Saturday, 26 October 2013

THE CHRISTMAS GIFT BUYING GUIDE

1- I know what you're thinking - "It's only October dude! Fuckin' chill the fuck out." But what's the most hated thing about Christmas? Running around like a maniac doing last-minute Christmas shopping (and for the receivers, getting shit gifts as a result). So first tip: Start early. I think we're already behind now that it's end of October, because two years ago by mid November I had all my presents wrapped and it felt pretty damn good.

2- ... Because this way you can put some proper thoughts into your gifts. Write down all the people you'd like to get a present for, next to which you can also record their interests, as well as your ideas and finds. Starting early gives you more time for brainstorming and browsing for the best gifts. Also, keeping track of who's already got a present and who still needs one gives you an idea of how much time you've got to cover the list.

3- Be selective about who gets a gift. It's all about the thought anyway! If there's people in your circle you won't be able to wow with a great gift (because of budget reasons or you don't love them as much anymore or whatever), don't give them a mediocre one that'll clutter their home. Write a nice card or give them some home-baked goodies - way better than some stupid business card holder...

4- Let the internet be at your service. Seriously, if there's free or cheap shipping offered to send your gift to a friend at the other end of the world, just do it - opening a parcel is just as exciting as ripping off wrapping paper (just send a separate greeting card if you find it too impersonal... whatevs). By the time it makes it to your home, you wrap it and send it off again, it mightn't even make it to their house this season because it took you too much effort.
If you have no clue what to get (especially for those people that already have everything), let pages like Svpply.com give you a hand with cool shit that's trending around the world; it's also an amazing source for unique stores. On the other hand, if you know what you want to get but it's sold out where you saw it (mainly clothing and accessories), hit up Polyvore.com, which will spit out all sorts of stockists and price points for you to pick and choose. Of course Ebay is a trusted old friend that can assist with all sorts of occasions (and bargains), as does Etsy with vintage-y, hand-madey things.

5- Don't underestimate the wrapping paper... because if you leave that to the last-minute too, you might end up with some tacky supermarket stuff (and cardboard boxes only work if shipped via air mail). If you wanna go all out, do your rounds at the likes of Pulp, Kikki K and Paper2; if you're a hipster cheapskate like myself, a roll of brown paper from the news agency and some twine should still land you some oohs and aahs.

I'm not claiming to be the best Christmas gift giver, however I know I'm much better at it if I get into it early and prepared (as opposed to my boyfriend for example... just kidding. He's actually getting pretty damn good at it - maybe just for me though because I set the bars so high). If you do need a little help with ideas, check out my gift guide below (many of which I'd like to receive myself... HINT HINT NUDGE NUDGE).


From left to right, top to bottom:
2- Cuisinart: Ice cream maker
8- Copernicus Toys: Crystal growing: Saguaro cactus
9- Kareena Zerefos: "Beyond the Menagerie" print
10- Less & More: Cosmetic make-up organiser
11- Eliza Spell: "Lithium" brass bracelet
12- Henry Langdon: Cocoa and chai spice
13- Natalie Marie Jewellery: Tiny pyrite ring
14- Laguiole: Cheese knife set
15- Fjällräven: "Kanken" Classic backpack


Don't shop too hard. x



Thursday, 19 September 2013

MY THEORY OF HAPPINESS

1. Are you happy today?
If your answer is "yes I'm quite happy because my boyfriend and I didn't fight today", it unfortunately doesn't count, because it seems like if you had asked yourself the same question yesterday and the day before and the day before that, the answer would've most likely been no. "I'm alright" or "not too bad" don't count either. It's either an "absolutely yes, everything is going the way I want"; everything else will go into the "no/not quite/things could be better" category.


2. Are you not completely happy today because you're working on achieving something?
If your work isn't the most amazing but you're doing it because you know you will gain skills, knowledge and experience that will help you break into the field of your desire, that's alright. If you're away from your loved ones on a work assignment and miss them dearly, but it's something you've always wanted to do, it's alright too, because you're doing something that makes you happy today, and know the day you're returning to more happiness. If you're doing something that's not ultra fun, but with a great goal in mind, you're on the right track - there needs to be an "expiry date" to "struggle time", leading to something you want. However, if it's a chain of average/boring/not-worth-thinking-about days with no end in sight, something needs to change.


3. Define what truly makes you happy, and go for it
Whether you feel good today or not, it's always worth sitting down to think about what makes you happy in life - things you're passionate about, your favourite people and activities, your goals, even the little details in your life and the things happening around you. Alternatively, you can start with your current concerns, and ask yourself how you would like things to be differently. You'll be surprised how this can help you draw your very own roadmap, taking you to exactly where you want to be.

Now there's two things you need to commit to: Firstly, you have to be absolutely honest with yourself. Nobody's listening, nobody's judging, so you have to listen to your very own voice, and shut everyone else's out. Forget about commitments and responsibilities for a moment - this is about what you, your heart, truly wants.
Secondly, you have to be specific defining the things that make you happy. Ask all the W questions: what, who, where, when, why, and most importantly, how? If you sit there and say "I'd be really happy if I had loads of money coming into the bank without having to go to work", you can keep sitting there and say to me "as if that's gonna happen just by writing it down", or you can ask yourself why you think that easy money will make you happy, and how you can get it. Create your game plan to achieve all those different goals, and be prepared to find yourself in point 2 for a while - however, you know where you're going and you will be happy doing it.

It might take some time for you to pull together your game plan; it's not easy to be completely honest with yourself sometimes, because we grow up with different influences of what is expected of us and where our place is supposed to be in this world. You gotta be brave and make yourself understand that in this precious life you were given, you gotta be happy and wouldn't want to look back at anything regretfully. No one can look after your own happiness but you, and no one can give your happiness more meaning than you.

I know that someone's gonna say, "I know I'm happiest when I'm in a relationship, now I can't force XYZ to be my boyfriend, because he's the only one I want!" Of course you can't. But knowing what kind of person you would like to be in a relationship with will have you patiently wait for the one that ticks all the boxes - you wouldn't want to be with anyone just for the sake of being in a relationship, and then have crappy ones, do you? Same with looking at famous people and wanting to be like them - what would you like to be famous for? And how famous would you like to be? What needs to be done to get to that fame?

Once you work out the whys and hows, it's time to take action. Normally you should be happy to work hard to get where you want to be - if the road seems too rocky for you to commit to, it might not be your true happiness after all. Even if you're lazy and don't want to lift your finger, you gotta know what to do and who to know to make things happen for you. Basically, if you want to wake up every day and think "life is really, really good and things are going the way I want", you gotta follow the formula: Happiness = hard work and patience + knowing why you're doing it.

By the way, there's the old family commitment hurdle that I'd like to mention, something I know too well from my own culture. Often times you are made to feel guilty for thinking about yourself only, and get the "selfish" label tacked onto you, "after all those years we cared for you". I'm not saying this out of disrespect - I have utmost respect and love for my parents who have supported me all this time (despite all the clashes during my teenage years). But if there's something you want for your life that could refresh your selfish sticker once again, you just have to know what you're talking about. You gotta know why you want to pursue whatever you chose and have to be fully committed to it. They might get hurt, they might not let you, but be patient, and be reasonable - it will get you nowhere if you just stubbornly scream back at them. However, don't give in: you will resent them for not letting you follow your happiness, and it could kill your relationship. Make it clear to them that you could care for them no matter what you do or where you are, or you could listen to what they say but couldn't care less about them. There are many tricky situations and it could take you a lot of time and energy to figure out what's best to do, however with every compromise you make you need to find that silver lining for yourself.


It takes some experience, but a lot more thought to understand what you want in life (= happiness), and knowing that you have no choice but to take that road to get there; after all, nothing will ever measure up to what you've set your heart on. It won't be easy, but you will feel on top of the world, because you get what you want, or you're on your way there. Not to say that your definition of happiness will never change in your life; however, knowing that you're doing things to fulfil yourself always makes the journey worthwhile. Today, I'm happy, as I was yesterday and the day before: being with my boyfriend, who is a genuine, generous, hardworking and loving man; living in the most amazing apartment, spacious, full of natural light, with the coolest landlords I could've never imagined; in my new job (fairly new now) that is the first stepping stone into the direction I want to go, working for a really great boss that cares, and doing different things every day which has pretty much made me forget the word "bored"; being surrounded by caring and inspiring friends, being in touch with others across the world, having a stronger connection with my family more than ever (even though we don't talk that much), and having taken solid first steps into a healthier lifestyle. It took a lot of time, energy and even tears to establish this is what I want, and it took even longer to get to where I am now, but the journey is so much more bearable, knowing where I'm heading. I'm not saying I'm leading a better life than anyone in any sense, and I'm not saying I've got more experience than anyone else... but I know I'm happy and I'm proud of it, every day.


And I wish you to be happy too.


[Image sourced from Tumblr]

Saturday, 24 August 2013

[I DIG] YOGA WITH ADRIENE

I'm pretty notorious for not enjoying sports at all. I like pretty trainers, but I wouldn't use them for anything faster than walking, or maybe riding my bike. So yeah, I'm that person that would watch your bags when you go swimming. (However, ironically, I do like the beach.)

I always knew that my attitude towards sports doesn't really help my health, but any athletic activities just never felt natural to me, so I was never like, "yeah! Let's do this again in half an hour!"... until I tried yoga. The idea of it being a more holistic practice for your body and mind, and that you can take your time to adjust and rest - it's not about faster, stronger, sweatier - appealed to me. I got myself a trial pass for a local yoga studio and loved it, as I left every class feeling warm, energised and clear minded.

However yoga classes are sooooo expensive, and I stopped for quite a while, longing for the day I earned more money to buy monthly passes. Nevertheless I was also concerned with whether I was  doing the poses in class correctly; since classes usually do full flows and welcome students with different levels of experience, there was never a huge focus on explaining the positions in detail. One day I thought, I should've come up with this earlier - why don't I look for yoga videos online? Everyone exercises by watching videos these days! After some intense searching for the right beginner videos, I found Yoga With Adriene and it was love at first sight.

Many people say when it comes to yoga, you have to like and feel comfortable with your teacher, which I really do when it comes to Adriene (as much as I can like someone that I only see on YouTube anyway). She's got a nice pace for rookies like me to keep up with, explains everything in a lot of detail (especially why you do certain things), is pretty damn funny, and her videos are pretty too! She's got a series of foundation poses which were very helpful for me, and a collection of flows (including some belly fat burning ones yeehaa) so there's something for everyone. See you on the yoga mat?






Monday, 29 July 2013

[THOUGHTS ON] SEARCHING FOR THE "REAL THING" WHEN TRAVELLING

Came across this Sydney Morning Herald article on "Searching for the real thing"when travelling. It gave me the chuckles - not because I didn't agree with the writer, I fully do; it's more about whoever doesn't seem to find the "real thing" and complains about it.

I believe that travelling is what you make it: some travel to finally see with their own eyes all the iconic sites and scenery that they've learned about; some travel to simply get away and be in a completely foreign environment, in order to get back refreshed and energised; some do to enjoy new cuisines, fashion, languages etc; it could be a combination of many and of course there are millions of other reasons why one takes themselves to a new place. All will be experiences that are very real to the traveller as they are going somewhere to satisfy a want - they can be good or bad, however definitely, well, real.

People that want the "real thing" on their holiday, I gotta say are either lazy or ignorant. What is supposed to be real - non-touristy? What the locals do? Something mind-blowing that hardly anyone knows of? Whatever you want it to be, anywhere in the world there would be plenty of it. You need to look, ask, do research, embrace. But most importantly, you need to be very open-minded and accept the fact that "real" does not always mean "the most exciting time of your life". I guess it can be, but if you're that kind of person that will make your travels the time of your life, you wouldn't sit around waiting for the "real thing" to happen.

Put it this way: what would be the real thing you'd want someone to experience when they come to your own town? Now if the question was "what would you recommend them to experience" it would be a different thing, but since you find things on your own trips quite unreal, we'll be just as picky with your answers. So you live in Sydney: Opera House, Harbour Bridge - isn't that super touristy? Having breakfast at your favourite cafe - can't I do that back home? Go to a rugby game - I've been to crazier things, like the World Cup (hypothetically). Throw some kangaroo on the barbie - but I thought locals don't really eat much kangaroo? Go to the pub - isn't the pub English anyway?

So you see, real is very subjective - only you can decide what the real thing is. And as it was mentioned in the article, it's less of a thing, but rather a whole authentic experience. Whether you decide you want to do what the locals do, see things that don't exist anywhere else in the world, or eat yourself through your destinations, so be it. However, the richer you want your experience to be, the more you have to talk to different people, the more you have to read, and above all the more you have to be prepared that not every single thing will be crazy cool and super fun. Just because someone says it's their absolute favourite it doesn't have to be yours too; moreover, in your "real" daily life, not everything is perfect either, is it? However, it'll be very real, very authentic; it'll be things you happen to experience, learn and understand about the destination rather than something choreographed by someone that believes this is what you should see. Actually, that may very much be something that other travellers would want to see - you just have to be smart enough to know what you want.


What does travelling mean to you? What kind of expectations do you have when you go on a trip and how do you prepare for it? Do you think it's a bit of a "first world problem" to complain about not seeing the real thing on holidays while we should consider ourselves really lucky to have the opportunity to see different parts of this rich beautiful world? Would love to hear from you guys - you can actually log in via Facebook to leave a comment, it's that easy :)

x


My T, with night time Pretty Beach behind him


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

[I DIG] FLUME

Oh baby it's cold outside... let's dance. (around the house while cooking dinner)



If you don't know him yet (WHAT!), he's this 21-year old music god from Sydney's Northern Beaches that won't take too much longer to make everyone else around the world go crazy for him. All you kids in Europe and the US better go see him at one of his gigs now that he's touring or else you'll really regret missing out... I always make the mistake to discover artists after they finish their concerts in Sydney, so don't follow my example.


In the meantime, go on his Spotify and star the shit out of him already.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

[HOME-MADE] ORANGE WALNUT OLIVE OIL CAKE

It's been really icy and rainy in Sydney... weather that makes you crave wintery and Christmas-y food (in a Northern hemisphere sense I guess. Christmas food here often means barbecue at the beach). I've also been trying to make lots of sweets and desserts myself, since I'm hoping to cut down store-bought food as much as I can, and really I can never get enough of baking anyway. It's so calming - your mind is not really thinking about much besides making sure you're getting the steps right, and it gives you this satisfying, pad-on-the-shoulder type feeling when you watch your ingredients change form, colour and volume, and come out of the oven as these perfect things that lift everyone's mood for the day.

So I reached out to one of my favourite any-day-of-the-week cake recipes again, from the Lottie + Doof blog that I so dearly admire. The orange and walnut mix takes me straight back to my childhood winters in Germany, and since I discovered baking with olive oil, it's become my preferred fat in cakes ("fat in cakes" sounds so classy by the way... not). It's a simple recipe yet delivers such a fulfilling product, and doesn't leave your kitchen as a bomb side after making it either. AND make sure you watch the egg and sugar mixture turn all creamy, almost custard-y; makes me all giddy thinking back. It's not the greatest looking fella but but no one will really think about it once they have their first bite.

So if you have a spare half hour with nothing to do one day, need an emergency cake that needs to impress (whenever that might be) or just simply want to warm your home and fill it with Christmas-y smells, please don't hesitate.








Orange walnut olive oil cake (slightly adapted from Lottie + Doof)

  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (roughly 2 oranges)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated orange peel (roughly the peel of the two oranges used for the juice)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 180C. Butter a 9-inch springform pan (I use oil out of laziness) and line with baking paper.

Grind walnuts in food processor until roughly ground, resembling breadcrumbs. Combine ground walnuts, flour and baking powder, and set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer until frothy, around 2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar, and beat until thick, creamy, pale yellow, around 4 minutes. Slowly add nut-flour mixture, then orange juice, peel and olive oil, mixing until just combined (if your bowl gets too full, use a spatula combine all in order to avoid splashes).

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes. Let cake cool in pan before transferring to a platter (it doesn't need to cool completely, but while warm it needs to be transferred carefully as it breaks more easily); dust with icing sugar before serving (optional), or just dig in straight away like myself.





Sunday, 23 June 2013

ONLY THE BEST WILL DO

Some close a chapter of their lives as they have a new one lined up. Some close a chapter and are lost. Some enter their new chapter and then realise they're lost.

After finishing some sort of school,work or even a relationship, there are lots of questions to ask. What is it that I want to do? How do I want to lead my life? Am I gonna have/earn enough money? Is money actually what I need? Am I gonna have enough time to see my friends/family/go out drinking? And then you realise your ideal job at your favourite company isn't available just because you're available now. You know your family is always watching and you don't want to disappoint them. You don't get to see your friends often at all because everyone's busy with their own life, and when you do get to talk to them about your concerns, everyone starts to confuse you because they all have different ideas.

What is it that we really want? Often times we don't really know. We have an idea, but we don't know the particulars. Sometimes we need to pay bills/feel lonely so we just go with the best available for now; we tell ourselves we'll find the time to think about it later. Sometimes we don't want to be judged by others. Sometimes we feel too comfortable to give up all the conveniences and make an effort to do better - let everyone else have a piece too! And sometimes, it's simply too hard.

Surely every single one of us has come across this feeling - when you know you really, really like something, and you're so, so sure you want it. It could be a bag, an apartment, a person. It's that feeling of leaving and knowing you'd have to come back. Nothing will ever measure up to it. And surely at some stage in your life you've also felt that something doesn't feel quite right. Those stupid studs on the bag. The old bathroom. That weird laugh. How often though have you gone with it just because you thought you'll be able to live with it, it won't be too bad?

It won't be good enough. We all know it but we want to prove ourselves wrong, until we've had enough. It needs to be the first feeling. You need to be sure, no flaws, and if there are flaws, they need to be ones that you enjoy. Think of your values - what kind of person do you strive to be? Do you want to be fair, kind, honest, happy, loved? You don't want to be wasteful, disrespectful, depressed? You have to go with what fulfils those needs the most. They're gonna be long journeys, very difficult and draining ones too, but think about it - you'll be the happiest when you get there. Nothing will ever be able to measure up to it.

The way I have learned to do it is to listen to my heart first (what I have talked about above): am I absolutely sure about it? Am I in love? If I choose the other way, might I please someone else, but feel miserable myself? Afterwards, you have to establish in detail what it is that you want, and how you want it. I want love, and I want my partner to be this, this and this. I want a successful career, and I want to do this, that and the other. I want a healthy and happy life, which includes such and such. Make sure you tick all those boxes - you will need to keep listening to your heart. The journey might challenge you, you might have to do all sorts of things to keep yourself afloat in the meantime, but never take your eyes off what you want. Be honest with yourself, and commit to what truly makes you happy.


After closing my chapter of those beautiful college years, and waiting for my new visa, there was a lot of confusion going on. What is the career path I want to pursue? And why so? What job do I want to start out with, and for whom would I like to work? There's all sorts of pressures coming into it and it makes you wanna pack up and leave to somewhere far away. I had the same conversation with many friends... It wasn't until some good friends had recommended a few books they swear by and I read The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, that I realised I've done all this before (big thanks to Pia and Gery!). I knew I wanted to grow as an individual away from home, and managed to come to Sydney without my mum's full support in the beginning; I knew I wanted to be with my boyfriend because he represents everything I want in a partner, and we managed to work through our problems after a long, long time. Yes, I felt lost at times. I felt like I was breaking someone's heart, which broke mine. I felt like it was just too hard and nobody could ever make sense out of what I was going through. However, strangely, what you truly believe in deep down in your heart, that particular thing that pushed you onto that journey, never fools you. Now I lead the most fulfilling life in a breathtaking city, the most peaceful and gorgeous home, with the man I love, ready to take on the new challenge.


Don't give up. Second best will never do.



[image sourced from Tumblr]