Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Beautiful Skin, Beautiful Planet

I'm not perfectly organic, non-chemical, non-toxic, clean living 100%
If you are, DAMN. Well done. That's hard. I do try though to go for products that are organic, recyclable, NOT tested on animals, no parabens, petroleum and silicone that clogs pores and leaves traces all over your skin and hair.

I know what works for me, so I can't guarantee you will love it, but if you value really high quality skincare at an affordable price AND beautifully designed packaging that will make you smile when you see it in the cabinet daily, get your mitts on these brands:

The Jojoba Company
The Body shop

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

SLS Strengthen Lengthen Sculpt

So, you know I get super excited about new class ideas. I'm pitching this RIGHT now and need you to get behind it and wave your pom-poms about if you're keen to see it at your gym.

SLS - or Strengthen Lengthen Sculpt - is a mix of cardio, pilates and resistance work to build lean muscle, long muscles and leave you with that satisfying "glow" of sweat as you trot out at the end.

You will see results. You know I mean it if you come to Ballet Sculpt. This is like an amped up version of Sculpt! Let's get it on timetables. Let me know where your club is and request your Group Fitness Manager get in touch with me to discuss!

SLS. Strengthen Lengthen Sculpt.

A combination of cardio, pilates and light resistance work to sculpt your muscles, raise your heart rate and lengthen your muscles to leave you long, lean and strong.

Melbourne Group Fitness Managers can email me to discuss available times!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Mel Macklin - Party In Fantastica!

I recently discovered amazing, kick-ass lipstick brand Shanghai Suzy. Not only do they do two shades you MUST HAVE (hello Neon Guava and Amethyst!) but they have names and characters. The mad mistress behind those tattooed, punk rock princesses is Melbourne illustrator, Mel Macklin and she is feisty fun personified. Despite being crazily busy, she took time to answer all my questions.
How did the Shanghai collab start?

Hehe, it's kinda a nice story actually! It was April of this year, and I hadn't long moved to Melbourne from Darwin in the Northern Territory. It was my very first day sitting my market shop in my new hometown, and Jo was my neighbour at Rose Street Artist's market in Fitzroy! Jo was every bit as bubbly and and sweet as she looked, and kept me in very good company that first day. We never got to be market neighbours again, but I like to think the creative pixies had had a hand in our meeting that day!

We kept in touch on the social interwebs and Jo would often leave lovely comments about whatever new painting I was working on. Then one day, I got an email from her asking if I was interested in illustrating for her Spring/ Summer wardrobe launch, and I was like, 'Ummm, YES!'

We met for lunch a week later and that was that! Jo was a dream to work with: a girl who knows quite clearly and concisely what she wants, how to express herself, and, I think most admirably, how to encourage creativity with others. I think we both felt very strongly invested and personally attached to the characters that I illustrated; there's a little piece of us both in there. I feel very lucky to have worked with such a tremendous businesswoman like Jo.

Your lipstick shade of choice?

Hands-down, Miss Kitty Black Plum! (Hehe, I painted both Suzy Sisters wearing that shade for purely selfish reasons!). I love that it's super-elegant classy lady (ahem, I do try to be those things!), but it's also a bit grungy nineties.

Where did you draw the inspiration for your characters?

Hehe, how long is a piece of string?! Sometimes it's a word that repeats itself over and over in my head. Sometimes it's the snippet of a book, maybe even a misinterpretation of a song. Making art to me is like a jigsaw, with round holes and square pegs- the attraction and the challenge simultaneously is to make those incongruous elements work together so at first glance they look 'right' and fitting. (The trick is in the double-take your viewers will give the work if you've done your job right!)

I'm a visual person, so all of my characters are an amalgam of all the cool stuff I've ever seen in my life to date. Even as a small child, I would never sit in front of the telly just to be a couch potato- I would draw- the characters I loved best (Sarah from Labyrinth, Rainbow Brite, Sailor Moon, Lady Lovely Locks, everything Disney, ). I would draw them as they were, I would draw them in new outfits, in new contexts, and make whole new characters to sit alongside them too.

Anybody who grew up in the Harry Potter generation will know the particular torture of waiting a year or more to know the fate of characters who had become real to you, had become both your friend, and a part of you. Of never wanting their stories to be over, and the dull ache when, inevitably, the last page was read and there was no more. My reaction to dealing with that was to make art, to continue their stories as I would want them to be lived.

Going to my first Comic-Con this year, I realised that there were thousands of other dreamers out there who felt just the same way I did about their 2D heroes, and I felt like that community has opened it's superhero arms to me in a huge way!

A lot of my work though is of my own original characters. They are all a little part of me and the people I love best, real and imagined.

What other collabs have you done?

I am currently working with a bunch of fantastic illo buddies of mine for our collective showcase at next year's Melbourne Supergraph! We are called 'Wayward Journey'. We all make stuff that's a bit whimsical, fairytale-fancying, detailed and, of course, awesome! ;-)

Do you find Melbourne a good city to have a creative career in?

Melbourne is a place I feel in my bones. I'm originally from Gippsland, but my folks moved to Darwin in my teens. I spent the next 12 years making plans to move back to Melbourne, but life always got in the way.... My fiancée Dave and I lived and worked in inner-city London for two years, and spent a lot of time in Italy and Spain while we were there. It was amazing and terrifying and confronting and all my dreams come true, all at once! You realise there are parts of yourself, survival mechanisms you didn't know you had, living in a big city, especially one that's not in your native country.

I think it can be very confronting to live in any big city and try to make a name for yourself in the creative biz. I realised very quickly, living in London that there was no shortage of amazingly clever artsy people out there, searching, working for just the same lucky break that I was. And then I realised that it wasn't going to happen, this fantasy of 'being discovered'. It's a myth: it diminishes the thousands of hours of sheer hard work that is put in for such and such a person to become well-known, this idea that they were 'lucky' that someone well-connected introduced them to the world, or implicitly, took pity on them (actually, it's just sheer hard work and perseverance!). I am really grateful now to have experienced the sort of anonymity and the confrontation of being a drop in the ocean, before I seriously started my career. It keeps me humble and grounded; I am always trying to push closer to new personal bests and develop my skills. My biggest fear is complacency!

In a nutshell, I think it can be very easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of the Melbourne art scene- a good artist will let that fuel them to keep finding inspiration, unique ways to express themselves, to work hard, humbly and honestly to earn a place beside their art heroes.

How do you find customers and supporters?

Hehe, Pop Surrealism can be a tricksy movement to be a part of! People aren't always sure just what is, or what it's for. It's funny how uninhibited people can be when they meet you in a retail context (I sell my work at trade fairs like Comic-Con, Finders Keepers and a bunch of smaller markets around Melbourne), and I've heard all sorts of comments about my work! I think people find themselves in artwork- you know the old saying, they see it as they are, the good and the bad, and not always as it was intended.

My heart just explodes with joy when people walk up to my shop, and look at something like 'Salty Tears and Shipwrecks' and laugh. I think: a kindred spirit! I have an odd sense of humour, so it makes me happy that's there's peeps out there who know how to fly their freak flag with reckless abandon too!

My attitude to art has always been that, if it's not actually real, why not make something extraordinarily beautiful, to make impossible things possible- on a page, within a film, the covers of a book... I think the ability to suspend belief, to lose yourself within an artwork and accept the improbability of it, is a special thing. I couldn't care less that mermaids aren't real: I want to believe in them, and so they are real in all the ways that matter. If I can help just one person to feel that too, I feel like I've achieved something.

Favourite artistic medium?

I have a huge respect for painters. Oil painters especially. The thing is, I can't paint to save myself!
I puddled in it like a spoiled brat at uni; I decided the reason I made poo on the paper was because it wasn't quite for me, and I could get away with just, skipping a whole bunch of fundamental skills every good artist should know! (Actually, I just had zero patience and felt entitled to expect results too quickly, rather than earn them!)

So, about six years ago when I was toying with the idea of illustrating professionally, I bought myself a set of gorgeous watercolours and taught myself how to paint with them.... Later, I switched to acrylics, which is much more a plastic medium, much more predictable. But it never sat right with me! I always felt like I was pretending, there was something fluid I was seeking in my methods, but could never quite give myself over to, as ever, the look I wanted was highly detailed and controlled.

After a long stint with colour pencils, I have finally, and most unexpectedly, fallen head-over-heels
with digital painting! I use a method called on-screen mixing, which is basically a simulation of traditional oil-painting methods. It's just that you mix your colours on screen, rather than puddling in pigments, which I really suck at!

Hehe, this little Luddite would never have dreamed one day I'd say I absolutely LOVE digital painting! The scope of what's possible, and all the things I have yet to learn and get better at is huge. I know I have found my medium because I am excited and inspired by that thought, not defeated to be just a relative beginner.

Can't live without tools and equipment?

My Wacom (of course!). I've had it for five years now, so the wear and tear has polished it to perfection and my pen glides just right!
Tea and/or coffee, I'm not fussy which variety as long as it's strong and I can have it on intravenous drip. I am a caffeine whore, which is ridiculous because it has no effect on me. I can drink coffee late at night and be asleep in twenty minutes. True story.
All my beautiful books, full of the fairytales I loved as a child, and the ones I love now that keep me inspired and young at heart.
Pinterest, where I catalogue absolutely every single thing other that inspires me!

Music to listen to while drawing?

Hehe, I am kinda OCD and can watch/ eat/ do the exact same stuff days in a row without getting tired of it, until suddenly I find a new obsession! My brother remembers that even as a child, I would watch 'Labyrinth' five times back to back every single day and still be fascinated! So, I have been listening to Jeff Buckley for about, oh, five months now!
I am also a sucker for audiobooks: Michael Ende's 'Neverending Story'; the Harry Potter series read by Stephen Fry; anything written or read by Neil Gaiman ('Neverwhere' and 'Coraline' are my faves). Also LOVE David Tennant's reading of the 'How to Train Your Dragon' books by Cressida Cowell. Listening to these stories is like chewing gum for my imagination- so, while half my brain makes very precise technical decisions, the other half is like:
''Woot, woot, party in Fantastica!''


Friday, 19 December 2014

Magnesium: Your Questions Answered

I take magnesium to assist with calcium absorption for bone and muscle health. I also love it for sleep improvement and a calming effect. Thankyou to nutritionist, Jess Sepel for answering all my magnesium questions. FYI, Jess is the ambassador for Nature's Way. I do use it, I advocate for it, but be aware that there are many magnesium products on the market and you need to read labels and choose what is best for your body!
The reason I like this product is because it is made from natural products rather than some of the more highly processed options out there that are less easily absorbed and the ingredients not easy to decipher. As with food, if you can't make sense of the label, be wary.

Who needs magnesium?
Almost everyone, in my nutritionist’s opinion! We just aren’t getting enough from the soils our food is grown in. Magnesium does incredible things for the nervous system – it actually calms it down so that it’s able to function as it should. It’s good for the heart, helps rebalance hormones, eases constipation, and even acts as an amazing muscle relaxant and sleep aid. It really is a divine mineral!

Why is it ideal in powder form?
Magnesium is best taken in powder form because it’s less work for the body to break down than a tablet. In powder form it is better absorbed by the body and is easier on the stomach too.

When is it best to consume it?
It’s best to take magnesium at night, after a meal.

While some say it is best combined with calcium, that’s not necessarily the case. Straight magnesium powder from Nature’s Way will be absorbed well all on its own! 

Anxiety (It's Not Just For Christmas)

I am reading Kerri Sackville’s “The Little Book of Anxiety:Confessions from a Worried Life” and it is really funny and also really resonant. A writer for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Sunday Life, Mamamia.com and also a prolific blogger, Kerri is no slouch in the writing department. Totally readable and not at ALL textbook flavoured.

In just the first few pages, Kerri nails the anxious life.

“Anxiety is a shocker. It robs you of your ability to think, and your ability to enjoy your life. It is a tightness in your chest. A pounding heart. Intense agitation. A brain clouding over. A mind closing in on itself.”

I don’t want to preach to you on anxiety and its causes and cures because it manifests in different ways and to different degrees for everyone. From the niggle in your head right before you want to sleep about whether you’re in the right job, to a fully blown panic attack over imminent disaster, there is the capacity in all of us for worry and anxiety to affect our mental and physical health.

I know when I’m anxious, exercise helps. Not walking or running, as I know is the most predictable thing, nor boxing and exhausting myself. I actually find the big adrenaline rush from doing that can equally exhaust my anxiety out OR increase it massively! Not worth the risk.

I actually find a flowing, moving vinyasa yoga class is really redemptive. I might find myself still highly emotional throughout class, but I feel like I have the energy and ability to acknowledge all those worries and fears and not to crumble and feel useless in the face of them. I feel re-energized.
I also like a good weights session – again, not pounding the barbells and forcing myself through endless sets or huge loads – I’m not punishing myself! I just like the steady count of repetitions and the focus on timing, technique and focusing on how it feels rather than giving in to the “if this, then that” thoughts racing through my head.

You will find you already have ways to handle your worry. Maybe you don’t even recognise that’s what you’re doing. The important thing is to make sure those ways aren’t harmful. I know those too. Exercise has been a demon for me in the past as far as trying to exorcise anxiety with exhaustive routines and classes and sweat. Another book has come out recently by Melbourne woman,  Vanessa Alford, who exercised obsessively and was praised and prized for running like a maniac, overtraining and losing massive amounts of weight through restrictive and dangerous dieting. She has revealed the pain and misery that haunted her in Fit Not Healthy and it is a confronting, CONFRONTING book, I warn you. But one that reveals a culture and obsession that is evident to me in my role in the fitness industry. I don’t believe we have seen the real start, nor any great developments on this front and it will come. There are a great many men and women who will identify with Vanessa’s experience and are not willing to admit their demons just yet.

Fit Not Healthy by Vanessa Alford 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Sleek Ponytail or Bouncy Curls? Both!

Confession. I have curly hair naturally - thanks mum.
I fought it throughout my teens and twenties but now I love them. It took a lot of trial and error with hair products though. So many curl-specific products leave your hair thick, oily and in need of a shampoo daily! Yuck.

After discovering Pureology's strength cure for split ends, I decided to venture further and try their curl products. Best Curl Products Ever. I thought Kerastase was the ultimate for my hair, but I'm cheating. I'm having a mad, mad affair with Pureology Curl Complete and if you are ringlet, spirals and curls too - I'm willing to share the love.
Available from a salon. Find your closest one!
Pureology on Facebook

On the OTHER hand, I love a sleek ponytail - Jennifer Aniston totally rocked it with a gorgeous ponytail hair extension piece at a film launch recently, which inspired me to try it too. I found The Wig Outlet to be super efficient as far as easy payment, parcel tracking and super-fast delivery.
Plus, when I emailed a couple of questions on colour and suitability, they responded within a few hours! Love that.

I got the deluxe 35cm ponytail with claw clip-in. Comes in 8 colours for $24.99.

Fitness Fashion goes Festive

There’s no denying it. Come January/February, there’s gonna be a whole influx of the New Years’ Resolutioners handing over their credit card details and practically begging for membership to the gym, crossfit warehouse, yoga studio and boot camp.

While you can’t buy ongoing motivation, you can dress for success. Why not be strategic and prepared by putting your Most Wanted pieces on a list for Santa? Or your mum, boyfriend, best friend, brother. Because looking gorgeous in gym gear is a public service (no see-through leggings and low-rise hipsters here!), so really, others should get on board.

Here’s my tried, trusted and true fitness fashion picks. They have been through gym workouts, yoga, pilates, Ballet Sculpt, last-minute grocery runs and everyday-living business. No fading, no tears, no loose threads, and no shrinking.

Made in LA, every piece is an artwork that is genuinely made for movement. The crops, singlets, capris and leggings all fit impeccably and are super flattering. I am especially in love with my high-
waisted polka dot print leggings. I love pulling them down over my heels as the length allows – all of a sudden, you’ve elongated yourself like a Dali painting. The floral crop is making me smile every time – photo real print and the pink and purple is reflected in my shoes, of course.

 Onzie on Facebook

 Onzie on Instagram

When compression gymwear first became a ‘thing’, it was Skins that was the leader of the pack with their scientifically engineered, hard-wearing but fashionable tights and tanks. Though the market has been flooded with cheaper, generic “compression” gear – I haven’t discovered anything that even nearly matches the long-lasting grip-your-muscles effect of my Skins leggings. While the gurus are still debating the effectiveness of compression – and it is probably more a matter for endurance athletes than the everyday gym guy or girl – it is undeniable that the whole range of Skins gear looks high-tech, sucks in all the things it should, and has a bit of a Halle Berry in Catwoman look about it. Winning.
I AM coveting the rainbow-hued Amazon Feathers running shorts and capris. Get in fast!


 Skins on Facebook

Funkita Activewear

Australian made – in fact, only a few suburbs away from me in Collingwood, Melbourne – Funkita has 10 years of swimwear design and athlete collaboration under their belts so activewear was a no-brainer. They have slam-dunked it too, with bright colours, sharp fit, great material and no-fade colours. Every time I’ve worn their bright pink crop and rainbow-stripe leggings, I have been asked what I’m wearing – the ultimate test of lovability! I’m wearing their full-length leggings and matching crop in Pink-Feline Fever.

Support the Australian economy, it’s an act of kindness!


 Funkita on Facebook

 Funkita on Instagram

Henry Holland for MRP

He does crazy prints for hot girls. Henry Holland will cost you the mortgage normally BUT oh my god-oh my god-oh my god, he has done a collaboration with fashion brand MRP to deliver some amazing sports luxe wear at bargain prices. The ad campaign features the best pieces and I've snatched them up. The quality is impeccable and I was a little sceptical considering the spare change I spent on it!
That crop I'm wearing? $11!
My genuine dilemma was How Can I Wear Every Piece At One Time? Totally recommend the leopard print crop and matching leggings, the MEGA hoodie ($20!) and the pink camo dress. Who doesn't need one of those, after all?

MRP on Facebook

  MRP on Instagram

Cocorose London

As David Bowie would say, Let's Dance.
These are Space Oddity shoes too - don't you love them? Cocorose London does gorgeous, dance-specific and dance-inspired flats for fashionable and functional dressing. I have these crazy gorgeous silver and black ones, but I also have a very sensible pair of black flats for everyday travels. Whether you're a pro dancer or a loungeroom shuffler, these are a must.

 Cocorose on Facebook
 Cocorose on Instagram

Monday, 15 December 2014

The First Run, The New Hip, The IT Band explained!

Post hip surgery - with my brand new pink mini-hip, I'm ready to run. Well, I'm ready to attempt to run, more accurately! I used to run daily, around 13 - 15km. While it resulted in regular injuries and I eventually stopped this madness, I did enjoy the mental challenge of creating ways to keep myself occupied and motivated to keep going. Every 2 minutes, I'll change the pace or the incline - every time there's an ad, I'll up the speed 0.5km!

This is all a lead-in to the main issue I'm concerned about. I have a tendency to get tight through the IT Band and I have seen many runners have issues that stem from overuse and stress on the IT Band.

Your ITB (Iliolotal Band) is a bunch of fibres that enable your hip to move away from the centre of your body - or lifting the leg out to the side from the hip. It connects to a small muscle near your knee and also to your glutes - basically, stretching down the outside of the upper leg.

The most common cause of problems and pain is having a lazy glute medius. If it is weak, just like a lazy person would, it throws the task over to another area - one that isn't equipped to take on the load though. In this case, the compensatory action causes inflammation, pain and a feeling of "tightness".

Don't self-diagnose however - DO go and see a physiotherapist or sports doctor if you are concerned.

Nick Seller is a Sports Therapist and Remedial Massage Therapist at Balanced Bodies. I asked him for the most common factors that lead to ITB issues and also for his methods of treatment.

"Factors that can cause the ITB to be sore include  not doing a proper warm up/cool down before exercise, excessive hill running, having a really high arch in the foot or a really low arch in the foot.
When I treat someone for the first time that has ITB pain, my first two questions are, do you sit for longer periods with your legs crossed in front of the TV or at the desk at work? And, do you run on footpaths a lot?"


"When we have our legs crossed for long periods of time our ITB is doing lots of work stabilising the knee," Nick explained. "If we make the ITB do this for long periods of time we tend to stress it out, as it has to be activated for long periods of time. If we cross our legs for 2 hours at a time, 7 days a week, already just in one week the ITB is doing 14 more hours of strenuous work."

So the strenuous work has taken it's toll...time to hit the massage bed, right?

"A remedial massage therapist will help relieve the pressure on the ITB using some of the following techniques; massage, cupping and, if qualified, dry needling.
Be aware these techniques mightn’t completely fix the problem on the first treatment - we aren’t magicians! But it will help start to alleviate the pain and get you back on track to being pain free.

Your massage therapist will also have a look at the non painful ITB and the surrounding muscles, such as the quads, hamstrings and glutes, to see if they are tight as well. By loosening off these muscles too, it will ensure the next time you go for a run you don’t have a lopsided feel, and it may be that the other tight muscles are the cause of the problem!"

Be smart - strengthen your glutes with targeted workouts (hello, Pilates!) and be aware of the habits that you hadn't even thought might aggravate the pain and tension (UNCROSS YOUR LEGS!).

Next up in the Back To The Treadmill saga, I'm doing the big switcheroo from Nike to Mizuno runners. While my Nikes look fash-friendly, the Mizuno are high-tech, raved-about-by-runners, gear for performance. I have done my research, believe me.
Will I last longer than 10 minutes? It won't be for lack of preparation and performance gear!

Follow Balanced Bodies on Twitter
Check out Mizuno on Facebook

Denise Payne: Fearlessness And Mercy

In the 1970s, as a teenager, Denise Payne was introduced to Kundalini Yoga by her teacher Sat Jiwan Singh. It became more than “a life...