I quit make-up and have never felt prettier

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Like most women, I have spent a considerable part of my life wearing make-up. What starts out as a bit of mascara and lipstick in your teens can become an hour long ritual every morning of adulthood.

There are many reasons we wear cosmetics. To cover bad skin, to change our style, to look professional, to feel more attractive. I wore make-up for all these reasons and because I felt it was expected of me. I’m from a family of women who all take care in their appearance and make-up forms a part of that care. They look good for it too. I grew up thinking of my face as a blank canvas ready to be painted, and it was that painted face which the world would want to see. Not the plain one.

When I moved to Australia, I was fascinated to see how many women spend their days make-up free. And they look so chilled out. It took a while for old habits to die, but I found myself make-up free more and more. But, whenever an occasion arose when I felt I should put my best face on, out came the make-up pallette.

The ironic thing is that wearing make-up made me feel more self-conscious. Had I applied it right? Had my mascara smudged? Was my foundation sliding off my face in the humidity? Whenever I went make-up free, though, I never gave my face a second thought. I knew it would still look the same as it had in the mirror that morning.

About three months ago I wore make-up for the last time to a friend’s birthday party. I remember catching a glimpse of myself in the restroom mirror and thinking ‘Is this what I really look like?’. The answer of course was no. I was presenting a version of myself that didn’t really exist. The make-up was not making me feel beautiful, but instead like I was hiding my true self.

Let’s be honest here, it wasn’t just make-up making me feel this way. My own expectations of who I should be and how I should behave around other people were a big factor in my low self confidence. I’m not comfortable in growds or making small talk, but I’ve always seen these traits as my failings to be overcome or disguised. Feeling put together or people thinking I’m attractive felt hugely important in surviving these social situations. The catch-22 of course was that I still spent the evening feeling painfully self aware.

Not only do I no longer wear make-up during the day, but I don’t wear it on special occasions either. Nor do I put it on when I’m going to be photographed. I don’t put it on when I know everyone else will be glammed up and lovely. If other women can wear it with confidence and not feel a slave to their cosmetics then to them I say: Rock on, sisters.

To those women who begrudge the time it takes to apply, the expense it adds to their budget and the way they feel less than when not wearing it I say: Ditch it. You don’t need it. In a world where we talk so much about accepting others for who they are, you don’t get much more real than letting everyone see your one and only face.

It’s the most beautiful one you have. Love it.

 

Making the transition to veganism

 

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There are lots of reasons to go vegan, and lots of people out there who want to tell you all about those reasons.

YouTube is full of videos on the health benefits of a plant based diet, the cruelty of eating animals and the damage the meat industry does to our planet. They all make compelling and solid points, so I’m not going to go into the ‘whys’ of it all in this series of posts but rather the ‘how in the heck can I do that and still be a normal member of society?’. Eh. Who wants to be normal anyway?

But, in all honesty, it’s actually easier than you think. Though I guess this depends on what foods are your favourites.

Let’s say, for arguments sake, that you have decided you are going to be vegan for your health. You want to eat more veggies, lower your cholesterol and maybe lose some weight too. Knowing why you are doing something makes it a lot easier to stick to. Feeling healthier and seeing the difference helps you keep going too.

Start incorporating vegan meals into your diet gradually, this way you don’t have to get too bogged down with working out how much protein and iron etc you are getting every day. That comes later.

I mostly eat cereal or porridge for breakfast so it was easy to switch dairy milk for one of the many alternatives. My favourites are almond or soy milk.

Lunches were usually a salad sandwich with some ham or salami. Now I switch the meat for hummus or mushrooms. Making a big batch of soup at the start of the week not only saves you time but means it’s easier to ensure you’re getting a healthy meal when busy. Add beans or lentils to up the protein content.

I’ve never been a big eater of red meat, maybe only once a week, so that was easy to ditch. Tofu is the vegan chicken in that it is quite bland so takes on other flavours really well. I am yet to find a favourite dish that I haven’t been able to veganise and enjoy. With the meat substitutes on the market, tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, lentils and beans you really can make anything.

So far, my favourite dinners have been tempeh fajitas, veggie sausage stew and the classic veggie burger. Today I made a batch of chocolate peanut muffins with chocolate ganache (yes, I can still eat chocolate!) that were devine and the whole family happily scoffed. Recipe coming soon.

So watch this space for my step by step guide on how to veganise your diet and your life, without alienating everyone around you.

Stay healthy and happy xx

Beautiful red hair, the natural way.

My natural hair color is blond. It’s nice and has lots of different shades in there. It’s also going lighter thanks to all the silver hairs that have started creeping through.

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If I keep it my natural color, I think I can grow old gracefully and turn in to a platinum blond, before eventually white.

Trouble is, I’m not sure I what to be graceful. Maybe I want to be one of those old ladies rocking a really vibrant head of hair.

A couple of years ago I dyed my hair red. Bright red. I just bought a box of dye of the supermarket shelf on a whim one day and went from very ordinary blond to extraordinary red. I loved it.

The problem was that when I had to touch up my roots every four or so weeks, I’d have a really bothersome headache for about three days afterwards. It took a few months for me to notice the pattern and figure out that all the hard to pronounce chemicals in the dye were effecting me.

I didn’t want to stop dying my hair, but I really didn’t want a three-day headache every month so I started looking for alternatives.

Then I discovered the joys of henna.

It’s definitely not as convenient as the supermarket stuff, but it is soooo much better. In every other way. Firstly, pure henna is usually organic. It is 100% a natural product. There are no harsh chemicals needed to make up the dye at all. Secondly, henna is great for your hair. It not only colors the hair a beautiful vibrant shade of red, but it conditions it at the same time, leaving it healthier, stronger and shinier.

OK, now the downsides.

It is very time consuming to apply. Firstly, you need to prepare the dye the night before by mixing the powder with lemon juice to activate it. In the morning, when ready to do some dying, you need to mix it with tea to get it to a consistency which you can then plaster on your hair. And you really do plaster it on. Once done, you’re left with a very heavy, very green helmet which you need to wear for two to four hours depending on how deep you want the color to come out.

When it’s time to rinse out, the best way is to fill the bath with nice warm water, lay down in it so your hair is submerged and swish your hair around until most of the henna is out. Then finish off the rinsing in the shower to really get it out. I don’t like to wash my hair with anything other than water for a few days after dying my hair as I don’t want any chemicals to interfere with the color.

We’re still not done though. After  rinsing and drying your hair, you may be a bit disconcerted by the orange color you’re now sporting. Fear not. Henna dye needs to oxidize to reach it’s true color, so after about three days you hair will finally reveal it’s true, gorgeous, fiery self.

And it really is beautiful. I received so many compliments on my hair when I used henna. Because I have pale skin and blue eyes, I totally could have passed for a natural redhead, but I’m too honest.

Technically, it is all natural though, so that counts doesn’t it?

 

Easy and adaptable meals

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Cooking from scratch is great.

It saves you money, it’s better for your health and by using what you have, it reduces waste too.

One of our favorite family dinners is stir-fry and noodles. The boys love slurping up the curly noodles and I love the crunch of the fresh veggies. I only use one homemade marinade for all of my various stir-fries, but it’s so adaptable and goes with almost all meats and vegetables. It’s also really simple.

1/3 cup tamari or regular soy sauce

2 tbsp sesame oil

1 – 2 tsp dried chili flakes

1 clove of garlic, finely grated

All these measurements are approximates though as I just throw it all together and adjust quantities so it looks and smells right. You might like more chili, or more garlic. It’s up to you.

As I said before, this marinade works well with most meats. So far I’ve used it with chicken, beef, pork, prawns, kangaroo and tofu. The meat can be in strips or minced, so really whatever you have in the fridge or whatever you find on special at the supermarket is going to work. I’m not sure how compatible lamb would be, but who knows?

If you have time, marinate the meat for at least half an hour before you cook. If I’m really organised and know I’ll be pushed for time in the evening I prepare the meat and slice the veg in the morning so there’s no prep work at mealtime. It all cooks in about 15 minutes that way.

Now, for the vegetables.

Again, pretty much anything works. As a general rule, I like a combination of leafy greens and crisp colorful  vegetables.  Last time I made it we had bok choy stems and leaves, onion, sliced carrot and capsicum. My other fave veggies to throw in are silverbeet, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, bean sprouts, sweetcorn, zucchini. I could go on forever. I love vegetables. Try to keep it seasonal though.

Serve with your favorite noodles and enjoy!

I also use the marinade as a gorgeous salad dressing. It’s particularly nice with tuna, noodles, diced carrot, tomato and cucumber.

 

 

Controlling pests without chemicals

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When I first started eliminating the chemicals we were using in house, I found that some were really easy to get rid of, like all those different cleaners under the sink which pretty much do the same job.

The one I found hard to go without though was the handy can of insect spray. Here in Australia where we have a warm, humid climate for much of the year, there are lots of little beasties that just love to make your house their home. The most common, and most disgusting, is the cockroach. Ugh, just the word makes my skin crawl.

I really didn’t want to spray the house with chemicals and toxins designed to kill something, even if it was for the roaches. N.B. Anything ending in ‘-cide’ can’t be good: pesticide, insecticide, herbicide, genocide, this list goes on…..

After a bit of research, I discovered that simple soapy water kills the little buggers too. Add a bit of white vinegar to the mix and it works even quicker.

What you will need:

500ml empty spray bottle

100ml dish washing liquid

150ml white vinegar

250ml water

Mix the washing liquid, vinegar and water in the spray bottle. Give a good shake and hey presto, a multipurpose spray that will kill cockroaches, ants and flies.

I also use it to clean my benchtops, windows and bathroom as the vinegar acts as a disinfectant. Don’t worry about would-be vinegary smells, the odour disperses quickly.

An extra deterrent to keep cockroaches out of your cupboards is simple bay leaves. For whatever reason the roaches don’t like them, so put a few dried leaves on each shelf of your cupboards wherever you seen signs of cockroach visits, and you should notice a decrease in traffic straight away.

The other tip is an obvious one. Don’t leave leftover food or dirty dishes out overnight, and clean up any crumbs and spills from surfaces and the floor before going to bed. Otherwise it’s like an all-you-can-eat diner for anything with an exoskeleton.

Happy spraying.