Giraffes

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

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Tales of a Desperate, Dateless Geek – Part III

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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!

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!

lady geek

Tales of a Desperate, Dateless Geek – Part II

lady geek

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

nerdy-girl

Tales of a Desperate, Dateless Geek – Part I

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!

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!

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.

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

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain – The Rebel Chef in Cowboy Boots

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

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

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

Anthony Bourdain and Sydney chef Matt Moran share a lamb at Chiswick restaurant.

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

Tony and Australian chef Luke Mangan on a yacht in Sydney Harbor.

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

Tony meets Elvis and Ben, the chefs and owners of Porteno Restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills.

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

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

Citations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never Give Up

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?”

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.

More 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

CoverShot

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
Andrew Zimmern

Yak Testicles Anyone? Enough to Tickle the Taste Buds!

Image Source: Google.com

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!

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: Google.com

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: Google.com

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: Google.com

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.

Image Source: Google.com

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: Google.com

 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: Google.com

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Kuala Lumpur – A Sizzling Fling

Kuala Lumpur - central business district

Kuala Lumpur – central business district

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

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

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Kuala Lumpur – Old Railway Station

Kuala Lumpur - Old Railway Station

Kuala Lumpur – Old Railway Station

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Kuala Lumpur – Independence Square

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

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

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

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

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

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Kuala Lumpur – The Malaysian National Monument (Tugu Negara)

King's Palace

King’s Palace

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King’s Palace

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King’s Palace

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

Royal Selangor Pewter Factory

Royal Selangor Pewter Factory

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

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Petronas Towers

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Kuala Lumpur – National Mosque

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Kuala Lumpur – National Mosque

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

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

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Batu Caves

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

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Central National Museum – Muzium Negara

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Central National Museum – Muzium Negara

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Central National Museum – Muzium Negara

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Central National Museum – Muzium Negara

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

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Sam & Connie Johnson

Love Your Sister – An Epic Journey

Samuel & Connie. Image Source: loveyoursister.org

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. Image Source: loveyoursister.org

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.

Samuel Johnson. Image Source: loveyoursister.org

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.

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.

Image Source: loveyoursister.org

 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: loveyoursister.org

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.

Sam and Connie. Image Source: loveyoursister.org

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: loveyoursister.org

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
Tom-Soup-006

Oliver’s Twist on Fabulous Food

Image Source: ten.com.au

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

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

Image Source: ten.com.au

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

Image Source: ten.com.au

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

Image Source: ten.com.au

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

Image Source: ten.com.au

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

Image Source: ten.com.au

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

Image Source: ten.com.au

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

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

Self-Confidence-Public-Speaking-Skills

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!

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Image Source: Google

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.

Image Source: Google

 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.

Image Source: Google

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)!

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.

Image Source: Google

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.

Image Source: Google

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: Google

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.

Image Source: Google

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: Google

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!

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik – The Bittersweet Memories

Dubrovnik 1

Image Source: The Vibe 101

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

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

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

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

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

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

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

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

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

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

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

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

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

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

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

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

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

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

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

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

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

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

Malala Yousafzai - CoverShot306x423

Malala Yousafzai – A Symbol Of Courage

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.

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.htmlwww.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

WilsonsCoverShot1

Wilsons Promontory – A Winter Wonderland

Wilsons Promontory – A Winter Wonderland

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

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

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

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

Norman Lookout

Glennie Lookout

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

Sandy Point

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

Waratah Bay

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

 

Fish Creek & Waratah North

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

Wilsons Promontory National Park

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

 

Squeaky Beach

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

 

Picnic Bay

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

Agnes Falls

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

Cape Liptrap

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

Venus Bay

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

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

CoverShot

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Reed Lookout1

The Grampians – A Great Escape

The Grampians – A Great Escape

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

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

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

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

Boroka Lookout

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

Reed Lookout

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

The Balconies

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

MacKenzie Falls

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

Accommodation

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

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

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

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

For more information, visit: www.visitvictoria.com

MichelleBridges3

Let’s Get Physical – Let Me Hear Your Body Talk

Let’s Get Physical – Let Me Hear Your Body Talk

I’ll be the first to admit that exercising is a bitch (a bitch I’m more than willing to have a fight with). However, a recent comment by trainer Michelle Bridges  published in The Age – Daily Life in which she stated “You don’t have to be motivated to exercise, you just have to turn up and do it”1 spurned me to get off my podgy ass in my quest against the battle of the bulge.

   

Michelle continued with the punches saying “This whole ‘I can’t get motivated thing’ is a crock.”2 which was a further eye opening slap in the face that got my pulse racing. But to her credit, Bridges does offer up some sound advice to get me (or you) out of the exercise slump.

According to Bridges, be sure to choose an exercise that suits3. I hate exercising. I try to avoid it as much as Superman stays away from kryptonite. Unfortunately, my waistline went missing in action five years ago and I’ve recently embarked on a mission to locate it. Pilates, Zumba, Tai Bo – are just not my thing. Organising a gym membership is too costly, especially with my lack of commitment. So, I’ve decided to take my outdoor exercise regimen more seriously and commit to my running sessions. This routine gets me out of the house into the sunshine (which I enjoy) while I burn some calories jogging.

Michelle believes that exercising should be part of a regular routine and to exercise at any given opportunity4. Lifting up the remote and changing the channels on the TV is the extent of my fitness regime. Yet, Michelle points out that, “You can exercise while watching television”5. So whilst I salivate over the dishes featured on Masterchef, or scowl at the girls on Australia’s Next Top Model, or envy Kim’s curvaceous body on Keeping Up With the Kardashians – I’m in front of the TV screen working up a sweat in my daggy tracksuit performing squats and lunges (I do like to throw in a little Macarena or Gangnam-Style dance moves into the mix as well).

 

Bridges advocates that varying your training is the key to maintaining motivation6. My better half bought me a bike which later became a decorative focal point in the garage. It gathered dust and cobwebs faster than Kim Kardashian’s marriage to Kris Humphries. However, with the warmer months looming, he’s encouraged me to ride my bike along the nearby track overlooking the ocean (see, the better half isn’t just a pretty face, he does come up with a few wise ideas). There’s nothing more soothing than a bike ride along the shoreline. I’ve got yoga mats that are lost somewhere in the depths of my cupboards which I need to locate. I need to continue with some much needed push-ups and stomach crunches to say goodbye to my muffin top.

Another tip from Michelle is to set yourself realistic goals7. During a half-hearted sprint session, I once tried to run 100m, Usain Bolt style, in 9.63 seconds…not even close. I was overtaken by a five year old! (At that point, I thought of trying another Olympic sport altogether, like curling. I’d blitz the field and sweep everyone off their feet!).  OK, so the bar was set too high. But, when I first began my jogging sessions, my initial goal was to jog 500m without passing out and it progressed from there – 500m without stopping to catch a breath – 1000m at a slow jogging pace, pausing only twice. I just have to improve on that momentum.

Bridges recommends finding a training partner8. I must admit, I’ve trained once before with the better half and it was motivating having him with me. Seeing him lap me several times on an athletics track adds a little fuel to the fire, to push myself to jog further and faster. We’ve vowed to make this a routine every Sunday so that we can both improve on our fitness level.

Lastly, Michelle suggests to make firm exercise appointments and not to let exercise slip in the winter months9. Sadly for me, my loathing for training doesn’t begin or end at winter; it’s an on going drama regardless of what season. Even the thought of exercising is so exasperating it tires me out. I spend hours psyching myself up to put the trainers on, but it’s one excuse after another, ‘it’s too hot’, ‘it’s too cold’, ‘it’s raining’, ‘I’m having a bad hair day!’ Bottom line is, I have all the time in the world to exercise. I have no excuse not to! It goes back to Bridges’ original comment ‘you just have to turn up and do it!’.

So, with this in mind, I think there is still hope for me to become a Victoria’s Secret model – it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen!

For further information, check out Michelle Bridges’ 12 Week Body Transformation website on http://www.12wbt.com/

Source:

http://www.dailylife.com.au/photogallery/health-and-fitness/dl-fitness/michelle-bridges-top-workout-tips-20120920-26890.html

Image Source: Google

Citations On Request

CoverShot

Egypt – The Jewels of the Nile – Part II

Egypt – The Jewels of the Nile - Part II

We delve into the stunning attractions of Cairo, Alexandria and Aswan in greater detail and include extraordinary pictures capturing the amazing beauty of Egypt and its gems, all of which are man-made monuments built thousands of years before Christ and a testament to man’s ingenuity.

We kicked off our trip on New Years Day 2011 with a flight to Cairo, which was slightly marred by a drunken female passenger going through a mid-life crisis, who mistakenly sat next to us.  Nevertheless, her crazy rants about her ex-husband and her new Turkish lover didn’t dampen our excitement but merely added a little humour along our journey.

Alexandria

Before you begin any exploration of Egypt, start with an excursion of Alexandria which is a three hour bus ride from Cairo. Alexandria doesn’t have the grandeur of the capital, but there are enough attractions to pack a full-day’s worth of sightseeing. As per my previous blog, the most memorable sites were the Roman Amphitheatre, Pombey’s Pillar and the Quayet-Bey Fortress. But our guided tour also included a visit to the Roman Catacombs and a stop at the Mosque of Abdul Abass, both of which are worth checking out.

Cairo

To wet the appetite, we began our main tour of Egypt with a glimpse of Cairo, visiting the Saladin Citadel and the Mohammed Ali Mosque in the heart of the city. We then tested our haggling skills at the lively Khan El Khalili bazaars, a market full of colourful trinkets and locally made goods.

The day concluded with a visit to the Egyptian Museum, exhibiting Pharaonic treasures and artefacts, the best of which was the gold coffin of Tutankhamon (Be warned, cameras are not allowed inside the premises and three hours is not sufficient to view the entire collection of masterpieces, some of which date back to the Ancient Kingdom1).

Aswan

Temple of Abu Simbel

After a short, but rickety flight to Aswan, we headed further south by bus to Nubia where we boarded our cruise boat on Lake Nasser. In the late afternoon, we headed off to the majestic Temple of Abu Simbel, which would have to be one of the ultimate highlights of the trip. Words cannot begin to describe how impressive this monument is, which measures ‘38 metres wide by 65m long, carved out of a single piece of rock’2. You’re confronted by four colossal statues of the Pharaoh Rameses II, each towering at 20 metres high, while the complete façade is some 31 metres high3.

‘The smaller Temple of Hathor, built for Rameses’ wife, Nefertari, is also guarded by six 10m statues. Inside the temple are paintings depicting Rameses and the Gods that are over 3200 years old’4.

If you travel in early January, rug up as it does get a little chilly, particularly if you attend the sound and light show in the evening, where you witness Abu Simbel lit up in all their glory.

Wadi El Sebou, Avenue of Sphinxes & Temple of Al-Dakka

As we continued along the journey, we stopped at smaller ruins including Wadi El Sebou – ‘the Valley of the Lions’. According to our handy itinerary, the site was named after the great Avenue of Sphinxes which leads to the Temple of Rameses II’5. This region is 194kms south of Aswan and features the Temple of Maharraqa, Wadi El Sebou Temple and the Temple of Dakka.

Temple of Kalabsha

‘Approximately 50 kilometres south of Aswan is the Temple of Kalabsha, built by the Roman Emperor Octavius Augustus and dedicated to the local fertility god Mandulis’6. A few other monuments surround the temple, including the Kiosk of Qertassi, whose silhouette looks stunning against the sunshine.

Temple of Philae

We took a motorboat ride to the Temple of Philae, which is ‘located on the island of Egelika. The Temple of Philae serves as a sanctuary sacred to the goddess Isis’7. The site has a touch of mystique as it’s a monument perched on an island rising from the waters of the Nile. This is further reflected by the columns of the Pavillion of Trajan, which look majestic up against the contrasting blue sky with the river as the back drop.

As part of an optional excursion, we got to experience life in a Nubian village where we mingled with the locals, sipped tea at their home, played with their pet crocodiles (which are considered sacred) and had henna tattoos painted on our hands.

For a change of mood, the group embarked on a relaxing ride on board a traditional felucca where we were surprisingly serenaded by local kids, who paddled towards our boat and sang for donations.

Temple of Kom Ombo

As the cruise headed north, we visited Kom Ombo ‘(situated between Edfu and Aswan) to view the only Egyptian temple dedicated to two gods – Horus the Elder and the crocodile headed Sobek’8. One section of the temple is dedicated to the god Sobek, who according to legend is the creator of the world, while the other section is consecrated to the god Horus, the solar god of war9.

To top the evening off, a Galabea party was held where we witnessed some belly dancing and listened to Egyptian music, while dressed up in traditional Egyptian costumes.

Temple of Horus

‘The Temple of Horus is located in Edfu (positioned half way between Aswan and Luxor) and is the best preserved temple in Egypt. Because of its imposing dimensions it is considered the most significant after Karnak. Built during the Ptolemaic period, the monument is 137m long and 79m wide with a pylon 36m high.

Two black granite falcons guard the entrance to the temple, depicting Horus in the form of a falcon god’10.

Get ready for Part III of Egypt – The Jewels of the Nile series; this is where the tour heads further north and the monuments get bigger and grander. The final article explores the gems of Luxor including the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens and the astonishing Temples of Karnak and Luxor, before reaching a climatic end at the monumental Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx.

References

Chalaby, A. All of Egypt – From Cairo to Abu Simbel, Sinai. Florence, Casa Editrice Bonechi, 2010

Citations on Request

Nigella-3

Domestic Goddess Sizzles in the Kitchen

Nigella Lawson has proven to be more than just a pretty face and serves up some sweet inspiration. Image Source: foodnetwork.com

According to the Daily Mail UK, Nigella Lawson has been dubbed “the queen of food porn”, a comment attributed to her flirtatious manner in presenting her popular cooking programs1. To her credit, Lawson has proven to be more than just a pretty face with a sensual charm and wit. Nigella is a critically acclaimed writer of several bestselling cook books, achieving over 1.5million in global sales and was voted author of the year at the British Book Awards in 20012. With a dedicated and growing audience worldwide, Lawson has also gained international recognition as a television personality and host of Nigella Express, Nigella Feasts and Nigella Kitchen3.

Image Source: foodnetwork.com

In addition, Lawson has earned a ‘degree in Medieval and Modern Languages from Oxford, then went on to pursue a successful career in journalism, becoming Deputy Literary Editor of The Sunday Times. This was followed by a successful freelance career writing for a range of publications, from The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Times Magazine in the UK to Gourmet and Bon Appetit in the USA’4.

Cooking has never been my forte. I have managed to burn boiling water, make glue from preparing steamed rice (even with the use of a rice cooker!), churned out a batch of rubbery pancakes and turned steak into slate tiles  When I first moved out of home, 2-minute noodles (accompanied by a cheeky glass of chardonnay) was the extent of my cooking repertoire.  What I lack in skill and talent, I make up for in appetite and a passion for eating!

Image Source: cookingchanneltv.com

This is where Nigella serves up some sweet inspiration. Lawson is neither a trained chef nor cook, which gives me a glimmer of hope that one day, I too can become a domestic goddess who sizzles in the kitchen while whipping up a feast as delectable as she can (it won’t happen over night, but it will happen!). Despite the absence of professional qualifications or training5, it’s evident in her programs that Nigella has a love and natural flair for cooking, with a broad knowledge of recipes including international cuisines, an in depth understanding of flavour combinations and ultimately, plating up with a little razzle dazzle.

Image Source: lifestylefood.com.au

I have an affinity for her laid back, fuss free approach to cooking, empowering viewers with the confidence that you don’t need to be Michelin star chefs to prepare mouth watering dishes. ‘Nigella’s kitchen mantra is “minimum effort with maximum effect”’6; it’s a back to basics style to food preparation and entertaining. Simplicity is the key, without compromising on taste or wow factor, a common theme Lawson applies to everyday meals to late suppers, picnics, special celebrations or even afternoon snacks.

Image Source: cookingchanneltv.com

Lawson delivers her message with her signature articulate, engaging charm and flirtatious smile. Nigella’s programs have an intimate vibe, that is, it’s almost conversational as she opens up about tips and ideas on time saving solutions to preparing meals7. The principle centres around uncomplicated, stress-less cooking and entertaining. You don’t need exotic ingredients to whip up a great dish, take advantage of what’s inside your pantry! Lawson even confesses to using ready-made salad packets and sauces bought off the counter – let’s face it, today’s modern family (with their busy schedules and lifestyle) needs convenient short cuts to save time.

As someone who’s better at scorching, nuking, scalding and spoiling meals, but has an insatiable appetite for scrumptious food, for me, Nigella makes cooking look effortless while bringing sexy back into the kitchen!

Sources

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2071324/Nigella-Lawson-Erotic-Ms-Lawson-furiously-denies-dishes-food-porn.html  Viewed Sep 2, 2012

http://www.lifestylefood.com.au/chefs/nigellalawson/  Viewed Sept 1, 2012

http://www.lifestylefood.com.au/shows/nigella-express/ Viewed Sept 1, 2012

http://www.lifestylefood.com.au/shows/nigella-feasts/ Viewed Sept 1, 2012

http://www.lifestylefood.com.au/shows/nigella-kitchen/ Viewed Sept 1, 2012

Citations on Request

Sarah-CoverShot

Design Inc – Sarah Richardson 101

Sarah By Design

If you think too much publicity and overexposure on our television screens is a bad marketing strategy, don’t tell Sarah Richardson and her design team. Sarah Richardson is a guru of interior decorating and design and is the host of uber chic renovation programs such as Design Inc, Sarah’s House, Sarah’s Cottage, Room Service and Sarah 101, as seen on the Lifestyle-Home channel. In fact, the Lifestyle-Home channel should be re-positioned as the Sarah Richardson Network!

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“Sarah Richardson started her career in lifestyle television 15 years ago as a behind-the-scenes prop stylist and set decorator. Within a year, Sarah found herself in high demand as an on screen personality and quickly realised that she could carve a niche in the emerging world of design TV by sharing her practical, endearing and inspiring approach to interior design with viewers”1.

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I’m a one trick pony with my “Matchy Matchy” decorating solutions. On the other hand, balance and symmetry is certainly not Sarah’s trademark design aesthetic. Sarah has the innate talent of putting together an eclectic mix of accessories and pieces, contrasting patterns and vibrant colours, combining contemporary with traditional themes, and making the concept look cohesive. Overall, there is a sense of whimsy that resonates in her signature home transformations, which I define as a fusion of modern sophistication with a French provincial edge.

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Richardson has a flair for blending vintage pieces into her interior makeovers and is also renowned for recycling old ‘trash’ and transforming it into one’s treasure, that is, revamping dated, worn out furniture with the pizzazz of re-upholstery, or by touching up with a splash of paint. Sarah’s other passion is incorporating antiques into her designs as they maintain their value long term, which is ideal for clients sourcing investment pieces for their homes.

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Sarah, along with her main partner in crime, Tommy Smythe, is not afraid to get her hands dirty and isn’t scared to take control of a power drill or hand tool, especially when installing flat pack cabinetry and other furniture items. Richardson is also an avid do-it-yourselfer (DIYer), giving viewers first hand lessons on a range of DIY projects from floral arrangements, sewing your own pillow covers or valances, to demonstrating innovative ways to revamping table lamps with ribbons or jazzing up walls using China plates or framed shells or buttons as decor!

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I’m sometimes sceptical about her ideas of mixing and matching ornate vintage items with contemporary accents. Yet, she manages to prove me wrong with her approach to decorating. The final result of each home makeover she designs is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Sarah never ceases to amaze me with how she executes her unique vision on dated and dreary interiors, transforming them into sophisticated and functional abodes with timeless appeal.

Citation

1. http://www.sarahrichardsondesign.com/sarah/about  Viewed 29 August 2012

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DianaFrontPageimages

The Fab Five – Icons of Fashion

The Fab Five – Icons of Fashion  

There is a long distinguished list of women who have left an indelible mark on the fashion world with their unique sense of style and sophistication. From a personal perspective, I have narrowed this list down to a small, but acclaimed group of women I refer to as the Fab Five, who were the ultimate ‘It’ girls of their time, but who continue to be admired by future generations. Their signature looks have captivated fashion editors, designers, photographers and stylists alike. Let me introduce to you, in no specific order, The Fab Five:

  • Grace Kelly, Her Serene Highness, Princess of Monaco
  • Audrey Hepburn
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis
  • Diana, Princess of Wales

Grace Kelly – Her Serene Highness, Princess of Monaco

Grace Kelly was a screen goddess who embodied a regal sophistication. Her magnetism and allure intensified exponentially through her marriage to Prince Ranier of Monaco. Starring in iconic Alfred Hitchcock classics such as Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and To Catch a Thief, Kelly further established her status as Tinseltown elite with her Oscar winning Best Actress performance in Country Girl1.

Her trademark demure look was characterised by classic and willowy silhouettes. ‘She did not flaunt. Even as a star, she would wear figure-hugging evening frocks but avoided overly revealing clothes. The waists were cinched, the skirts often full, the shoulders either bare or wispy with chiffon’2.

‘The leading costume designers of the time, including Edith Head (To Catch a Thief, Rear Window, and Dial M for Murder) and Helen Rose (High Society), played an integral role in developing the ”Grace Kelly Look” that swept across the globe in the mid-1950s’3.

 

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn first captured the world’s attention with her breakout performance in Roman Holiday, which scored her the Best Actress Oscar4. Subsequent roles in Sabrina, Funny Face, My Fair Lady and Breakfast at Tiffany’s further cemented her status as one of Hollywood’s finest5.

Hepburn was gamine and boyishly slender. Her distinct facial structure, including the square jaw line, high cheekbones and immense doe-like brown eyes, epitomised a waif-like glamour and elfin beauty6.

 

French designer Givenchy (to whom Audrey would become a muse) was influential in defining her professional and personal style7. Like Grace Kelly, Audrey’s trademark identity can be defined as understated, minimalist but elegant.

In fact, the Givenchy gown worn by Audrey’s character Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s has been voted the greatest outfit of all time, based on a survey conducted by Lovefilm8. In addition, the long white dress, hat and parasol costume Hepburn’s character Eliza Doolittle wore in My Fair Lady came in at number six9.

  

Marilyn Monroe

  

Marilyn Monroe is regarded as one of Hollywood’s ultimate femme fatales. As a star of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, Some Like it Hot and The Seven Year Itch, Monroe oozed sexuality with a heady combination of sensual vulnerability.

Marilyn had a flirtatious smile with her pouty voluptuous lips, hypnotic eyes and a curvaceous body to match. However, behind the seductive, sultry, enigmatic façade, was an insecure individual10. Her public persona as the dumb blonde contrasted her true nature as an articulate, well read woman with a sharp wit, which only adds to her complex mystique11.

From a fashion perspective, Monroe preferred figure hugging attire that accentuated her hour-glass silhouette. ‘Her favourite costume designer was William Travilla, who created the iconic white billowing dress of The Seven Year Itch and the pink gown from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. In a time of Peter Pan collars and poodle skirts, Marilyn’s style was considered risqué for her generation. This was exemplified by her tight dresses and suits, which flattered her shapely body and fitted like a glove’12.

Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis

Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis was literally the First Lady to bring elegance and sophistication to the White House. From the moment John F. Kennedy was sworn in as President of the United States, the “Jackie Look” swept across America, and subsequently the world13.

Jackie’s statuesque physique stood out along with her streamlined coats, A-Line dresses, pill box hats, white gloves and trademark bouffant hairdo.  ‘Oleg Cassini, a foremost fashion designer of the time, made the First Lady one of the best-dressed women in the world’ as the brains behind the “Jackie look”’14.

In Cassini’s own words, ‘I wanted to dress her cleanly, architecturally, in style. I would use the most sumptuous fabrics in the purest interpretations’15. Her charm and intelligence, only added to her iconic persona. According to Cassini, ‘despite Jackie’s shy public presence and her whispery voice, privately she had a strong personality. Jackie’s taste was very simple – she liked only the very best’16.

Diana, Princess of Wales

At the height of her popularity, Diana, Princess of Wales, was the epitome of elegance and a jewel in the crown so to speak. Her impeccable poise, sophisticated regal ensembles, combined with her ability to break down barriers between aristocracy and the common man, set her apart from other royal members with their stand-offish formality.

Diana’s style transformation began during her ‘shy Di’ phase and continually evolved through to the final years of her life when she was crowned ‘the People’s Princess’, which reflected her ever increasing self-assurance and growing independence.

During her initial years as a princess, ‘Diana wore sailor tops, lace ruffles and full skirted, frilly taffeta evening gowns, with buckled and bowed shoes and hats with ostrich plumed feathers’17. ‘She chose blouses with piecrust or scalloped collars and flimsy skirts with cardigans or waistcoats’18. To put things in perspective, these garments mirrored the trends of the period, but more importantly, revealed Diana’s innocence and naivety in her new role as a princess.

As Diana’s confidence bloomed, she took greater risks and became more experimental, making striking and bold fashion choices19. Diana’s wardrobe in her latter years was more daring, while maintaining a demure gracefulness. Furthermore, the heels got higher, clothes got edgier and skirts got shorter, both streamlined and flattering, while emphasising her figure. To further express her individuality, Diana favoured effortless minimal chic, which resonated in well structured and tailored shift dresses and pencil skirts, while gowns accentuated her slender and statuesque physique.

For fifteen years, designer Catherine Walker played a significant role in developing Diana’s style identity20. Catherine understood that clothes were Diana’s mechanism to communicate the highs and lows of her life21. ‘Catherine found new ways for the Princess to win sympathy and support through her choice of clothes’22. ‘Dress by dress, look by look, phase by phase, Diana illustrated the story of her life’23.

The Fab Five were fashion forward trendsetters, who occasionally broke the rules to create their own signature look that reflected their individuality and own personality. Poise, elegance, glamour, classic and timeless beauty are terms synonymous with each of these women. Each still possess something inspirational to women of today, as the French would say – je ne sais quois. A distinct, intangible quality is the source of their enduring appeal. Their ultimate legacy is one of beauty, grace and charm. Even years after their death, we will continue to be captivated by their elusive mystique.

Citation Reference List – On Request

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Divine Intervention

Divine Intervention

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One of my daily guilty pleasures is viewing home makeover programs that transform bland passé interiors into contemporary, or traditional but sophisticated, masterpieces. My particular vice is back to back episodes of Divine Design and Candice Tells All, as featured on the Style and LifeStyle Home channels respectively. The creative force behind both programs is host, interior designer and decorator extraordinaire, Candice Olson.

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Olson is the Fairy Godmother for home makeovers. Along with her colourful sidekicks of contractors, electricians, builders, painters and stylists, Olson weaves her magic on the most undesirable rooms and ‘delivers awe-inspiring design transformations’. Your home is her canvas, kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, living areas, attics or basements; no job is too great or too small, but like most renovations, Olson’s main constraints are time and budget.

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In each episode, Candice takes you on a journey in ‘solving her clientele’s interior design and décor dilemmas’. Her aesthetically challenged clients relinquish all artistic control to Olson’s infinite creativity and vision. Each project begins with structural and layout sketches and then proceeds with Olson exploring paint colours; assessing tile, carpet, floor and cabinetry samples; selecting appliances as well as fabric swatches (where patterns and textures are often used as jumping off points for the overall design concept).  The following stage generally involves Candice embarking on shopping expeditions for furniture, accent pieces and accessories, at which point I start to salivate.

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Throughout the process, Candice manages to entertain her team and viewers alike with her endearing charm, positive energy and self deprecating sense of humour, as you witness the highs and lows of interior renovation. What transpires is a radical home facelift and concludes with before and after shots of the final design transformation. Olson’s signature look is combining functionality with a timeless elegance, mixed with a luxurious, sumptuous theme that reflects the owner’s personality and practical needs. The end result elicits an array of reactions from clients ranging from amazement, elation to ‘occasional tears of joy’.

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Behind the scenes, Candice is a savvy business woman. In addition to her uber-popular TV shows, and a widely syndicated newspaper column, Olson also set up her own residential and commercial design practice, Candice Olson Design. Furthermore, she designs a swath of home products under the umbrella of the Candice Olson Collection and is the author of several books in which she shares design secrets and offers up smart tips and practical advice to help readers plan and execute successful room makeovers.

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With each new series of Divine Design or Candice Tells All, my home décor ‘to do’ list expands with new terms such as ikat, paisleys, damask, wainscoting, chair rails, cornices, trims, sectionals, focal points etc – enough to make my better half shake his head side to side and roll his eyes in despair at my futile attempts at being anointed the Queen of Renovations. One can only hope and dream of a little Divine Intervention at jazzing up the humble abode from Candice herself, with her unique touch of style and creative magic.

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