Author Archives: jesswray123

Run like the Wind

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BY JESS WRAY

Running. For me, this word brings about pain in my body just by thinking about it; an endless battle between my mind and my body. However, that is about to change. I have just officially purchased a new pair of Nikes and have assembled a “WORKOUT” playlist on my iPod, so I have absolutely NO more excuses holding me back from starting running. If you are one of those people who loves the idea of running but not so interested in the practical, you’re just like me but we might have to rethink that and understand just how much running can benefit our health as teenagers.

“Running benefits a teenage girl’s health and fitness in many ways, from the obvious to the more nuanced. A strong cardio base and experience in running can boost performance in many sports, including track and field, soccer, softball and basketball.” (Livestrong.com, 2011) Most teenage boys and girls begin running with a clear mind-set or physical goal to achieve weight loss, muscle gain or toning throughout the legs. These are definitely some potential benefits of running and can be achieved with a bit of hard work and determination. However there are so many other health benefits that come from running too.

Feeling the burn? Excellent, really, do carry on! Did you know that approximately 60% of runners start running to manage their weight? The reason being that running is one of the top burners of fat and burns plenty of calories and kilo joules that will keep us girls lean and mean. In fact, running (with the exception of cross-country skiing) burns more calories per minute, than any other form of cardiovascular exercise (RIRIAN PROJECT, 2012). Running has also proven to reduce the risk of stroke, breast cancer and childhood diabetes. Even though you may not love running, your heart definitely does! As regular running reduces the risk of heart attacks, by strengthening your heart and lowering your blood pressure. So that racing heart beat is not such a bad thing after all!

Through running, you can also maintain and/ or improve your general health by raising HDL or also known as “good” cholesterol, reducing your risk of blood clots and encourages your lungs to use the 50% of the organ that is usually unused. So when you are out for a run and you feel as if you can’t breathe, it’s just your mind, the unused 50% of your lungs is clearing out all the cob webs!

Apart from the many physical benefits that running has on your body, running is extremely beneficial in training the mind and encouraging mental improvement. With us humans only using a small percentage of our brains, I’m pretty sure there is plenty of room for improvement!  Jogging and running builds your confidence and self-esteem like few other individual sports can. It makes you feel such a sense of achievement when you have conquered that evil hill or ran that extra 2 km and with each victory we grow stronger and stronger both in our bodies and our minds. By making yourself overcome the nasty or nice obstacles that running brings your way, you learn to train your mind to focus and you feel determined. These skills will prove very important as you go all throughout life, by increasing focus and determination, so it is beneficial in the making and shaping of your actions and your attitude. “It provides a feeling of empowerment and freedom that comes with knowing that your legs and body are strong and capable.” (RIRIAN PROJECT, 2012) And for those who are trying or experiencing weight loss, you will start to feel more confident as your self-image and attitude towards yourself start to change.

With running, there is no more room for excuses such as: “I just broke up with my boyfriend” or “I’m too stressed with school” because running happens to relieve stress and is great for tearing away with that anger and aggression that you might be feeling towards your maths teacher. Think about it, whilst you run you are alone, your tension soon flies by and you are left to think about life, question what is going on and really focus all that emotion into a well-paced sprint that will allow you to clear your mind and have you feeling better in no time. Running is scientifically proven to make you happier, by releasing endorphins that can cause euphoria (runner’s high) or just a general sense of happiness! (Livestrong.com, 2011)

There are so many more benefits of running that I could just go on and on and on, but that would get rather boring, so I have summed up the most beneficial and most important ones that will leave you with no reason NOT to run. However it’s that silly mind of mine again, saying “It’s too hot” or “I am tired” but I know that running actually cools you down with the release of perspiration AND running gives you more energy. So I guess, a bad run is better than no run at all, right? Correct. So as Anthony Bailey once said, “Man imposes his own limitations, don’t set any”.

As Nike says too, “JUST DO IT.”

So See Ya Later Alligators! I am off to run, it is my first time in my new Nikes and my first time running in about 3 months. I know this will be a challenge. However I will overcome it, I WILL DO IT! I challenge you to make room for one run this week, that’s all, just one and see if you feel the difference!

So… RUN LIKE THE WIND.

Are you a runner? Do you enjoy running or do you prefer another sport? How does running affect or make you feel?

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It’s Raining it’s Pouring…

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BY JESS WRAY

… The old Jess is snoring! Okay, I know, that’s not the original version but it’s pretty close. It’s rainy days like these where I feel like there is absolutely NOTHING to do and my mood seems to resemble the colour of the dull sky. After you have watched about a gazillion chick flicks and all the classics there isn’t much more to do, you might say. However I have come up with some ideas for things for you to do during this rainy time that will keep you entertained.

1. When you wake up: Freshen up for the morning and set the table so that it is fit for Kings and Queens (and princesses like us of course!). If you want you can make a little menu and decide what you will serve for breakfast. Pour everyone something to drink in wine glasses (minus the wine though, a bit early for that, if you’re under 18) and perhaps prepare scrambled, fried, poached or whatever eggs you prefer, alongside some tasty bacon, or if you are a vegetarian, some cooked mushrooms and cheese. Or if you’re like Abby, just sit down and enjoy a bowl of cereal. Now that you have your protein on your family and/or friend’s plate, decorate it with some fruits and/or veggies  you might even want to place some fresh natural yogurt in a small bowl next to the plates and chop up some delicious strawberries, blue berries and raspberries to go into it. Viola! Then once everyone is served, enjoy a very good breakfast that will keep you full until lunch and will keep you feeling energised throughout the wet, rainy day. Unfortunately after the brekkie, there is some cleaning up to do, but maybe it’s your brother or sister’s turn because I mean, you MADE the breakfast and set the table! Wink Wink.

2. Mid day : So you’ve just watched the Notebook, P.S I Love You, The Last Song and Bridget Jones’ diary and by now your emotions are pretty unbalanced and you are getting a serious case of cabin fever. No worries! Let’s find your inner self and relax with a bit of Home Yoga, so tie your hair back tightly, grab a yoga mat (or something similar), get into some comfy, workout clothes and find the quietest and most peaceful spot in your house near a window. If you have some aroma candles or even just candles, you can make yourself a Yoga sanctuary with a warm glow (however please don’t burn the house down). Put your laptop/ iPod/ iPhone near to where you want to do your Yoga. Now you’re halfway there, next thing you need to do is go onto YouTube and search for a Yoga Class, whether you’re a beginner, want a challenge or are an expert. Or you can visit http://www.yoga.com/yoga-workout-routine/ and accompany these workout poses with relaxing music provided by YouTube ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YCAcXiHEdk)  or your own Ipod! Then just follow the instructions and lose your body tension and try to relax. Also remember to hydrate!

3. Just after lunch : So your belly is once again full and now it’s time for something new… Have you or someone in your family got a sewing machine? If so, why don’t you bring out your creative side and get all the clothes in your cupboard that you don’t really like anymore or are SO last year! Think of a way that you could almost reinvent these clothes, to pieces that are more in fashion or resemble more of your current style. Or maybe if you have a little sister who loves to play with Barbies, you could make Ken and Barbie some fresh, new, fashionable clothes. Maybe you’re not a fashionista? Or not interested in clothing? That’s okay, what about making a really cute pillow that matches your room?

4. Don’t have a sewing Machine? If you have a computer, (visit our blog!) you can browse online shopping till you drop, or you could maybe design a virtual kitchen on IKEA? If you start to get bored, or perhaps if you’re already bored, try playing some addictive computer games, I know I love ‘Bubble Struggle 3’,  ‘Kindergarten’, ‘Penguin Diner’ and ‘Watergirl and Fireboy’ I bet you won’t beat my high scores!

5. Time to get outside, this cabin fever is just TOO severe now. I say yes. Playing in the rain practically brings back childhood memories of me watching Barnie, singing in the rain, the famous song that I believe goes something like this… “If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops, Oh what a joy it would be! Standing outside with my mouth open wide, A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A!” Get into your swimming suit, stick your tongue out and sing along! OR you could have a swim in your pool if you have one and as Abby suggests, do a hand stand and feel the raindrops on your feet because, “it feels funky!” she said.

6. After Dinner: watch another movie if you want, or round-up all the sweet treats in the house and play food poker and many other board games with the fam or a bunch of your friends and may the best poker face win!

So that’s a wrap on a rainy day, I hope this can help you with some ideas for activities to do and cure your case of cabin fever other than watch movies all day, although I am not saying that is any less fun – movie marathons all the way!

What do you do to keep busy on a rainy day?

Pretty Little T.V Show Addicts

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(From Left to Right) Hanna, Emily, Spencer and Aria.Totally fabulous girls that make up PLL. Warning: ADDICTIVE.

(From Left to Right) Hanna, Emily, Spencer and Aria.
Totally fabulous girls that are the main characters of the show. Warning: ADDICTIVE.

BY JESS WRAY

Got a secret, can you keep it? Swear this one you’ll save, better lock it in your pocket, we’re taking this one to the grave. Okay, my secret is that I am addicted to the TV show called Pretty Little Liars! Shh. I’m sure most of you have watched it or either heard of it by now, but if you don’t know anything about it, beware because you will become obsessed and perhaps you might even show up to the next TVSAA (T.V Show Addicts Anonymous) meeting alongside me, in a couple of months time! My addiction began towards the end of 2011, when I was listening to a girl’s book review oral about a book series called Pretty Little Liars and soon after that many of my friends had recommended I watch it. So I asked my dad if he knew where we could find the TV series as it wasn’t airing in Australia at that time (however it is now on FOX8 here) and so we decided to buy Series one and see if I liked it. If only I had known! The first episode sucked and reeled me in like a mindless fish, I just wanted more and more AND more! For those of you who don’t know of this fab show, it’s about 4 teenage girls who mysteriously find out that one of their best friends, Alison has gone missing one night and then later find that she has been murdered. None of them knew who it was and why it happened. All the girls had history and many dark secrets that only their friend Alison knew about. However Queen Bee Alison was never an innocent girl, rather a very conniving and manipulative character back in her day. Days after Alison’s death, the 4 girls, Aria, Spencer, Hanna and Emily, go out in search for answers. To find the truth, their hands get dirty, often literally, and the girls find out they have bitten off much more than they could chew when they come in contact with the faceless, nameless, mysterious, unknown ‘A’  who comes along and turns the girl’s (phones, laptops, computers and) lives upside down.

I won’t spoil it or go into much more detail as the plot gets quite complicated after a while but if you start from the beginning it’s a piece of cake to follow. It’s just hard when my brother watches Season 3 episode 2 with me and asks the questions like, who is he? Why is she in trouble? What’s going on? So I take a deep breath and try to explain but there is just TOO much that has happened that only Pretty Little Liar fans would begin to understand! Anyway, I have been watching all the seasons as they come and I am up to date with the latest ones now. This afternoon while it was bucketing down with rain and the grey sky seemed to blanket the whole of Brisbane, it was such a perfect setting to have a PLL (Pretty Little Liars) marathon! I watched about 5 episodes and the best thing about this show is that you are NEVER bored, I am not being bias when I say that, there are so many red herrins, plot twists, pretty clothing, romance, scary scenes, you name it; so you will almost always be entertained! I had a couple of moments when I got so shocked I almost screamed. Yes, I become very involved and engaged with this show, in fact, actually with many TV shows. I’m not a complete couch potato but I do love TV, and I’m sure you do too!

A couple of my other favorite TV shows would DEFINITELY have to be Modern Family, Glee, New Girl, Friends and Big Bang Theory; but that’s just naming a few! Ok, maybe I am a couch potato… I don’t know what it is but TV shows can make you feel like you belong to something as you follow the stories of all the different characters  and their lives and all the funny sayings and quotes along the way! I know my family and I all enjoy the Big Bang and regularly quote it, sometimes on a daily basis, when I find Matt sitting on MY spot on the couch, I instantly transform my self into Sheldon’s awkward, geeky character and quote, “You’re in my spot” with his accent of course! I’m sure if you were completely honest with yourself, I bet you do that or something similar too.

I will also admit, I am such a sucker for a lot of “reality” TV (although my dad calls it otherwise), it is yet another guilty pleasure of mine to cosy up and grab a glass of milo and enjoy trashy episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Dance Moms, Made in Chelsea… and unfortunately the list goes on! My mum and I absolutely love watching episodes of America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway on the weekends as a girl’s night treat! We watch and comment on all kinds of things, as if we are judges with highly important opinions and I always love supporting my favorite models and designers too, only the ones that are beautiful on the inside…as well as the out! Aren’t they a lucky bunch of girls. Another favorite is talk shows, they are more real and often quite informative and at times hilarious, I mean who doesn’t LOVE Ellen or a bit of Dr. Phil from time to time!

Two of my favorite people on Television! Ellen and Rebel Wilson!

Two of my favorite people on Television! Ellen and Rebel Wilson!

Anyway I would love to hear if any of you have any favorite TV shows, or if you are a bit of an addict like me? It’s just a bit of fun and laughs (and screams sometimes…) when it comes to TV shows, but I will cut down on some TV this year as a part of my new years resolution so I don’t turn into a mashed potato. If any of you are Pretty Little Liars fans I would love to chat with you about it too, discuss about who you think ‘A’ is (no spoilers though, looking it up on Google doesn’t count!) whose your fav character and all things inbetween!

Happy TV watching all!

Are you a PLL fan like Jess? Or are you addicted to another show? Any advice for Jess’ TV show addiction?

Back To School: Yay or Nay?

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BY JESS WRAY

Yes, that time of year has come back yet again. The time to open up and clean out your cob-webbed school bag and slip back into the busy, mind-numbing routine. However it’s not all bad I guess. I quite enjoy going back to school after a long holiday, getting to see all your friends and the familiar faces that appear here and there around the school. My favorite part of going back to school for a new year is definitely the shopping! I know many people may find that a trip out to Office Works is extremely boring and a waste of their time but I happen to find it very exciting. I love looking at all the new, fresh books and imagining myself writing in them. They look so clean now but I guarantee you that all my books will be scribbled and doodled on by Term 2, but who cares! I decided to pick mostly pink books this year as it’s my favorite colour and I figure, looking at a pretty, colourful book while studying Modern History or Study of Religion is far more pleasant than a plain, old grey book. I know you can’t judge a book by its cover (excuse the pun) but I do believe that a bit of colour can really make a difference to my mood!

Anyway getting back to the topic; back to school. When it comes to this time, holidays seem to rush by like the blink of an eye but I’m usually ready by this time to go back. However for some people it’s a completely different story. I have counted about 5 Instagram photos of people photographing their new text books and accompanying the photo with hash tags like #hateschool or #feellikecrying, you name it. Oh, of course I also can’t forget the numerous Facebook statuses along the lines of, “Omg, school in like a week. FML.” Rather annoying really and so unoriginal. I often wonder if most girls at my school actually do hate school, or if they are just saying that because they feel the need to say and do what is widely accepted as being “cool”. Am I weird for being excited to go back to school? Am I ‘normal’?

That’s where I come to the realisation that I will be surrounded by many of those “cool” girls once again and that’s often the ‘Nay’ part of going back to school. As well as the judgement, gossiping and bitching that goes alongside everything else at school. I am scared I will feel isolated again. At the end of last year I didn’t have a very good time. I had many problems in terms of group work, friendship problems and just overall cattiness and unfriendliness. I lost a friend of mine who had become so rude and horrible that eventually I was glad to see her go. So then there was two, once she left. Me and my friend Natalie have become a lot closer now but we both felt isolated and felt that many girls would look at us nastily or judgmentally because we were in such a small group. So we took safety in the library at lunch times. I know what you’re thinking, “NERD ALERT” and I probably am, but we had a really good time there, we didn’t hear the gossiping and there was no one looking at us funnily. We were free to just talk about everything under the sun, laugh about nothing and just enjoy each other’s company. Bliss. We loved to make fun of ourselves too, pretending to talk to the books and act as if they made up the rest of the ‘group’. We were and still are nutters but I think it’s refreshing to be different and to not just always try to fit the profile of “cool”. Nat used to get worried about if we were pathetic or loners and that made me even question myself at times but then I thought, I would rather be in a group of two with a friend that I really get a long with and like than be in a group of 10 filled with girls who gossip and dislike you if you are different to them. I know Abby has also had her fair share of problems at school too, but to be honest, who hasn’t? We have often talked about it and tried to help each other get through it and I hope you have or may one day find a friend in which you can trust.

This year for me is a daunting one. I’m starting senior school; the serious stuff. Two words; Semi Formal. Other than that I’m really nervous that I won’t be good enough for Grade 11 but then, I had the same feelings and thoughts last year and doubted myself for Grade 10, and apart from some social mishaps,  I survived. So I have a bit of faith in myself and I just hope I do well. I aim to study and prepare myself for exams earlier than last year (this is sounding like my new years resolution list) and I will try to not get so caught up in the drama and politics of friendships and other girls at my school. I really hope I get nice teachers this year, I had such lovely teachers last year so it would be nice to continue on with positive teachers. Hopefully this year everything will be alright, I hope to get to know some new people and continue to build on my existing friendships! I am also so grateful to have Abby as a friend outside of school, we haven’t known each other for long but I feel like we are so close already and I love being apart of this blog and I hope you enjoy what we post! I want to wish you all a wonderful first day of school for the year; whether you are starting a new school, returning to your current school or beginning homeschooling again, I hope you do your very best and achieve your goals, whatever they may be.

Are you excited to be going back to school? What’s your school like, do you enjoy school? 

Dear Kitty – Entry 1

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Hello, Goeimidag and Bonjour Tous Le Monde! I’m so sorry I have not blogged in a while, I have been travelling and wasn’t able to have a good Internet connection until now! Hope everyone has been enjoying their new year and their holiday! I was writing in my diary about everyday whilst I was unable to write to you, so I will write them out again. Here it goes.

3/1/13

Dear Kitty,

i have had the most amazing past two days here in Holland! I survived the 20 hour travel journey here which really was the longest plane trip and I am still feeling like the ground is moving every so often! Anyway, yesterday we started our day with a delicious continental breakfast and then we took a taxi to Anne Frank’s house – I believe she’s a friend of yours? After we waited in line for a short while, we went into the museum and it was so interesting seeing the real deal as I have finished the book and what an incredible book it was! As we walked through the house and ventured beyond the original secret book case and into their ‘Secret Annexe’ which I know you know PLENTY about! I must admit I felt quite sad and the exhibit was very confronting. Overall, it was an amazing experience and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit her “huis”.

Me at the Anne Frank house featuring the book!

Me at the Anne Frank house featuring the book!

After visiting the house, I was walking around Amsterdam in awe of the city’s stunning scenery and architecture that makes me feel like I am on set of a beautiful film! We decided to go for a walk to Kalver Straat and Dam Square. The massive olden-day church was breath-taking!

We browsed the shops and surfed through the crowd and many souvenir shops where I bought myself an “I Amsterdam” jumper, a clogg key ring and of course the iconic Amsterdam beanie! After we went shopping we went for a lovely ride on the canal, a small, luxurious boat took us and it was beautiful! I really LOVE Amsterdam and everything about this city; the scenery, people, culture and atmosphere! It’s very relaxed here Kitty, they even sell cannabis lollipops! I won’t even mention the sex shops and all that stuff as it is rated XXX!

I'm a shopaholic, yes, I confess.

I’m a shopaholic, yes, I confess.

We got off the boat merrily to go to the divine flower market where we saw many tulips and very bright-colored, beautiful flowers. We also saw that this one shop was even selling a “DIY start-up marijuana set”, I told you they were relaxed, however we stayed well away from that so don’t you worry! Then was feeling pretty dizzy and slightly nausias from jet lag and travel sickness so we sat down at a cute little restaurant and recovered by eating a delicious Dutch classic-hot chips in a cone with mayo sauce!! very good medicine indeed. Then we decided it was time to go back to our cosy little apartment. So off we went on the cobbled road. With lots of gorgeous photos of precious memories that I will keep forever, I had an amazing first day in Amsterdam and an even better sleep!!

YOURS,

Jess

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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BY JESS WRAY

Hey all! I write on behalf of myself, Abby and the Growing Pains Team as we wish you all a very merry Christmas, wherever you may be! I hope you all have a lovely day with whomever you choose to spend it with. I hope you all share the Christmas spirit and enjoy your presents!

If you’re like me, I release the ‘inner-child’ in me on Christmas day. I sprung awake at 3:50 am on the dot. It was still dark and I was so excited to look under the tree, be the first one to see the gifts. I lay in my dark, chilly room and debated with myself whether I should get up or if I should just stop being ridiculous and go back to bed, “It’s 3 o’clock Jess!” The more reasonable, mature side of me won the argument, so I tried desperately to go back to sleep; I shut my eyes tight. After about 10 minutes I decided I just couldn’t do it, so I turned on my lamp and decided to read my book for a while. After I had finished reading, checked Facebook and browsed on Instagram, I was delighted to have a small glistening glow of the sunshine peep through my window! By this time it was 4:45 or something crazy like that. I immediately opened my curtains and let the morning sunshine implode in. I love the crisp smell of the early morning, the gentle cool breeze and the birds that sing in chorus with nature. I was happy that soon I would be able to go wake up Mum and Dad as well, but I had to wait for the time to be just right… If I woke mum up at 4:00, I think she would have a fit and ban Christmas all together!

Not really, but you get the picture. After further debating with myself whether I should get up or not, I finally got the courage to get up and explore beneath the tree! I tip-toed as sneakily and as quietly as I could, checking all my surroundings before I approached the tree. Roger, Roger, the coast was clear. I saw some presents under the tree, all beautifully wrapped with red and white ribbons and each person in the family had exactly 3 presents addressed to them. I tried to sneak a peek but I thought, “Come on Jess, you’re ruining the spirit of Christmas!” By this time, I felt quite lonely and I needed to talk and wish someone Merry Christmas, my mouth felt trapped! I am usually quite the blabber mouth so you can understand my dilemma! I was suddenly greeted, very excitedly, by my favorite kitty, Cooper – he’s my pet cat. We cuddled for a while and he meowed me a Merry Christmas! I held him in my arms and decided to walk into Matt’s room (he’s my younger brother) and to my surprise Matt was wide awake too! A huge sense of relief came across the both of us; I wasn’t the only insane person in the family on Christmas day. Matt and I and little Coops chatted for a while about how we couldn’t get to sleep, he had been up since 4:00 am, and Cooper, well who knows! Later, we transferred to the living room, perfect distance away from Mum and Dad’s room, for us to make a noise and be able to talk and watch ‘The Big Bang Theory’ ; it’s one of Matt and I’s favorite T.V shows of all time. We know every word of the song… sometimes, even the script! So we were entertained by Sheldon and the Big Bang gang for about half an hour when we heard a very exciting sound.

It was Santa! Or maybe just mum awakening from up stairs. We both look at each other and our eyes light up! It was what we had been waiting for since 3:00 am! Thump, thump, thump went Mum’s footprints and the noise got louder as she came down the stairs and towards us; we knew it was time…to begin Christmas!

“MERRY CHRISTMAS!” we belted out as we ran to mum who was still half asleep! We bounced and cheered and Matt and I anticipated and waited for the five words that we desperately wanted to hear… “Let’s go open some presents!” Mum and Dad, Matt and I all sat in our formal lounge and each collected our treasures from underneath the tree. We all took turns opening one present each as we went around the circle. Just like children. Oh, how I love Christmas!

Our family was very lucky this Christmas to receive a holiday as our main present, I also recieved DKNY ‘Be Delicious’ perfume, an eye shadow kit and a Coldplay ‘MY LO XYLOTO’ Concert Tour T-Shirt! I am very happy with all of my gifts and I am very excited to spend the rest of our Christmas Day with our dear family friends, The Ducrays! They used to live in South Africa too and we have known them all our lives, Brigitte (daughter, and my very close friend) and I were born together only about a month or two a part! We do miss our family so much, all the time but especially on these precious days, I send my love and Christmas wishes onto all of my dear friends and family that I cannot be with today.

So once again, I would like to wish you all a very magical Christmas and I hope that you are able to share and celebrate the love and joy with people who are special to you!

How did you start your Christmas day? Do you have any family ‘traditions’ on Christmas day? What gifts did you receive? 

Dear Kitty, I have Holiday Fever!

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BY JESS WRAY

This post is inspired by a dear friend of mine… Anne Frank! Okay, I do not directly know her, but I’m reading her diary so I guess I know her pretty well by now. I have been really enjoying reading ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ throughout my holidays and I seriously recommend you read this precious book. I have not yet finished but I am so hooked, I can guarantee you I will most likely finish reading Anne’s Diary by the end of this week! Although, in a way, I don’t want to finish it, I want to keep being amused and accompanied by delightful Anne whilst I sit by the pool and enjoy the sunny days!

The book cover

Anne’s Diary, so far, has been quite confronting and upsetting to read at times, but witty Anne always tries to find the brighter side of life even during her terrible situation. She writes to ‘Kitty’ about everyday events that take place whilst she waits in hiding with her family (Mr and Mrs Frank and Margot), the Van Daans, Mr Dussel, Miep, Koophuis, Elli and of course the cat Mouschi in their ‘Secret Annexe’ located in their hometown Amsterdam. I do know how the book ends, unfortunately someone spoilt the ending for me but I don’t care, I will keep reading! I am able to relate to most of the topics that she brings up. She was around my age when she wrote the diary and, I know it seems odd, but when I am reading I consider Anne as a friend and I can relate to some of her feelings. Through reading this book I have gotten a different insight into how the teenage Jews felt during the war and her views of the Germans, the news (at the time) and daily occurrences with her family life. It’s very interesting to “hear” her side of the story, not just the politicians and famous survivors but a normal teenager like myself. I can’t even begin to imagine how Anne could have felt during this time; isolated in hiding, not being able to go outside and having to deal with her “growing pains” alone; it makes me think of how lucky and privileged we are here and that I must be grateful for such a safe life. This book deals with a lot of issues that we try to address and write about here on our Growing Pains blog, which is all about growing up and experiencing change- whether they be bad or good, through the teenage eye. I used to think I knew quite a bit about World War lI, with the Germans and the British but I feel like my knowledge of this subject has been broadened purely through reading this book and reading how Anne writes and explains to Kitty exactly what is happening through her eyes. It is a very educational book and gives you a greater insight into the everyday life of Jewish people during WWIl and the cruel and inhumane sufferings that they had to be put through.

I am not one of those teenagers who hates reading, in fact, I really like reading but it takes me so long to finish a book! Or I have this bad habit of reading about 50 pages of a book and then I stop. Then about 3 months later, I’ll look at the book and want to read it again but I have already forgotten the story line and characters. However I am very pleased to have found this book, recommended to me by many people, including my Mum! I thought it would be a perfect time to read this book as my family is actually going on a holiday to Europe in exactly 8 days! Our first stop being Amsterdam! Amsterdam was where Anne wrote her diary and where their ‘Secret Annexe’ is located. Mum and I did some researching on Tourist Guide websites (as we do) and it actually turns out that there are guided tours through the actual ‘Secret Annexe’ and we have scheduled a day when we will go visit the special place where Anne wrote her memorable diary entries that still live on today! I am so excited to actually see the real deal and I think that when I have finished the book (perhaps during the 24 hour flight to Amsterdam) seeing the place will enable me to actually visualise all the characters sitting there, reliving their story, almost as if they have come alive before my eyes, it will definitely be the cherry on top of a great book!

Anne Frank at work in the Secret Annexe

So, I am using this book and the diary entries as inspiration for a new project that I hope to accomplish! When I am away I will fill you all in about the experiences that I will have whilst I travel to Amsterdam, then onto Geneva and then I will be skiing with my family in France for two weeks! I will write about funny things I see, different foods I taste, people I meet and unique stories along the way throughout the journey! However it will be in the form of a diary, and all my posts will start with ‘Dear Kitty’ and I will go on from there. I am really looking forward to it, hopefully I will do Anne Frank proud!

Therefore, if you are feeling a bit bored during these holidays or maybe you are feeling a bit lonely, ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ is the perfect Christmas read (actually, anytime read!) and I am confident that if you haven’t read it, you will love it just as much as I have been loving it! If you have read it or maybe when you finish the book, please let me know what you thought about it!

I want to wish you all the VERY MERRIEST Christmas in two days time (not counting or anything) and I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, including Abby who is relaxing by the sea as she soaks herself in the Aussie sun and will no doubt be getting a killer tan! However I will try my best to keep in touch with all of you and Kitty!

YOURS, JESS

Have you done any Holiday Reading so far, which books have you most enjoyed? Have you read ‘Diary of Anne Frank’? What did you think of the book? Are you going away these holidays too?

Ditch the Diets and Focus on Healthy Eating

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BY JESS WRAY

Are you sick of not being able to fit into your skinny jeans every winter? Or the feeling that over short periods of time your clothing seems to get tighter? I am so tired of feeling embarrassed about my body, especially during summer. I have tried so many different diets and I still don’t look like Miranda Kerr! Whenever I reach “rock bottom” and I feel the time for change, I get a burst of motivation; motivation to get outside and lose weight. This time, I’m serious, I WILL DO IT. However, I am taking a completely different approach. This approach simply ditches ‘dieting’ and instead focuses on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, this including: eating healthy, regular exercise and getting rid of the junk (in the trunk).

Eating healthy is extremely important for everybody and especially teenagers, as our teenage bodies need important nutrients to maintain growth and development. Many teens don’t realise how important our growth and development really is. If bad eating habits are established now, it is most likely that you will be overweight and unhealthy when you reach adulthood. If your growth and development is affected, resulting from unhealthy eating and deprivation of certain foods, you put strain on and expose your body to many serious health risks that could possibly affect your life. With New Years Eve only 2 weeks away from today, now is the perfect time to take control of yourself , start a fresh and restore the healthier you so you can take on the new year with force and a positive outlook!

The next question is, “Where do I start?”

To start, you need to be positive and have the mind-set that this is NOT a diet, but rather a new and improved healthy lifestyle choice that you will continue for the rest of your life. Once the mind is ready, the body will follow.

Start off with a spring clean! By this I mean, get rid of all the junk food, unhealthy factors and negativity that may be holding you back. The next step is finding out what you should and should not do and/or eat. To maintain a healthy body, teenagers need a daily supply of healthy carbohydrates, fats and protein so we can absorb energy and nutrients to achieve maximum health and prevention of disease. Equally important, we need to develop healthy eating habits that include choosing healthy foods in a balanced diet of breakfast, lunch and dinner, including small, healthy snacks between meals, whilst being aware of portion size. Please avoid skipping meals at all cost! From research and advice from my nutritionist, I have been informed that missing meals is really bad for weight loss and affects the way your body responds to food. Therefore, now that we know how many times to eat and what types of nutrients we need, next we need to find out which foods to eat more of and which foods to avoid.

Eat-well Plate

“Whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, are unprocessed and contain a spectrum of nutrients that include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber” (Jeffrey Traister, 2011). Intake of whole foods has been proven to protect against chronic diseases, such as: obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as, making weight loss easier through the improvement of blood cholesterol and fat (Joanne Slavin, 2003). Teenagers enjoy fun comfort foods that are easy to share with friends and get us through study sessions, break-ups, sleep over gossips, pity feeds, you name it, we eat them. I’m sure I speak on behalf of most teenagers, that when given the choice, teens gravitate to unhealthy food items such as chips, chocolate or soft drink as opposed to carrots, cucumber and water. However, these junk foods are very bad for our bodies, and sure, once in a while is okay, but we can not be eating these foods on a daily basis. In order to proceed with our new healthy lifestyle we do have to change our thinking and this means sacrificing certain foods and eliminating and/or reducing our intake of very sugary, fattening foods. Only to replace the junk with healthier options such as fruit or crackers and cheese to satisfy your hunger.

Woah, information overload. Is that what you’re thinking? I know, it can be all a bit overwhelming but it is so important for all of us to know this, in order to positively influence our food choices. I’m really having second thoughts about that chicken pie that I just ate… It had vegetables in it though! Still, please don’t get me wrong, I am NOT saying that you must say goodbye to chocolate forever or never have Coke again, I am only saying that these delicious, not very nutritious foods are “once-in-a-while” foods, we just can’t have them everyday. This way, when we settle down to eat our KitKat while we watch Gossip Girl or if you enjoy a big glass of Milo when you are Facebooking, you won’t feel guilty about eating and/or drinking these “sometimes” foods as it can be your little treat!

EXERCISING:

Exercise is a proven method of enhancing your life and well-being. When we were younger,  we tended to engage in exercise effortlessly while playing and exploring the world. However as we age and become teenagers, our lives get busier with homework, study and socialising and exercise often takes a back seat to other activities. Exercise is most beneficial for teenagers when we exercise for at least one hour per day, keeping in mind that our workouts must be a mixture of moderate and hard intensity. All forms of exercise is great for your body. So if you are not a runner but a swimmer, go right ahead and swim! Work on your strengths, but also remember to push yourself and break your comfort zones sometimes. You will be rewarded in the long run (no pun what so ever). If you are really stuck and need some exercise routines to follow, keep tuned on our website as we will be posting new forms of exercise every now and then! Start off with Abby’s boxing and rowing routine, found under the category ‘Body and Health’ titled, ‘Exercise, I hate you’, Ironic , but it’s great!

So set yourself a realistic goal if you are trying to achieve weight loss, or if you are simply just wishing to become the healthiest version of yourself, remember to do plenty of exercise, maintain your healthy eating habits and don’t compare yourself to others, remember that you are you and everyone has a unique body that works differently to yours. Don’t give up this time. Make this time the time that you improve yourself; in body, mind and spirit.

Are you a ‘routine dieter’? Have you ditched the diets? What’s your healthy lifestyle like?

Experiencing the Loss of a loved one

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Jess and Her Uncle

Whenever I hear the word, Death, I want to cringe. I am one of those people who is absolutely petrified of death and the tragedy that follows these events. I find it very hard to express myself when it comes to these types of situations and I often feel very lost for words. I don’t know if any of you have the same feeling or if any of you also feel lost. I decided to be brave and try to post something about this issue so that I could let my emotions out and maybe encourage or inspire any one to write about what you are experiencing.

When someone mentions ‘death’ as a whole, I get this feeling of pain all through my body. I never used to, but my perspective of death and loss has changed so dramatically over the past two years. I would like to tell you about my brave Uncle Clive. He is still so special to me and I miss him as each day passes. When I was about 10, my family received the worst possible news. After a terrible car accident, my Uncle was injured and thank God he did survive the crash but only for the doctors to find that he had a huge brain tumor inside his head. At the time, I didn’t quite understand what it meant, I didn’t even think death was a possibility at that stage. I was blind to mortality and I was naive. I still remember my uncle so vividly, the way he laughed, his jokes and the passion that he had for the outdoors, especially the beach and the wildlife. As things started to change, I was a bit confused at that age. I would often see people crying and I would often ask myself if I should be crying too? As time went by, his situation got worse and as I matured I started to understand. His first operation went so well and he survived and I remember how happy my family was, we felt as if we could conquer the world now. I thought nothing could bring me down, he was alive and well. We used to laugh with him and he used to joke about how it was “…just a scratch” and my uncle continued to live life to the fullest, just as he had always done and for a while he felt infinite.

Months passed and we thought his illness was a thing of the past and I hadn’t thought about it for so long. About 3 months later the ‘monster’ grew back and it was like nothing I had felt before. It was like a re-occurring nightmare that just wouldn’t leave your mind. My whole family couldn’t believe it, it seemed so unreal. Anticipation grew high and for many months, family life was tense and painful inside but my brave uncle told us not to worry and to go about as we usually do, smiling with his funny grin that I remember. I admired him so much, I still do. Thanks to all our prayers and hope, we were granted yet another miracle when my uncle survived another head operation and that feeling of release and joy overwhelmed us, yet again. We felt ten times more powerful than before. I always remember thinking, “Now this is it, it won’t happen again” and at the time, that statement seemed so promising and so realistic. Scars from the operation left Uncle Clive with huge metal stitches across his forehead, and he always used to say, “you see, the doctors should just make a zip across my head, every time they need to operate” and we would all have a good laugh about that. My uncle was a real joker, always making us happy when things weren’t looking up. Clive started to grow back some of his hair and he really was starting to look healthier and more like himself again.

We all felt so proud and excited that he was getting well again. I wish I could end the story here and say that everything was alright after that, that he survived and we are so grateful to have him here with us today. However as much as I really, sincerely wish I could, I can’t. As much as it kills me inside, I must go on. By this time, my close family (meaning my mother, father and brother) had moved to Australia and we had got yet another devastating and gut wrenching phone call that broke our hearts. He was ill again. We were so far away from all our family and it was so hard during that time as we were alone. I missed everyone so much and I felt scared. Everyday I would think that I should be in South Africa, I should be with all my family at this very difficult time. I didn’t get to speak to my uncle often. I really regret not talking to him much, I wish I had called and asked him how he was going. Numerous of occasions I would walk in on my mum crying or having a serious conversation and from what I could hear; it didn’t sound promising or hopeful. I prayed every night and most of my prayers would end in tears. After weeks of anxiety and worrying about him we got a very surprising phone call, which brought us the miraculous news once again that he survived his THIRD operation and by this time, we really thought our blessed uncle had been kissed by an angel. After that we kept in contact over Skype and phone calls etc. Uncle Clive sounded and looked great! We were also so excited as my family were getting ready to actually visit South Africa again and see everyone. I felt like I was happy again. I was going home. I would love to say it’s the same here in Australia but unfortunately it’s not.

Seeing our family and visiting S.A was so amazing, it felt so surreal and spending quality time with the family was wonderful. I am really exceeding the word limit but I will tell you about a day, a day in South Africa that I will most definitely remember for the rest of my life.

Blue skies. Hot, Durban weather. My aunty said we should all go out to have a nice lunch at this cafe next to the beach. Life was good, everyone was healthy and happy. We had just driven for an hour and a half to visit my cousins, who were staying at the beach (I can’t remember the exact name). We all had a delicious lunch and we had the beach breeze cooling us down. My cousin Devon challenged himself with the hottest curry on the menu and so did his older brother, my other cousin, Shaun. Of course, you can only guess the result of that… Anyway, as we do, we all decided to take some nice family photos while we were all together enjoying that gorgeous day. I remember holding the camera and taking funny photos. Clive and his sons loved to pull the funniest faces and always tended to do so in ALL of our nice family photos! We love them for it though! I remember specifically saying  “Uncle Clive, look here” and he pulled the cheesiest grin and I snapped that moment, us laughing and having a ball. I still have those photos and I cry and laugh every time I see them now.

The memorable cheesy grin

Unfortunately, holidays come to an end and it was time to say good-bye. Uncle Clive was feeling sick again. It started to come back. I didn’t get to say good-bye to him because he was too unwell to come to the airport. I wonder what was going through my head at that time. I couldn’t have known. I feel like I should have. I feel sick in my stomach, thinking about our last hug and wave goodbye. Little did I know it would be our last one ever.

So by now you have probably guessed the ending. A tragic one it was. I can hardly finish off this story. I feel shaky and sore.

I came home from a hockey game feeling great, I’m pretty sure we won, then mum and dad called Matt and I to come and sit down on the couch. I could see that look in their eyes, I had seen it three times before remember. My heart literally sank and I swear I could feel it in my stomach. My heart raced at about a million rates per hour and all of a sudden the sound was mumbled as mum put her hand on mine and said the words I had been dreading for months, “There’s no easy way to say this, but Uncle Clive has passed away.” Everything went silent and all I could hear was my heart. It’s so clear in my memory I can almost feel it now. I had never felt grief before. I had never really experienced loss. To me, it felt like the end of the world. I couldn’t see a bright light at the end of our pitch black tunnel. My family was shocked but in a way, they expected this to happen. Mum used to say that I just be grateful to have known such a brave person and that we were all so lucky and blessed. I wished it hadn’t happen. Sometimes I used to shut my eyes so tight they would hurt and I would try to convince myself that this wasn’t happening, that it wasn’t real. To my horror, it was terrifyingly real.

I can’t say that I only mourned for several months, because in fact, I am still mourning. It’s not as bad anymore as everything heals with time but such a loss will never fully heal. I began to wonder what I would say to him if I could have said one last goodbye. What could I have done or said differently?

Dear Uncle Clive, 

I miss you more than you could ever know. I really admire you. I am so sorry that such a cruel, unfair thing had to happen to you. You were one of the most amazing, brave people I knew. I aspire to be like you. I really do. I sometimes cry, thinking that you won’t see your kids marry or see us graduate from school, but that is selfish of me. I am happy that you are not suffering anymore but you really gave those other 3 brain tumors a run for their money! I want to thank you for being such a great uncle, son, father and husband to all of us and let you know that we love you and always will. We will never forget you. You aren’t completely gone, you see, whenever I see the ocean, I think of you. I didn’t get to attend your funeral but I know that your ashes are somewhere in the ocean, where you would wish to be. I look at the sea and remember how you taught me to dive under the waves when I was scared of the ocean. I remember you teaching your boys to surf and having fun with us all on the beach. I wish I could have said this to you. Everyday, I think about this. Please remember me, and watch over all of us. I will look out for you. Thank you for being you and we love you.

Uncle Clive and Devon having a surf. Good old days.

I am sorry to really go into detail, but you must know that this is the first time I have written about this and I feel a huge sense of release. I was inspired to write this story today when I remembered that I am attending my old principal’s funeral tomorrow, we are paying our respects to her as she sadly passed away just over a week ago after suffering a long, hard battle with breast cancer and I feel that it somehow relates to my story. It also struck me that I have never actually been to a funeral before and to be honest, I am scared. However, I will hold my head up high, for my Uncle and for Jan remembering that just as life can be brought into this world, sadly we all have our departure dates. Unfortunately, some of us are not given a fair go and our lives get cut short but we will always remember the precious memories that will never evaporate or die in our minds and in our hearts. We must appreciate the lives of our loved ones every day and not take anything for granted.

May my Uncle and Ms. Newham and any of your loved ones – who have passed, rest in peace. I hope you all grow strength in your minds, bodies and spirits and I wish that you find hope, love and support during these hard times.

What should I buy for my friends and family for Christmas?

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BY JESS WRAY

Are you asking this question quite constantly during this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, I love any opportunity to go shopping for anyone really, especially myself, albeit, when it comes to this busy time of year I really get stuck for ideas and feel pressured to buy endless gifts for everyone. I have decided that I will not make this Christmas another time of just buying useless, insignificant gifts for my friends and family. This year I aim to narrow down my ‘to-buy-for’ list to only my close and dear friends and of course my family. By doing this I will not break my bank (the very small and delicate one that it is) and that way, my gifts will be more meaningful.

As Abby once told me, she is not a fan of buying Christmas gifts for her friends as she said, “You know, I don’t really think it’s right when you spend a fairly big amount of money($40) on a friend and then 3 months later, I receive a tacky gift from the dollar shop in return” and in some ways I completely agree and find that so relatable! Once I gave a whole group of girls that I considered friends, really nice, meaningful gifts and then you look back about 5 or 4 months later and you no longer even like these girls and you start to wonder, was it even worth it? However, as a girl and a human being, I love receiving gifts, and I’m sure most of you do too. My favorite kinds of gifts are small, sentimental ones. They make me feel special and mean so much more than a block of chocolate or an expensive scarf. Although, I will never reject those presents!  So when you think of it that way, even though sometimes we question our relationships and whether we should buy a gift for a person, think about all the good things you have done with someone or the priceless memories that you share and decide who really deserves a small gift of appreciation from you.

You will notice that I specifically said “small gift of appreciation” and I mean exactly that, Christmas gifts do not have to be extravagant, in fact, the more meaningful the better! This may mean that you get your best friend who loves shopping, a gift voucher from her most favorite shop or for your best guy friend who loves rugby you may choose to buy them a small rugby ball or even those cute rugby ball key rings for his school bag. Something small that they are able to keep and/or use forever and when doing so, will think of you. Well that’s my goal when I look for presents for each of my friends and it’s much more worthwhile and makes shopping a bit more challenging. Although in saying that, if you are like me and you often leave your gifts until the very last-minute and you are panicking and need a ‘cash and dash’ (as I call it) sometimes it is best to go to shops that your friends rave about or spend most of their time in. For example one of my closest friends is always talking about Miranda Kerr and one could say she is slightly obsessed with all the Victoria Secret models – but hey, who isn’t? So I decided that, since my friend also likes a lot of products for your body and health, I bought her a really nice ‘KORA‘ body lotion, which, if you didn’t know, is a part of Miranda Kerr’s new organic products collection. So effectively, you could say, I knocked out two birds with one stone! Go me!

It’s little ideas like this that can go a long way and can create memorable gifts that I’m sure anyone would be delighted to receive! After all, it may sound incredibly cliché and a tad cheesy, but it really is the thought that counts and if you don’t have a massive budget or have run out of time, a well-written, meaningful card will definitely suffice.

Shopping for Gifts

Oh and my advice is to get into the shops as early as possible because the shops are getting really busy and all the sale items are getting fewer and fewer as we speak! Or if you are an online shopper, I would also recommend making sure you find out how long it will take for your gift to arrive and if it takes a couple of weeks, be sure to order it as soon as possible! So to wrap it up I would like to wish everyone a ‘happy shopping’ for the next couple of weeks and hope that you have a lovely Christmas and find lots of prezzies under your tree!