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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 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 readable.

Lots of other mum’s 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 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 one.

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.


Please Don’t RICE MY OUCHIE

9 October 2014

Growing up, I’ve never been a rough kid.

I’ve never broken my arm or leg. I’ve never hurt my knee, or twisted my ankle. I’ve never had a cast or crutches. As a result, I’m very unfamiliar with injuries and what to do with them.

So when I get a minor injury now, I just ignore it… because it’ll just get better after a few days right?

Thumb Injury

Well, while I was playing netball one evening, I slammed my thumb into the ball at full speed and got this impressive bruise. Of course it wasn’t a bruise to start. It just felt like my thumb had SPLIT IN TWO, THAT’S ALL.

Being the well brought up lady that I am, I held back the “F” EXPLETIVES SCREAMING IN MY HEAD and just turned to my opponent and said, “Ouch, that hurt.”

I played the rest of the game like a one-handed elephant seal, slapping the ball without using my thumb.

I was a bit embarrassed about it after. Silly me. Got an ouchie. Hurt my thumb. I casually mentioned it to my netball team mates, who just said, “Just rice it babe.”

I thought to myself, “Why yes, I’m Chinese. I can subscribe to that kind of thinking. Rice is usually the answer to everything. But surely they don’t mean to eat rice or rub it with rice. So I’m sure it stands for something like “Rub It Carefully Everyday”??

(It means Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation for all you perfectly coordinated people who don’t fall over, like me.)

Anyway, I stumbled along with my sore thumb. I refused to whinge about my pain. I didn’t complain or make a big deal about it. I was secretly all high and almighty and proud of myself. “I DON’T DO INJURIES. Pfft I don’t need ice. Or rice.” I turned door knobs. Held sandwiches. Flipped pancakes. I did all the things that a being with opposing thumbs is destined to do.

But after 3 weeks of pain, I swallowed my pride and asked various people for advice about my injury.

I got no sympathy. Everyone seemed to tease me about how minor my injury was. They told me stories about the MUCH bigger knee, ankle, neck, arm and back traumas they had suffered over the years. And they told me that it was too late for self applied RICE. Apparently, I needed professional advice…

And the advice came in the form of a wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

You see, throughout my research… I heard that a girlfriends’ husband’s friend’s sister… swears that there is a hot-looking, young physiotherapist with “talented” hands, who specialises in netball injuries, who will assess everything from ankle injuries, to ahem, groin injuries… (and presumably thumb injuries?) and who gives excellent RICE. WINK WINK.

Hmph. Thanks A LOT guys.

I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’m sure the pain will just go away after a few days right? It just needs more time to rest. And less netball.

But… is this rumour true? Is this mythical Physio actually real? Is he really talented? Is he really hot? Does he really see all the injured netball girls in town?

I guess I’ll never know the answers to these questions… because I’m *much* too proud to let some Physio-cassanova RICE my ouchie :P


Being a Vampire Ain’t So Sexy

2 October 2014

Bloody Eye!

Argh! So I woke up one morning and I looked like a drugged-up vampire!

I didn’t knock my eye or my head. I didn’t use new eyeliner or new makeup remover. I didn’t get soap or shampoo in my eye. I don’t remember rubbing my eye particularly hard. I wasn’t doing anything strenuous or anything with chemicals. I don’t take any medication either.

Just woke up one morning – as normal – and gave myself a fright in the mirror.

Of course, I immediately Googled it and it turned out to be a “subconjunctival haemorrhage” – which sounds terribly unsexy and I’m sure you wouldn’t hear the phrase uttered in any Twilight movie.

The good news is that it’s totally harmless. If I want, I can buy over-the-counter artificial tears to help sooth it, or just watch the Notebook or The Lion King a few times a week, you know, to get real tears.

Other than that, I have to leave it alone and it will slowly fade away after 1-2 weeks.

It looks totally freaky!

So of course, my kids thought it was utterly cool.

 


Vintage Missoni at Varga Girl

29 September 2014

I had the pleasure of being invited to a special event at Varga Girl, a boutique in Leederville.

This event launched the first capsule from the “ML Vintage Collection” featuring original, never-been-worn 1970s vintage Missoni, Versace and Courreges and Krizia clothing and accessories.

There is a pretty cool story behind this collection!

Vintage Missoni at Varga Girl

Mary Lipshut was a fashion buyer and owned a fashion label. She worked for Myer Australia in the 1970s where she bought labels such as Pucci, Missoni and Courreges… plus made friends with fashion royalties such as Gianni Versace, Ottavio and Rosita Missoni and Anna Piaggi (fashion editor of Italian Vogue)!

However in the early 70s the French began nuclear testing in the Pacific, and the Australian government impounded all imported French products for 2 years as a protest. So by the time Mary was allowed to sell her shipment of garments, the fashion had changed and it was too far behind.

She decided to store her shipment and over the years she added other unique and vintage pieces by Versace, Pucci, Missoni, YSL and more. The extensive collection has over 4000 pieces of clothing and accessories!

25 years later she decided to open up and share her collection with the world, and began ML Vintage, selling to the public, and displaying her garments in museums and galleries.

Mary passed away from cancer early this year, and her family has worked with Philip Boon (celebrity stylist) to curate capsules to take around the world to exhibit and to sell, to tell Mary’s the story and celebrate her passion through photographs and charity events.

Philip’s first stop was Perth! At Varga Girl in Leederville!

Vintage Missoni at Varga Girl

The collection was pretty amazing and rare. The pieces all looked like vintage, second hand clothes – but they were brand new! New vintage!

This printed skirt caught my eye and I quickly grabbed it try on.

Vintage Missoni at Varga Girl

OMG I was in love! It was a 1980s Vintage Missoni silk wrap skirt with a loud flower print. It was way too big for me (like double my waist size?) so I had to pin it at the back.

It cost $495, which was a bit out of my price range. But I was happy to wear it for a few minutes and prance around the store!

Um, it was actually extremely embarrassing, because I was the only one trying on clothes, taking photos of myself in the big mirror and everyone was looking at me like I was modelling the clothes as part of the entertainment?! Ugh, a part of me wanted to crawl into a hole and die. But I knew I wanted some great photos of the clothes being worn, so I just swallowed my pride and my sheer embarrassment that I looked like a self-absorbed, self-loving, look-at-me fashion blawhger (cringe!).

Vintage Missoni at Varga Girl

This is me and stylist Philip Boon, looking very loud, colourful and like a pair of happy peacocks.

Turns out that after I reluctantly put the skirt back on the rack, another lady tried it on and eventually bought it! I wanted to high five her!

Vintage Missoni at Varga Girl

Speaking of peacocks… I looked like a tropical bird on heat in this 1980s Vintage Missoni Floral Silk Top ($525).

It even had the classic 1980s big boofy sleeves and front-tie. It was totes cray cray :P

Vintage Missoni at Varga Girl

I also tried on this 1970s Vintage Missoni Rainbow skirt ($275) and I even hitched it up to turn it into a dress.

The colours were more subdue, but I still really liked it. I think the fact that it is such a rare piece, made it very desirable.

Vintage Missoni at Varga Girl

Just to mix it up a bit, I tried on some NEW Missoni clothes (launched this season and also in stock at Varga Girl). My favourite piece was this amazing printed knit top. Looks like I threw a bunch of tropical birds, some butterflies and a leopard into a blender? Can I say that on a fashion blog?

Missoni is well known for their crazy colored knits featuring a zig zag pattern, but this blended bird and butterfly print still seemed to fit beautifully in the new collection.

It perfectly matched my colourful necklace too.

Vintage Missoni at Varga Girl

This is the zig zag pattern I’m talking about. Missoni have recently collaborated with Converse to release special edition sneakers with the signature Missoni print! They are selling for $149 at Varga Girl.

Vintage Missoni at Varga Girl

And lastly, this is what I wore to the event. A white sleeveless shirt from ASOS, tulle skirt from Birdsnest, multi-colour jewel necklace from Colette Hayman, heels from YesStyle, bag by Marc by Marc Jacobs.

I was told that this collection is only Capsule 1 from ML Vintage. Philip Boon is off to launch other collections in LA and New York. Then he’ll be back to launch Capsule 2 in Perth, in November. So hey, if you’re in Perth, make sure you pop into Varga Girl to check out (and try on) these rare, never been worn, vintage pieces!

Varga Girl
148 Oxford Street
Leederville, Western Australia, Australia
(08) 9444 8990
http://www.facebook.com/thevargagirls


That Bird Label – Blue Maxi Dress

22 September 2014

That Bird label by Birdsnest

The team at Birdsnest have launched their new Summer Collection for That Bird Label – a special collaboration between the shop and its customers. The team designs and develops styles based on ongoing feedback from their customer, who also get a final say about prints and colours.

Featuring lots of bright, bold prints, ladylike silhouettes, easy wraps and draping… the collection has some lovely pieces for real women.

Anyway, this dress was my pick of the whole collection!

That Bird Label by Birdsnest

It is the Bonnie Maxi Dress in a Blue Garden Maze pattern. There is a black and green version with a slightly different pattern too. I’m wearing a Size 8. The dress has adjustable straps so I was able to adjust it all the way up, and the bottom of the dress didn’t drag on the floor. It was a perfect length! For a shortie like me!

I don’t own many maxi dresses, so I was rather delighted to find one that fit me so well.

The flowing fabric and simple draping made it a really breezy maxi dress, great for surviving the summer heat. Yet at the same time the fabric was heavy thick enough, that it didn’t feel cheap and flimsy. It feels like a quality dress that I’d wear for many years to come!

I’m wearing the dress with a strapless bra, Ecco wedge sandals and Sportsgirl hat.

Have a wonderful week!

( See all my Daily Outfits here )

Check out more of my favourite online shops in my Women’s Online Fashion Shopping Guide.


Riding, volunteering or donating?

26 August 2014

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013, photo by Ze Wong

Photo of me riding 200km over 2 days for The Ride To Conquer Cancer, October 2013. Photo by Ze Photography.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that for the past two years, I rode in The Ride to Conquer Cancer to raise money for cancer research.

The event is a 200km ride over two days, and is designed specifically for people who are NOT already experienced cyclists. It’s for newbies and beginner cyclists!

In 2012, when I took up the challenge to RIDE 200kms, I was very motivated about raising cancer awareness and raising funds for cancer research. This cause is something that is very close to my heart, since I nearly lost my husband to cancer, and because I have lost a good friend, who was, like me, a mother of young children. I wanted to make something good come out of my fear and loss.

But I was also deeply concerned that I could not actually do it. 200km seemed like a long way compared to walking the kids 2km to school! People in my extended family were actually counselling me against it: “Can you actually do it???”

Well, as it turned out… YES I COULD!

It was a fantastic experience… it completely transformed my views about personal fitness. It was a brilliant journey to go on. I learned so much about myself, about bikes, about fundraising, and the power of working as a collective. Over the two years, The Ride to Conquer Cancer event has raised approximately $39.1 million in Australia (the proceeds go directly to research facilities in each state) – which is amazing!

But this year, I am not riding. The truth is… I’ve now picked up a whole lot of other sports like running, netball, yoga and strength training. So while I’m still pretty fit and active, I haven’t actually been on my bike since October last year – 10 months ago! I just don’t have time to do the training.

But my dedication to the RTCC, and the cause, has not diminished, so I am still participating, as a Volunteer/Crew Member. I’m going to be finding out what it takes “behind the scenes” to make a huge event like this work. And of course, I am hoping to motivate YOU! So I’ll be reporting on what I see and do. Of course, I’ll be doing the Perth RTTC… but there are also rides in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

What can you do?

Ride!
I did it, so you definitely can do it too! You can sign up with a friend, or you can sign up by yourself and the RTCC people (volunteers like me) will match you up with a team of new friends you can train and ride with.

When I first started out, I was a complete beginner cyclist. A total noob! I started training with a 15 year old, rusted, mountain bike. Read about my whole journey from when I first started my cycling journey!

Volunteer?
The Ride to Conquer Cancer organisers are looking for people to join the volunteer and crew teams. It’s the best way to experience the event while you support the riders on their journey! Pop over to the Ride to Conquer Cancer Crew Page to find out more.

Donate!
If you can’t participate or volunteer, what about making a small (or large) donation that goes immediately and directly towards cancer research. You can go to my donations page and make any donation amount you wish – $20, $50, $100, $500! You can leave a public message, or a personal message, or just do it anonymously. And you get a receipt, so you can claim this against your tax.

More coming soon!


Oh mud! Glorious mud! How I love thee!

22 August 2014

Western Mudd Rush 2014

So last weekend, some friends and I got together to do the Western Mudd Rush - a 9km run with 23 mud-themed obstacles.

What was I thinking?!? I hate being dirty! I hate mud! I hate being cold! And for this event you get to be all three – dirty, muddy and cold… while running!

The truth was, I did it because of my boys.

The event had a separate section for kids to participate and my two big boys (aged 11 and 9) were falling over themselves to get signed up. So I, and a couple of my friends, got our kids together and decided to ALL give it a go. The kids did their event on the Saturday, and the adults did it on the Sunday. We actually had 6 adults sign up for our team, but at the last minute, 2 of them couldn’t make it.

It did occur to me to ring in sick as well. But my husband and kids would have hassled me about it… for years.

 

Western Mudd Rush 2014

Yes a few minutes in and I was splattered with mud already! The organisers made everyone have their participant number tattooed (temporarily) onto their forehead, because you were bound to get every other part of your body covered with mud. I liked it because it made me feel bad-assed.

I took my Nikon AW100 waterproof camera along for the ride. I carried it in a bum bag which I secured tightly around my belly, under my singlet, so I looked like I was 6 months pregnant! But after a while I found that it got in the way, so I slid the bum bag around so it sat against my back. That would have been a handy trick for when I was pregnant.

The weather turned out to be amazing. It was cloudy and slightly cool – perfect for running and getting muddy!

Western Mudd Rush 2014

The obstacles ranged from climbing up ropes, balancing on a beam, climbing across ropes, jumping over fences, crawling through tubes…

There was even an ICE BATH. Forget the ice bucket challenge. We had to jump into a TANK full of ice and freezing cold water, then we had to COMPLETELY SUBMERGE ourselves to get under a wooden bridge and then climb up a ladder to get out of the ice tank. It was insane! I was so so unbelievably cold and numb. But I did it. And I survived! Woot!

Western Mudd Rush 2014

There was a lot of climbing too, which I found to be quite challenging.

I have been working on my upper body strength, but I couldn’t get past the fact that I AM SHORT! My legs were too short, my arms were too short and the length of my body meant I was *just* out of reach for a lot of things.

But I still managed OK. I’m small, I’m light, I can jump high. And whenever I needed some help, my awesome team mates gave me a helping hand, or gave my butt a little push upwards.

Western Mudd Rush 2014

For example, take this rather large obstacle.

I needed a step (my team mate’s hand) to help me get over the wall. After that I was all good with getting over and down the wall by myself. Yay me!

Western Mudd Rush 2014

Then there were these tricky, spinning, slicked-with-mud barrels that we had to get over. Easier said than done. You couldn’t just climb over it. It was more of a leap, grab, swing legs over, use the momentum of your body to swing the rest of yourself over and then land on your feet. Go too fast and you’ll spin off the other side and injure yourself. Go too slow and you spin backwards and probably injure yourself.

Western Mudd Rush 2014

As we progressed through the course, the mud became more obvious.

There was a lot of mud to walk through and run through. There were muddy puddles and lakes to wade through. There was lots of mud smeared on things. But by this point were were DYING FOR SOME MUD TO ROLL IN!!

COME ON ALREADY, WHEN DO WE GET TO COVER OUR BODIES WITH MUD!?!?!

Yes, these were the words that came forth from my mouth.

Western Mudd Rush 2014

The Slippery Slide! Now this was fun.

We got to slide down a wet, bumpy hill on our ass, at high speed, straight into a pool of muddy water that smelt distinctly like… farm animals? Yes. Cows. Horses. Pigs. Wet farm animals.

Western Mudd Rush 2014

Here we pulled ourselves along a pool of cold, muddy, farm-animal-smelling water inside a cage thing. It was pretty easy for me, because once again, I was small and light.

Look at the silly smile on my face! I was having a great time! Even though I had mud in my hair and I smelt like a pig!

Western Mudd Rush 2014

Then there were two long tunnels, filled with muddy, agriculturally aromatic water, which we had to crawl through. Because I was small, I could easily crawl on my hands and knees. But a lot of other people had to do more of a commando crawl on their forearms and drag their whole bodies through the sludge.

I scurried along quickly and easily like a rat in a sewer. I crawled through the first tunnel, and my thoughts were… OMG this would be such a cool photo! I KNEW I wanted to take a photo from inside the tunnel, looking out.

I also knew that while inside the small confined space of the tunnel, I wouldn’t be able to get my camera out of my bumbag. So before I entered the second tunnel, I took out my camera and CARRIED IT IN MY MOUTH. My camera is the size of a smart phone, so I actually chomped down on it and carried it with my teeth. Like a rodent with a piece of bread, bigger than it can chew. Oh the things I do for the perfect photo.

Anyway, I now have a lovely photo of the inside of the tunnel AND the inside of my mouth. Ah the memories I’ll be able to treasure forever.

Western Mudd Rush 2014

Then came the grand finale. We had to crawl across a huge pool of thick, gluggy, brown mud, with barbed wires overhead. Argh the mud was so oozy and sticky, like clay. The ground was uneven, so some people fell into pot holes full of mud and got completely covered with the stuff.

It was -honestly – soooo much FUN.

We laughed and squealed with delight. We rolled around, hugged each other… and I took a selfie of course.

Western Mudd Rush 2014

Happy. Like unashamed pigs.

Oh there was one more obstacle after this… a stack of sea containers with a rope ladder thingy, before we hit the finish line.

Western Mudd Rush 2014

Look at us – WINNERZ!!!

(OK we didn’t actual win. We just finished the whole thing).

We took about 2 hours to do the whole 9km course. We ran most of the track and walked some parts when we got too tired. Some obstacles had long queues, so we had to wait a while. There was no pressure to complete each obstacle. There was just a general attitude to “Have fun and give it a go!”. It wasn’t a race. We went at our own pace. We overtook some groups, and other groups overtook us.

There was so much laughter, chat, banter and just enjoying the moment. It was definitely one of the most fun I’ve ever had at an “Organised Sporting Event”.

We had a quick, cold outdoor shower (it was more of a hose down next to the horse stables), we changed into dry clothes, and sat down on the grass for some hotdog and chips. My god, it was the best tasting hotdog ever.

I had a proper shower when I got home, because I still had mud in all my nooks and crannies. I also had to wash my hair twice to get rid of the farm animal smell.

Big thanks to my team mates! Next year we plan to get a bigger group together and dress up in a theme.

Hope you enjoyed my photos. Looking back through them, I can’t wipe my smile off my face!!

xxx

 


Keeping it Real: My Dressing Table

20 August 2014

Dressing Table

In an effort to reduce my clutter, I’ve been donating a lot of my stuff to charity, storing my keepsakes properly, throwing out the junk… and just trying to be a bit more organised in general!

So since things are looking a lot neater around here, I thought I’d share my progress and give you a peek into some of my everyday spaces.

Starting with my bedside table.

Usually the place where I throw my used tissues, my bedside table is actually a set of tall drawers where I store some of my clothes.

Yep there’s a lot of stuff on my bedside table! It’s where I keep the jewellery, perfume, nail polish, hand cream and sunglasses that I wear and use regularly. I guess it’s kind of a dressing table.

Oh and I jam my current reading book behind my mirror!

Dressing Table

As for the details. I can’t have fresh flowers in the same room as I sleep, as it makes me sneeze at night. So a cute bunch of everlasting peonies works a treat.

And I don’t actually light candles next to my bed either. The amount of clothes, bedding, rugs and flammable liquids I have, makes our room a bit of fire hazard.

So it all looks very pretty and stylish right? But the truth is, our bedroom storage system still needs a lot of work.

Wardrobe

Behold! Four boxes of STUFF (I’m afraid to look inside them) still sitting above our antique wooden wardrobe, with doors that don’t close properly.

The wardrobe was left on the side of the road, and my husband couldn’t resist its water damaged, chipped, vandalised, warped mirrored, insect ridden charms.

And the boxes have been up there since we moved house four years ago.

I’ll get around to cleaning them out one day!

 


Being Bookish

7 August 2014

Wooly and Bookish

I am on a reading roll at the moment. I am currently reading two books… and my face is constantly buried in one of them.

I cook and read at the same time. I have one book tucked into my hangbag, so I can pull it out whenever I have a few minutes to spare. I turn up early to after-school pick up and sit in the car and read until the very last moment I have to collect my kids. I turn down social events because, SORRY I’M READING! (Ok maybe it’s not that bad…)

Anyway, my girlfriend mentioned that I was channeling a bit of preppy librarian chic the other day. All I needed was thick rimmed glasses and I’d be all set haha :P

Wooly and Bookish

My jumper is a luxurious Pringle of Scotland jumper, given to me by my dad, when I was a teenager. I think that someone initially gave it to HIM (he didn’t buy it) and it is a men’s jumper because its size is “42inches”.

And now that I think about it, I think it was me who adopted it on the sly, rather than my dad actually giving it to me.

Anyway, it is 20 years old and it still feels as soft, supple and amazing as I remember it when it was new. It hasn’t lost its shape, there is no pill, it has a luxurious weight, yet it is breathable and comfortable. The cuffs and collar still sit flat against my skin. It’s just gorgeous to wear. It definitely makes me appreciate a good and high quality “investment” knit. Even though I didn’t buy it! (Thanks dad!)

Jumper by Pringle of Scotland
White silk shirt by Equipment
Cuff shorts by Alice + Olivia
Suede wedges by Tony Bianco
Crossbody bag by Witchery

Novel is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (A bit sad to start, but so far it’s an excellent read.)


PANDORA’s Letters, Numbers and Symbols

31 July 2014

Brought to you by Nuffnang and PANDORA

I’m so excited to be sharing about PANDORA’s latest range of charms on my blog today!

I have borrowed a whole bunch of different bracelets, rings and a selection of charms to play with and style up. And at the end of my loan, I’ll be able to pick a few to keep. You can check out my picks below.

PANDORA has been around for over 30 years, but it was only in 2000 that the Danish company launched its charm bracelet concept. The idea is pretty simple: you can create customised and personalised jewellery by choosing from a range of charms, beads, and crystals that are symbolic and meaningful to you.

This week, PANDORA is launching a new range of 14ct rose gold and sterling silver charms of letters, numbers and symbols.

PANDORA’s Letters, Numbers and Symbols

These are some of the charms that I really liked.

You know, when I first got into creating my own charm bracelets (last year?), I used to struggle with the indecision of trying to choose a charm collection that personifies my character and interests. There were charm designs of cats, dogs, owls, love hearts, musical notes, hobbies, natures, flowers, special occasions… and more. It was quite tricky to start the process of choosing.

Obviously, with the new letters and numbers charms, it’s much easier to create a meaningful collection of charms (especially for indecisive people like me).

I chose my initials “K” and the “C”. And I’m thinking next time I’ll get the first letter of my husband’s name and each of my kids too… K, A, C, S, L.

But I’ll have to make sure I put them in the right order, or I could end up wearing “SLACK” or “LACKS” on my wrist haha!

PANDORA’s Letters, Numbers and Symbols

I adore the colour of the rose gold charms, especially with a bit of extra sparkle from the cubic zirconias. And I think they look great when worn with the silver charms to create a modern, mixed metal look.

I really liked the symbols too. The key was my favourite. To me it represents the unlocking of doors – future doors, doors of opportunity, doors of happiness, doors of success. And I also like the clover that expresses good luck – but I see it more as a symbol of “good blessings”… because I have many to be thankful for.

I’m super pleased with my final choices!

PANDORA’s Letters, Numbers and Symbols

The mixed metal look, the sparkly charms, the shiny silver bangle and the white leather bracelet wrap … they all fit really well with my style. I really enjoyed wearing them.

I’ve styled them here with my faux fur coat by Shinn (Korea), blush silk shirt by Sarah (Korea), black needle jeans by Acne Studios, gold stud heels from Boohoo, crossbody bag by Alexander Wang, rings by Wanderlust + Co.

The new range is in store now. Or you can check them out on the PANDORA website.

Enter to Win!

There is also a competition to go with the launch!

Express your own personal style when you #sayitwithPANDORA and enter for your chance to win 1 of 3 bangles with letter, number and symbol charms in 14ct rose gold and sterling silver. Head over to the PANDORA website here to check it out!

xxx


Being a Book Nerd, at Northside Books

30 July 2014

The other evening, I found myself right smack bang in the middle of the city with 3 hours to kill.

It was 4:30pm, I had just finished a meeting and I was going to have dinner with some girlfriends, nearby at 7:30pm.

OMG what am I going to do with 3 whole hours?! It was such a rare and extraordinary moment that I had no idea what to do with myself!

I decided to pop into Northbridge, to visit a friend who owns a café and another friend who owns a fashion boutique. I thought I would do a bit of shopping and wander around to discover some new shops in the area. Who knows what treasures I would find?

But I didn’t make it to the fashion stores.

I wandered into a book store, planning to have a quick look… and I didn’t leave until the very last minute!

Northside Books, Northbridge

Oh my I was in literary heaven. I haven’t stepped into an independent specialty bookstore in YEARS! There was such a diverse range of classics, modern literature, art, design, architecture, cooking, history, children’s books, cards and more. It was such a great little bookstore, tantalising with the promise of treasure that I was craving for.

I have a mental list of “Books I Want Read” in my brain which went into overdrive. So many books I need to buy! I was quivering with excitement! Where do I start?!

The guy who owns the bookstore (James) was exceedingly helpful. He was friendly and charming, full of excellent suggestions, and not judgemental at all haha! He was such a quirky, book nerd (sorry James!) but exactly the kind of person for a bit of fun, bookish chat… especially if you’re like me, a closet book nerd.

Northside Books, Northbridge

I have found my next book, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. Winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize. Can’t wait to start!

In 2000, I used to work in the city, near a speciality bookstore. Every couple of weeks I would pop in and say “Please sell me some great literature!” The store owner would pass something to me (any age, any size, any genre), and I would devour it gleefully. Looks like I will be restarting this old habit again. I haven’t been *this* thrilled to read literature in years.

Back then I made a little goal – to read one Man Booker Literary Prize Winner every year. I think I only have read 3. Oh the disappointment. What have I been doing all those years? I have lots of catching up to do. It kind of made me regret reading the whole Twilight series. *Face palm*

Northside Books, Northbridge

I also did something else.

I asked if he could recommend a book for my 11 year old son, something that will hopefully inspire him to read more literature.

You see, my son reads a lot. He’s read all the popular novels and book series aimed at young boys, like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, Eragon, Hunger Games, Ranger’s Apprentice, Orson Scott Card, Assassin’s Creed, Matthew Riley, Dan Brown… and many, many more. So much so, he’s moving away from young boy fiction and headed towards adult action/thriller/military/mystery fiction?! The kid is unstoppable. He’ll read anything “interesting”. Which is why I want to throw some literary classics at him.

Yeah ok, I’m half boasting, but I’m also utterly terrified about all this. In the beginning, I tried to censor the books he read, but I couldn’t keep up with him! I take 3 weeks to get though a book and he takes 3 days. Puts me to shame.

So while James the bookstore owner was recommending me some books… two other very well-read gentlemen in the store (who were just random customers) overheard me and started to drop some suggestions into our conversation too.

Frankenstein, Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Of Mice and Men, Jasper Jones, Cloud Street, Animal Farm, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn, Treasure Island…

Soon the 4 of us – an unlikely combination of complete strangers 1) book nerd bookshop owner 2) mature gentleman 3) young hipster dude 4) Asian fashion blogger/mother – were standing around talking about all the classic books of the past that we’ve read as young folk. And throwing around our 2-5 word verdict on whether the book would suit my son! Too dark. Too slow moving. Not enough action. Language isn’t modern enough. More of a romance. Bit too sad.

It was such a refreshing, weirdly enjoyable and totally unexpected experience for me. Haha who would have thought I would spend my free 3 hours doing this??

I settled on Animal Farm by George Orwell (which I read when I was 13?), Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (adventure/action), Of Mice and Men (which I’ve always wanted to read), and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep By Philip K. Dick (again, I’ve always wanted to read this book, and I’m not sure if I bought this book for myself or my son!).

Northside Books, Northbridge

Anyway, James doesn’t know I’m writing about his bookstore on my blog. I thought I’d surprise him. It’s a ridiculously hard time for bookstore owners!

I kinda feel bad for all the times I bought my books online for $5 less. Or even drove all the way to Kmart to buy it for $2 less. I love love LOVE the old fashion feel of holding a book in my hand, I adored my trips to hip, indie bookstores in the past – so here’s my support to them!

The name of the bookstore is Northside Books, Northbridge.

They even have a little café inside (with snacks!), places where you can sit inside the bookstore and café tables to sit on the footpath outside.

It’s on 212 William Street, Northbridge, almost on the corner of James Street, opposite the famous Brass Monkey Hotel.

So if you happen to be a closet book nerd (like me) and if you happen to be passing by, do pop in and say hi!

(And check out a couple of Charles Dickens books on his sale racks for $5!)

Or pop into their Northside Books Facebook page!

 


Just go for it, girl

28 July 2014

Crop Top + Jeans

When it comes to finding my own personal style and dressing for my body shape, after many years of experimenting, I think I’ve finally figured out what works best for me.

I have a very petite, hourglass figure – which lets me get away with a lot – but I have short legs.

If I wear a long top, a long tunic, a pelplum top, a drop waist top, or even a shirt that ends below the waist, I always feel overly elongated and visually “top heavy”. This may or may not be an accurate certainty… but fashion is all about how it makes one feel right?

So I’ve learnt several tricks. I tuck my tops into my bottoms in order to highlight my waist. I tie knots into my t-shirts. I wear belts over shapeless dresses to highlight my waist. I wear short shorts to elongate my legs.

And most recently I’ve found the ultimate optical illusion for short people like me… the crop top! Yes, it’s not for everyone. And as I keep saying, if you’ve got the goods (whatever they are), just go for it girl!

Making your waist look like it starts higher than it really does, the crop top is a short-legged person’s best friend.

I have recently picked up a loose fitting crop t-shirt in white, black and grey – all in preparation for the warm summer months.

I love wearing them with high waisted jeans and tropical print pencil skirts.

Black crop top from The Iconic, Check shirt by Tokyo Fashion, White jeans by JCrew, white sneakers by Converse, Crossbody bag from Witchery, Diver watch by Rotary.

Check out more of my favourite online shops in my Women’s Online Fashion Shopping Guide.


A birthday of bagpipe farts

25 July 2014

For my birthday, my husband and I planned to go out for a fancy, romantic, degustation dinner. In fact, I was so organised that I booked the restaurant about 6 weeks earlier. It was at a restaurant that I have been dying to visit… and finally I had an excuse to spend hundreds of dollars on a meal there!

So on the day of my birthday, my family made me breakfast: Bacon, eggs, mushrooms and spinach.

It was just how I liked it. So much love right there.

My Birthday 2014

In the afternoon, I went out to lunch with my parents.

We shared a huge bowl of delicious nachos. I had my usual soy flat white.

My Birthday 2014

After lunch, we chatted and did a bit of shopping. Then I went to pick up my kids from school, brought them home and fed them a snack.

Since my husband and I were going out for dinner that evening, all 3 of my kids were going to have a sleep-over at my parent’s house. Yay! Like I said, I was super organised.

I grabbed their ready-packed clothes and drove over to my parents house. I dropped them off and zoomed home by 4:30pm… giving myself HEAPS of time to have a shower, wash my hair, put on my makeup, style my hair, and put together an evening outfit for a hot Friday night date with my husband.

But on the way home…I started to feel…unsettled. And the feeling grew. A sense of anxiety came over me.

By the time I reached my house, I realised I was feeling sick, and the feeling was growing fast.

There was a sudden pain in my stomach. I felt swollen with sickness. I wanted to throw up. My head was spinning. I felt so freaking bad that I had to lie down on my bed.

I curled up into a fetal position, squeezed my eyes shut and my head spun into a pit of swirling darkness.

I laid there, fully dressed and still wearing my makeup and shoes… and I blacked out.

At 5:30pm, I opened one eye.

OMG I was still in agony. I looked down at my stomach and I couldn’t believe it. It was huge, swollen and round and I looked like I was 6 months pregnant!!! WHAT THE HELL DID I EAT???

I reached behind me, my hands clumsily slapping the bed sheets, looking for my handbag. I found my phone and I called my husband.

The conversation went something like: URNGH. I’m sick. I ate something bad. I feel like shit. Not going out tonight. Cancel the restaurant booking. I’m staying bed.

I passed out again.

My husband came home, checked that I was still breathing, put a bucket next to my bedside table and left me sleeping.

At 9:30pm, I opened one eye again.

My necklaces were tangled in my hair. One earring was wedged into my ear. I smudged makeup and lipstick all over my pillow and sheets. I had one shoe off and one shoe on. My body was aching. My head was still dizzy. My stomach was still swollen, and I was still in pain.

Yeah, Happy Birthday Karen.

I got out of bed, took off all my jewellery, changed into my pajamas, washed my face… and tenderly staggered out into the lounge room where my husband was watching TV and enjoying his lonely Friday night “man” dinner – toast.

I plopped down next to him on the couch.

And then it happened.

I let out the BIGGEST FART of my life.

It started out resembling a big brass tuba blasting through the cushions of the couch. There was such a change in air pressure I think my ear drums popped. Then it became like a bagpipe belting out morse code. DOT DOT DAAAASH. It wouldn’t stop. Oh my god, I had to leave the room to try and save the last shreds of my dignity. My husband laughed as I fled, jet propelled.

(Mercifully, the pain in my stomach slowly subsided throughout the rest of the night. The “flatulence” did not. And every few minutes, I had a little wind instrument explosions from down below.)

I rang my mum to see if she was feeling ok (we both ate the bowl of nachos) and she was just fine, so it was not something that I ate. And then it hit me… my soy flat white tasted a bit different than usual. Damn it… they probably put REAL milk in my coffee! Grr.

My husband was very supportive. After his initial laughter, he didn’t mention my musical bottom at all. Bless him.

When we finally went to bed, he bravely spooned me and gave me a birthday cuddle in bed, being careful not to squeeze me too tight.

He said: “You know, Honey, even after all these years together, you are still full of surprises.”

And that is how we keep the romance alive! :P


Right, left, right, left… Do you love Body Combat too?

14 July 2014

I’ve been going to a few Body Combat classes lately.

It’s kind of fun. A bunch of ladies punching at the air, while a fitness instructor shouts at us over the roaring music. It feels a bit silly.

But after the class, my biceps, triceps and muscles on my shoulders and back GLOW with a pain that promises my arms to look like Michelle Bridges, so that makes it worth looking silly, right?

The last time I tried Body Combat was 10 years ago. I was horrifically unfit and halfway into the class, I wanted to curl over and puke. But this time I am much fitter, so I manage to keep up pretty well.

I go at it pretty hard. There’s no point in doing weak pathetic punches, so I try to give my punches some power.

My coordination is so bad though!

Geez I’m terrible at the steps, the fancy foot work and trying to remember the routines.

I managed to PUNCH MYSELF IN THE FACE during the class! Who does that?!

Right jab, left jab, right jab, left hook, right hook, left upper-cut, right upper-cut… TRICKY RIGHT?

I got my right upper-cut mixed up with a right hook, so I klonked myself in the cheek.

I stood there for a moment, imaging cartoon stars coming out of my left ear.

I’m sure the instructor saw me.

Then I spent the rest of the class trying not to laugh.. at MYSELF!

I guess I need to practice my WAX ON and WAX OFF technique :P


A Lesson on Gift Giving

4 July 2014

Roses from the Garden

My children asked me what I wanted for my birthday this month.

In the past, I’ve just said stuff along the lines of, “Aww, I’ll love anything you give me. Just put some thought into it!”

So I would get handmade cards, lop sided cakes, popstick craft, pasta necklaces, and bunches of hand-picked mangled flowers/weeds from the garden. Oh how I loved all those innocent, unconditional, adorable, sweet and simple acts of kindness!

But now that my two big boys are a bit older (age 11 and 9), their own ideas about what constitutes a good gift has evolved. They themselves would rather receive money, itunes gift cards, books, computer games, digital devices and gadget paraphernalia. Extremely efficient and practical gifts, but not very thoughtful. Even they would agree to that.

So as the only female in the house, I feel it’s my duty to push the whole idea of being thoughtful, creative, romantic, and generous when it comes to gift giving.

I do feel a bit sorry for them. They’ll have YEARS ahead of them where they will be stumped as to what to buy their girlfriends, wives, sister and mother in laws. Who can possibly know the way to a woman’s heart?

Haha I guess I am happy to give them a few years of training, starting with MY BIRTHDAY!

And since it’s their first year doing this… I’ve given them a few simple guidelines. A few big, fat clues.

Mum loves drinking tea. Mum loves scarves. Mum loves books. Mum loves candles. Mum loves vintage plates and cups. But most of all, mum loves flowers. It’s all about research and creativity, my boys.

It has stressed them out a little. What if you don’t like it? What if you already have that? What if you have something else in mind that you’d rather have?

So I say, once again… “Aww, I’ll love anything you give me.”

But what they need to learn is that what I actually mean: “It had better be something that shows you understand me!!!”


New Shelves and Old School National Geographic

3 July 2014

Things have been go go GO over here in my house. We’ve embarked on a few outstanding projects, minor renovations and epic cleaning sprees! It’s all been so inspiring!

This is our latest project.

New Shelves

When we moved into our house 3 years ago, we had always planned to have a beautiful stretch of Jarrah timber wall shelves, built into our 4m wall in our main lounge room. This would match our floorboards, because we love Jarrah.

Jarrah trees are native to Western Australia, and it is a super hard wood, with the warm colours of toffee and honey. Check out those colours and grain! But Jarrah is expensive, and it is a custom job my husband wants to do himself. So that shelving project had, quite literally, been put on the shelf.

Since then we have kept ALL of our books, magazines, albums, photo frames, precious objects… stored in boxes in our shed.

And for our 4m wall, we just kept leaning random crap against it (boxes, files, folders, random bits of furniture and a spare double bed mattress?!)

So FINALLY, we have set up an interim solution.

My husband and I set up some white chipboard shelves, given to us by my father in law. They are a bit old and crappy (they were stored in a garage, and have some water damage at the bottom)… but hey, they were free, and there’s nothing like crappy, old furniture to give the place a bit of charm :)

My husband gave me the option of painting them white, to make them look fresh and new. But that would mean possibly 5 coats of white paint with lots of drying time, which could take me over 2 weeks to do. That was just a bit too long for me to wait. I needed to get my books out of the wet weather! I decided to give them a good clean and leave them as they were.

I lugged out 14 BOXES OF STUFF from our shed. They were riddled with silverfish and spiders!

Boxes

Look at all those boxes!

New Shelves

Ta da! It looks so cool!

But this is just the first installment. I realised that I have another 2 boxes of books and objects that need to go on the shelves, so I will have to do a book cull (do I really need my uni marketing book??) and maybe put my photo frames on the wall instead.

Anyway, as I said, this is just an temporary solution. We still want our Jarrah wall shelves. But I might have to wait another 3 years for them!

Oh and we’ve got lots of beautiful old treasures that the kids have never seen before. Look at this!

New Shelves

My husband has an old collection of especially-special-to-him National Geographic magazines, the earliest one is from 1962 (before he was even born)! They are packed with amazing pictures and stories that make my toes tingle. And this is possibly one of the most famous Nat Geo covers?

It’s like there is a whole world in our living room now, and I’m so happy that our things are finally out of storage!


How to remove stains, and your sanity.

27 June 2014

Everyone loves a BEFORE AND AFTER shot. And everyone loves a home renovation story too.

So let me present to you what I have been doing for the past week.

I’ve been cleaning up our bathroom.

Tile Clean

Before: The grout was stained yellowed and patchy brown. It was NOT a good look.

It looked like 20 years of accumulated dirt, crusty chemical build-up and general wear and tear had seeped into the grout. Lovely right?

Tile Clean

After: Sparkling white grout! I am a genius. I know.

But, let me tell you people, it was such paaaaainful and agonisingly slow work.

This is how the whole process started -

My husband and I decided that we were NOT going to spend $7000 on a new bathroom renovation. And although he can do the tiling himself, he was unavailable. You know, the whole “I have a full time job” excuse followed by the whole “I have to be a happy parent to 3 young boys”. Yeah OK, I let him off on this one.

So if I wanted a clean looking bathroom, I had to clean it myself. Hmph.

First I tried an organic home cleaner (what a joke!), then a normal heavy duty cleaner, Jiff, bleach, sugar soap, proper grout cleaner, oxygenated whitening cleaners and cleaning acids. NOTHING worked. I was so desperate, I was going to try whitening toothpaste. But I decided that that was such a stupid idea!

Absolutely nothing removed the yellow and brown stains from the white grout. I was SO ANNOYED! All that experimenting took me 3 hours.

Then I bought a tile rake. It’s a metal scraper that grinds off the top layer of grout. Like sand paper. It took me about 3 hours to scrape all the grout back. And guess what. After digging down into the grout, I discovered that the stains were not just on the surface of the grout… they went deep.

Then I used a grout paint.

Tile Clean

That’s right. I freaking HAND PAINTED the whole grout grid, with white paint, using AN ARTIST BRUSH!!

It was a bloody masterpiece I tell you. I bet Michaelangelo didn’t have to do this crap.

All that hand painting took me about 4 hours.

The label on the paint bottle said that the dried paint could easily be rubbed off tiled surfaces. I should have tested it first. Because for my first coat, I painted the grout in big messy lines and let the paint splash up onto the tiles. Big mistake. BIG mistake. Because the excess paint on the tiles was NOT easy to remove. So now I had to scrape all the dried paint OFF the tiles, which subsequently messed up my first coat of paint IN the grout (where I actually wanted it). That took me another 4 freaking hours.

Then I painted the grout with a second coat of white paint. 2 hours.

Seal the paint with grout sealer. 2 hours.

Grand total of 18 hours, spread out over 1 week.

It looks great now, but holy freaking crap it was painful!

On the upside, I listened to my whole iphone playlist, which I’ve never done before. It turns out that I have excellent taste in music… for cleaning grout :)