Monthly Archives: April 2012

The smell good, mother nature lovin’ people

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Recently I passed by The Body Shop whilst attending to some errands in a neighbourhood mall. I don’t usually pay attention to TBS since by experience, most of its items are laced with Sodium Laureth Sulphates (SLS) and a plethora of its other sulphates cousins, parabens and other things which I’m not quite sure how to pronounce, let alone spell it correctly.

True, Anita Roddick, the founder of TBS did have great, well meaning intentions for the brand. And her hard work to bring fair trade into the beauty economics truly has to be acknolwedged as well as her direct and indirect work to empower women in developing countries. But my experience with TBS has always been a hit and miss and when other organic products started to make its way to the Malaysian shores, the latter became an afterthought when it comes to beauty and cosmetics.

But on this particular day, there was a big sign outside of TBS announcing there is a Buy 1-Free 1 for Earth Lovers shower line. I had no idea what Earth Lovers were all about but it sounded pretty hippie and that tickles the inner-tree hugger in me to step in to the store. What I found was that TBS had ventured into the organic, sulphate free, paraben free beauty line in the form of intriguing mixtures of fruits and herbs (like Watermelon & Eucalyptus, Pear & Lemongrass and Cucumber & Mint) as shower gels. And hey! you get 2 for the price of 1. That’s like Mother Nature celebrating the very fact that you can save the world and smell good while at it too!

Pear & Lemongrass Shower Gel

After much indecision, and repetitive sniffing of everything they had, I finally settled on Pear & Lemongrass and Cucumber & Mint and they both smell divine. The kind that makes you look forward to shower time, just so you could feel good about smelling good immediately after. I am happy to report that TBS is doing Mother Nature some good with its new biodegradable, SLS and paraben free line. And this means good news to all those people with sensitive skin, as well as those who are always worrying about the future of our waterways.

This is not to say the entire TBS has gone through a revamp where they had a field day throwing out every product they carry that contains these nasty chemicals. Most of their line still do contain the original ingredients as they were formulated with 10-15 years back. It is nevertheless hopeful to see that TBS is joining in the healthy, organic and earth-friendly movement too.

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“Every new beginning, comes from some other beginning’s end”

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My 6 weeks is up!!

For those who have no idea what I’m referring to, about 7 weeks ago I had gone to see an orthopedic for a pain in my wrist that has been nagging me since I started intensifying my yoga practice from a gentle once-a-week practice to an aggressive thrice-weekly mix of Ashtanga, Iyengar and Yin Yoga.

All because, it became a sudden goal for me to be able to do a forward bend, with both of my palms placed flat on the floor. There are no shortcuts to getting flexible, unlike those “cheat” slimming houses that claim to massage and melt away your fat so you will come out with a Coke bottle figure. Needless to say, my enthusiasm got me in a little bit of trouble which led to my very kind doctor drawing me a skeleton of a human hand, with all the bones included and explaining to me that although the injury is quite minor, I would still have to stay off my yoga mat for 6 whole weeks.

“6 whole weeks?!” I remembered saying to him, with an incredulous look like he just told me there is no such thing as Yoga.

“A broken bone takes 42 weeks to heal” he replied, with a snicker and a wag of his finger.

Mmm ok. I guess I can’t argue with that.

So finally, the 6 weeks recovery period ended last weekend and although I can’t say the ache is completely gone, it is definitely better. Coincidentally, a couple of friends invited me along for an impromptu road trip to Malacca and Port Dickson. Malacca for the food, PD for the beach and water chalet. And what an awesome weekend it was spent amongst close friends.

Of course my overly excited question of “who wants to wake up with me tomorrow morning and watch the sunrise and do sun salutations together?” was met with a long silence, and that does not take by surprise at all. I ended up sleeping through it anyway, but I was the still the first to have woken up on Sunday morning.

The view from my mat

We had a balcony that overlooks into the sea, and it served as the perfect setting for me to ease my way back into my poses. So while the rest of my friends were fast asleep, I twisted, turned, and said hello to the Sunday sun with my sun salutations.

I cannot imagine a better way to welcome back Yoga into my weekly routine 🙂

Every new beginning, comes from some other beginning's end - Semisonic

How old is your soul?

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Children grow up believing in things that transcends the reality we live in. In Santa, fairies, unicorns, elves and angels. And even if the latter may raise debates (though I believe that angels really do exist) somewhere along those years, these beliefs somehow disappear. Perhaps from repeated disappointment, or maybe from the simple error of believing that other people knows best.

I think we are all equipped with our own intelligence, and it is sometimes the trust that we lack in ourselves which brings us to make choices that entails less risk but equally less than desirable outcomes.

Why do people stop believing in angels? or Santa Clause?

Or Love? or the possibility of being able to love and be loved in precisely the exact way they have always wanted?

Perhaps the safer route is indeed the smarter route. The path of least resistance that quiets the nasty uncertainties about the future, and our own capability to overcome these. Contrary to what many seem to say, it is not hard to let go of your desires, those desires that fuels you at the very thought of it (whether that be a passion, a dream job, an object of desire or even a person), it is in fact easier. Because the path to attaining those desires is often characterized with a boulder-sized of uncertainties and possibilities of disappointments making it far more easier to opt out, and adopt the status quo. It is that much easier to come up with a list of excuses of why it will not work than to truly confront your heart’s desires even if the effort required is equal both ways.

But then, where is the fun and adventure if we always opt for the safety of what we know? And how do we begin to even try to remain young at heart, if at every time the road ahead of us forks into two, we choose the less bumpy road without ever knowing that the end of which could be attaining something less than what we really deserve?

We’ve got a lot to learn, god knows we are worth it – Jason Mraz

The fresh food people

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Food was one of the major highlights in Italy. There was rarely a time that I could even begin to feel hungry before our next meal, and even if it was a hunger pang that I felt, it was one that was satiated pretty quickly.

Our food and accomodation expenditure started out on the high side. Rome was more than just statues and ancient ruins, but filled with delicious meals of tortellini, ravioli, all other kind of pastas, fresh artichokes and colourful vegetables, pizzas, cheeses and endless scoops of gelato. Other people approach their travel with a trusted guide from the Lonely Planet, I moved through the city with a guide on recommended places to eat, districts known for food and areas with weekly markets. Basically, I was more keen on building my experience around seeing and tasting the local food more than visiting the historical sites *blush*.

I believe, the best way to appreciate and experience a place is through its local food.

Italy was all about fresh ingredients. I’m convinced that is the reason to why Italian food in Italy tastes distinctly different and much better than Italian dining in Kuala Lumpur. Even if the latter was cooked by an Italian chef in a 5 star Italian restaurant, it still does not compare to say a 3 Eur Margherita pizza in Naples

There is no doubt that Italians love their food. I did see some Chinese restaurants and kebab stands randomly scattered around Rome, Naples and Florence but the occurrence of this was far and few in between. What I loved was the availability of fresh vegetables, herbs, pastas, breads served straight out from the oven and of course, freshly brewed coffee. We trawled through a number of mercatos and I was spellbound by the colors and sight of it all.

Mercato Campo di Fiori, Rome

Fresh Roman Globe Artichokes at Mercato Campo di Fiori, Rome

The entire tomato family in Campo di Fiori, Rome

Farmer's Market, Testaccio, Rome

Cheeses at the Farmer's Market, Testaccio, Rome

Fresh produce
San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, Florence

Although organic did not seem like a big deal to the Italians, partly because everything they have is grown in an environment with minimal exposure to chemicals and pesticides or we were just looking in the wrong places. I stand to be corrected.

Italians were also big on their truffles, and rightfully so. This stuff is gold in the culinary arena. But whoever thought of combining sea salt with pieces of truffles must be pure genius. I got a sniff at it and the flavor that exploded out of the bottle was indescribable.

Perhaps the best smelling salt combination I've experienced
San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, Florence

Certain moments and sights remind me of the famous Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia which was my weekly sensory indulgence and also where I used to stock up on my groceries every weekend as a student. It was also the place which led me to eventually appreciate markets, fresh produce and knowing the ingredients that will eventually become my food.

Having an appreciation of amazing food is half of the equation, being aware of how individual ingredients are produced, its impact on the environment, the benefits it will bring to you and how it will ultimately nourish and heal your body completes the experience of enjoying a certain dish or meal.

It goes without saying that I am obsessed with food. I was taught from an early age, if you had to a limited amount of money to spend, always, always scrimp on the clothes and other inedible things, but splurge where you can, on the food. And splurge on food in Italy, I did.

The language of the world

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A week in Italy made me realize there are certain things about the human life that is common across the world, irrespective of culture, skin colour, religion or where you come from. It’s like the world speaks to you in its own universal language through human behavior.

M. Scott Peck in A Road Less Travelled began the first chapter of his book admitting that “Life is hard”. True that our life’s struggles come in many form and shape but in Rome, I learnt that these challenges are more often the same no matter where you live.

On the third day of our trip, I caught up with a colleague whom I met at training in Chicago last year. We were brought to a trendy, recently-launched lounge which operates a health spa during the day where I met his tall gorgeous redhead of a girlfriend and a handful of his other friends. We got down to talking about everything that makes Italy home to them. A group of twenty-something commiserating over getting life into momentum in a mix of English, Italian and a lot of expressive hand gestures. For a while, they were bantering in Italian to what seemed like a heated debate. I got another one of the girls to help translate for me and it appeared they were discussing about ‘love’ issues. I guessed it must have been one of the girls complaining that her other half had forgotten to take out the trash that weekend.

Once the conversation turned to English, we eventually gathered that one of the girls hated her job but the money from it affords her to pay her half of the mortgage of their recently bought apartment. The infamous question of “should I stay in this mundane job and keep earning the bucks or should I risk it and pursue my passion?” was raised.

Doesn’t that sound absolutely familiar?

I don’t know about you, but it definitely does to me. As the conversation developed, I got the impression that a majority of the working class young adults in Rome do not have it easy in their initial years setting up a nest of their own. And by that I mean moving out, starting a career, long-term relationships, marriage and kids. At one point, their wide-eyed look felt more like eyes that were about to pop and roll on the floor towards the DJ and his turntable when we told them the price of petrol per litre that we, normal working class Malaysian citizens pay.

For a while now, my itchy feet has been longing for me to move out of the country and earn a living elsewhere. That night I realized, there are a LOT of things to be thankful for by remaining in my home country – government petrol subsidy being on those things.

Reading poetry into the sunset

And then there is love. Whether you are down South in Australia, or the on the China Silk Road, or up north in an unfamiliar European country, the language of love is immediately understood. The photo above was taken in Piazza del Campidoglio, where an Italian couple were sitting together at dusk reading each other poetry.

Massimo, who were one of the friends we made in that lounge that night told us the story of how he met his current wife, this beautiful lithe blonde next to him. A quick private snicker was shared between the two when asked how they had met, before he turned to me and asked “Are you sure you really want to know how we met?”.

I always enjoy listening to stories of how two people met. Theirs by far, is one of the most hilarious and wonderful ones I have heard thus far. For the next 1 hour, we learnt that they had met years ago on a movie set (how surreal!) and shared their first kiss on the screen because they were directed to do so. A few years of break between the two as each went their separate ways, they met again but each were now engaged to different people. It made me realize that life, really has a way of leading you through it with some crazy twists and turns. Today, they have been happily married for a year and a half and they speak of each other with that comical sense of fondness that kept us laughing throughout the night.

I saw a lot of things, tasted many delicious food and drink, felt a range of emotions from intrigued to complete exhaustion (which could only happen if you have been on your feet for a full 12 hours, walking, climbing up and down many hills, getting on and off trains and buses over a number of days) while in Italy. Many more entries (and photos!) to follow on my perspective of this trip soon 🙂