Saturday, February 21, 2015

Social Media, Fashion & Perfection


From my own Instagram.

Appearances are very important to our society. This is why social media thrives so much. We have an obsession with letting others know how amazing our day/food/holiday/workout etc. was. And it's a vicious circle because, oftentimes, we feel this inherent need to do so because we are surrounded by other people who do the same, and whenever they upload, we feel that urge too. Their life looks perfect, so I'm going to upload a photo to prove mine can look that way too. And it goes further than that. It's all about the right filter, and if the photo can get enough likes. Or when you go to your profile, do all your photos work together, do they sit there in perfect filter/crop/subject/style harmony, do they all align perfectly? Social media like Instagram breeds a new form of perfectionist that inhabits most of us who take a liking to the platform. Your success on Instagram is entirely dependant on whether or not you can persuade people that your average, everyday, mundane routine is in fact a continuous flow of perfection; a world where only the best coffee is drunk, the trendiest clothes are worn and the prettiest sights are seen.




I understand this, because I am one such user of Instagram. I'll admit that another's perfect Instagram weirdly instills a sense of competition and challenge in me to be able to achieve the same. And it's hard to do things your own way, careless of other's opinions, of likes and followers. You'll never be completely satisfied because there is always going to be somebody else out there that you perceive is doing it better. And you don't need me to tell you that a little victory like having a nice Instagram isn't going to make you happy or any happier. We all know that, so why do we keep acting like it will, why is that?

Trends in fashion and how they exhibit themselves in our social circles share an effect similar to that of social media platforms, like Instagram. We let our personal style be influenced by people we socially interact with, we consciously (or sub-consciously) make the decision to dress a certain way to blend with our friends, to fit in. Not just socially but visually. There's something comforting to many in a uniform, which is what trends often manifest themselves into. Go to Sydney University and people watch for a bit, and you'll see everywhere the USyd uniform of the season that so many students are attracted to. We become attracted to an image, a type, a style. Similarly to Instagram, we feed into this new form of perfectionism where everything we now wear needs to fit the image we are trying to establish. You can't wear a certain article of clothing because it won't blend well with whomever you are being seen with that day. Or you can't wear something in particular because it doesn't flow with the style you feel the need to uphold.




It all ultimately comes back to this odd importance we place on appearances, even more so our attraction and obsession with labels and categories. The problem is so much bigger than just clothes and social media; our infatuation with labels can be harmful – notably in sexuality, a very fluid affair that can be difficult to pin down in any one category. But labels, as absurd as they are sometimes, ironically are quite an understandable and rational concept. They provide security, comfort, and more often than not, a community. 

However, our society is (knowingly) flawed. Its core message of altering or cutting away parts of yourself to fit in to the ever-changing norm is both impossible and limiting. Here's a radical challenge we can all take on: Dress in whatever speaks to you, post what you want regardless of its 'like' possibilities and feel free to identify as as many things as you want. You don't have to restrict yourself to any one specific style. You can be a part of more than one group, you should try and you will grow. The sooner we all embrace that, the better (and happier) we'll all probably be. 

// Margot Ana

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

On Being a Newbie

I'm a very proud person. I don't like not knowing things. I don't like admitting that I'm wrong. I am stubborn. I'm someone who will act like they've been there before, like they know it all too well, and you definitely do not need to explain anything to me (because, you know, I know everything). On top of that, I'm also very well versed in the art of being the "New Girl". In my life thus-far I can say I've lived in four different countries, I've been to eight different schools, I've travelled alone for extended periods of time and also my parents were part of the sadistic few who sent their child to camp every Summer even though said child knew absolutely no one. Who knew Summer camps had pre-established cliques made up of childhood best-friends and camp regulars.  #kidsarecruel 


The issue with being the newbie repeatedly is, while you develop some great befriending skills and abilities to comfortably eat alone (the cafeteria will suck you in when you are most vulnerable), you begin to resent it. You don't want to be the newcomer who doesn't know as much as everybody else, who is in a vulnerable place and consequently has to rely on others to get by. You want to know what you're doing, where you're going, how to go about things. And questions are possibly the most daunting idea, you really just don't want to think about it. You definitely do not want to admit you may need some help. But it's time to let go of that, because its fundamentally contributing to your own close-mindedness. 

Being a beginner, a novice, a newcomer – it's perfectly okay and everybody goes through it. It doesn't make you any less intelligent, independent or mature. It's easy for people's advice and insight into your situation to come across as condescending or belittling when you are focused on the negative aspect of being new to something. Sure, sometimes people are proud to show off their know-how, it makes them feel important (and useful). But if you go deeply into it, their advice was born out of the mistakes they made, the lessons they learnt, when they were a newbie. In a way, this is the way they validate those lessons learnt, they pass down their knowledge to someone who could use it. And that advice could be absolute gold. It could also be absolute shit, let's be honest young adults don't always have the brightest ideas. But it could be gold.




So fight every single inch of pride you can feel inside of you, accept their advice and think for a moment. Asking for help, listening to advice, and accepting your current rookie status will do a lot more good than maintaining the facade that you know it all. Because the truth is, you don't. Nobody really does. 

Sometimes you need to suck it up and realise that there will always be something you haven't tried, you haven't experienced, that somebody else has. Starting a new job, going to university for the first time, learning a new instrument, travelling to a new place, being a parent...You will never be done with being the new kid on the block, no matter how old or what stage of life you're in, and (at the risk of sounding sappier than your favourite soap opera) wouldn't life be a lot less interesting if there was nothing new to discover?

Don't hate the corn, appreciate the truth in it.

// Margot Ana 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Gather.



Mango + Capsicum Skewers 




Coconut and Lemon Syrup Cake





// Margot Ana 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Be My Tinderella

This week on Margot Ana: A fun and educational story for the whole family on Tinder; what you should know, what to expect and letting go of its stigma.


I got on Tinder probably around mid to late December last year (not a date I really noted in my diary you know, sorry for the vagueness). Before that point, I had mixed views about Tinder. I'd beg my friends who were on Tinder to get off it, but then I would bad-date-bail-out them and relish in their hilarious stories. I would tell them it was so shallow, but then I would have insane amounts of fun helping them in rejecting 3/4 of their matches. One day, I was sprawled onto my best friend's bed, whining about matters of the heart when she enthusiastically suggested I get on Tinder, 'It's so fun Margot, seriously you will love it,' she said. I decided it couldn't be too bad, I mean a few of our friends were definitely enjoying it, so why not. The worst outcome at this point was that I'd hate it and consequently delete the application. So I joined – and boy was it fun. I went on some dates, I met some cool people (I met some weird people too), some I let into my social world (shout out to the new instagram followers) and some I opted to not see again. Now we've all heard the mixed stories about Tinder. You hear about that cute couple who have been together for almost a year now and how they met on Tinder. But then you also hear stories about the über weird dates and how there was that one dude who was desperately looking for his future life partner and he wouldn't stop quizzing you about your genes, how many kids you want to have and wether or not he should prepare for a family pet. But  that's someone else's story to tell. 

So now, as a recently retired Tinder veteran – that's right I deleted Tinder – let me give you some insight into some things I learnt; a combination of my own and others' experiences. 

*

WHAT TO EXPECT vs. WHAT NOT TO EXPECT
When it comes to Tinder, it's best not to expect to find your future husband/wife/partner. Great if you do, that could happen, sure, but maybe don't go into it thinking you'll meet the mother of your children. Furthermore, when it comes to swiping right, try to resist the urge to say yes to everybody just so you can see who likes you and who doesn't. I know getting a match feels awesome and fun... but having to unmatch 138 people because you were curious, isn't the best way to spend your evening. Once you do get a match you legitimately wanted, prepare to be completely unsure of how to proceed. Oh yes. I have been there – I believe for a while 'Hey :)' was my go-to before I, you know, developed actual wit and banter. And don't expect everyone to message you either, sometimes people just like to have their matches sit there like weird little trophies. Now, if you're a lady after the ladies, brace yourself for the exhaustion of all the matches in your area. It's absolutely wonderful and not at all frustrating. Tinder is 60:40, men to women. Of those women, only a fraction are gay. See what I'm saying? If, however, you're a straight female, I would get yourself ready for your share of obscene messages laden with profanities. Come on, it's only the 21st century, did we really expect any progression? 

FIRST DATES 
There will be weirdos. There might be some successful dates. The upside to either of them is you'll improve your social skills especially in the area of small talk. The way I always looked at it was, if it goes well, then that's good for you, and if it doesn't you will have ranting material for your friends or at least a hilarious story to tell. Go into it with low expectations, the first date is always the worst. And speaking from experience (sadly), don't get carried away planning too many dates in your week. You will get emotionally exhausted. Do you know how tiring it is to get to know someone and then do it all over again with another stranger two days later?! It's very tiring, 2/10 would not recommend (the 2 is for the free coffee or drink you hopefully enjoyed). 

COMMON QUALMS
There's always been a bit of stigma surrounding internet dating. And Tinder is just that, if you think about it. But it might just be time to let go of that stigma. We aren't Napoleon Dynamite's older brother who "talks to hot babes on the internet all day". We aren't Debbie making an eHarmony video about her love for cats. We live modern fast-paced lives, sometimes we just don't have time to meet people organically, and court them, and maybe work up the courage to confess our feelings to them. Tinder is convenient, and if this era we are in is anything it's the Age of Convenience. Embrace it. 

A lot of people also don't like the idea of Tinder as a whole, mostly because it promotes a superficial and shallow approach to dating. I find this a bit comical because in my head, people have always dismissed the "unworthy" based on looks, especially in the dating world. Sometimes it's a combination of personality and looks. This is not a new concept, we're just being more honest about it. Dating has always been ruthless and shallow. It's the relationships that are wholly accepting and see your inner beauty. Sex and the City taught me that (Charlotte and Harry, I'm looking at you). 

*

I hope you found my Tinder insight helpful, maybe entertaining and perhaps even makes you a bit  curious to try it out for yourself. I don't know if I would recommend it as this incredible dating tool that will have you meeting cutie after cutie after eligible bachelor/ette, but it's not completely bad and I wouldn't not recommend it... So there's that I guess. Who knows, Tinder might even do you a solid and you'll meet someone totally rad. (I did)

// Margot Ana

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Token New Year Post

As I sit in my desk chair at 1 in the morning, I have one thought: Why can I not think of another title for this post that isn't '2015'? 

Seems to me like avoiding clichés in a post that in itself is cliché, is a bit redundant. So in a strategic move to seem nonchalant over the whole matter, the current title was born. 

I would use a few words to describe the whole of 2014. It was full of firsts, new friendships, discoveries, lessons learnt. It was also turbulent and at times incredibly hard, sad and challenging. It was home to certain stages and events in my life that made me realise a lot of important things. As a result, it's led to a compilation of resolutions I know I will achieve this year. Of course no one needs to wait till the new year to make changes in their life, but a lot of people underestimate just how much we could all use a clean slate – and often a new year provides just that. 

My resolutions this year are probably the first I have ever seriously made, and they include everything. Fitness goals, like getting into acro-yoga and rejuvenating my flexibility; altruistic goals, like do more volunteering and be nicer to my mother (no, really); educational goals, like be more fluent in Swedish and Spanish. I do also believe one of my resolutions is literally 'Drink more water'...because hydration is important, and water is delicious. And I won't get into my more personal resolutions, but I will say, if there's something we can all do, it's focus more on our friendships and strive to form new ones. Because if 2015 doesn't turn out how you wish it did, those are the dudes who are going to help you through it. So don't be a Debbie Downer or a Negative Nancy and make time for them. 

I also wanted to squeeze in as much corn and cheese into one post, that way we don't have to deal with it later on, and just say thank you to everybody who reads this blog, it does mean a lot to me. And speaking of, posting more on the blog, and adding a little variety, will definitely be on the agenda this year. I think I might even go out and buy one of those paper things with all the days and months of the year in them (a calendar I think???) and start being a little more organised. 

Last, but not least (re: clichés), I do have a final little thing to share. I am currently working on a novella that I hope to get published... It's a work in progress, but definitely something I am aiming to be finished by the end of the year. I'm planning to perhaps write a little post on it, talking about its themes and style, maybe even share an excerpt. 

Aaaaand that's a wrap folks. Hope you achieve your resolutions and have a lovely month of January. 

// Margot Ana 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Wild Rice Bowls


Last night– after I finished work and awarded the last customer her purchase, who, by the way, as a 40-something was cooler and more fashionable than I will ever be (I talked to her in my cool, low, nonchalant voice, admiring her khaki muscle tee, linen pants and white Birkenstocks)– I headed to the supermarket to buy some ingredients I was missing for the wild rice bowls I'd be making that night. One of those ingredients being actual wild rice. Not realising just how much wild rice expands, I bought four 150g packets (for four people) and then wallowed in my despair at the checkout when I realised how much Woolworths and Coles swindle you for simple groceries. 

But all was fine and good in the world, when I arrived home, unloaded the shopping and whacked on some jazz to get me in the mood for a cooking bonanza*. 

*Clarification: Cooking bonanza involved less actual cooking and more of me painstakingly getting seeds out of pomegranates. 



And it all brings us to here. Presenting, Wild Rice Bowls, featuring: walnuts, kale, pomegranate and fetta. Mostly delectable, partly orgasmic, and none of the bloated/heavy feels. (Guess what I'm having for lunch today kids, that's right, LEFTOVERS.)


The salad dressing also kicked ass, make it ahead of time so the flavours have time to get to know each other and mingle. Click here for the recipe. 

xx Margot Ana 


 




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Good Ol' Hal

You guys know I'm a sucker for marketing okay. It sucks me in, I'll admit it. And when halloween rocks around the corner, I get as excited as a tween watching American Pie for the first time. Carving pumpkins (and spending some serious dough while we're at it, they are not cheap this time of year), pumpkin spice everything (but actually. every. thing.) and homemade apple cider...

Which brings us here: A pretty self explanatory guide to carving *cue informercial voice* YOUR VERY OWN PUMPKIN ! Oh, and an apple cider recipe. This kind, not this kind. I could understand how that could be a little misleading. We will, unfortunately, not be mixing up dodgy alcohol in our kitchens today, sorry guys.

xx Margot Ana


Homemade Apple Cider

What you will need: 
- A dozen apples, washed, quartered and cored (I used a mix of granny smith and red delicious)
- 1/2 a cup to a cup of brown sugar (depending on how sweet you'd like it)
- 4 cinnamon sticks (halved)
- 1 tablespoon of cloves
- 1 whole nutmeg (chopped)
- Cheesecloth

Optional: 1 valencia orange, sliced in wheels to garnish your drink (you can also cook the orange with the rest of the ingredients, I prefer it fresh and added in at the last minute)


Place your apples in a large stock pot, and pour in enough water to cover the fruit. Turn on the heat to medium.


Place your spices in a smaller piece of cheesecloth, to keep them together while your cider boils - they will be much easier to remove later. I used another thin piece of cheesecloth as string.


Put in your brown sugar.


And your spices.


Put the lid on, bring the heat up to high, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat again and let simmer for about an hour.


Mash up your fruit (being careful not the puncture the bag of spices).


Simmer for another 2 hours.


Let cool completely. Take out your spices and strain the cider through a cheesecloth. Squeeze all the juices out of the cheesecloth, and discard the pulp. You may have to do this in batches. (Cheers Dad for helping me out here, pouring 2 litres of cider and taking photos at the same time is close to impossible)


You should be left with a slightly cloudy pulp-free liquid. You can serve it hot, with a slice of fresh orange or star anise, or it can be equally nice to consume chilled.


Carving Pumpkins 101
Now you can get all professional and use a keyhole saw, miniature saws, scrapers and needle tools. But all I had (and wanted to invest in) were knives and a trusty soup spoon... AND IT WORKED. So it's going to be fine guys, no need to buy that pumpkin kit. Unless you want to make this. Or this. But we're not there yet, baby steps okay.  


1. Cut a hole in the top of your pumpkin - I used a steak knife for this, the jagged teeth help a lot, trust me.


2. Scoop out the flesh, pulp and seeds. You should be left with a clean pumpkin such as this one. 



3. Get creative with your designs. Mark them out first with a market or pen, carve them in, and get rid of any still visible pen marks with a little bit of nail polish remover and a cotton ball.


4. Place a little tea light candle or a larger one (make sure it has a tall glass around it) to light up your pumpkin. You can also use electric lights, in which case, make sure you cut a hole in the bottom of your pumpkin to hide and pass the cord through.


Happy Halloween everyone !