on life skills and dating lessons

i often say jokingly that i wouldn't be the person i am today without the men from my past. but it is, without a doubt, the truth. as someone who moved to a different continent on her lonesome at the tender age of sixteen, i learnt a lot from the people around me who liked me enough to keep me close. and i owe 75% of my Adult Repertoire to the twenty two year old i dated when i was seventeen, who single-handedly taught me how to live on my own. 

here are thirteen things i would not have known how to do if not for them: 

how to rent an apartment.
how to fix an internet connection in said new apartment.
how to put ikea furniture together.
how to cook.  
how to order a drink at the bar. 
how to work a steering wheel, and all those buttons and pedals in a car.
how to put a flat sheet AND a fitted sheet on a bed at the same time.
how to win an argument.
how to lose an argument. 
how to apply for a credit card.
how to avoid international transaction fees.
how to write a cover letter that doesn’t make you sound like every other fresh grad
make sure you check the ‘claim tax-free threshold’ on your pre-employment form.

so as a little piece of advice to any and all parents sending their kids off on their own halfway across the world… make sure they have a boyfriend in their corner, because friends won’t teach you these things. 

on the game-changing facial

“That’s the thing about a facial. It absolutely depends on the person doing it. It’s not the miracle products they claim it is, and it’s not their special method; it’s them.” 

- Jean Godfrey-June

I am a fan of the facial. That is, I am on a perpetual search for a good facialist. I don’t believe that the power of a facial is in the products - that is, unless I’m doing a microdermabrasion. I have a fanatical skin-care product arsenal already, and it’s wayyyy cheaper to buy a $200 cream than to pay $200 to have half an ounce of it rubbed onto your face. No, I believe the power of a facial is in the massage. And as someone who has placed my face and my credit card into the hands of person after person and, often, emerged disappointed, I can declare that - after ticking the usual boxes - the thing that tips a facial either side of the good/bad line is the massage. 

On my facial bucket list are Nichola Joss, Joëlle Ciocco and Isabelle Bellis. Three different cities, three wildly different price points, and all three almost impossible to get into. Perhaps you could say that all I really want is a facial from a Joëlle Ciocco-trained therapist. So I toyed with planning a 2018 sojourn to San Francisco to get a facial with the cheaper and slightly less booked out Kristina Holey. But then a casual Google of ‘Joëlle Ciocco + Perth’ led me to Sandra Levy-Valensi. Who, as it turned out, trained alongside Kristina Holey in Paris with Joelle Ciocco. Sold. Even with a six week wait, I booked a facial. 

Sandra runs her business out of a little home studio in Bayswater, two minutes away from where our personal trainer lives. I.e. one of the ten places in Perth I know how to drive to without Google Maps or Getting Lost. I took it as a good sign. Walking in, I took a seat next to a glass cabinet full of Odacite products - Californian cult product, and on my list to try after I use up my current hoard. Then came a Very Comprehensive Interview of my skin, its habits, my skincare routine, diet, and my drug use.

{Combination, but very dry as of the last two weeks. Very comprehensive skincare routine including serums and the crazy expensive combination of Vintner’s Daughter and Blue Cocoon. Pretty clean diet if you ignore the chocolate I keep eating at work. Yoga a minimum of four times a week. No smoking, no drinking, no drugs. On paper, my skin should be fantastic. But of course, it’s not. A combination of hormones and gut issues, and perhaps a flaw in my genetic makeup. } 

I’d chosen the Le Buccal Massage, the famous Joëlle Ciocco technique of latex gloves in the mouth that I’d been desperate to try. As described, the 45-minute ($140) treatment as follows: 

Subtle and original technique this massage boosts all face muscles by an internal and external stimulation, relieving tension that creates expression lines around the areas of the mouth. This deep, manual massage is like “pilates” for the face. Extended benefits include relaxation of tight jaw muscles, noticeable plumper lips and smoother facial lines, due to the increased blood flow and collagen production.

The treatment started with a short guided meditation (yes, really!!) before the usual double-cleanse and what felt like oils aplenty rubbed over my face before the latex gloves were donned and Sandra began to pull and pummel at my cheek and jaw muscles. When I first read about the Le Buccal technique back in 2011 (from an Into the Gloss article, of course) I thought, how hard would it be to do it yourself? And, yes, I attempted to stick my fingers in my mouth to recreate the massage. But there is a precise method to the madness that I have a feeling only Joelle Ciocco can teach. There was no replicating this. 

Post-massage, a mask was painted on followed by a glorious scalp massage… and then… well, I fell asleep. Which, for me, is a good sign. Most of the time I find myself awake, trying to use the power of my mental brain waves to signal the therapist to massage more firmly or you missed a spot. I assume the mask came off somehow, and I woke up to moisturiser being smoothed on before a little gong was played to rouse me from my stupor. 

Before this, I’ve flitted between several day spas for my regular facials. Julianna at Limon in Leederville is one of my go-tos, as one of the few facialists I trust to do extractions properly. I love Alyssa at Jurlique for her face massages. I get my microdermabrasion done at COMO Shambhala. I also dabbled with Sodashi facials at Bodhi J, as has every other person in Perth who gets regular facials. But I’m eyeing a facial package with Sandra Levy-Valensi. And I know I’ll be back. 

on my new york.

When I received my Australian passport in the mail in 2015, I clutched at it with both hands. We started planning our trip to the United States that night. A trip which, finally, I would be able to do without needing to interview for a travel visa, and without fear of not being able to get back into the country after. 

On Christmas morning, Jacob surprised me with a phone call: he'd booked our flights for June. We were going PER - LAX. 

And then we began discussions as to where we'd go once we landed. Knowing my fondness for the ever iconic New York City, he suggested we visit - a return trip for the two of us. Surprisingly, I was adamant that we avoid the Big Apple. 

"I know me. I'll have a list of twenty restaurants and I would be dragging us around the city all day making sure we didn't miss eating anything. I wouldn't forgive myself for not eating at Le Bernardin or Daniel, and I wouldn't forgive myself afterwards for not giving us the room to explore the city without a list." 

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure. We wouldn't have fun." 

So we chose Portland instead. And thank God we did - I wouldn't have missed the planned Pok Pok and Kachka, or the impromptu Ava Genes for the world. 

"Next time, maybe we'll do New York," I'd said. And how fortunate we were, of course, to know that there would be a next time. It was only a couple of months after we returned to Perth when we booked flights for a return to the U.S. 

"So... New York now?"

And as our last (we thought) sojourn to our favourite country for a couple of years, I agreed, declaring that we would only do one proper 'restaurant meal' at a place that spoke to me the most. And everything else would be bistros and bites and morning oatmeal (I adore oatmeal). And burgers (for him, that is. I don't eat meat that's not ethically sourced, and this means I generally avoid meat in the U.S.). 

Ruth Reichl once wrote that her job as a food critic was to make sure that people didn't waste their money on fine dining restaurants that weren't good. To ensure that diners who saved up their money for special occasions weren't let down by their experience. But somewhere down the line I started only wanting to dine at these places. Figured that Daniel was better than Le Bernardin. And perhaps let a list dictate my prepared excitement for a meal before anything else.

One of my favourite fine dining experiences was at Iggy's. I cannot remember how old I was, but at the time it was Singapore's highest ranked restaurant - as named by St Pellegrino's list, of course. I was too young to know or to care, but I did know that the food was very very good. My other favourite was Le Chateaubriand in Paris. A third being a restaurant again in Paris with silver doors, whose name I cannot recall. The fourth is Portland's Kachka. A fifth perhaps a little restaurant in Santa Monica which I chose due to the fact that they had zucchini flowers on the menu. The food was delicious. 

I have eaten at some fine restaurants. I have eaten at some restaurants that have never made any list. In the end, I am realising, it is all just food. A friend said recently that she expected that chefs at restaurants would put up a better dish than she would. I don't believe in that. Most restaurants wouldn't. A cheese quesadilla is a cheese quesadilla both in my kitchen and at the average restaurant's. It is miraculous perhaps only one percent of the time. We have stopped ordering Mac and cheese at all restaurants except one: Rockpool's. Because it is miraculous to us. We make ours at home using the same recipe, and i can promise you it is not rocket science. It is garlic, speck and paprika and mustard that gives Rockpool's its depth of flavour. And it is the nostalgia that gives it our love. Food is memories. Food, not stars. 

And so we went on a quest to discover our New York. Which started with falling in love with Brooklyn and its happy hours. Its open kitchens and its bars. Its most excellent pizza. It was walking along the streets and ducking into whichever restaurant looked amazing. Watching the people, not the critics. It was also Daniel Humm and Will Guidara's NoMad, because I couldn't not. It was Jacques Torres' phenomenal chocolate chip cookies and Momofuku Milk Bar (did you know that Will Guidara and Christina Tosi are married?!). And yoga classes, lots of walks and truly discovering what I liked, and not what I should like. 

This is my New York:

Five Favourites:

Sky Ting Yoga. Oh Sky Ting. It was their podcast on Well Aware that first made me think about doing a 200-hour YTT, and practising in their studio just cemented it. I am manifesting a career in wellness every day, and throwing this out into the universe with all my might. My time in this studio was a dream, and I have the $50 sweatshirt to remember it by. It's paid for itself already - I wear it every day. 

Jacques Torres. It was a miracle to be able to eat this chocolate chip cookie in person, after years of tasting it in the best friend's kitchen and in our own. We have experimented with flours, with chocolate, with cup versus scale measurements. It was Jacques Torres (and Dorie Greenspan) who first taught me the art of precision in baking, and it is still Jacques who bakes the King of All Cookies. 

Colonie NYC. What a Brooklyn gem. Everything about the night was perfect. The open kitchen to watch the chefs at work, pre-dinner cocktails at Chez Moi, and finding ourselves smack bang in the middle of NYC life in the best way. 

9/11 Museum. I am so glad we went. It was the one place I told myself I wouldn't leave without visiting. 

Brooklyn. If I had to live in NYC, I'd choose the apartments of brick, the wooden floors and the tree-lined streets. I fell in love. 

on fifth grade.

"sometimes brave looks more like staying when you want to leave, telling the truth when all you want to do is change the subject..." 

- shauna niequist

we do not celebrate our relationship anniversaries. we do not exchange gifts. we go out to dinner because restaurants give free cake, and we bask in our cleverness at getting that cake. we celebrate birthdays, we celebrate birthdays for a whole week if we can. anniversaries? not so much. sometimes we toy with doing something special,  but nearing the date we always change our mind. i mean, it's (only) been five years.

our relationship is in fifth grade. 

and i barely remember being in fifth grade. 

one of my favourite memories of our relationship happened during an argument. years ago, probably three years ago, during an argument that stemmed from something silly, one where we used our words without truly saying what we feared, which was do you truly understand me? i don't think you do. and midway through that argument i threw out a question. what does succeeding in this relationship mean to you? when would you think we've 'made it?'

and he answered, well, i guess when the first one of us dies. 

which would have been my answer. because i truly do not believe that one year, two years, ten years is worth celebrating. as though they are milestones to hit, or a ladder to climb. and at that point i truly expected him to say something else. to say that marriage was making it. anything else, except what i also believe. when the first one of us dies. 

i do not measure the days and years gone by. instead i remember the little moments. the many times one of us would climb up or down the stairs to the other, closing the gap between two separate beds and attempting to bridge the gap between our hurts. swallowing pride and ego. walking back through the door. going for days without speaking but still silently helping the other iron shirts before work, or still doing the pick up after a yoga class. sometimes brave looks more like staying when you want to leave, and i remember these moments knowing that while date nights and surprise flowers are lovely, the staying is what matters most. the choosing every single day to stick around, to find common ground between two fiercely independent people. blindly stumbling through life without a guidebook but still holding hands, especially when you really really don't want to. 

hopefully the first one of us dying is still many years away. decades, i hope. and hopefully when that happens we leave behind the people who will celebrate our relationship making it. and i hope the one left then raises a glass to toast to the sweet taste of success. but right now, i'll be proud of the fifth grade lessons. learning to put sentences together in ways that make sense to the other, and learning the simple skills that are needed to answer the bigger questions down the track, and to build a bigger life. 

on adulting.

I am twenty five. The young adult section in the library no longer welcomes me (the sign reads for twenty four and under). The Eurostar won't give me discount tickets by the time I show up. I get hit on at the bar by people with actual real jobs. I still get carded, but I am for all intents and purposes an adult. 

Except I still feel nineteen. Or at the very most twenty one. Sitting in the business class lounge at the airport alongside men in suits and wondering when i'll be a part of that club. Then realising that I am. 

I sit in my little business class suite and nibble at food. I drink tea. Watch an action movie, watch another movie. People type on laptops around me and I decide to take a nap. I wonder if being an adult means never leaving the office, even while in the air. I decide that as an adult I reserve the right to fully soak in the miracle that is soaring in the sky thousands of feet above the ground. So I take pictures of the clouds. 

I tell my best friend I don't know how to adult, and she points out I've been doing it for a while now, and I clearly know how. Maybe I'll never be that sophisticated person who doesn't feel the need to make long conversations with the personal shopper at the Burberry store, and instead waltzes in and out. I don't think I can be. But I have regular facialists and my favourite health food store owners recognise me. I have too many credit cards (for frequent flyer points, not debt). And maybe that is my version. 

Maybe my version is yoga pants and sweaters on weekends, bare feet and always carrying a notebook in my bag. I am embarrassed about my inherent flexibility - all these 'real adults' look stiff and inflexible and my ability to put my foot behind my head makes me feel like a child. I still look for reassurance from a crowd - a sign of insecurity and low self-esteem that I equate with still feeling mentally twenty one. I know that these are adult problems too. Somehow I thought being an adult meant leaving those fears behind. Different scenery, same worries. 

I wonder when I will stop thinking about what it means to be 'grown up'. And I wonder when I'll realise for sure that no one ever quite knows what it means. We're all just making it up - slowly but surely finding our way. 

my california.

LA is a funny place. it's too big, it's too smoggy, and nobody walks. 

we also love it. i love it. it is a place that takes a while to fall in love with, and makes me thank god for australia every day. but life in los angeles does something for me that life nowhere else does. it feeds the idealistic, wellness-loving, wind-in-my-hair part of me like no place else. it feels fast and slow, all at once, intimate and expansive. it is an injection of life and energy that keeps me going for another year until i can come back. california is my favourite state, and LA its idealistic, hippie epicenter. 

this is my california. 

love yoga. a blend of nevine michaan's katonah yoga, iyengar and vinyasa, love yoga is like the los angeles version of nyc's sky ting, which basically makes it one of my favourite yoga studios in the world. i cannot say enough good things about how much my few classes there have expanded my practice. {i have been seriously thinking about doing my 200-hour ytt, and living abroad to do it at sky ting or love yoga. so this is serious love.} i love how it feels secular and doesn't dial into any traditional yoga 'religion'. as a religious {christian} yogi, this is very important to me. 

rose avenue. one of my favourite streets. it has everything on it i love. a crystal shop, cafes, ice cream, close proximity to home, love yoga, gjusta, santa monica and...

... abbot kinney. hands down my favourite street aside from disneyland's main street u.s.a.. if i could live here, i would. i hate the sudden injection of mainstream labels and i haaaate that adidas is opening a store here. but some of my all time faves have their home on a.k. and i could happily spend a full day here. heck, i spent several full days here. if you're seeking ippodo matcha, tortoise general store sells it. and also sells about a billion other things i want. kinney is just inspirational, it is a freaking dream. 

malibu. a short lyft ride away, malibu is stunning and oh-so-quiet. in jacob's words, 'there's nothing here'. which is why i love it. long and quiet beaches, loads of surfers to entertain you with their tricks, and there's nobu. and a whole load of nothing except a great view. no wonder all the celebrities live here. 

spellbound sky. i've been getting into crystals, and spellbound sky is my new fave. i hate crystal/spiritual shops that feel exclusive and... for lack of another word, bitchy. some spiritual shops in l.a. can be filled with people that make anyone not 100% into healing and magic and crystals feel like a fake. and i hate that.  i personally don't believe in the 'energies' or 'healing powers' of crystals {although i keep an open mind!}, but i do believe in the fact that things that carry beauty, and purchases that carry good intentions, can have power over our moods and our intentions. and spellbound sky is a crystal shop that feels welcoming and friendly, regardless of what you believe these rocks can do. good vibes. 

all the food + drink. happy hour is what we live for in l.a. my favourites are misfit in santa monica {they have the best free chocolate chip cookies behind the bar. ask!} and wabi sabi in venice - happy hour is the only time i ever feel like we can afford anything. these are nobu malibu prices here. and speaking of nobu, it is fabulous too. 

venice beach wines is great for tapas and wine flights and has such a great beachy vibe. rose avenue is one of my favourite roads in los angeles - total coastal vibe, and just a short walk away from the best whole foods i've ever seen. 

gjusta, part of the frank camaj empire, serves up some of the best biscuits, jams and a killer porridge waffle. and, of course, i have never had a bad meal at gjelina. hands down one of my favourite restaurants in l.a.. if only it was easier to get in. 

one of our favourite restaurants this trip was locanda positano, an intimate italian restaurant down the road from us that we tried for the first time (and then promptly went back a few days later). it is simple, flavourful italian comfort food with a stunning wine list. who serves barolo by the glass?! they do. 

it is a twelve-ish dollar lyft ride away from us, but destroyer la is worth it. order everything on the menu and stuff your face, you will be amazed at what jordan kahn can dream up. if i could choose one person to cook me breakfast for the rest of my life, it might just be him. 

i wouldn't be me without a list of hippie wellness places. the butchers daughter serves our favourite prosecco cocktails and mimosas, and also does eggs and soldiers which i looooove. sit at the bar - the bartenders are great and you'll have much more room. cafe gratitude is bougie wellness and so pricey but fun nonetheless. i love true food kitchen, but don't bring any meat loving friends. 

and caw-fee. i'll admit, intelligentsia is not my thing. and alfred's is just so cliched and attracts so many tourists, i avoid it now. but blue bottle has some of my favourite coffee beans and i haven't had a bad coffee there yet. 

heading much, much further away to orange county is my favourite taco place in all the land. in all the world. the chef behind pour vida latin flavour is cordon bleu trained and those brussels sprout tacos are reason enough to want a green card. they are a local secret and ughhhhh just so good. they also serve some really great horchata. just across the road is colony wine merchant, one of my favourite wine bars. they have curated a great local community, and have a great wine list. 

last, but not least... if there was one place in los angeles i'd bring home with me it would be erewhon. a grocery store, a wellness hub, a sushi bar, a bakery, a cafe. it is my second disneyland and never fails to make me smile. from the sun potion tinctures to the gjusta loaves to the amazing sushi... it is the store i spend the most money in without fail every single time. if erewhon were to come to australia, i'd buy my house within a five block radius and call it home forever.