Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bent Bookmarked Pages are so Yesterday

It is such a treat to have the bright, beautiful, inspirational blogger, crafter and vegan as a friend and guest poster. Alana is a generous and creative soul that calls Paddington, Australia home. I had the pleasure of getting to know her in my travels and found what it looks like when someone is truly and genuinely themselves and dedicated to authenticity. Alana is a walking, talking, cooking, studying, and crafting animal rights and eco friendly ethical soul. I dare you not to fall in love with her

Ever get lost on the page you were reading? Alana has your solution and it is simply lovely.
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Our lovely friend Heidi gifted us The Crafty Minx by Kelly Doust just recently. What a fantastic book! (Thanks Heidz).  It came at the perfect time as I've been looking for some simple projects to perfect my (non-existent) sewing skills. Within the crafty crafty book of goodness there lay a cute idea for creating bookmarks out of fabric. The instructions required the ability to sew straight and cut straight. Two things I definitely thought I could master.

I started out following the book as a guide and then added my own little twists to the bookmarky dudes.

Here's how the story goes -
1. Begin by cutting two rectangle-shaped pieces of material 5cm by 23cm (I pinched mine from my dearest sister). Iron and pin them together so the good side of the material is facing outwards.
2. Cut along one of the 5cm sides of the rectangle with pinking shears. This side will later house some ribbon.
3. Sew around the three straight sides of the rectangle about 7mm away from the edge leaving the fourth side open for the ribbon.
A couple charity ribbon pins we had hanging around looked like they needed a second life - bookmark bling! The ribbons already came folded but if you're using other ribbon you will want to cut a piece about 13cm long, fold in half and iron into place.
4. Pop the ribbon into the open side and then sew over to close it all off.
5. Cut the remaining three sides with the pinking shears.

Now there's really only one thing left to do: grab a good book, brew a pot of chai and kick back with your brand new super-cute bookmark.

Love Alana xx

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Turning Over a New Leaf

I love to eat. I do it at least five times a day because I am what they call a “snacker”. I have eaten a regular American diet most of my life, which means I have excluded no food from my diet (meat, plants, sugar, cooked, raw, etc). I love the taste, texture, cultural experiences and the warmth and comfort food provides. If you know me than you know 60% of my diet consists of raw plants anyways.
On my recent visit to China I have found myself re-working what my food intake and aftermath experience means to me and have come to the conclusion that food is not just good; it is fuel and my main living source and something that I love to share.

I have been experiencing changes all year, included but not limited to the country I live in, the job I have, the friends I surround myself with and the places I travel (inevitable the food I eat). I have grown exponentially this year constantly challenging myself to live a different place, take different jobs, make different friends, eat different foods and be more intentional about all of them.

 I went to China and came back traumatized (physically and mentally) from seeing the horrid and grotesque conditions the animals were in before they were being slaughtered to eat for human consumption (and what they looked like after). I also saw the Chinese not waste any part of the animal…literally. The brains, the eyes, the feet, the neck…all of it was eaten. I could not find a sliver of white meat anywhere in any of my food at any time and became ill by the thought of eating unidentifiable animal parts. After a few days I couldn’t stomach eating meat at all.

<---- I think this is what the animals looked like right before they were skewered and heated to look like this -->

My new challenge: Eat vegetarian.

Besides my stomach causing me some grief and my mind not being able to shake the picture of the animals squished together in a small container waiting to be killed and gouged with an iron rod skewer to be placed over a fire there are health and environmental reasons to convince me going veg is the best choice for me right now.

Although I am not afraid to die I also don’t want to live until I’m 100 (this is not a direct challenge to the universe). It is not possible for me to ignore the research that I have read and heard about that supports the phenomenon that animal protein fertilizes and encourages the growth of cancer cells (liver, breast, lung, more) per Pleneat. Plant protein (wheat and soy) does not do this. Protein is an essential part of our diets, especially if we are active people so it is important for us to consume. Nobody wants to fight cancer and we don’t have to. This and it aligns with yoga practice of being physically well, spiritually thoughtful and universally intentional. 

Research has further shown that the slaughtering of animals increases greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and the discharge of reactive nitrogen that increases dead zones in the ocean that contribute to the unnecessary mortality of many sea creatures. Not okay. If this doesn’t get you, think of seeing nothing when you choose to snorkel. Not cool.

Furthermore, it has always been important to me to make a difference and if I can do it a bite at a time I am happy to.

Ghandi encourages us to “Be the difference you want to see in the world.” Bring it, Ghandi. I want to see people live with more intention, sincerity, generosity and communication. What better way to start or incorporate this living-working model than through the common love language of food?

 Andrew and I happy to be eating loctus root in many different varities (pickled, fried and chillied). Look how much fun we are having eating veg!

A ripe and beautifully fresh sunflower plant given to us as a snack in the mid day in China. 

I can’t wait to learn and share new recipes, try new ingredients and challenge myself with daily intention in my quest to become a vegetarian.

Recipes guaranteed to excite anyone's tastebuds, creative ideas and inspiration will come from these blogs (at least initally).

Friday, September 28, 2012

I Learned How to Hug a Porcupine

After living in Austin for 9 years, working hard, going to college, obtaining my Masters in Social Work, volunteering, working three jobs at once and having a decent social life I needed a change. I felt like there was something more and I wasn’t finding it in Austin. 
I met this guy in Italy during my Euro adventure after graduation in 2007. This handsome, kind, funny, talkative, smart, sweet and sensual man and I kept in touch with for five years. He happened to be Australian. After conversing for some time we were both single in 2010- I met him in Sydney and then he came to Austin.

Sometimes you reach a certain point in your life that you just have to take that jump. The first leap I ever took was with my brother when we jumped out of an airplane at 17,000 feet on his 25th birthday. The second leap that I took was by myself to Australia.

I ran through the motions. I figured out the visa, I submitted my qualifications, I had my license notarized, I did my research, I saved for a year, I networked with anyone that would listen, I found a place to live when I got to Australia, I made sure all my friends had Skype downloaded, I visited my most favorite places in Austin, I changed addresses, I quite my job, I sold most of what I owned, I moved out of my house, I had going away party at 219 West because it was figured that if you walked and canoed from Texas to Australia it would take you 219 days (an alternative plan to flying), I tidied up my activities, I said goodbye to my friends and family, I took a deep breath and I jumped.


I arrived in Australia the day before my 27th birthday to meet the Australian who sweetly had arranged transportation and accommodation at the Sunshine Coast to welcome me and celebrate with me. It was perfect. 
Within the span of a month I had a working cell phone, a great job, a room in a beautiful house in a gorgeous neighborhood with great flat mates which I would later call friends, a make shift plastic bag dresser organizational system and a pretty good idea of how to use the public transportation system. 
As time passed I found myself in love, traveling with the Australian, organizing visits with friends and family, working contract jobs that were allowing me to network and take time off for travel, deepening my yoga practice, figuring out my calling, meeting inspirational people and having the time of my life!

As the time approached that I knew I would be attending my best friend’s wedding back in the states I tried to plan whether or not I was going to be returning to Australia, the country that I had fallen in love with that housed my love, my new friends and my new life. There were two things that would keep me in Australia: 1. Sponsorship with an organization where I could work and grow professionally, 2. The Australian. Neither of these worked in my allotted time frame.


As Nelly Furtado says “All good things come to an end” but unlike the very talented and beautiful Ms. Furtado I do not think this is the end to my story, and instead just a part of it.
Sometimes your visions do not materialize into the reality you imagined but that doesn’t mean you stop dreaming.
All in all, I learned how to appreciate and have gratitude for my experiences even if they don’t work out the way I had expected and wished.
If my gratitude was a hug and the total of my experiences (preparations, courage, new career path, love, new friendships and an unexpected ending) was a porcupine, then I do say I learned how to hug a porcupine.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Someone Ate My Tofu at The Great Wall

A word of advice to future China travelers

1.     Avoid, if you can, transferring flights in non-english speaking airports between the hours of 8pm and 7am. There is no one around to help and the people that are around do not want to help and cannot help because they don’t know what you are asking.

   2. When traveling internationally, pack extra undergarments, necessary toiletries and enough clothes for 36 hours.

3.     Do not expect anyone to be helpful. You must make them want to help you for fear of the consequences if they do not. This may seem contradictory to westernized people, however in a land where yelling, pushing, talking over one another and frustration are apart of daily life, you must MAKE people want to help you.

4.     Prepare yourself months in advance to stop looking in the direction people point. Chinese people will point when you ask them a question and you will be tempted to look. Don’t. The direction they are pointing simply leads you to a place where someone else will point in another direction.  If you forget this rule then be prepared to be led into an endless labyrinth of blank stares with fingers at the end.  If you look back at the person who pointed they will either be gone, even less interested in helping you or completely ignore you.

5.     Prepare yourself to be ignored and not receive the answers you are looking for.

6.     Do not adhere to traditional manners that are deemed polite (i.e. queuing up and waiting your turn, waiting your turn to speak, using your inside voice, washing your hands, sitting upright at the dinner table, using any utensil if it is not chopsticks etc). Throw all of these out the window in China. Finishing school is useless here.


After traveling for over 24 hours I arrive in Beijing without any trace of my luggage and a busy signal to my brother’s mobile. I put on a pleading face and China Eastern allowed me to sit in the back office of the luggage claim department until I was able to reach Andrew. When I finally did 2 hours later it was big brother to the rescue! Andrew illegally wiggled his way through the security in the landing neighboring terminal and came running up with his Superman shirt on (yes, seriously) demanding answers from the baggage department of China Eastern. He knows how to work it with the Chinese. After a sufficient amount of scaring them into helping us we left to start our adventure.  Please note we (meaning Andrew) called them every two hour for 36 hours until my luggage was found and returned to me.
Stop 1: Art District 789. A very alternative, industrial, artsy part of town with cafes, restaurants, over priced water bottles, art galleries, ice cream vendors, Chinese art hippies smoking cigarettes and shop after shop of trendy and useless things you would never use.  I loved this place. 


Stop 2: We went to the mini Silk Markets, which consist of a four story convention center sized building with nagging, demanding, smelly and semi-aggressive selling Chinese people requesting you purchase a fake Rolex, Toms, Gucci and Seven Jeans for a widely inflated price. Never buy anything you cant barter down at least 60%...this is Andrew’s rule and I like it. Andrew says always say “tai gui le”  (tie guay lu) literally meaning “too expensive” as soon as they offer a price.  Andrew walked away with a pair of Levis 501 Jeans for 100 RMB ($15 USD) and got them hemmed in three minutes for 10 RMB ($2 USD).

The next morning we were off to the Forbidden City and Great Wall with our private tour guy, Paul. He was very nice and explained all about these two amazing well-preserved historical places.

We walked the 1 K Forbidden City grounds and saw some of the 9,999,999.5 rooms that make up the palace innards. The Forbidden City is located in the center of Beijing and used to be the Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties with a history dating back to BC. It is the grandest integral palace complex still remaining in China, so they so.

Masochistic and morbid Culture alert: We walked both the inside and the outside grounds and learned that women were not allowed outside the inner palace walls. In fact there are strategically placed boards on the walkways that act as a threshold to keep the women inside the walls because their dresses were long and tight and they were unable to move their legs high or long enough to get over these high doorsteps.  Apparently they are supposed to keep ghosts out as well because in China ghosts drag their feet and get stuck. Silly ghosts.

A quick snack, a nap and two hours North East we were at the entrance of the Great Wall at Mutianyu. We rode a cable car up the wall, which is where I got my boob grabbed by the guy trying to get me out of “harms way”, but really, there was no harm…he grabbed my boob. I told Andrew who said to me, “Oh! You got your tofu eaten!” Clearly I am not the first person this has happened to because there is a slang and culturally hysterical phrase to describe this assault. Strangers should not eat your tofu! Anways, we hiked a perpendicular uneven, stone stair case that we later danced our way down, took some great photos and then slid down on individual bobsled scooters. It was amazing!

Because we had little time in Beijing we decided to keep going and head to the Olympic Bird Nest Stadium and Swim Stadium where Michael Phelps won his Gold in 2008. Even though we couldn’t get inside the swimming stadium, we took pics outside and it was well worth it the trek it took to get there.

Later that night we met up with Andrew’s friends, ate pecking duck, lotus root soaked in picked beet root juice, some weird cold mashed potato things with raspberry jam, kale and apple pulp juice.  We ate until our bellies were full and then headed to some street near the Drum Tower. We went to a bar called The Temple, which was smokey, filled with expats and lined up was a Beatles cover band. We drank Tiger beer, danced, sang to Beatles music and socialized our way through the evening. Around one we were smoked out and ready to head home.

We walked for a bit and then realized we were more than 10 K away from our hotel and needed to hail a cab. The cabs were not interested in picking up foreigners; especially ones that didn’t want to pay an 100% inflated price for a 10 minute ride. Instead we decided to duck into Beetle Bar and have a mango smoothie to problem solve. Mango Smoothies will forever be referred to as problem solvers. 

 Without going into to too much unnecessary scary detail, we got back to our hotel that night an hour and a half after the consumption of our problem solver. It is not every paid scooter ride you get to visit the drivers humble abode, change the battery of the scooter you’re riding and wisk down the sholder of a freeway at 25 k/h (about 15miles/hour) in an unknown city.

China is a beautiful very populated place of dark headed people who seem to have never seen a blonde headed person in real life because I have never had my picture taken (both nonchalantly and obviously) so many times. Seriously, there have been a countless number of times that I have felt someone standing really close to me and then looked at the direction they were looking in to see a camera pointed at me instead of them! In an effort to be “polite” I have been asked to pose with Chinese girls…”ugh, hero, my girfriend would like picture wif you.” What can I say? No? I oblige. 

All in all China is awesome and traveling with my big brother who speaks the language is even more incredible! The food, history, architecture, mannerisms, relational interactions and norms, fashion, style, food, hygiene, customs, religion, way of life are all so different and interesting. If you haven’t been, please go. You will feel in awe once you get over feeling claustrophobic and a little dirty.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Think of Yoga, Now Think of a Rave, now DANCE!

Have you ever been or at the very least heard of a yoga rave? Me either, well at not until recently.  Lululemon sponsored The Future Sound of Yoga to facilitate a two hour long yoga rave dance party class that was the most exhilarating experience of my life!

Around 150 people tightly packed into a dark room with wood paneled floors, glow sticks around their wrists, glow in the dark face paint, a rainbow of colors of lululemon fast wicking yoga clothes, open minds and hearts and positive attitudes gathered to let their bodies guide them to the music while flowing and dancing.

There was a DJ that played slow beats to our Vinyasa flows and an energy in the room that could have lit up an entire country. Dancing has never felt so good, looked so free and been so uplifting. There was small offered direction and nobody trying to look sexy or choreographed. There were people stomping, wiggling, hippy flowing, booty shaking and jumping with no inhibitions and no alcohol or other illicit drugs in a room full of people they hardly knew.

A sense of freedom, flow, grove and relief filled the room. After this two hour yoga/dance/rave-athon you were left hugging people in gratitude for their openness and presence at the event. You left feeling full of light, bright solar light that felt like the sun was never going to set.  You are left bursting through your pores with appreciation and absolute unconditional love for people, music, health and life. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pin Your Ears Back

Is a term I heard from my friend, Craig, at a rubgy (aka footy) game a couple of weeks ago. There was a player struggling to plunge his body forward towards his goal line. I inquired what this loud sportsmanship request meant because I couldn’t work it out. To much of Craig’s surprise, I had no idea what this phrase meant and I was unsure about the context just as I am unsure how many rugby players can be on the field at once. So, he simply explained that “Pin Your Ears Back” when and when not screamed by a proud but disappointed fan simply means “Just go for it.” I laughed and thought to myself “that is my next blog entry.”

Gold Coast. Love little Alex in the corner.

Rafting down the Barron River.

Hunter Valley Winery Tour

 The reason this statement resonated with me so much is because it is true. We MUST go for it. We must throw the fear to the side and dive, cannonball or pencil jump into the cold deep end. We must thrust ourselves forward, meet strangers, take leaps of faith, do what scares us, say yes instead of no, listen and act with an open heart and try new things.  We MUST follow our dreams. We MUST be open to trying, to getting hurt, to failing, to falling, to living to succeeding. There is not enough time in our lives to say no because of fear of failure or the unknown. This whole world is unknown. It doesn’t mean we say no to getting out of bed everyday. So, I say, when you get up in the morning do one thing that scares you and do it with your ears pinned back.

Barron River

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

To Put It Simply

Passion, Inspiration and heart make me want.

Intention, compassion and love fuel my actions.

Dreams, goals and hopes drive my perseverance.

Words, images and movements show my mood.

Creation, physical manipulation and nature ground me.

Friends, family and community fill me with appreciation.

Laughter, communication and support is what I need.

Genuineness, generosity and unconditional love is what I have to offer.

Someone, somewhere, doing something is who I will find.

 Harrietville, Victoria.