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.

Catherine – The Great Hermitage Collection

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The National Gallery of Victoria is currently showcasing a collection of masterpieces from the Hermitage, epitomizing the artistic vision of Catherine The Great. The collection includes an exclusive curation of Italian, French, Flemish and Dutch art and features specific works from Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck  and Velazquez. As a backdrop, sections of the gallery has been transformed to recreate the interior of the Hermitage Museum, giving the audience an opportunity to experience the richness and grandeur of Roman and Classical architecture embraced by Catherine herself.

Catherine’s thirty-four year reign as Empress of Russia is often considered the Golden Age of the Russian Empire, a period that cultivated a movement towards the ideals of Enlightenment – a drive towards liberty, progress and tolerance. Catherine’s passion and enthusiasm for the arts, literature, education and culture instigated the foundation of her collection of paintings, sculptures, and priceless treasures and artifacts of silver and precious gems.

References:

http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/masterpieces-from-the-hermitage/

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.

Image Source: facebook.com ruok photos

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!

Image Source: facebook.com/ruokday/photos

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.

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!

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

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

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

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

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: 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!

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

Malala Yousafzai – A Symbol Of Courage

According to Jimi Hendrix, “When the power of LOVE overcomes the love of POWER, the world will know PEACE.” – such humble words underpinning a compelling, hopeful message. Words, no matter how simple, can speak volumes. Words can inspire. Words can be the catalyst for change.

This brings me to the story of Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year old Pakistani girl, described as a peace activist, who was shot in the head by Taliban extremists, merely for fighting for what should be every child’s right – to be educated.

Image Source: dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/10/10/article-2215132-1570969B000005DC-424_634x387.jpg

Since 2007, Malala’s hometown of Swat has been infiltrated by the Taliban regime, which has set about imposing their will on residents through the use of fear and intimidation1. Under Taliban rule, “men have been forced to grow beards, opponents of their beliefs are beheaded and women are prevented from going to the market”2. Furthermore, “schools have been blown up, the majority of which are for girls”3, as “girls should be kept at home and barred from education”4 based on Taliban teachings.

At the age of 11, Malala, “whose name means grief stricken”5, began a campaign to expose these atrocities through “a blog for the BBC’s Urdu service website under the pseudonym Gul Makai (or ‘face like a flower’)”6. Malala championed the importance of education for girls and was a strong advocate for children’s rights. “Recently she had spoken of her desire to set up her own political party and a vocational institute for marginalised girls in her area”7.

Malala’s crusade was even recognised by then prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, “who awarded her the country’s first National Peace Award and a reward of about $US5300 after she missed out on winning the International Children’s Peace Prize for which she was nominated in 2011”8.

Sadly, her views were considered as an act of defiance “and earned her the enmity of Taliban leaders”9. Consequently, Malala and her family were targeted by Taliban militants and threatened for her outspokenness, ultimately resulting in her shooting.

Committing this act of violence on an innocent child is nothing short of barbaric. In fact, using such savagery against a young girl is cowardly; a young girl who was merely promoting a simple message of hope and equality. I struggle to understand countries, cultures or traditions who continue to suppress women and their right to equality. I am neither a Muslim nor an expert on the Islamic religion or its principles. However, as stated by clerics from the Sunni Ittehad Council, “Islam doesn’t prohibit women from getting an education”10. The attempt on Malala’s life was declared “un-Islamic and the individuals responsible for this attack transgressed the Islamic Hudood [doctrines]”11.

Furthermore, many Muslims have condemned this horrific incident. “Hundreds of Pakistani women rallied together in Karachi in support of Malala, whose struggle resonated with tens of thousands of girls denied an education by Islamist militants”12.

Malala is a symbol of courage, an icon of peace. It takes strength to stand up and fight for one’s beliefs, especially under cultures where women are suppressed and forced into subjugation by men. Her bold determination in exposing “the scourge of terrorism the Taliban regime has conducted towards her community”13, particularly to women, further exemplifies her bravery. Despite the risk to her life, Malala was a voice for young women and her plight has captivated the attention of politicians and celebrities alike including Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Madonna and Angelina Jolie.

Malala’s push for girls’ education was both compelling and inspiring. Education, which we take for granted in the western world, is all the more vital in developing nations, where poverty is rampant. Knowledge is power. Educating men and women is the basic foundation to help individuals become employable, self-sustaining and generate an income to provide for families, to build a better life for future generations as well as supporting the wider community.

The fact is “32 million girls in Pakistan are not going to school”14. One can only hope that Malala’s message, and the violence inflicted upon her, can act as a catalyst for change that “spurs the Pakistan nation to come together and fight this mind set which attacked an innocent harmless girl”15. The assault against Malala is a call to action. Action creates momentum and this incident can be a turning point that “strengthens the resolve of the Pakistan military to undertake a long-awaited offensive against Taliban reign”16.

As quoted by Edmund Burke, “All that is required for evil to flourish in this world is for good men to do nothing”. The Taliban cannot prevent all independent voices or advocates of peace and equality through the force of bullets17. To ensure that Malala’s struggle and suffering isn’t in vain the Pakistan people need to come together in solidarity. People Power is at its strongest when people stand in unity to achieve a single goal.

It takes one person to turn a dream into reality. It takes one person to start a movement for change; it takes a village to make it happen.

Sources:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2217445/Malala-Yousafzai-We-WILL-defy-Taliban-school-says-Shazia-Ramzan.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2216836/Malala-Yousafzai-Which-Malala-She-punished-The-horrific-moment-teenage-female-education-activist-critically-injured-Taliban-gunman-school-bus.html

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2215132/Taliban-attack-teenage-Pakistani-girl-Malala-Yousafzai-way-school.html

http://www.theage.com.au/world/pakistani-girls-family-defiant-after-attack-20121011-27e85.html

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/malala-an-icon-of-courage-who-sets-us-all-a-challenge-20121012-27idh.html

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2217786/British-help-girl-shot-Taliban-Medical-team-flies-Pakistan-aid-treatment.html

Photos: Courtesy of

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2217445/Malala-Yousafzai-We-WILL-defy-Taliban-school-says-Shazia-Ramzan.html

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2216836/Malala-Yousafzai-Which-Malala-She-punished-The-horrific-moment-teenage-female-education-activist-critically-injured-Taliban-gunman-school-bus.htm4

lwww.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2215132/Taliban-attack-teenage-Pakistani-girl-Malala-Yousafzai-way-school.html

 http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/malala-an-icon-of-courage-who-sets-us-all-a-challenge-20121012-27idh.html

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2217786/British-help-girl-shot-Taliban-Medical-team-flies-Pakistan-aid-treatment.html

 Citations on Request

The Holy Trinity of Fashion – Season 2012

Image Source: popsugar.com/celebrity/MTV-Movie-Awards-Red-Carpet-Show-Pictures-2012-23403562#photo-23412649

If you’re a devout follower of fashion, there are three key trends being preached by designers and stylists alike this season: Colour Blocking, Peplums and Ruching – these are the hottest looks currently rocking the red carpet and fashion runways, and some of Hollywood’s most glamorous, fashion forward celebrities are a testament to these latest style phenomena.

Colour Blocking

Image Source: dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2001222/Fashions-coolest-clash-How-orange-purple-colours-season.html

If you want to stand out and love a splash of colour in your Spring/Summer ensemble, colour blocking is the way to go. According to Paula Joye (fashion and style columnist for The Age), colour blocking is defined as ‘an outfit made up of ‘blocks’ of solid colour’1. This look is for the confident and the brave, not for the faint hearted – it’s ideal for mixing and matching separate pieces (from tops, jackets, skirts or pants) in vibrant, intense shades. The focus is to combine bold colours on the opposite ends of the colour spectrum, for example, orange and purple, or pink and green (traditionally considered to clash when teamed together).

Image Source: dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1356231/Jennifer-Lopez-shows-tiny-waist-stomach-baring-low-cut-top.html

If you prefer a more subdued, toned down look, ‘use shades within the same family’, that is, colours closer to each other on the colour wheel for example, blue and purple, or black and grey2. However, don’t go overboard and exude some restraint when choosing your wardrobe; avoid mixing contrasting patterns including spots with stripes, or coordinating floral designs with abstract prints. To do so will result in a major fashion faux pas.

Peplums

Image Source: realstylenetwork.com/fashion-and-style/2012/02/jennifer-aniston-wows-in-tom-ford-at-wanderlust-premiere/

Peplums are back with a vengeance! Peplums haven’t dominated fashion since the 1980s, when Dynasty, shoulder pads and perms were at the height of their popularity. The growing resurgence of the flouncy flirtatious ruffle around the waistline of a jacket, blouse, dress or skirt has been pushed by the world’s leading designers and is a significant trend strutting down fashion runways.

Image Source: dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2603928/Duchess-Cambridge-wears-chic-scarlet-suit-Prince-William-jet-Queenstown-early-morning-stop-Royal-tour.html

According to Anna Byrne of the Herald Sun, the peplum design is ideal for the hourglass silhouette and with the right fit, it is also flattering for women who embrace their curves, as it helps to minimise the waistline3. To accentuate the look, team up your peplum ensemble with a belt, to cinch up the waist and define your sexy hips even further.

Image Source: popsugar.com.au/fashion/Pictures-Top-Ten-Best-Dressed-Celebrities-Week-Jessica-Alba-Olivia-Palermo-Alexa-Chung-Diane-Kruger-More-21505339#photo-21506025

Ruching

Image Source: dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2192894/Ashley-Greene-channels-old-Hollywood-backless-gown-sparkles-The-Apparition-premiere.html

Ruching is a perennial style favourite amongst designers and is a look that comes in waves season after season. However, most fashion collections this year have taken the ruching trend and given it a modern twist with softer gathering of pleats and ruffles on skirts and dresses.

The beauty about the ruching technique is that it helps camouflage our muffin tops and the unwanted flab or flaws around the waistline.

Image Source: popsugar.com/celebrity/Highlights-From-Ben-Affleck-Jennifer-Garner-2012-26073011#photo-26102120

Ultimately, regardless of what style trend is strutting down the catwalk, the key is to understand what works for your particular body shape, accentuate your best physical features and feel confident.

Sources:

http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/fashion/how-to-colour-block-pop-and-tone-20110901-1jnk4.html#ixzz26mwwcrfU Viewed Sept 18, 2012

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/ipad/hip-pop-dont-be-afraid-to-show-off-your-curves/story-fn6bfkm6-1226308714837 Viewed Sept 18, 2012

Citations on Request

Stars Go Nude & Shimmer

Kate Hudson, Naomi Watts and Paris Hilton sizzled in their gorgeous frocks, while rocking the hottest trend of the season – going Nude!

Kate Hudson made a stunning red carpet appearance at the launch of the 69th Venice Film Festival wearing a gorgeous nude Atelier Versace gown which she teamed with Fabergé jewellery and topped off with an ultra glam Venetian Goddess updo1.

Image Source: Getty/Popsugar

The near-strapless, embroidered lace, figure hugging number accentuated Kate’s shapely curves2.  Accompanying Kate to the event was fiancé and Muse frontman, Matthew Bellamy, who rocked a classic tuxedo ensemble with black sunglasses3. The couple is in Italy to promote Kate’s new film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist4.

Image Source: Getty/Popsugar

Australia’s own Naomi Watts also attended the premiere to support her partner, Liev Schreiber, who stars along side Kate in the movie. Naomi took centre stage posing for photographers in a similar nude Marchesa gown, albeit, subtly more demure with lace overlay panels and fishtail detail5.

Image Source: i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/08/30/article-2195419-14BD922F000005DC-102_634x910.jpg

‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist, based on the novel of the same name by Mohsin Hamid, tells the story of a Pakistani-born high flyer who takes a job at a Wall Street firm but turns his back on the US and returns to his native Lahore after the events of 9/11’6.

Image Source: i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/08/29/article-2195419-14BD9C45000005DC-26_634x830.jpg

‘Kate turns brunette for her role as a photographer named Erica – the primary love interest in the film. Liev, meanwhile, takes on the role of a U.S. reporter in the movie and looked smart in a tuxedo as he posed alongside Naomi’7.

Image Source: Getty/Popsugar

Keeping in line with the nude colour palette was Paris Hilton, who was spotted wearing a willowy beige and white two tone maxi dress8. According to the Daily Mail UK, ‘Paris was the picture of serenity as she glided from her car and through the airport. The heiress cut a stylish figure as she boarded her private jet at LAX, heading for China, covering her flowing blonde locks with a wide brimmed sun hat and donning her trademark dark sunglasses from her own range’9.

Image Source: i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/08/29/article-2195106-14BA7111000005DC-850_634x895.jpg

Source:

Popsugar.com

http://www.popsugar.com.au/Kate-Hudson-Atelier-Versace-Pictures-Matthew-Bellamy-2012-Venice-Film-Festival-24661245 Viewed 30 August, 2012

Dailymail.co.uk

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2195419/Kate-Hudson-Naomi-Watts-shimmer-ordinated-nude-gowns-hit-red-carpet-Venice-Film-festival.html#ixzz24z249PpQ Viewed 30 August, 2012

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2195106/Paris-Hilton-makes-glamorous-exit-boards-private-jet-LAX-China.html#ixzz24zBGf4Eo Viewed 30 August, 2012

Citations on Request