what’s goin’ on?

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errr, hi internet. it’s been a while. here, have a selection of things that have been happening in my world.

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this absolute bugger of a plugin glitch effectively locked me out of wp for about a month. it also stopped me commenting on blogs that required a wp login. after a lot of googling, tons of forum-reading, and handful of false dawns, i think i’ve finally resolved it. hooray!

return from whence you came
staying in the uk hit a hurdle this week. no one’s fault, really – just circumstances. i don’t really feel like i can complain. with the current refugee crises in africa and the middle east, my request to move from one safe, affluent country to another is not a priority for the uk government, nor should it be. so it’s back to australia i go (via europe and asia) in a couple of months.

books for what ails you
i’ve worked my way through almost all the novels caroline recommended to me, and also got around to reading the lovely bones (finally!). really enjoyed longbourn, though i felt it sort of lost its way in the last couple of chapters. one plus one was good fun for a summer read – engaging, but not taxing enough to require undivided attention for a long period. beautiful ruins was intriguing and frustrating by turns. the rook and midnight riot are on my kindle, awaiting a rainy afternoon or my imminent unemployment, whichever comes first. as for the lovely bones, the first third was gripping, but then it took a sharp turn into (unanticipated) ridiculousness.

sense of huma
the day i got home to london, i was struck down with gastro and a migraine, and somewhere along the lines i started to worry that i’d picked up a parasite on the road (likely culprit: sashimi at nobu in moscow). enter humaworm. i’m currently 23 days into the 30 day program, and feeling… yeeeah, pretty horrendous. i’ve been keeping a daily diary, but haven’t decided whether to publish it. (do i really want something like that on my blog? seems like it’s right on the cusp of oversharing, but perhaps someone might find it helpful…?)

i probably didn’t need another notebook, but…
i bought a baron fig confidant, and have been using it for a week or so. review to follow soon.

wandering coeliac – bagels & beans, amsterdam

okay, so i didn’t get the hype about bagels until i tried one in nyc in 2007. bagels, growing up in australia, came in packs of four from the supermarket, and tended to be a bit heavy, dry, and flavourless. experiencing the real deal has ruined me for life, and coeliac disease and the relative lack of gluten free bagels on the market has made the whole experience that much harder. 

if you’re thinking i’m about to announce that bagels & beans is your saviour… er, don’t. having said that, their gluten free bagels have neither the weight and texture of a rock, nor the general consistency of pound cake (which seem to be the two standard options in gluten free bagel-ing), so i suppose they’re still leading the gluten free pack. just don’t expect miracles.

i opted for cream cheese and smoked salmon on mine. if i had my time over, i’d probably ask them to dial back the capers and red onions a bit (pretty sure i had killer breath for a while afterwards), but overall it was reasonably tasty. hey, i’m a coeliac traveller – the bar is set pretty low, expectations-wise. i’m usually grateful to get something (a) palatable, (b) satisfying, (c) not too expensive and (d) legitimately uncontaminated. see? 

bagels & beans brunch

i also ordered an iced coffee, but was informed by the very cluey waitress that they made it with instant coffee, which as all experienced coeliacs know, tends to be a red flag. she offered to make me an iced latte instead – proper espresso, milk, and ice. sorted.

service was slow, but this seemed to be a combination of circumstances: a (very) rainy day, peak sunday brunch time, two floors of customers with only two waitstaff and one more on food and drink prep. in spite of this, service was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable about coeliac disease.

bagels & beans have a number of outlets around amsterdam. you can find your closest one, as well as their menu, on their website. yes, they do a functional english version (hallelujah!).

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wandering coeliac – piqniq, amsterdam

would you like to have a gluten free breakfast? please ask for our special menu.

i breathe a sigh of relief. they get it. autoimmune-cum-allergies can make meals on the road physically and mentally exhausting, and knowing i don’t have to explain the extent of my restrictions is guaranteed to make my entire body immediately un-clench with the relief of it.

piqniq menu

i flag down the waitress and request the special menu. “oh, we don’t have one. we just figured out how to make a gluten-free version of everything on the menu.” i blink. everything. on. the. menu. not a single option i have to stare at longingly, wishing i could partake. this is my new favourite place in amsterdam.

i was sorely tempted to push the claim and ask for the full piqniq breakfast, but really, i’m a sucker for pancakes at brekkie time. and hey, i’m on holidays, not on the job as a restaurant reviewer. pancakes it is. and milk coffee** (which is somehow neither a latte or a flat white, but somewhere in between).

coffee piqniq

my pancake seems to be made from a blend of flours – possibly buckwheat and rice, maybe some flax or almond meal. it wasn’t as dense as the pure buckwheat ones my parents used to make, nor as light and insubstantial as the horrid pre-mixed packet ones from the supermarket. had we not been dining with friends visiting from sydney, i probably would have thought to ask for the ingredients. it came doused in honey, with banana, a wedge of lime, and crispy walnuts (which i gather had been roasted) on top. i’ve never been a big fan of honey, and prefer maple syrup on pancakes, but the balance of flavours was actually everything i didn’t know i needed until that moment – fresh, light, and not overpowering.

pancakes piqniq

as we stood at the counter to pay, my friends pointed out a gluten-free snickers bar slice in the cake display, and i couldn’t resist getting one to take away. i sort of forgot i had it until we got on the train to berlin that afternoon, so perhaps it would be unfair to review it, as it was a bit worse for wear after being bounced around in my bag for half a day. that said, it was still pretty tasty. 

piqniq also do a pretty solid gluten free lunch menu, with at least one gluten free soup, salad, and cake available every day, as well as a good range of sandwiches. service was friendly and coeliac-aware. they’re located in the jordaan district, which is only 10-15 minutes walk from amsterdam centraal (it would have be faster if not for the zigzagging around canals – jordaan is less geometric than other parts of the city). mentally worn out from gluten-hypervigilance? give this place a go.

their website has the menu available, but only in dutch (even when you click the flag for english). chrome does a decent job of in-page translation, though.

** i know a lot of coeliacs have cross-reaction issues with coffee, but i’ve been (blood) tested for gluten reactivity, and coffee was one of the only things that came up entirely in the clear. weird. i still avoid it at home, because it’s hard on the adrenals and makes my tmj kick up a bit, but holidays are a time to cut loose a little.

the great escape

i’ve been quiet for a while now. not just on my blog, but across most social media, too. turns out organising a trip around europe takes actual planning… and time… and research. who knew?! no matter, though, because all of that is done now, and tomorrow morning i hit the road – first stop amsterdam!

i’ll be on the road for the next three weeks. not sure whether i’ll have sufficient time, energy, and wifi to update as i go – if not, this site will probably morph into a travel blog for a while when i get home to london. consider yourselves warned.

carly rae jepsen released her new song and video today, and it’s far too appropriate to today’s theme not to include here (especially given that all the cities featured are places i’ve visited and loved).

do you have plans to escape this summer?

(un)reformed stationery junkie

i was going to start this post by launching into the history of my stationery addiction, but really, what can i say that thousands of other women (and a few blokes, but let’s be honest: it’s a female dominated hobby) haven’t said before? stationery is art, it’s creativity, it’s organisation, and above all, it’s possibility. who doesn’t love that little thrill of cracking open a new notebook or journal for the first time? or the anticipation of an amazing year to come when you start diary shopping in october or november?

one of my favourite things about the internet is how it’s opened up a whole world of new paper-and-pen offerings. where i used to go to officeworks or the dymocks flagship store in sydney as a kid, i can now jump online and find all sorts of amazing boutique companies in asia, europe and north america. good for my happiness quotient, not so good for my hoarding tendencies.

so what stationery am i fixating on this month?

dandelion fields floral notebook collection
(here)

dandelion fields

i’m a bit on the fence about floral. done wrong, it can come off as a bit daggy, a bit dated, a bit blah. done right, though, it’s youthful and springtime-y and makes me happy just looking at it. obviously, this is in the latter category. the gorgeous cover art is by finnish artist anna emilia laitinen, and the whimsy spills over to the hand-drawn lines on the pages, complete with leaves dotted here and there. definitely geared more towards daydream-y scribblings than business to do lists, but coming into longer, warmer summer days here, this is exactly what i’m after.

the notebooks are 64 pages each and come in a pack of three.

bunting washi tape
(here)

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i know, i know, bunting has been done to death by the twee brigade. i agree completely… but this is so cute.

candy striped washi tape
(here)

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sweet set of ‘everyday’ washi for journals, scrapbooking, cards and wrapping. (being able to separate washi tape into ‘everyday’ and ‘special occasion’ is probably a sign to back off a bit, no?)

confidant notebook
(here)


photo via tools and toys

i am… maybe not obsessed, but certainly preoccupied by the concept of a notebook that lays flat. being the slightly clumsy, inattentive type, i love hard cover books – anything to minimise the battering everything in my handbag or on my desk gets! this is so close to being my holy grail notebook; the only thing that would make it better for me would be a version with (only) the right-hand pages lined. so often, i need to scribble pictures or diagrams or jot shorthand on one side, and write something longhand on the other. but lines are distracting for scribbles, and a lack of lines annoys me, because i can’t write in straight lines without guidance. stop making me choose, book makers! i want the best of both worlds!

iconic essay book v.3
(here)
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it lays flat. it’s compact. it even does a few lined + blank combo pages (be still, my beating heart!). but then it has those patterned pages, which for me are a waste, and i really don’t know what to do with them. i mean, i can see the suggested usage, with photos and ticket stubs and washi tape, but i’m not a scrapbooker, so these would probably end up being wasted space. can i have more lined + blank combo pages instead, iconic designers? but let’s be honest: i’ll probably still end up buying this.

what are your favourite new finds? any stationery you have wishlist?

diary nerd – the 2015 collection

since my high school gifted me my first one at the age of 12, i’ve been perpetually on the lookout for the holy grail of planners; the one that has everything i’ve ever wished for, and maybe a few things i never knew i needed thrown in for good measure.over the years, a few have come close, but none have taken the crown as yet. will 2015 be the year of the perfect planner? here are the contenders:

 

the planner (iconic, south korea)

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a six-month, start-when-you-want planner (the building blocks are there, but you fill in the dates yourself). if your planning habits border on the obsessive, this is the schedule book for you – there’s a double page ‘project plan’, then a double page ‘simple plan’, then six ‘monthly plan’ double page calendars, each one followed by ‘weekly plan’ double page breakdowns.

the back half of the of the book is free note pages – blank, lined, and patterned – and ends with a world map (complete with timezones) and a map of korea. the latter is perhaps superfluous for a lot of users, but you can’t fault them for catering to their local market.

the part i really like about the planner is the physical construction of it: at 9.4 x 15.7cm, it’s relatively compact – about the size of a paperback novel. the paper is sturdy, and although it’s a softcover, it has a thick plastic sleeve over it, which does a pretty good job at protecting against bending and creasing (and split tea – damned clumsiness). overall, it has a solid, weighty feel. not heavy, exactly. sort of… robust? after years of flimsy planners, this one feels sort of akin to upgrading from a cheap buzzbox to a luxury car – not a bentley, but maybe a merc or an audi. oh, and the flower print cover is cute : )

i bought mine from the journal shop here in the uk. of the companies i’ve used since moving to london, i’d have to say they’re one of the best on price, delivery, and customer service. if you’re outside of europe, fallindesign (south korea) and mochithings (usa) also stock it.

 

hobonichi techo (hobo nikkan itoi shinbun, japan)

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yes, that’s techo, not techno (as i see it mistakenly called by a lot of stationery bloggers and vloggers) – it’s a japanese planner/scheduler, not 90s dance music.

i’m weirdly drawn to these diaries, though my initial foray into using them wasn’t particularly successful. the paper is thin and lightweight, but designed so that the ink doesn’t bleed through. you can still see a ghost of what’s written on the previous page, though, and that’s a bit offputting for me. also, i can’t seem to break away from the idea that you need to be ‘creative’ with your hobonichi. there are blogs and instagram hashtags and youtube videos dedicated to people’s art and comic and scrapbooked journals. i’m not built that way – my creativity comes out in words and music, not pictures. visual arts is – for me – a source of frustration, not joy. back in january and february, i tried to write and draw in it every day, but i could never seem to get into any sort of rhythm. life was stressful in early 2015, and writing/drawing in my hobo was not a respite. time will tell whether i’m drawn back to it at some point – it lives on my dressing table, but has been gathering dust for months now.

yet i still feel like i’ll preorder another one at the end of the year. because i’m incorrigible.

 

traveler’s notebook – passport size (midori, japan)

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the midori system is amazing, in a wabi sabi kind of way. it’s sort of like a rustic take on a filofax – a leather cover with elastics threaded through it, from which you build up a series of specialty notebooks to suit your personal planning/journalling/note-taking style.

i bought what is sometimes referred to as a ‘faux-dori’ cover, and a mix of inserts – both official midori, and other brands. my faux-dori came from papergeekmy – a malaysian etsy store. her products are really high quality, but at a more affordable price than the official version.

so the theory is great. the practice was a leaning pile of notebooks that wouldn’t sit flat – i’d have to take them out of the binder to use them, or write precariously on an uneven surface. messy writing leads to a very annoyed lola, so a lot of time with this planner was spent with gritted teeth.

it works wonderfully for some people, but it hasn’t really happened for me. mine mostly gets used for writing lists: shopping lists, packing lists, the odd to do list. the diary insert has been almost completely neglected.

luckily, with the chop-and-change insert design, i can put this aside and pick it up again if and when it suits me. i don’t think i will expand its usage in 2015, though.

 

any fellow diary nerds out there with recommendations? have you found your holy grail planner yet?

whose schedule is it anyway?

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image credit: stephbarcenas.com

as a child, i was the textbook “little professor”. i spent a hell of a lot of my free time reading, and as i got a bit older, passing on that knowledge to my younger sister. we spent weeks of one summer with a “school” set up in the back shed, though we were intermittently forced out by the combination to 35ºC temperatures and a structure made entirely of metal (hello sauna!). i later started a library out of my own book collection, and bullied my family into borrowing them. it didn’t last long.

i didn’t play well with other children; not in the ‘disruptive’, ‘selfish’ or ‘bossy’ sense, but because when other children tried to play with me, i’d go and play somewhere else on my own. other children’s games were incomprehensible and idiotic – why would i want to be involved? when friends came over to play after school, i was at a loss as to what came next. i knew i couldn’t just read while they sat there, but what what on earth did other kids do for fun?

as a teen, i was constantly praised by adults for my maturity, so – people pleaser that i was – i did everything i could to live up to the label. i started investing at 18. my wardrobe acquired a shelf full of lever arch folders with tax documents, medical records, vehicle registration papers and university correspondence, mimicking the ones in my parents’ study. i never smoked or did drugs, and the only time i drank without parental supervision (half a bottle of lemon ruski at a friend’s place), i was only a few months shy of the legal age. to my 17 year old palate, it tasted like bad lemon squash. i gifted the rest to a friend intent on getting herself hammered. (possibly not so mature on my part, but arguably pragmatic – she would drink to passing out whether she had my bottle or not, and at least this way an opened drink wasn’t wasted.)

as a young adult, i tried to follow the ‘correct’ path to success. i joined a large company and did my time at the bottom of the corporate ladder. i continued investing. i made Big Plans, the kind where you work yourself to the bone in your 20s and retire by 35. i ignored the mounting stress – both self-inflicted and work-inflicted – until eventually i collapsed. quit my job. travelled. came back broke. made some bad decisions (which turned out to be valuable lessons). worked a contract job, saved, travelled again. rinse and repeat till my late 20s.

i realised i was living my life in reverse. or living out the years i’d missed when i was younger.

at 27 i moved to japan, went to language school, and lived in a dorm where (somewhat surprisingly) i wasn’t the oldest student. i drank too much on friday nights, made a fool of myself more than once, became the centre of a will-they-won’t-they saga (won’t, it turned out), and essentially played out the sort of coming of age scenarios you see in american college movies, only a decade later than expected.

meanwhile, on social media, my high school and uni friends were buying houses, moving up the corporate ladder, getting engaged, getting married, having kids. i started to panic. i’d turned my back on the traditional path, but had that been a mistake? i was falling behind my peers in hitting these important milestones.

back in sydney and heading for 30, i tried to fit in, tried dating again, tried buying into the corporate mindset. but the work had no meaning, made me frustrated, made me restless. the men – all late 20s to mid-30s – wanted to ‘settle down’ and do all those things i appeared to have been missing out on: marriage, kids, picket fence. i sat with the idea, meditated on it, journalled about it. it never felt right. perhaps it was just that these people weren’t ‘the right person’, but eventually it occurred to me that the urge for these things only came to me when i was scrolling through facebook. as soon as i logged off, the feeling dissipated. there was no burning desire for a partner and kids, no urgency to find a place of my own. it was fomo. it was the primitive mind, the latent social animal, urging me to conform; to follow the safe, expected path. and that clearly wasn’t for me. not right now, at least.

and so it was back on the road again, this time to london for a 15 month sabbatical of sorts. my pie in the sky dreams of meeting fellow writers, musicians, and artistic folk hasn’t necessarily panned out the way it did in my (admittedly idealistic) daydreams, but it’s opened me up to new experiences, new opportunities for growth, and unexpected moments of self discovery. the urge to nest hits me occasionally, but ‘not in this place’ follows closely on its heels.

i might be lagging behind my peers. i might never find a partner, start a family, buy a home. or it might happen little by little, inch by inch, sneaking up on me before i realise. or all at once, in one of those fantastic, pinch-yourself, when-did-this-become-my-life moments.

however it happens, i’m at peace with it. i’m living on my own terms, and my own timetable. that’s pretty damned empowering.

that’s not a ritual, that’s just a routine

image credit: byjacki.com

image credit: byjacki.com

when i first set out to write this post, the idea had been to try my hand at the blogger’s favourite: “my morning ritual”. easy, i thought, i’m a creature of habit – this will be a walk in the park. but as I started to write, something about it just wasn’t quite ringing true.

life right now – and ever since I moved to london – has had a sort of temporary feel, the kind that comes with finite visas and no guarantee of long term residency. my experience here is frustratingly temporary, and that unsettled-ness has infused through all parts of my life, and arguably my psyche.

prior to this, in the 18 months spent in inner sydney, my morning was a series of rituals. straight-out-of-bed yoga took on a rawer feel in my east-facing bedroom, the heat of the sun so intense (even at 7am), the stillness of the space leaving just me, my mat, my breath, the growing sheen of perspiration, the rhythm of repetition. focus narrowed, awareness stripped back to the essential, i’d surface from my practice feeling grounded, calm, in control.

my london flat is too cold for this, my bedroom too poky – full of drying laundry I’m forced to climb around and over to get to the bed. goodbye morning yoga.

instead, I try to meditate – ‘try’ being the operative word. there is no space to lay my mat, so I perch on the bed. ground floor and street-facing, the room is subject to a flurry of foot traffic between 7 and 9 every morning – parents with chattering children, businessmen on their mobiles, uni students engaged in animated conversations. it’s a test of focus and patience; sometimes i pass, at other times i fail miserably. but i persist, i persist, i persist.

what i have discovered is that ritual cannot be forced. when it’s constructed with too much thought, there’s a sense of the artificial, the inauthentic, i can’t relax into it. It’s not a ritual, it’s just a routine.

ritual grows organically from a place of what feels good, what feels right, what my spirit needs to nourish it. of late, i’ve lost that sense. i’m a split second out of sync with the world around me. i’m the kid in the jump rope game who can’t quite time their entry, constantly pulling back or getting tangled in the rope. it’s a fug, a mismatch, a lack of flow.

maybe the comparison, the yearning for something lost is part of the problem. perhaps my restlessness, the urge to discard everything and try something completely new, is what holds me back. learning to sit with these feelings, to acknowledge them but not make any rash decisions – maybe that’s a lesson in itself.

wabi sabi beginnings

i struggle with beginnings. with first introductions, with hitting the call button, with reaching out to people whose work i admire or who i’d like to get to know better. i struggle with blank pages and blinking cursors. i struggle with signing up to courses, with walking into an unfamiliar office or cafe or yoga studio. i struggle with looking foolish, or awkward, or not-good-enough.

i am a perfectionist.

i keep things to myself. in my head, or in my journal. i write dozens of blog posts that languish, unpublished, on my hard drive or the cloud. they could always be a little better, more succinct, funnier, more insightful. even as i write this, i’m pushing past the resistance that screams “you could do better” or worse still, “someone else could do it better, so why even bother?”.

that little voice, that constant comparison with others, has kept me quiet for most of my adult life so far. always dreaming, never doing. consuming but not creating. being a passive observer, admiring those with the guts to put themselves out there through writing or art, photography or videos, craft or design.

this stops now.

i’m embracing the japanese concept of wabi sabi, and learning to accept transience and imperfection. i’m embracing being a beginner again and all that comes along with it.

in the end, this blog may not be perfect, but it’s mine.