Jessica Bialkowskilifestyle

In My Secret Life

Jessica Bialkowskilifestyle
In My Secret Life

I’m not quite sure I’ve whinged about the weather enough yet, but suffice to say that the fact that everyone (including me) gets excited any time it gets above 0°C is a bit sad, but on those days I’m determined to wear skirts because I’m so sick of wearing jeans every day to keep warm. Everyone I speak to says this has been the worst winter they can remember for a long time, so I guess Toronto turned it on just to show this inexperienced Aussie how bad it can get. We’ve had a couple of snow days where we’ve closed the office and gone home early because of extreme weather warnings, so let’s just say that spring can’t come soon enough!

In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee
In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee
In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee

Life

Despite the weather, my boyfriend and I have been determined to do fun things with our weekends. We recently went to a production of Grease with friends and although they changed the story-line a bit from the movie (which is a childhood fave of mine) it was still a lot of fun. The Danny & Sandy characters were a bit lacklustre, if I’m honest, but Kenickie & Rizzo more than made up for it.

We also went to a Guillermo del Toro exhibit - he’s the director behind Pan’s Labyrith, both Hellboy movies and a few others that all have weird monsters in them, because that’s what he’s known for. I’d only seen Pan’s Labyrinth until the weekend we went to the exhibit and my boyfriend insisted we watched Hellboy and Hellboy II so that I could get a bit more out of it. For the record, the first Hellboy is trash, but Hellboy II is actually really good, so I’d recommend just skipping ahead. The exhibit itself was great and had a lot of cool memorabilia and statues from the movies, although I believe it’s closed in Toronto now.

Speaking of movies, I haven’t seen enough lately for it to warrant its own section, so I’ll mention here that I saw Nocturnal Animals recently and really liked it. Admittedly, I didn’t know anything about it going in except that it’s directed by Tom Ford, but after watching it I’m curious to see A Single Man (his other movie) as well. It’s a beautifully told story, aside from the obviously hideous depictions of sexual assault, which I hate seeing in any movie or TV show, but if you can put that aside it’s a really interesting story and it stayed with me for days after watching it. 

Blog

Just in case you hadn't noticed, around the end of January I changed my blog layout! The change is pretty significant, and I honestly feel so much happier with it now, and far more inspired to put together blog post in different ways. Photos have always been a major focus in blogging for me, and I feel like this new layout is really visually-driven, which is what I was hoping for. I’m finding it really easy to put together posts in a way that looks beautiful to me, and I couldn’t be happier about it!

In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee

As a part of the process of switching over my layout, I’ve had to go back through my archives and fix up a lot of my older posts, and it’s seriously given me the itch to get back into shooting film. I’ve been into analogue photography for 10 years now (mostly 35mm and instant) but when I started getting more into beauty and posting about it on my blog, I shot less and less film because they’re very different styles/vibes. When we moved to Canada I didn’t bring any 35mm cameras with me, but I've just ordered a second-hand one online and can't wait for it to arrive!

In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee
In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee

 I’m not planning on shooting any kind of beauty content on film, but definitely for my life update kind of posts I’d love to get back to my roots a bit more because I never stopped loving it. If you’re interested in any of my older posts that I shot on film here are a few examples: Melbourne (2014),  Melbourne (2012), Country Towns (2012), 50s Fair (2011).

 

 

In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee

Weekend Breaks

Funnily enough, my boyfriend and I have been away to the Muskoka area twice this winter with two different groups of friends, which is where all these photos were taken. Over New Years a group of us went to stay with our friend’s brother who lives near Huntsville, which is about 3 hrs north of Toronto. They get a lot more snow up that way, and there was also a cold snap happening at the time (to the point where some of the NYE celebrations in Toronto had to be cancelled). It got as low as -30°C while we were up there, which, needless to say, was a brand new experience for me. I now know what it feels like to walk outside and have your nose hairs freeze instantly, so I think I should get honourary Canadian citizenship just for that.

In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee

 

We went ice skating on a natural trail in Algonquin National Park in -27°C, which was both incredibly cold and beautiful at the same time. If you try to cover your face with a scarf your breath condenses and freezes straight away so your scarf gets frosty. It was pretty funny seeing our friend’s beard and my boyfriend’s moustache with frost and little icicles in it! We also went tobogganing on our friend’s brother’s property, ate lots of snacks, played lots of board games by the fire and generally had a lovely time.

 

In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee
In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee

The second time was with other friends and we rented an AirBnB with a beautiful view overlooking a frozen Fairy Lake. We walked around Huntsville, visited a few local breweries (which the boys were happy about) and played more board games by the fireplace – are we sensing a bit of a theme here? Although it probably would have been more sensible to book winter trips to warmer destinations, let’s call this immersing ourselves in the local culture. We’ve actually just come back from one final wintry weekend away to the Blue Mountains with the same friends from New Years. We tried snowboarding for the first time (I’m still sore!), went skating on a trail at the top of the mountain, did a mini hike to see some caves, and played even more board games (sadly no fireplace at this one).

I took all these Instax photos over New Years and it was so cold that it messed with the chemicals in the film and they wouldn't develop until I got them back inside and warmed them up, and then all these weird burns/leaks appeared. I'm not even mad, it just makes me all nostalgic for my lomography days!

In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee
In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee
In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee
In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee
In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee

The river that runs through Huntsville was half-frozen over, and it must have snowed on top of the ice because it looked incredible!

In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee
In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee
In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee

Up Above: my friend cracked the surface of the lake. 
Down Below: this was our view from our AirBNB.

In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee
In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee

Books  

I really liked writing about the books I've been reading in my previous IMSL post, so I wanted to incorporate it in here again, especially because I've been reading a few books lately that I've found really interesting, and as far as I'm concerned, sharing things that you're interested in is part of what blogging is all about. Once again, if you're not interested in any of these books feel free to skip over this part!

In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee

Poet In New York – Federico Garcia Lorca  

I picked this up because Leonard Cohen, one of my favourite people to have ever existed, was a huge Lorca fan and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. This is his most well-known book of poetry about the time he spent in New York as a young man. I'll be honest, I didn't really get the magic and none of the poems in this book really resonated with me, but if anyone is a Lorca fan I'd love to hear your thoughts so I can get some more context, because that makes all the difference in how I approach something if I didn’t love it the first time around.  

Atop An Underwood & The Haunted Life
– Jack Kerouac  

I mentioned in my last IMSL that I'm working my way through everything Kerouac has ever done because he's my favourite writer, so these are just another couple off the list. Both of these come from his very early days – Atop An Underwood is mostly short stories or little pieces that only go for a page or two, while The Haunted Life is a story he thought he’d lost, as well as some supplementary bits & pieces. They were both published well after he’d passed away, but they were written before he’d developed the writing style that he's known for, and that I love so much. So for that reason, they probably aren’t a very good/interesting read for people who are fairly new to him, and I wouldn’t recommend them unless you’re a major fangirl like me.

Jack's Book – Barry Gifford & Lawrence Lee  

I know a lot about Kerouac and his life already, so most biographies don’t really offer me any new information, but I really enjoyed this one. It was published in the 70s and is made up of interviews with a bunch of people who actually knew Kerouac, which is very cool because most of the people have sadly passed away now. This was one of the more unique biographies I've come across and I really enjoyed reading it. 

We Should All Be Feminists - 
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is so tiny it only takes about half an hour to read, but I wanted to pick it up anyway to get a sense of Chimamanda's style, and I'm looking forward to reading more from her. The title kind of explains it all, but this is a transcript of a TedTalk she did that Beyonce famously samples in Flawless, which, by the way, is a fucking incredible song. I strongly urge you to watch this video of Bey performing it live with Nicki Minaj because it gives me chills every time I watch it. 

In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee

A Farewell To Arms – Ernest Hemingway

Typically I really enjoy Hemingway's writing, but I read this immediately after A Room of One's Own which definitely shaped my reading of it. They were both published in 1929, and sadly A Farewell to Arms is a pretty good example of some of the things Virginia Woolf raises. Frankly, all the female characters in this story were incredibly one-dimensional, and it was very obvious to me that exploring their stories or why they do the things they do wasn't important to Hemingway. The love interest of the protagonist seems to only care about making him happy, sometimes literally at the expense of her own identity. I mean, maybe this is actually how women spoke in those days - how do I know that women didn't say these things to Hemingway? Perhaps from his perspective/experiences it was fairly true to life? All I know is that as a woman in 2018 I rolled my eyes a lot.

Of course, you have to take things in context, and I don't expect Hemingway to be a feminist because he's a product of his own time, but even putting all of the sexism aside, it just wasn't as good a story as For Whom The Bell Tolls, which I read a few months before. They're both love stories set in war time, and although sexism is still a part of that story too, the characters are far more interesting and it's just generally a better book, so if you want to sink your teeth into a bigger Hemingway novel then that's my pick.

 

Here I Am - Jonathan Safran Foer

I've read all of Foer's other books, and in fact his only non-fiction book, Eating Animals, convinced me switch to a vegetarian diet back in 2012, so I went into this knowing that whatever the story was about it was going to be good. The major themes he explores are parenthood, marital struggles, the Jewish identity, and a fictional war in the Middle East (I'm not giving anything away, it's mentioned in the book's blurb). The fact that I can't personally identify with any of those themes, but still loved this book is a testament to how wonderful Foer is as a writer. He describes situations in incredible detail without it ever becoming boring or feeling unnecessary, in fact everything he gives you only enriches your understanding of his characters in a way that feels completely essential. I really think he's one of the best writers out there today, and reading this has just reaffirmed that to me. 

 

The Colour Purple - Alice Walker

Frankly, the start of this book was pretty difficult to read just because of the subject matter, which is the experiences of a woman of colour living in rural Georgia in roughly the 1930s. Parts of this story are just heartbreaking, but it’s got some great feminist aspects as well. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983, making Alice Walker the first woman of colour to ever win. It was a fairly heavy book, but it’s an incredibly important topic, so it’s one I’m glad I read.

The Life-Changing Magic of
Tidying Up – Marie Kondo   

I’ve said before that I don’t really take book recommendations because I have quite particular tastes, so aside from A Curated Closet this is the only other book I’ve been influenced to buy by bloggers. I don’t read or buy self-help books like this, and part of that is because it annoys me how anecdotal they are. Clearly Kondo has made a very good living out of doing what she does, but I find it a bit vague and wishy-washy when she says things like, “this has worked for all my clients” and, “if you try doing things another way it will never work.” But it’s her book about her method, so what else can you expect? Another thing that bothered me is the occasional touch of ingrained sexism. I definitely raised my eyebrows a couple of times, most notably when she said, to paraphrase, “the worst thing you can do is wear ugly sweat suits as loungewear because it’s unattractive.” I accept that she’s Japanese and is therefore culturally very different to me, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t rub me the wrong way.  

Towards the end she gets right into this idea of showing respect for your belongings by thanking them for serving you and wondering how your socks feel about being balled up in pairs, which is a bit much for me (again, putting that down to culture). But then she turns it around and talks about how decluttering forces you to make thousands of decisions about what to keep or get rid of, and how that can boost your confidence in your decision making skills and can affect other areas of your life. She attempts to draw a very tenuous link to losing weight and having your skin clear up (again, that anecdotal thing I don’t like), but I do think there’s something to the essence of what she’s saying. Making all those decisions, particularly difficult ones about sentimental items, can make it easier for you to make bigger decisions in life and to trust yourself more, and having some success with decluttering may also give you a boost of motivation to tackle other challenges in your life. But there are no guarantees.

In any case, after doing a lot of decluttering myself, I didn’t expect to learn anything new from this book, but it doesn’t hurt to bring a topic like decluttering back into focus to give you an extra boost of motivation, which is mostly what I bought this for. To that end, it worked well enough for me and it’s given me a bit more mental distance from all the stuff I left back in Sydney, so I’m thinking it will be even easier to get rid of things I don’t need whenever I end up moving back. Ultimately, I don’t think I learned anything from this book that you can’t find (for free) on the internet, but if you need a bit of a kick up the butt with your decluttering then this seems to work for a lot of people.  

In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee

milk & honey & the sun & her flowers – Rupi Kaur

I’d seen a couple of Rupi’s poems floating around on the internet and thought I’d pick up her two books and see what all the fuss was about. While the one-liners that are more thoughts than poems are a bit Tumblr-esque (also the no caps thing), and the way she puts the title at the end of her poems got a little repetitive, which made them lose some of their impact for me, I do think she’s got talent. milk & honey largely focuses on love and heartbreak, as well as her experiences as rape survivor, while the sun and her flowers explores those topics as well as feminism, her heritage and her mother’s story. To me the poems about her mother are some of her strongest and most beautiful, along with the ones with a feminist tone. When she talks about supporting other women, how periods and body hair aren’t disgusting, and about respecting herself and learning how to rebuild herself after a breakup, I think those are things that a lot of girls and women need to hear. When I was in school feminism wasn’t a part of everyday conversation the way it is today, so I think if I had read this as a 16 year old, or even in my early 20s, it would have opened my eyes to a different way of thinking that I would have really appreciated. Today I already know these things about myself and other women, but I still really enjoyed her poems because they resonate with my beliefs and I think she has a lovely way of expressing herself. Also she’s from Toronto which is pretty cool too!    

A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf   

Published in 1929, this is an early feminist text that explores the concept of women and fiction. The premise of the title is that that for a woman to be a writer, she needs a source of money and room of her own in which to do it. Although some progress had been made in terms of women being “allowed” to take up typically male pursuits like writing, at this time it was still very much assumed that women were inferior to men. Woolf raises the idea that the patriarchy is about men enforcing their own superiority because they feel threatened, which is why they keep insisting that women are inferior (lol, tru). When she looks for celebrated female writers there aren’t a lot to choose from, not because women aren’t as talented as men, but because traditionally they didn’t have the same access to education, money or privacy to focus on writing because they were responsible for children and housework. She also notes the irony in the huge volume of writing that men have composed on the subject of women, and the fact that they’re often portrayed as complex, fiery and enigmatic (think of Shakespeare’s characters), but in reality women’s voices were more or less ignored. As well as that, women were always depicted in terms of their relationship to the men around them, but their story as individuals is never told. She asks how a man could ever create a realistic female character when his understanding of women is so heavily shaped by his gender, and he knows nothing of her relationships with other women, or what she does when she’s alone, and furthermore he isn't interested. Although it’s obviously limited in terms of intersectionality, it was a great read and I enjoyed it far more than I was expecting.

In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee
In My Secret Life  |  Little Henry Lee