community

Comfort food

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When I was in my early 20s, my then-boyfriend and I used to go and stay with his grandparents, in their little blue weatherboard cottage in the country, beside a lake. I remember waking early in the morning and going for long walks on the sand, watching dolphin families fish for breakfast. Morning tea with his grandma, served precisely at 10am every day, was always tea in a big pot, and Iced Vo-Vo biscuits.

One year, a few days after Christmas, we were less than an hour into our journey back home to Sydney when we received a sad phone-call: my boyfriend’s grandfather had had a heart attack, and died. We immediately turned around and hurried back to the weatherboard house, which by the time we arrived was already overflowing with family-members: parents, sisters, uncles and aunties, all with their jobs to do, somewhere on the spectrum from grief-counselling to hearse-ordering, depending on their skill-set.

All except me. As the little-known girlfriend of one of the grandsons, I felt acutely in the way. Awkward, a noisy presence (although I rarely spoke) during a time when the family needed to close in, bunker down, and support one another.

Often, food is how we show someone we love them, when they are going through a difficult time. Something hearty and lovingly baked, and left at the doorstep to be consumed when there’s no time or energy left for cooking, or frozen for a later day.

But as a superfluous guest in the bereaved person’s house, I couldn’t do that, so I made the next best thing: tea. Pots and pots of tea. I made so much tea, in fact, that everyone got sick of it. I distinctly remember walking into the kitchen where my boyfriend’s mother and grandmother sat together over the table by the window, and offering to put on the kettle. “I think we’ve all had enough cups of tea for today, thank you Naomi,” they said.

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We had a bereavement in our family this week and, once gain, my mind turned to food.

I can’t erase the pain of those who are most affected, but I can sit in the stillness with them. (I have learned, since my 20s, that sometimes it is OK to be still with someone. We don’t always have to be doing, doing, doing). And the other thing I can do, this time, is make food. Nutritious food because grief can take a toll on the body. Hearty meals because they feel like edible hugs. Handy dishes that only need to be heated up to feed a whole family. And sweet treats, for emotional self-care and to have something easy to offer the inevitable well-meaning guests who drop around.

It was serendipitous, also, that the day after we lost our loved-one, I received a gift in the mail from Sophie Hansen (of Local is Lovely): her latest cookbook, A Basket by the Door. Actually, I received two copies of this book on the one day, one that I had pre-ordered, and another as a personal gift from Sophie.

Sophie’s book is all about food that is made to be given away. The edible care packages through which we share love during the large and small milestones of life: the loss of a loved one, a new baby, a school picnic, pre-exam jitters, a graduation, welcoming a new neighbour… and the list goes on.

This is such a heartwarming concept for a book, don’t you think? There is nothing fancy or flashy in here, and most of the recipes are relatively easy to make. The goal is to share love, not show off. Delicious, tasty, wholesome food that is intended to be given away (although Sophie does make the clever suggestion that we double some of the recipes, to keep some for ourselves as well!), alongside practical tips on how to ensure it travels well.

Country hospitality.

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(I realise at this point that this is starting to sound like a sponsored post: I assure you it’s not. I bought my own copy of this lovely book, and nobody asked me to write about it. I just really, really adore the concept of edible care packages, and even I can cook these recipes!)

For my grieving family, from A Basket by the Door, I have already made a rich and hearty lasagne, half to eat now and half to freeze for another day when cooking feels like too much. I’ve prepared a simple and delicious filling for chicken sandwiches so we can stuff it into crusty bread rolls and take it to the park to recharge in nature. I plan to make and freeze some bliss balls during the school holidays for the kids to take in their lunch boxes when term starts, and there’s a coconut and lemongrass broth that has caught my eye for dinner some night soon.

I baked the blueberry, lemon and rosemary cake you see in the photograph above this afternoon, as a treat for the children when they came home from school, tired, grubby and low on reserves. (It freezes well so there’s a lot of future after-school treats in that tin!)

Sophie made all the food for this book, and photographed it, herself, over two years. Doing it this way - slowly, thoughtfully - meant the food she made was shared in the way it was intended, with family and friends, each dish an individual act of abundance and love.

In this spirit, I was thinking I’d like to send you a care package, too, to say thank you for being my community.

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This blog is my happy place. I called it “Naomi Loves” many years ago, because I wanted it to be a celebration of the things, places and people I love, and that has never changed. In fact, of late I have really fallen back in love with this form of storytelling, and it gives me great joy to write a blog post each week.

But what really makes me swoon about this blog is you. In 2019, when so many people are saying blogging is dead and the only real community is on social media, you are here. You read, you leave your comments, you send me emails, and I cannot tell you how wonderful I feel to know that we are sharing this little time together, and that you allow me into your world in this small way.

Those of us here on this blog are a much smaller community than on my Instagram or my newsletter, but that makes it feel all-the-more intimate when I am writing to you, and I feel I can be more vulnerable here than anywhere else in public. It’s almost as though we’re family.

And so, I want to thank you. I’d like to give you my second copy of A Basket by the Door (the one I paid for, because the one Sophie gave me has a little note in it that makes it extra special to me). I won’t post this opportunity anywhere else online, I’m keeping it only for this little blog community, because I appreciate you so much.

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If you think you’d like A Basket by the Door, either for you or a friend, simply leave me a comment in this post below (if you’re reading this via email you just need to click on the title of this blog post to see it in your browser, and then you’ll see the comment box), letting me know what your favourite ‘edible care package’ is (either to give or to receive), and what makes it special. (Mine is chicken pie, but the why of that is another story for another day).

I know some of you have missed out on past opportunities on this blog because of time zones, so this time we can take it slow. I’ll choose a winner a week from today, on Friday evening, Australian Eastern Standard Time, and email that person. The opportunity is open to you anywhere in the world and, depending on the laws in your country, I might bake you a batch of my mother’s Anzac biscuits (they travel well) to go with the book.

Big hugs,
Naomi xo

UPDATE 15/04/19: This competition is now closed, and the winner has been notified. But if you’re in the mood for some inspiration, have a browse through all the kitchen-generosity in the comments below. It’s utterly heartwarming! And do still feel free to share your thoughts on this. The community on this blog genuinely makes it my happy place.

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Ode to writing letters, and cauliflower soup

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I’m not going to deny it’s cold out there. The children race ahead of me to the playground, seemly oblivious to the biting wind, and the fact that there are scratches of frost amid the remnants of last night’s rain on the monkey-bars and the spinning tourniquet.

Their games start almost immediately and, to the soundtrack of their laughter, I find a section of bench that is seeing sun (or that might possibly see sun one day). I bring a little towel with me so that I can dry a space to sit down, and then pull out a note-pad and a pen, and ease my gloves off, one finger at a time.

And now, while the children swing and slide and leap and spin, I write letters. I write to strangers, I write to friends. I write to family, I write to my children’s teachers, I write to Instagrammers and podcasters I admire. I write about the produce I found at the market, about walks we take in the woods, about books I’m reading, cakes I’m baking, dreams I’m dreaming, and about the way time runs at a different pace in France.

I write until my fingers turn red from the cold, and then blue, and then wrinkle until they look twice my age. The children race past me, shrieking with laughter during some great game or another. I blow on my fingers, I shake them out, and then I write some more.

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Later when we are home, I pull out the pencils and paints. Trace around my trusty wooden envelope-template, and make up designs that I think people will enjoy, inspired by the world around me right now. A café in Paris where we drank hot chocolate and ate croissants. Sunflowers that I’d picked up at the market in London two days earlier. A castle in Bretagne. The picnic we enjoyed in summer at the ruins. Rosehips from the basket-full I picked from the hedgerows, the swan we admired in St James’ Park, my mother’s vegetable garden.

When I’m done, I fold each painting into an envelope that will carry these tiny moments and stories from our lives along highways and past mountains, across bridges and over oceans. From autumn to winter, or spring, or rainy-season, or dry. To vast cities and country villages, rural outposts and marshy islands.

All for the low, low price of two euros.

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Sitting in the cold playground and writing these letters, these long, rambling spillings-out of my days, feels like I’m returning to my roots. It’s not that I ever stopped writing letters, but the luxury of time to write in this way isn’t something I’ve given myself in many years. (Note that I say “given myself” rather than “been given,” because too many times I’ve claimed not to have time when, in reality it was simply that I chose to spend my time in other ways).

I’ve heard it said, and in fact I talk about it in my letter-writing course, that writing something down by hand (rather than typing) aids the memory. It’s something called “reflective functioning.” We feel the event or experience all over again as we write it down, and then reflect on it and make sense of it as we read it back. Perhaps by writing down the seemingly mundane but often precious moments of my days, I am helping to commit them to memory and heart, my letters becoming an act of mindfulness and gratitude, appreciation for the littlest of things that bring joy.

But I sometimes wonder if, in not only writing these things down but also sharing them with someone else, I am doing more than committing them to memory. Maybe I am giving them lives of their own.

What if, upon reading of the intricate romanesco broccoli I picked up at the market on Thursday, my correspondent is inspired to make her famous roasted cauliflower soup, and invites friends over to share it? The conversation and laughter last well into the night, and it is a simple experience of friendship and hygge. That wasn’t my letter, but maybe a letter could spark such a thing?

This is the power of words shared. They don’t stop on the page and, from the moment we drop our letters into that post-box, they no longer belong to us. To me this is a beautiful thing, and the fact that I can never know if or what my letter might spark in someone else does not make the imagining any less joyful.

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Phone phobias & coaching calls

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Earlier this year I discovered, to my genuine surprise, that I really really enjoy mentoring and coaching people over the ‘phone.

It’s not the “helping people” bit that came as a surprise, it’s the “over the ‘phone” bit. I am a person who, normally, intensely dislikes talking on the telephone. Maybe it has something to do with being an introvert, maybe it’s that mobile ‘phones have made us way too accessible all the time, and I need a break. Whatever it is, I resent that jarring ring-tone when it hits me through the day, and feel flutters of undefined anxiety before I ever pick up the ‘phone to call anyone. Yes, even people I dearly love, whose company I adore and who I genuinely want to talk to. It’s not them, it’s that piece of technology attached to my ears.

Do you relate to any of this? I’m sure I’m not alone.

But late last year, people began approaching me for one-to-one help with their creative paths and, since almost all of those people lived in different cities or countries to me, that meant using the telephone. Or more accurately, Skype, but audio-only because the reception drops markedly at my place whenever we turn on video. Also because I’m most often in my pyjamas.

It was a huge, huge step for me to push myself this far outside of my comfort zone to help people in this way, and I was genuinely miserable before my first call. The immediacy! I’m no good at thinking on my feet! The awkwardness of talking to strangers! The whole phone-anxiety thing in general!

But to my complete and utter surprise, I just loved every second of that first call. As, in retrospect, makes perfect sense. What I love to do most is to see people embrace and celebrate their creative sides, and to get to be a part of that is pure joy. There were nerves on both sides at first, but no weird-stranger-awkwardness: after all, this woman had approached me. She knew me from what I shared online (and I’m pretty honest), and had chosen me because of what she felt I could offer her. We were each other’s right person and were soon in the thick of a wonderful, laughter-filled, constructive natter. I came away from that call buzzing a little (albeit exhausted), and excited for more.

So I booked more calls and the more I did the more I loved them, and that was what gave me the confidence to factor one-on-one mentoring into the Create With Confidence program I ran back in June this year. I knew that the calls would enable me to really get to the heart of what each person was hoping to gain from the course, and tailor what we did to their needs. Also, I felt as though I forged 18 new friendships!

All this is a very long lead-up to announce, with much excitement, that I have decided to formalise these coaching calls, and have opened up a small number of appointments for personal, one-on-one creative coaching with me in 2019!

Normally this is the kind of information I save for my newsletter. New courses, programs, that sort of thing, I share in there along with my templates. But I don’t know. I just have an inkling about you, dear blog friends. I already know that most of the people who read my blog are my people, do you know what I mean? You feel like friends not-yet-met. So I thought that just in case you were also wanting to overcome some creative hurdles or take things further with your creativity, you might like to hear about these calls, too.

(Stop reading here if you’ve already read about this in my newsletter or you’re not at all interested in this program, and just let me know instead if you are ‘phone-phobic too, so I don’t feel like a weird loner! But if you’re curious to know what I’m doing next year and/or if you’d like to be part of it, read on)…

What are the coaching calls?

This is where we get on the 'phone (or Skype) together and settle in for a cosy chat about you and your creative goals, and together make some plans to help you achieve them. 

You can choose a one-hour chat if there's just one thing you really want to get to the bottom of, and forge a path forward. Or you can book a three-month intensive coaching program, during which we work together with regular calls and activities in between to help you overcome your creative challenges and really affect the big changes you have been longing for. 

There’s loads more information about the coaching calls on my website now (yes, I’ve made it official), so take a read here if you’re curious.

To ensure I can give you my full attention, and to ensure my introverted soul can give you all the emotional energy you need, three-month sessions are limited in number, and only available to book for either February-April sessions, or July-September sessions.

Also, I realise that 2019 seems a million miles away right now, but we are already in October and if your November-December is anything like mine, things get pretty hectic at this time of year and we can forget to plan ahead until it’s too late. So consider this a gentle reminder if you’re hoping to give more of your time and attention to your creativity in the New Year.

Are we right for each other?

It's a beautiful, big, diverse world we live in, and the 'right people' are out there for all of us. We both want to enjoy our chats together and see the biggest transformation for you, so let’s figure this out. You and I are probably right for each other if you... 

  • are struggling with creative block, creative confidence, or the emotional side of going public with your creative work

  • need help starting or improving on the practical side of sharing your work (think social media, websites, newsletters, sales, and the like) 

  • feel a bit lost when it comes to your creative path, and that's left you feeling alone - "always on the outside looking in" (that song will be stuck in your head all day now)

  • want to create a workable road-map, with a step-by-step plan to affect the change you want to see and make things finally happen for you 

  • are hard-working, gentle, honest, open to change, and have the time to commit to really working on your goals over a three-month period to see the change you desire

What do you say? Do you want to get on the ‘phone with me? As it turns out, I would genuinely love to chat with you. Who’d ‘a thunk it?

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Loneliness, letters, and a new challenge

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"Are you lonely Mummy?" Scout slips her little hand into mine and looks up at me with concern.

I have been encouraging my children to interact with other children here in France. We go to the playground most afternoons, around about the time that the French children come out of school. Ralph and Scout are signing up for karate and ballet respectively and, with some help from the maire (the mayor), they have both been given special dispensation to attend Ecole Maternelle, despite the short time we are here and the fact that Scout is the wrong age. 

At first, they pushed back. They are such good friends, my little ones, and almost entirely self-sufficient. They didn't feel the need to fight their shyness or traverse the language barrier to make new friends. But I persisted, and like the brave little champions they are, they have acquiesced.

But all my talk about making friends and not being lonely took root, and now they are worried about me. "What will you do?" they want to know. "How will you make friends?"

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Apparently, we (and by "we" I mean "the Western world") are in the midst of what is being called a loneliness epidemic. 

Digital technology has made communication easier and faster than ever before, but it turns out that when it comes to psychology and mental health, communication is not the same as connection

In a recent survey of more than 20,000 American adults, close to half reported feeling alone, left out, and isolated. One in four Americans said they rarely felt understood. 

Scientists and psychologists are now saying that social isolation and loneliness will reach "epidemic proportions" by 2030, and that this will create a public health crisis. The latest research, based on more than 70 studies covering close to 4 million people from across North America, Europe, and Australia, has found that loneliness and social isolation significantly increase the risk of premature death.

It all drills down to this: feeling connected to others is a fundamental human need. 

On the other hand, while connection and communication are not the same thing, neither are connection and proximity the same. Many of those people in the previous studies who said they were lonely were living with a partner. This backs up something that I firmly believe: the key to combating loneliness is not about how many relationships you have (or how many Facebook friends, YouTube followers or Instagram followers you have), but about how meaningful your relationships are.

That's why I feel OK, and how I attempt to ease the fears of my children on my behalf. I have moved states and countries enough times that my friends are scattered all over the world. I have learned how to remain connected despite being geographically separated. That's not to say I don't genuinely love a coffee catch-up with my dear friends, or to share a meal with my husband at the end of a long day, but I do know how to feel connected when we are apart.

The sting of loneliness can be felt by just about anyone, at any age and in any circumstance. However, social isolation and disorienting experiences can definitely create or exacerbate feelings of loneliness. So people in nursing homes, hospitals and prisons, for example, as well as migrants, people who are unwell at home, and the live-in carers of people who are unwell at home, are more likely to become quite lonely. 

This is a beautifully and sensitively-written article that talks more about modern loneliness. 

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So I was thinking. What if we were to all reach out to people who were either lonely, or at risk of feeling the kind of social isolation that leads to loneliness? Could you help? 

A week-long challenge

International Letter Writing Week is coming up next month (it's the week that coincides with the official UN World Post Day, on 9 October). What if we were all to commit to writing a letter or a postcard a day to someone who is lonely, throughout that week, to help them feel more connected?

A letter is a lovely way to share your emotions, and invite others into parcels of your days, that is second only to catching up face-to-face. Even the tangible nature of your letters - your handwriting, the stationery you chose, any gifts or embellishments you made - make them personal. For someone who is experiencing loneliness or isolation, your letter is like a hug, and the time you give to properly reading a letter from them is a listening ear, or possibly even the shoulder they need to cry on.

You don't need to write "I thought you might be feeling lonely" (no-one wants a pity-letter!). Just write "I was thinking of you and thought I'd write to say hello." You could write to the same person seven days in a row, or write to a different person each day. Here are some ideas: 

Of course, the act of writing to someone, when you write from the heart, does you bucket-loads of good as well. Sometimes I feel quite selfish when I'm writing my letters, because writing and making them makes me feel so good. Probably, it helps me stave off the loneliness I might otherwise be feeling, too. 

In the article I linked to above, loneliness is described as "a let-out-of-breath topic." So many people feel this kind of social malaise, and it's so nice that we can all be allowed to talk about it at last, and not feel any stigma. Maybe if we all get writing, we can turn the tide of isolation, and start to forge real connections again. 

What do you think? Are you in? 


ps. If you're in the mood for even more letter-writing inspiration, I want to remind you about my letter-writing and mail-art e-course, "The Most Beautiful Letter You Have Ever Written," from which this challenge-theme and the list in it was taken.  

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Over four weeks, I will guide you through multiple methods of making beautiful mail-art and creative, handmade stationery; teach you the art of writing and storytelling; help you forge personal connections in your letters and find pen-pals if you want them; and share time-management tips so even the busiest people can enjoy sending and receiving letters. There's also a host of downloadable resources, and access to my own private mail-art pen-pal group. Registrations are open right now, and you can find out more here

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I'm ready to send you mail again!

snail mail I have a little Christmas present for you, my friends. Actually, I have more than one to give! 

You may remember that I used to send letters to people who subscribed to this blog, to say thank you to them for reading. I had to suspend that in July this year, when I discovered I was more than 60 letters behind in all the mail I owed. It was overwhelming, and I felt terrible for being so slow. 

But here we are a week before Christmas, and I'm all caught up. If you subscribe to this blog and you haven't already requested this mail from me, I invite you to share your address now. The sign-up form is here and I look forward to making mail for you.

UPDATE 7 Feb 2017: Aah I'm so sorry. I've been making mail as fast as I can but you guys are KEEN (I do love that!) and, as fast as I've been going, there are now 123 people on the waiting list. So I've had to disable the form again while I catch up. Again. Watch this space. 

I mentioned I have some other presents to give. While things have been quiet on this blog of late, I haven't forgotten you, and I've been working away behind the scenes to develop some resources that I hope you might enjoy. 

The first is a free monthly newsletter that will launch mid-January. Short on words but big on inspiration, it will contain an original artwork every month, that you can print out and customise into your own mail-art.  

The second is my new e-book, Making Mail. This is a 10-part guide to writing letters that will become keepsakes, by writing entertaining missives that look beautiful, survive their journeys, and make the recipients feel special. This book is free when you subscribe to my newsletter. 

I really hope you enjoy all of these gifts, and I want to thank you for sticking with me as I've developed all these resources in the background. I'm looking forward to bringing you more inspiring, uplifting, funny and creative content in the New Year, and wish you every happiness for this festive season. 

Love, Naomi 

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Aaaargh! Heathcliff!

kate-10 copy This is actually happening! In Melbourne! And I can't even begin to tell you how happy it makes me.

What is "this," you ask? Why, only a gigantic, public group-dance to Kate Bush's classic Wuthering Heights, that's what. There is so much silly joy right here, it's palpable. These screen-shots are from the first dance, in Brighton in the UK, in 2013 (watch it here - I laughed out loud).

Since then, ladies and lads in red dresses and bad wigs have been dancing to Wuthering Heights all over the world and finally, finally this event is coming to Melbourne, on 15 July. There's an event page on Facebook if you want to follow along.

Flash mobs are so 2000s.

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UPDATE: I just learned that this will be a world-wide simultaneous event. Eek! 

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Mysterious mail

typewriter You might remember that a little while ago I wrote about a cute little snail-mail themed film that was being crowd funded about a woman who suddenly started receiving hundreds of letters addressed to a total stranger (Mr Eduardo Munez).

I'm thrilled to share that the film has been funded and will go ahead, and now the production team have invited you and me to be part of it!

Will you write a letter to Eduardo for the team to use as props in the film? Make it as creative and fun-looking as you like, and imagine Eduardo to be any kind of person you like! Here's how they explain the challenge:

We are looking for mail artists and snail mail lovers to get involved in our project by sending us letters which we can feature in our film. We are looking for letters, particularly drawn envelopes, mail art and plain envelopes - not postcards.

We will have to change the real addresses on the front to the 'fake' address of the character in the film so please leave the address section fairly clear of decoration.

In our film the letters to Mr Eduardo Munez do not get opened - so inside you can write whatever you like. You can use your imagination - who do you think Eduardo Munez is? What kind of mail would he receive?

Once shooting on the film is completed we will video the team opening all the letters we have received! We'll provide everyone who contributes with a password protected video link to watch them all being opened. All letter writers will also receive special thanks in the credits too... Please, be sure to write your sender details on the back of the envelope as the letters will not be opened until after the film is completed! With each letter's writer's permission - we will also publish them on our film Facebook page and our website.

The address to send your mysterious mail to is:

Mr Eduardo Munez 272 Waterloo Street Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4DJ UNITED KINGDOM

I'm definitely up for this. Are you? There's more info here if you'd like it, and here is a blog displaying all the letters that have come in so far.

Image credit: photo by Gabriele Forcina, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons 

UPDATE: The deadline has been extended so you have until 21 March to write to Eduardo

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How to stay alive this summer (and all the other summers)

summer There's no getting away from it that the sun in Australia is mighty powerful, and mighty dangerous. For Australians, the sun is like some kind of god from ancient times: equally worshipped and feared (and equally benevolent and destructive).

Have you seen the new TV ad by the Cancer Council of Victoria? The whole message is that it's not just those marathon sun-baking sessions or the unexpected "first of the season" sunburn that can cause skin-cancer; even little moments in the sun - walking the dog, rushing out to buy milk, cooking the BBQ - can add up. And your skin, the ad tells us, forgets nothing.

This is no toothless scare campaign. Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world, and two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70. It's frightening!

My father-in-law died from melanoma. I didn't know him then, but I'm told it wasn't pretty, and the suffering was immense. Mr B and his mother and siblings lost their husband and father much too soon. Both of my parents regularly have skin-checks, and small cancers (thankfully benign) removed, and I know my own skin-future is probably not great. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I would spend all day every day outside without any kind of sun protection. "I don't burn, I tan," I'd tell people. Oh boy.

So anyway enough of the miserable stuff. The whole point of this blog post was to introduce you to a fantastic, FREE app I recently discovered: the Cancer Council of Victoria's SunSmart app. I use it every single day!

You tell the app where you are (in Australia) and it gives you advice on UV levels, in real time. The idea is that you know when to wear sunscreen, protective clothing and a hat, and to stay in the shade; and when you can be free to play in the sun and soak up some of that vital Vitamin D.

You can also create a "skin profile" (I created one for my children) by answering a couple of questions, that will tell you how much and how often to apply sunscreen. If you think you'll be out of doors quite a bit, you can turn on regular reminders to reapply sunscreen.

I use this app every day to watch the UV index rates, sending my children outside in the morning and late afternoon to get some healthy rays when I know it's safe, but bringing them in or covering them up when the UV index climbs. One thing that has been interesting for me to learn is that UV doesn't seem to necessarily correlate with clear skies, OR heat. There have been times during drizzling rain when the UV index was "extreme," and the other day it was 39 degrees but the UV was only "moderate," compared with an "extreme" rating earlier in the day when it wasn't quite so hot.

That's been an education for me and now I rely on my little app all the time. If you're concerned about sun safety this summer, I highly recommend it. For me, I feel a whole lot of peace of mind that my family can now enjoy the sun in a safety that is educated, rather than based on guesswork and estimations.

Photo credit: Cole Patrick, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons 

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Final call to be in my book

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Last call, folks, if you want to be in my book! (I hope you do. Please do!)

I've almost finished the first draft, and the research has been so much fun. For anyone who doesn't know, my book is about all the quirky, creative and kind things people are doing (and YOU can do) with snail mail these days.

I've interviewed mail heroes like Rin from Papered Thoughts, founder of Mail Me Art Darren Di Lieto, and artist and zine-maker (and person behind the one-and-only Parcel Ghost) Marissa Falco. I introduce you to an honest-to-goodness fairy post office hidden in a forest; a postcard-related art project that has gone global; places to find pen-pals and join creative mail-swaps; a professional letter-writer; a hidden, stamp-related game on a city's streets; museum exhibits that write letters to visitors; a Rube Goldberg postcard machine; and a modern take on the secret language of stamps. There are more than 100 stories and heroes and resources and ideas in the book, and every single one of them includes inspiration, guidance or links so that YOU can get involved, too.

The book is going to be visually stunning, as I've partnered with a bit of a "secret weapon" photographer and we are in the process of planning everything out. If reading all the stories and ideas in this book doesn't inspire you to pick up a pen and write a letter to Nanna, the photography will.

I want to pepper the book with thoughts and quotes from anyone and everyone who loves snail mail, and that's where you come in!

If you would be so good as to answer the following questions and send them to me, I'll try to put you in the book! (You can be anonymous if you want to, or you can share your name and your blog or ONE social media profile if you'd like to be found by the people reading my book). Just email your answers to one or both of these questions to me at nabulger (at) gmail (dot) com, using the subject heading modern_mail so you don't get lost in the spam folder:

* In this age of digital technology, what's so special about snail mail?

* Who should you write a letter to today, and why?

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Yours truly, Naomi xo

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Dance party

dance-2 I downloaded this (free) Dance Break app on the weekend and I was the 299th person around the world to join the dance party. The idea is simple: once a day, at a random time, your phone will bleep to encourage you to dance. If you agree, it will play one great song to get you moving and you can stop what you are doing RIGHT THEN and get up and dance... along with everyone else who downloaded the app, wherever they are in the world. It's a global dance party. It's exercise. It's exuberance. It's silly. It's joy.

Will you dance with me?

Image credit: Bảo-Quân Nguyễn, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons

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