing has always been a passion of mine. But it was a hobby that I only recently started up after my better half suggested that I take part in a short course in children’s writing. The course got the creative juices flowing and motivated me to pursue my lifelong dream of publishing a children’s picture book. I loved it and thoroughly enjoyed the process of putting my ideas onto paper and seeing the words come to life. Fast forward seven months later, the bubble burst. SPLAT! – Right in my face! After submitting three manuscripts across a handful of publishers, I was dealt with one rejection letter after another. I lost my artistic mojo.

Feeling somewhat disheartened, I stopped writing altogether and shelved my plans of becoming the next J.K. Rowling, Enid Blyton or Roald Dahl. However, when a friend recommended that I try out to become an official Chadstone Blogger for the Spring/Summer Fashion 2012 season, the spark was re-ignited. Although I didn’t try out for the competition, it was the catalyst that inspired me to continue writing and opened my eyes to a whole new world – the Blogosphere!

I no longer needed the affirmation of a publisher to have my work produced for the world to see and enjoy. I have full creative control and I discovered that blogging was a different medium where I could express my ideas, thoughts and reflections.

My posts will never win a Pulitzer Prize. My articles will never be hard hitting journalism, or sharp, witty, thought provoking pieces. I’m a long way off to being a prolific writer; I guess that’s why it took me by surprise when I was nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award by A tale or two to tell…...

A Tale or Two to Tell…(emmahicks76.wordpress.com)

As far as I’m aware, my parents are the only ones who religiously view my posts everyday, just so my stats improve (thank you mum and papa! I know you’re reading this. Surprise!). I shouldn’t forget to mention my beautiful friend T, who can even quote lines from some of the stories I’ve posted. And an honourable mention goes to DH for the encouragement.

Hence, I was stoked and thrilled to bits knowing that other people actually read my blog, and hopefully enjoy my regular musings. Thank you A tale or two to tell….. for the nomination, you made my day!

Please check out A tale or two to tell….. …. on her blog: emmahicks76.wordpress.com

Beautiful Blogger Award Rules:

The idea behind the Beautiful Blogger Award is to recognize some of the blogger we read for their hard work and inspiration.

  1. Copy the Beautiful Blogger Award logo and place it in your post.
  2. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  3. Tell 7 things about yourself.
  4. Nominate 7 other bloggers for their own Beautiful Blogger Award, and comment on their blogs to let them know.

7 Things About Myself:

  1. I would rather parachute out of a plane in my underwear than do public speaking
  2. I wanted to marry Jon Bon Jovi since I was 10 years old
  3. If I could turn back time, I’d become a fashion designer
  4. I sat near the Oscar winning actor Geoffrey Rush on a train all the way into the city of Melbourne (I’ve been amongst greatness!)
  5. I wrote a letter to Fat Cat when I was 7 years old and the schmuck never wrote back. Where’s the love? I’m still scarred. (Fat Cat is Australia’s equivalent to Big Bird, Barney the Dinosaur or a Telly Tubby!). All you Aussies who are old enough to remember this TV character, you’ll understand how jibbed I feel!
  6. I was always the last person picked on a team during P.E. classes. I couldn’t run, catch, throw or kick to save myself….I am such a klutz and completely uncoordinated!
  7. I love karaoke!

Now to pay it forward. I have nominated the following blogs for the Beautiful Blogger Award. You’ll notice I have a soft spot for blogs with a travel and/or photography focus. I hope we can all continue to motivate, recognise and appreciate the wonderful work of each other.

1. theeclecticeccentricshopaholic.wordpress.com

2. …musings of Tonya LaTorre – tonyalatorre.wordpress.com

3. thirdeyemom.wordpress.com

4. theworldinsideapictureframe.wordpress.com

5. Wanderful Escapades – leemajors78.wordpress.com

6. globalcitizensam.wordpress.com

7. thehungrybackpackers.wordpress.com

Wilsons Promontory – A Winter Wonderland

Wilsons Promontory – A Winter Wonderland

Sometimes you don’t have to travel far to experience the wonders of nature, the serenity of a country lifestyle and the amazing beauty of pristine beaches. Just pack your bags and take a road trip towards the coast.

In our instance, we made a spur of the moment decision to spend a weekend away at Wilsons Promontory (or the Prom as it’s affectionately known), a delight for outdoor enthusiasts and a great destination for a relaxing break.

Wilsons Prom is the southernmost point of mainland Australia and is located 206km from the heart of Melbourne, or just under a three hour drive. The Prom coast region is a world away from the fast paced life of city living. But the area is the ideal location to chill out and unwind and is as spectacular in the winter season as it is in the warmer months of the year. Just be sure to rug up and switch your mind to cruise control in order to appreciate the laid back atmosphere the Prom is renowned for!

The best way to see the highlights of the national parks as well as the surrounding rural landscapes and the stunning ocean views is to take a leisurely drive. We meandered through the towns of Sandy Point, Foster (where we stocked up on tourist brochures at the Visitor’s Information Centre) and Fish Creek. We had no specific plan, we were just winging it, stopping at lookouts (Norman Lookout & Glennie Lookout) and other scenic spots scattered along the highway to soak in the sights.

Norman Lookout

Glennie Lookout

Of course we couldn’t leave without our loyal four-legged friend, Winston the Wonder Dog, who once again happily joined us on our latest escape from life in suburbia. Keep in mind that if you’re bringing man’s best friend to Prom country, then be aware that pets are not allowed at the national parks.  There are pet friendly accommodations available whilst you are in the Prom including Sandy Point Getaway and PromClose Cottage.

Sandy Point

Our insight into the region began at Sandy Point which is a quiet holiday haven for families. Before viewing the nearby surf beach, we stopped off at the General Local Store & Café for a quick bite to eat. I vividly remember this area as it was the town where we stayed the first time I visited with family and friends, many moons ago! I recall going for short strolls along the beach and climbing towering sand dunes at dusk.

Waratah Bay

To cap off the afternoon, we stopped off at Waratah Bay. I love Waratah Bay. During winter you’ll find yourself strolling in solitude along the golden sands that stretches endlessly ahead of you, listening to the waves lapping up against the shoreline. The location is such a beautiful spot to take in the serene coastal landscape, the pristine views and to take in the sun setting in the distance.

 

Fish Creek & Waratah North

We stayed at Prom Coast Lodge, situated in Waratah North. The self contained unit can accommodate up to six people and is even wheelchair accessible. To top it off, with a little charm and charisma, I persuaded the owner to allow Winston to stay with us. For dinner, we couldn’t go past KO’s Bar & Grill located in the town of Fish Creek (just opposite, the Fish Creek Hotel – with the giant mullet sculpture on the roof). KO’s hearty country meals and especially their chocolate tarts were too irresistible to pass up.

Wilsons Promontory National Park

On our second full day we spent our time exploring Wilsons Promontory National Park, which is the heart and soul of Prom country. Famous for its network of interlinking walking trails that vary in length and difficulty, the tracks are a delight for avid hikers or even those (like me) who prefer short rambling strolls. If you love life in the great outdoors, take advantage of the camping facilities positioned at the foot of the mountains along Tidal River, which is the perfect spot to start discovering the amazing native flora and fauna. Follow the paths that lead you to panoramic views overlooking the bay and mountains sweeping across the region. Whilst on the road, go easy on the accelerator to enjoy the wildlife roaming the streets. You’re bound to spot a few emus, kangaroos and wombats during the journey.

 

Squeaky Beach

Just a short drive from Tidal River is Squeaky Beach, which is noted for its quartz sand that ‘squeaks’ with each step you take. It almost feels like the earth is crumbling or shifting beneath you. The stunning unspoilt coastal scenery is capped off by weathered rock formations, with copper earth tones, that form rock pools at high tide.

 

Picnic Bay

A short distance from Squeaky Beach is Picnic Bay, which also features amazing rock formations dotted along the beach, that’s great to explore when waves are calm, particularly at low tide.

Agnes Falls

On our last day, we opted to take the long way home, via Toora to stop off at Agnes Falls which, according to the Prom Country Official Visitors Guide, ‘is the highest single span waterfall in Victoria with a drop of 59m’. We made the most of the viewing platforms which gave the best views of the stunning waterfall cascading down the gorge, set amongst a backdrop of luscious native vegetation including ferns and gum trees.

Cape Liptrap

We continued along the coastal route towards the Cape Liptrap Lighthouse. The road leading to the lighthouse is unsealed, so expect slightly rough terrain but the drive is worth it when you experience the striking panoramic views of the ocean. You’ll be mesmerised by the rough, turquoise coloured waves crashing against the cliff face.

Venus Bay

Our last stop was Venus Bay, an idyllic coastal escape which is a favourite amongst beach goers. Again, you’ll delight in the long stretch of pristine sandy shoreline and the rippling waves.

It’s been several years since my last visit to the Prom, which left me with memories of rolling hills, rugged mountain ranges and unspoilt beaches that stretched for miles beyond view.  Luckily, nothing much has changed in this tranquil, charming area.

The MOD Squad – Novogratz Style

The Novogratz

I’m addicted to interior decorating shows. I simply can’t get enough of them! Divine Design, Candice Tells All, Colour Confidential, Sarah’s Design Inc…I could go on. They’re all part of my daily diet of renovation programs. But for something more daring and left of centre, you need to get a taste of the distinct Novogratz style.

Image Source: hgtv.com

Home By Novogratz is screened daily on the LifeStyle Home network and is hosted by the husband and wife team, Robert and Cortney Novogratz. It took me a while to jump on board the program. The signature Novogratz aesthetic is an acquired palette comprising of contemporary, ultra modern themes with a retro vibe.

Image Source: hgtv.com

Their design concepts are targeted at the brave, for those seeking a look that is vibrant, innovative and unique. If you’re after interior décor that’s traditional, conservative and on the safe side of the spectrum, run the other way! It’s time to step out of your comfort zone.

The dynamic duo (whose inspirations are drawn from downtown New York) makes their own rules, anything goes, and there is no limit to their infinite creativity. Their process for renovating each space is intuitive, there is very little that is methodical about their vision. The designers allow their ideas to evolve by combining flea-market or vintage finds with high-end focal points; or bringing together an eclectic mix of furniture and accent pieces to create a layered effect with different elements of texture, colour and accessories. Ultimately, a dull boring room is transformed and used as a canvas to showcase their funky design sensibility.

Image Source: hgtv.com

For maximum impact, Robert and Cortney like to mix a fusion of strong contrasting artistic themes and concepts that expresses the home owners’ individuality while delivering a room that’s bold, with a quirky charm and a character that is totally original. The final look of each project can polarise some people and may not necessarily float everyone’s boat, but the ultimate result still has a ‘wow’ factor that’s daring, hip and inspiring.

Image Source: hgtv.com

Image Source: hgtv.com

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Photos: Courtesy of HGTV.COM

You Are What You Eat – That Would Make Me Sweet Junk

They say love is a journey, not a destination. I guess I could use the same analysis for losing weight. In fact, if shedding the pounds is a journey, I wish there was an accompanying road map with a direct route to the ultimate hour glass figure, with regular pit stops at all you can eat venues, while bypassing the gym!

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My campaign to transform into a ‘Victoria’s Secret supermodel’ has been a hard slog so far and there is no end in sight. Previous half hearted attempts at fighting the flab only resulted in a measly two kilos being shed over a twelve month period! The worst part, I quickly regained the weight, and managed to pile on a few extra pounds.  Based on my progress so far, the quest to trim down will be nothing short of a saga, longer than the Biggest Loser series. Queue the violins!

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According to Carol Montgomery, “married people don’t have to exercise because our attitude is, ‘They’ve seen us naked already, and they like it’”1. I can relate to this view. Ever since I found a wonderful man to share my life with, I have managed to gain some excess baggage. It was as if finding relationship bliss was a green light to letting my figure go like the Goodyear blimp. It doesn’t help that I too now share in my partner’s passion for all things sweet, especially dessert. That’s in addition to my addiction to greasy fast food. It’s enough to clog up the arteries. No wonder I’ve got so much junk in my trunk (sadly my booty is nothing like Kim Kardashian’s)!

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Luckily the better half loves to exercise – me…not so much! Since we’ve met, my weight has fluctuated as much as the Australian dollar, and continues to rise or fall as I go through spurts of dieting and exercising. Each time I reach my goal weight I become complacent and fall back on old habits by cutting back on work outs and spoiling myself by raiding the pantry and snacking on chips, chocolate, donuts, cakes, biscuit slices – hence, the never ending vicious cycle.

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Despite my newfound commitment to running, according to the scales, the fat hasn’t budged. We live in a world where we’re driven by instant results, but in this instance, a positive outcome hasn’t been forthcoming which is disheartening. It doesn’t help that running builds up my appetite and all I want to do is head towards the Maccas drive through for a chocolate sundae after a jog. This raises another issue, I want ready to eat healthy food (or at least easy to prepare food) that tastes good – it comes down to convenience.

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Everyday I’m bombarded on television by one stop diet solutions that claim to slim down your figure and melt the tummy fat away without the need to hit the gym. I’m sceptical of these so-called ‘comprehensive weight loss systems’ including diet shakes, supplements and pills. Besides, I don’t want to deprive myself of one of life’s most simple pleasures….food!

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So what do I do??? My plan is to continue to jog and work up a sweat; it’s a medium intensity work out that I’m beginning to enjoy. The next stage for me is to do a complete overhaul on what I eat and how much I consume. The aim is to cover the five food groups, eating more fruit and vegetables and taking focus away from the food positioned at the top of the food pyramid – goodbye Coke, Krispy Kremes, baked New York cheesecakes, sticky date puddings, burgers, pizzas (truthfully, it’s enough to make me cry, but it’s got to be done!).

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I’m realistic about my goal. I’m well aware that losing weight is hard work and will involve regular exercise and striking a balanced diet with the aim of eating healthier food that tastes great (which is my idea of a ‘happy meal’). This adjustment won’t happen overnight and will require changing a lifetime of bad eating habits and routines. The cravings will continue and I’ll be honest, I’ll still have weak moments but it’s about exhibiting some self-control and discipline over what and how much I consume going forward.  I can feel it in my waters, the path to getting in shape will be a long and winding one. The journey is a lifestyle change!

Source: McMeel, A “Wild words from wild women”, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, Kansas City, 2009 (2009 Calendar)

Citation: McMeel, A “Wild words from wild women”, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, Kansas City, 2009 (2009 Calendar)

The Grampians – A Great Escape

The Grampians – A Great Escape

If you’re hanging out for a relaxing weekend, away from the hustle and bustle of the big smoke and longing for an escape ideal for young and old (including the furry four legged variety), then the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park is certainly worth visiting.

The Grampians are a leisurely three hour drive from Melbourne. As one of Victoria’s more casual, laid back tourist destinations, the Grampians are characterised by awe-inspiring landscapes permeated by rich bushland, rolling hills and lakes. During a brief weekend getaway, my partner and I took the opportunity to bring our beloved dog Winston to explore the rugged mountain ranges that stretches across the region.

Given the limited time we had, we focused on the main attractions the Grampians are famous for, most of which are in close proximity to the town centre of Halls Gap, a quaint village nestled at the heart of the national park. We took the scenic route along Mount Victory Road in order to view the handful of lookouts dotted along the way including Reed Lookout, The Balconies and Boroka Lookout. We capped off the day with a visit to MacKenzie Falls, which was the ultimate highlight.

At each location, we opted to wander through the network of walking trails that zigzagged across the parklands, preferring the shorter leisurely strolls rather than the full day hiking treks suited for the more adventurous types. It must be pointed out that the tracks are ideal for even those with limited mobility and in most parts, is also wheelchair accessible. The trails opened up to panoramic views of the surrounding bushland, and as an added bonus, dogs are permitted in most areas of the national park.

Boroka Lookout

Our first stop was Boroka Lookout where you can capture stunning views of Halls Gap and beyond, including the picturesque Wonderland and Mount William Ranges.

Reed Lookout

As we continued along Mount Victory Road, we headed towards Reed Lookout which overlooks the Victoria Valley, Serra Range, Lake Wartook and the Mount Difficult Range, showcasing some of the regions diverse landscape.

The Balconies

A short stroll from Reed Lookout is the Balconies, the perfect location to soak up the breathtaking sights of the Victoria Valley. Here you’ll also find massive sandstone boulders protruding from a cliff face. Follow the walking trail where you’ll continue to come across some amazing rock formations. If you’re daring enough, sit down with your feet hanging off the precipice and ‘live on the edge’.

MacKenzie Falls

An approximate forty minute drive from Halls Gap is MacKenzie Falls. Take in the spectacular scenic views of the entire gorge at each of the observation platforms strategically positioned along the pathway leading to the base of the falls.  It’s a steep descent from the peak of the cliff tops, as you meander through the walking trail that winds its way to the foot of the gorge, but it’s certainly worth it as you stand in awe at the water cascading into a deep pool. If you struggle with the walk going down, it’s a bitch working your way back up! Keep in mind that this is one area where dogs aren’t permitted.

Accommodation

We opted to stay at the Grampians Getaway Resort, just outside of Halls Gap. The property is unique in that it features six pyramid shaped, self-contained units, each with three bedrooms (with a queen bed upstairs, double bed downstairs and two bunk beds in the third bedroom), wood fire, TV/DVD, kitchen, spa bath and a large lounge area that opens up to an outdoor patio with a barbeque. Furthermore, it’s a pet friendly resort! The property is ideal for families, with its own private lake where you can go canoeing, yabbying and fishing amongst the geese and ducks that wander the area.

You’ll wake up to the dulcet tones of native birdlife and as you venture into the town centre, you’ll be charmed by the local wildlife including kangaroos and wallabies who freely roam the main streets of Halls Gap.

The Grampians are a wonderful destination to chill out, relax and recharge the batteries. What we experienced is just the tip of the ice-berg of what the Grampians has to offer. Don’t forget to pack your camera to capture sweeping vistas that showcase the diverse landscape of the region.

To our overseas friends, if you’re in Melbourne, take the opportunity to explore the regions outside of the city. Embrace the refreshing beauty of nature and the rich rugged bushland that Australia is renowned for.

For more information, visit: www.visitvictoria.com

The Age of Beige is Over!

What do you get when you combine a couple with opposing design aesthetics, a single room in their house in desperate need of a makeover and a colour wheel – you get a vibrant episode of Colour Confidential!

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The crux of the program centres on each couple moving away from the standard builder beige and making a giant leap towards adding a splash of colour to what is a boring room. The homeowners then face the tough task of determining three colours that ultimately form the basis of their room’s colour scheme, using everyday objects that inspire them. These objects (which could range from red strawberries or blue earrings to violet flowers) are systematically placed around the show’s secret weapon, the colour wheel. The colour wheel consists of 12 shades covering primary colours through to varying shades of secondary colours (including warmer tones and cooler shades).

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Jane Lockhart, who’s the designer and host of Colour Confidential (screened during weekdays on the LifeStyle Home channel), guides each couple during the decision process, after which she is then presented with the difficult challenge of pulling all three colours together, decorating and transforming the room with some va va va voom!

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What three colours would you pick? The first colour selected is the dominant shade used on each wall. The second colour chosen is generally painted on a feature wall, ceiling or trims and in some instances, influences the type of flooring installed (including tiles, carpet or timber floorboards). The third colour choice is used as the inspiration behind accent pieces such as area rugs, curtains, pillows, furniture or other focal points.

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Like certain couples on the program, I have a slight reluctance to painting a mixture of bright, bold colours (that don’t generally co-ordinate or blend well together) in one room. The formula behind the program could spell a recipe for a renovation disaster. However, Jane provides tips and advice on what colour combination to run with, while often acting as a mediator or designer therapist for the participants involved.  It’s interesting to see the dynamics of each couple, as they negotiate between themselves, you witness how far each participant is willing to compromise with their partner, or ultimately, which individual has the domineering personality.

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The final result is nothing short of spectacular. Jane manages to exhibit exceptional prowess in bringing together contrasting, or not so complimentary shades, and creating a harmonious theme for a room. Jane has the skill of unifying bold vibrant colours on the opposite ends of the spectrum and surprisingly develops a look that is functional, contemporary and elegantly stylish using textures and layers of accent pieces.

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The approach is innovative and unique. It proves that if you’re willing to move away from boring neutral tones towards adopting splashes of colour, you can dramatically transform a room and add some character and personality to a space. Like most people, I just need to make that giant leap and finally step out of my age of beige comfort zone.

Jane Lockhart

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