Friday, 11 September 2020

Melbourne Lockdown 2.0 - what it's like and what it means

 Are lockdowns working? It undoubtedly works to reduce infections and yet, the impact on mental health right now and into the future is being sorely neglected. What will happen for the many renters who are amassing a due debt once the eviction protection laws end? What will happen once the government funding for the jobless is cut off in March? No genuine long-term plans are being provided to alleviate these anxieties. It is costing, and it will cost, lives. While I heartily welcome the mandatory masks in public, I am one of the many Melburnians living under a dark gloomy curtain of fear and frustration at present.

Media has labelled this second Victorian clamp down on public life "Lockdown 2.0". Kicking off on July 9th, it has required a return to our apartments and houses to shelter ourselves away, preventing transmission of coronavirus. There's been positive and negative elements to Lockdown 2.0.

This time around, there haven't been major shortages of toilet paper, canned goods and painkillers. The first lockdown saw mass influxes of Melburnians descend on their supermarkets and chemists in the early hours to clear the shelves. There seems to be greater respect for social distancing too. I assume this is due to the confrontational nature of seeing everyone else in facial masks. It's a stark reminder that this is a life-and-death matter.

The worst part of Lockdown 2.0 is that hopes were dashed. Individuals, families, businesses and our city as a whole had seen a light on the horizon - a return, however gradual, to our lives where cafes, parks, dining out, going to galleries and sporting events would be possible after months of absence from our lives. We would see friends, colleagues and neighbours in the streets and be able to again talk to each other and to strangers - granted, at a distance.

Hunkered down in my apartment with my cavoodle, plotting our daily walks, I'd developed a passion for beauty and fashion videos on YouTube. I knew the novelty factor of this would soon wear off though and I, like everyone, had been anticipating an emergence from the online shopping chrysalis. In preparation for marching out of Lockdown 1.0, I've got a wardrobe of new ankle socks, yoga pants and makeup. I was ready to emerge months ago, and I'm even more prepared now. That said, life is not on hold at all. We are here for a short time when you consider the age of the universe and that the tree your dog pees on has likely been here a century before you showed up. We are here for a short time, and every day matters  whether you see anyone else or accomplish anything measurable or not. 

I have continued to write, to teach via Zoom and to keep to my daily routine of walking my dog, reading newspapers, magazines and websites to stay inspired and excited by what people are doing and thinking. I am very fortunate to live by the beach. Looking out at the ocean is the ultimate reminder to me that we are connected to everywhere else on this planet. To be too insular in our views, assuming the world is as small as our neighbourhood or city, is to rob ourselves of the beauty of being a global citizen. This is temporary and now that we know what it feels like to have our freedoms curtailed, hopefully it makes us appreciate them all the more when they are returned.

I know I'm doing this, and my city is doing this, so that - God forbid - we don't see Lockdown 3.0.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Global Vegan: recipes to nourish from Ellie Bullen's latest book

Global Vegan Recipes & Inspiration

During this time of restricted freedoms, most of us are able to take the time to reflect on what we most miss about our everyday lives and perhaps, what we were doing or valuing that, in retrospect, wasn't worth the time and energy. It is important to recognise that there are many people in situations of extreme danger - unable to be safe in their homes, insecure financially and in a very real situation of not having access to food, water, heat, medical help or government aid. While this is not about whether we deserve to grieve for what we've lost when it is relative to someone in a better or worse situation than our own, it is about recognising anything and everything we can be grateful for right now.

One thing that is enormously positive is that with less cars, planes, trucks and trains active, the air quality globally has improved significantly. There is a return of native fauna to their habitats when we are not interfering. There has been a drive towards YouTube for cooking and nutrition guidance and fitness services online are in boom time. People have more time to take care of themselves, if they choose to do it. You don't have to identify as vegan to enjoy vegan recipes. Keep in mind, the meat market in the US and Australia especially is under major pressure and without government intervention, it would crash. Killing animals for meat, often in brutal and inhumane circumstances, is not a sustainable industry. This is not to say that all non-meat industries are entirely ethical, so ultimately, spend your money with the full awareness that your dollar is essentially a vote for that business to continue trading and operating as it is. If you buy meat, question where it comes from and how the animals are treated before slaughter and the manner of their slaughter. It's much easier to do this when you buy direct from farmers through markets or via their websites. If this isn't possible, ask the stores or butchers you frequent about their sources. If they dismiss you or decline to provide you any information, go elsewhere. Anyway. You came for recipes, right? Here, three of my favourites for you to recreate at home. Feel free, like I do, to tweak things a little to suit your personal taste. I personally love jamu because it's super easy to make and you can easily find fresh turmeric at an Asian grocery and most fruit and vegetable markets. It's entirely a different flavour to powdered packets of turmeric, but obviously, if you can't source it fresh, anything is better than nothing!

Serves 2

2 cm piece of turmeric, peeled

5 cm piece of ginger, peeled

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon coconut nectar or ethically

sourced local honey

ice cubes, to serve

Place all the ingredients and 125 ml (1⁄2 cup)of water in a blender and blend on high for 60 seconds. 

Add another 375 ml (1 1⁄2 cups) ofwater and blend again for 30 seconds.

Strain through a fine sieve or nut-milk bag (but be aware that the turmeric will stain the bag).

Pour the tonic into ice-filled glasses or jars andenjoy. Any leftover can remain in the fridge for 4 days.

Nori Rolls

Serves 2

80 g tempeh, sliced into thin strips
2 tablespoons Fiery Korean Sauce (see page 277),
plus extra to serve (see Tip)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
550 g (3 cups) cooked brown rice
3 nori sheets
6 pickled daikon batons or any pickled veg
(see page 286)
3 tablespoons Spicy Korean Kimchi (see page 284)
½ avocado, finely sliced
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
sorrel leaves, to serve (optional)

Place the tempeh and fi ery Korean sauce in a small bowl, mix well and set aside for 20–30 minutes to marinate.
Stir half the sesame oil through the cooked rice and set aside.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add the tempeh and fry for 1 minute on each side oruntil golden. Set aside.
Lay a nori sheet on a bamboo sushi mat and spread with a thin layer of rice, leaving a 2.5 cm border. 
Place a few strips of tempeh along the centre of the rice and top with two pieces of pickled veg, 1 tablespoon of the kimchi and a few slices of avocado. 
Dab a little water along the top edge of the nori sheet and roll up as you would a sushi roll, using the bamboo mat to assist you.
Repeat with the remaining nori sheets and filling.
Brush the rolls with the remaining sesame oil, sprinkle over the sesame seeds and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Once chilled, use a sharp knife to cut each roll into four to six even pieces. Serve with the fiery dipping sauce 

All recipes extracted with permission from The Global Vegan by Ellie Bullen, Published by Plum, RRP $34.99, Photography by Ellie Bullen

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Yoga In Everyday Life: The Sutras For Daily Living

According to many faiths, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, the universe began, from pure silence, with a single sound. For some faiths, this sound was the name of God but for others, including Hinduism, this sound was "Om". This sacred vibration that heralded the source of all life and creation was followed by a cacophony of noise and excitement. Within the noise though, there is still that underlying sacred sound and ultimately, silence.

The art of yoga is to quieten the cacophony that exists both around us and within us. As a 500-hour yoga teacher, I have studied the Yoga Sutra according to Patanjali, as have most - if not all - teachers. Common belief has it that these short verses, ultimately a guide to enlightenment, were compiled in around 350 CE.
Yogas-citta-vrtti-nirodhah translates as "Yoga is the restriction of the fluctuations of consciousness".

More than ever, the noise around and within us is driven by a 24-hour news cycle, constant connectivity to traditional and social media, and an overwhelming number of societal dramas and problems that can weigh on our collective and individual conscience. In the face of relentless news of climate change, natural disasters, drought, floods, poverty and injustice, we can become exhausted and feel powerless to make a difference. This is not true, though. Through individual actions, we throw a pebble into the universal waters that ripples across the surface. We inspire and motivate the people around us who then motivate a wider group, until there is broader awareness and action.

I refer to yoga as a practice, and in a sense the act of attending a yoga class to practice the asanas (poses) is a practice for how to live as an individual, but also how to live in the world. As with any practice, yoga requires dedicated practice (abhyasa) though this is tempered with an ability to commit without expecting or judging the results (vairagya).

Patanjali gave guidelines as to how to live as a conscientious and dedicated individual, but ultimately to recognise we exist within a collective consciousness. There is no true divide between any of us and any other living thing in the universe. He advised "satkara", a true belief in what you're doing, along with "adara", finding enjoyment in what you're doing.
To this end, your yoga class and your yoga practice requires adherence to the ancient yoga sutras in that you must be dedicated, regardless of the expectations and results, and that you must believe in the value of what you're doing, while also finding enjoyment in it.

Even though, superficially, yoga can appear to be just another offering at your local gym or a set of gymnastic exercises in overheated rooms filled with enthusiastic Lycra-clad acrobats, it is not purely a movement class. The poses, the sequences they are practiced in, and the intention in making each shape with our bodies and discovering how it feels in our body and mind as we do so has ancient roots. As we transition from a crow into a goddess, from a downward facing dog into a triangle then a half-moon, we discover the ease of moving in and out of different entities without losing our ability to self-observe, or to feel grounded. This is the essence of compassion. Not pity at all, but the ability to see and experience life through the eyes, or shoes, of others.

Patanjali teaches "asevita", or the commitment to approaching life with a sense of service. How can our everyday actions contribute to being of service to the people we come into contact with, the people we know and love, the work that we do, the land that we live on, the creatures on that land?

These questions are timeless. To be of service is not to sacrifice ourselves at all. Without our optimal health, contentment and safety, we are not able to be of service to others. To this end, the physical yoga practice is a commitment to being strong, agile, balanced and physically well enough to care for ourselves and to be of service to our fullest ability.
 The teachings of yoga, which boil down to every living creature and thing being connected and from one source, are not religious nor culturally unique. They don’t invite some people and exclude others. Whoever we are, wherever we are, we can practice yoga via some means - it may be through selfless service to others, daily mantras and chants, physical poses or purely mindful breathing exercises (pranayama).

From that silence came a sacred sound, followed by a cacophony. Through yoga, we seek to connect back to the sacred sound. This is through compassion, dedicated practice, being of service and gratitude for the opportunity to contribute to this cacophonous, wonderful, endlessly curious world that we live in. Through individual practice, we connect to an ancient practice that unites all living beings. Om, Waheguru*.

*Waheguru translates as “teacher” or “remover of darkness”. In yoga, the use of the word typically means, “The teacher in me acknowledges the teacher in you”

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

14 Best Places In Melbourne To Get Budget and Discount Beauty Treatments

Melbourne College of Hair and Beauty

MCOHB operates as a beauty college primarily, but it also has a salon attached which is open to the public. They offer both beauty services and extensive hair services at majorly discounted prices compared to typical salons. Facials, body treatments (massage, scrubs, hot stones), spray tanning and eyelash extensions or eyebrow tints are all on the menu.

National Academy of Hair & Beauty

The National Academy of Hair & Beauty in the inner suburb of Richmond runs regular courses as well as operating a salon where students apply their newly mastered techniques to clients who like a budget beauty service. From eyelash extensions to manicures, pedicures and facials – for a spare $5 you can indulge in a treatment (or two). The catch is that it may take much longer than a highly experienced beauty professional, so factor in an additional hour in some cases.

Sephora In-Store Beauty

You go in for a browse and end up with a basket load of lipstick, blush, bronzer and glitter. What happened? We’ve all been there. You get dazzled by the lights and colours and next thing you know, your entire budget and more has been blown. Fortunately, you can make a buzzline directly for the brow bar or a Sephora makeup artist for budget-friendly makeup application (listen to the expert tips: priceless) and brow taming and grooming. You can book online.


The MAC Express service is super affordable and doesn't require a major time commitment either. The sessions are 30 minutes long, with a focus on a particular facial feature you want to learn how to accentuate or mastering a look (like  a cat's eye or fuller lips). The session costs $70 which is fully redeemable on product so that once you've been recommended products, and experienced how they work on your face, you go home wiser with a bag full of MAC goodies. Book ahead or in store.

Endota Spa Wellness College Spa Night

As part of their beauty and wellness courses, endota Wellness College runs “spa nights” in which students provide discounted services like manicures, pedicures, facials and massage. Massively discounted, you’ll be in the hands of students who are under supervision and have undergone extensive training to deliver endota quality service. For more information on the spa nights, enquire with the college or join the Facebook group. Located at The District Docklands Shopping Centre in Docklands.

Victoria University Beauty

Conveniently located on King Street in the CBD, the student salon at Victoria University offers all the beauty services you could want at a fraction of typical salon prices.  Whether it's waxing, facial and body treatments, manicures and pedicures, eyelash and eyebrow tinting or massage, you can book in online. There's also a Dermal Clinic and Osteopathy Clinic within the campus so you could make several consecutive bookings.

Brazilian Butterfly

Brazilian Butterfly has salons all over Melbourne, but their offers are organised centrally so you can be sure that whichever salon is closest to you is running the same discounts and specials as all salons. Their expertise is in waxing and tanning, and they also offer IPL Hair Removal and Lash Lifts and Tints.

Results Laser Clinic

With clinics around Melbourne, Results Laser Clinic will have a salon convenient to you. They run promotions throughout the year, sometimes with 60% off laser treatments and half priced microdermabrasion or other facial treatments.  They have specific treatments for acne as well as skin needling and non-surgical facelifts and eye treatments.

Box Hill Institute

Fully supervised by senior trained staff, the services at Box Hill's Beauty Salon are offered at a huge discount because they're provided by students. Manicures, waxing, facials, spray tans, massage and brow tints are all on the menu for around $10 to $20. Open Monday to Friday.

Elly Lukas Beauty

Elly Lukas runs beauty and spa courses year round, so you can attend the Student Clinic located on site in Flinders Lane, central Melbourne for a range of services. Each treatment is $20 and each treatment is assessed so you can sure students are providing the best quality of treatment. Facials, massage, waxing, eyelash extensions, spray tans and body treatments are all on offer.

Australasian Academy of Cosmetic Dermal Science

The Student Clinic at AACDS provides advanced dermal treatments for a fraction of the typical cost. Opt for the AHA peel for around $30 or IPL (Intensive Pulsed Light) photo rejuvenation, IPL hair reduction, skin needling or microdermabrasion. Each treatment takes between an hour and a couple of hours so ensure you plan enough time to get there and stay the full length required.

Casey College of Beauty Therapy

Casey College of Beauty Therapy is located in Berwick. Running Thursday evenings from 6pm to 9:30pm and Friday mornings 9:30am to 2:30pm, the treatments are all performed by students that have qualified the course unit.
On the menu are eyelash extensions, shellac manicures and pedicures, acrylic nails, waxing and massage.

 Kangan Institute
The Student Clinic at Kangan Institute offers both beauty and hair services so you could organise a full makeover at a huge discount to what you'd usually pay. The training salon in Richmond runs from Monday through to Wednesday until 4pm, though the hair and barbering salon is open until 8:30pm on Mondays and Wednesdays for those who need an after-work appointment.

Biba Academy

Ok, so technically this is all about hair not beauty, but if you’re seeking affordable cuts, colours, styling and you can spare a little longer than a typical hairdressing appointment, get to Biba Academy in either Melbourne CBD or Fitzroy.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Kiya Watt Designed The First Indigenous Doll For Play School

In honour of NAIDOC week, which celebrates Indigenous Australians in July every year, the first doll to recognise and represent Indigenous Australians has been introduced to Play School.
I grew up watching Play School and I can recall every doll and presenter that I loved - Jemima and Big Ted, of course. It is so important that we recognise that there is a major divide in the health, social and economic wellbeing between native Australians and the rest of us. It isn't solely the job of politicians or celebrities to ensure that this changes. It comes down to the choices we all make and all Australians have an opportunity to learn more about the language, the history, the traditions and the values of Indigenous Australia. How is it possible, even in this enlightened age, that we study World War 2 and German history with greater attentiveness than our own Indigenous history and culture? Still. Whatever you do or don't know about our shared history, I hope you enjoy my interview with Kiya Watt, who designed Play School's own Kiya.

Had you watched Play School before or growing up? How much did you know about it?

I grew up watching Play School. I can always remember trying to guess which shaped window I would be looking through on the episodes. It was always such an exciting show. A lot of my early creativity came from watching Play School’s craft episodes.
Tell me about being Menang Noongar - what does this mean to your sense of community and identity?

Menang means that my Mob is from south Western Australia. Menang covers the very southern areas/lands of south Western Australia such as Albany which is a 4 hour drive south from Perth and is where I am located. It is a huge part of my identity within my Noongar community. Their are 14 different  Groups of Noongar people (Amangu, Ballardong, Yued, Kaneang, Menang, Njakinjaki, Gnudju, Bibulman, Pindjarup, Wardandi, Whadjuk, Wilman & Wudjari) We all have our own individual languages and cultural stories. We all have our own individual totems as well. My cultural identity is dependent on my families stories/language that is why it’s so important to acknowledge our groups that we belong too.

You have 3 children - how old are they and how have they responded to the doll and to Play School?

I have 2 twin sons who are currently 9 years old which means they were old enough to sit down and learn and be apart of the process and story behind the painting I did for Play School. They are very proud of their culture, and have grown up with strong cultural identities which makes me so happy,. They also are mega fans of Baker Boy so are actually just as excited as my youngest to tune in and watch the new series of Play School. As for my youngest, she is only 2 years old so watching her see the Kiya doll on TV and the ads has been so exciting. She absolutely loves Play School and starts screaming and clapping when she sees the Kiya doll on TV. It’s so heart warming because my children are so proud to be Noongar and for them to look up on TV and see that representation gives them so much  pride.

As a mother, how important is it for your children to see positive representation of indigenous children and women on mainstream TV?

It is imperative for all Aboriginal and non Aborginal children to see this representation. To gain that knowledge on our identities within our communities it is just so necessary. The children are our future and this knowledge is so powerful. For them to start learning in their own homes and feel that connection with the longest living culture in the world and feel connected is just so positive. It’s such a proud moment for all.

What does Kiya mean in traditional Noongar (I have read "hello")?

Yes it means hello but it is more then that for us. It is how we connect and show respect.

Tell me about your choice of colour, pattern and overall design - does it tell a story and what do you hope people feel and think when they see it?

Yes it does tell a story, and it will be shown on the acknowledgment episode airing this Monday at 9am on ABC Me on Play School. Image: Kiya Watt and Play School Producer, Bryson Hall.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Barcelona Yoga Teacher & Photographer Maria Mathison on Her Favourite Places

Maria Mathison, Barcelona based yoga teacher

I had the enormous good fortune to meet Maria when I travelled to Barcelona a few years ago. Above a children's shoe store not far from Las Ramblas, there's a yoga studio up a spiral staircase which is like a little spiritual haven far from the madness of the streets.

From the studio, you can see right across the city. It's divine.

I asked Maria for her recommendations on where to go and what to do in Barcelona for those who don't intend to purely shop and stare at the Sagrada.

Favourite places to eat: Cana de Azucar (Carrer de Muntaner 69); and Nolita (Carrer de Llull 230)
Nolita in Barcelona

Favourite ice creamery: ("I don't drink, just ice cream and tea!") Dela Crem (Carrer d'Enric Granados, 15)
Dela Crem in Barcelona

Favourite walk: Montjuic and Fundacion Miro

Favourite beach: Badalona

Maria teaches at Yoga Studio Barcelona. They're on Facebook, of course. Find them on the map here. Find the timetable here.

Maria is on Instagram at @onceuponanillusion

Friday, 26 April 2019

Quick Fix: Knee Injury

Wouldn't it be fun to come off a Vespa and have it land on my knee? Said Nobody, Ever.

Including me.

However, in the interests of not living a boring, unchallenging life, I headed off to learn how to ride a scooter. Seems, it had plans for me, which involved reminding me that a quick moving, heavy chunk of metal atop an engine can be extraordinarily heavy especially when it lands on your limbs.

The abridged version of the whole story is that I had a Vespa land on my knee and over the coming week, I continued to attempt to move on it and only made it more intensely sore and tender. Thankfully, I booked in with a physiotherapist near home and she went through a variety of tests to ensure nothing really dramatic had occurred. It was a lateral ligament stretched and my hyper-flexible right shoulder had sub-luxated. Apparently, due to a yoga injury over a decade ago, I regularly engage in sub-luxing my shoulder and my body awareness and ability to compensate ensures that it doesn't create impingement.

No wonder I go on and on about shoulder stability in classes.

Within two appointments, I've gone from walking and sitting in pain to being able to return to BodyPump (with plenty of modifications!), walking without issues and the bruising and swelling has gone down immensely. I am doing All The Things. In case you're wondering what All The Things are, here's my guide.

Fix My Injury STAT. I have no time or patience for this: the checklist.

  • Book in with a physiotherapist. Make sure you feel confident with the person you're seeing though - if there's any doubts that they can help you, perhaps you'd be best to seek a referral to another practitioner either within the same practice or outside it. Don't be afraid to sever a relationship that doesn't feel right. I'm fortunate to have found a physiotherapist I really trust - knowing she has worked with elite athletes in the fields of football, gymnastics and dance really wins me over too. 
  • Do the at-home work. I know foam rolling and spiky ball and self-massage and the soda crystals and bandages are boring, but they're going to fix you. So just do it.
  • Use an all natural muscle rub. Sure, you could use highly medicated, expensive stuff like Voltaren and Nurofen gel but I assure you, I have had much better results with an all-natural, plant-based product my physiotherapist recommended and used in treatment. It's called Relievamed and it's made in Australia. It smells like eucalyptus and ginger. Totally calming.
  • Take curcumin supplements to prevent and treat inflammation. There's clinical evidence that supports the regular intake of curcumin supplements, especially in the treatment of arthritic pain. Any injury that results in muscle and joint swelling and pain, or even digestive bloating and discomfort, can be alleviated and prevented with good quality supplements. I take Flexofytol, which is high strength, fast absorbing and Australian made. Totally clean and pure, and leaves zero after-taste. Two  a day is perfectly enough.
  • Find other ways to move and train that don't further inflame your injury. I love to move. It is my physical and my mental health therapy! While it isn't ideal to have an injury, of course, in fact it can push you to get creative and find other ways to train that don't involve your usual routine methods. This is good. Embrace it.

Melbourne Lockdown 2.0 - what it's like and what it means

 Are lockdowns working? It undoubtedly works to reduce infections and yet, the impact on mental health right now and into the future is bein...