The Fashion Stakes….

Yesterday for the very first time, I went to a fashion show in Central London – and enjoyed it! I wouldn’t say that I would be ‘into’ fashion like some people are. I suppose, like many others, I enjoy buying clothes (and shoes lets not forget – you should see my wardrobe, it is ridiculous). There is something quite exciting about going to a catwalk show, the photographers, the lights, the glamour – again, it is another world, a world that you can so easily be seduced by.

I said to myself before I went:

‘Me? Fashion? Moi? That’s isn’t me. I don’t care what I look like. There are more important things in life.’ Ha! As if…it is a superficial world at best…right?

Yes, there are more important things – but the problem is that everybody has a different set of priorities.The truth is – I do care what I look like – in a healthy way I think (or would hope).  I don’t think there is anything wrong with enjoying what the fashion industry has to offer as long as you don’t lose yourself in it and believe that it is the be all and end all. If you can look at a model and appreciate the creative effort and artistry that has gone into a particular creation, then I think you are on the right track.

After all, when you look good, you feel good. It is all about psychology. I had an ex-boyfriend who used to wear certain clothes on days when he wanted to feel cool and mega powerful – seriously! Yes, I have to admit, there is something to be said about making the most of your appearance and your shape. The first impression another person makes about you (in an interview for example), is usually based on what you are wearing, your presentation and image.

I don’t like this but it is a truth of modern living – appearance seems to be everything as a means to persuasion. (It doesn’t always mean anything though).

Beneath the surface is actually what matters….who you are, and what good you do for others. I still prefer comfort – comfy trousers, jumpers, a pair of sensible flat shoes as opposed to stilettos I can’t walk in and no bra. The bra makes me uncomfortable and makes me feel as if I’m wearing a strait jacket. That’s me – but I will try and make a little bit more of an effort in the fashion stakes…maybe…if I have the energy to spare – while I’m still temporarily dazzled by the magic…

© Christina McDonald 2014.

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What’s so good about Grenadian Chocolate? (Everything!)

Grenada 60% Nibilicious

Now – I am a great believer in trying new (and good) things. When you end up absolutely loving something, the tendency is to keep buying the same bar of chocolate over and over again. Who doesn’t have their favourite preference? My guilty pleasure is rose in milk chocolate. I only allow myself to have it when I feel I really deserve it (or if it is pouring with rain outside and I want to feel better).

I have to say that Grenada Chocolate bars are fast becoming some of my number one choice if I want to have some dark chocolate. If you were familiar with my last post, I talked a bit about the late Mott Green and how he founded the Grenada Chocolate Company which is a bean to bar operation. The profits generated from making the chocolate go back to the people who produce it.

If you have never tried the Grenada 60% Nibilicious bar, I would urge you to do so. I think what I love so much about it is that there is a great variety of flavour and texture here. Within this bar, the entire process of making chocolate is encapsulated. We have the nibs combined with what would be finished product after the nibs have been ground and conched – (of course then, after a few more steps we have – chocolate as the end product!) The crunchy nibs combined with the rich and fruity floral notes ensures the palate detects every nuance of flavour found in the bean which is precisely what I love about this bar. Crunchy, fruity and incredibly moreish, this is high up on my list. There’s just so much going on!

Grenada 100%

Of course, the Grenada 100% is a  popular bar with so many people (my husband included) who could eat it in abundance and without guilt ( if I let him!) Within a tiny square, you have to brace your palate as there is going to be what I would call a firework display of taste. It is like having the chocolate equivalent of a double espresso. When someone said, ‘You have to try this’, I thought to myself – ‘Sure, OK. I mean I’m pretty safe, there’s no sugar after all. It’s not like I will really enjoy this and become addicted or anything.’

Famous last words of course!

I didn’t really think I would enjoy it. Biggest mistake ever. I love it. This is a bar which is bursting with the natural flavours of the bean. What a fool I was to believe that I needed sugar to make it taste palatable. (This is coming from someone who growing up always needed to have a massive dollop of ketchup on her plate). Of course, saying that, this bar is very intense and not everyone’s cup of tea. What I would say is if you could allow your palate to recover from the initial shock and allow yourself to really explore the taste, you will not be disappointed. Sharp, tangy and bursting with rich floral notes, this is a bar that allows you to discover Grenadian chocolate in all its natural glory.

Stay tuned for more reviews coming soon!

© Christina McDonald 2014.

 

I don’t know how to have fun…better work on this. (Or maybe I should just chill out).

I have been given an amazing insight by my long suffering mother today. I am actually one of those people who doesn’t know how to have fun – this is true. I think I know – but I don’t. That’s the problem. I think too much. For the first time in this life, I have admitted this to myself. I take everything so seriously (well, not everything but a lot) and ‘fun’ isn’t something I would consider myself being or having. I can have a laugh and a joke with friends and have a good night but my entire mindset is geared up to finding the point and the meaning within everything I do otherwise, there is just no point in doing it. Everything has to mean something.

I really do need to have more fun. Just for the sake of it! This feels weird to me…how sad!

‘Don’t you ever do things just for fun?’ ‘No mum, I don’t see the point. You have to learn something about yourself and the world around you and acquire new skills and a certificate in the process. Otherwise, you’re just wasting energy. What are you achieving?’ (Comparing me to close family members in the process…’you know you’re exactly like your sister, your aunt, your cousin…’

How did I miss this?

‘Is there a course I can do in ‘having fun?’ (Only joking…) No! That one is down to you… just chill! Not everything has to be a trial.’ I blame my training as a classical musician. ‘If you make one mistake in this audition, you won’t get in’ I made a mistake. ‘Yeah, that’s why you didn’t get in.’ So – I spend the early years of my life believing mistakes cannot happen and that everything is just that serious. For some people yes – but I am not one of those people obviously. I have a lot to unravel….or maybe not..I’m cool 🙂 I don’t have to understand why all the time…ahem! (Fighting every natural (or conditioned) urge in my body right now…

I came home from work earlier feeling a bit blue, bored and a bit tired. I decided to call home. I was preparing my negative monologue. ‘Ah there’s just no point to anything…this is a mad life. I don’t know what I should be doing.’ It is a mad life of course. Yes it is. So mad I can’t even begin to tell you. You know yourself what this planet is like.

I get uptight about silly things. I obsess about stuff I shouldn’t really – but then I think to myself ‘well if I don’t do this or if I don’t take this seriously, nobody else will and then something bad will happen or we’ll make a mistake.’ Yeah. Maybe. But…maybe not. Obsessive? Me? Ha! If I relaxed a little more, what harm could it do? I like to think of myself as someone who knows how to have fun. Why should I have to ‘know’ how to have fun? Why can’t I just ‘have’ fun?

I feel quite odd as I write this. I know I’m very structured, organised and I like my routine. I am a creature of comfort but I want to be different. I crave to be passionate, adventurous, more of a dare devil and an extrovert – but I really don’t think I am. I pretend I am and that pretense is what has been driving me crazy over the years. If I can finally accept the fact that I am actually quite wound up sometimes – (I really feel uncomfortable admitting this), perhaps I might be able to loosen up more as a person.

I mean – here I am telling people to make the most of every moment and enjoy life when I don’t do the same myself a lot of the time. If I took my own advice, it would be a good thing. I’m stuck in my head, lost in thought and neglecting the very basic fact that life is there for enjoyment – this includes myself.

(almost forgot about that).

© Christina McDonald 2014.

Passion Versus Peace

In the midst of life’s challenges and desires, there is always a subtle pressure to seek and do more whether we are aware of it or not. If people stopped doing things, what would happen to the world? Let me rephrase that – what if people stopped doing negative and destructive things and replaced them with positive acts and deeds? Good news instead of bad news. I think a lot of the choices we have and end up making in life depend on the quality and focus of our intention – what do we intend to happen?

Feeling restless and discontent is something I really don’t like feeling. I am not a person who finds it easy to settle down. I always have to be running around, doing new things and challenging myself. ‘This is too easy, I’ve conquered this, I need a new challenge, what can I do now?’

Is ‘easy’ a bad thing or does it simply mean we are not trying hard enough or pushing ourselves in the way we should? Perhaps we have all learned to fight contentment as it could mean we have nothing left to strive for, no more goals on the horizon. When people ask me what I’m passionate about, I don’t know what to say. I love life, I enjoy learning and exploring everything it has to offer but I don’t have this fervent desire brooding inside of me that seems to be needed to achieve things.

In a world where we all have to be passionate and driven to do well, is it any wonder we all feel restless and constantly worn out? Feeling and experiencing passion is amazing though. It really gives us the determination to succeed at what we do. The only problem is – it burns out very quickly sometimes. Rather than being passionate about what you do, I think it is better to love what you do instead.

Life seldom works out the way you thought it would. Plans and dreams tend to waver off course, just like a meandering river, the journey of life carries us through the choices we make. There is only the destination we choose for ourselves which means – life is in our hands. There is energy behind the flow of the river. If we combine our energy with a focused intention, we find more often than not that we will be able to achieve what we want. But that’s just it – what do we want?

Desire, lust and passion are intensely seductive and they have the power to consume and destroy. You can be enslaved by your desires and ultimately destroyed by them. Look at any addiction. (Watch Star Wars). It is filled with Zen wisdom! I don’t know what I prefer really. To be peaceful and content or to be passionate and driven. All I know is – I cannot have both. Perhaps we all go through phases where we prefer one over the other.

Love stands the test of time. Look at successful relationships for example – if love is the foundation, you will go the distance. Building a relationship on passion in life is like trying to build a house on a stormy sea. It just doesn’t work. The waves are turbulent, volatile and guaranteed to throw you all over the place. In a relationship, it may be exciting for a while but the excitement is eventually overtaken by exhaustion and tiredness as you try desperately to hold on to the passion which is energy – energy cannot be restrained. It changes from moment to moment. You cannot hold onto to it.

If there is anything in life we could say is certain is that nothing ever stays the same for long. Even if it does, eventually things will change. It is the nature of the world we live in. People come and go. Lives change and people grow. Surely to stand still is to stagnate? Like everything in life, it depends on how you look at things. If you feel stuck, perhaps it is all do with luck….

‘I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.’

(Ecclesiastes 9:11)

This says it all. So much in this world is uncertain even if we do plan things. Life can give you a hand that you didn’t expect. Time and chance have their role to play. Chances come and risks can be taken but you can still never know what lies ahead of you if you do take that leap and if you don’t. To me, contentment, happiness and peace are the main goals of life. What you want may not always be what you find. It could be better or worse than you originally intended depending on how you look at things. Are we all simply just ‘putting up’ with things and settling for less than we deserve in life or are we actually happy? Now that is a tricky one…

I’m going to go with peace.

Christina McDonald 2014.

The power of thoughts…..

You may consider a thought about something is nothing important. Something transitory and fleeting and in many ways, this is true. Thoughts are impermanent but their effects on our entire wellbeing can be quite extraordinary. The power a simple thought has can be found in our reaction to it.

When we begin to identify and react to our thoughts, we allow ourselves to become what we believe to be true. ‘I am positive. I am rubbish at this. I can do this. Nobody wants to be with me. I am worthwhile.’ The list goes on. How many thoughts do you have during the course of a day that you would say are useful and positive?

You can think about anything you like. You can choose what to believe, what to feel and what to say. You are in charge of how you react to yourself and the world around you. When you are aware of this, it becomes so much easier to see that there is a choice when it comes to how we feel. We can choose which thoughts to react to and those we ignore.

Emotions are a constructive tool we can use when it comes to changing how we feel. Instead of reacting to emotions without an awareness of why we are experiencing them, we can effectively learn to watch our negative thoughts without reacting to them.

A lot of stress and anxiety can be managed simply through becoming aware of our emotional ‘triggers’. Only you can know what they are. Is it a thought or a feeling? An event perhaps? It could be anything.

What you need to remember is that the thought or feeling itself is just what it is. Your reaction (or non reaction) to it is the key point that will either create a good or a bad day.

And we all want to have a good day. It is easier than you might think….

Just be aware of your thoughts and the choices you have…..:)

Feel good and be happy….

Developing Mindfulness and Staying Grounded

This is all about practice. Like everything else in life, it doesn’t always come easy but it does become easier with time. Mindfulness is a way of being. There are no set rules to becoming mindful and aware but you can begin this process by directing your attention towards simple things such as your breathing. This is probably the easiest way to ground yourself and ease yourself into a relaxed frame of mind.

We tend to lose our sense of grounding when we become emotionally stressed and by that stage, it is usually too late to act. It will be harder to come back to grounding if you do not train yourself to look for the warning signs – for instance, snapping at people without any real need to, feeling ‘worked up’ for no reason, having a knot in your stomach that stops you from eating, breathing too quickly (the body has gone into flight or fight mode as it is perceiving a threat of some kind is imminent) and racing thoughts which are usually very negative.

If we are very used to brooding and obsessing over problems, there will be a strong chance that we end up blowing things out of proportion. When we become lost in a maze of thoughts, there is something we can do to help alleviate the feelings of emotional discomfort. By focusing on the breath, we immediately divert attention from thoughts and thinking and into the body. As soon as you do this, you stop the endless cycle of repetitive thoughts. Aligning your attention with the breath is the only way to bring yourself to a centre of calmness.

You then become aware and mindful of the present moment. That is all you ever have to deal with and can deal with. Doing a thousand things at once is possible if you are very organised but if you have a thousand thoughts zooming around your mind creating varying degrees of emotional anxiety with no purpose or resolution, you experience levels of stress that you cannot deal with. Focusing on your breathing releases you from the prison of emotional anxiety and the thoughts that are related to them.

I would say that with practice, you can begin the process of becoming more mindful over time. You will have good days and bad days but the important thing to remember is that you are moving forward. It is a process that takes a lot of time and perseverance and sometimes you feel like it is pointless trying when you are having a difficult time.

Don’t let the bad times get you down! Everything you go through is an experience – it is how you learn from it and how you react to these changes that shape your future.

© Christina McDonald 2014.

Not a morning person? A piece of dark chocolate might do the trick…

Alarm clock goes off. You feel instantly startled, fumbling with your eyes still half-closed searching for the ‘off’ button wondering what the urgent problem is until you realise ‘oh yes, time to get up..again.’ Another week is here. Not long after, I start craving something to banish the Monday morning blues. I thought it would be good to try an experiment. Instead of having a cup of coffee every morning before I go to work, I am going to have a piece of dark chocolate instead.

Apart from wanting to feel human again, you also want to feel naturally uplifted and happy if your mood is otherwise. The stimulant called ‘theobromine’ which can be considered as one of the ‘feel good’ effects of eating chocolate, can give you a boost not unlike the effects of caffeine. I’m not sure there will that much of a difference as far as feeling that happy buzz is concerned if I’m honest. I would like to see if I actually really do need that cup of coffee in the morning or if I could substitute it for dark chocolate instead without too much effort.

Addict that I am.

How do you feel when you eat a piece of chocolate? For me, I feel instantly relaxed. The entire experience begins visually and then, if I smell the chocolate before eating it, I feel as though I am already experiencing the benefits. When I am at work, just inhaling the aroma of the chocolates is intoxicating in itself and I find myself craving chocolate yet again. Strangely enough, it seems to be the dark chocolate I crave more through the aroma.

I often find myself desiring a piece of milk chocolate but it is the dark chocolate I find myself craving more these days. There are many different nuances of flavour simply found within the aroma of chocolate and it can in fact influence the entire perception and interpretation of the actual taste. There is no doubt about it. The very thought of eating a piece of chocolate does not exist in isolation on its own. How it looks, how it is presented, the aroma, etc. is just stage one of the process.

The memory of how good a piece of chocolate is that we had previously can trigger a positive reaction to future experiences. What we expect to feel and what we actually end up feeling may be of a mutual influence when it comes to tasting the food we eat and even more so when it comes to chocolate I would imagine.

Perhaps imagination is the key here. From the early creative stages of making a chocolate bar or a truffle and to how we interpret the taste and flavour, you could say that it is a work of art unfolding constantly and in a multitude of different ways. Similar to looking at a picture in an art gallery, we are all going to feel and experience something completely different to each other based to an extent on the sum of our own experiences.

And that is what makes it so fascinating.

© Christina McDonald 2014.