Pomalo...

...the waiter says as I walk into the local cafe, perspiring with existential dread, gesticulating wildly.  'Ugh' - I sigh - 'missed the ferry 'cause I can't find my wallet , so worried about my meeting now! '  - eyes darting everywhere, I realise I must look a madwoman fresh out of an asylum. ' Pomalo' - he says again, calmly:  'nothing changes if you stress, you will only ruin your health. Here in Dalmatia we say Pomalo ( a little bit, slowly ) because things aren't done well or enjoyed if we rush them. Let's think from the beginning whilst we order you a nice, cold , pressed orange juice". 

Two minutes after retrieving my wallet from the shop where I left it , I get a call informing me that my meeting in Split, 2.5 hours away by ferry had been postponed for two weeks due to unforeseen circumstances. I let out a sigh of relief at missing the boat and with it a pointless 5 hour round trip to the mainland and back.  'Pomalo' - I think to myself - 'Perhaps everything is unfolding in it's perfect time just the way it's meant to. Perhaps even the misses are divine?'

The next day, I scoot to Pritiština beach , 45 minutes drive away up the wretched unfenced serpentine above the old town where salty breezes sway pine and wild rosemary hanging onto rocky outcrops with panoramic views toward Hvar, then over to the other side, into the calm of the green heart of the island ; all sun drenched vineyards and neat olive groves, pheasants and rabbits scuttling in ripe chokeberry bushes, centuries old stone houses, some in ruins , still standing attention by the roadside and then finally; a bumpy, scary unsealed trail going down, down, down, down to sapphire water coming out of the mouth of a quiet beach at the end of a conifer lined inlet.

From here it's a climb up a sheer cliffside to a narrow goat track , weaving perilously in single foot width high above turquoise waters below, then a ramble down an escarpment where I nearly fall when a stone I hold onto dislodges , muscles shaking with adrenaline as I reach the bottom, strip nude and jump hot into the cool of the sea , diving long for refreshment then paddling lazily for 10 minutes until I reach my final destination; a tiny gem of a white pebbled beach hidden behind an outwardly jagged rock face, a sanctuary where walls loom smooth and curved like the inside of a shell, sanctum worthy of a mermaid kingdom. I frolic here with no living soul around me, forgetting the cut on my hand and the difficulty of the journey - ' Pomalo' - I exclaim loudly with joy as echo multiplies my voice over a summer symphony of crickets.

On the swim back to where I left my things I reflect on how my world hasn't been anywhere near as languid as this the last 4 years. As soon as I'd completed a year's worth of therapy after violence of domestic abuse at the hands of my ex fiancee rendered me incapable of being present in my body due to PTSD, just as I'd started getting into a semblance of life free from rolling panic attacks , the pandemic hit in all it's fear and 'new normal' slogans putting my nervous system straight back on high alert. Same as I'd not anticipated I'd walk over coals of grief from a split with the father of my child,  just to enter a relationship with a man who justifies strangling women, so I couldn't perceive the upheaval a single pathogen would bring to the course of my life. Somehow though, in the fray of chaos and soul testing, I found even deeper layers of my history,  healing and truth.

This blog sat abandoned and largely disused these last 3 years because I believed I could communicate to you solely on social media but lately I've grown tired of self censoring under increasingly narrowing community standards across major social networks. M-E-L will remain a hub for recipes and health tips , fashion, opinion and experiences , but now there's also a new entry in the side menu titled Empirical which leads to my page on Substack,  a free speech platform that promised not to censor is going to be the host of my edgier essays.

M-E-L is extremely excited to announce we now have a resident astrologist and mythologist in the amazing Pippa Kate who is going to present her advice on what the stars have in store for us each month.  Pippa blends astrology and mythology as a means of understanding this physical manifestation from our personalities through to our relationships , careers and key lessons on our paths. Learn more at ww.pippa-kate.com

Last but not least, I want to thank my friends over at Kore Digital for making my blog look and run like a million bucks - you guys rule!

There is other new exciting developments to be launched soon, so stay tuned.

Until then ; pomalo, and welcome friends.

xT

wearing a dress from SoleilLuna

 

Tanja Gacic semi naked in nature
Understanding of my own body changed a whole bunch over last decades, so much so that I find it hard to comprehend some of my previous thinking patterns, no matter how sanctioned they were/are by the health and wellness industry. People often ask me to share my tips on staying slim yet I don’t know what to say because I don’t have a regiment, at least not in a traditional sense of the word - all I can share with you is the road that led me to my current mindset, including the many traps I got stuck in along the way.

Perhaps stereotypically for a girl, I spent most of my teens and twenties picking myself apart. Without the meta cognition of understanding why I was so obsessed with my “imperfections” aka, anything that differed from the images in magazines, I just never felt good enough. It didn’t start off like this - I was a skinny tomboy that no boy looked at like that, always on the go, with a big appetite and zero self-awareness of body having an aesthetic appraisal benchmark – my flesh was just this instrument that ran, dug for worms and climbed trees – a vessel which I’d push to its limits, revelling in breaking important personal records such as - how far can I jump off the swing when it’s at its highest point? -  of which I was the neighbourhood record holder. It was the 80/90s, the last vestige of that blissful era when mums yelled out: “come home before dark! “as kids skipped outdoors to roam uncontactable and wild. Meanwhile at home, my beautiful curvy mum would occasionally sigh: “I’m so fat, I must go on a diet” - before embarking on a miserly 7-day intake of only apples one day, carrots the next then cucumbers and so forth. Watching her starve herself whilst I munched on crispy pork rind, I wondered when the terrible curse of needing to worry about what I eat was going to strike me too.

The move to New Zealand from Croatia at the tail end of my 14th year, left me with crippling depression as I pined for my first love left behind in the old country, drowning my tears in a family sized tub of ice cream every day, stacking on 12 kgs. in the process. The truth, as it turned out, wasn’t that my metabolism was miraculously fast, but that eating huge amounts of sugar whilst huddled in blankets E.T style piled kilograms on me just like most humans’ bodies naturally do. Here is where my sojourn into nutrition, dieting and body shame starts. As an avid reader of Girlfriend and Dolly magazines, as well as more adult ones like Cosmopolitan, I started getting my dietary advice from their resident dieticians, whose opinions from today’s perspective leave much to be desired. It wasn’t the magazines’ fault per say, the scientific world, paid off by the sugar industry, had gone insane demonizing fats in the 90s so I bought low fat everything, cut out meat and dairy fat and joylessly nixed dressing on my salad.

Man, looking back at those days I cringe at myself – feeling extremely sure I was so much more science based in my newfangled food education, I would turn my nose up at delicious slow cooked lamb and veggie stew mum made, and instead cook myself a pasta with tomato paste, low fat processed cheese and preservative loaded low fat ham, when in reality, the fresh meat and veggies combined with bone broth was a much healthier and nourishing choice. At least I took up focused exercise after not moving my body at all for months and running 5 km every day like a determined female version of Rocky Balboa I imagined myself to be paid dividends; three months later, I fit into my old clothes again.

The joy of triumph was short lived – this was only the beginning of the War On My Body. If that conflict had a game plan, it would’ve carried a banner saying: “You Will Never Be Good Enough, Ever”. Strictly a losing play of course, but I didn’t know that at the time – besides, my body was back to a size 8-10 and all my clothes fit again. I was a winner, a person able to discipline myself and produce results I desired – and boy is there something very addictive about that feeling. Through today’s lens I see a young girl tight fisting perfectionism and an overidentification with the external to cope with all the undealt trauma she refused to acknowledge and didn’t know how to unpack. Back then though, it seemed that if I could just focus on this one small part of my life I could control, everything else would feel manageable too.

One year later, after being scouted by a modelling agent in a shoe store in Auckland, New Zealand, the War on My Body intensified even more. Now, size 8-10 was “too large” and people wanted me to lose even more weight. The thing was, I was already eating a low-fat diet and exercising every day – to get down to a size 6 I would actively need to starve myself. So, I tried not eating but kept failing and feeling guilty – I suppose the Balkan in me isn’t able to pick a career over food or get so excited over fashion that I forget about steak. In retrospect, thank goodness for that programming, because without it, I could’ve really damaged my reproductive system like a lot of young models back in the era of “heroin chic look” did. This dark underbelly of modelling became apparent when I started travelling internationally for work - arriving into places like London and New York, I was put into agency provided shared accommodation for international models and the things I saw there made me want to leave those apartments as swiftly as I could. Often there would be remnants of vomit in the toilet bowl because girls were bulimic, one of them tried to teach me how to eat cotton buds to lose weight, another boasted about not eating for 5 days straight, her calves as skinny as my arms, spine painfully protruding, so tiny she looked as if a gust of wind would send her flying into the air. Some couldn’t remember when they last had their periods but still managed to do 14 castings and an exercise session on 1000 calories per day. Gym bros have nothing on desperate young models – I've never seen such gritty determination and dedicated self-denial. These qualities I'd found so inspiring and motivating in losing my ice cream weight all of a sudden looked extremist, harmful and insane. I promised myself that I would never become like that.

Dreading the days when the agency made me go in for a tape measure – a way to see if my body was still sized 34”-24”-34” as stated on my modelling card, I would eat a miserly salad the day before, in a deluded hope that one day of dieting would undo the previous week of relatively normal eating. Getting older meant my narrow child pelvis widened into woman’s hips– now it was really impossible to keep my old measurements - often the unforgiving tape found my hips to be 36” or even 37” inches around. Of course, this is still darn tiny but in the runway world back then, it wasn’t good enough. My agent would tell me to get a gym membership and do that on top of my running regime, but I couldn’t be bothered- it wasn’t that I was lazy, I was already jogging 6kms and walking to all my castings, often raking 15-25 kilometers worth of steps in one day. I didn’t find emaciation in any way appealing, not as an action or as a look – I grew up on early 90s supermodels and loved how strong they looked in comparison to the new breed of early '00s model. Deep down I wanted to be more voluptuous than thin, even though my body shape was less hourglass than rake.

Subconsciously I felt this was my hips at my tiniest healthy weight, yet still berated myself- swapping my normal muesli, fruit and yoghurt breakfast for a can of Slim Fast and a Parliament cigarette, or a ham and cheese salad sandwich lunch for a bagel with low fat cream cheese. Thank goodness my Greek Australian boyfriend at the time often cooked dinner, completely ignoring my no fat fad or I would have suffered malnutrition. Misguidedly swapping real food for empty calories, I relied on artificial vitamins to fill the gaps in my diet, then suffered painful, long periods, cyst pimples around my jaw and candida infections as a punishment for my work hard, play hard lifestyle on a crappy low-fat diet full of preservatives, empty additives and hidden sugars. Basically, just a clueless kid making money and having fun, usually down at the Twilo super club dancing the weekends away to house music and drum ‘n bass in the throes of ecstasy.

Admittedly, I wasn’t very nice to my body back then; I spoke to it awfully, always picking faults, expected it to be ok with a whole bunch of stupid behavior, lack of sleep, toxins and overexertion, generally driving myself into the ground without listening to any messages it was sending. In reality, I wasn’t really tuned into myself, constantly rushing, obsessed with how I looked, my livelihood relying on others’ perceptions of my face and body.

One day, walking down 8th street, I entered a crystal shop to browse for a new nightstand friend and found books that outlined natural, food-based ways of curing many diseases and ailments. Curious, I started taking stock of registering how certain foods felt in my body, making sure I was mostly eating the sort of sustenance that would encourage healing, avoiding vices such as sugary cocktails, “white death” bread or processed sweets. Then, my boyfriend developed a skin condition and, in my quest to help him, I visited health food shop naturopaths for advice and started buying all sorts of herbs I never even knew existed. The Universe clearly thought I was ready to learn some stuff about these wonderful meat suits we all wear because all of a sudden information bombarded me from every direction. They say when the student is ready, the teacher appears and boy was that right in my case. Once curious about a topic, I tend to become obsessive, yet it still took decades of learning and unlearning to get where I am today.

Fast forward 6 years and I’m pregnant, standing in my obstetrician’s office getting tested for gestational diabetes because I put on 30 kgs. It wasn’t that I ate a crazy amount of food or ate badly and yet my body just kept stacking weight on. By this point, I was hooked on learning about a new and exciting emerging field of medicine called the microbiome and its interconnectedness with our mental and physical wellbeing, often experimenting with fermented foods as a part of my diet. Books such as Gut and Psychiatry Syndrome and Weston Price’s Natural Traditions led me deeper into appreciating properly prepared nutrients and food grown without pesticides and GMOs.

Turns out I didn’t get diabetes but I did develop a bit of a delusion when it came to the perception of my body, amusingly in an opposite direction of anorexia. Once I gave birth, I felt like I had magically sprung back into shape within a month so I went shopping for new jeans. The shop keeper asked me what size I was and I said – “Well, I’m not sure, perhaps 2 sizes bigger than I used to be, maybe a size 12?”.  She looked at me as if I was mad and brought out a size 16 – “I think these are more your fit” she said, leaving me in the changeroom jaw dropped, eyes swelling with tears. Turned out I had only lost 10kgs when I gave birth and now here was all this other weight just hanging around.

I was determined to embody my female Rocky Balboa avatar again but things weren’t so easy this time – my baby had terrible colic, only slept 45-minute naps day and night and needed to be held to sleep around the clock. I was a walking mess, a tired, wired, emotional mess with no time to shower, let alone exercise. It wasn’t until a year later, when my daughter weaned off the boob and started sleeping through the night that I felt I had energy to spare for myself. Whilst over that year, 8 kgs. melted through breastfeeding and baby rocking, another 12 hung around so my partner, at my request, gifted me a personal trainer for my birthday. Her regime stated one was to wake up in the morning and immediately have 2 large glasses of water with lemon, along with an espresso, then walk to the gym for 25 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weight lifting, followed by a 5-minute stretch twice per week for 6 weeks. No carbs or starchy vegetables were allowed after midday, food had to be fresh, protein had to be palm sized and I wasn’t to look at sugar apart from 80 or 90 % dark chocolate or low sugar fruit such as strawberries as a treat practiced in extreme moderation. On some of the other days I wasn’t training with her, I’d go for a 30-60 walk instead. Miraculously, by the end of that month, I had lost 10 kgs whilst eating balanced, nutritionally rich meals. I would like to say that it was just hard work and dedication but frankly, it was also finally sleeping and feeling settled as a mother and human, stepping into my own power again after the chrysalis of infanthood.

In the years that followed I became obsessed with Pilates, which I did twice per week, reveling in the range of movement and isolation of individual muscles I was never aware of before, then discovered Power Plate training , whose short sessions and quick muscle gain gave me a rush. Reading a book by Louise L Hay called “You Can Heal Your Life” introduced a radical idea that our emotions and thought patterns directly influence our health and wellbeing into my consciousness. Mirror work and affirmations felt so uncomfortable and weird to do at first – I had an aversion to saying nice things to myself because after years of putting myself down, the words felt phony. Yet, the more I persisted in doing this work, the more something started expanding and healing inside me, bringing ever more compassion and love into all my abandoned parts, cracking me open to a new perception grounded in self-acceptance.

Life was good, I could eat in an 80/20 fashion, exercise 2-3 times per week and be healthy and happy.

6 years later, everything changed when the relationship with the father of my child began unravelling.  Crohns disease symptoms I’d never had before flared up- suddenly in pain, losing weight and having major intestinal issues, I wondered if it was all somehow related to the stress I was experiencing. Doctors said I’d most likely need to just live with this now, recommending corticosteroids, but I refused to accept this as my new life.

In hindsight, attempting to resolve my health at this time became the second springboard into learning more about this flesh suit , deepening my appreciation for the wisdom of nature. Naturopaths, diagnostic tests and kinesiologist visits found my body was reacting to gluten, dairy, and empty sugar, even in small amounts plus I had low adrenal function and an impaired thyroid alongside my autoimmune disease. On the inside, my body was falling apart, but on the outside, I was skinnier than ever and getting amazing compliments in the fashion industry : “Oh My God! You look FABULOUS! So tiny! What’s your secret? “– people would say as I wished my gut would stop hurting , notwithstanding my disappearing butt.

I had to become a lot more disciplined about what I put inside me– before, I’d rarely worry about gluten, now, avoiding it was more a matter of choosing comfort over pain. Reading ingredients in an obsessive manner, learning about fillers and sneaky toxins, I started putting together a plausible puzzle of how my body could be overreacting to my lifestyle choices and sending assassins to attack itself.

Even though I was told no one knew why my body turned on me, I couldn’t accept it was inherently unintelligent, instead, it seemed to me too many bombs were going off on too many fronts and it was exhausted, trying to cope the best it could. Through my decade long research into the microbiome up to that point, it was clear to me that something was going on with my gut flora so I started suspecting that even something previously innocuous such as citric acid derived from GMO black mold could act as an allergen and set my recovery back.

People often laugh at humans serious about their health to the point they become nitpicky about ingredients, but it’s often those same teasers that are so disconnected from their body that they refuse to heed its signals, choosing instead numerous synthetic medications with many inconvenient side effects to treat lifestyle preventable disease. Reinventing everything about my life was hard , I’m not going to lie, but it did work –no more whipping the dead horse with coffee and wine, now I was hawkishly watching every ingredient I put in my mouth, parasite cleansing with strong herbs followed by probiotics, smoothies and juices, frequent naps, deep meditation sessions, affirmations, healing binaural beats, gentle walking, yoga and breathing exercises. Some months later, pain in my gut stopped and that satisfaction I once got from keeping myself a certain weight returned, this time, as relief for the healing miracle I was blessed with due to my vigilance and purity.

Soon after, I met a new man and fell in love with him quickly, missing the many red flags he waved, too hypnotized by the sweet words he spoke to see the lack of his actions. Turned out years down the line he was emotionally and physically abusive, but I still kept seeing the world through rose coloured glasses ,hoping things would go back to how they were in the honeymoon stage . During the relationship, my body would often send me signs in the form of illness, such as a really bad kidney infection, pain, depression or anxiety and hormonal fluctuations but I would gaslight myself into thinking I just needed to eat better and take more vitamins because that had worked so well before.

I suppose I couldn’t admit or see that the person who was deepening my beliefs of being defective, causing me to walk on eggshells and live in a perpetual fear of being abandoned was abusing me.  After that realization finally dawned on me and the spell was broken, I spent years learning about how the emotional body influences the physical launching me into therapy and plant medicine journeys, releasing built up trauma, purging what felt like generations of programs and beliefs from my DNA. This material self  that used to seem all encompassing, solid and important became only a small part of me that needed nourishing - after all we’re actually made of 99. 999999.. % energy. Joe Dispenza’s work further refined the hunch that we exist as a blueprint on an energy plane to which the material body effortlessly synchs to when in harmony with all parts of itself, leading to profound healing.

When someone asks me how I stay skinny now, it seems like an oxymoron because regaining physical and mental health has been so hard won for me that being thin will never be my goal again. This skin suit naturally fluctuates a size up or down and when it does, I don’t freak out anymore- I have jeans and clothes in both sizes and fluidly shift between the two as needed. Usually my body burns more calories in the cold and less in the warm and this naturally translates to craving richer foods in the winter than in the summer.

Intuitive eating didn’t come easy for me because I had mentally white knuckled control so hard in the past. Counting calories and programs like the 5/2 diet, with its extreme hunger on the “on” days only made me overeat on the “off” ones -I must be the only person who puts on weight following these sorts of plans. Simply put, the more I try to diet, the more miserably I fail - worrying about numbers leads to an increase in my naturally ADHD like obsessive tendencies, but once I notice myself becoming like this, I know I’m in the wrong place mentally. When I started trusting my body, I didn’t need to count kilojoules anymore because I could just tune into it's needs– this means I’ll have massive dinners with dessert out occasionally, but sometimes after eating rich food for a few days, I’ll take a day out to eat fruit, or gorge on fish tacos for a week, or have noodle soups for 3 days straight because that is what my body craves.

Saying that, I do eat clean, ( an instinct borne from feeling lousy for so long and learning what suits me through trial and error) and have strict rules around avoiding seed oils, chemicals, GMOs, hormone and antibiotic fed conventionally reared meat and processed food 99% of the time. I usually don’t eat breakfast because I am not hungry in the mornings, naturally fasting about 14 hours per day, but even this isn’t something I subject my body to every day, neither is it strict – I’ll drink a coconut matcha or a coffee with lashings of ghee most days before fasting time is up. Gluten is only ever a special treat, dairy I eat sparingly now and white sugar is never on the menu unless it’s an occasional artisanal gelato or dessert in a restaurant. I swap sugar for sulphur free dry fruits, honey or maple syrup and hardly ever eat things like muesli bars or trail mixes. My body is bad with nuts, cashews, soy and some grains, so I made a lousy vegan when I tried that type of eating, finally settling on a diet that is loosely branded paleo, but lately I’ve also been eating lots of beans, properly prepared by soaking overnight .

Antibiotics during an illness really messed up my gut and made me gain weight, apparently this is a technique used in fattening up cattle too, so after a round, sometimes it takes up to 2 years to start digesting foods as efficiently as I did before due to a lack of good bacteria needed to transform it into energy. Probiotics are hugely important for nutrient absorption, it’s estimated Western people on the whole hold a much-diminished microbiome than our African counterparts due to our diet of junk food and an overuse of antibiotics and chemicals in food and medicine.

When it comes to fast food, I haven’t had any big chain grub since about ’98. That doesn’t mean I never eat burgers, pizza or take out it’s just that I either make it at home or eat at smaller boutique places where I know ingredients are of better quality. I think a lot of people don’t realize how much preservatives, additives and antibiotics in our food influence our mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as keep us from achieving perfect health and sweet spot weight.

If there was one message I’d like to end this essay with it’s to worry less about counting calories and more about creating a sustainable lifestyle that nourishes your own optimum performance and energy levels. This is truly a different approach and journey for everyone due to the fact that our individual gut bacterial populations are as unique to us as our fingerprint, leading us all to respond to foods, stress and exertion differently.

You and I will not digest things in the same way, so many naturopaths advise we turn to our ancestral diet for answers since it may be the most digestible for our genetic make up – in my case, that would be lots of vegetables with small amounts of meat and lots of fermented foods and saturated fats in the mix . Saying that, if your sugar cravings are mad, perhaps upping your protein, magnesium intake or adapting a Candida diet approach or parasite cleanse for a little bit may actually resolve them. Should they persist, looking at where inside of us we need comfort, safety and sweetness may shine a light onto compulsive behaviors. Remember too that everything toxin free is healthy in moderation , that includes good sugars, which are a brain food.

My whole life people around me exalted the beauty of female form as existing only in parameters of small sizes but to me the most beautiful women have always been the ones that owned their bodies’ sensuality and strength, regardless of their shape– after all, if everyone looked the same, the world would be a boring place to live in. This society has taught us to torture ourselves in order to be deemed attractive by others instead of teaching us how to self validate whilst maintaining vibrant health and happiness. Choosing to be yourself instead of a clone in a world glorifying cookie cutter aesthetics is the ultimate middle finger to a system woefully unequipped to deal with multitudes encompassing who human beings truly are.

sustainable, fashion , ilio nema, bondi beach

sustainable fashion ilio nema

Some people come into our lives like magic. This was certainly the case with my friend Ariane Leondaridis. Tapped on the shoulder at a busy Bondi bar, I turned to see a gorgeous, tall, elfin woman with a huge smile saying hi - we got chatting and I suppose, never stopped. She’d just moved to Bronte’s sun kissed sands from New York with her family, leaving her post as Ulla Johnson’s head designer for a dream of providing her children a laid back Aussie childhood.

Coming from a Greek and French background , she has that infectious energy and loudness of Hellenic people coupled with Parisian refinement and a keen interest in culture. With a common passion for the arts and sustainability I spent many a night talking to Ariane about different mediums of artistic expression and ethical production. She is, I must add, annoyingly modest about her talents – I asked to see her live drawing class sketches once and she refused saying that they just weren’t very good yet . After much begging , she was made to relent and dear reader, the sketches were so brilliant , I asked to put one on my wall. When she said she wanted to get into making ceramics and sculptures, I got excited because I really need some for my house and I love her aesthetic. No matter how many mediums she dipped into and experimented with,  fashion wouldn't stop niggling in the back of her mind.

Fast forward nearly 3 years and Ariane is starting her own ethical, artesian label Ilio Nema with her old coworker from Ulla, Katia Kelso. The label’s name derives from the word Ilio, meaning Sun, or mythical sun god Helio riding across the sky in his chariot and Nema:  meaning thread under Athena’s weaving wisdom or a special tool central to Theseus’ safe return from the centre of the labyrinth.

Effortlessly bohemian with a tomboy edge, handcrafted, seasonless and authentically sustainable, the brand exudes principles of quality over quantity and understated luxury coupled with intricate details. It’s the sort of clothes one looks after for a lifetime then passes on–  as far away from fast fashion as possible. One garment sometimes takes days to make by hand by Moroccan weavers - a far cry from the churning machine of mass production.  In this world of rampant consumerism and mindless pollution , Ilio Nema stands with few other peers. Making a label sustainable is one thing, making it interesting and original is another.  
But, I'm not a model! - Ariane exclaimed when I demanded to shoot her in her own clothes. I think these photos prove, it's just another thing she is modest about.

sustainable fashion ilio nema Bondi Beach
sustainable fashion ilio nema
sustainable fashion ilio nema Sydney
sustainable fashion ilio nema Watsons bay
sustainable fashion ilio nema Vaucluse
sustainable fashion ilio nema rocks
sustainable fashion ilio nema


I am writing this story in the hopes of it in some small way helping anyone in need. One day a woman contacted me asking how my life is so perfect and how I do it all. She was a single mother of 2 struggling with a bad break up and the ensuing depression. It broke my heart that she thought that I had it all together because my Instagram perfect life conveyed a message that I was always well and happy. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. While I surely have a beautiful life, I don’t think any human on planet Earth is always happy and I don’t believe that they should be either. We are here in the world of duality to understand ourselves and grow. None of that can happen without the difficult emotions propelling realisations. Anyone who avoids the hard stuff isn’t growing or learning for if you cannot face these feelings, you cannot face yourself.

I had a happy childhood growing up in Croatia, then the federation of Yugoslavia, a country made up of many countries , that before being united formerly waged wars for centuries. I didn’t know this of course, all I knew was that people called each other brothers and sisters (social communism vibes), everyone seemed happy, had enough to eat and I was never scared. I felt loved and protected by my family. But one day when I was 10, a bloody war started that broke the country up and my previously wonderful life was turned on its head. On my first day of school that year, my history teacher; instead of calling me by my name; called me Serbian and made me stand up in front of the class . I found out that my partial Serbian heritage, even though my ancestors had lived in Croatia for centuries made me into a sudden enemy. Some people hated me overnight -my best friend became a bully. My father, a transcendental meditator with no interest in violence was hunted at night by a gang of paramilitary men who would burst into our house and empty cupboards looking for him, while my little sister hysterically clung to my mother. The men the mob found would end up floating in the river the next day so it was by no means an ideal situation. Thankfully my father had got a night job as a guard of a factory through a friend so he stayed there and was out of harms way. My mother would lie that my father had left us and wasn’t coming back. It took a while for the men to give up.

There were air raids, and visits to shelters where people would look down on me so much that I’d end up not going there at all when my parents were away, preferring to stay in the apartment. Once I saw bombs dropped on the presidential quarters while the large living room windows shook in front of me. After years of constant stress, my mother developed cancer. I remember preparing myself for her death and lying to my sister that everything would be ok while I picked her up from kindy on my push bike. Sometimes we had nothing to eat but stale bread and lard. Thankfully, my mum beat cancer and the NZ visa we applied for years ago was finally approved. Despite the intolerable conditions of the war, I didn’t want to leave. I was in love, desperately in love with the boy I lost my virginity to. But it was of course a non negotiable. I was barely 15, I couldn’t stay behind on my own.

I was so depressed, nothing in my life seemed worth living for. I decided to kill myself by stepping onto a busy highway. Cars screeched to a halt centimetres away, drivers swearing at me and getting out of cars. Next , I went to the top of a skyscraper, but just as I tried to jump, someone entered the rooftop and shouted me down. I gave up on that idea and accepted my fate and boy am I glad I did. Please never give up, you simply do not know what wonderful things are around the corner.

We got to NZ just before the school year finished. I spent the whole summer in such depressed sadness, eating 2 litre tubs of Neapoletan ice cream, crying in a dark room all day long, then school started. The uniform we bought before the summer was too small because I put on 12 kg ( all that ice cream had to go somewhere!). One day I went for a run but I wasn’t fit so I walked most of the way. But the next day I made myself go again. And then again. Every time, it was a little easier because now I was building new neuropathways in my brain. I quit the ice cream gorging reducing it back to treat food. It was hard getting used to schooling in English , uniforms, love letters that took 3 weeks to arrive and not having the independence I loved in my walkable hometown of Zagreb.

A couple of years later, I was “discovered” shopping for shoes and subsequently got a modelling contract in Australia. From here I moved overseas , living the life of a young girl making good money and boy did I live life at full blast. Modelling was at times confronting - sleazy photographers would try to get me back for test shoots before they’d give me jobs, then want to get in my pants- it was a fine edge of preserving their ego yet saying no and backing out of the situation . It would make me feel sad and violated but these were pre-Me Too times. My feelings didn’t matter and respect or consideration wasn’t high on the industry’s list back then. There were many awesome people and many weirdos- it was at times hard disconcerting who was which. Throw in a couple of abusive relationships, a sprinkling of loneliness, a hefty chunk of friendship betrayal and you have a recipe for a storm of epic proportions.

Why am I telling you all this incredibly oversharing stuff? Because you need to know my back story so you can see how my trauma fuelled my growth and gave me a perspective on healing. From my experience, depression and anxiety can be situational, biochemical, neurophysical or physical. I’ll explain more on this below.

DEVELOPING PERSPECTIVE AND GRATEFULNESS

By some extent , I had a hard life. By others, I was lucky. Just as much as it is easy to slip into my pain body and feel the extreme hurt of existing for the pain I went through , it is also easy (with practice) to slip into gratitude for all the ways I was lucky and entitled. After all, I am a cis gendered , white woman, who was lucky to be accepted by countries and escape war, then blessed again by being pretty enough to do modelling and travel the world. I was lucky enough to meet someone with whom I had a beautiful child. I have talents that I am proud of and willingness to develop them. I experienced love , gain and acceptance as much as I experienced pain, loss and alienation. When my thoughts start spinning out of control in negativity, I bring them back to all that I am appreciative of. It could be sunlight on a blade of grass or a cute kid skipping down the street. It could be a favourite memory or sensation. I repeat: thank you , in my mind, then find other things to be thankful for. This trains my mind to find beauty in the world. Human brain is inherently negatively biased- it was once an evolutionary survival advantage, but not any more. Training the brain to look for the good, changes it. I still work on this. Sometimes it’s hard. Persistence is key because you are literally constantly making new neuropathways and the more they are used the more they become neurohighways so new ways of thinking feel more normal.

I know that there are many people who have much less than me. Who experienced worse. I know that for some people not taking medication is tantamount to suicide. This is not a post that tells people what they should or shouldn’t do. Everyone is different, everyone who is trying to live with this is doing their absolute best and there are many ways to healing. I am not advocating for one over the other. I am merely talking about what I learnt and what worked for me personally. I am not a medical practitioner. None of this is medical advice. This is only my experiences, put down in writing for you to hopefully gain something from.

MINDFULNESS

What I have found with depression and anxiety is that it is important to really feel our feelings without trying to escape them, numb them, explain them away, construct a story on why they are there or piece together reasons for them. Often times, things that happen to us are not the reason for the feelings, they are just triggers pointing to the past. It is important to give those feelings the respect of just sitting there and feeling whatever comes up, breathing deeply and not escaping. Even though it feels so intense and so unbearable that you want to jump out of your skin, sit through the feelings while creating the space to just be. Do not think. Just feel. Once these feelings have been given the respect they deserve, they will dissipate slowly. Thinking about why this is happening just activates the worry and fear centres of the brain and spirals the mind more out of control. Try to just feel it and trust that everything will be ok.

MEDITATION:

There is no way around this. Trust me. I have laughed at my father when he used to do it. I have avoided it and tried to think my way around it ( I am a huge over thinker and rely on logic and knowledge to solve everything). In this amazing book called The Emotional Life Of The Brain, a neuroscientist proves that the brain changes and heals through meditation. Meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand. If you are serious about recovery, you should be serious about meditation because it holds the power to change your life. Start easy and short and slowly build up. Whenever my life is difficult now, I really look forward to my practice. It is like coming home to myself.

An important part of meditation is developing the Observer. The Observer is the real you, the deep, inner core, your soul or spirit as some may say. Everything else is the mind and the mind is like an over excited monkey. It flits about and thinks about silly stuff, chattering away incessantly. You must find a way to separate the monkey mind from the real you. You are not your thoughts, you are the Observer. When you develop the Observer, the real growth begins for then you know where to come back to and who you really are - you are no longer ruled by unconscious thought patterns. This is how we develop consciousness - when we can notice our thoughts, without attaching to them, we can start to question them and then actively change them. We can dissociate from them and understand that we are not them- this is where the real work begins.

TRAUMA AND SCHEMA

This was a big one for me. I went through my life just getting on for decades. One foot in front of the other, constantly on the move. When I’d feel down, I would just pick myself up and get on. A wine with friends, overwork, busyness, overexercise, over socialising, my old friends ice cream and chocolate, binge watching tv, really, anything to get myself out of my own mind and heart. It worked, but always temporarily. There would be an inner emptiness that didn’t get solved and yet, I would just keep going. It was a full time job. No matter what happened to me, I would just get on, until one day, this boy I really loved spectacularly broke my heart in a horrible way. All of a sudden, all the traumas I had up until this point did what traumas do and compacted into something so large that I couldn’t keep going anymore. I just couldn’t because I felt so lost. I had to stop and reflect. I had to understand my past. I had to work through it in a meaningful way without running away. I had to finally face everything that happened and heal it. This led me to therapy. I did cognitive therapy, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, really, I did my best trying all the therapies. I read lots of books. I took on vast amounts of information on a daily basis , obsessively ( that overthinking thing). Understanding the concept of trauma made me comprehend how it works hand in hand with schema.

There are many types of trauma; like sexual assault, child maltreatment ( emotional, physical, sexual, neglect ), domestic violence, war related trauma, school violence or community violence, medical trauma , traumatic loss or natural disasters. There is acute trauma, repetitive trauma, complex trauma, developmental trauma, vicarious trauma, historical or intergenerational trauma ( Aboriginal people and other native people are affected by this) As you can see, traumas are a big part of living a human experience ( take the trauma test here )

A trauma makes us develop schemas to cope with living. Schemas are supposed to keep us safe from harm- the brain is a computer and schemas are malware protectors . Except, they often become malware instead, like a program way past it's use by date, forcing the computer to make miscalculations. A schema is something we all have though. It is a blueprint and a shortcut your brain takes in deciding the reality of a situation. Say once, when you were young , you got bitten by a dog quite badly. Your brain would’ve remembered this trauma vividly and stored it away in a special place. Now, as an adult, you are fearful of dogs because your brain no longer takes 20 steps in determining if a dog is friendly or not- it automatically goes from A-Z and decides that this is a really scary situation for you - even if the dog in front of you is just a little puppy that means you no harm. Schemas do this with everything and everyone. They aren’t dependent on reality and are usually developed in childhood or adolescence but can form in adulthood as well. They can be good or bad but mostly they are an obstacle to living your life fully and freely. They make us feel any or all of these things: abandoned, unstable, mistrusting, abused, emotionally deprived, defective, shameful, isolated, alienated, dependant, incompetent, vulnerable to harm or illness, enmeshed, a failure, entitled, grandiose, without self control, self discipline, subjugated, self sacrificing, approval seeking, negative, pessimistic, emotionally or physically inhibited, unrelenting high standards for oneself or others, hypercritical or punitive. Shemas can ruin our life because they run in the background like a silent assassin whispering untrue things into our ear that make us think and feel things we react to without even being aware that they exist. If we don’t find a way to understand how they work, why they’re there and how we are perpetuating them with our thinking, feeling and reacting , they will find a way to sabotage everything we hold dear. Shemas are especially rife in ruining relationships and opportunities, the kinda enemy we think is our friend-  a frenemy sabotaging us from the inside. If we don’t heal our trauma and understand our schema, we cannot truly be conscious or have an open heart. It is a big undertaking, but every time one person heals their trauma they help to make a better world for everyone around them. Which leads me to…

RELATIONSHIPS

Relationships are a really big and important part of our lives because we are human beings and need connection to thrive. I never understood that relationships can be purely unconscious and run on interpersonal shemas before I did work on myself. We all want to be loved and understood yet our schemas can sabotage and ruin this for ourselves and others. I had a few relationships where schemas were a big and ugly part and it was impossible to have a genuine connection for very long. I thought these people were assholes because it seemed that they would sabotage the relationship or themselves just as things were good. They would say or do nasty things, have unhealthy alcohol or drug dependencies, blame, attack, be abusive and mean, insult, character assassinate, demean and devalue . It seemed that they could never get past a certain point of intimacy. Then I learned the real truth.

Some people have genuinely had beautiful childhoods and lives without complex issues and they have grown up with supportive mental frameworks that allow them to have healthy relationships. For the rest of us, we weren’t so lucky. If we do not take the time to understand ourselves better we will become unconscious about our interactions and blind to the realities we keep choosing again and again in perpetuity.

BPD or Borderline Personality Disorder ( and other cluster B personality disorders like narcissism ) was coined back in the day when people didn’t really know what it was, but they could see it in action. In fact, BPD is an emotional disregulation disorder involving an atrophied amygdala and other damaged brain seats. Amygdala is a centre of the fight, flight, or freeze mechanisms. Because the amygdala is damaged and thus oversensitive, people with BPD have a lot of schemas to keep them safe. They are subconsciously constantly on the lookout for threat and danger. Somewhere in their early childhood, just as their sense of self was being developed, they felt betrayed , usually by the mother and the brain created a complex system of safe keeping where intimacy was something to be feared and avoided, yet needed and wanted. This led to a push pull emotional world in which schemas run the show and keep the human being out of harms way of intimacy by insidious sabotage. Because amygdala can be all different sizes, no BPD person is the same or reacts quite the same.

Everyone can go through periods of displaying BPD functioning, especially under extreme stress, and Lord knows I’ve been there at times, but true BPD will make the sufferer completely unconscious to the mind virus that had infected it. The trauma was so large that schemas run the show in such a way that the sufferers have dissociated themselves from a whole side of their personality. They have disowned their negative side and projected it onto others. This is at the crux of the saying: everything negative that you notice in others, you should first seek to see in yourself. BPD sufferers literally cannot see the damage they are causing or how they contribute to their own misery. They think that their problems lie in the outside world and yet, their problems are mostly started by them. They have an issue with constructive criticism, difficult emotions, and feeling too close or intimate yet they crave love and affection. I had this boyfriend once who told me that he hated buying clothes and only wore clothes that were given to him so I bought him a big package of clothes in his own style as a gift because he was sorely in need of them. This prompted him to attack me and blame me for being controlling and mean to him. Innocuous acts of love on my part that a normal human being would find amazing would trigger his terrible schemas into passive aggression, impulsive verbal attacks, withholding, and finally physical abuse.

There was nothing I could do that would make him feel happy and loved because his schemas had already decided that being intimate with me wasn’t safe so he would destroy before he could be destroyed. Of course, he had no idea he was doing this. It was misery causing for everyone because I was in a relationship in which my needs weren’t being met at all, in fact, I was selfish if I had tried to coax him into fulfilling them. Whatever I did was wrong, and he was always a victim. People like this will blame anything on you, even when it is clearly their fault. They will feel feelings purely because of their core wounds and think that what they are feeling is facts and then manufacture thoughts that support these feelings. Rearranging facts into something that supports their inner world view, one completely skewed by their schema would always make them into a victim, no matter what really happened and what they did. They don’t do this because they are bad people, and I think that was the crux of my realisations. We live in a world of duality and nothing and no one is all black or all white. There is just endless shades of grey and unlimited combinations of trauma. But BPD and other Cluster B issues aren't a mental illness, it’s a personality disorder and it can be treatable with mindfulness, meditation, radical personal responsibility, trauma and DBT therapy. Not treating these issues perpetuates misery for everyone involved - often times these people are deeply depressed and make everyone around them feel the same way through mean behaviours.

I wasn’t healthy either. Through therapy I found my childhood made me into a caretaker of my family’s feelings and needs through a difficult time, learnt to subjugate my own needs ,put others ahead of me and I developed a lack of healthy boundaries. I would care take other people at the expense of my own needs and this made me into someone with co-dependent tendencies and a desire to rescue people at my own detriment. I would stay in unhealthy relationships for way too long, hoping that somehow, through love and patience I could change people and situations. I was wishing and hoping and not looking at the reality. In my misguided determination to save others I was avoiding saving myself, getting frustrated, angry, anxious and depressed that all my efforts weren’t working. Both sides of this dance are extremely unhealthy and misery causing for everyone. In fact, a healthy adult relationship with a partner, friend or anyone should be dependant on respect, a right to clear communication, healthy boundaries, productive conflict, considerate language, reciprocating attention to needs and conscious growth.

By being a caretaker and enabler of someone else’s lack of consciousness without looking after myself, I was stopping them and myself from growing into bigger people. Sometimes letting go is scary and seems mean and unloving. However, just like truth, it will set us free. If growth is not happening in any relationship you are in and the conscious connection isn’t being maintained and actively worked on by both humans - it truly is necessary to undergo counselling to see where you are stuck and why you need to maintain this relationship that causes so much pain. It may feel scary to be on your own, but it is so much more scary to turn around at the end of your life and realise that you wasted a great big chunk of it sleepwalking without true connection or happiness.

PHYSICAL

I started noticing early in life that certain foods made me feel a certain way. Alcohol would sometimes make me feel depressed. Gluten made my skin break out and days later I would feel down. Sugar made me high, then really low. Processed foods made me sluggish. Too much meat would shut down my digestion. Low quality protein would make me feel unsatisfied. I started playing around with different combinations of foods and learning more about nutrition. Then I found out about the gut/brain axis. Around 90% of neurotransmitters are made in the gut. That means that the building blocks of your brain are made in your intestine. What logically follows is that whatever you put into your mouth will directly influence your brain. Not to mention good vs bad bacteria balance is constantly in flux. A lot of bacterial populations double every 20 minutes so the body is constantly under a different balance. If we keep treating our body like a junk yard and feeding it with unhealthy foods, sugar, drugs or alcohol, our bacterial populations will go out of balance and gut dysbiosis will form. Dysbiosis is when the intestine is so disregulated by bad bacteria and an overgrowth of candida that cracks and holes form which then let undigested food and toxin byproducts straight into the bloodstream leading to inflammation of the brain and other body parts.

Check your MTHFR gene mutation with a blood test- if you have this very common mutation ( and 1 in 2 people do have it ), it opens the door to a wide gamut of disease like mental illness and even cancer but can be managed with diet and supplements.

A lack of certain nutrients such as vitamin Bs, vitamin D, fatty acids etc can also make us feel down and strung out. Yep, anxiety and depression can be purely physiological so choose intentionally or risk your own peril. Make sure you exercise every day in one way or another. Even a half hour walk is so great for the spirit, mind and body and sweating is a bonus! It can be so hard to move the body when all we want to do is be curled in a ball, weeping but I swear, it will make things better.

SPIRITUAL

Sometimes our disconnect in the modern world can lead to feelings of hopelessness and sadness. I find that developing a spiritual practice is so important. Whilst I am not religious, I did develop my own spiritual connection to the Universe when I was around 18 , after noticing a void and seeking to fill it with something other than superficial trappings. I think that any religion and spiritual practice is wonderful if it makes us feel connected to ourselves and other humans without judgement, fear or hatred. Generally most religion was based exactly on these negative things, as a way to control the way people live, so take away anything that makes us feel bad and leave the essence of loving, all pervasive energy. Whether God, Spirit, Buddha, Allah, Pastafarian, Universe, or our Higher Self, what we are looking to connecting is Love. Connecting to this energy gives me a purpose and hope and I think no one should live without inviting this blessing into their life.

SITUATIONAL/ SELF LOVE

If there are things in your life that make us unhappy, anxious and depressed, and we have fact checked that they aren’t just a by product of our schema, then by all means, we must change them. Make a goal and follow that goal step by step until you get out of that situation. I have been in many situations in my life where I felt deeply stuck situationally and I believe if I didn't try my best to just take each day as it comes, making intentions and following through with them, I would still be stuck in those situations.

We have a life, and it is a blessing - it is literally a miracle we are here right now. Do not squander it in apathy for you will be sorry one day. Even if it is the tiniest step in the right direction we must take that step forward every day. Even if it is a small action of self care, we must do that for ourselves . Have a shower. Clean up your place. Seeing mess around you will make you feel even more despondent. Love yourself every single day by nourishing your mind and feeding your body healthy things, ideas, thoughts and allow yourself to dream and be creative in any small way.

Create a loving atmosphere in your own little bubble. Care for yourself in small, lovely ways. Be mindful of how you talk to yourself. Ask yourself: would I say this to a friend? Develop your own inner best friend and start talking to yourself in a kind and supportive manner. Whenever you feel especially harsh with yourself , have your inner best friend say loving things to you. Hug your inner child and adolescent often through guided meditation. Tell them that you will look after them no matter what or how they are scared. Do not give up. Make sure you get enough sleep by winding down every night before bed without a screen. If possible, get an old alarm clock and take the phone out of the bedroom all together. Do not have screens in your bedroom. Make it a peaceful sanctuary where you can rest easy. Every little step counts. Think good thoughts for they will lead to good feelings and good actions. Be conscious enough to take charge of your own life.

As a final word, I just want to say that I understand how hard it is to feel good in today’s world with it’s incessant whirr of social media, financial pressures, war, corruption and a constant shifting landscape of change. Social media can be such a plague for mental health because of the constant comparison it makes us do. There will always be someone who seems better off than us. Grass always seems greener on that side, but in all truthfulness, everyone struggles just the same no matter how rich, famous, or beautiful. Grass is green where we water it and this goes for our inner happiness and relationships as well. I still struggle with all I’ve written today and I keep reminding myself of my own cures constantly . I fail and I rise. Most days I am elated and happy. Sometimes I have a mental health day and just sit in my bed journaling and crying. Sometimes I get angry and instead of stuffing it deep down until it turns into depression, I hit pillows or scream songs in my car whilst driving. I still have schemas but I question their validity on a daily basis. I too have doubts and fears, failures and disappointments. I am not perfect, I am still learning to be better and how to understand more and I am sure this will be a fact until the day I die.

We all have pain .Let us become aware of our own pain. Let us heal ourselves and become so conscious that we can heal each other and the world. Let us be open about these issues so we don’t suffer in silence and shame. No one is perfect. We are all human and that is a beautiful, complicated, intricate thing in itself. In this world of duality we are constantly surfing the darkness and the light. Do not pretend that your darkness doesn’t exist. This only makes it subconscious so you project it on others and hurt the world. Bring it into the light, examine it and love it into lightness. Extend your hand to another and love each other. Love is the only truth that matters

Books that helped me on my journey:
Emotional Life Of The Brain by Richie Davidson
Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr Campbell Mc Bride
Getting The Love You Need by Harville Hendrix
Power of Now and New Earth by Eckhard Tolle
You Can Heal Your Life and The Power is Within You by Luise L Hay
Living In The Light by Shakti Gawain
The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self by Jakson MacKenzie
Love Me Don’t Leave Me by Michelle Skeen
The Dance Of Anger by Harriet Lerner
NLP: The Essential Guide by Dotz
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook by Matthew Mc Kay
Wonderful TED talk podcasts on depression
this podcast especially
https://player.fm/series/the-joe-rogan-experience-142216/1077-johann-hari

Wearing a Carla Zampatti dress and Christie Nicolaides earrings

This summer was the first one that I owned an actual bbq yet had no man to helm it. Usually, the whole shebang goes something like this: I spend hours preparing the food while the guy drinks beer, then once I'm done, he fires up the bbq puts everything on there and gee whizz, a short time later, it is he who has cooked the meal and is the hero of the party. But is this bbq business really as hard as it looks? I put it to the test when I started cooking everything on my little Webber out on the deck this summer out of sheer avoidance of having a messy kitchen and having to clean the stovetop ( I know some people find it pleasurable, but gimme a vacuum job over a stovetop any day).

Dear readers, I know this will blow your mind but lo and behold, bbq-ing is not something only a male brain can understand! It is actually a really easy and versatile way of cooking that can be more foolproof than you think.
In my experimentations with the best bbq chicken recipes , I made up this drumstick recipe. I have a really good wings recipe involving molasses that is beyond delicious, but did you know that many people still don't like to think that their meat was once an animal with many bones? I needed to get a protein with less bones to appease my guests so this technique was born and it quickly became a favourite , not only for the flavour explosion but also the ease of putting it together in a hurry.

I made this for dinner last night and this picture was taken quickly as people were salivating around me. I am a terrible food stylist but I am an excellent hand swatter, and trust me, you will have to be one as well if you make this- it is that delicious that I recommend you get more chicken than what you think people will want to eat - I never have any chicken leftover and even the vegetarian friends sometimes get tempted into a bite ( can they still call themselves a vegetarian , idk, but I'm flattered either way)

This recipe is paleo, gluten, dairy and sugar free. Serves 2-3 people depending on your hunger levels

INGREDIENTS

for the dry rub
- 6 organic chicken drumsticks
- 2 -3 tablespoons of sumac ( a dried berry spice)
- 1-2 level tablespoon of turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (do change this for taste)
- good oil such as olive oil, tasteless coconut oil, grapeseed oil or expeller pressed sunflower oil
- salt and pepper
for the wet sauce
- 2 jalapeño peppers chopped
-  half a bunch of garlic chives chopped
- 4 spring onions or scallions chopped
- juice of 2-3 limes
- a bunch of coriander/cilantro chopped
- olive oil + salt and pepper

METHOD

In a large bowl, mix the chicken drumsticks with the spices, a good glug of oil and salt and pepper, making sure that the drumsticks are evenly coated with spices. You can do this ahead of time and keep in the fridge overnight for extra flavour, but I find that immediately before cooking is still yummy. Turn the bbq to high, then 5 minutes later, turn the bbq to medium low. Place the chicken on the bbq- it should be hot enough that you hear sizzling. I have found that 10 minutes on one side is a good amount of time to get lightly charcoaled and cooked through. I ended up doing 10 minutes on the skin side with the lid down, then 10 minutes on the other side with the lid down, and then I will do 3-5 minutes on the narrow curves that miss out right at the end with the lid open. This guarantees that the chicken is cooked through properly yet is still juicy. My chicken drumsticks are pretty small - if you have bigger ones and are unsure if the meat is cooked through, I recommend slicing open one of the legs to make sure. Nothing worse than still raw in the middle chicken served!
Whilst the legs are grilling, place all the wet sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix through. Once the chicken is plated, pour the wet sauce all over it. Voila!

I served this meal with quick sides. Small onions were dipped into olive oil and then thrown on the bbq, and were turned whenever the chicken was. I also made a salad of watercress, rocket, kalamata olives, goat's blue cheese and figs with a balsamic dressing for some healthy greens. I know everyone is so against carbs these days but I'm a total fan so I made some potato and sweet potato chips in the oven as they take just as long as the chicken to cook. I sliced the potato quite thin and added olive oil, sumac, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and whole garlic. I then sliced the sweet potato in double the thickness (because it takes less time to cook ) and mixed it with cinnamon, sumac, salt and pepper and of course oil , then added it to the same pan as the other chips. Fan grill on 200-220C and half an hour later you have chips that even the carb avoiders cannot deny.

Happy weekending!

PS: the beautiful plates are from In The Roundhouse

Layers may not be the sexiest clothing option in the world, yet winter is the most imaginative time in the style stakes because we finally get to play with investment coats, beautiful boots and cosy knits.

Each year I invest in a few pieces that will take me through the coldest months, yet I want to make sure that my purchases last me through another winter without looking dated whilst staying reasonable in the cost-per-wear equations. And oh boy, were there some trends across the autumn/winter '17/'18 runways! From silver to folklore and ostrich feather, individuality was celebrated, but here are the ones I think will stand the test of time — or until next year, at least.

Winter may be threatening with its icy fingers but it has nothing on blanketed padded jackets in high tech incarnations. Even if it did, the oversize knitwear trend would stop it dead in it’s tracks. Still not enough? Matrix style patent leather brings out our inner dominatrix, whilst the stunning combination of blue and black will make winter surrender through sheer fashion domination.

(Ellery pants and jacket, Jac&Jack sweater and cardigan, Dion Lee sunglasses, Ole Lynegaard pearl earring sold individually)

Choose high-shine accessories with a lot of high power attitude.(Stillettos and bag both Saint Laurent from Farfetch)

(Tome dress, Sarah and Sebastian choker, Jimmy Choo sandals, vintage bracelet)

Gilded saffron spice, mustard, 70s sunflower and all shades of yellow are my colour crush. Mix them in any and all combinations including lime, earthy tones, reds, plums, even turquoise for a colour explosion – or just wear on their own.

Read more on vogue.com.au here!
photographed by Alice Wesley-Smith

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Fashion is a fascinating concept. Besides being something solid created purely out of imagination, it is also a rare marker of human changeability and adaptability over a long and well recorded time period. Being obsessed with the beauty of fashion is one thing, yet having a penchant for historical nerdiness, I find it utterly absorbing that we can track thought processes, leaps and bounds of human progress, climate change and even misguided prejudices through what we wore during our lenghty reign on this planet. Jewellery on the other hand pre-dates all this textile nonsense. We were naked once, it was warm, we didn’t need to be cacooned , so why is it that we chose to adorn ourselves with shells, bones and feathers whilst walking around butt naked? Akin to make up, accessorizing doesn’t fulfill a clear biological need apart from adorning ourselves to stand out from the crowd in a way that a bird of paradise attempts to shut down other birds with it’s sheer spectacular beauty and uniqueness.

Harry Winston once said : “ People will stare. Make it worth their while.” Coco Chanel quipped:” Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory”. Being stylish can mean incorporating so many opposing ideas, yet, it is the ones that make sense to you personally that truly matter. Trends come and go yet timeless style is forever relevant. For my second collaboration with Swarovski and Who What Wear Australia, I’m bringing you 6 classic styling tips that are not only modern now but wearable forever.

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1. Is it the show of décolletage or bare shoulders that makes off the shoulder tops so irresistible? To me it is the timeless femininity of the cut that just works in the elegance stakes. Whether it is a peasant, gypsy top or a structured evening piece, dare to bare. Mix with a classic pencil skirt and co-ordinate the colours for the ultimate day to night look ( Yeojin Bae top, By Johnny skirt )

2. Play with accessorizing by layering your necklaces. Choose necklaces of similar lenghts, then use slightly higher or lower loops to fasten them so they sit neatly next to each other . This trick looks best when utilizing the suprasternal notch, ie; that little dent between the neck and the chest. Voila! You’ve just created a one off, unique jewellery combination that no one else will be wearing, whilst showing off an erogenous zone. ( necklaces and watch, both by Swarovski )

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3. Swoosh it around. Dramatic, tassled pieces add a visceral dimension to evening wear and announce your presence without reaching for overt sexuality ( Rae official dress, Giuseppe Zanotti heels)

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4. Layer your rings on multiple fingers for maximum impact. From the thumb to the pinky, knuckle to tip, play with wearing your rings wherever they may fit – then watch the dazzle as you gesture your way through the day ( rings and earrings, all Swarovski )

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5. Choose masculine staples with a feminine edge. Whether mixing up a mannish suit with a delicate camisole or letting your scalloped underwear show just a little underneath a tailored shirt, the contrasting polarities will make each other shine. In this case a tailored trench coat is a traditionally masculine piece, yet it gets a feminine update via silky satin and lightweight tailoring. Belt it up to create a dress that hides as much as it reveals for the ultimate yin/yang balance ( Rachel Gilbert coat, Gucci belt )

6. I love large faced watches on women. I used to buy men’s watches when younger because I loved how they simultaneously made my wrist look delicate, yet toughened it up as well. Better yet, layer the watch up with other favourite pieces for ultimate arm candy.
photographed by Alice Wesley-Smith

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Sydney siders can grumble about this year’s lack of a real summer yet nothing can stop time; here in the Southern Hemisphere the days are regardless getting shorter and the nights longer. We don’t even have seasonal perks such as autumn turning our green streets into an explosion of yellows, ochres and browns, neither do we get mulled wine or street roasted chestnuts but we make do with warm ocean temperatures, pink sunsets and even tempered weather. Still, autumn remains one of the hardest times to dress for; it can be surprisingly cold in the morning and boiling hot in the afternoon so wearing pieces that work for both is a godsend. I partnered with the Australian label Backstage to bring you a transeasonal edit of their collection - perfect for the upcoming months. These are items that you can buy now, then when days get cooler, layer with additional pieces and still be on trend

Above: It’s all in the details - emulate Brigitte Bardot in a simple black playsuit with beautiful split cut bell sleeves then pair with knee high boots and a fisherman’s hat to complete the look . Perfect with a vintage fur bomber in winter ( Backstage playsuit, vintage Martin Margiela boots, greek fisherman’s hat)

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This season, dare to bare…shoulders that is! Showing a rounded back, sleek neck or tanned clavicle is one of the strongest fashion trends of this season. This dress is relaxed elegance with it’s pretty stripes, tie front, loose sleeves and off the shoulder prettiness... throw a cashmere turtleneck over it when the sun goes down

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Wine, burgundy, ochre - get a headstart on autumn by implementing muted reds into your palette then add a heavy coat over this look when mornings get frosty ( Backstage top, choker and skirt, Lack of colours hat and vintage Martin Margiela boots )

A pretty slip is a parennial wardrobe staple and an all time favorite - this baby sports a scooped out back and peek of a thigh to boot. In autumn I love to throw on a long grungy angora cardigan over for warm cred ( Backstage slip, Proenza Schouler mules)

Photographed by Alice Wesley-Smith

The best thing about doing my job is combining travel and fashion- two of my all time favorite passions folded into one synapse tingling experience : exciting locations, amazing clothes,new people to create with and at the end of it- beautiful pictures to take home. This is what my dreams are made from...but sometimes it can be nail biting suspense and flirting with chance, like shooting this season of Bec and Bridge Autumn '16 in Cuba.

After arriving into Havana, my bags were checked by beautiful yet stern border patrol girls ( all curiously wearing patterned fishnet tights, go figure ). They pulled me aside and dragged out some of my B&B clothes, spoke quietly in Spanish, then looked at me with narrowed eyes and asked all sorts of questions (as if they were pretty fashion police stopping a haul of contraband clothes) whilst I perspired imagining what a Castro jail looked like. Thankfully, they were satisfied with my answers, compliments on their cool 80s stockings and reassurances that I too grew up in a Communist country; after all I am an ex Yugo girl soooo...they let me go. Buoyed by this I made my way for the city and the closest mojito to calm my nerves.

My next problem came the next day; when I realized my phone didn't work at all and internet isn't really a thing yet in Cuba. I had made sporadic contact with a Cuban photographer named Viktor Rising in the weeks prior; I liked his style and punchy, contrasty photos so among faulty emails we made a loose plan but now, I had no way of contacting him.

It took me half a day to find out there were some hotels that have internet in front of them and vouchers I can buy somewhere else to get on so I sent an S.O.S to him and waited. It was the day before I left when I heard back and we made a hasty plan. I stayed up late sourcing a steamer for the clothes from a few different hotels, then got up early to get ready, straightening my hair and applying perfect make up...until I walked out into 42C, 90% humidity Havana sun and my hair bounced back into it's curls immediately while make up melted off faster than I could re-apply it. Ay!

Fortunately, Viktor was a cool and funny guy and the shoot itself was a dream ; we wondered the eclectic streets, men whistled and women asked where my dresses were from ( such is the power of Bec and Bridge's well honed sexy dresses ). I danced the salsa and ran over the squares but most importantly, our team had a ball and the dresses looked hawt juxtaposed against the colours of this beautiful city. I hope you like! x

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Take lace into another dimension with a scooped out neck and choker detailing ( B&B dress, Chloe sandals )

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Nothing like a skintight striped dress to take you from hot days into steamy nights (B&B dress, Gianvitto Rossi sandals, Clutch from Net-a-Porter )

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All this baby wants to do is salsa! ( B&B dress, Chloe sandals )

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Talk about a trifecta: wrap around, scooped out and leg baring in the most beautiful shade of cornflower blue ( B&B dress, Versace clutch, Valentino sandals )

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This silk number is endlessly versatile- wear it loose in summer or over leather leggings in winter (B&B dress, Aquazurra sandals )

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Let's talk sex in a dress because this dress is IT- seriously, I could've been married 5 times 🙂 ( B&B dress, Gianvitto Rossi sandals)

Photographed by Viktor Rising

2016 is here! I've taken a few weeks off over the summer holidays and moved into a new apartment; between unpacking boxes, hanging out with my daughter over school holidays and catching up with all my visiting overseas friends, I forgot to share my personal pictures of Cuba with you all! But here they are...and along with it, a diary entry I wrote in Havana. Hope you enjoy my peek into this amazing city...

Havana 13.11.2015

My worn out desk at the Palacio O'Farrill hotel is decorated by an old landline phone and a quickly warming pina colada while I listen to the tropical rain cooling Old Havana. This is my 4th hotel in 4 days ; it was busy when I tried to book almost a month ago, even the nice private accomodation at the so called casas particulares was gone so all I could get was single nights at various hotels. It seems the whole world fervently wants to come see Cuba before the country loses it's decrepit nostalgic beauty when (if?) the sanctions are lifted.

On my first day at Hotel Florida there were no window panes on my room's balcony doors , the heaving noise of the city's busy main street below welcoming me to this seaside town and when the night fell ,humid and heavy with a blanket of heat, the sound of whistling men and laughing women reverberating through the dusty neighbourhood. Down in the lobby bar, mojitos flow by the double while couples dance the salsa; Latino men and women oozing unbridled hips, wet skin and well practiced sensuality.

Havana is both beautiful and haggard, fresh and utterly filthy, excitingly full of opportunity and desperately stuck in the past. On one corner there are newly paved streets and colourful walls but turn left and it's crumbling balconies and the stench of dead chickens rotting on the road while huge vultures circle the skies waiting to claim these Santeria offerings to the Orisha.

If Havana were a person, it would be both the one legged old man I photographed on the merikon where the old city walls meet the sea, and a happy little girl on her way to school with a faux LV bag and stars in her eyes. It's  those that wearily improvise and upkeep their possessions with a dogged resignation under a lead backpack of the embargo but also those who re-invent rules, trying to establish a hipster utopia with makeshift bars and great organic food.

This town presents insane mid century architecture that will take your breath away and cold soviet era buildings greying and peeling in the island sun. It breathes in fragrant peanuts in white paper cones, 1 peso rickshaw rides , huge papayas sold by handsome mixed race hunks , billboards of revolutionary slogans instead of advertising, hotels whose star ratings are not an indictment of quality but a representation of a time long gone and people that will either try to fleece you or charm your socks off or both.

To be honest , I wouldn't have it any other way - I had such a fun time here exploring the streets, meeting people, drinking white rum in all it's incarnations, riding in an old pink car while the sun pounded bleached out neighborhoods and dancing the hot nights away. Don't go a changing Cuba Linda!

 

Stormy afternoon over Havana

Stormy afternoon over Havana 

Because socialism is the only thang obvs

Because socialism is the only thang obvs

Richshaw ride anyone?

Richshaw ride anyone?

Che, pesos, gold and bananas

Che, pesos, gold and bananas

Back to the past by the merikon

Back to the past by the Merikon

Hungry sparrow or caged parrot ?

Hungry sparrow or caged parrot ?

Beautiful empty pharmacies

Beautiful empty pharmacies

Christos di Cuba blessing the city in his flip flops

Christos di cuba blessing the city in his flip flops

Still going

Still going

Just

Just

Reverie

Reverie

Mid century Che

Mid century Che

Nearly ready mojitos at the hotel Nacional

Nearly ready mojitos at the hotel Nacional

Dreamy nights

Dreamy nights

Street style with cigar

Street style with cigar

Young pioneers and a faux LV

Young pioneers and a faux LV

Crumbling balcony and my pink ride

Crumbling balcony and my pink ride

Sunset ride

Sunset ride

Stay:
Hotel Terrigal (newly renovated)
Hotel Serratoga (what's good for Bey & Jay Z...)
Hotel National (iconic)

Eat:
Chanchullero (Brazil between Christo and Bernaza )
Sia Kara Cafe
Rooftop Hemingway hotel
La Terraza for great bbq

Do:
walk the streets and practice spanish
go to a salsa show and dance the night away
take the Havana tour in an old car
visit the close by beaches for a day trip
lounge by the pool at hotel Nacional
drink a lot of mojito

Favorite city tour guide:
Matias Da Via
9841004601
majada@hotmail.com

With thanks to new friends and wide horizons <3

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Like all mothers, my morning make up protocol is overshadowed by hurrying, nagging and sandwich making. Thinking about looking radiant while unearthing school socks is hardly practical and most times, I do my 5 minute make up application in the rearview mirrow while stuck in traffic, making me the ideal candidate for any beauty product that shaves time off my routine and really delivers. Enter Miracle Cushion, Lancome’s answer to a fluid foundation in a compact. To be honest, I was sceptical at first; how can a fluid stay in a compact and what sort of texture would this product provide? My Korean friend was more enthusiastic, assuring me that this sort of technology has been all the rage in her home country and that it encapsulates BB cream, foundation and 23PA++ sunscreen in an easy to use format.

Upon first inspection, I felt a little like Tarzan coming out of the jungle into civilisation - there is a soft cushion inside filled with a wet liquid that doesn’t leak and an applicator that delivers just the right amount of foundation when pressed into the cushion ( what?! no messy fingers, no dripping onto my blouse?). The packaging is gorgeous and refillable, so do not throw it out - it's perfect for changing foundation shade due to the change of seasons . The results? This is a buildable foundation so the results can range from sheer to opaque depending on application - I must say I was quite impressed by the way the texture seemed light and natural while covering lines and blemishes. This is not a cakey foundation, in fact you will forget you are even wearing make up at all. And in the end- isn’t that exactly what we all want?

This story was shot at the heavenly Qualia resort in Hamilton Island,a child free paradise where I could incapsulate my fantasy of a perfectly serene beauty routine while wearing amazing clothes and accessories

Above: Make it sparkle: Miracle Cushion joins a host of light reflecting treasures (Clockwise from bottom: Balenciaga cuff and Oscar De la Renta clutch both from Net-a-Porter, Dita sunglasses, Paspaley pearls ring and earrings )

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Applying Miracle cushion is a breeze. Dab on in small motions until the desired opacity is concieved ( Qualia bathrobe, Paspaley earrings )

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Tako on the 70s trend in spring ready white in a Zimmermann dress and gorgeous accessories

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Miracle Cushion fits in the smallest of clutches ( Oscar De La Renta clutch, Balenciaga cuff, Paspaley pearls ring )

MELVGLANCOME7Perfect for touch ups on the go! ( Paspaley Pearl earrings and ring )


Photography & film by Alice Wesley-Smith

 

The Alma is one of Louis Vuitton's most iconic bags. Born as  Gaston-Louis Vuitton's "Squire Bag" in 1934,  it was subtly changed to become the "Champs- Elysées" ,  until it was given it's current name "The Alma" for a famous Parisian bridge.  The bold Art Deco lines and elegant shape made it as much of a hit then as it remains now.  When LV contacted me to collaborate on this project I was honoured and delighted to travel through time with the incredible Alma - after all it has been released 4 times in the last 100 years!  I imagined the women that owned this timeless bag through different eras, fashions and trends and felt like a kid in a candy store when I was allowed free reign of the last 3 seasons of LV archives to style this story.

 

The 1930s were the age of sobering after the Great Depression and the excess of the Roaring 1920s.  Even though the hems dropped and purse strings tightened,  women yearned for elegance and luxury.  Quality was of the outmost importance and the Alma arrived to fill a gap between beauty,  spaciousness and longevity. Shhhh - some say Coco Chanel owned an Alma and it was the only bag she wore apart from her own!  The epi leather Alma GM in Ivory finds itself here waiting for a cruiser ship under another icon born in that time - the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

 

 

Reborn in the 50s, the era of elegance, femininity and coquettish Brigitte Bardot sexuality the Alma PM in Figue rests on the violet carpet of  another 1950s birth- The Opera House in it's infancy.

 

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The 90s brought along grunge, powerwomen , supermodels and all things bigger, better and shinier. The patent Alma GM in Pomme d'Amour comes along on a ride and spices things up on a big tough Harley.

 

 

Cut to the present, where our fashion may depend on the influences of the past but the way we wear it is different . Gone are the restrictions and rules that bound how and when women wore la mode.  In this brave new world, the baby Alma is born - an instant (and completely adorable! ) classic for the 21 century. Here the Alma BB in Citron says hello to the surf and the sunshine on Sydney's famous Bondi Beach!

 

visit louisvuitton.com for more Alma !

STYLING /ART DIRECTION/MODEL : Tanja Gacic
PHOTOGRAPHY: Alice Wesley- Smith
FILM : Kasia Werstak
MAKE UP : Natasha Severino
HAIR: Gavin Anesbury
STYLIST ASSISTANT: Rachael Fair
MUSIC: THE PRESETS - Hill Stuck

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