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Tricks to Finding Inspiration Fast

By June 9, 2017 Blog, Sparkle, Magic and Wonderment

These are my favourite ways to jump-start the flow of inspiration and ideas whether I have a tricky decision to make, problem to solve, choreography or song to create, or witty enigmatic title for a boring research presentation to come up with…

 

  1.  Let it GoThat is, thoughts or false beliefs that are holding you back.  Grief, emotional baggage, self-doubt, lack of closure, limiting beliefs…all these things severely squelch creativity and inspiration.  Repressing or ignoring these thoughts won’t prevent them from subconsciously affecting you. They need to be acknowledged and either put in perspective or let go.

2. Get a Whole New Point of View

A few months ago I decided to go on a “Medical French” weekend course.  This involved getting up at 7am, going to bed after 11pm and spending pretty much every waking minute with people I had never met before…speaking French!  (They had this huge Napoleonic hat with a plume of feathers poking out, and if they caught you speaking English, they would put it on your head).  Boy was that intense… I was neither particularly fluent in French nor comfortable networking with people.  There are few times in my life when I noticed I vastly improved at something overnight,  but this was one of them.    Even more eye-opening, I realised I had forgotten the huge diversity of people there are in the world (even amongst doctors).  Most of us surround ourselves with people who are quite similar to ourselves.  Most doctors I knew, like me, were city-dwelling, academic and worked long hours in hospitals.  At this course there were doctors who worked with asylum seekers (or had been one themselves) and had the most amazing stories of bravery and resilience. Some stories were incredibly sad and traumatic.  A great many of the doctors I met at this course had worked in different parts of the world including third-world countries, war-torn countries, small towns and deserts.  I had thought, having started my family, I had missed my chance to do something like that.  But there were doctors there who had adult children and were beginning a new phase of life with new adventures in every sense of the word.    So, push yourself out of your comfort zone.  Jump and find out you can swim.  It’s worth it.  Meet  new people, go somewhere you haven’t been before, try a new food/cuisine, try fencing/rock-climbing/aerial silks/painting/a clowning class/______________etc.  You get the idea.

 

3.  Day-Dream

It is possible to think too hard about something.  I find the best way to develop an idea is to zoom out and casually “day-dream” about it.  Let the idea take form on its own, let your mind wander and follow the train of thought that appears.  This technique works best if you have a bit of time.  At least a few days to let your thoughts percolate and the idea gradually take form.  Many people find it helpful to do their thinking during a quiet walk or commute eg. Mozart used to compose his symphonies in his head while out for a carriage ride…

 Win Wenger, author of “The Einstein Factor” amps up this technique even further with what he calls “image streaming”.  Ever had the experience when you are almost but not quite asleep and a series of vivid images flash quickly thorough your mind?  Image streaming involves training yourself to do this while awake; being open to receiving images from your subconscious mind and training it to give you more and more useful ideas.

4. Sleep. and solve problems at the same time

Sleep deprivation can cause all manner of health issues and symptoms.  There are many studies (and we all know from personal experience) that sleep deprivation affects mental performance.  So it stands to reason that a restful night sleep is a good idea if you are trying to come up with an inspired idea.  But what about solving problems in your sleep? This one takes a bit of practice but is worth a try.  As described in Win Wengers book several songwriters (eg. Michael Jackson) have written songs by this method.  Next time you have a problem to solve or an idea to come up with, just before you go to sleep, make a conscious plan to solve it in your sleep and ask your subconscious mind to give you the answer. Then, wait for the magic to happen…    

Rinse and repeat

The more practice you get at noticing and developing the ideas that appear on the peripheries of your consciousness, the more easily inspired ideas will come to you.

For a free Inspiration Planner (featuring the above illustrations) sign up to the email list at chicbalance.com.   weeks.

 

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Saving the world through dance…

By June 5, 2017 Blog, Making a Diffference

There was a running joke in our family:

“So if you were to win Miss World, what would you do to make the world a better place?” 

“I would end child poverty/end world peace/save the world…through interpretive dance” .  (We did a lot of dancing growing up, but I don’t even know why we found that funny.  I guess you had to be there). 

But watching the One Love Manchester stream, I started to think maybe that wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. Musical artists are not in politicians but last night they stood together because they knew they could use their particular skills to make a positive difference.    

I find it’s easy to feel helpless when bad things happen outside of our control. And it’s easy for that to translate that into thinking “one day” when everything falls into alignment  I will do something to make a difference (but until then it’s not worth trying).

But sometimes you just have to act.  As soon as you think about it. And do whatever it is that is possible in that moment.  Doing Just.One.Thing .

“If we do nothing…I can’t live with that. We must do something”.  Ariana Grande. 

Incidentally, whatever the goal, taking even a small step towards it immediately seems to increase success and efficacy.

This week, I was inspired by a friend taking the Acts-For-Peace ration challenge; living on the meagre  rations distributed to refugees for a week.  I don’t feel I could take the challenge myself at this particular point in time, but I could make a donation.  So I did.

How can you make a J.O.T of difference?

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Free Chic Balance Mid Year Goal Planner

By June 4, 2017 Blog, Organsation and Planning

Yikes, June already.  Time to re-evaluate adjust or get back on track with goals for the year!

Subscribe to the email list at chicbalance.com  to receive your free mid-year goal planner…

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5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Worry About Making the Wrong Career Choice

By May 30, 2017 Blog, Career

 

  1. Your instincts will usually lead you in the right direction

If you are drawn to it in the first place, chances are it is at least a good place to start.

  1. You can change direction (which doesn’t necessarily mean the time was wasted)

Anything you do will build on your skills, experience and contacts in some way.

  1. You could create your own niche in the field

Many career fields have a huge range of  sub-speciality areas and even more potential areas which could be developed.  So if you find your dream job in the field doesn’t exist, just maybe, you could create it…

  1. Sometimes uncertainty is good

“Not knowing” what you want can open you up to amazing possibilities which you might not have seen if you were laser-focused on exactly where you were going

  1. You don’t actually have to choose just one thing

More and more people are having multiple jobs in their lifetimes or even simultaneously, because that’s what suits them.  Author Emilie Wapnick calls these people Multipotentialites  (you can find out more about multipotentialites on her website Puttylike, her book “How to be Everything” and her TED talk.

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Book Recommendation: Girl Code, by Cara Alwill Leyba

By May 16, 2017 Blog, Career, Making Dreams Come True

Cara Alwill Leyba is a Master Life Coach and author .  Her book Girl Code is an inspiring, kick-ass romp of a read full of empowering advice with a focus on celebrating the power of bonding with other women as a key ingredient in achieving happiness and success in life and work.

Girl Code outlines a great approach for driven women who have big plans; go for it, hustle, but its OK not to be perfect all the time…and its fun to add a little sparkle and glamour where-ever possible!

(I had the pleasure of meeting Cara recently her London networking meet. Cara is delightful in person and the event was everything she writes about; fabulous women getting together and making connections over sparkly champagne!)

 

 

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Happy Advent! Download your free printable Chic Balance Christmas Planner

By December 3, 2016 Blog, Festivity and celebrations, Organsation and Planning

December has come around so quickly again!

I have created a new Christmas Planner for 2016 including a December calendar, card and present list page, advent/festive activity page, Christmas budget page and Christmas meal page to help you smoothly organise your dream Christmas.

Just subscribe to the Chic Balance email list (go to chicbalance.com and enter your name and email in the pop-up box) and the planner will arrive in your inbox…

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Setting the Barre at Achievable -How get around to exercising

By November 18, 2016 Balance, Blog, Health and Wellbeing

When time is tight it can incredibly busy to fit in regular exercise.  I love pilates and barre classes but with a little baby at home, going out for over an hour for a class was just too difficult. I bought work-out videos but after a week got bored of them and found it increasingly difficult to psych myself up to start a 40 minute workout very early in the morning (too tired after a night of broken sleep) or late at night (not advised as exercise just before bed keeps you awake!).  Then I found the “Ballet Barre Fitness & Pilates Workouts” App by Kira Elste.

 So convenient and do-able…

For the fraction of the price of a regular class you get a fantastic selection of 15-30 minute workouts.  No commute time, no fancy fashion-forward activewear required…and no excuses.  Anyone can find 15 minutes per day.   

So fun!

Kira is an enthusiastic, quirky and encouraging instructor and includes fun workouts such as “Blue Jean Baby” (leg workout), LBD Barre (arms, legs, core) and Tank-Top Arms!  She also has a section for “Healthy Treats” she recommends and a technique section in the App.

 The benefits

 I felt better the within 2 days of adding in a daily 15 minute workout.  Obviously too early to see any change in the body, but I felt more supple, my muscles felt more toned and I just felt better about everything.  It’s such a small amount of time to put in, but just goes to show, a little can go a long way, and a tiny workout that you can commit to regularly is better than a long workout you never get around to. 

 It grows with you

Because the workouts are so short, you can easily add on more workouts as you become stronger, and once fitting in a workout has become a habit.  And you can customise the muscle groups that you work on. 

 So, the answer to getting around to exercising (and other things)? Make it easy for yourself and aim for something easily achievable at first. In this case 15 minutes of exercise wherever you (and your smartphone) happen to be.  Once the habit is instilled, you can build on it.

 (ps: this is not a paid/sponsored post, I just really like the app!)

This review was first published as a guest post on www.nzgirl.co.nz

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How to Stay Balanced When You Have A Million Things to Do!

By October 30, 2016 Balance, Blog, Career, Organsation and Planning

Sometimes it seems like life just gets busier and busier.  Are you constantly rushing around day long? Have even hobbies started to feel like a drain on your time? Or are you thinking “hobbies, who has time for hobbies?”?  It might be time to pause and restore some balance to your life.  Limiting time spent on certain things and taking the time to look after yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you will get less done.  To the contrary, if you have a defined time to get tasks done in, and start out refreshed and enthusiastic rather than exhausted and deflated you may be much more productive!

Here are 13 tips for finding balance in a busy lifestyle.

 

  1. Set boundaries and goals to stay focussed on what matters

Is work or some other aspect of your life taking over a lot more time than you think it should?  Assess what you want to achieve in this area, what is needed to achieve that goal and what is extra.  Create a timetable to allow you limits the time spent but that will allow you to reach your goals.

  1. Do a little each day; something is better than nothing

Having just been through one of the busiest periods in my life, I found exercise really, really hard to fit in/be motivated enough to do.  I am now fitting in just 10-15 minutes of exercise per day.  But it has actually made a huge difference in how I feel and is something that I can commit to as there is no excuse for not finding 10 minutes in the day!

  1. Actually…aim to juggle rather than balance

I’m a firm believer that if you really want to do something, then you can find a way to fit it into your life…at some point.  But no one can do everything every day.  There may be some things you can only spend time on a couple of times a week.  There may be some things that you want to try for a certain period at some point in your life (eg. run a marathon) but may or may not want to continue indefinitely.

  1. Take refreshing breaks, for example

-getting up for a few minutes after every hour at your desk

-having a mid-week evening out

-taking holidays; A great piece of advice I was given when I started working was that the best time to start planning a holiday is as soon as you get back from a holiday.  That way you always have something to look forward to.

  1. Indulge in a few little treats each day such as:

listening to an uplifting podcast on your commute, having a bubble bath, a hot cup of tea while reading a good book, a luxurious piece of dark chocolate…whatever helps you feel relaxed, positive or energised

  1. Take care of your body:

-have a generally healthy diet with some occasional treats

-get enough sleep, and ideally have a regular sleep pattern

-get some exercise, a little regularly is better than none at all

  1. Take care of your mind and spirit

-regularly stimulate your mind with new skills and information, thought-provoking books movies and  conversation, travel and generally get out of your comfort zone from time to time

-regularly relax your mind: read or watch something relaxing, consider trying a new stress-release technique (meditation, prayer, mindfulness, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation etc.)

-indulge your creative side: cook, bake, draw, paint, write, make music, dance, whatever you like

  1. Take the time to look fabulous

Ever noticed how the way you dress and groom can affect the way you feel and behave? Wear something that makes you feel confident and together.

  1. Invest in quality time with those you care about

-talk, have fun with and relax with family and friends

  1. Consider regularly doing something to help someone else

It might just help you feel better/more balanced/in perspective too.

  1. It’s OK to go “all-out” for short, defined periods of time

We all go through periods in life where there is some sort of major deadline (such as an exam) and one thing can take over almost every waking minute.  That’s OK, just try to make sure there is a defined end to this crazily busy time and maybe plan something to look forward to when it’s over.

  1. Remember…things change

Life is dynamic, circumstances change, we change… Roll with the punches and regularly reassess how things are working.  Consider if your schedule needs to be tweaked or if something doesn’t fit your life anymore and needs to be let go to create room for new things.

Have a wonderful week!

 

*this article first appeared as a guest post on www.nzgirl.co.nz

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Sultana Bran Autumn Apple Crumble -week-night dessert

By October 21, 2016 Blog, Recipes
a quick and easy dessert for weeknights

I love throwing an elaborate dinner party or doing a batch of baking in the weekend when time allows, but  so often, life gets busy and food preparation needs to be quick and easy.  And at these times of stress its more important than ever to eat food that nourishes your body and soul.

We have been enjoying an abundance of fresh autumn apples and the last of the summer berries.  This recipe contains the goodness of fruit, a lashing of something creamy, and a crunchy crumble in caramelized honey.  If you cook and puree or mash the apples in advance, it then only takes 5 minutes to put together

 Ingredients (serves 3-4)

2 cups of apple puree (fresh apples peeled, chopped, boiled and mashed)

1 cup of Sultana Bran (or other bran flakes)

2 T butter

2T honey

A dollop of crème fraiche or greek yoghurt per person

Fresh berries to garnish

 

Instructions

1.      Slightly crush the Sultana Bran so that the pieces are about ¼ the size of a whole flake

2.      Put the Sultana Bran into a small pot and add the butter and stir on high heat

3.      Once the butter starts to melt, add the honey

4.      Continue stirring until the the mixture starts to clump, and looks glossy and crispy, then take it off the heat

5.      Put the apple puree into dessert bowls and top with the Sultana Bran crumble

6.      Create a contrast to the warm crumble by adding a dollop of crème fraiche or greek yoghurt and garnish with berries.

Bon appetite!

a quick and easy dessert for weeknights

*this post was published first on nzgirl.co.nz

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Tips For Relocating to Another Country

By October 17, 2016 Blog, Organsation and Planning, Travel

Its been awhile since my last post, because I have been busy moving all the way across the world from Auckland, New Zealand, to London!  For a number of reasons it was a particularly crazy time leading up to the move, but we made it!  Here is how I got organized…

 

Arranging Work

In the interest of keeping a stable income going,  you may want to organise a job before moving.  It is becoming more and more common to interview by skype or phone these days, which is exactly what I did in order to secure a job prior to booking a flight.  So consider updating your Linkedin profile, joining up with a recruitment agency, looking at job advertisements and following up any potential contacts you may have well in advance.

Work permits/visas can take months to arrange, so look into what is required and apply well in advance.  Also, if applicable, check if there are any particular professional qualification/registration requirements you need to fulfil to work in the country you are moving to.

Once you have accepted a job, liaise with the HR department to see what paperwork they need to get you all signed up, put on the payroll and set up with computer access etc to avoid delays in starting work and getting paid once you arrive.

 

Booking flights

Check the baggage allowance and cost of adding additional bags before booking…(we unwittingly booked with an airline that only allowed 23kg per person, whereas some other airlines allow 43kg).

When selecting travel dates, allow enough time after arrival to pick up your work visa, get a phone simcard/plan, set up a bank account, find somewhere to live, set up utilities, set up house etc before you have to start work.

Remember to arrange any other special requirements to make your flight as comfortable as possible (dietary requirements, bassinet seat etc).  The flight from Auckland to London long! About 36 hours to travel what is pretty much halfway around the world and we were lucky to be able to book front-row seats with extra leg room.

What to take

If you are not moving permanently, it may not be cost-effective to take everything you own over and then bring it back again.  Most friends and colleagues we spoke to who had moved to another country for a couple of years suggested taking only personal items and then renting a furnished place or buying new household items after arriving.

 

Lists, lists, lists…

Depending on what else is going on in your life, there may be a LOT to organise!  Avoid the stress of having to remember what needs doing by keeping “To-Do” lists and adding to them whenever you think of something.  I had 7 different to-do lists (two have been adapted below) all written on a giant piece of paper so I could cross things off as they got done!

 

A Checklist of Things to do to Pack-Up House may include…

-finding a storage unit (Doing a little shopping around pays off; storage can be really expensive.  We did the maths and figured out that at quite a few of places, the price over 2 years would be higher than the value of our belongings)

-sell or donate unwanted items (this will help to keep storage costs down by allowing you to hire a smaller unit)

-finish any renovations/fix-ups to get your house ready for rent/sale if applicable

-organise the rental/sale of your house if applicable

-buy boxes and packing tape

-pack things up for storage and for the move (Label the boxes to make things easier to find later on)

-hire a trailer to transport boxes to storage

 

A Checklist of  Contacts to Notify may include…

-utilities providers; gas, electricity, water, internet

-bank

-family and friends

-healthcare providers

-any TV or magazine subscriptions

 

The flight over –relax, indulge and enjoy!

You did it! Everything is packed you and you have made it to the airport and checked in your bulging bags!   It’s going to be a bit busy getting set up again on the other end, so, after check-in it’s time to “check-out” for a bit and enjoy!  Have a much-deserved cup of coffee and sweet treat in the airport, do some duty-free shopping, buy a book… Then enjoy the in-flight service and the chance to sit back, watch movies and relax.

I love Lisa Eldriges’s “Long Haul Beauty Regime”  video for inspiration on how to make your flight a relaxing spa-like experience (you can find the link here).  (Though truth be told I have never managed to actually do anything like it, and more often than not end up scrambling onto the plane exhausted, sleep-deprived and capable of little more than watching movies like a zombie/sleeping like a mummy…but it is a lovely idea.)

 

Bon Voyage and safe travels!

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A Klutz’s Guide to Wearing White

By August 19, 2016 Blog, Not too serious, Style

klutztitleformyblog

klutz (google definition)

noun

North American informal

noun: klutz; plural noun: klutzes

  1. a clumsy, awkward, or foolish person.

 

White is crisp and classic, can be dreamy or sophisticated and looks and feels super cool and when worn in summer.  But for some of us, it turns every plate of food into a minefield…that may have been the case for me:

-A few years ago, when I was moving from a team-based job to a more solitary role, the first thing my team-mate said to me was “But who will bring you extra napkins when you spill food on yourself every day?”

-I once had to change clothes halfway through the work day because my skirt was so badly stained after an entire plate of Morrocan stew “jumped” onto my lap (or maybe someone bumped me.  I don’t remember.)

-When there were plenty of chairs but not enough space around the lunch table at, people would part like the Red Sea to give me a space at the table. For their own safety.

-Remember when everyone was wearing those T-shirts in the late nineties that said “Actress in Training?” Someone took a stained T-shirt of mine and had “Eater in Training” printed on it.

So yeah.  You could say I was fairly qualified as a klutz.  But those days are over. Really. And I will share my secrets with you, so that you too can wear white without looking like a four-year old used you as a hand-towel after a day of finger-painting. 

 

Tips for Getting Through The Day in White Clothing:

  1. If you are wearing white pants/skirt/a dress, watch where you sit…
  2. When eating sitting down: bring your chair extra close to the table so any food you drop falls back onto your plate rather than onto your lap. Put a napkin in your lap just in case.
  3. When ordering, it might be best to avoid spaghetti in tomato sauce, ribs etc… anything with a high splash and/or stain factor is asking for trouble.
  4. Sitting and eating without a table with your plate on your lap is probably the riskiest position. If you can’t avoid this, cover your lap with napkins and hold your plate up when you take a bite.   
  5. When eating standing up, use a napkin and bend forwards slightly and elegantly when you take a bite so anything you drop falls to the floor without streaking down the entire length of your outfit. Just slightly.  Bend too much and you will look ridiculous/like you have gas.
  6. When you wear something white, make it an outfit you love. Trust me, you will be more careful.

Now excuse me, I just have to wipe up this coffee I spilled on the keyboard…

klutzlayoutformyblog

First appeared on nzgirl.co.nz

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5. Turning Dreams into Reality –the Game Plan…

By July 30, 2016 Blog, Career, Making Dreams Come True, Organsation and Planning

This is the fifth and for now the final installment in the Make-Your-Dreams-Come-True series of posts.  Once you are clear on your goals, it’s time to make things happen!  Planning, organisation and regular reflection on how things are going can turn a lofty dream into an achievable goal.

Tips for turning a goal into reality:

  1. Use  the SMART approach (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound), to further define your goals.
  2. Make a Master Plan/Timeline

I like to make the master-plan/timeline pretty and pleasant/motivating to look at, including tick-boxes to check-off as I complete things.  I also place it somewhere I can see it and refer to it each day. There is something very satisfying about crossing or ticking things off as you go!

  1. Each day look the timeline and think about what you want to achieve for that day or week and make a list of things to do in the immediate future
  2. Each week , briefly reflect on how things are going and if anything needs to change
  3. Customise the timeline to the goal and the way you like to do things.

For example,   if there is not a definite deadline eg. the goal is to run a blog… the plan could be structured as follows…

 

dotstable

 

If there is a definite deadline, eg the goal is to pass an exam, then the master plan might be organized as below. It’s a good idea to build in contingency time.  Things often take longer than expected.  I always include a plan to “celebrate” after the deadline has passed.  It seems to help me maintain a positive mindset and remember what I am working towards!

 

flowertableGood luck with your dream-making, planning and achieving.  If you decide to try any of these tips, do let me know you go in the comments below!

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Captivating Casares (and nearby localities)…

By July 11, 2016 Blog, Sparkle, Magic and Wonderment, Travel

When we planned our trip to Andalusia, in the south of Spain, we became intrigued by the idea of Casares, a fortified Arabian settlement of beautiful white-washed dwellings strategically nestled in the mountain-tops with a strong wall and sheer drops protecting the town.  Having hired a car with mobile Wifi, we were able to have a very free-flowing and spontaneous road-trip in Andalusia, deciding our route and plans as we went, booking accommodation online as we approached a town we wanted to spend the night in.

We planned to visit Casares as a day trip, because there appeared to be only one small inn in the town itself,  and Casares is close enough to many other towns.

So we decided to spend the night before in Sabinillas, at the Hotel Dona Luisa on the  beautiful Costa Del Sol. We rose early, eager to start the day.  After a leisurely breakfast, we walked out onto the beach and were greeted by a breath-taking sunrise, as the first rays of sunlight diffused orange and gold above the water. There was something very special about being up at the crack of dawn.  The prospect of the whole day, filled with promise stretched out before us.  A day with nothing to do but please ourselves.

sabilas jump for love-cropped

 

We bumped into some fellow tourists who suggested that a trip to nearby Castellar de la Frontera would be well worth the time.   It was a beautiful day so we took the suggested detour through the sun-drenched, mountainous landscape and found ourselves exploring a delightful little town.  There were charming winding cobblestone streets where ceramic vendors displayed their wares and weathered stone buildings reaching up towards a brilliantly blue sky.

castella1-watermarkedcastella2-watermark

castella4-watermarkcastella3-watermark

By now it was lunchtime and there didn’t appear to be many places to stop for a meal in this beautiful but isolated spot.  Actually just one tiny pub as far as we could tell…

So we went in.  There were very few tables and no one inside except one young bartender.  We resigned ourselves to the prospect of a simple and probably not very tasty lunch and asked for a few tapas.  Next thing we knew, our host brought out plate after plate of mouth-watering dishes, made with seemingly the simplest fresh ingredients but assembled and seasoned with such flair as to be unbelievably delicious.  The showstopper was the tastiest chorizo sausage which he dramatically set aflame before us!  We agreed that somehow the adventure of stumbling upon this gem of an eatery in the most unexpected spot made it one of the best and most special meals we had ever had.

castellar-food-1-watermarkedcastellar-food-2-watermarkedcastellar-food-3-watermarked

We expressed our appreciation as best we could in broken Spanish and finally headed to Casares.  The numerous white buildings clustered like gems in the mountains were everything we had hoped to see as we approached.  As we took a closer look on foot we saw that the town was immaculately kept.  Even the cemetary was beautiful.  We wandered up towards the highest point and past some castle ruins and  a church.

casares cemetary-watermarkedcasares hole in the wall-watermarkedchurch-watermarked

By now, the sun was setting and we had found the perfect spot to admire the town.  From our vantage point above the village we heard the strains of habitation at dusk from below.  The voices and foot-steps of children playing in the streets, dogs barking, the breeze in the trees, birds, the occasional motorbike winding through the streets and the church bells ringing…

Watching the town from a distance, there was a stillness in the air, and we all fell silent, deep in our own thoughts.   I thought about how it was almost as if we had lived the best parts of a lifetime in one day.  From when the day was young and full of possibility at dawn, to a care-free day filled with adventures, spontenaeity, surprise and wonderful food shared in good company in amazing surroundings.  Then the end of the day.  The white buildings glowed in the last rays of the sun, as memories of this incredible day continue to glow and bring a smile to our faces well after the trip has ended.

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Three Fun Ways To Support Your Favourite Causes

By March 1, 2016 Blog, Making a Diffference

It can be overwhelming reading or watching news stories sometimes.  The scale of some of the problems can make us want to turn away and forget, thinking nothing we can do could make a difference.

Of course, this is not the case, we know that every little bit helps.  But what if you want to do more than make a donation but are not in a situation to go and help on the ground, or don’t have the time to organize a major fundraiser?

Here are three fab ways to celebrate and appreciate what we have with people we appreciate, while helping those who are not so lucky!

In the course of a single morning, afternoon or evening you can not only make a contribution yourself but motivate others in a positive way to do the same!

  1. Host a charity party

A small group rather than a large function may be more manageable if you don’t have a lot of time.  I found a great article by Paula Biggs for Frog Prince Paperie (http://frogprincepaperie.com/2014/11/how-to-host-a-charity-party-at-home.html) with loads of tips on how to hold a successful charity party.

The type of party could be related to the type of charity you are collecting for, eg:

-breakfast party: to collect for school breakfasts for underprivileged children

-party themed to a particular country you want to collect money for

-international food and dress-up potluck party: to support Unicef or World Vision etc…

  1. Do something unusual online to raise money and see if it goes viral!

The Ice Bucket Challenge and No-Make-up Selfies are successful because they are invoke a sense of positivity and fun.  Also there is something nice about being part of something with lots of other people.  It’s exciting to be part of something big and that’s hot at the time because you get the sense that great things will happen…

  1. If you are into crafts, could have a craft circle to make things to send eg. to “Dress a Girl”.

Please share any other ideas you may have to help those in need, inspire others to do the same and spread some positivity in the process!

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4. Live The Dreams –that’s right, plural…

By February 21, 2016 Blog, Career, Making Dreams Come True

Some people might be brilliant at and passionate about one thing only, others of us need to pursue several different interests to feel balanced and complete.

“Can I pursue more than one “serious” dream?”

Yes! Though you might have to pick one or at most 2 at a time to really concentrate on and become really good at. (No one wants to be a jack of all trades but master of none!).

Make a Plan to Concentrate on One or Two Things at a Time

You don’t have to pursue every goal you have for your life at the same time…For example if you want to play a sport professionally, you probably need to start as early as possible. If you want to write a book, that can potentially wait until later in life. Often, the skills you develop in one area can give you a unique edge in another and you can use this to your advantage (eg. you could write a sports book or write about something which helped you succeed in sport as well as other areas of life). Just because you are concentrating on one thing doesn’t mean you can’t have other things on the boil in the background. For example you may spend all day training for a sports competition but you might find it do-able, even enjoyable to spend an hour in the evening writing your book.

You may have to adapt some goals, particularly if they are further down on your list of dreams to pursue

If something you want does not seem realistic, consider what it is about that thing that you actually love and decide if you can achieve that another way. For example one particular dream I had as a little girl was to be a ballerina. As I grew into my teens, I knew this was not going to be possible if I also wanted to pursue a career as a scientist or doctor. So I took up a number of other forms of dance which required less rigorous and ongoing training, and for a time was able to fit in dancing gigs between other commitments. I still dance but have now moved on to focus on writing/blogging as you can see!

So there may be no need to choose between the things that you love. If you plan it right, you may just be able to have your cakes and eat them too!

sandakan high tea

 

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3. How Decide to Which Dreams to Pursue…

By January 17, 2016 Blog, Career, Making Dreams Come True

Of course no one else can tell you what you should be doing with your life.  Only you can decide that.  Also, no one single approach is going to suit everyone. Some people don’t mind jumping in with both feet and quitting their day job to pursue their dream, trusting that everything will work out. That is fantastic and I really believe that if you really want something, you absolutely should pursue it. But I myself like to be reasonably sure of financial stability and some chance of success before putting in a lot of time and resources. So here is my slightly risk-adverse take on making major, potentially life-changing decisions….

“What should I do with my life?!” 

Remember daydreaming about what you might “be” when you grew up?

I have one amazing friend who, as a child,  said she was going to be a scientist (and has written proof of this!), and then proceeded to do exactly that.  But we don’t all have such foresight! I myself had a list of any number of things, which would change from week to week depending on how I felt at the time.  I have never been able to map out my career years in advance with any certainty, but have taken up opportunities as they arose.  I have no regrets about where I am now and the path I have taken to get here.  So I guess, the point I am making is that:

  1. It’s OK not to know exactly where you want to be in 10 years. There is no harm planning, of course, but be prepared to adapt and change your plans. That way, you will be open to opportunities that might lead you to something even better.
  2. Do have an idea of what sort of thing you might want to do and start there.

I generally set off in the general direction I want to go, and then make more specific decisions and take up various opportunities as they arise.

Say you are interested in science but you are not sure which field.  So at university you try papers in botany, biochemistry, biology and psychology.  You develop a particular interest in one of these areas, start a project with a professor you admire and thus find your way into that field.

 

What If I think I want to do something but am not sure?”

Thinking in terms of these questions usually helps me to clarify if I am really prepared to put in the effort to make something happen.

  1. Is this something I am really prepared to work hard for?
  2. Would my life feel incomplete if I didn’t do this?
  3. What is the chance that I might realise it’s not what I want after all?
  4. If I tried but couldn’t achieve the goal, what would I lose?
  5. Would having tried give me the closure to move onto something else?
  6. Is quitting an option if it doesn’t seem to be working out? If so, how will I decide when to stop?

 

“ Can I really make this happen?”

There is no fool-proof way to eliminate the risk that your time, efforts and other resources might not pay off, but you could consider the following:

  1. Honest self-appraisal. We might be wrong about ourselves of course, so don’t stop there, but it’s the obvious place to start!  Gather all the information you can about what it might take to succeed and then consider your abilities.
  1. Consider the opinion of a trusted family member or friend.  Take their opinion into consideration, but remember those close to us may have  pre-conceived ideas about what we can or can’t do, so this is only one consideration.
  2. Consider getting an opinion from a professional in the field if applicable/possible
  3. If possible try to get some experience in the area you are interested in or take a course to see if you like it and might be good at it.

 

Just for fun, if you are considering pursuing a new path, try this!

Copy, print and fill out the table below…..

 

whichdreamstable

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2. Why you should R-E-A-C-H for your dreams

By January 7, 2016 Blog, Career, Making Dreams Come True

Why should you reach for your dreams?

So that you can be fulfilled and happy right? And because you almost certainly can make at least some of your dreams come true.

The more pertinent question is:

“Why shouldn’t you?” (What is stopping you?):

Lack of funds? Time? Too much effort? Don’t think you have what it takes? Commitments to others? Lack of opportunity?

Ok, not every dream anyone ever thought of is going to be realistic. But you owe it to yourself to at least go through the process of figuring out what will really make you happy (if you don’t already know), exploring what it would take to happen, and if you are prepared to do what it takes.

Going this process, if nothing else, will at least allow you some closure if you decide not to pursue a given path. At best, it will start you on the path to fulfilling your wildest dreams!

In my next few posts in the Make-Your-Dreams-Come-True series, we will go through this process…

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How to Use Memories as Inspiration to Inject Magic, Wonderment and Sparkle into Everyday Life

By January 4, 2016 Blog, Sparkle, Magic and Wonderment

Remember how you felt on Christmas morning as a child, that frisson of excitement, of magic hanging in the air after weeks of anticipation? Or what about the sparks that flew when you started dating someone special, when you woke every morning unable to think of anything but when you would speak to or see that person next, your impatience to see how the relationship would unfold?

If you are anything like me, these moments of exhilarating happiness and excitement still happen as an adult but became fewer and further between compared with when I was a child. I wondered why, and what I could do to inject more magic and sparkle back into life. So I decided to explore some more examples of magic-infused memories to figure out what made them so special.

Some of my magical memories:

1. Trip to Carcasssonne (see my post from earlier today)

http://chicbalance.com/?cat=8

2. Aeroplane Trips

As a child, whenever we had an overseas trip planned, my sisters and I would be so excited about going on the aeroplane. More excited about the trip there than the holiday itself really…We loved having our own seats with our own light switch and music channels we could control ourselves (back then in the 80s there was just one large movie screen at the front of the cabin which we would watch through the gaps between the seats, never dreaming of the luxury of having a library of movies to choose from like we have today!).  We loved the cosiness of the aeroplane cabin with the soothing white-noise of the airplane propellers when the lights were dimmed.  We would plan what games we would take with us .to play and dream of eating food out of little boxes in a tray and even practice “aeroplane eating” when we played make-believe.  (Having since experienced economy-class aeroplane food as an adult I can’t really explain to you or myself why we had that particular fascination…).  I even loved airports, and still do.  To me, international airports all over the world all have the same air of excitement.  A tantalising port to exotic destinations soon to be reached.

3. Getting up early for road trips

As a child, we would regularly get up in the early hours when it was still dark to start a long trip to visit my aunt and cousins. I loved spending time with my cousins, but the trip itself was exciting. As with overseas plane flights, it was the start of an exciting journey, with the thought of the whole trip stretching out in front of you. But there was also a definite novelty associated with being awake and having somewhere to go at a time of day when I would normally not be allowed up. There was a certain magic in the night air, the crisp coolness of it, the blanket of darkness just beyond the window, sprinkled with the twinkling lights of stars and street lamps which made the interior of the car all the cosier. Then of course there was the magic of a beautiful sunrise….I enjoyed sharing these experiences with my parents and later my siblings.

4. A special dinner after a busy day at work

I remember, one day I had a special romantic dinner at a restaurant to look forward to for the evening. I had quite a busy work day to get through beforehand, but having somewhere special to go afterwards infused the whole day with excitement. At the end of the day I was able to pack up and mentally and physically, close the door on work and enthusiastically start the next exciting part of my day.

5. Summer holidays after exams

I was something of a geek at high school and university… I studied pretty hard, and the end of year exams were associated with weeks of discipline, sacrifice, hard work, stress and fatigue. So handing in that last exam paper for the year and stepping out into the sunshine came with a certain euphoria (probably heightened by the delirium of sleep deprivation!). The moment was particularly exhilarating if I knew I had “aced” the exam, but even when I didn’t feel so great about it, there was a certain relief in knowing it was all over and I could look forward to starting the summer holidays.

6. An exciting new project

There is nothing like a new project you are passionate about to fill you with enthusiasm and excitement. For me right now, that is this blog! I don’t know where this will lead, if anyone will read it, or like it, or if I will still be writing it in a year. But I do know that I have always wanted to write for others as well as myself since I was a child. I am writing about things I am passionate about, am excited to share my thoughts with you, and am dreaming about the possibilities of what I will explore and where this might go.

7. Christmas…this deserves a post of its own! I will come back to this one next December…

 

So in considering what  made these childhood and adult memories so magical, I noticed the following:

a) All have an element of anticipation. Of looking forward to something that promises to be exciting and delightful for a reasonably long period of time. Anticipation of an exotic holiday, of a whole day filled with wonderful possibilities, of a whole evening out in a lovely restaurant, of the whole of the summer holidays, of all the possibilities and potential for success of a new project, of finding wonderful and delightful things when setting out to explore an exciting new place.I have decided anticipation at the beginning of something nice is possibly the best part of a pleasurable experience. When the entire experience is still in store, but yet tantilisingly close. The magical memory is complete when the things we look forward to are every bit as amazing as we imagined or if we are lucky even better!

b) Novelty

Being awake at an unusual time (for a nice reason!), seeing a new place, trying new food, doing something different –the novelty of these elements helped to add an extra sparkle to make the experience special. Trying something different is such a refreshing change to everyday life which can get a little mundane sometimes.

c) Contrast

Pleasurable experiences are heightened by contrast. The contrast of having something like a busy work day or exams and then being to suddenly switch into celebration/holiday mode, letting the pressures of whatever else there is to worry about in life lift away, if only for that period of time.

d) An interesting challenge

It is great to have hobbies you enjoy, and if you are lucky a job you love. The start of a new project you are passionate about is so exciting, a time filled with creativity, purpose and potential.

e) Shared experience

All of these experiences involve sharing moments with others, whether with loved ones, fellow students or you, my readers! This is not to say you can’t have magical moments on your own (I have had quite a few). But having someone to share the experience with,  whether at the time or by telling them about it afterwards often seems to heighten the experience.

Try this!

  1. List at least 5 memories of times that felt magical and exciting. Go on, take a stroll down memory lane and indulge in reliving some of your most wonderfully delightful memories
  2. For each memory, write down what you think made it so wonderful
  3. Use those reasons to inspire a list of ways you can inject more magic and wonderment into your life now!
  4. Think about how you can add anticipation, novelty and passion into your life and consider how you might share the experience with others.

À demain!

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A Magical trip to Carcassonne, France

By January 4, 2016 Blog, French Inspired, Sparkle, Magic and Wonderment, Travel

I have been lucky enough to have had many magical moments on overseas holidays.  However some stand out in my memories more than others.  Carcassonne is a charming hilltop town in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of Southern France, surrounded by a medieval fortress.  We were a travelling party of 5 and had hired a car to take a road trip, driving from town to town.  We loved seeing the landscape of gently rolling hills and green countryside as we travelled.  As we were travelling in a car we were able to stop to pick poppies in a field which we had never seen growing wild before and take lots of photos and practice our French on the locals!

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We stayed in a little hotel just outside the city walls of Carcasonne and had a breath-taking view of the medieval town, which certainly seemed take on a magical quality as it lit up at dusk (see above).  Immediately we began talking about how this conjured up romanticised visions of princesses and knights, and of the medieval citizens scurrying behind the safety of the city walls and closing the gates to protect the town…

It was a chilly, grey and drizzly evening, but already enchanted by this charming town, we were completely un-deterred and we put on our winter coats. armed ourselves with umbrellas and set off walking into the town.  The town shops were still open, but the wet cobblestone streets were empty and there were no other tourists to be seen.  It was as if we had the town to ourselves.  We ducked into a cosily lit sweet shop and spent a happy 20 minutes marvelling over the variety of and selecting some to sample before braving the rain again.

carcassone4carcassonne5carcassone7

 

We wandered around, and came across, among other sights, a square, a beautiful church with stained glass windows lit up by candles,   a well, and a poster exalting the local dish, Cassoulet!

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By now the light was fading and we looked for somewhere to have dinner.  We were welcomed by the owner of a charming country pub and climbed the stone stairs to the restaurant on the upper floor.  The room was delightfully warm and lit by candles and a crackling fire.  The waiter was hospitable, charming and of course knowledgeable about wine.  We did order the famed cassoulet, a provincial dish of duck leg, sausage and haricot beans cooked in a clay pot.  The warm and hearty meal was the perfect end to a magical fairy tale of a day.

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1. How to Make New Year (or Any-Time-Of-Year) Dreams and Resolutions that Really Happen

By January 3, 2016 Festivity and celebrations, Making Dreams Come True, Organsation and Planning

I like to categorise my dreams and resolutions/goals into different aspects of life such as those listed here. You will probably want to modify this list based on what you want to work on this year.

Categories for Dreams and Resolutions

  1. Family/relationships
  2. Work/career
  3. Home
  4. Fitness and health
  5. Helping others
  6. Hobbies/interests/other pursuits
  7. Self development/improvement
  8. Enjoying life
  9. Style/image

Try this!

  1. Review last years accomplishments                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If you wrote down resolutions or goals last year, get them out and check off what you have accomplished. Even if you didn’t formally write down anything down last year, you can still think of all the things you accomplished. Congratulate yourself on the goals you have seen through. For the ones you haven’t, don’t beat yourself up –instead reassess whether you still want to achieve them. If so, put them back on the list for this year and make up your mind to refine or adapt your plan to achieving them.
  2. Dream big, for the long term                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Go ahead and write down for each category, anything you would ideally like to achieve in your lifetime. Don’t be afraid to DREAM REALLY BIG, and write down your heart’s desire. You don’t need to share this with anyone else, but be honest with yourself. Write down as many dreams as you like for each category.
  3. Refine your list to goals really worth fighting for                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Success in anything generally requires hard work and often a certain degree of risk.   The risk of efforts and other resources and sacrifices not paying off. Some dreams are merely whimsical, for example in a fantasy alternate universe I might like to be a foreign diplomat, opera singer or Hollywood actress. However when it comes down to it I just don’t have the passion to seriously pursue any of these things. So dig deep and decide which dreams you are really passionate about. The ones you don’t mind working long and hard for and really committing to.

This is my first post in the Make-Your-Dreams-Come-True series.   I like to sleep on a list like this, and let thoughts and ideas randomly run through my mind for a few days before writing a more specific plan of how to achieve these goals.

So, see you here tomorrow for something different, a special post to kick off the New Year about how to inject magic, sparkle and wonderment into everyday life.  We’ll come back to our lists of dreams and resolutions to make a game plan to make them happen in a later post!

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New Year Reflections

By January 3, 2016 Festivity and celebrations, Recipes
chicbalance.com

I love New Year! It’s a great time to look forward to the next year as a fresh new start, a chance to take stock of last years accomplishments, tie up loose ends and set new goals.  I like to do this as actively and specifically as possible (as will described in the next post!).  It’s a time to tidy and organise before diving into work and other projects with new vigor.

A big festive party with a crowd count-down can be fun.  But equally enjoyable might be a small intimate dinner party or a quiet night in, watching a festive New Year movie (Bridget Jones is one of my favourites) and making New Years resolutions over some champagne. Another one of my favourite ways to celebrate New Year is a to pack some hot chocolate and snacks and have a romantic night out watching fireworks on a picnic blanket,

New Year falls during summer here in new Zealand, so New Year celebrations also often feature a visit to the beach. One of my favourite New Year recipies are Sand Dollar Cookies.  They are light and sandy in texture and so feel very summery! The recipe, posted by Susan S on the “Diamonds for Dessert” is based on a Chinese New Year cookie recipe. http://www.diamondsfordessert.com/2011/06/sand-dollar-cookies.html

I like to whip up a batch early in the morning while listening to Christmas music to get in the spirit for a day of New Year fun in the sun.

What season is it where you are and what local events and resources can you use to create your own new and special traditions?

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