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Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013 – Two Days of Sweat and Tears

10 November 2013

A few weeks ago, I took part in an amazing charity event, The Ride to Conquer Cancer. We cycled 220kms over two days and raised funds for cancer research.

1336 riders took part in the event, and in total we raised an incredible $5.2 million dollars!!

For my own fundraising efforts, I raised $8,350 with the help of friends, family, my community and my wonderful blog readers – thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

So this is me at the start line. I woke up at 4am and was all geared up and ready to go by 6:30am.

I was feeling relieved that the day had finally arrived. I was happy and excited to be part of such a significant event. I was proud of myself for doing something so worthwhile. And I was emotional and humbled by the touching speeches. The organisers pushed a rider-less bike through the crowd to symbolise all those lost to cancer… and seeing that empty bike being wheeled towards the start line made tears well up in my eyes.

We set off at 7am.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

About an hour in, my riding buddy had a flat tyre! She rode over some broken glass and we had to pull over on the side of the road.

Oh man, I felt so bad for her. If that were me, I would have been in a fumbling mess… and would have lost all my confidence in riding the rest of the way. But instead, I joked around to calm her/our nerves.

Thankfully, a volunteer bike technician arrived in 3 minutes. He fixed the tyre, pumped it up and we were off again in less than 10 minutes! Amazing!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

THEN. The weather hit us.

Look at the storms clouds rolling towards us! The wind was strong. The rain poured. It was cold. It was a pretty miserable day to be riding.

Riding INTO the wind was difficult. It was bloody hard work! I struggled. I was in pain. It honestly felt like 5 hours of agony.

I wanted to cry and give up. My shoes were filled with water, my arms were shaking from the cold, my muscles were screaming in pain… and there was a moment where I thought to myself – WHY THE HELL AM I DOING THIS??!

But then… I’d see a rider pass me, with a yellow flag tied to his bike, indicating that he was a cancer survivor. Yup he was here on his bike too, struggling with the wind and rain, just like I was. Then another yellow flag would pass me. And another.

And yep, it put my own struggles into perspective.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

This is me, with my new attitude. Just cheer the hell up and enjoy the ride Karen!

There was so much rain and wind, that it was almost comical.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

I managed to finish the first day’s ride with a smile on my face. I rode 103km.

Man that was hard. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life.

I wasn’t very talkative that evening. I just wanted to have a hot shower, get changed into some dry clothes, put on some dry socks, eat some hot food, then go to bed.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

I was a little worried that other people’s snoring would keep me awake.

But there was so much rain throughout the night, that the sound of rain drowned out all the snoring. I slept very well!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

The next morning, the sun was shining! HOORAY!

But it was cold – I think it was 6°C or something.

I went to collect my bike from the bike racks and I felt – surprisingly – excited!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

Me again. All rugged up and ready to go!

The weather warmed up and the day turned out to be sunny and spectacular. It was perfect riding weather.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

My poor riding buddy had ANOTHER flat!

Same tyre.

On the last 20kms of the ride, I took it easy and enjoyed the ride to the finish line.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

WOOHOO I DID IT!!!

No words can describe the feeling when you choose to do something really difficult and you conquer it.

I know that I did this charity ride last year. But this time around, it was definitely much harder for me, because I was not as fit as I was last year. I had a few tears in my eyes the moment I crossed that finish line. It was hard work and I did it.

And just like when you watch a movie a second time around, I was much more aware of the little details… the people, the stories and the purpose… it really brought the whole experience to life. And I was so much more thankful for that.

I really want to thank the organisers, the volunteers, the riders, my team, and everyone who donated to this wonderful cause.

Thank to you, my readers, for following and supporting me on this journey!

xxx


Liam : 3 years and …a bit?

30 July 2012

(Warning!! The following contains long, detailed, explicit, motherly adoration of a child.)
Liam is 3 years and 4 months

My little Liam is 3 years and 4 months.

He’s bright, eloquent, a bit particular about certain things, and yes, totally lovable!

The biggest change since my last update is his obsession with letters and numbers.

Writing out letters and numbers is a daily activity for us – only because he LOVES it so much. We sit down with a stack of paper and coloured pencils, and he writes the numbers from 1-20, and then he writes the alphabet from A-Z.

I help him a little, but it’s HIM who leads the activity. He tells ME what HE wants to do.

We started writing 1-10. But after memorising them so quickly, he has moved on to 1-20. Now we’re working on number order.

I scribble out worksheets with “puzzles” like 11, 12, 13, ___ and he fills in the missing number.

And he says brainy stuff like, “What is the number 1 and 8 again? Is that eighteen? Does that come after seventeen?”

Liam is 3 years and 4 months
Drawing of Bluey (his toy bunny) and Liam!

He has also memorised and recognised the whole alphabet, he can write every letter of the alphabet, and he knows the phonic sounds to all the letters!

He can spell out simple words by himself, just using the sounds of letters!

He prefers to write words of things his likes – Liam, Mum, Dad, Callum, Sean, Cat, Bluey (his bunny), Clock (because it’s got numbers on it), Pink (his favourite colour), Poh Poh (what he calls his grandmother).

His number and letter formations are still a bit wonky, but they are still legible.

Lots of other mums praise me and all the “work” that I do with him. But seriously, it’s all HIM, his own personal interest and his long-standing fixation with numbers and letters.

OK I guess I am active in Liam’s early childhood learning, and I sit down with him and do activities with him. But I was also very involved and very active with my other two children’s early learning too. In fact, I was probably more active with them… and they didn’t learn how to spell words and read until they were 6 years old.

Honestly, I’m just surprised and pleased by how advanced he seems to be. I don’t think he’s a one-in-a-million, crazy-smart, genius kid. I’m not going to push him into any hardcore academic programs.

I’m just going to continue with a bit of gentle pushing and encouragement here and there. And at the same time try to balance out his other developmental areas – such as social, emotional, and physical development.

And I need to do that, because….

Liam is 3 years and 4 months

Liam doesn’t like to go outside his comfort zone. He doesn’t like to try new things. He’s not very adventurous. He likes his routine. He likes thing to be predictable all the time. He likes to know that things are the same… and will be the same all the time.

But he gets bored with things being the same! And I can tell he wants to explore new things and have new experiences… but it is so hard for him to let go! He really fights it, he argues with me, negotiates for his way, tries to stall it, pretends to be disinterested, throws a tantrum.

I insist, I am firm, I try to convince him and I argue with him, and in the end I usually just force him to try it… and after we do the new thing, he is usually very happy.

For example, he likes that we buy our fruit from one particular fruit shop. If we go somewhere else to buy fruit, he gets really upset. And he will argue with me – for HOURS – about it.

Another example. He likes the numbers 2 and 4. And if my maths question doesn’t give him an answer where he can write a 2 or 4, he refuses to do the question. Or he’ll just write 24, rather than the actual answer and he’ll argue with me again!

Or, he likes to borrow 3 books from the library. And he wants to borrow the same 3 books again and again. If not, then more arguments!

Oh the list goes on and on. It drives me INSANE! He’s one funny kid.

After we do the new thing, I usually list out all the good (and maybe some not so good) things about the experience. Just so to help him mentally process and assess the experience or situation.

Like, “It was such a good thing that we borrowed these new books, so we could see these pictures that we’ve never seen before! Now we know what sunken treasure looks like!”

Liam is 3 years and 4 months

As I try to let my older children become more involved with more complicated tasks (for example, cooking dinner by themselves), I try to get Liam involved too.

I admit it’s really hard, especially since I’ve done the whole “toddlers helping mummy in the kitchen” thing TWICE already. I have very little patience left in me… and really, I just want the kids to play in a different room, while I whip up dinner in 30 minutes flat haha.

So in terms of being independent, following instructions to do jobs, helping to do housework… Liam is behind where my other two children were at the same age.

It’s definitely my fault, as I don’t follow up, insist, or expect him to do as much as his brothers. Unfortunately, he’s turning into a “typical” third child, who is the baby of the family, and not expected to do any hard work – oops!

Liam is 3 years and 4 months

Liam loves his 3 year old Kindergarten, but he HATES that I leave him.

He cries and shouts for hours in the morning about not wanting to go. He still kicks and screams and says all kinds of things emotional blackmail stuff like “You promised you won’t ever leave me anywhere where I might be far, far away from you.”

But the teachers say that the moment I walk away from the Kindergarten door and shut the gate (5 seconds) he’s perfectly fine and happy. They tell me that he is very involved with all the activities, he’s keen and interested in everything the teachers say, he plays very happily. They say he’s very smart, very bright, intelligent and very funny… (I’m sure that they say that to all the mums).

Anyway, I’m so, so glad that he’s blossoming in such a great environment.

Part of me is a little jealous, because when I try to do new activities with him – as I said – he just bosses me around, tells me what he wants to do and how I should GO AWAY because he just wants to do his own thing thank you very much.

(Let’s hope he’s not doing the same to his teachers!!)

I am really excited for him, for next year, when goes to 4 year old kindergarten. He’ll be in a structured learning environment – all day – surrounded by numbers and letters. He’ll absolutely LOVE it :)

Not to mention, I’LL love that he doesn’t nag me about being bored.

And I’ll love missing him all day, and then picking him up in the afternoon and hearing his beautiful little squeaky voice, bubbling with excitement, and watching his eyes sparkle as he tells me stories of his day.


Baby 3: Liam at 2 years and 10 months

2 February 2012

Here’s an update of Liam’s development, as he hurtles towards being 3 years old!

Liam - 2 years 10 Months

Behaviour and Environment

During the school terms, his older brothers go to school, and Liam gets to hang out with me all day. We have our little routines. We have our weekly grocery runs, coffee dates, play dates, gym classes, story time sessions, outings and activities. We have snacks, lunches at home or while we’re out. It’s just him and me.

He’s really pleasant, easy, fun to be with, ok sometimes he’s demanding, but I know his quirks and I know how to work around him… so basically we have a happy little groove between us.

But during the recent 7 week summer holidays, he has had to play and compete with his older brothers – all day, every day.

As a result, my summary of him seems a little harsh, yet it’s all part of his life experience, and what makes him who he is.

Liam has been naughty, difficult, noisy and his behaviour has been awful. It’s such a hard thing to deal with, because I can see what’s driving him. I can see he just wants some attention.

He’s frustrated because his two big brothers will spend hours building intricate lego structures or playing an elaborate board game, and he wants to play too. Instead… he smashes everything onto the floor and steals the important pieces of the game, just so that they will play with him.

Or they will be lazing in bed reading a book or working on a puzzle, and he will come along and rip posters of their walls and tip their shelves over, just so that they will play with him.

It always ends in meltdowns, tears and fights. From everyone! Including me!

So in a way, he’s not really being naughty. He’s just trying to communicate his needs… and well, it’s been a tough couple of months trying to keep everything balanced.

Because, he’s not the only child who needs some attention. There are two others. Not to mention there are two adults in the family who needs some loving. So yes. Balance is the key.

We take things as a week-by-week balancing act. One day I might spend a couple of hours with my oldest boy. While my husband will hang out with the younger two. And the next day my husband will take the middle boy, and I’ll have the other two. And then during the next session I’ll have the youngest one and so on.

This keeps everything quite peaceful.

And it’s worked so well because my husband was on leave for a little bit over the Christmas and new year period.

When it’s just me looking after the kids, most days, they will all play happily for a couple of hours. But after that, they get bored and will need some direction. I either have to do an activity that makes all 3 kids happy. Or I have to send one kid into another room to work on something (nothing too special or the other 2 will get jealous) while I do something with the other 2 kids.

Or I just take them to the beach. And everyone is happy. Including me.

Liam - 2 years 10 Months

“Education”

Liam can identify lots of letters, numbers from 0-12, colours, shapes and symbols. Drawing and writing is an activity he just loves. And I believe he finds a lot of comfort in it. I take a little scribble pad and pencils wherever we go, and he enjoys looking at my past drawings and reading out the letters and numbers.

He has shown keen interest to write letters, so I have been teaching him to write his name. And while I’m at it, I’m trying to teach him to read simple words – not because I’m trying to get him ahead academically – because he just really enjoys it!

Speech

He speech is pretty impressive! He is a real chatterbox and he can talk and talk and talk, if you let him. It can be a bit exhausting, to have someone be in your face and talk at you all day. But I’m not complaining, I try to see it as his little gift.

I get him to re-tell stories of our day, just to help him gather and organise his thoughts, because they can get a bit jumbled and random most times! Kinda cute, but it’s hard to listen to hours of random, mangled sentences.

Gross Motor Skills

Liam is pretty active and coordinated. He can go for long walks, ride a 2 wheel scooter, sit on a big-kid swing, climb up a climbing frame. He can’t ride a bike yet (hasn’t worked out the peddling action).

I’d say that he’s not very daring or adventurous, in a physical sense.

He’s confident to splash around in shallow water, but he’s not brave enough to put his head underwater.

Fine Motor Skills

Really excellent here. The kid plays with big-kid lego, he can use a scissors, do a 48 piece puzzle, peel stickers, glue things, and other fine detail activities.

Sleep

He sleeps at 7:30pm, wakes up 6:00am. As long as he has one 1 hour nap in the day time, he’s fine. And he’s not fussy about when he has the nap.

Imagination Play

Every day Liam can spend 30 minutes to 1 hour playing by himself, with cars, drawing, water play, lego, blocks, or puzzles.

I’d say the biggest activity he is missing out on, is imagination play. I went to a friend’s house recently, who had a cubby house for her daughter. The little house was decorated like a real house, with a kitchen set, photo frames on the wall, tables and chairs… Liam was transfixed. He played inside for aaaaages and didn’t want to leave.

I can see how he would get a lot out of more age appropriate toys!

Social Skills and Friends

He doesn’t have many proper friends at the moment, as he’s a bit young. He prefers to hang around older children, because that’s what he’s used to at home. And he loves the company of adults.

When he is around other kids his age, he is very confident and he stands his own ground. He can be a bit bossy and loud when trying to get his point across, which scares the other kids who are a bit timid.

Separation

Since Christmas, Liam has been very clingy towards me whenever someone comes to babysit. He cries, wails, flings himself on the floor, and shouts things like “Mummy don’t go away!!!!”. He’s been cool with it for years and it just came up suddenly and we’re not sure why he’s changed in this way. We’re thinking maybe it’s just an age thing?

Liam - 2 years 10 Months

Eating

Ah. He has been a terrible eater lately! He loves cereal with milk. Apples. Any kind of sweet or salty biscuit. Noodles. Bacon. And he loves to snack on raw carrots. That’s about it.

He utterly hates pasta, curry, rice, stir-fries, casserole, potatoes, bread – sometimes he will reluctantly eat it, if I feed him.

Most days, when we sit down for a proper lunch or dinner meal… he utterly refuses to eat anything I give him. He refuses to feed himself. And he would rather put himself to bed than to eat what I give him.

But if I spoon food into his mouth, he WILL eat it, reluctantly and slowly. And just like that, he trained me to feed him.

Each mouthful is painful, full of fights, toilet breaks, whining, falling off the chair, crying. Some days I have no idea how much he has eaten, I felt so bad, yet he happily goes to sleep at the end of the day. And I tell myself, if he’s hungry, he’ll wake up in the middle of the night and I’ll make him some warm milk and toast. But he never wakes up.

Heh it is kind of my fault too. As I go through the day, out and about, driving from one event to another, I just throw random food at him for morning or afternoon snacks, a small bag of pop corn, an apple, half a bun with melted cheese on it, a jelly snake, rice crackers, a small carrot. And by dinner time he’s not hungry and I wonder why!

So, basically, I haven’t been very disciplined with his eating!

School

Liam will go to a Pre-Kindergarten for 3 year olds in a few months (he has to turn 3 first!). This particular centre came highly recommended, and it is also a 10 minute walk from our house. He was put on a waiting list, and after months of waiting, we finally got a call and was told that Liam had a place. I was sooooo happy. I know he’ll love it!

(He has been asking when he can go to school for several months now. And he desperately wants his own lunch box.)

But of course, I am struck by that familiar bittersweet feeling – I am totally freaked out that my littlest baby is going to a school AND I am dizzily excited that as he grows older, my life (and my relationship with all my children) will grow and evolve.


Liam at 2 Years Old

25 April 2011

Liam at 2 years old
Just look at the red in his hair!

My 2 year old toddler is an absolute chatterbox. He just does not shut up.

Lucky for him, he is insanely cute. And I can spend all day talking to him and listening to him chatter for hours.

He’s so naturally well-mannered and polite – saying thank you, you’re welcome, ‘cuse me, sorry, see ya later! And he’s so caring and sensitive, always asking me, “Are you ok mum?” “Are you good?” “What happened?”

My other two children were never like this. They were either self-centred (as children naturally are) or just totally oblivious to the feelings of other people (as children naturally are).

I used to believe that other parents made this stuff up. Naturally polite children? No such thing!

But Liam likes to crawl into my lap, wrap his arms around me like a koala bear, squeezes me tight, then leans back to look at me with his deep brown eyes and asks “Can I have a back scratch please mummy?” and he’ll flop his body into my chest and nuzzle his face into my skin… and go, “Ahh, that’s really nice mum.”

And my heart – oh my heart – it melts into a glorious mush of love.

Did I mention he is my last baby?

Liam at 2 years old


Pears In Red Wine

5 January 2010

pears-red-wine

At a recent dinner party, I ate this delicious, unusual dessert, and I was amazed at how easy it is to make.

6 pears
a standard bottle of red wine
100gms of sugar
a cinnamon stick

Peel the pears – but leave the stalks on!
Cut a little away from the bottom of the pear, to help it sit up by itself.
Place the pears stalks up in a snug fitting pot or slow cooker.
Cove the pears with red wine, add the sugar and cinnamon.

Slow, slow cook for at least an hour, until the pears are so soft that you can carve the flesh with a spoon.

Serve with plenty of the sweet juices, and top with a dob of cream, or as above, with some yogurt.

Alternatives are that after the pears are cooked, you can marinate the pears in the cooling wine sauce overnight to increase the red colour, before re-warming to serve. To add more zing to the wine, you can also add orange rind, cloves, and /or vanilla.

(The alcohol in the wine is all dissipated by the heat of the cooking.)

Yum-EEE!


Ten Years Of Blogging

13 October 2009

Ten years ago, in 1999, I published the first ever version of my website. Since I receive so many emails from people asking me how I got started, what software I use, and if I make any money, I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on a decade of blogging!

Please be warned, this is quite a long post, because it is covering a whole decade!

Beginnings
My first ever glimpse of the impending Internet world was at high school in 1995. I studied a subject called “Applied Computing”. My teacher told me about “e-mail” and how you can send messages from one computer to another – I thought she was kidding! I had no idea that computers – in different locations – could be connected to each other.

It is a good example of how amazingly fast the Internet developed that only four years later, I published my own website.

Although I was addicted to IRC chat and message boards while studying design and advertising at university, it was not until 1999, that I taught myself how to make a website, in order to show off my portfolio of work.

I was 21. I was single, irresponsible, a spoilt rich kid, emotionally insecure, in and out of relationships, a creative but naïve young woman, working in the crazy rat race of advertising – and I was trying to find happiness.

I became absolutely OBSESSED with the Internet and all things related to personal websites.

I would spend literally 20 hours a day online, sleeping at 4am, and then waking at 8am to check my email, before breakfast! Personal websites were like an underground community – running rampant with page counters, guestbooks, comment boxes, link-backs, webrings, countless internet awards, and small and large online groups.

I was astounded that I could get to know people living in the US, UK, Europe and Asia – people who had the same interests as I did, living similar lives, but all over the world. It was all very, very exciting. I loved the fact that I could communicate directly with my readers. And for it to happen in real time, was pretty amazing. In the early days, I had a hit counter on my site. I was thrilled when 100 people visited my site in a day!

My

My site in 1999, was essentially an online portfolio, with lots of extra information about me. I had lots of different sections for my resume, photos, contacts, my likes and dislikes. The most popular section was my “Soapbox”. It was like a daily news section, where I updated every day and I ran it like an e-zine.

Becoming Popular
Things started to take off when my website began to get featured in some newspapers, and I won some web awards. From there, it spread by word of mouth – and word of internet. People online and offline were telling their friends about my site. My readership grew and grew, which was completely unexpected to me.

I think one of the main reasons my blog developed a strong following is because I am a designer. I wanted to create a unique experience for my readers. I was very interested in visual communication and interface design. I was meticulous with its presentation and style. I loved experimenting with my visual layout (eg. 3 columns vs 2 columns vs 1) and I always analysed how (and why) others were doing it, and set out to do things differently.

I hand-coded my whole site. I created all my graphics and images myself. I took photos, sent them to be developed (yes, it was all on film back then!), scanned them in (so slow!), and photo edited them.

I also really enjoyed writing in a “personal voice” – seeing how voice and identity could be crafted with words and pictures, and how it affected the overall feel of the site. My focus was always to tell a great story, or share a feeling, or a moment, in a way that left readers feeling refreshed.

The effect of all of this is that my blog has unique content, and that content is presented in a distinctive way, making for an experience that cannot be found anywhere else.

wp_screen

This is what I see in the WordPress software I use to manage my blog: 1,313 post…and that’s just since 2003!

How Blogging has Changed in Ten Years
The Internet is HUGE now. Back in 1999, it was small, but growing rapidly. And there was no spam or advertising on it. The Internet was like a cool café then, with a nice atmosphere, where you might bump into friends. Now, the Internet and blogs are part of the “social-media” phenomenon where everyone is connected to everyone else and everything by so many different software and devices that it feels like everyone in the whole world is shouting out at the same time. And advertising is EVERYWHERE!

The Internet is FAST now. Back in 1999, most of my posts didn’t have a picture at all, and if they did, the picture was the size of what is now called a “thumbnail” image. Remember, this was in the days of “dial-up” modems that made that awful “screeeeech-boing-boing-boing” noise. Your service provider cut the connection if you weren’t actively surfing, so you had to re-connect if you stopped to read something long and interesting. Sometimes, your service provider would cut you off in the middle of a big file upload, to remind you that bandwidth was PRECIOUS. So people were very careful about what they uploaded, and what they clicked on.

Digital cameras, combined with faster bandwidth, have made high quality photos an important part of the internet, and my blog too, because digital is so easy and cheap compared to film. As a result, I have had to improve the standard of my photography a lot over the years, a challenge I really enjoy. But I still choose images very, very carefully. One good image is worth a thousand words, but fifty well chosen words is much better than any bad picture.

I’ve used the very popular “Wordpress” software to manage my blog since 2007. Before that, I hand-coded every post in HTML.

I do all my photo editing with Photoshop. I customize my blog interface by coding my own CSS templates. I store all my images on Flickr, so I don’t have to pay for serving out all the images. And I am still using the same computer I bought in 2002 (with the money I was supposed to use to buy my engagement ring).

Upside of Being a 10 Year old Blogger
One of the best things about having been online for so long, is feeling like I’m talking to a huge bunch of girlfriends, and I love it. I know that I have quite a few male readers, but they never email me. Come on guys, don’t be shy!

Almost everyday I get email from people who thank me for the words and pictures I share, and say they are inspired by my attitude and outlook on life. This is really, really rewarding. It keeps me going. I take all these things to heart, and I find them both fulfilling, and humbling.

Because of my large readership, I can draw attention to issues I believe are important.

I also get asked to support or endorse various entities or products. People offer to fly me to places to do stuff that would undoubtedly be a very cool experience. But I have an even more important job – I am mother to three little children…so I almost never go. Maybe one day!

Downside of being a 10 year blogger
The biggest downside of having such a large readership is being unable to reply to all the email that comes in. Everyday my inbox is filled up, and everyday, I’m really saddened that I can’t speak to each person individually.

After 10 years of having my email address on the internet, it is now on a huge number of spamming lists. Everyday, I delete literally dozens of emails offering me the opportunity to have my sex organs enlarged, to buy insanely cheap drugs or watches, to get rich by helping Nigerian royalty move their money to a safe place, and to marry lonely Russian super-babes with exotic names. It is so bad I am considering changing my e-mail address. But I like being “karen” at “karencheng.com.au”, so I stick with it, even though the word “delete” is getting worn off the “delete” key on my keyboard.

In the last couple of years, marketing people have decided that the best way to get something for nothing is to offer free stuff to bloggers. Thus, I get endless offers to try out mind-control medication on my children, weirdly flavoured mineral water, cosmetics that will take 15 years off my age, etc, etc. At first, I thought all these friendly emails from marketing people meant that they really loved me, and they promised to only send me stuff that was relevant to me, but now they send me anything they are trying to promote. Argh!

The strangest thing to happen to me because of blogging is being a (very minor) celebrity. I still haven’t gotten used to being spotted in the streets or at the shops. But I am slowly getting better at talking to complete strangers, who walk up to me and say: “Oh my God! You’re Karen Cheng!!” Since I am actually quite shy with people I don’t know, these moments are often awkward for me, especially when I am holding a baby with a pooey nappy, a tin of mixed beans and a cauliflower, and I am dressed in an old tracksuit.

The Next Ten Years?
In late 1999, I was living the high-life in the peak of the dot-com boom. Then, in rapid succession, I fell in love, travelled a lot, got made redundant in the dot-com crash, got married, and then had my first son.

My life was a dream till my husband had cancer. It was a year of doubt, fear, surgery, chemotherapy, more surgery, and praying. We were very, very lucky that he was successfully treated. While all that was happening, I had my second son. I was 26 by then. Life seemed so much more precious, and my blog has become even more of a celebration of the everyday moments of life.

So, after ten years, and thousands of readers everyday, what am I going to do?

I have invested 10 years of my life into blogging. I don’t know if most of my readers will ever realise how much of my day-to-day life it takes up. It takes a real discipline to post five times a week, each one with original content, and this continues to be a challenge for me, and doubly so with three kids.

Things have come to a point where I was investing so much into my site, that I had to decide on it’s future, and my future. I had to decide to give it up to pursue a more regular career, or try to make an income from blogging.

So I am now what bloggers call a “Pro-Blogger”, which means that I am trying to make an income from my blog. My mission is to show my readers things that they might actually be interested in, without bothering them with advertising spam. I want to keep my blog as a really nice place to come to. I’m still working out how to do this, and I regard it as a long-term project. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Something that will always stay the same for me is that I will keep blogging about the things that I love and that inspire me. Beautiful things, and important things. I have became very interested in increasing cancer awareness and research (a very important topic), and fashion (also a very important topic, but in a different way).

So I’m looking forward to the adventure of the next ten years!


Sean Turns 4 Years Old

12 March 2009

Sean Turns 4 Years Old

I remember Sean, as a baby, being sensitive and grumpy all the time. Then as a toddler, he was utterly defiant and strong-willed. Over the years, being the second child, Sean’s personality was often over-shadowed by his older brother. He liked, copied and wanted everything Callum had and did.

But last year, with his older brother in full-time school, the days would go by where it was just me and Sean. It gave me an amazing opportunity to get to know him.

Firstly, he talks SO MUCH. He is very articulate, eloquent, and his sentences and expressions are mind blowing. Given the chance, he could talk for 5 hours non-stop when we’re together.

He’s not happy with simply giving a monologue commentary on our day to day activities, or talking to himself.

He asks questions and he wants answers. He wants to discuss things, he comes up with all these crazy ideas and theories, he wants my input and explanations, and he wants me to engage with him.

Sometimes it can be really hard work, especially when I’m not in the mood for conversation.

Having said that, he has an excellent capacity to entertain himself for up to an hour at a time. He has a wild imagination and he loves to make up his own adventures with his superheros and action characters.

Sean Turns 4 Years Old

He’s a very determined kid. When he sets his mind to a task, he’ll finish it. He will go all the way and not look back.

He’s pretty good about trying new experiences. It doesn’t take much for him to launch into something new or exciting. But once he’s made up his mind about something, it’s close to impossible to change his mind. He’s not easily swayed.

In fact, he is willing to suffer punishment, forego special treats, and go to bed without dinner – just to stick with his decision. Which is something I [somewhat] admire about him.

He’s also very much more of a leader type, than a follower. And unafraid to speak his mind.

Photos By Sean

Someone gave him a very basic digital camera for his birthday – it just points and shoots, without any auto-focus. Which means most of his photos are very blurry.

He often goes around snapping all kinds of random objects around the house and in his world. Words cannot describe the sheer delight I have when we scroll through his pictures together. We choose one, print it from the computer, cut it out, and pin it up on his wall.

This year Sean started Kindergarten – 2 full days at school. He started off really, really well – full of familiarity, confidence and happy to make friends.

But in the last few weeks, he’s been saying he’s bored at Kindy, his teachers don’t let him have any fun, and he’s quite clingy when it’s time for me to leave. I suspect it’s the impending arrival of the new baby, but I’m still keeping a close eye on him, in case there’s something else going on.

I must admit, I really enjoy hanging out with him all day. He’s like my little, best bud.

I am so proud to say that he is a very cool little kid, and I just love him to bits.


Sean – 3 years, 3 months

6 June 2008

Sean - 3 years, 3 months

I’ve been trying to take better portrait photographs with my camera. I’m so happy with the results!

This is Sean on a cold, wet, rainy day, trying to find a stick so we can play fishing in the creek.


Sean Turns 3 Years Old

11 March 2008

Sean Turns 3

To my dearest little Sean.

Three years ago our little family was going through a rough patch. Dad was pretty sick. Things weren’t looking good. We didn’t even know if we could have you.

But you were our little miracle. You gave us hope in a time of darkness. I would lie in bed wishing the world would swallow me up, and suddenly you’d kick and dance across the walls of my tummy – making me chuckle with delight.

When you were born, my hormones weren’t right. I looked at you bundled up in my arms and instead of buzzing with joy and happiness, I was tired, sad and I cried a lot. It wasn’t you, it was me.

But now I can’t imagine life without you. You are the blazing rock and roll on our otherwise quiet stereo. You are the spicy chilli in our tandoori. You are the sirens, the fireworks, the drums, the sparkle. You bring so much joy and laughter to our lives. I hope you know that.

In you, I’ve discovered a child’s love that is so tender, so sensitive, so sweet and so whole-heartedly absolute. When you say you love me, I don’t have to search deep in your eyes to see if you mean it, because it’s splashed across your face – you really do love me.

When I say goodnight to you each evening, you take my face in your hands and you plant little tiny kisses on my nose, cheeks and eye lids. And you’ll look up at me with a sparkle in your eyes, like I’m the most wonderful person in the whole world.

Sean Turns 3

I just love it when you smile. I love the way your face and nose wrinkles up. You look so cheeky and happy. It’s adorable, infectious and it makes my heart crumble into a thousand happy pieces.

This new year has seen lots of new changes in your life.

You love school. Starting Pre-Kindy this year has been amazing for you. You have your very own a teacher, classroom and bag hook. As I suspected, you thrived on the kindergarten’s structured activities, routine and rules. You’ve blossomed into a smart, sociable, confident little boy.

Sean Turns 3

You love learning. It boggles me to discover how much you pick up, understand, and repeat. You ask me questions about bugs, trees, water, birds, trucks, elevators – how they all work, what they are for, what can go wrong, what to do when something goes wrong. You listen carefully to everything I say, and will repeat it back as if it’s your own.

You speak so well. I really am so proud of you. Your pronunciations, your sentence structure, and your expressions are all amazing for a kid your age. Some of the clever, random things you say makes me laugh and laugh.

Sean Turns 3

When someone meets you for the first time, the first thing they comment on is your voice. You don’t squeak in a high-pitched, baby voice. Your voice is low and strong. You always sound so serious and authoritative, like a little man – but once you smile, you turn into a giggly little boy again.

Then there’s your eye lashes. And your puppy dog eyes. You make me writhe with jealousy.

Sean Turns 3

You’ve got a big personality, a strong spirit and a whole lot of big ideas. You’re a wonderful and charming little person with a great big heart. I love you Sean, Happy 3rd Birthday.


Callum : 3 years, 11 months

8 March 2007

Callum’s drawing skills have been developing at an incredible rate. Now I leave a box of pencils and a stack of paper in his room, and everyday he surprises me with lots of super cute drawings! (This is Buzz Lightyear. Callum admits he copied it from his school bag, but he insists it still came from his brain.)

He can write his name without any help. And he loves copying out words that I write for him. He can’t write out the whole alphabet yet.

Callum has been settling into kindergarten really well. He absolutely loves it – 2 days a week, from 9am to 3pm. He sleeps when they tell him to sleep. And eats when everyone else eats. I know most kids behave differently when they go to kindy, but I’m amazed to hear that my son actually STOPS TALKING long enough to eat his lunch in the time given and then go to sleep!

He’s obsessed with RULES. He likes to have RULES FOR EVERYTHING. Thus he gets a bit bossy sometimes, and he’s no fun during ball games. Whenever someone else (me, or my husband) breaks the rules, or “decides we just want to PLAY” Callum will stop the game, hold the ball, demand a reason for such unruliness, and will repeat ALL the rules – speaking s-l-o-w-l-y this time, so that we understand. Such cheek!

I’m secretly paranoid that my kids will show signs of learning difficulties. So I play heaps of “learning” games with Callum whenever we’re together – instead of, you know, talking about CRAP. I’ve grabbed heaps of great tips from his kindy teacher!

Apparently (I did not know this) kindy/preschools don’t emphasise on teaching the kids to recite their ABCs. They teach phonics instead – “Ah” “Buh” “Cuh”. They go through little exercises like “Duh” is for “D-og” and “D-addy”. They do lots of word rhymes, break words into sound syllables etc. Apparently it makes it easier for kids to learn how to spell.

So Callum and I play this game. I say something like “Why did Mrs White have a fright?” And Callum would say things like, “Because… it was night? There was no light? She lost her kite??” It all sounds really brainy, but let me assure you, we quickly fall into good ol’ toilet humour. Poos, wees and farts, never cease to entertain.

“Where did Mr Blue do a poo?”
“In his SHOE! In a LOO! In the GLUE?”

Ok I doubt it’s educationally sound, but it’s all gold. We play heaps of other phonic games too. And by “games” I mean casual chit chat, “Hey soap sounds like BOAT! What else?” Resulting in Callum being very aware of rhymes – perhaps irritatingly so – because some days, every second word he says will be a made up rhyme – “Hey mummy pummy? Where’s my sandal dandle?”

As you can tell, I’m not very hardcore or pushy with all this literacy stuff. I believe a child’s education has to be well rounded (beyond the numbers and letters) to also include stuff like – problem solving skills, self-discipline, self-confidence, strong sense of why things are right and wrong, creative solutions for sticky situations, how to care for others, a love for life, etc etc.

Callum’s a great big brother. He does not hit back, shove or bully his little brother. Sometimes he will irritate Sean, but it’s usually from being playful, rather than being malicious. He’s not dismissive, nor does he ignore Sean. Most times he wants Sean by his side, and it’s Sean who wants to do his own thing.

Callum is a bit reserved on the social front. He has a best friend at kindy, who happens to be a girl from our mother’s group. And when asked, he doesn’t seem interested in making other new friends. I’ve introduced him to the fine art of making friends in the playground – “Just walk up to another boy and say ‘Hey you wanna play pirates/ball/cars?'” – and he seems to be doing fine now.


Sean at 20 months (1¾ years)

27 November 2006

Sean’s verbal skills have exploded in the last month. He can say heaps of new words! He’ll try to repeat everything we say. He can pick out words from songs and repeat them. And we often catch him talking and muttering to himself, stringing multiple words together, as if practicing this strange new talking thing.”Bear! Bowl? Bear bowl gone where? Hee hee. Bear bowl gone!”

“I got lotsa glue. Lotsa glue! Mmm. Eeew. Glue yucky.”

He does this cute mishmash with his songs, it’s reeeeally cute.

“Tinko tinko daaaar! Dumpy dumpy fall! E, O, E, O, AYE!”

And I can’t help but join in!


Seven Years of Web Wrangling II

10 May 2006

“Seven Years” seem like a long time to be doing something.

But looking back at the journey, I don’t really see it as a momentous triumph. All I can see is how I’ve changed as a person, and how my online presence was just a small part of my life. Obviously that was my decision – to only publish moments I chose to share. To leave out the boring bits. The difficult bits. The painful bits.

For me, keeping my web log is about… sharing. Inspiring. Entertaining. Connecting. Touching. Creating. Designing. Therapy. Expression. Remembering. Laughing.

I’m very happy that, after seven years, I’m still doing this.

That it’s normal for me to go through the everyday-ness and blah-ness of life, looking out for beautiful moments. Going through the motions of carving out the essence of the moment, crafting it into words and pictures. Then sharing it with others. I love it. It’s a part of me now. And there’s a lot more to come.

Thanks for sharing with me.


Seven Years of Web Wrangling

9 May 2006

This month, my website is 7 years old.

In May 1999, I launched my personal website, Karyn Design (Karyn being my accidental, adopted “business name”, a mishmash of my English and Chinese name). The function of the site was to get a job as a web designer. It had a portfolio of all my advertising, graphic and web work, an online journal (called Soapbox), design articles, writings, photo gallery, information about me, digital art and graphics I created.

The most popular section of my site was my Soapbox. It was updated every day (I think they call them blogs these days) and I ran it a bit like an e-zine, or portal, or whatever the buzz word was in 1999. Back then, I was a lot more… uninhibited and unrestrained about sharing the small and intricate details of my life. After all, I was single, fully into the dating scene, enjoying the crazy life, and had lots of amusing stories to share.


In Version 2.0 (2000), my journal became the central focus of the website, and my writing became a bit more more poetic and ambiguous. The e-zine thing was too time consuming. I was dating an incredible guy (now husband). I started focusing on my career, travelling, life. Settling down and considering the future. I guess my life hit the jackpot – I fell in lurve. And my website took a back seat.


In Version 3.0 (2001), I wanted a fresh start and went back to the white background. I felt a little happier about sharing my day to day life with the world. My stories were a lot more whimsical and entertaining, but very article like and I didn’t update very often. I stuck with the colour-coded sections, with bright blue being the homepage colour again.


Version 4.0 (2001-2), I took my whole journal offline. I was now working as a freelance web designer and used my website as a basic contact point for clients. I didn’t do any advertising, most of my work came from word of mouth or from my existing contacts. I only had a small “about me” section, my resume and my portfolio.

My site wasn’t “designy” at all. It was kinda embarrassing. I was so busy working, that I didn’t have time to design a “proper” business website. (Ok bad excuse, I know). And what’s with the colour?? I think desaturated pastels were all the rage back then.


Version 5.0 (2002), I started to wind down my “business” and became very selective with the work I did. I was married, travelling, planning to have kids. I was bored and was itching to write again. I knocked together another mishmash site, something simple, non-designy, text focused. Nothing special. Notice how old that picture is?

And finally, Version 6.0 (May 2003), I added my sketchy design elements to the site. I became a stay at home mum and a fulltime blogger! I just love my sketchy borders! Haha I can’t seem to make myself part with them.


So it’s been seven years! I’ve got heaps more thoughts about the whole thing, but this post is massive enough already. I’ll write it up another day.

However, I’m curious to know how many people have been following my site since 1999/2000? Email me! I’d love to hear from you.


I Got My Ears Pierced

1 August 2003

I was 12. And I was going through my tom-boy phase.
My little sister and all my other little girly cousins went to the chemist to get their ears pierced. Pffft. Earrings are sissy.
They’d swap and share their plastic-bauble ones, fluoro-rubber ones, hippy-beady ones. Star-shaped, square-shaped, teddybear-shaped. Christmas, halloween, valentines. Ugh.
I couldn’t think of anything more boring.

So it’s 13 years later. And I’ll be honest. There’s nothing more than having a baby to inspire oneself to be young, be sexy and goddamnit, live a little. So this weekend I’m going to get my ears pierced!

I guess I never got around to getting them done.
Because by the time I turned 16, I discovered boys…
AND I discovered how they would go into a nibbling frenzie at the mere mention of “virgin ears”. Laugh.

Yup, so in the past few weeks I’ve been on countless shopping missions to find some earrings. Some niiice long dangly ones. I bought 3 pairs. They were a bit expensive, but hey. A girl must accessorise.


Shoes Vs Pokemon Craft

25 September 2016

Shoes Vs Pokemon Go

Ahhh this last week, my head has been exploding with fashion, fashion, fashion!

My desk, dinner table, coffee tables, dressing tables and chairs… are all heaped up and spilling over with my fashion crap haha!

So it was with much delight that I spotted my son’s latest craft work and added it to my flatlay.

You see, my youngest son has been REALLY NAUGHTY lately. And the other day, he did such an insane thing – he jumped with TWO feet on the family iPad screen, while looking at me with a smile. WHY? I have no idea. But I banned him from the iPad for 4 weeks.

(It pained ME more than him. But really, I should have just thrown the iPad in the bin.)

The upshot was that he rediscovered his love for craft.

(A bit sad right?)

Anyway, he made little POKEMON GO characters out of toilet rolls – Squirtle, Zubat and Charmander.

 

OMG they were so cute.

Do they make you want to say, “Awwwwww. What a gorgeous, clever, creative kid you are! Ok you can have your iPad back!”

Nope. It didn’t work for me either. He’s still got 3 more weeks to go.

As for my corner of the flatlay: Cadey Lee Heels by Schutz, Tassel Earrings by Mezi, and THE MOST AMAZING salt water spritz thing for my hair.

It’s called Original Mineral Surf Bomb Sea Salt Spray (from Sephora). It’s been around for ages, everybody raved about it years ago, it’s been elevated to cult status for many years and I only started to use it properly this week haha!

I curl my hair, spray it on my fresh curls, then I mess it all up — and I suddenly look like a movie star!! It’s freaking amazing!! I might do a dedicated blog post just for this spray!


Obsessed with Blue Lace Dresses!

24 September 2016

You know that thing that happens when you buy a car – you choose a colour thinking that no one else has that colour… then for the next 3 years, all you seem to see on the road is everybody driving THE SAME CAR MODEL IN THE SAME COLOUR AS YOU?!

Anyway a similar thing is happening to me.

Ever since buying that blue Lover dress that I wrote about here, all I can see are OTHER GORGEOUS BLUE LACE DRESSES!

So here’s number one on my wish list right now:

Obsessed with Blue Laces Dresses

Left: Self Portrait Strappy Lace Dress. Oh my this dress is exquisite! And unique! And beautiful! I am completely smitten! Love the lines, the silhouette, the sheer panels, the contrasting stripes, the flare skirt, the lace – all of it.

Right: Next is the Self Portrait Azalea Dress, in Navy. This is a popular style, re-done by quite a few other brands, but I’ve never seen it in this kind of dark blue before. I love the style of the bodice, skirt and the lace is just lovely.

Obsessed with Blue Laces Dresses

Left: Diane von Furstenberg Zarita Lace Dress. Yes I’ve been considering this dress for a while now. Love the classic design, the flattering shape, the elegant high neck and the 3/4 sheer lace sleeves.

And lastly, this Lovers + Friends Bellini Dress, which is a little more affordable than the others. I really like the contrast between the flower lace and the geometric lace. Again I’m loving that sweetheart V neckline.

Hmm I might have to sell my Lover dress in order to afford these dresses… so they might have to sit in my wish list for a little while longer! Oh well!


Nude Heels by Stuart Weitzman

23 September 2016

Fashion Festival Favourites

A few years ago, I bought these ASOS Pointed-Toe Nude Heels (which were non-leather) because they looked gorgeous. Since then, they have definitely been a timeless staple to my wardrobe.

However, they are a teeny, tiny bit big for me (even though I slip in a cushioned sole insert). So I have to admit that when I walk in them… I take smallish steps and I walk in a slightly careful way. I don’t have a confident stride.

Thus I have been very keen to upgrade to a leather version of this shoe. And to get one that actually fits me properly.

I was thinking of getting this Patent Leather Nude Heels by Tony Bianco. Or these Nude Patent Leather Heels from ASOS.

However, I received a giftcard from Shopbop and spotted these beauties on sale (still on sale too!) – Stuart Weitzman Pumps Daisy 90mm in Light Camel.

I really liked the fact the shoe had a 90mm heel. I think that a 10mm heel is a “high heel standard” these days. But 90mm heels still look fantastic, they are a more comfortable height and you can wear them for longer periods of time.

In terms of sizing… it was pretty risky. I didn’t know anything about Stuart Weitzman sizing… so I had to guess and hope. Turns out the sizing was PERFECT. No need for a shoe insert. I’m super happy!!

In terms of colour… the site makes it look quite yellow/sand colour, which is nice. However, it turns out the colour is perfectly between a pinkish nude and a beige nude. Really, really pretty in real life.

I love that Stuart Weitzman offers a range of “nudes heels”. This Daisy style (90mm heels) comes in a dark tan, tan, pale cream, and pinky blush too.

Best of all, I like the classic, polished, sophisticated style of the shoe… I can wear them with dresses or jeans.


TPFF 2016: Opening Night

21 September 2016

I’m first to declare that I’m not a fashion writer. I’m a kind-of fashion spectator, with a background in art and design, who likes to write from a very personal point of view.

Yes, I love theatre and visual art productions, which is why I love going to fashion shows – but let’s be honest, I’m really a fashion consumer who loves personal style and a shit load of shopping!

So I was very humbled to discover that I was invited to the Opening Launch of this year’s Telstra Perth Fashion Festival.

(The festival has been growing by leaps and bounds over the years, and I heard that tickets were quite hard to get!)

Thus I’m determined to draw out a slightly different view of the fashion festival for those who are interested.

Teltra Perth Fashion Festival 2016 - Opening Night

Firstly, let’s step aside from all the glitz, glamour and cray-cray pea-cocking… let’s talk about the production.

Very rarely do I get swept up and immersed into a fashion show. Virtual reality is all the buzz right now, and while we didn’t exactly see 3D projections and Tron landscapes… there was a very strong, visual nod towards it.

It was the combination of dark, DARK lighting, the delicious head thumping music, the blackened mirrored catwalk, the dramatic spotlights, and a mesmerising, floor-to-ceiling display of kaleidoscope ariel video… of the Australian outback reflecting off the catwalk.

It was superb!

The audience was treated to collections by a selection of Australian designers making waves in the international and national scene – Dion Lee, Bianca Spender, Flannel, Romance Was Born and Zhivago.

(more…)


Silk Shirt Review: Equipment vs Grana

19 September 2016

Before I had an Equipment silk shirt, I desperately wanted to know what was the quality like, what did it feel like, and most importantly… why did it cost so much?

So I bought a near-new Equipment Signature Blouse (in Natural White, XS) and I completely fell in love with it. After that I bought an Equipment SLIM Signature Blouse (in Nude, XS).

Lately, I’ve been looking for more affordable silk pieces for my wardrobe and I came across Grana.

I bought TWO tops and a few weeks ago, I wrote an honest review on my blog about how I loved one and  disliked the other.

I returned the top I disliked, and with that refund, I bought a long-sleeve button down shirt.

Now I was keen to do a head-to-head comparison of my Equipment Silk Shirt vs Grana Silk Shirt!

This post isn’t sponsored or paid by Grana at all, soooo I guess can be totally honest and say things like wow this is shit! Haha only kidding. However I do have a 10% discount code for all new customers at the end of my post.

Equipment Silk Shirt Vs Grana Silk Shirt

This black top is the Grana Silk Classic Shirt (AUD$71) in Black, Size XS.

Equipment Silk Shirt Vs Grana Silk Shirt

This is the Equipment SLIM Signature Blouse (AUD$348) in Nude, Size XS.

Style comparison.

The Equipment shirt has pockets at the front and exposed buttons, which gives the shirt a casual look.

The Grana shirt has NO chest pockets and it has a flap that covers the buttons, so the front of the shirt looks very minimal and sleek. I’d say it has a more “polished, smart and formal” look, and would work well with office attire, smart outfits, or evening outfits.

I’d honestly say that I wouldn’t wear this Grana style (even in a different colour) with denim shorts, because the shirt just doesn’t look casual enough! But that’s just me. I’m sure other people would enjoy the juxtaposition.

The Grana shirt is slightly shorter.

The cuffs and collar of the two shirts are pretty much exactly the same.

The “slim-ness” of the two shirts are pretty much exactly the same too. I really like this slim size and think it fits me really well. It’s not too loose, not too baggy, not too fitted or tight either  – both are peeeerfect!

Silk comparison.

The Equipment silk is lighter and a tiny bit thinner. The silk feels lovely and soft, yet strong and smooth… and there’s even a slight slippery feel to it. Yet at the same time, there’s a very, very slight velvety texture that sets it apart from silk you buy from high street brands.

The Grana silk is slightly heavier and it has more of a velvety and furry texture to it. The velvety texture gives it a nice softness, which makes it drape very luxuriously. According to the website, it is called Grana’s “100% silk Crepe de Chine” and it used for most of Grana’s silk items.

The velvety texture also gives it a kind of velvety shine, so the black doesn’t look like a pure, dark, black. You know how velvet changes tone when you swipe it up or down? There’s a subtle hint of that effect with this shirt.

The Grana silk feels delicate and luxurious, however the 3 times I wore it, it did tend to build up a slight static and stuck to my body.

The Equipment shirt feels light, soft, luxurious and there’s no hint of static.

Equipment Silk Shirt Vs Grana Silk Shirt

 

Conclusion.

If I had to CHOOSE ONE, I would choose the Equipment shirt.

I’m sure most of my decision is an emotional one, based on my perceived value from its big price tag, my years of stalking after the brand and the cult following around the brand. However, I do like the casual look of the pockets and buttons more and I prefer the less-velvety silk.

However having said that, there’s actually nothing wrong with the Grana silk.

It’s different and it’s BEAUTIFUL!!

This Grana silk shirt is absolutely amazing value for AUD$71. I am super-duper happy with it, it feels gorgeous on my skin, I’m planning to buy a few more simple tank tops in different colours (hello, at $42 each???)

Equipment Silk Shirt Vs Grana Silk Shirt

10% Discount Anyone?

I have a 10% discount code (for new customers only) if you’re keen to buy something from Grana!

Just use this link, create an account and they’ll automatically send you the 10% discount code to use on your order. (If you do make an order with the link, I will get some credit added to my account, so if that upsets you, sorry!)

EDIT:

Since publishing this post, Grana got in contact with me and has given me a promo code to share with you guys! (Still not getting paid though haha!)

The offer is for EXISTING CUSTOMERS to get 10% off by using the code “KARENxGRANA”. Valid until 1 November 2016. (I don’t get any credit for this promo, but that’s fine with me, happy to share!)

Happy shopping or browsing!!

xxx


What I’m Wearing: The Flat Mule

14 September 2016

Flat Mules

There is a strong trend towards mules in this new fashion season.

Years ago, I had sooooo many mule-styled shoes. Pointed toe kitten heels, single strap square toe, suede + wooden clog heels and more.

I definitely have a soft spot for them. Especially when they are so easy to wear during summer.

But this time around, I’m not planning to buy any “investment mules”. I’m just planning to play  around with cool shapes and texture variations.

I’m not into the fur-lined mules. Or ones with big buckles. But I was willing to give this pointed, patent mule a go.

Turns out I absolutely love it! The minute the sun is out, I’ve slipped on these babies and I feel awesome.

This pair are ASOS Pointed Flat Mules, and I’m also wearing black Culottes by Hello Parry.


What I Wore: Tibi Silk Top

5 September 2016

Tibi Silk Top

Hi everyone!

I’ve recently started a couple of new freelance jobs/projects… in the field of blogging, social media consulting + management, art direction, photography and styling.

It’s been absolutely fantastic – I’m doing something I enjoy, I’m doing something I’m good at, my time is flexible, I work from home, I’m learning heaps of new stuff and the money is pretty good!

I’m only working part time hours at the moment, which is how I prefer it and designed it.

(Meaning, I still have time for yoga and coffees with my girlfriends! Oh and cleaning and gardening.)

Anyway, I’ve been out and about a lot and taking lots of snaps of my outfits.

Tibi Silk Top

I’m mixing a few old and new items here!

Tibi Silk Racerback Camisole – This is an absolutely beautiful silk top and such a perfect cut for my body shape. It’s not too low at the chest or underarms, and it’s a nice length for me. Yes, a bit expensive, but if you add it to your cart, you could snap it up cheaper when the next sale comes around?!

Acne Studios Needle Jeans – This was an eBay buy many years ago, from a lovely, short girl who already altered the length of the legs!

ASOS Pointed Flat Mules – I didn’t want to invest in a pair of flat leather mules, because I thought they looked weird – even though I had about 3 of these many years ago! So I bought this pair for $40 and they are soooo cool and fun to wear, that I have been wearing them everywhere!! I might not even have to buy a leather version, because these are so awesome as they are :)

Country Road Grey Cardigan – This cardigan is many seasons old. It has two moth holes in it (haha!), but it’s still super soft, no pilling, and simply beautiful to wear.

Celine Baby Audrey Sunglasses – These were a gift, but I do believe they are really well priced here.

That’s all from me for today, hope you have a gorgeous week!

xxx


Styling banana cake with a bit of love

24 August 2016

Banana Cake Styling

I have been clashing with one of my boys these last few weeks. Lots of fighting, shouting, negativity. It’s been pretty bad, worse than usual.

I won’t go into an detail (because he reads my blog now and again, and my heart is a bit fragile) but basically, we’ve been having an awful time. I suspect that 20 years from now, when he looks back at his childhood, all he’ll be able to remember of his mother is me being this angry, frustrated, shouty, crazy person.

Anyway, to heal this mother-son relationship, I figure that since I’m the adult, I should do something to change the situation and bring about some positivity.

I’ve discovered he’s quite interested in my work. Photographing things, styling, visual branding, social media strategies, creating a branding voice, graphic design and Photoshopping; Not so much the fashion stuff for my blog, but my commercial/contract/freelance work.

So I talk to him about it… and to my complete surprise, he actually had some really clever ideas and feedback. And would you believe I like to bounce my ideas at him and get him involved with some of my styling.

The other day, I made a banana cake and cut up a whole lot of fruit for my kids to eat after school. I thought it was a nice opportunity for a pretty photo, BUT I was trying to prepare dinner at the same time, so I asked HIM to style up the banana cake.

I showed him a few photos of cake + fruit + flower styling as inspiration, by Floral & Fauna Cafe in Northbrdige. I did tell him to give it his own personal twist, but in the end, it did look quite similar to their styling.

Nonetheless, I was so so proud of his work!

But I think I was glowing more from the little bonding moment we had that afternoon and how it healed a little bit of my heart.

Banana Cake Styling


Finding My Fitness Class Vibe

16 August 2016

Finding My Fitness Class Vibe

Wearing Abi & Joseph crop (old), Lululemon tights and Hello Parry Cardigan.

Years ago when I was part of a gym, I used to do pilates and yoga classes – I disliked both of them!

(I would rather do a boxing, pump or spin class, because I liked my exercise to be INTENSE and SWEATY!)

After that, I got into long distance cycling for a few years… and now I’m into running.

And lately I’ve discovered the joy of yoga.

In fact, I’ve fallen in love with yoga and what it has done to my body. I breathe better. I stretch better. I relax better. I meditate better. My awareness of my body, my posture, my flexibility and my pose has heightened. I loooove yoga. I never thought I would.

I’m also incredibly frustrated with it, because I want to be better at yoga NOW. I want to be stronger, more flexible, more more balanced NOW. But I’m not. It’s humbling for me. So in that, it has made me listen to my body and be much more patient with it.

(OMG will you listen to all this yogi shit coming out of my mouth!! Who am I??)

Finding My Fitness Class Vibe

Anyway, I thought I would try some pilates again. Who knows, maybe I might fall in love with that too?

Nope. I went to a new class the other day and had a rather poor experience.

The actual pilates movements were OK; I was good at some moves and extremely crappy at others.

I just didn’t connect with the instructor in our style or vibe.

And it made me realise how important it is to find that connection with your class instructor, in terms of learning/teaching styles, what you’re looking for in a class, and what stage you are in your development.

Anyway, enough rambling from me, I’m still going to stick with it and stick with yoga too.

I’m hoping to experiment with a few more Pilates classes and studios in the next few weeks, and hopefully I’ll enjoy it! Wish me luck!

 

 

 


Unfinished Flowers with New Pathways

14 August 2016

Sketching Camelias

Inspired by the flowers from my garden and conversations with friends about the decline of the fine arts (art, painting, sculpture, literature)… I recently pulled out my old graphite drawing pencils and tried to sketch again.

It has been years since I’ve used the drawing/sketching part of my brain!

As a blogger/creative, I’m constantly taking photos, playing with composition, colours and textures in my daily life  – you’d think that “drawing and sketching” is closely connected to “being creative”? Nope!

It’s a totally different skill… and I’ve found it really difficult to get back at it again.

Just like anything really, whether it’s long distance running, tricky yoga positions, 30 push ups with your nose touching the floor, learning a new language, throwing a ball – you just have to practice, practice, practice.

And I keep telling my kids this: The more you work hard at it, the better you’ll be at it. Your brain will create little neural pathways for that skill, like making a path through a jungle, and soon the path will turn into a big, easy road.

You can pretty much do anything, if you set your mind to it!


Bobbi Brown Skin Nourishing Glow Foundation

11 August 2016

Bobbi Brown Skin Nourishing Glow Foundation

I thought I would stretch my visual styling muscle a bit and go with a fancy/moody photo today.

I recently received a Myer gift voucher (just from their rewards card) so I went to buy myself some foundation.

I’ve been struggling with my Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua foundation lately – I’ve loved and used it for years. But ever since I started to use self-tanning creams, the foundation doesn’t match my skin colour and I’ve had to mix it with other foundations to get the right shade and right coverage.

In the last month or so, {{{ I cracked }}} , OMG I WAS SO SICK of mixing foundation at 7:30am in the morning.

Many years ago, I used to use Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation SPF15 (AUD$72). I even remember my shade colour (Natural 4) so I was just going to get a bottle of that and ask the makeup girl to match my skin colour.

Haha however, she used her crafty sales skills and got me to try the NEW Bobbi Brown Skin Nourishing Glow Foundation (the Natural 4 was perfect on me!) and OMG it felt amazing on my skin.

Bobbi Brown Skin Nourishing Glow Foundation

My Thoughts:

The coverage was excellent, the texture was great for my combination skin and the finish was very natural looking. It was exactly what I wanted.

Bobbi Brown says is has “moisture-reviving marine extract and collagen-enhancing ferment”. Whatever the hell that was, it covered up my dry patches wonderfully, covered my blemishes, evened out my skin tone, gave my skin a moisturised and radiant boost and made my face feel all supple, dewy and glowy ALL DAY.

I’ve been wearing it for a week now, and it’s possibly one of the best foundations I’ve used.

Although… when the makeup girl told me how much it cost, I almost fell off my chair. AUD$90. Aaaakk!

I told her I had to think about it, and I took a walk around the shopping centre, looking at myself in mirrors in different lighting, poking and prodding my cheeks, and making weird animated expressions to see how the foundation feels on my face. (What, don’t YOU do that too?)

Yep, in the end I went back with my voucher and bought the foundation – and I’m super happy I did it!


Buying Hiking Boots for my Family and Children

5 August 2016

In my previous post about our holiday walks and hikes around Scotland, I received a few emails from readers asking about my hiking boots and where to buy them.

I thought I’d put together some info and links for everyone.

Hiking Boots

In 2002, I bought myself a pair of waterproof, leather hiking boots which cost me around $250. I thought they would last me the rest of my life, because I only actually wore them for 2 weeks!

But 15 years later, I took them out from where I carefully stored them and discovered that the rubber sole had disintegrated and fallen off the shoe. It would cost me about $150 – $180 to resole them, so I decided to buy myself a new pair.

I was looking at these boots or something like this.

However, by complete coincidence, my late mother-in-law had tiny feet like me, so I inherited her hiking boots!

So the boots (pictured above) came from my lovely mother-in-law, they are size 36 and apparently they are 30 YEARS OLD?!

If you are interested to buy something similar, this is the equivalent boot in the same brand, Scarpa, which also happened to be the same  boot I was looking at.

Yep, they are an eye-watering $300. But hey, these boots were flipping amazing. I was submerging half the boot into water and my socks remained completely dry. They easily let me walk over slippery rocks, loose rocks, fallen trees. I’ve worn them to hiking Tasmania, through the Australian bush and now to Scotland.

A pair of good boots is worth every cent.

On the OTHER HAND.

When it came to buying hiking boots for MY KIDS, I was not happy to spend $120 EACH on something they were going to use for 6-7 days, never use again, and then grow out of in 6 months.

So I hunted online, found an online sports store based in the UK, took a big risk, paid $30 for shipping… and bought 3 boots.

Hiking Boots

All three of them are waterproof, leather hiking boots. The two on the left are Karrimore Skido Junior Walking Boots (Size 36 and Size 35) and they were… AUD$58 each.

The one of the right are Gelert Children’s Walking Boot Child’s size 12 and they were AUD$20.

I had to buy thick hiking socks for the boots to fit better and comfort.

I also went ahead and bought 3 insulated, fully water proof jackets from the same shop.

They all worked out to be absolutely perfect and the quality was really impressive.

 

Haha this isn’t a sponsored post, I’m just happy to share because I was so happy with the products, my boys all commented how comfortable the boots and jackets were, and we ended up using them everyday for 3 weeks while we were in Scotland.

PLUS I couldn’t believe how lucky I was with guessing the correct sizing of my kids (UK kids sizing is by age, and my kids are not the typical size for their age). It might have been a different story if I had to send 3 pairs of boots back to the UK?!

Hope this helps!


Holiday in Scotland 2016: Hidden Waterfalls

17 July 2016

Scotland Holiday 2016 - Hidden waterfalls

It is amazing how I can be walking along a quiet path in a Scottish forest… then suddenly I look over and there’s a BEAUTIFUL WATERFALL!

And it’s, you know, doing it’s thing, as it has been for the last hundred years or so.

There’s so much beauty everywhere.


Holiday in Scotland 2016: Castle Hunting

14 July 2016

Scotland 2016 - Moy Castle

We explored quite a few castles and abbeys during our trip.

It was such an incredible experience to touch the moss covered rocks, to run my fingers along the edges of the stones, to feel the cold walls, to smell the musty darkness of the rooms… and imagining the kind of life people lived hundreds of years ago. My head exploded!

This is Moy Castle, built in the 15th Century, featuring 3 floors, its own well and a dungeon.

My favourite part of it was its dreamy exterior texture and colours.

Scotland2016 - Iona Abbey

This is the inside of a ruined nunnery on the Island of Iona.

The island is rather famous and sacred, because Saint Columba established a monastery there in AD563, which became central to the spread of Christianity in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom (Scotland, Great Britain, Ireland).

Scotland2016 - Croft, Malcom's Point

And this is a ruined farmer’s croft we found while one of our mountain walks.

My kids had such a hoot walking around in and around it, exclaiming how it was like a real life Minecraft house, haha!


It’s the little things

13 July 2016

Charlotte Olympia Card Holder

I’ve always been careful with my money.

When I first started working, I used to live at home and I would save half of my fortnightly income.

My parents would often call me “a saver” and “a careful spender” when describing my relationship with money, which – at the time – I wasn’t sure if they were teasing me for being a thrifty tight-ass haha.

As the years went by, my girlfriends started their handbag collections with Pradas and LVs… yes I was quite envious – but I had other priorities, I got married at 24, bought a house, had a baby and well… things were really tight for us.

It has only been in the last couple of years that we’ve found a comfortable space; my online business is doing incredibly well, and I’ve started to spend (invest!) a bit more on little luxury items for my wardrobe.

Charlotte Olympia Card Holder

I guess it also helps that there are so many designer sales on too!

Which leads me onto my latest purchase.

I recently finished a huge freelance job and rewarded myself with a special little something (with the help of a gift card too, courtesy of Shopbop).

I bought this Charlotte Olympia card holder from Shopbop during their last round of Designer Sales.

It’s just a wee little thing, but I absolutely love the delicate and feminie details on it.

It’s perfect for my smaller handbags. It’s pretty and practical.

Charlotte Olympia Card Holder

Anyway, this time Shopbop are having a 25% off all items from their Designer Boutique section – which is pretty amazing!

Just use the code “DESIGNER25″ at the checkout, until July 14, 2016, at 7p.m AEST.

For me, being that little bit older and wiser, I can appreciate my little luxuries and they are all the more special to me.

Hope you enjoy the sale! And hope you manage to find a comfortable space for yourself for little luxuries too.

Have an amazing week everyone!


My Reading List for 2016 (so far…)

1 July 2016

Bookshelf July 2016

Hey everyone!

Just thought I’d give you all peek at my pretty bookshelf.

We actually have 12 more shelf-sections of books – full of non-fiction books, young adult novels, kid’s novels and National Geographic magazines. These shelves are definitely are not as neat and pretty as my rainbow collection.

Would you believe, we even have one shelf-section dedicated to multiple copies of Harry Potter Books – all of which I’ve never read. I slogged through 2/3 of the first book and couldn’t read any more of it. My oldest boy has read them all though.

And then we have another 3 shelf-sections of young children’s books, like The Hungry Caterpillar, Where is the Green Sheep and my children’s favourites that I can’t bear to throw out.

Anyway, it’s almost halfway through the year and I thought I’d share my “Books I’ve Read” list so far.

11 books in 6 months! This is definitely my record, since… having children 13 years ago haha.

I’ve started with the book I finished reading a few days ago… working my way backwards to the book I received for Christmas and started in January.

11. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (Omg hard to read, but sooo fricking amazing!)

10. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

9. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

8. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

7. The Martian by Andy Weir

6. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

4. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami,

You can check out my whole list over at Goodreads, although you have to be logged in to see the list in chronological order, I think.

Enjoy!