Resolution Round-up: 9 February 2015.

150209 pointe shoes

This week’s resolution-related internet wanderings.

Dance

I found these guides from Bloch and Pointe Til You Drop really helpful when sewing on my pointe shoe ribbons.  I highly recommend Pointe Til You Drop’s tip of running a flame over the ends of the ribbons to prevent fraying before sewing on the ribbons.  There is nothing quite like the irrational feeling that your entire pointe shoe is going to go up in flames before you even get to wear them.  If you are a scaredy-cat like me, painting the ends with clear nail polish is a less stressful alternative.

Marriage

It’s ok to hate your husband sometimes.

Nest

I’m thinking of signing up to Apartment Therapy’s year of bite-sized, weekend projects, aimed at helping you maintain all that motivation from your resolution to make your home a better, cleaner, more beautiful place.  The first project is to plan out your home maintenance for the year.

Language

The best languages to speak to influence the world.  Spanish FTW.

Life

RIP Carl Djerassi, the father of the birth control pill.

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This girl can, because I’m doing it like a girl.

150209 This Girl Can

Image from Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign

 

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you may have seen that after much procrastination, I sewed my pointe shoe ribbons in preparation for my first ballet and pointe classes for the year.  (Which, by the way, reminded me how much I dislike sewing.  I wonder if I can swing sewing on ribbons as my ‘sew a piece of clothing for myself’ goal …)

The classes weren’t too bad.  In fact, they were pretty good.  I enjoyed being back at the barre again, moving through the familiar movements.  My body didn’t complain too much.  While I looked at my feet in my unbroken-in pointe shoes with a certain level of despondency during the various rising up onto pointe exercises at the barre, the bourrée-ing at the end made me feel like I was floating on air.  I was “sweating like a pig and feeling like a fox”.

I love Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign, which was in response to its finding that 75% of women want to be active, but aren’t, because they fear being judged on how they look, especially in relation to their physical appearance and their skill at their chosen activity (or lack thereof).

I know, I know – it was launched last month and I’m late to the party.  I’ve been cogitating on the criticism the campaign attracted.  ‘Girl’ is patronising.  There is too much focus on sex and objectification of the female body.  There is not enough focus on other positive attributes of physical exercise, such as strengthening friendships, reducing stress and increasing physical and emotional strength.  Women should just get over themselves.  (‘Criticism’ is misleading –  in some cases, ‘poisonous vitriol’ is a better description.)

Focussing on the more constructive criticism, I can see where they are coming from.  It can rankle when women  are referred to as girls, while men are … men.  And sometimes it feels like you cannot move without being bombarded with images of goddess-like women being used in advertising with sexual overtones.

It is easy to tell women to push down their fears of judgement, buck up, get over themselves and (to quote Nike) just do it.  But it is not as simple as that. Being ‘girly’ is considered weak and frivolous: certainly not the attribute of a serious, respected adult.  To do things “like a girl” is an insult.  To be ‘boyish’ or do things ‘like a boy’ does not come near to having such strong negative connotations.

While took numerous dance classes all through my school years (building up a great deal of strength and athleticism), I also spent my school years trying to get out of compulsory sport, for the exact reason that prompted this campaign: I was worried I’d make a fool of myself.  I still make Boy Robin hand me things rather than casually toss them across the room to me, because I’m embarrassed of my catching skills (or lack thereof).

This campaign cannot be all things to all people.  There is never going to be a magic pill which will cause all women to wake up one morning, free of self doubt and ready to become athletic super stars in their own lunchbox.  However, This Girl Can goes a long way to address the issue of women’s lack of confidence when it comes to exercise.

The campaign encourages women to embrace their bodies, rather than be ashamed of them.  It reclaims the word ‘girl’ and makes it powerful.  It argues you do not have to resemble a supermodel to be fit and healthy. You do not have to be an elite athlete at the top of your field to be active.  There are ways you can fit exercise into your busy schedule and actually, you will feel good afterwards.  With image after image of women of all ages and shapes obviously enjoying themselves as they sweat, jiggle and kick balls, I cannot help but want to get up and join them, despite all my misgivings about playing sport.  That can only be a good thing.

I’ll leave you with another campaign with a similar premise: #Like a Girl, although this time aimed a young girls.  Again, it has been subject of a lot of media coverage, especially after being shown during the Superbowl.  It has also received a lot of criticism.  (Pro tip: don’t get sucked into the comments below the video.)  However, its core message holds true.  No campaign will change women’s body image overnight or satisfy all critics, but between This Girl Can and #Like a Girl, we are headed in the right direction.

Resolution Round-up: 1 February 2015

150201 Beach

This week’s resolution-related internet wanderings.

Dance

I love how this dance crew have channelled their passion for dance to highlight a worthy cause.  Cookies, a 32-member dance crew from San Diego won this year’s VIBE Dance Competition with their heart-stopping performance with the theme of orphans.  They have donated their winnings to World Vision, which, among other things, raises funds to help children in crisis.

Marriage

14 February is looming.  I don’t really buy into the commercialisation, but I still like to do something to mark the day, whether it be make a card, or have a quiet dinner in.  This year, I think Boy Robin and I will celebrate by asking each other 36 questions.

Nest

After a bit of a housework blitz last weekend, I’m in a bit of a home improvement mood.  I wouldn’t mind trying these arched bookcases, although I have a feeling it will just be another notch on my never-ending to do list …

Language

The Great Language Game: how many languages can you distinguish?

Life

This did the rounds about 6 months ago.  However, I find myself repeatedly coming back to it and marvelling at how diverse the concept of beauty is around the world.  Or maybe it just shows how diverse people’s photoshop skills are?

Gougères.

In Australia, summer inevitably means cricket and cricket means I must share Boy Robin with what seem like endless games (both watching on tv and playing himself).

I can’t say I enjoy cricket.  I understand the rules enough to follow the game, but it seems that I watch for aaages while nothing happens, only to turn around to talk to someone at the very instant something interesting happens. And then, get in trouble for talking at a crucial moment.

However, one thing I can get behind is the food breaks.  I like that afternoon tea is considered important enough to have its own scheduled break (not to mention I just like afternoon tea).

I don’t watch Boy Robin play cricket (I did it once and once was enough for me).  However, if he is playing a home game, I drop in with some afternoon tea.  Gougères are my go to – quick, easy and super tasty.

Gougères

Gougères

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup beer
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 113g butter, thickly sliced
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal flour
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp seasoning (I usually add garlic chives), plus salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C with a rack in the top third.  Line 2 trays with baking paper.
  2. Bring the beer, milk, butter and salt to boil in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan over a medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce the heat, add both the flours and stir like crazy. The dough will eventually come together smoothly and give a nice, toasty scent.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in your seasoning. At this stage, I usually add some freshly ground salt and pepper as well, but it’s not essential. Even if you decide not to add any seasoning, still stir occasionally for 5 minutes or so to let the heat out (I find it takes much longer on warm days). You don’t want the dough to cook the eggs when you add them.
  5. Once the dough has cooled, work the eggs into the dough one at a time. Add 1 cup of the cheese and stir through.
  6. Scoop 1 tablespoon sized amounts onto the baking trays, leaving a few centimetres between each. I usually manage to fit 12 or so onto each tray. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese on top of the gougères.
  7. Put 1 tray into the oven for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 190C and bake for a further 20 to 25 minutes. The gougères should be a deep, golden brown colour all over, puffed up and well set (no soggy bottoms). Transfer the gougères onto a rack to cool.
  8. Bring the oven temperature back up to 220C before baking the second tray the same as the first. I find that now the oven has warmed up a bit, the second tray bakes a tad quicker, so keep an eye on it.

¡Buen provecho!

Resolution Round-up: 25 January 2015.

Afternoon tea

This week’s resolution-related internet wanderings.

Dance

Ballet at the beach.  You can’t get much more Australian than that.  Although, I can’t help wonder how chafed they must be in stockings soaked in sea water.  Happy Australia Day for tomorrow!

Marriage

Beyoncé as a role model for a traditional marriage.

Nest

How amazing are these kinetic doors?  If I ever build a house, I am totally including them in the instructions to the architect …

Language

Good news for everyone who has resolved to learn a language this year: age is not a barrier!  No excuse now not to hit the books / classes / language app.

Life

Thoughtful underwear with hidden powers.  Such a great idea.

Turning pointe.

My first memory of dancing: learning actions to Agadoo, before performing them on the local community hall stage, resplendent in taffeta frills.  By the time I finished pushing those pineapples, I was hooked.

Most of my school years was taken up with dance classes.  I was your typical bunhead.  I was never going to be a professional, but when I put on my pointe shoes and pirouetted across the room, I was an unstoppable force.

On moving out of home to the bright lights of university in the big city, I found it more difficult to get to (not to mention pay for) classes and my passion weakened as competing priorities took over.  Classes taken here and there reduced to a trickle, until one day I stopped going altogether.

More than 10 years later, my sister and I started taking classes and I was hooked again.  However, after a year of classes I still cannot help the shadow of dismay whenever I catch myself in the mirror.  My body no longer resembles my 17 year old bunhead self.  Far from the graceful sylph of my imagination, I see weak arms and legs at half mast.  Plus, I doubt a sylph would give such a red-faced grimace of concentration.

Part of my lack of progress is due to unrealistic expectations.  You cannot take a decade long break from almost daily classes and expect to pick up where you left off, especially when that picking up is only once a week.  However, after a year of easing back into it, I need (to paraphrase Daft Punk) to be at the barre harder, better, faster, stronger (for longer).

And so, this is the year of dedication, daily stretching … and pointe.

Last weekend, my sister and I each bought pointe shoes.  The lovely Lauren of Bounce Podiatry allayed my fears of being out of the game for too long and I was soon the proud owner of brand new Grishko Novas.  (By the way, if you are in Perth, I wholeheartedly recommend Lauren.  Not only is she the wonderful combination of knowledge that comes with being both a podiatrist and an adult ballet dancer, she is just plain lovely.)

I don’t expect that I will be dancing en pointe any time soon.  I expect a lot of strengthening exercises at the barre before even contemplating pirouetting across the room.  But just slipping on the satin and rising up en pointe gave me an inkling of being an unstoppable force again.

Resolution Round-up: 18 January 2015.

Sky

This week’s resolution-related internet wanderings.

Dance

This one is an oldie, but a goodie.  I bought pointe shoes this weekend …

Marriage

This also did the rounds a few months ago, but I still need to periodically remind myself that kindness and generosity are the basis of a good marriage.

Nest

Apartment Therapy’s tricks for dealing with an unexpected housing-related emergency are very practical.  On first read, they are pretty obvious.  However, I know from experience “looking on the bright side” is not the first thing that comes to mind when faced with a waterfall down your stairs.  Alternatively, you could just burn the place down for the insurance money.

Language

How to answer the phone in different languages.  Did you know “hello” was a telephone greeting before it was used in person?

Life

The Ebola crisis has huge knock on effects in the communities it is ravaging.  With Sierra Leone predicted to have 280,000 people facing food insecurity by March 2015 (i.e. having neither the food they need, nor the ability to buy it), the number of people in Sierra Leone who have died from Ebola (just over 3,000 to date) will be only a fraction of the number who will go hungry from it.

However, there is hope yet.  Health workers are learning how to engage effectively with communities and ultimately prevent a disease to the point of eradication.

30 at 30.

150115 Flowers

In 6 months, I will be turning 30.  While I’ve set some broad, sweeping resolutions, I also have a more detailed list of things I would like to do in my 30th year.  Some of them are things that I’ve never done before, while others are simple, everyday things that I’ve done before and I want to remember to take the time to do.  (Case in point: one of Boy Robin’s gripes is that I still haven’t made him a cake since we’ve been married …)

  1. Make home-made pasta.
  2. Ride a motorbike.
  3. Watch a sunrise.
  4. Watch a sunset.
  5. Throw a themed party.
  6. Sew a piece of clothing for myself.
  7. Fly on a trapeze.
  8. Read a book in Spanish.
  9. Fly in a hot air balloon.
  10. Bake a cake.
  11. Dance en pointe (again).
  12. Knit a scarf.
  13. Go on a picnic.
  14. Buy a drink for a stranger.
  15. Attend a gallery opening.
  16. Host a dinner party.
  17. Be able to do the splits.
  18. Go on a tour of Perth.
  19. Change my name from my maiden name to my married name on all my official records and documents.
  20. Bake a batch of biscuits.
  21. Attend a music concert.
  22. See an exhibition at a WA museum.
  23. Visit New Norcia.
  24. Go to Sneaky Tony’s.
  25. Eat at Chez Pierre.
  26. Donate blood.
  27. Go ice-skating.
  28. Create a gallery wall in our home.
  29. Read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
  30. Make a pavlova.

You can follow my progress on at 30 at 30.  Wish me luck!

Resolution round-up: 11 January 2015.

It's farm o'clock

This week’s resolution-related internet wanderings.

Dance

This week, my sister and I started our stretching regime to complement our ballet classes.  While the overall aim is to reach the strength and flexibility of our 17 year old past selves, we’ve also set the (somewhat?) more attainable and concrete goal of doing the splits.  So far, we’ve been following this video.  However, we also came across this.  I now dream about the beauty that is Lisa Maree’s feet.

Marriage

Do you know what your love language is?  Apparently, mine is receiving (and giving) gifts.

Nest

These homemade solutions reminded me to reach for the bicarb soda and vinegar rather than the industrial strength draino.

Language

I’m yet to book my classes (I know this does not quite gel with my “no more procrastination” goal).  However, I have been using Duolingo to reboot my Spanish memory muscles.  The gamification of the lessons makes is quite addictive.

Life

I love Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life Lessons, in which Justice Ginsburg talks to Ryan Park about her groundbreaking gender-equality cases, as well as what she has learned about marriage, family, and work-life balance.  Its companion piece, What Ruth Bader Ginsburg Taught Me About Being a Stay-at-Home Dad (also by Ryan Park), is a brilliant look at the challenges parents face when trying to achieve a work-life balance.

2015.

The archways at UWA, the university I attended way back when.

Some arches at UWA, the university I attended way back when.

Oh hi, 2015!  Where did you come from?  Once again, the new year is rolling in with quiet stealth.  It feels like I’ve just blinked and January is a fifth over already.

Last year’s resolutions were only partially successful, so this year, my resolution is to build on those successes, in addition to a general “live in the moment”-ness.

So, my resolutions have shaped up to be:

1.  Blog more regularly

I was doing so well for a short time … and then, life took over.  This year, I aim to make a rough editorial schedule and stick to it.  Hopefully.  Watch this space.

2.  Step up strength and flexibility

2014 was the year I started ballet again.  Oh, 17-year-old self, you did not know how good you had it, with limbs which flew every which way you wanted them to without complaint. (Legs: meet ears.  Please and thank you.)  Now, it is more of a case of my finger tips taking a trip to meet my toes and deciding to take an unplanned and unlimited stop at my shins.  While the weekly classes have left me feeling healthier and I love moving with the music again, this year I need to start pushing myself to improve.

3.  Learn (more of) a language

Last year, I completed Level 1 and Level 2 Spanish with a local language school, which is great, until I realise that basically, I can only speak in the present tense with an incredibly limited vocabulary (read: virtually non-existent).  Levels 3 and 4, here I come.

4.  Domestic goddess it up

I actually didn’t too badly with the keeping a tidy house in 2014, although there is definitely room for improvement.

5.  More time with Boy Robin

Or, more specifically, less nights on the couch in front of the tv, while simultaneously reading / playing games on our respective devices.  In 2014, I really improved my communication skills with Boy Robin, to the point where I hardly ever expect him to read my mind.  However, I’ve noticed that we’ve slipped into a really lazy pattern of couch potato evenings.  While down time totally has its place, there are probably definitely some better ways to relax together (rather than next to each other).  Now to convince Boy Robin that playing Just Dance 2015 (one of my favourite Christmas gifts) is a good way to relax together.

6.  Live in the moment

That is, a mish-mash of less procrastinating and more seizing opportunities as they arise, with some spontaneity thrown in for good measure.  I was made redundant at the end of last year and while I’m between jobs, I’m doing some consulting work.  It has the potential to be very successful, if only I could build up some will power to stick to self-imposed deadlines and be confident enough in my skills to take on bigger projects.  Working from home is hard and its so easy to talk yourself down (especially when you have no-one else to talk to).  But, living in the moment applies to life in general – not letting procrastination and self doubt be barriers to achieving goals, not least of all these resolutions.