Saturday, October 24, 2009

Body love

Today, I picked up an old copy of WHO Magazine. The front cover screamed "Biggest Losers - Are They Still?". I would hazard a guess that not a week goes by when a magazine doesn't have something about celebrity weight-loss or gain on the front cover. Good on Magda for shedding the pounds. Tisk, tisk... look at how skinny Nicole Ritchie looks. Oh my, I don't think should be putting that in her mouth...

For as long as I can remember, I've been on a diet. I can recall family gatherings where the table was laden with delicious carb and dairy-laden nibbles. As a kid, I would stand close enough but not too close so that I didn't appear to be moments away from inhaling everything in front of me. Anytime I so much as cast a glance at something my mother would throw me a menacing glance, or if I dared reach for something she would swiftly smack the back of my hand, followed by a growl of "You don't need that." Damn straight I didn't. But I wanted it.

I have always been one of those 'big boned' girls. You know the ones. Taller than the other girls, was the first to wear a bra, teased for wearing anything that was shorter than my knees, told I had tuckshop lady arms by the boys. It sucked. Even at 178cms tall, I've never been skinnier than a size 12, spending most of my teenage and early adult years at around a 14, barely being able to fit into anything at Sportsgirl or Portmans when it mattered most.

Even at that time, I would look at photos of myself and see a fat girl. I would take a quick glance and then push it away, vowing to not eat ever again. Looking back on those photos, I can't believe I tortured myself mentally and physically as much as I did. I actually looked pretty good, in hindsight. I was healthy and curvy. But I can still see the anguish on my face in those photos. I didn't like my body one iota.

Now I'm 27 years old. I would like to think I don't have as much of a hang up on my body as I did 10 or more years ago, but the reality is I still judge myself. Harshly. I even convince myself that other people have the same judgements of me. As confident as I appear to be on the outside, I'm ashamed to admit that sometimes I feel like I over-compensate on the confidence to mask how frustrated I am with myself that I don't look a certain way or fit into certain sized clothes.

Then some days I do a complete 180 and look in the mirror and think to myself "I look great." I tell myself that the size I am now (18-20) is fine and that I don't really look like I'm that size. But I am. And I'm the only person who can do something about it.

I'm not really into fad diets (such as Atkins, Lemon Detox, all those meal supplement shakes etc), as I love food too much. After years of experimenting, I know that the only thing that truly works for me is a good amount of exercise and sensible eating.

Three years ago I lost 30kg by seeing a personal trainer and eating a strict low-fat, low-carb, high protein diet. And it worked a treat. Until I put most of it back on again. The last few years I've gotten into a pattern of skipping breakfast as I race out the door to get to work on time, forgetting lunch as I get too busy in the office, and so I binge when I get home at night and eat anything I can get my hands on. And we all know the easiest things to eat are often the worst things for us.

So I've started on a new program - Ultra Lite, which is pretty much the same program I was on those few years ago. A colleague at work has done it and she looks fantastic. Granted, I have more weight to loose than she did, but to know that it works and it easy to manage into everyday life without having to make too many major and drastic changes is a big plus for me.

Today is day four, and I'm feeling pretty good so far. The portion sizes are small to teach you that you don't need to eat as much food as we do. It's all about balance - salad, veggies and meat in moderation, but regularly. No sugar, no complex carbs. I don't feel hungry and I'm starting to get more energy during the day. I take ketosis tests every morning, so I know for the last three days my body has been burning fat. Hooray!

This new journey isn't about 'being skinny'. It's about being healthy. I'm not healthy the way I am. The fashion stuff is just a bonus. Most of the time I love what I see when I look in the mirror... from the neck up. Now it's time to love all of it.

I go back to see my consultant on Tuesday night and am looking forward to seeing how much weight I've lost and how far my measurements have decreased. Stay tuned! The journey to Body Love has started.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tutu love no longer unrequited

I've finally got it. No longer do I pine after The One I can't find or afford. No longer do I spend countless hours scouring scores and scores of potential fill-ins or replacements. My love is complete.


Made lovingly by a colleague's mother, it is made of six luxurious layers of soft black tulle and a skirt of black silk satin giving it a glamorous swishing sound as I walk. Complete with a think waist band, it sits high on my waist and is fastened by three vintage black baroque-style buttons.

Hello, lover *swoons*

The Skirt will get its first outing on Friday night (tomorrow) at The Coffee Club's Charity Ball "Journey to the Wild" at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. Last night I did a head count of the number of potential events I have coming up... There's at least half a dozen between now and Christmas. And I don't even need a date - I have The Skirt.

Could I make it my 'thing'? Where ever I go and where ever I wear it, people will stop and say, "Oh, there's the girl in the black tulle skirt..." I think I could make it work.

I'm so in love I think I need it in other colours... Pink and nude/beige as a start...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

All aboard the sushi (love) train

Every Monday there is one thing in my diary I always look forward to - lunch at the local Sushi Train (if you're ever around Paddington Barracks I recommend you pop in for lunch).

Two weeks ago I just happened to go on a Thursday. I hadn't had chance to get lunch and at nearly 2pm I knew it was all I was going to get quickly before I had to race back to the office. The plan was to only spend about 15mins scoffing some tuna rolls and teriyaki chicken, but that didn't happen.

Two plates in to my usual three-four with an icy cold can of Diet Coke, I happened to look up and notice a guy sitting on the opposite side of the train. Now, usual Sushi Train etiquette is to not make eyes with other people who are there - get in, get out and get back to work. But I couldn't help myself - he was cute!

I took a second glance, to make sure - yup, still cute.

And then a third when I sensed he was looking at me too - yup, he was looking.

Oh. My. Goodness.

To look a fourth time was going to put me firmly in stalker territory so I kept my eyes down and tried to look as though I was concentrating hard on making my next sushi plate selection as though I was judging a Nobel Peace prize.

After sitting for so long I thought I was going cross-eyed and without eating anything more, I decided enough was enough. I slowly stood up from my stool, gathered my handbag, straightened my blouse, took a deep breath, and... walked over to the reception counter to pay. I'm more chicken than a Lenard's store at Christmas.

I believe in the next few seconds I managed to stop breathing - he also stood up, made his way to the reception counter and within a micro second-long glance, I was able to judge he was about 6'3 and single. The shoes were a dead giveaway - not great so therefore a girl certainly hadn't picked them out and he clearly wasn't gay.

Waiting for the young Asian girl to process my credit card (a measly $10), I continued to fidget and make another backwards glance. I only hope he didn't think I had a tick, with all the fidgeting and sideways glances...

Alas, no verbal exchange was made and I will confess that since the first Sushi Man sighting, I'm still yet to see him despite having been daily for a week since. If I wasn't worried about him thinking I was a stalker previously I'm sure there's no doubt now! (Joking, clearly, if Sushi Man is reading this)

I'm yet to hear of anyone kicking the bucket following a sushi overdose... so I'll keep going and hope that I see him again with the plan that something intelligent, charming, witty, yet sexy comes out of my mouth... Suggestions welcome.

I heart NY

From the bush (see You Can Take the Girl Out of the Country...)to the Big Apple - my loves couldn't be more different!

Nearly two years ago I spent ten days in New York (January 3 to January 13, 2008) and fell in love. Not only with the city but it's people, culture, architecture and general 'aliveness'. Following my trip, I put together a list of New York Favourites, which I recently updated to share with some friends who are heading off on their own New York adventures. So, I thought I'd share it with everyone.


  • Nikki Beach - 151 E 50 St - like stepping into a bar that belongs at Byron, good for celeb spotting
  • W Hotel on 49th & Lexington in Midtown - Oasis Bar and Whisky Bar, ultra cool, very trendy
  • 'Neal's Speakeasy - 174 Grand Street - great bar, cool cocktails, smooth service (this was "Scout" in Sex and The City)
  • Planet Hollywood in Times Square is also cheap and great people watching - kind of tacky but worth a look and good for a late night snack
  • Waverly Inn – very exclusive, get there early, amazing celeb spotting, very low key suprisingly. 16 Bank St, Greenwich Village
  • SoHo Grand Bar – 310 West Broadway. Gorgeous.
  • Gansevoort Rooftop in Meatpacking District is HOT! 18 9th Ave.
  • Bungalow 8 – of course. 515 w27th in Chelsea. The bar itself is more famous than the people you’ll see there…
  • The bars in the boutique hotels are fantastic – check them out, you might just find a hidden gem!


  • TAO - 58th and Madison - largest and most popular Asian restaurant in NY, great for star spotting, awesome cocktail bar out front, definitely need to book ahead
  • De Nico's - 164 Mulberry Street - best Italian in Little Italy, cheap and awesome service. Sit out the front section so you can watch the people traffic, two young brothers own it and they are typical New York Italian mafia!
  • Sushi Samba - 245 Park Ave Sth - great Japanese food with awesome sushi bar and ultra cool cocktail lounge (as seen in Sex and The City when Samantha throws the cocktail in Richard's face)
  • Sarabeth's - 40 Central Park South - beautiful views of the park, right next to the Plaza, good place for breakfast
  • Cupcakes – Magnolia Bakery, of course. Bleeker St in Greenwich Village
  • Pastis for Sunday brunch is a must! 9th Ave Chelsea
  • Kytofu - like Freestyle, NY-style! Voted as best cupcakes in NYC so make sure you compare against Magnolia! Chelsea Clinton is often spotted here… 9th Ave Midtown (48th & 49th)
  • Check out for some great restaurant recommendations and a page of “cheap eats” too!
  • Gourmet Garage – 6 locations around Manhattan to pick up nibbles and snacks for the days you can’t be bothered eating out


  • Can't go past Abercrombie & Fitch on 5th Ave for guys stuff - and the hot boys standing out the front with their shirts off (get a photo - I chickened out!)
  • Apple Store on 5th is also really cool and open 24hrs. The biggest in the world.
  • There's heaps of boutiques down on Bleeker Street in the West Village like Marc Jacobs and some very trendy designers (it was my favourite shopping spot)
  • For department stores, can't go past Macy's for the bargains and Bloomingdales is definitely worth a look. Seriously can't go wrong with any of the department stores, they are phenomenal. And if you need to buy presents for girlfriends, Victoria's Secret across from Macy's is very cool and sure to win brownie points!
  • Toys - can't go past FAO Schwarz on 5th or Toys'R'Us in Times Square.
  • Ok, now the serious ones - Manolo Blahnik on 34 W 54th Street, Jimmy Choo 645 5th Ave, Sergio Rossi 694 5th Ave, Bergdorf Goodman 754 5th Ave, Bloomingdales 1000 3rd Ave are all in Midtown and AMAZING!
  • There is Diane Von Furstenberg for gorgeous dresses 440 W 14th Street in the Meatpacking Dist, not to mention Alexander McQueen and Stellar McCartney's flagship studios on E 14th Street
  • I LOVED Sephora in Times Sqaure for cheap cosmetics and also the FREE makeovers - you know how they charge for those here (redeemable on product) - over there, they are free, no obligation.
  • Henri Bendels was beautiful, slightly more pricey than the other cosmetics stores, but the service was impeccable.


My best pics were the Guggenheim, the Frick, and the MoMA. There is also the Museum of Sex - interesting... I also loved The Met but it’s so huge. In summer they have great rooftop sculpture gardens apparently!

Other tips

  • Jump on one of the Red buses that takes you on a loop of NY. Great info on different spots and history on NY. Also great way to get your bearings and see where the major spots are and how far to walk etc.
  • Despite the lines, the view from the Empire State Building is awesome. Do the Top of the Rockefeller Centre at night time - it's totally empty and extremely romantic.
  • MUST walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I suggest getting the subway over, grab a coffee or something and then walk back to Manhattan across the bridge. Stunning.
  • Central Park is amazing and has some really interesting guided walks. The best spots are the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace (where all the movies are filmed) and the Mall (avenue lined with trees) and the Literary Walk of all the famous writers.
  • The subway is really easy to navigate - get taxis when the weather is bad or you can't be bothered walking otherwise - but walk as much as you can to take it all in!
  • Get a hot dog from Grey's Papaya - there are lots of them all over the city.
  • If you like ice cream, grab a soft serve from Tasti D'Lite - tastes amazing and nearly guilt-free!
  • Definitely get down to Ground Zero and Wall St but there really isn't much to see so you could spend maybe two or three hours here, tops
  • Jump on the free Staten Island Ferry when the weather is good to see the Statue of Liberty
  • Whatever you do, don't dine in any of the restaurants in Times Square - they are poor quality and a total rip off on tourists. There was a really great pizza place at the top of Times Square just a short walk from the Gershwin Theatre that I can recommend - cheap and tasty and all the celebs have been in and signed plates on the walls so that now none of the walls can be seen!
  • If you are looking for somewhere to get a blow dry, there's a place called BLOW on E 14th St down in the Meatpacking Dist which is purely a blow drying salon. The guy that did my hair when I went had just done hair for a Victoria Secret shoot.
  • Do either a helicopter tour of Manhattan to get a really amazing perspective on just how incredible the city is, or do a walking photo tour – they look like so much fun and you get some great touristy and not-so-touristy shots to take home!
  • Check out to see which movies are filming in NY when you’re there
  • And of course if you’re a SATC fan, the bus tour is a MUST! Lots of fun.

Monday, October 5, 2009

You can take the girl out of the country...

Last weekend I took two friends out to Boonah, about 90kms west of Brisbane, just past Ipswich on the Scenic Rim.

While there wasn't anything 'scenic' about it on the weekend we went following the biggest duststorms seen in Australia for decades, I still adored the peace and quiet of the bush.

Friends of my family own a small house on the outskirts of Boonah overlooking Boonah Valley and it's truly a picturesque spot. Just 24hrs in Boonah and I feel rested and rejuvenated.

I'm not sure if it's the memories it stirs in me of weekends in Warwick in my primary school years, or just the simple life away from the day to day hustle and bustle of work, the city and my schedule. Whatever it is, I love it.

What about you? Do you have a place that's dear to you, where you can just switch off and forgot your 'world' is a million miles away?

The latest love-search installment...

Ok, here's where we left off: FBI - date number one down, date number two pending. Sparkie - date number one and two down until it turned out he needed bigger nappies than my three year old nephew. So, I'll pick up where I left off...

FBI headed off to Canberra for work training for four weeks before we had a chance to go on date number two, and I was left to fend the singles scene again. While the channels of communication were kept wide open with occasional chats and text conversations, I felt that it was entirely appropriate for me to continue dating, but not actively.

Two weeks into FBI's Canberra jaunt, I was contacted by Gym Boy (again, still on RSVP at this point). The profile was fine, so were the photos. He ticked the boxes, without me thinking "Wow!" so being open-minded and still practicing good dating karma, I said yes to a drink one Saturday afternoon. Thinking that the successful first date with FBI was a fluke, I was keen to test out the theory that all you need to get a date, is another date. And to ensure that I hadn't dreamt I was actually getting good at this after six years...

So, London Club one Saturday afternoon after a day of apartment hunting and shopping in early September, I met Gym Boy. Turns out not only do we have plenty in common, but he was also much cuter in person than his photos gave him justice (as was FBI). One glass of wine turned into three and before I knew it we were saying good bye and making plans to catch up the following week. Ker-ching! I was officially on a dating role.

Sadly, date number two with Gym Boy had to be postponed for various conflicting scheduling issues and with FBI soon to come back from Canberra I was happy to hold off for a bit to give things with FBI a chance to progress, if they were going to.

Much to my girlish excitement, FBI contacted me the night he returned and we made plans to 'hang' on the weekend - breakfast and mini golf.

So Saturday morning rolls around as slowly as a little girl waits for Christmas Eve to be over, and I meet FBI for breakfast at Cirque, one of my favourite New Farm spots. A few coffees, serves of sweet corn cakes, fresh juice and a discussion of feature articles in The Australian later, we had caught up on the happenings of the previous four weeks, him in Canberra and me in Brisbane, amid constant teenage giggles and eye flirts. On to mini golf, and the comfortable yet goofy laughter continued. It's been a while since I was so relaxed on a date and I'm not sure what was more relieving - that I was spending time with him or that I was so comfortable in someone's company. Despite this, you can imagine my disappointment when he revealed he was being posted to the Solomon's until January - certainly not my idea of long distance dating.

Which brings me to dilemma - how was I to let him know I was disappointed without coming across too keen or too disinterested now I'd learnt he wasn't going to be in the country?! While I don't believe I have a very good poker face, I've been told in the past that I don't show enough interest. It's damned if you do and damned if you don't... and at that moment I was between and rock, and well, a bigger rock.

Without revealing too much of my thoughts on his not being in the country, we ended the date with a promise to 'chat soon' and headed out separate ways... "Why oh why does this happen when I finally meet someone great?!" I asked as I sat in my car, hands on the steering wheel and head softly banging against them (I couldn't mess up my hair). I hope to God he didn't see me sitting there.

Days later, I put my heart on my sleeve. Well, maybe my shoulder. And turns out he was willing to bare his a little too. We've swapped emails with the hope that we'll be able to continue getting to know each other as e-pals for the next few months, then see where things are in January.

In the mean time, Gym Boy and I are still friends and have been honest about where we both are in the dating scene.

Time will tell...

Forgive me Web 2.0, for I have sinned...

It's been nearly a month since my last blog and I must say I've been (pleasantly) surprised and humbled at the number of people I run into and they comment that they are waiting for the next installment... so I'm going to make a concentrated effort to blog once a week. On Monday. As many posts as I feel like. So hold on tight... here we go!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Mother's Love

Considering we've just celebrated Father's Day in Australia, I should be writing about fatherly love - but I think I'll leave that can of worms closed for a little bit longer... So instead, I've put finger to keyboard to share my thoughts on Mums.

My sister recently became a Mum for the second time to Ella-Rose Violet. Having already been an aunty for three years (her son Benjamin was born in May 2006), I've adored watching my sister grow as a mother - not just in her partenting skills, but emotionally and mentally (sometimes not in the good way!). Amy was always a natural carer - from a little girl who loved looking after stray pets until we located its owner to a young adult who often ended up with no-hoper boyfriends that needed more taking care of than the stray pets! Either way, I never for a second thought Amy would be anything other than a great Mum some day.

When I first met Ella-Rose, I stuggled at first to deal with the very firm tug on the heart strings she was able to illict from me. So little and vulnerable, with so much life ahead of her. Excitement, success, happiness, fun, enjoyment, laughter, love. All I wanted to do was pull her close and fill her with words of positivty and encouragement, silently knowing that I desperately want to protect her from the awful stuff - disappointment, struggle, heart break, failure, sadness. And I'm only her aunty.

It also made me think about the relationship I had with my own Mum. We've certainly had our ups and downs, but I love Mum with all that I've got. I'm currently living at home and she seems to know exactly what to say and when to say it to rile my up. But when I need her, she's there with a hug and an affectionate tease to let me know that I'm tougher than anything the world tries to throw at me.

I found the below poem, which I thought I'd share.

A Mother's Love
by Helen Steiner Rice

A Mother's love is something that no on can explain,
It is made of deep devotion and of sacrifice and pain,
It is endless and unselfish and enduring come what may
For nothing can destroy it or take that love away.

It is patient and forgiving when all others are forsaking,
And it never fails or falters even though the heart is breaking.

It believes beyond believing when the world around condemns,
And it glows with all the beauty of the rarest, brightest gems.

It is far beyond defining, it defies all explanation,
And it still remains a secret like the mysteries of creation.

A many splendoured miracle man cannot understand
And another wondrous evidence of God's tender guiding hand.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Horses - it's a girl thing

Ever since I can remember, I've loved horses. A symbol of power, grace, athleticism, freedom and beauty. I was one of those horse-mad girls who read Saddle Club books and begged my parents for a pony.

When I was 6 years old, I was lucky enough to get a pony. Dad was living in Warwick at the time (about 200kms south-west of Brisbane), after my parents split up, on a small farm with stables. Her name was Bonnie, a grey mare/pony. She was a stubborn thing, who managed to throw me off a few times and had a habit of kicking her back legs. I went to pony club, gymkhanas, riding camps and would ride with Dad on weekends over to my friends' properties. They are very fond childhood memories, and despite the injuries and frustrations when Bonnie wouldn't do what I'd told her, I still loved every minute of it.

Part of me feared horses. So powerful and often unpredictable. But mostly, it was a respect.

As I grew older, my opportunities to ride became fewer and fewer. Until this year I began riding again. It started out as a trail ride at Samford on the outskirts of Brisbane and now I have weekly private lessons at Wattle Creek Riding School in The Gap.

I ride one of the school horses, Jack - a gorgeous 16.2hh bay gelding (see pic). He's got lots of personality and we've established a great working bond. He's an eventer, so is trained in dressage, jumping and cross country. If the school allows, I'd love to compete again one day. Though I can just imagine me up there against all the 6 year olds who all ride better than I do now!

I'd love to have a horse again but at this stage in my life it's not a logistical or financially practical plan. Maybe one day..

Cupcakes = yum

I have a thing for cupcakes. Those that know me, know I'll never pass up an opportunity to try a new place, no matter where I am.

It's hard to tell when my cupcake affair began, but safe to say it really took off when I went to New York in January 2008. My first taste of ultimate cupcake bliss was from Buttercup Bakery, rivals to the famous Magnolia Bakery. I was on the Sex and The City tour and we were stopped on Bleeker St, right outside Magnolia. Cheeky? Yes. Delicious? You betcha. I then proceeded to purchase enough cupcakes from Magnolia to last my entire 10 day stay. And then still went back on my last day to buy more! I even managed to get one on the plane and home to Brisbane to my sister. Even after a 24 hour plane ride, she said it still tasted like heaven comes from an oven.

Since then, I've tried every cupcake place that I have come across. Well, as many of them as I can. Here are my favourite spots in Brisbane:
  • Poppycakes, 1000 Ann Street Brisbane
  • Nourish, Racecourse Road Ascot
  • Cakes By Judy C, Waterworks Road Ashgrove
If you've got a favourite, please let me know so I can try them out! Sydney and Melbourne suggestions very welcome.

What I love today #2

Just a few of the things I'm loving at the moment to add to the LOVE Capsule:
  • Cupcakes - Poppycakes in the Emporium are my favourite
  • The warmth in the breeze, heralding the onset of summer
  • Apartment hunting - despite it being tiresome and frustrating, I love the feeling of seeing a new place and imagining myself living there. One day soon I'll find the one I want to settle in for at least a year (Woolloongabba and Teneriffe are leading the search)
  • My tiny, four week old niece - so precious and vulnerable. The sense of pride and worry is overwhelming and I'm only her aunty. Just the feeling that she has so much life ahead of her is utterly frightening but exciting at the same time - what sort of world are we bringing children into, and what issues will she face in 20-30 years time that women of today have been struggling with for so long. Let's hope it gets better.
  • Gossip Girl. Enough said.
  • The excitement of seeing the new stills from the filming of SATC2 in Manhattan. Oh, how I adore thee Carrie (and Patricia Fields)!
It's only a short addition today, because I promise to update this more frequently.

Let me know what you're loving.

The latest love-search installment...

Forgive me blog readers, for I have sinned. It's been nearly a month since my last post and I have much to confess and reveal.

So, I've mentioned the internet dating experiences in a previous post and can't quite recall if I mentioned I have an active profile at the moment. I've had a few dates, all with varying degrees of success or failure, depending on how you look at it. I've dated too short, too old, too boring, too 'cool' so far.

Until I went on a date with FBI (code-name, for obvious reasons).

What started out as random, humorous interruptions to otherwise hectic days at work, turned into an invitation for a catch up one Sunday afternoon. After timing issues, it ended up being Sunday evening dessert at Freestyle (one of my favourite date places - who doesn't love dessert?!).

In the past I've struggled to get my happy-go-lucky phone personality to translate into a similar face-to-face persona, and generally end up getting a big case of the nerves which results in me botching up the end of a date (something else I'm sure I've mentioned in a previous post). Also, I've battled with experiencing the chemistry I have had on the phone with some guys into real-life sparks. So needless to say, I rarely get past a first date.

However, I digress. Back to FBI. Great guy, great conversation and great ending - I actually managed to say "Thanks for tonight, I had a great time and would love to see you again..." to which I got the reply I'd been hoping for "Yeah, I'd like that...". Hooray!

Since date number 1, FBI has had to leave town for work and comes back next week. Date number 2 is pending. Before he left we talked about horse riding - he's keen to learn how to ride like Hugh Jackman!

Also since FBI, I've been on a date with Sparkie (again, code-name). In a nutshell, great first date but number 2 just went awary. Things didn't really go his way, which brought out his true colours - the guy can throw a tantrum to rival my three year old nephew. Don't get me wrong, I love kids. But I'm looking for a relationship with an adult. Who doesn't stomp his feet when someone takes his truck out of the sandpit.

If you're wondering what I'm doing dating two guys at once - stay tuned for a post on Australia's lack of dating culture. I know many of my girlfriends lament this with me, so I'm keen to hear your thoughts on that one.

I hope the update has whetted your appetite for more stories. I'm on a bit of a role tonight...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The girlfriend instinct - a story of female love

Once upon a time, there were two young girls. They would see each other every morning waiting at the bus stop, only to be whisked away to a day of books, chalkboards and tuckshop ques at different schools. Both dressed in crisply ironed school uniforms, one in maroon and the other in blue.

They waited in the cold, rain, wind or heat, the taller and fuller-figured of the two would watch in awe as the other, more lithe and stylish, would open her neatly packed school bag, take out her pink tub of hand cream and lather her perfectly manicured hands, oblivious to the jealous eyes that were watching her.

As days, weeks and school terms went on, no words were exchanged, just knowing glances that neither had missed the bus if the other was still waiting.

Until one day, something extraordinary happened. For the first time they were both on the same bus home. A friendly smile was shared. Thirty minutes later both girls gathered their belongings and prepared to hop off the bus, but something had changed. They were both getting off at a new stop - the same stop. Polite greetings and names were exchanged and for the next fifteen minutes the girls shared a pleasant walk home, realising they had just moved into new homes only metres from each other. A friendship was sowed.

This story began more than thirteen years ago and Lisa and I are still the best of friends. As life has unfolded we have been there for each other through thick and thin. The first loves, the celebrity crushes, the first kisses, school formals, dances, the first alcohol-fuelled parties, our first days at uni, new jobs, new cars, summer holidays... all wonderful memories. While over the years our own circles of friends have expanded, our enduring friendship has been one that has stood the test of time.

She left her high school sweetheart whom she’d spent nearly 10 years with on the weekend. We’re now in our late 20s, so that’s a significant change in her life and I didn’t realise the emotional toll it would also have on me.

After getting off the emotional rollercoaster, I found myself asking: How, as a girlfriend, do I help her through this? What do I do to support her? Where do I look for answers to questions I don’t even understand about relationships?

I remember the moments of each of the (three) significant break ups in my life as though they unfolded last week. I wanted to talk with my female friends. I wanted their advice, their hugs, their sincere listening while I asked “Why?” and generally vented about all the things that had gone wrong and played the “What if…?” games. I wanted to be around the women who understood how I felt and who, I hoped, would help me through what felt like the worst moments of my life.

So, why are girlfriends so important? I dug in and studied my own need for female friendship and what pulled me toward my friendships as a primary support system in a time of emotional stress.

According to Shelley E. Taylor’s ‘The Tending Instinct’ that unlocks some of the mysteries of "women, men, and the biology of our relationships", this need for community with other women is biological; it is part of our DNA. Taylor's book consolidated a variety of studies covering cultural factors, decades of research, anecdotal references – even the biological ties to the girlfriend concept in the animal kingdom. An unending stream of fascinating facts helped define why we as women are more social, more community-focused, collaborative, less competitive (than men) and, above all, why we need our girlfriends.

Consider these findings:

Longevity – Married men live longer than single men, yet women who marry have the same life expectancy as those who don't. However, women with strong female social ties (girlfriends) live longer than those without them.

Stress – For decades, stress tests focused solely on male participants, believing that all humans would respond in the same manner. When these same stress tests were finally conducted on females it was discovered that women don't have the same, classic 'fight or flight' response to stress men do. According to the research presented in The Tending Instinct, women under stress have the need to 'tend and befriend.' We want to tend to our young and be with our friends. Time with our friends actually reduces our stress levels.

More Stress - A study conducted by the UCLA School of Medicine found that when we're with our girlfriends, our bodies emit the "feel good" hormone oxytocin, helping us reduce everyday stress. By prioritising our female friendships and spending time with these friends, we take advantage of a very simple, natural way to reduce our stress.

Even more stress - Prairie voles, a monogamous rodent, have a similar response to stress. When a male vole is put in a stressful situation, he runs to his female partner. Female voles, when stressed, immediately run to the females they were raised with.

Self-esteem - A recent study by Dove indicated that 70% of women feel prettier because of their relationships with female friends. It's no surprise that our self-esteem is highly influenced by our girlfriends; this is important to understand for girls as well as women.

The Health Factor – Women without strong social ties risk health issues equivalent to being overweight or a smoker. That’s serious.

With all I've discovered that is good about female friendships, I was disappointed to come across a national survey from 2006 that found a sharp decline in friendships. According to the American Sociological Review, we are thought to be suffering a loss in the quality and quantity of close friendships since at least 1985. The study found 25% of participants have no close friends, and the average total number of friends per citizen has dropped from four to two. You'd be forgiven for thinking Facebook has changed all this.

As women, we sometimes need to be reminded what being a girlfriend means. Too often it takes something horrible in our lives to hit us with reality, realisation, and appreciation of friendship. That reminder can also be as simple as a caring card, a hug or an e-mailed photo. Once in a while we simply need to take the time to think about our friends, stop and live in the moment, and if at all possible, celebrate that moment.

Hear some bad news? Call a girlfriend. Have something great to celebrate? Share that celebration with a friend. Want to feel prettier, be less stressed, healthier and happier? Spend some time with your BFFs.

Last year Lisa and I saw Bride Wars together, staring Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson. While as people we couldn’t be more different than their characters, our friendship has been as strong. I love this quote from the movie:

"Sometimes in life there really are bonds formed that can never be broken. Sometimes you really can find that one person who will stand by you no matter what. Maybe you'll find it in a spouse and celebrate it with your dream wedding, but there's also the chance that the one person you can count on for a lifetime, the one person who knows you sometimes better than you know yourself is the same person who's been standing beside you all along."

Life is better together – with your girlfriends.

The Ugly Truth

If there's one thing Hollywood-style romcoms have in common, it's their ability to leave you feeling optimistic, hopeful and just down-right giddy with whimsical notions of the possibility of happy endings (of the fairytale kind). I love them.

Last night I took a group of friends off to a preview screening of The Ugly Truth, starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler.

Here's how describes the plot: A romantically challenged morning show producer (Heigl) is reluctantly embroiled in a series of outrageous tests by her chauvinistic correspondent (Butler) to prove his theories on relationships and help her find love. His clever ploys, however, lead to an unexpected result.

I'm not sure if whoever wrote the above actually saw the movie. For starters, there was nothing unexpected about the result. I mean, c'mon - how do all romcoms end? And that's exactly what I love about them. No hidden surprises, no plot twists. Instead, there's lots of longing, lingering looks by smouldering lead characters, witty one-liners, cliched support cast, and the token exposed bit of flesh to get the women in the audience all hot and bothered.

I'm a big fan of Heigl (27 Dresses and Knocked Up are two of my favourites) and I have a teeny tiny crush on Butler (PS I Love You and Rock'n'Rolla are also on my favourites list), so it would be fair to say I was just a little excited to see The Ugly Truth. I expected a witty battle of the sexes and I wasn't disappointed. Butler's chauvinistic, sexist, yet brutally honest delivery of his character, Mike, was as tacky as it was sexy (we all like a bad guy); while Heigl's portrayal of Abby left me cringing in points and wanting to slap her (and breathing a sigh of relief that I'm not as cynical and jaded as her... yet), but I couldn't help but celebrate her little romantic triumphs along the way.

A little quirky fact I came across was that when the movie was distributed to cinemas, it was labelled under the code name "Helpful Advice". Very cute.

The great thing about The Ugly Truth is that girls finally have a romcom they can drag the boys along to, and they are likely to equally enjoy it. If only for the eternally memorable and deliciously hilarious restaurant scene that outdoes Meg Ryan's infamous scene in When Harry Met Sally.

So, if I'm evaluating this movie based on what I think makes a great romcom - then it's a hit. It's going on the favourites list. I loved it.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Crosstown Eating House

After spending more than eight years working in restaurants I have grown an appreciation for food and wine. I'm not talking really expensive stuff here, just good quality food and wine that's served with passion and respect by people who know what they're doing.

Tonight I tried new Brisbane restaurant The Crosstown Eating House with my best friend for dinner. There's absolutely nothing I love more than sharing a great meal with friends, and this one will certainly go on the unforgettable list.

The food was delicious and well-priced ($8-$24), great variety of wines (but not too overwhelming which some wine lists can be), the service was genuine and friendly (like going to an old friend's place) and the atmosphere was relaxed but still had a buzz to it. There were a number of different seating options in the converted two-story brick building, each sitting groups of various numbers which gave it a warm, private feel.

According to their website, The Crosstown is somewhere to eat rather than dine. And it's achieved exactly that. What I loved is that the food, service, decor and ambience wasn't the focus - it was about enjoying time with loved ones, and The Crosstown being a conduit of that.

Some of my fondest memories with friends feature great meals, but it hasn't been the food I remember, it's been the conversations and the memories of laughter and enjoyment. As I mentioned, tonight is the newest addition to those lists of fond memories.

If you haven't been yet, make sure it's next on your list.

Favourite love quotes

One of my favourite movies of all time is "The Holiday" starring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black and Jude Law.

I was flicking through my movie collection the other day and realised I hadn't watched it in a while, so popped it into the DVD player and settled in for a few brain-silencing hours.

There's an opening monologue by Kate Winslet, that I absolutely adore and want to share with you:

I've found almost everything ever written about love to be true. Shakespeare said "Journeys end in lovers meeting." What an extraordinary thought. Personally, I have not experienced anything remotely close to that, but I am more than willing to believe Shakespeare had. I suppose I think about love more than anyone really should. I am constantly amazed by its sheer power to alter and define our lives. It was Shakespeare who also said "love is blind". Now that is something I know to be true. For some quite inexplicably, love fades; for others love is simply lost. But then of course love can also be found, even if just for the night. And then, there's another kind of love: the cruelest kind. The one that almost kills its victims. Its called unrequited love. Of that I am an expert. Most love stories are about people who fall in love with each other. But what about the rest of us? What about our stories, those of us who fall in love alone? We are the victims of the one-sided affair. We are the cursed of the loved ones. We are the unloved ones, the walking wounded. The handicapped without the advantage of a great parking space! Yes, you are looking at one such individual. And I have willingly loved that man for over three miserable years! The absolute worst years of my life! The worst Christmas's, the worst Birthday's, New Years Eve's brought in by tears and valium. These years that I have been in love have been the darkest days of my life. All because I've been cursed by being in love with a man who does not and will not love me back.

It's one of my most favourite movie openings, because immediately I can relate to what's happening and the character. There's no tip-toeing around the subject, Iris (Kate Winslet) just comes straight out and says it and I connect with her straight away.

There's so many ideas of love in this 30second piece that I don't even know where to start... so for now I'm just going to share it with you and then over the course of a few postings I'll attempt to tell you a few stories of my own that make Iris's words ring so true to me.

What's your favourite love quote(s)?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tutu love

I popped into Myer today on a quick reconnaissance mission to find something to wear to an event tonight.

As I was racing out I stumbled across this stunning Charlie Brown tutu.

To me, the key to knowing whether you should buy something or not lies in how much you think about it after you walk away... kind of like a first date really!

And let me just say, I can't stop thinking about it. It must be love.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dating: online and offline

I have a confession to make. Hi, I'm Me and I'm an online dating tragic.

There, I've said it. Oh I feel so much better. I've actually been on and off (line that is) since about January 2004, and yet to no avail. But I refuse to give in. Or up. If the Internet can find pretty much anything you want or need these days, why can't it find me what I want or need in a significant other? Hmm?

My experienced has been mixed. Now, I'm fully aware that I myself am not everyone's cup of tea but I think I do ok, both on the outside and the inside. My friends (bless them) think I'm a catch which actually doesn't help. I'm constantly starting to wonder why, if I'm such a good catch, am I still single? I think that may be a topic for later...

Back to the experience part. I've tried a few different sites and have come to the realisation that the ratio of good to bad is about the same online as it is offline. Which would make sense when you think about it really. Well, it does to me.

So I'm currently online. I rejoined for the umpteenth time just after my birthday this year, so that's about 12 weeks ago now. I've been on four dates, all lovely guys, however there was just no 'spark'. So none progressed to date number two.

I have had conversations with about a dozen, but for whatever reason they didn't develop into anything more. In some cases I was relieved (David Beckham syndrome comes to mind here) and in some cases I was just plain baffled as to why they didn't extend a casual invitation to share a beverage of preference at a time that was mutually agreeable. Maybe because I write like this?! No, in all seriousness I'm not sure what happened.

I like to think that I'm putting some good dating karma out there - being open, available (but not too available) and often even throwing caution to the wind and saying yes to someone I wouldn't normally say yes to, on the theory that clearly it hasn't worked out with guys I would normally say yes to so maybe I need to broaden my horizons.

When it comes to the actual date part, I perform ok. Like a job interview - witty when required, knowledgeable, a good listener, asks the right questions and maintains eye contact. And pretty much every time I've gone for a job interview I've been offered the job. But when it comes to dating I can't seem to 'close the deal'. I totally fall to pieces, get a case of the nerves, aren't sure whether to say what I'm thinking (either "We should do this again sometime soon..." or "It was really nice meeting you, all the best in finding the love of your life...") and probably end up giving all the wrong vibes. Ok not probably, I do. The ones that think I go all weird because I'm not interested I am actually interested in, and vice versa. Disaster.

Another thing I've learnt over these past years is that men are more idealistic than women. There! Put that in your love bong and smoke it! Not only am I starting to discover that a man's expectations of meeting someone for the first time are way beyond a woman's and in another stratosphere, but even if there is a shred of potential there they won't even bother pursuing a friendship. Now, I thought I was picky and hard to please but I've got nothing on some blokes. So much for the theory that great loves can blossom from friendship. Pah! Friendship in this case isn't even given a second thought. And then I'm crossing into a whole other topic "Can men and women ever be friends?"...

Are you starting to wonder about the offline dating yet? Yes? Ok. That's because I can count on one hand, no make that two fingers, how many guys have asked me out in the past five years that I haven't met online. Thinking about that now should make me the perfect candidate for therapy (seriously, what's wrong with me?!), but alas I allow myself to hide behind the excuse that men, in general, find me intimidating. Well, at least that's what my very kind and very patient friends tell me. Apparently men are afraid of rejection - who'd a thunk it? And not only that, but a woman who knows who she is, what she wants and which way she's going in life is intimidating and being rejected by that is enough to crush a manly ego forever. Or at least 'til the next easy target comes along.

And so, my quest for love continues. And my determination to define it.

I may, one of these days, even share some dating stories... there are some doozies!