My macaroon and I

I keep on getting random songs stuck in my head!
It's weird.
I have heard other songs in the past 20 years but for some reason I have a song  from Hans Christian Andersen stuck in my head.
The main lady character was a ballerina. I used to love watching the dances, in beautiful costumes, strange accents, obsessive love affairs and surreal stage scenery.
Its the first time I heard the word 'macaroon' and I thought it was the most romantic word.
Perhaps thats why I never liked macaroons - they had been built up in my mind as these adorable, lovely treats that you name you lover after but when you bite into them they're offensively crunchy like sand and gooey like undercooked eggs!
Which reminds me, you said you wanted to stop at Zumbo's?

- Helena

Extraordinary Women Run the World

Ok. So for now, lets keep this in mind. Done is better than good. Thanks Elizabeth Gilbert for showing me how to be kind to my unfinished work BUT my mischievous inspiration is going to post this unfinished work to put a fire under my ass to complete it tomorrow morning. Let the spark ignite.

Phoaw. Some people are just... phoaw. I was given a great opportunity by the Wade Institute to attend The League of Extraordinary Women's 2015 Run the World conference and it was all that and then some. Having attended last year I couldn't imagine that it would be much different - but it was. The speakers are obviously the jewels of the event with a very close second (perhaps equal) going to the people you meet.

Not really sure where to start with this blog but as I intend to write out my inspirationary notes for myself anyway I may as well write them here (warning: post may feel a bit... note like at times - further to that! These notes are not definitive! They represent my take outs! What was important to ME and what I loved about these speakers - you might listen to them and hear something entirely different! And that's great! If you want to hear them become a member of the League of Extraordinary Women because members get access to the recording of the conference - up in a couple of weeks!)

Talk about a woman of substance and balance. I could feel Gillian's energy from the back of the conference room. Every word was thoughtful and sincere and when she said we could have it all, I believed her. To a degree - ahhh my skeptical sneaky censor is creeping in! I believe she could have it all, and she does have all she wants - and that is tangible to her personality, her relationships and her clarity of vision. I know myself enough to know that I want the career, the family, the freedom, the creativity, the love, the butterflies, the solutions, the adventure, the fitness and then some. To focus on just a couple of life consuming things is something I have to work on and prioritise.

Working mothers are the most powerful economics force in the economy. Gillian pressed this point and I find it incredibly comforting. I don't have children but hope one day they'll waddle into my life. But being a successful business woman with children is a challenging balancing act. Gillian suggested communicating and empowering your children with choice - when faced with reading through board papers one evening or helping her child with an assignment she would suggest two options and let her child decide: either I help you with your homework, do the board papers early in the morning and you make your own lunch or I read the board papers now, you attempt the assignment on your own and I make your lunch in the morning. This egalitarian and value enriched approach acknowledges that both tasks and people are important and worthy and validates the child decision making abilities.

Oh gosh. That was just my first two points on Gillian. This is going to be a looooong post!!

Have strategic career and lifestyle plans set out in 10 year blocks. I recently came across this idea from my roomie when I was in another career crisis meltdown. Look ahead to 10 years from now and how do you want your life to look like? Plan backwards from there. Gillian knew the round-abouts-age she wanted to have children with her husband and knew that she wanted to be in a particular financial position by then so she could afford a nanny etc. She traced back each potential step to her present and executed them well ahead of time.

Create your own agenda. In many respects, women remain second class in society. So it is all the more marvellous to listen to someone like Gillian who was a trailblazer back in the 80's, pregnant and killing it in the business world. This point supports the previous one - work the plan, create your own agenda and prepare the next steps. Be clear about the step after your next step and work your way backwards.

Networking, as they say, is golden. Networks will help you most when you know what you don't know. Who is in your net? And how well do you work them? Work on strategic partnerships that give mutual benefits.
  • The importance of attitude. Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you choose to deal with it. Every experience can be a positive one, even the most frightening... 
  • Never compromise on your integrity. Business is always about people. If you operate with honesty and integrity people will understand who you are and what your brand stands for.  Have courage, conviction and tenacity. 
  • Remember, if you don't run your own life someone else will...
  • Respect and value each others differences.
  • How can you help women everywhere? Be successful in your own life. Plan strategically for your life and career. Use adversity to strengthen you resolve. Believe in the power of your mind.
  • Focus on what you really want to have in your life. Have a realistic view. It's not all easy. Don't let people get away with subconscious discrimination - call them out on it!
  • Be brave. Ask people for help.

Ok... I got a little lazy with the last points but they're there. Gillian closed with her favourite poem and yes, its amazing.

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They invent. They imagine.
They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire.
They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do…

- Rob Siltanen

I wasn't quite sure what I would be getting here. I had never heard of Birdsnest and when I read that it was from rural Australia... in all honesty I didn't expect much. Happy to be wrong!!

Jane was so charming and genuine. She glowed with adoration for her team and her 'luck' to be speaking at the conference. It was all too clear to see why she was there. She runs a successful clothing line in Bungarby - an hours drive south of Canberra. Jane epitomised the Run the World slogan: Your dream job does not exist, you must create it!

I snuck to the ladies before Jane's talk and was welcomed back into the conference room by a rainbow. Facepalm. Whyyyy... the next slide better not be a unicorn.... However! Much to my delight, there was a point! Jane used the analogy of a rainbow to explain that goals, achievements and happiness are fleeting and once you reach them, experience them theres a chance to set new goals and search for another rainbow. Purrrfect! My unconscious (subconscious perhaps?) bias towards (away from?) cute-sy girl things was challenged in this presentation! Every time I was faced with some adorable bird, pink thing or dorky matchy-matchy scenario my lip curled... and relaaaaxed when Jane would erupt into laughter explaining the picture.

Jane focused on company culture which is an endearing reflection of how she emulated her personality to reside in the culture. Kind, warm and caring that was both progressive and grateful.

Some quotes (they just kept on coming!!)

'Culture eats strategy for breakfast' - Peter Drucker

'No one cares how much you know, when they know how much you care' - Theodore Roosevelt

'If in doubt, be generous' - Jane Cay

I love this last one. Its so... normal!! In an evolving retail world the last frontier (and first!!) is customer service. I stubbornly return to my 'favourite' cafe because it has vegan offerings like it's nobody's business! But if there were another equal product nearby work I would gladly shift loyalties because I find the customer service lacking. Sorry guys!

Jane, eventually, developed her ad hoc management into a 'birdsong' for her staff to refer to if they had no guidance. A couple of take outs;

  • alignment
  • inspire
  • community
  • attitude
  • agency (foundation)
  • receptive
  • gratitude
  • nurture
  • one flock
  • Believe - have a dream to believe in, believe that you can achieve it
Whats your birdsong?

'If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking' - buddhist proverb

'What would you do if you weren't afraid?' - Sheryl Sandberg

What is the type of leader you want to be?

And then the shift to physical and mental well being. Nurture yourself. 

'Treat you body as if it belongs to someone you truly love' - Charlotte Thaarup-Owen

Jane brought our attention to meditation and mindfulness - I suppose you find this with many entrepreneurs - that even if they weren't into the practice of meditation before they certainly discovered it to become more in tune with themselves and their vision. I find it really hard to meditate - especially if I'm already feeling tired or off. I had a really good run a couple of weeks ago but my schedule keeps on changing. So... bahhh... I have to re-set every so often. And its frustrating because you fell like you back at one again but perhaps re-building gets a little faster each time. Yoga'd this morning. Yeah it was great.

'The mind is everything. What you think you become' - Buddha

Bringing mindfulness into business - productivity with the right intention.

Recommended reads:

Ahh the hilarity in authenticity! The room was so enamoured with Amanda because of her relate-ability - she was nervous and excited and you could feel yourself with her every step of the way as when she explained her story. It was very natural and organic. Being a frequenter of French -Canadian fries at Lord of the Fries, I too have heard experienced the unassuming meat eater who has secretly loved and explicitly been outraged by LOTR being vegetarian! 

It's no wonder that Amanda is vegetarian and through her personal story she epitomises the start small model of business - first a food truck and eventually a retail space.

Some note style take aways:
  • Amanda was taking women’s studies – I am not an object, I am a subject.
  • Taking off the shackles of conditioning – social conditioning. 
  • Be clear, be in the moment – follow the path that appears
  • Be independent; find fulfilment outside your relationship. 
  • Accept each other’s work style; leave the hard work at the office
  • Criticism is an opportunity
  • What goes around comes around.
  • Remember your passion.

Make the decision to participate.

Ps. I just ate some fries with my fav French Canadian sauce. Dee-lish! However I do wish they'd be more environmental... they gave me two forks. Probably a reflection on the size of the chips I bought. They weren't just chips. Won't specifiy my selection of deep friend goodies. All of them. Won't tell you the size. Large. For one. Shhh. I drink green smoothies ok!!

I just need to talk a deep breath recalling this one. Sometimes, when you are in the thick of it - discovery, change, heartbreak, love and loss - hearing some kind of rational, simple uplifting story can take your breath away. Elizabeth created Spell & the Gypsie Collective with her sister.

Elizabeth's whole life changed at the end of a relationship. She was trying to reconnect with herself and seeing her ex everywhere (literally his face would appear on the side of a bus because he was an actor!). In this moment, this is where I feel the story really lies. With the love from her friends. For her birthday they all pitched in to send her on a business/discovery course (Elizabeth doesn't remember the content so why should I remember the name ;) I felt the love of my friends just today - I'm going through some changes in my professional life and they gave me a little congratulatory surprise which was just the sweetest! I definitely bawled in the reception of our office where we met, hugging them! Bwahhh

As good as the following notes (dash points - dot points) on Elizabeth's will be, thats my main take away - the goodness of the people around you and the love they have to share with you; it will make you transcend. 


700k followers on social media – never had to spend money on advertising

3 things that helped growth:
  1. Authentic brand
  2. 6 hands are better than 4
  3. Embracing online – blog
Insta rules
  • Quality – SLR camera, good phone
  • The surrounds and product look good – no bathroom shots
  • Movement – swish
  • Laugh to your shoulder – make it about the outfit not th efface
  • No insta filters

When you’re on your right path, miracles start to happen
Use your gut feel and intuition to be authentic.
Email is still king – landing page w email
Have hope in moments of darkness. 

Have hope in moments of darkness... worth repeating.

Justine wasn't able to join us on the day - she recently had a beautiful baby with her husband Dan and was needing some well deserved rest. However, we were not left wanting for our thankyou hit! Justine's husband, Dan, filled that role. 

I'm sure Dan's done the pitch a million times now. And you can tell. Not to say that it was bad aka sounds rehearsed and stiff! No. It was excellent! An excellent talk that in thorough and honest. He carried the story with such ease and confidence. And he carried us away with the story. 

Sidebar - I have always been a bit of a... mimicker. I would watch people, see how they moved their face, how they ate, where they would stress their words and how they would pronounce their words. So watching Dan was a treat. He was steady - he didn't fidget or move unintentionally. Every movement was connected to the words, the story he was telling. So you never broke connection. His voice got louder and softer appropriately - bringing the audience up with his excitement, and solemn to attention. What was interesting was that after his speech, the girls I had met that day from SECO wanted to go and say hi. So I went too, why not eyyyy... and Dan's conversational voice held the same ebbs and flows. Unfortunately where we met him to chat was not opportune - right in front of the speaker blaring ridiculously catchy tunes I couldn't help shimmy to a bit coz I couldn't hear what Dan was saying!! Bahhh

Needless to say - the expert presentation Dan led had little notes!! We were just there for the ride! And it was great to hear a speaker like that in person rather than on youtube or on a TedTalk!


  • Impossibility is only someone’s opinion – Muhammad Ali
  • Teamwork makes the dream work.
  • Finding your why – a re-occuring theme in this conference and at many entrepreneurial events I've attended... must be important then hey...
  • Who says we have to do things the way they’re been done before? (Einstein had a bit to say about this too) 
  • The Coles and Woolworths campaign
  • Don’t get lost in the numbers
  • The fear of failure has killed more dreams than failure itself
  • Fear stops us from stepping out and doing remarkable things
  • Everybody has an excuse – they look like a legitimate reason

I ran out for another sneaky wee before Tammy came on so I missed a little of the start. The conference was so jam packed with speakers, competitions, prizes and inspirational stuff that it wasn't running to schedule - hence the sneaky wee!

I love hearing from speakers who are a little older only because their stories have a few improbabilities added to them. Now we live in a little more feminist culture (just a little), a more connected culture (hello Insta-famous generation!!) and we have events like Run the World to encourage female entrepreneurship. 

Tammy started her financial rescue business at 22 which is amazing in itself but even more so because her business was to help people balance their budgets. This is a personal topic. I tells ya! I've been asking my girlfriends how they save and I get round abouts answers, approximations, percentages - any and all information that could shield them from telling me exactly what they earn/save! And that's their prerogative so I can understand the inherent difficulties in Tammy's business particularly when starting up.

My saving woes? Honestly... I'm not hopeless at saving but I say yes to everything! I believe its my past experience with improv - Shall we go out to dinner? Yes, lets! Shall we go skiing? Yes, lets! Shall we go for coffee everyday so that your coffee budget is close to $50 a week?! Yes, let's.... try to curb that shiz!!
Note me timbers:

  • Collect the right data and mix with your gut instinct
  • Measure
  • Articulate top priorities
  • Passionate and enthusiastic
  • Keep a positive attitude
  • Believe in yourself and your abilities
  • Build genuine relationships with people you care about. Stay positive
  • Know the why - Run the World theme!!

'We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used to create them.' - Alberto Einstein

Eli was funny. And a presence on stage. Family and friends were a reoccurring theme of the conference. Eli had a lot of support from her mother and was motivated to make a difference in her own life to show gratitude for all the sacrifices her mother made to give her the best. She was also strongly influenced by her grandparents who were all hustlers and business owners in some way. 

Obviously I personally loved that Eli has a little Polish blood in her and her connection to her family was strong and apparent. I was speaking to a friend who is in the Melbourne Accelerator Program and was saying that out of the 17 start-ups that went through MAP, 15 were second generation Australians. That's amazing and definitely needs to be researched. 

The key feeling I got from Eli was to do it. By any means possible. Take the risk. Get the loans. Work hard. Empower those around you, recognise good ideas and acknowledge them. Eli did not create KX Pilates but she loved the idea so much that she worked with the founder and expanded the brand. 

Eli's supporting video; The first follower

Von notes:

  • People are superficial – develop your personality when you don’t fit in
  • Shirtless dancing guy – make first follower an equal
  • Exercise every day
  • TM meditation
  • Have a supportive partner - eliminate toxic relationships
  • Build a good team around you and empower them
  • Research, google, everything
  • Investigate people – study different personality types and communicate
  • Start today
  • Get a mentor; see a psychologist, life coach, independent non-bias person
  • Be yourself – everyone else is taken
  • Think like your ideal customer
  • Travel
  • Positivity manifesting
  • Find like-minded people
  • Think big, make stuff happen
  • Define yourself

There was a lot to Catherine that I don't think she let on. I couldn't look away. Yes at times she was nervous and lost what she wanted to say, but for the most part she sucked you in with the words she didn't say.

Catherine comes from a business family - her father established Supre and she had worked in the business for 15 years. It looks very different now from what it used to be. Catherine mentioned that she had some issues working with her father  but not much further than that. It was revealed later on to her that some of the practices held at Supre before it was sold were less than conscionable. 

Catherine's move into creating Think: Business services came out of a recruiters refusal to place her into roles because they did not align with her personal values. 

I really enjoy this mind frame - looking at businesses as more than money making endeavours. Its inline with social enterprises and takes a holistic look into the daily practices of a business to ensure that their actions are in line with their mission. Another Australian, Carolyn Tate, has established a Slow School of Business in Melbourne - 'An unconventional business school dedicated to building purpose-driven and prosperous businesses that make the world a better place.' These practices will frame businesses of the future and will bring more work satisfaction to people in business.

Notes and notes and notes and notes; spaghetti, spaghetti, spaghetti, spaghetti:
  • Living without purpose – find purpose – passion – loves
  • Journal – write: be honest. Explain and explore yourself. Focus on your family story and pluck out all of the feelings, thoughts and moments that have pierced your heart. Parents. Hugh. Be honest. It’s just for you.
  • Values align – stick to your purpose
  • Put love into everything you do. Create an emotional contract with stakeholders (any person that you have a beneficial relationship with in your business)
  • We come from an unconscious world. Be more conscious 

Book recommendations: 

Well. I tried to look into each speaker before I came to the conference. I thought about questions to ask them and the like. I now follow them all on the various available media outlets. And following Pia on Instagram... well... I can't just let it lie... She had a rockin bod! Daaaaammm!! Obviously (as you see on her Insta account) she's healthy and works out like a monster! As you can see from above (note: LOTR) - I eat like a monster! And thats ok with me... for now! ;)

I've managed to have many of my subconscious biases shaken up a bit at this conference. And Pia is no exception.  Dux of her school. Scholarship to Bond Uni. First class honours - last year! Lions. Tigers. And Bears. And SLINKII. Oh My!!

As with many of the self started businesses, the story of SLINKII is one of grit and hard work - late nights, juggling a 'career', testing product's and the market. But particularly - starting small. Work with what you have, be authentic (the new buzz word and with good reason!!) and grow organically. And have a blog. Write about it all. Just... write.

  • Looking for a creative outlet
  • Social media is great for marketing. Put top quality content on Instagram
  • Play to your strengths; Pia: model, Pia's boyfriend:photographer – goal: one great photo, every day to post
  • Personal branding – be authentic, grow an audience. Talk about you as a brand. Plan the type of content you want to be
  • Start a website. Write content. Research and write about what you like. 
  • Research will help you figure out the market
  • Start small and grow organically 
  • Get it out there – make sure your product or service is perfect
  • Life is too short not to live your dreams
Believe. Be inspired. 

- Helena

Makin up w make up

I roll my eyes and gurgle my saliva at the myriad of beauty tips for women. Perfect brows, pumped lips, hair extensions – who can seriously be fucked with all that? A whole lotta folk apparently! A whole mess of them! (The collective noun for beauty techs is a mess!) There is so much precision to details, layers upon layers of make-up, tweezing, picking, plumping. 

I’ve done my fair share mind you! Sweating through layers of base moisturiser, concealer, reflective under eye stuff (being a wog and a beauty noob I have dark circles under my eyes I have no idea what to do with!!), foundation, bronzer and blush (yup that’s just the face fellas!) falsies, lip plumpers (the lip gloss kind – let’s not get too excited!), eye liner, eye shadow, brow liner, brow shadow, contouring etc etc etc my fingers are tired from typing this! Bahhh and my skin would clot with the layers of bullshit I put on my face. And I still only did this on special occasions! So maybe that’s why I notice the feeling of make up on my face - I rarely wear it! 

Also as a teen and now a young adult, my skins generally ok (it’s currently been attacked by the hormones of changing to a new pill #hatemyfaceatm) so I never felt the need to cover it up – AND I had witnessed some atrocities regarding early make up application from my friends and I thought that it was best to stay away from the brown panda look. The subliminal messaging from my childhood was that ‘make up is for the stage’ so every time I put it on I just want to pirouette! Wheeeeeeeeeeeee to the #facepalm of many of my friends. 

There’s something to be said for natural beauty products. Someone has said something about them right? *gurgle* *eye roll* I haven’t tried them all out but a logical assumption would be keep them natural and don’t ever hurt animals coz I will find you #veganfortheanimals 

The beauty and detriment of not often wearing make up is that your skin is able to breathe and people around you get used to your natural look. So when you do wear make-up everyone’s like ‘Oo gurl you look so fine’ ‘What have you been up to lately you cheeky minx?’ ‘Whoa what’s on your face?’ ‘Your face looks different…’ ‘Oh your eyebrows are big’. The detriment is that you get all the boys/gurls! They just flock and flock and choke you and you can’t breathe and die. True story. I am a ghost. 

But to those girls who do put in the effort, and layer that shit up… you look… fucking great! E’ryday! And a logical assumption is that you also look fucking great in your ‘jammies!! #showusyahjammies!! 

The moral of this story? Do whatever the fuck you want. I like feeling fancy free all over mah bod-ay including my face and sprinkle a bit of make up on just to freak people out/turn them on/coz I #hatemyfaceatm. 


Some funny’s: What A Girl's Makeup Means - Jenna Marbles

Post Hiatus: Lake

A lake, I swim, cold and delicate
I look forward
I run to it
I look back
remember my last swim
delicate freedom

Toes touch the water
naked, hair stands on end

The water welcomes me,
I feel it rush over me without stepping in

Look up
with the sun
look up

let me in
cover me
delicate freedom

- Helena

Spinach 3 Ways

My body is trying to murder me. I have had an aching stomach for 4 days. It feels like apologetic Johnny is playing the banjo in my tummy. I’m not pregnant. So I’m going to take the only good advice my family doctor ever gave me - eat leafy greens for a tummy ache! He also said to rest when you're sick so… 2 pieces of good advice there!

I wanted healthy comfort food and copious greens to boot! I’m making spinach 3 ways - as a pesto, slightly blanched spinach and finely chopped spinach. That’s it! You’re done, go home!

Ok, so this is what I’ve got. Easy as vegan pie!

  • Gluten free pasta
  • a lemon
  • big ol bag o spinach
  • garlic
  • chilli
  • olive oil
Into the chopinator, put chilli (only if you like it), a clove of garlic, half a lemon (flesh and all), a little olive oil and 2 cups of spinach.

And there you have something beautiful!

Finely chop 2 handfuls of spinach. Leave it on the chopping board to add at the last minute.

Lightly fry 2 cloves of garlic in olive oil. Add 2 handfuls of spinach and cook till wilted. Save some fresh spinach for tomorrows breakfast smoothie!

When the pasta's cooked I’m going to put all the pasta into the pan because I want to. Along with everything else!!

So there you have it. A meal big enough for 3-4 people or 1 hobbit. I relate to the latter.

Ok. Upon eating, I made wayyyyyy too much pasta! As it had not enough sauce! Bahhhh but it was good! Gluten free pasta also behaves differently to regular pasta… it breaks more frequently, needs to cook longer and generally feels sticky. BUT! I liked it! Good enough for me!

In other news, I’ve been haphazardly trying Raw till 4. I thought it was too extreme initially (as I thought being vegan was - and here I am, a raging vegan, 3 years later!) BUT whenever I make a connection between two people that I admire for different reasons I pay attention. Freelee, The Banana Girl, advocates raw till 4 then a big carb meal (with morning exercise). Kimberly Snyder uses the example of your intestine system being life a traffic road - why block it up with a truck (carbs, fats, heavy foods) at the beginning of the day? Allow your food to pass through you easily by eating raw and clean, then have a heavier meal in the evening. Both advocate mainly raw food, always vegan for health and animal conscious reasons and not restricting your diet. I know some people look at this way of eating as restrictive but it just about adaption. Thats it. You’re body can get used to a whole mess of things. Being attracted to shit junk food is one of them. In all honesty, I’ve craved less junk food since being my version of Raw till 4 - sometimes I’ll have a cooked meal at lunch with friends and I’ll add olive oil and a marginal amount of salt to dishes occasionally. But… I don't crave chips like I used to. Shahrina and Zac just unfriended me. Let me clarify - I don't crave them the same way that I used to. I like the oven baked version - no salt not oil (in the cooking process, some dipping perhaps after, sometimes!).

Oh yeah! And here’s one last thing for you. We had leadership training at work today. And after 2 and half days they summarised in the last five minutes that which they should have started with and flogged the whole way through:

Success (however you define it, whatever you want to achieve) is a combination of: 
  • Intention. 
  • Attention. 
  • Skill. 

I just saved you a bajillion dollars. Welcome.

Love Helena


How trying to be healthy almost killed me

I’m a sucker for a health food fad. I’ll admit it, I have an embarrassingly large arsenal of vitamins and ‘superfood’ powders. 

this isn't all of it.....

So when I read that making your own probiotics is more important that taking a pill form of probiotic, I was on it like white-on-rice (or more like macrobiotic brown rice).

This all started with my ventures into the world of Sauerkraut which had been going along pretty well, until I decided I needed more probiotics! MORE! ‘Culture, fermented food is the next big thing’ I declared at a friend’s dinner party, no amount of doubtful looks or grimaces as I described what kombucha is made from was going to stop me declaring a new found allegiance to fermented food. (Kombucha’s a fermented drink made with fungi in case you were curious).

kombucha brewing - you can see the fungi at the bottom

So the next step was to start brewing my own kombucha, this is so exciting in and of itself it will be the topic of a future blog post, so stay tuned! Also kefir!! A fermented sour milk drink (more sideways glances), which is actually a lot nicer than it sounds!! Another post to come on the world of kefir (including making coconut kefir, ooh the possibilities...)

So cut to me admiring my first successful batch of kefir milk, it’s actually so easy to make I had no right being so damn proud of myself, but I was anyway. ‘Go slowly’ my friend who graciously gave me the kefir grains had told me, but ‘bah’ I was onto the latest health food, there was no time for moderation! So I drank it all the first night. Probably about 250 mls all while patting myself on the back for being so healthy.

Have you heard of the Herxheimer reaction?? You know the one where all the toxic bacteria cells in your body die off very quickly causing you to feel like you’re dying. Yeah thats 'herxing', it occurs when injured or dead bacteria release their endotoxins into the blood (eww) and tissues faster than the body can comfortably handle it. This provokes a sudden and exaggerated inflammatory response, which makes you feel like death.

kefir grains - warning: consume with caution 

I only learnt this as I googled ‘nauseous, headache, dying’ later that evening. Turns out kefir is a very powerful probiotic and it can cause a rapid die off of bad bacteria in your gut, releasing toxins into your body faster than your organs can deal with it. Bottom line is, when your friend tells you to start with 1-2 tablespoons of kefir initially, for the love of God, listen to her!

So yeah gradual is better. Let’s see if I can learn my lesson when I sample my first batch of kambucha later this week!

I’d love to hear from you on any of your experiences with detoxing and the effect it had on you. Let me know if you’ve ever had any similar experiences making yourself sick trying to be healthier!

love Jess 

Schooled on Life

A friend of Mai Kinda Crazy recently went to a School of Life class, we’ve got a sample of the class to share with you.

I came across this wonderful quote at The School of Life when I went to their class How To Find A Job You Love. Oh the amazing School of Life – imagine learning about finding a job you love, being confident and thinking like an entrepreneur alongside calculus, the periodic table and reading Shakespeare. We’d have all come out of school sitting on a lofty perch at the top of Maslow’s Pyramid gazing down on mere mortals. 

This is what The School of Life does best, lessons in life skills and emotional intelligence through the lens of philosophy, literature and psychology. Given The School of Life is not starved for marketing, I’ll stop there. All I’ll say is that for someone feeling a little lost with their current job and needing some guidance, this was the perfect class for me. And I wasn’t alone – our class had about 20 people of all ages, ranging from successful business consultants to budding restaurateurs. Seems everyone needs a little schooling once in a while!      

Aristotle’s quote encapsulates everything I was seeking from my class – we each have talents, we should use our talents to make a difference and by doing this you can love your job.
Now let’s be real, this concept of loving your job definitely falls into the ‘first world’ category. There are many people who can’t consider whether they love their job because a job is purely a way to meet basic needs. But for the rest of us who are lucky enough not to be in this position, how do you find a job you love?

In the class we were presented with five characteristics and rated them from least to most important in our ideal job.

  • Values: finding work that embodies your values.
  • Goals: having meaningful goals to drive us in our careers.
  • Respect: feeling respected and being treated as a unique individual at work, sometimes this means attaining social status.
  • Talents: using your specific talents in a job.
  • Money: best summed up by ABBA “Money, money, money, always sunny, in the rich man’s world”.

Yes, I know these are all important characteristics and if you manage to attain them all - kudos to you! But the exercise of rating each one helps you narrow down your options and figure out those things that you just can’t budge on.
Once you have an idea about the kind of job you’d like, while you can throw in the towel and run off in hot pursuit, the class taught us a framework to work towards it.

  1. Brainstorm multiple selves: make a list of imagined selves you’d like to explore. These are different careers you might enjoy like you as a writer, you as a researcher, you as a business consultant. Your imagined selves can be as random as that assortment – whatever interests you! 
  2. Crafting experiments: pick one or two of your imagined selves and set up side projects to explore them. Find books, blogs, workshops, internet lessons, download software - whatever you need to test out the imagined self.
  3. Shifting connections: find new people and mentors working in the field you’ve identified, especially those outside your existing work and social circles.

It sounds pretty simple and I think that’s the beauty of it. You can make a big change by taking small steps. The School of Life calls it adopting a strategy of ‘small wins’.

In our class we learnt about the concept of the ‘generalist’, someone who follows several careers simultaneously and cobbles together a portfolio of different skills. You may not be a specialist in any one thing but you do get to pursue multiple talents, interests or goals. 

In fact, our class was taken by someone who I’d call a generalist – background in arts/law, current writer of teen fantasy novels, yoga practitioner and works in a bookshop part-time. Not your traditional career but if it gets you leading a class titled How To Find A Job You Love…I’d say you’re doing pretty well.

Mai Kinda Crazy

Yasamin's Black Lime Soup

The first time I saw this soup I was so excited because I’d never seen or smelt anything like it before!
It was thick and green and shiny and smelt sour and salty. The most surprising and exotic (for me) ingredient is the black lime. A hard, small, slightly squished dried lime that when added to dishes adds a beautifully soft sour taste to the dish. I was totally blown away by this meal!

Kissing Black Limes

In the telling, I understate my excitement of the first time Yasamin made her Black Lime Soup. Every dinner party since the first time black lime soup came into my life, I try not to show my panic when Yasamin mentions that she’s not making black lime soup. I tactfully stumble over my words, eye twitching with anticipation, coaxing her to make her crazy soup!

Like a wistful fairy, she flicks away my dreams describing the soup as simple, everyday, an easy apparition which any simpleton could make. *wide eyed emoji* I’m a simpleton!

One weekend, in her fabulousness, Yasmin jetsetted (interstate) and I was so desperate for her Black Lime Soup I just pretended to know what it was made of. Lentils. A black lime. Water. Vege stock. Seemed about right. That was all I could remember. So that’s what I made. Watery lentils that tasted sour. There is no word to describe them. They were… eatable.

More recently my cousin visited from Poland. Yasmin’s put on another fabulous dinner. Time to hone in on my negotiation skills and ask her to make her black lime soup. A summary of the interaction: ‘SOUP!! SOUP!! Yasmin are you making your BLACK LIME SOUP!?’. She screws up her face ‘Oh it’s so easy. I could make some if we don’t have enough.’ I look across at what she’s already made. There’s not enough room on the table for all the plates of food. ‘Yeah’ I say ‘We probably don’t have enough’. ‘Ok!’ Yasamin chirps! ‘I’ll make the soup and you can watch me so you learn’.
Blessed be my Yasmin, who teaches me to cook delicious ass black lime soup.

Needless to say none of this happened! I was late to dinner and missed watching Yas make it! I hounded her for the recipe, then and there! We devoured it at the dinner party but being active and fabulous adults writing anything down longer than 140 characters outside of work hours was impossible.

I repeated (out loud) the recipe Black Lime Soup as Yas prepped another dish. Using numeric devices I memorised it. JKS. Using psychotic repetition and intense eye contact I created a scenario that neither of us would soon forget, let alone the recipe!

I wanted to create a cool and fun little vid for you all but, yet again, Yasmin jetsetted (interstate) and my camerawoman, Sharyn, was too fabulous to be at home straight after work to film her roommate cook lentils. Life.

So this is how I remember the recipe:

  • 2 large onions (I had 3 medium onions)
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large tablespoon of ground turmeric
  • 1 black lime – ground as fine as you can
  • Vegetable stock cubes (or powder) – to your taste!
  • 1 ½ cups of lentils (I used brown lentils but the ‘recipe’ calls for red lentils – brown lentil cook longer apparently and red lentils cook shorter. That’s information. Thanks Sharyn!)
  • Water! This beauty dictates the thickness of your soup! Use enough to cook the lentils then add as much as you like to create the desired thickness
  • Dry udon noodles – its important that they’re dry so they don’t fall apart into a mush when you cook them a little longer
  • Spinach or Kale – I used frozen but you could equally use fresh! Bout 300grams

Crushing a black lime

Slice the onions and press the garlic.

Fry these together with some oil in a soup pot. Its important to cook the onion and garlic till they are almost BLACK! ALMOST! This releases a wonderful flavour and aroma.

Add the turmeric, black lime some stock power. Mix around for a minute.

Add the dry lentils. Mix for a bit.

Add water to cover the lentils then a little more. Mmmmm. Cook for 30min. Taste the soup. Add some more stock powder as you go. Continually taste so its seasoned to your liking. I blitz the lentils a little bit to make it a little smoother but so it still has texture.

Break the udon noodles in half and add them to the lentils. Now is the time to keep an eye on things. These noodles will cook for bout 20-30 min but they can also stick to the bottom of the pot! So keep stirring when they go soft.

Add the spinach soon after you’ve added the noodles. Mix and taste. Add some more stock if necessary.

Finally. Yum. Just... Yum.

I have made this recipe thrice since writing this! Initially for this post (and Ania who wants to recreate it in Poland!).

The second time I decided that I needed more vegetables. However I did not change the proportions of the original soup, added more vegetables and cooked it in the same size pot. Needless say I burnt it so bad that there was a centimetre thick burn of lentils, veges and noodles at the bottom of the pot. I fussed about it. Huffed and stubbornly ate it, defying reality that it tasted like a fire. Aaand… *blush*… I ‘soaked’ the pot long enough for my roomie to get fed up at try to clean it for me - he had to use oven cleaner to clean the pot!!

My original photos were so dark and glum that I decided to remake it this morning. In the original form. I used one chilli in this batch because my first one was too salty and I find that a small amount of chilli acts like an appropriate amount of salt in a dish. Needless to say, victory! Its the bees knees! I’m sure Yas will teach me how to make it ‘properly’ one day - but the key to the flavour is in the almost burnt onions and garlic and obviously, the notorious Black Lime.

Sharyn trying a teeny cup of Black Lime Soup - appreciating the less salty, slightly spicy flavour of the third attempt! (Sharyn has been privy to all 3 soup attempts!)

Love Helena

My First Spring Rolls - Guest Post From Poland

We are beyond ecstatic to give you a post written and photographed by my cousin Ania. You may remember her from such travel posts as A Day Around Apollo Bay. I'll shhh-hy now... Ania's post...

My husband and I were charmed by Australia and the variety of food available, particulary around Melbourne. Coming home to Poland I decided to experiment and make the easiest of Asian dishes. Spring rolls.

In Poland, there is no culture for eating Asian food. Yes, we do have places where we can eat Asian food, but the general impression is that they are cheap, dirty, unhealthy and not fresh. Unfortunately, in many cases this is true. Another problem in Poland is that people don’t have an awareness that Asian food can be incredibly tasty and healthy, as I discovered in Melbourne. Even still, in my opinion, Asian food may be a little too exotic to be popular in Poland. Hopefully this recipe helps change that!

When I caught up with my friends back home for a viewing party of all my photos from Australia, I prepared my first ever spring rolls. I was surprised at how happy they were to eat my culinary experiment!

What you'll need:

  • rice paper
  • Chinese noodles (cooked), about 50 g or more
  • soy sauce
  • 350 g of mushrooms
  • 1/2 of large carrot
  • 3 leaves of lettuce or more
  • salt and pepper

To prepare the filling:
  1. Mushrooms cut into small pieces and stir fry until softened. Add grated carrots. Sauté a few minutes.
  2. Add the Chinese noodles.
  3. Season by adding 3 teaspoons of soy sauce, salt and pepper.
  4. Add the chopped lettuce and mix everything well.

Prepare the rice paper according to the directions on the packaging. 

Put the rice paper on wooden board until they soften. Put 1 large teaspoon of filling on the rice paper. 

Gently wrap the rice paper around the filling and quickly fry the finished rolls in very hot oil.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did making it!!

Love Ania

5 Things Travelling Has Taught Me

Sometimes the true value of travel only sinks in when I get home. After the anticipation and excitement of travelling ends, I return home and resume life as I know it. But reflecting on those visually and culturally stimulating adventures, I understand what the world has to offer, what has to teach me.

1. The power of nature.

(Bariloche Argentina) 

Nature has the power to lift us up emotionally, spiritually and physically. Whether it's looking out over a lake or standing in awe of a majestic waterfall, our being naturally responds the beauty of nature.

(El Chalten Chile) 

Little things, like walking barefoot in the sand, reduce stress hormones in our brains. It's not even a kooky hippy concept anymore, walking barefoot is also known as 'earthing' and it's scientifically backed to do all sorts of good stuff like reducing inflammation, increasing antioxidants and improving sleep. For more info Mind Body Green has a great article on all the benefits of walking barefoot.

(Camiguin Philippines) 

2. The beauty of simplicity. 

Simple food. Simple days. Reading a good book. Sleeping in. Admiring local fauna.

(Iguazu Brazil) 
Cloud watching.

(Camiguin Philippines

(Uluru Australia) 

3. Who your with is just as important that where you are. 

Even a 12 hour layover can be fun if your with the right person (and good wifi). It doesn't matter where you're going, it's who you have beside you. Nothing tests the fibres of a relationship like travelling with someone.

And nothing tests the fibres of your strength like travelling on your own. It's exhilarating and at times kinda scary but travelling solo is an experience that strengthens your character (it also gives you way better stories to tell at parties). It's wise to listen to well wishers advice telling you to be careful (you'll get a lot of that especially if you're female) but at the same time don't let fear make decisions for you. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

(Boracay Philippines)

4. There are no calories in foreign foods. 

Ok, theres a chance that might not be true. But with travelling you are inherently walking around and exploring so calories don't seem to count the same way they do back home.

I think you need to taste a culture in order to understand it, breathe in its flavours and savour it with all your senses.

(Brussels Belgium) 

5. The journey is just as important than the destination. 

Maybe more so.

I know, I know, it might not seem that way, especially when your stuck on a plane for 15 hours.

Next to a baby.

But hear me out.

While trekking Machu Picchu was amazing, it was crossing this rickety old bridge on a four day trek to get there that I remember most. Probably because it seemed likely that this feat of engineering could not sustain a single human body let alone our whole tour group!

So what does that all mean? Sometimes the doing is often as important as the outcome.

(Machu Picchu Peru)

Travel opens you up to all the beauty that is around you. It can challenge you, lead to surprises, force you to be adaptive, even creative. It requires bravely to step outside your comfort zone and get a taste of what it's like to be an outsider.

So be brave and take some risks because nothing opens you up like experiences.

Now, book a ticket and get exploring.

Love Jess

Simply Sweet Banana Coconut Crunch

I'm going to write this post in as long as it took me to make this desert. No time at all!
It's a beauty of a desert, with just four ingredients! This has quickly become a family favourite! I first made this when we went to Apollo Bay and just tonight for my mum.
*disclaimer: please excuse the darkness of the photos, I had some... technical difficulties

All you need is:
  • a banana (per person)
  • almonds (as many as you desire)
  • coconut cream (as much as you like! I use 3-5 tablespoons per person)
  • maple syrup (go with your gut! Or 3 tablespoons per person)

First, the almonds. I toast raw almonds in the fry pan - so quick!
However, you can be as fancy or as straight forward with this as you want! You could keep the almonds raw, activate them or oven roast them. The power is yours!
I take the almonds off the heat to cool before I chop them up. I chop them super rough but you can chop them however you like!

Secondly, fry up the bananas.
I use a little lubricant sometimes- nuttlex or olive oil. Or you could use nothing and keep the bananas fresh and beautiful, up to you! 

Thirdly, add all the elements together in one bowl.
Put the coconut cream at the bottom of the bowl, add the bananas, sprinkle with toasted almonds and top with maple syrup. 

And your done! Eat this up! It's delicious!

Love Helena