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

10 November 2013

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

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

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

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

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

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

We set off at 7am.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

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

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

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

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

THEN. The weather hit us.

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

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

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

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

And yep, it put my own struggles into perspective.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

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

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

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

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

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

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

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

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

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

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

The next morning, the sun was shining! HOORAY!

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

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

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

Me again. All rugged up and ready to go!

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

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

My poor riding buddy had ANOTHER flat!

Same tyre.

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

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

WOOHOO I DID IT!!!

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

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

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

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

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

xxx


Liam : 3 years and …a bit?

30 July 2012

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

My little Liam is 3 years and 4 months.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I need to do that, because….

Liam is 3 years and 4 months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liam is 3 years and 4 months

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

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

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

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

Liam is 3 years and 4 months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Baby 3: Liam at 2 years and 10 months

2 February 2012

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

Liam - 2 years 10 Months

Behaviour and Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This keeps everything quite peaceful.

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

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

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

Liam - 2 years 10 Months

“Education”

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

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

Speech

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

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

Gross Motor Skills

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

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

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

Fine Motor Skills

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

Sleep

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

Imagination Play

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

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

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

Social Skills and Friends

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

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

Separation

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

Liam - 2 years 10 Months

Eating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

School

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

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

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


Liam at 2 Years Old

25 April 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I mention he is my last baby?

Liam at 2 years old


Pears In Red Wine

5 January 2010

pears-red-wine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yum-EEE!


Ten Years Of Blogging

13 October 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My

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

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

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

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

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

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

wp_screen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sean Turns 4 Years Old

12 March 2009

Sean Turns 4 Years Old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean Turns 4 Years Old

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

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

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

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

Photos By Sean

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sean – 3 years, 3 months

6 June 2008

Sean - 3 years, 3 months

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

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


Sean Turns 3 Years Old

11 March 2008

Sean Turns 3

To my dearest little Sean.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean Turns 3

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

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

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

Sean Turns 3

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

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

Sean Turns 3

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

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

Sean Turns 3

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


Callum : 3 years, 11 months

8 March 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sean at 20 months (1¾ years)

27 November 2006

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

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

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

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

And I can’t help but join in!


Seven Years of Web Wrangling II

10 May 2006

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for sharing with me.


Seven Years of Web Wrangling

9 May 2006

This month, my website is 7 years old.

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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


I Got My Ears Pierced

1 August 2003

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

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

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

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


Discovering The Gym Life Again

13 March 2017

Brought to you by Next Gen Health and Lifestyle Clubs

In the last 6 years I have been a member of 3 gyms in total.

Each gym had their pros and cons. And overall, each gym fulfilled a very particular fitness need I had at the time. So I enjoyed all of them!

My decision whether or not to join or leave a gym is always based on my personal circumstances at the time and where I am on my fitness journey – and I’m sure everyone makes decisions about gyms this way.

This last month, I have been collaborating with Next Gen Health and Lifestyle Clubs, to see what I think and to share with my readers!

It’s a very different approach to how I usually choose a gym, but I’ve tried my best to give honest and objective opinions about all the facilities, how those opinions came about and why I was practically falling over myself to try it!

Check out the rooftop pool!

Next Gen Kings Park Review

Oh hey, I joined a gym and it’s a bit awesome haha!

Next Gen have clubs all around Australia, and they have two gyms in Perth: one in Kings Park and one in Bibra Lake.

I jumped / squealed / gasped in shock at this opportunity to try out the Kings Park Club, because… it was my HOLY GRAIL of gyms!

Next Gen in Kings Park has been running for 10 years. They also run the Royal Kings Park Tennis Club, which has been going for almost 120 years, so the whole place is FULL of rich, local history in community fitness and luxurious, active lifestyle.

Basically, everyone in Perth knows about the tennis club and gym at Kings Park. It’s like a local institution! I’ve known about it for YEARS, I’ve heard so many good things about it, I’ve always wanted to try it, and omg this is the first time I have stepped inside – woohoo!

So am I being a bit biased? I have 10 years of fanciful dreaming… so, possibly!

Next Gen Kings Park Review
Me about to start a RPM class!

First Impressions
This place is not just a gym. It’s like an established country club. They call it a Health and Lifestyle Club. It is presented very well, is very spacious, very well looked after, slick, polished and clean.

The place is 4 storeys high, filled with big windows, lots of natural light and amazing views of Kings Park and the Perth city skyline.

Most gyms around the 10-year mark look a bit run down. Carpets, handrails, door catches, and tiles tend to look a bit old, worn and unkempt. But this place looks fantastic.

Everything from the training machines and RPM bikes, to the steam and sauna rooms, to the lounge chairs and tables, to the hairdryers in the change rooms – all look new and ultra modern. I believe the place has been newly renovated.

Everything seems to run super efficiently. The staff are well organised, very helpful and friendly. Every time I ask someone a question, they all know exactly what to do, who to call, how to make it happen and will follow it up with a phone call or email. Love that customer service.

Overall, it doesn’t feel TOO posh or TOO over-the-top fancy – which is an aspect I like. I’ve been in super-fancy hotel gyms, where you get the impression that they are not serious about fitness and gym functionality at all, just how cool and luxurious it all looks!

In terms of the other members, well I can’t say for certain, but during the times I’ve been at the club, I’ve seen a wide range of ages – young and old, in every beautiful shape and size!

So I don’t feel out of place or intimidated at all – which is also another important factor for me.

Next Gen Kings Park Review
Boxing time!

The Gym and Fitness Area
The gym covers a huge area and it is outstanding!

Again, there is lots of natural light; it’s all very spacious, new and clean.

There are lots and lots of cardio, resistance and training equipment. There are free weights, kettlebells, medicine balls, Swiss balls, training zones, step-up platforms, cable things, boxing, ropes – everything is SUPER MODERN.

There is a huge variety of classes too, including Body Pump, Body Balance, Pilates, Yoga, Barre, HIIT Core and Metafit workouts, Bootcamp, RPM, Spin, Zumba, Aqua Cardio and more.

Most of the classes run back to back and sometimes 3 classes run at the same time. A few times I’ve stayed and completed 2 classes, one after the other.

I really like the variety of the classes being offered, as it stops me from getting bored and keeps my fitness motivation high. That’s always a good aspect about joining a gym.

The trainers are lovely, friendly and professional.

I love the fact that while there is a receptionist at the front of the whole building, there is also a “reception” for the gym area.

Someone is always manning the front of the gym, so I can ask him or her anything gym or workout related. They are not busy with other clients, or leading a class, or cleaning equipment. I don’t feel like I’m interrupting them, thus they are always approachable and helpful.

If I had to point out a down side, I felt the treadmill was so advanced that I got a bit flustered trying to work it. Basically you can do things like load your own TV series from a USB, surf the internet (online shopping anyone?), or you can choose running routes which comes with moving scenery so you can feel like you’re running in the Canadian mountains…. Or something like that!

(Thankfully the lovely trainer on duty showed me how to use the simple run function!)

Next Gen Kings Park Review
Starting my day with a slow and steady swim.

The Pool and Aquatics
Next Gen Kings Park has a 20m indoor pool (heated to 28C) and a 20m outdoor rooftop pool (heated to 23C). It also has a therapeutic spa, steam room and sauna.

Oh hey, I’ve decided that I want to take some adult swimming lessons!

I’d like to do a triathlon some time in the future, and while my running and cycling are both ok, I’d like some tips on how to improve my strokes and swim better.

Haven’t started them yet. Will let you know how I go.

In the meantime, I’ve been building up my swimming stamina by doing slow laps in the pool.

The indoor pool is gorgeously warm. Perfect for a slow and steady pace. I usually get really cold in regular pools, so I try to swim faster, but my strokes get sloppy and I end up making myself tired and dizzy! I just don’t last very long. I’m hoping to improve that.

The outdoor pool is amazing because you can swim with the incredible view looking out over the city! Plus the lounge chairs are great for relaxing and soaking up a bit of sun.

They also run aqua aerobics classes and kids swimming lessons.

Next Gen Kings Park Review
After a swim, hot shower and blow dried hair!

The Members Lounge
Oh my gosh. This did not disappoint. The Members Lounge is like a very classy, very modern, business class airline lounge. There is a mixture of big, lush lounge chairs with low café tables for relaxing and reading a newspaper; and a more upmarket café-style seating area for eating meals or working on a laptop.

The adjoining café serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, coffee, juices and is a licenced bar. There is also free wifi and a business zone with computers available for use.

I think the Members Lounge is the heart of the Next Gen, which sets it apart from all the other gyms that I’ve been to.

It has a very relaxed, inviting atmosphere to hang out, stay, eat, work, talk, be active, and enjoy life. It feels very positive and holistic.

I love it’s understated vibe, the effortless atmosphere, the quiet buzz of individuals, the welcoming comfort, and the luxury of the facilities.

It is a very nice place to chill after a workout, read a book, have a coffee, or whip out my laptop and catch up on emails before I get on with the rest of my day.

Tennis Courts
As I mentioned earlier, Next Generation runs the Royal Kings Park Tennis Club, with 22 outdoor grass courts, 6 outdoor non-cushioned courts, 2 synthetic courts, lighted courts, professional coaching and group programmes.

I’m not a tennis player, but I do plan to take my kids along to smash some tennis balls for a fun workout.

We might even try a game of squash in their indoor squash courts.

Next Gen Kings Park Review
Ready for a yoga class!

Family Activities

The whole place is quite family friendly. There’s a crèche, fitness classes for kids, swimming lessons for kids, tennis coaching, holiday activities, children’s parties and kids are welcomed in the pool areas.

Initially, this didn’t really appeal to me, because I like to keep my “gym time” separate to “kids time”. But it made me realise this fact:

During the school holidays, and particularly during the Christmas and New Year break, my attendance to the gym significantly decreases. Sometimes I would go 3-4 weeks without going to the gym! And it pains me to think of all the money I wasted.

So with such a family focused gym, I could take the kids swimming during the school holidays, put them in tennis or swimming lessons while I did a workout, or use the crèche, or sign them up for the school holiday programmes or just hang out with them in the pool or tennis courts and take a walk through Kings Park.

I guess if I could afford it, this would seem like an incredible way to keep up my gym activities during the school holidays!

Pricing
In terms of pricing, there are so many membership options, levels, variations and time lengths available, so you just have to find one that suits your needs and lifestyle.

The best way to get connected is to pop over to the Next Gen website to make an enquiry.

I’d say, looking at the prime location, the premium facilities, the historic tennis club, all the amazing services, the member’s lounge, the luxurious atmosphere and café… it is probably not for everyone and you will get what you pay for, but you might be surprised at the same time.

In Conclusion…
This has been my best gym experience by far!

I still have 2 more months of my 3-month membership to go. And I’m whole-heartedly looking forward to using it as much as I can.

So the big question is: Would I actually choose to sign up for a full membership?

My answer: YES, but not at the moment. I have my heart set on doing a triathlon (or two) in the next few years, so I am hoping to do a lot more outdoor running and cycling. This doesn’t go very well with a gym membership. So for me, the timing is not quite right.

Special Offer to Try 10 days for $20!

Next Gen are offering all my readers a super special offer: Try 10 days for $20!

This applies to ANY Next Gen Club around Australia and New Zealand! But it’s only available until Tuesday 21st March.

This is such an amazing deal! Even if you come in to take a peek, go for a pilates class, try out some weight machines, use the change rooms to change into your bathers, take a swim in the outside pool, sit on the lounge and soak up a bit of sun, pop down to the cafe to have a coffee and banana bread – that would take about 2-3 hours and definitely worth more than $20.

Anyway, head over to this page to find out more and sign up for a trial!

Still to Come
As I mentioned before, I’m going to take a few adult swim classes and let you know how I go!

Thanks for reading and have a fantastic week!


3.1 Phillip Lim Soliel Bag and Shopbop Sale

2 March 2017

3.1 Phillip Lim Soliel Bag

While I was in London and Paris, I had my heart set on buying a new black bag, in a bucket style.

I did lots of window shopping and visited lots of luxury stores, but in the end I bought online because of Shopbop’s Go Big Sale (which is on until 4 March).

I had my eye on this gorgeous 3.1 Phillip Lim Soleil Bucket Bag for months… and to finally get it with 25% off was icing on the cake!

It has a modern, sleek design, clean lines, structured silhouette, with a super cute box shape. At 23cm x 24cm, it’s a perfect size to fit all my stuff.

I like that it is light on hardware and very minimal.

It’s not an everyday bag for me. It’s more of a special outing bag for me.

If you’re looking for a special black bag too, this Shopbop Go Big Sale is a great place to start looking.

Simply enter the code GOBIG17 at the checkout to receive 15 off orders of $200+, 20% off orders of $500+ and 25% off orders of $800.

Here are a few black bags that I really like.

Shopbop Black Designer Handbags

A.P.C. Half Moon Bag – I have this bag! I absolutely love it. It’s a small crossbody handbag, just big enough to fit a purse, phone, keys and lipstick.

3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli Mini Satchel – This was the other handbag I had my eye on. It’s an older style, but it’s a classic 3.1 Phillip Lim bag. I really like its cool satchel look.

 

Shopbop Black Designer Handbags

Meli Melo Medium Thela Bag – I was just talking about Meli Melo a few days ago… and how the Thela is a lovely classic. This medium size bag is currently on 20% off sale, then use the Go Big code for another 20% off. Woot.

Alexander Wang Mini Rockie Bag – Ah I have been eyeing this bag for years! I LOVE the chunky but slouchy look to the Rockie Bags. It has a cool, sporty, casual look to that gets me every time.

 

Shopbop Black Designer Handbags

Furla Stacy Drawstring Bucket Bag – I really like the shape of this bucket bag, and the price was a lot friendlier to my wallet too. I saw it in a London store and it was lovely in real life.

Charlotte Olympia Pussycat Purse – Ok you can’t go wrong with a Charlotte Olympia purse to elevate your outfit, whether you’re dressed up or dressed down. Super duper cute!

Shopbop Black Designer Handbags

Karen Walker Milly Camera Bag – I’ve been thinking to get myself a boxy camera bag. I have a few in mind and this Karen Walker one is a particularly cute one. Of course, when they say “camera” bag, they mean compact camera, not a DSLR!

Mackage Keeley Bag – OK this is a recent addition to my wishlist. I totally dig that arrow charm, cool shape, and pebbled leather. It looks a bit like my Loeffler Rider Bag, so I probably shouldn’t get it haha.

 


Everyday Cycling for Fitness

1 March 2017

Brought to you by Reid Cycles

Everyday Cycling for Fitness with Reid Cycles

(Photo: Me with my new Reid Women’s Urban X1, a hybrid bike from Reid Cycles)

5 years ago, I was an avid cyclist.

I had an ultra-lightweight road bike, the whole cycling kit, the lycra outfit and I used to go on 80km – 100km bike rides once a week. I really loved it and I was super-duper lean and fit!

BUT after 2 years, I seriously burned out… so I started to get into running, weight training, strength exercises and yoga instead.

And NOW after 3 years, I’ve been thinking about starting to cycle for fitness again!

First things first – I needed a new bike.

My husband took over my old road bike, which was great, because I didn’t want a new road bike.

I decided that road bikes are not for me because: It’s for a particular kind of road cycling that involved a hunched over position, high centre of balance, cleats (clip on shoes which cost $100+), very fast speeds (I’m afraid of crashing!) and wearing padded pants haha.

I wanted a very simple, lightweight bicycle for everyday fitness!

I wanted to hop on it – while wearing my normal activewear – be able to go for a quick ride around my neighbourhood, get my heart rate up and burn some calories. I also wanted something simple so I could ride alongside my kids.

Last year, I started doing some research and I looked around for a new bike. This year, the stars in the blogosphere aligned and I had the opportunity to collaborate with Reid Cycles!

Reid Cycles are an Australian bicycle brand! They are a family owned business, specialising in best value bikes (they sell direct from the manufacturer), with stores all around Australia and international distribution too.

I like that they are a large store with lots of stock, great warranty, and free delivery.

Their prices are surprisingly amazing too.

And I’m pretty impressed with the look of their bikes. They have a nice range of bike styles specially designed for women, and the styles come in lots of sizes, which means I’ll be able to find a bike that fit me.

Everyday Cycling for Fitness with Reid Cycles

In my case, my option was a “hybrid” or a “city” bike.

The team at Reid Cycles recommended me this Reid Women’s Urban X1.

They also had this gorgeous looking, lightweight, vintage-style city bike: Ladies Sports Vintage Esprit Bike, which was very tempting because it looked so stylish!

In the end I chose the Urban X1 because it looked sporty, tough, sleek black, sexy and a bit badass!

I went online, chose the bike according to my height, put in my online order, then went into the store to pick it up, and to make sure it fit me.

Everyday Cycling for Fitness with Reid Cycles

It was perfect! It was lightweight, with a sleek, simple design. It looked great and felt great.

It was even the right size for a shortie like me!

I could easily take off the front tyre, put it into the back of my car and take it places.

It wasn’t huge and cumbersome.

It gave me a smooth ride, with easy to change gears. Seat was comfortable, my back wasn’t hunched over, I felt balanced and my knees didn’t hurt.

Everyday Cycling for Fitness with Reid Cycles

I’ve done a few short rides and one long ride on it already. It’s such a fantastic way to get some fresh air and a quick workout, despite my busy life.

I’ve kind of fallen in love with it!

I think the only problem is now I’d like to put on a bike computer on it, a saddlebag and a water bottle carrier on it too.

In fact, I feel so comfortable on this bike I might even try to do a 80km distance on it some time. I will be stepping up my distances and building up my stamina and strength. Hopefully I’ll get back to my 80-100km distances soon!

Everyday Cycling for Fitness with Reid Cycles

Happy cycling!

xxx


Investment Lover Lace (Thanks to the Revolve Sale)

28 February 2017

Brought to you by Revolve

Lover Lace from Revolve Clothing

Sometimes all you need is one beautiful top to make yourself realise that you probably shouldn’t have blown your last month’s fashion budget on cheaper, trendy tops – oops!

Over the past few years, I’ve tried to be a bit more considerate about what I buy.

I’m trying to stick to a few rules and you’ve probably heard them a zillion times:

Go for the investment piece. Go for the classic. Be deliberate. Buy something that you absolutely love.Lover Lace from Revolve Clothing

I recently purchased this stunning Arizona Lace Top by Lover (which is still on sale).

I really ummed and ahhed over whether I should buy it.

Because when you think about it, it’s essentially a lace top and lace tops are quite common. I could probably get something similar from Topshop, Forever New or ASOS. Why spend all that money on ONE top, when I can have FIVE tops?

I took the plunge, and all I can say is… would I rather have five MEH tops or one BLOODY AMAZING top that makes me feel like a million dollars and that I can wear again and again?? I’ll take the latter thanks.

Wardrobe investment all the way!

Lover Lace from Revolve Clothing

It is a beautifully slim fit. It has zero stretch, but thankfully it fits me perfectly (I’m a standard size AU 6 and 45kg). It has a hidden zip all the way down the back, but it was still a bit tricky to put on.

The lace is out of this world. It’s so soft and cottony to touch and not scratchy at all. It does feel a bit delicate to wear and there are some movements I wouldn’t do – like twisting at my waist to grab something behind me or hugging myself (??) as there’s not much stretch.

I absolutely love how versatile it is!

I wore it dressed down, with a denim skirt, just like the model on the product page and it looked awesome.

This particular day, I’m wearing it with Black Culottes by Hello Parry and Pointed Flats by Charles and Keith.

Lover Top from Revolve Clothing

Revolve Clothing are having their BIG sale of the year for AU/NZ customers only. It’s an amazing time to get that big ticket investment item you’ve been eyeing.

Hit up the Revolve Sale Here and take 20% off everything (including sale items), but some brand exclusions do apply.

Just use the special promotion code 20OFF at the checkout. Sale ends 3 March.

Happy shopping!!

xxx


Meli Melo for Timeless Style

22 February 2017

Brought to you by Meli Melo

Summer Woven Bag by Meli Melo

Hi everyone!

Since the start of the year, I’ve had the pleasure of having several “omg somebody pinch me” moments in my life and work.

(Having said that, I think watching a nice sunset is a pinch-me moment haha!)

Anyway, one of those pinch-me moments comes from my latest collaboration with Meli Melo.

Meli Melo is a London bag brand, created and founded by Melissa Del Bono in 2005, who sought to create beautiful, timeless and practical handbags (without showy logos) for everyday women.

The brand has a strong focus on timeless Italian craftsmanship mixed with a London understated cool.

I first heard of the brand a couple of years ago, when Olivia Palermo was snapped carrying one. The bag caught my eye because it looked surprisingly “everyday” for Olivia. But it seemed to hit the magic trifecta – it looked really practical, stylish and effortless – like the perfect everyday bag! I didn’t recognise the brand, so I went to check out who designed it.

Meli Melo Thela Bags

Turns out it was the classic Thela Tote Bag – so nice right?

The style is considered to be one of Meli Melo’s Signature Bags and it’s easy to see why with its simple and timeless design.

Summer Woven Bag by Meli Melo

For my review I decided not to choose the Thela, because I was looking for a tote bag and something a bit more different (but not too different!)… so I chose this Rosalia Woven Bag – another of their signature bag styles.

I wanted a tote style bag with no top flaps, with a nice big opening and a discrete zip.

The Rosalia Woven Bag features an embossed woven leather, evoking the rustic wicker baskets of Sicily, where the designer Melissa grew up.

I love this unique texture! It’s so eye catching, because it looks like a woven basket and captures a sense of whimsy, wanderlust, uniqueness and like it holds a story from my childhood. It looks like it has lots of personality!

Usually woven basket textures give a sense of casual/resort styling, but because of its sleek shape and the long shoulder straps, it fits really well with city and urban styling.

Summer Woven Bag by Meli Melo

It isn’t a delicate, thin and slouchy kind of leather bag, that collapses into a puddle of buttery, soft folds.

The leather of the body is beautiful, luxuriously smooth and very thick, making it strong and structured, so it keeps its lovely shape when you place it down.

I loved putting it on a cafe chair next to me – because it stood straight and strong and opened up easily so I could quickly see and grab my things inside.

It seemed pretty resistant to scratches, scuffs and bumps, so it was nice to NOT have to worry about that when using it.

The thickness of the leather handles and straps are slightly thinner for comfort and usability, but still thick and strong.

Perhaps the downside of the bag is its weight, which is 1.1kgs. So it’s a solid weight, but not too heavy that it hurts my arm or shoulders.

It really feels like a luxury quality, leather handbag. It will last me years and years and it feels like the kind of bag that will get better with age.

meli melo Rosalia

The Rosalia Bag comes in nine different colours – lots of lovely pastels and subtle shades. I’ve shown my favourite 4 colours above: Light Tan, Taupe, Heron (light blue), Midnight Blue. It also come in Elephant Grey, Sand, Khaki, Lime and of course Black.

It also comes in a smaller “Mini” size which can be worn in a cross-body style. That’s super cute too!

If you buy from the Meli Melo website, they offer free worldwide shipping.

Or you can also buy Meli Melo from Shopbop (and you might be able to nab it on sale).

I absolutely loved using this tote as an every day bag for doing all my errands. Look forward to lots more photos of me and my bag haha!

Happy shopping!!

xxx


Tate Modern: Highlights

21 February 2017

This was my second visit to the Tate Modern Art Gallery – the first time was 14 years ago, when I was last in London with my husband.

I was going to skip it, but it was a cold, grey day and my mum and I needed to get out of the house.

I was a bit hesitant to take my mum – an Asian lady in her early 70s – because I wasn’t sure if she’d like all that “MODERN ART”.

When I was in Tasmania, I visited the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and there was a very long wall with a row of plaster cast vaginas set just above eye level. 30 of them maybe? They were um, interesting. But I secretly prayed that there wouldn’t be anything too CONFRONTATIONAL like that at the Tate haha.

Thank goodness there were only just a bunch of Picasso’s and Pollock’s there!

Tate Modern - Mondrain

Ah modern art, you crazy thing you.

Mondrian always makes me chuckle. I know he is regarded as a genius. But I always imagine him thinking, OK let’s have some fun and see if I can get away with this one…..

Apparently the colour, structure and placement of the elements within the picture is meant to represent an ethical view of society.

Composition C (No.III) with Red, Yellow and Blue (1935), by Piet Mondrian

Tate Modern - Picasso

Ok I had a special moment with this one.

Picasso has such a huge and remarkable body of work, across so many mediums. He’s a really impressive artist. And when you stare into his paintings they can be quite moving.

Especially this one!

Weeping Woman (1937) by Pablo Picasso.

From the display caption: One of the worst atrocities of the Spanish Civil War was the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German air force, lending their support to the Nationalist forces of General Franco. Picasso responded to the massacre by painting the vast mural Guernica, and for months afterwards he made subsidiary paintings based on one of the figures in the mural: a weeping woman holding her dead child. Weeping Woman is the last and most elaborate of the series. The woman’s features are based on Picasso’s lover Dora Maar.

Some of my favourite Picasso paintings are the Guernica and Weeping Woman. So it was amazing to see this one in real life.

Tate Modern - Dali

Autumnal Cannibalism (1936) by Salvador Dalí

I don’t know much about Dali, only that he knocked out some kooky-weird stuff.

I remember in art school, we had to do drawings in a Dalí style and it was actually really hard to deliberately discard all the “rules” of perspective, scale, form. It seriously messed with my head haha.

Tate Modern - Pollock

Number 14 (1951) by Jackson Pollock

Even though Pollock’s work is ridiculously messy, abstract and random, I quite like it.

But mainly because I can imagine how FUN it would be to throw / squirt / splatter / pour / make an almighty mess with all that paint!

It’s kind of exciting to stare into all that randomness.

Tate Modern - Warhol

Marilyn Diptych (1962) by Andy Warhol.

Hmm, I’ve never been a fan of Andy.

But he did make a significant impact on art, film, music, pop culture, art culture in the 60s so I had to take a photo for my kids to see.

Tate Modern - Duchamp

Fountain (1917, replica 1964) by Marcel Duchamp

My mum scoffed at this one.

I’m a bit on the fence with it.

If you read the convoluted story behind it on the Tate website (quite interesting!), you can decide whether Duchamp was just being an ass, arrogantly trying to prove a point, honestly trying to make people stop and think, pissing off the Society of Independent Artists (of which he himself founded!), or being a witty / humorous / clever artist.

Dunno.

Overall, I had yet another wonderful day, slowly perusing through the art galleries in London. Bliss!

What I was most amazed by was the fact that almost all the good stuff was completely free. There is no official entry fee into all the big galleries, but they do encourage you to give a small donation. Love that.


An Alternative to Laser: Collagen Induction Therapy at Iconic Medispa, Perth

17 February 2017

Collagen Induction Therapy from Iconic Medispa

(This is me 8 weeks after CIT treatment, with concealer, foundation, powder, highlighting, a little mascara and really nice portrait lighting. Not entirely natural, but my skin is glowing!)

Some of you might remember my blog post about My 30’s Skin Journey, where I whinged about my skin and I talked about seeing a dermatologist, my skin treatment, using (and loving) Vitamin A and how I decided NOT to do laser.

Instead I went for lots of facials (Detox facials! Rejuvenation facials! Relaxing facials!) which are nice, relaxing, and wonderfully luxurious. But in terms of making an actual difference to my skin, most of them were meh.

So now I have been trying more “active”, but non-invasive facial treatments.

My disclosure here is that I was contacted by a friend of a friend of a friend, who also happened to be a high school friend’s sister’s husband — basically I kind of know the team behind the Iconic Medispa in South Perth and they asked if I’d like to try one of their facial therapies.

I actually declined at first, because I didn’t know very much about the therapies they offered. On their website, they say they offer HydrafacialsCollagen Induction Therapy (which is like skin needling), a range of chemical peels, facials, infusion masks and even wrinkle relaxers and dermal fillers.

Since I declined to write a blog post, I offered to take photos for some of their marketing social media instead.

So one day I went into their clinic to take photos, I started chatting and asking questions about their business and their therapies. They were all very professional, knowledgeable and passionate about what they do, and I got a really nice vibe from them, their practice and their ethos… and the more informed I was, the more I wanted to try a facial treatment.

Basically, I got to know Dr Michael and a few of his therapists.

He’s is an award winning dentist! He’s super humble, he’s got two daughters, he’s into photography, does triathlons, he’s a cyclist, he’s down to earth, he’s into further education and training/computer aided designs/new technologies that deliver real results (I liked this!), he confessed that he never really advertised his business because he just wanted to focus on doing great work and relied on word of mouth which inadvertently made his business thrive. He’s an all-rounder nice guy and he’s a bit of a geek :)

(And he’s not at all like the big talking cosmetic specialists – who I have met in the past, who talk fast and rushed like I’m taking up their time, and who talk down to me like I’m inferior.)

Chatting to him, I realised that he had Collagen Induction Therapy done to himself, for his own acne scarring.

And at that point, I was sold and super-keen to have it done too!

In the next part of this post, yes I do have close up before and after photos, I explain what CIT is, what happened during the treatment… and how I absolutely loved the results.

I actually had the treatment done 8 weeks ago and I am sooooo happy with the results, so I decided to write this blog review after all.

They didn’t pay me to write any of this, however they did provide the treatment as an exchange for some photography, marketing and graphic design work I did for them, months ago… which I was actually keen to do in order to extend my commercial photographic portfolio. So hey you can decide for yourself if I’m being a sell out or a freebie seeking blogger ha!

 

 

So what is Collagen Induction Therapy?

You can read all about CIT from Dr Google…(and see other people’s before and after photos).

But in Karen-speak: Basically Collagen Induction Therapy uses a skin-needling or micro-needling technique (which has been around for hundreds of years). The latest technology in this field is called “Dermastamp” where medical-grade, fine needles are pricked into the surface of your skin to promote your own skin’s boost of collagen growth and to stimulate skin rejuvenation.

Because of this natural boost of collagen, your skin becomes firmer, smoother, tighter, improves in texture and reduces the sizes of pores, fine lines, wrinkles and scars. The boosting effect of collagen growth and skin improvement lasts for about 6-12 months.

Er, it all sounded too good to be true!?

I was happy to do it because: It’s said to be just as effective as laser, it’s good for getting rid of acne scars, it’s very low risk, almost no pain, almost no negative side effects, it’s “natural” because it boosts your own collagen growth, perfect for Asian skin and perfect for people with hyper-pigmentation (like me!).

You can read a bit more FAQ on the Iconic site here.

My Treatment Plan

Dr Michael checked out my skin, and for my acne scarring he recommended I have 2 rounds of skin cleansing facial treatments first (as my pores were really clogged and I needed to improve my skin health) then have a total of 5 CIT treatments, alternated with the facial cleansing treatments.

These skin cleansing treatments were called HydraFacials and they were fantastic!

Basically a HydraFacial is a facial, but heaps better. They do a light scrub to exfoliate your face, they give you a gentle peel, then they use a special pen that extracts and cleans your pores, while infusing your skin with antioxidants, peptides and hyaluronic acid.

It’s soooo much better and more effective than a regular facial.

It did wonders for my pores!

It’s a great way to prep your skin before a more active skin treatment like CIT.

(And after doing a bit of research about it, I found out that heaps of celebrities and personalities do it but they don’t publicly announce it ha!)

My CIT Experience

First of all, Iconic Medispa runs in conjunction with their Iconic Dentist clinic. So all their medical and hygiene standards and procedures have to comply with strict Australian dentistry standards.

This is not a typical beauty salon, not a home salon, not a small beauty business renting a shop space in the city with 10 year old equipment. This is a professional and successful clinic that has been running for 14 years, using advanced, medical grade equipment and the latest technology from the US/Europe.

As I sat in the chair while they made mirco-punctures in my face, I realised that CIT felt less like a “beauty therapy” and more of a “medical therapy”, thus I came to appreciate their high hygiene, procedural and equipment standards!

The treatment took about 60 minutes.

Collagen Induction Therapy from Iconic Medispa
(This is the Dermastamp Pen, used for collagen induction therapy. I took that photo! Do you like it? It was being used on someone else, not me.)

Was it painful?

Nope. They applied numbing anaesthetic cream. When the Dermastamp Pen was pressed into my skin, it felt like an electric toothbrush, with light bristles, brushing over my skin.

What happened immediately after?

I was told that everyone’s skin reacts differently. Some people look a bit red after the treatment, like they had a touch of sunburn. While others become very red and inflamed for a few days.

For me, I looked awful. I looked like I was stung by bees. My face was inflamed, puffy, angry, red, really blotchy and there were places where my skin was broken and I could see tiny bloody dots. I was a bit shocked.

Maybe I’m being a bit over the top, and maybe on the scale of possible reactions to the treatment, I wasn’t actually that bad. But for me, my skin had never looked THAT bad!

I had to pick up my son from school later, so I swept mineral makeup over my face, even though they told me not to. But there was no way I was going out in public looking like that.

I was pretty upset that night. I was thinking OMFG WHAT THE @#$% DID I DO? HOW DID I GET TALKED INTO THIS?!?!

The next day?

Woke up the next morning. My face wasn’t as inflamed as the first day, but it was still red, blotchy and beginning to get scabby. I wore more mineral make up and I was happy to leave the house.

Day Three.

Less red and less scabby.

Day Four.

No more scabs. Skin looks pretty good. I’m kind of glowing.

Day Five.

OK WOW. This is impressive. My skin looks tight, plump and radiant!

Day Six onwards.

Holy moly, I can actually see a difference!!

Collagen Induction Therapy from Iconic Medispa

Here are my results after 2 HydraFacials and 1 Collagen Induction Therapy.

I have 4 more CITs to go.

These photos were taken by the team at Iconic Medispa, as part of their overall service. The photos are looked over by several clinicians to keep track of my progress and my treatment is tweaked here and there as necessary.

I was very reluctant to take photos in the clinic (and wasn’t planning to share them on my blog!), but now that I’ve seen them and compared them, I’m a bit gobsmacked by how compelling they are.

Collagen Induction Therapy from Iconic Medispa

Conclusion

It’s not a miraculous change.

But it has made a huge difference to my fine lines, pores, texture, firmness, smoothness and the overall look of my skin – just after 1 treatment.

My makeup sits and looks better on my face too.

It’s 8 weeks after the treatment and my skin is still GLOWING. It has a lovely radiance and perkiness to it, which is a bit hard to capture in a photo. I love that it’s a “natural glow” from my own collagen.

My pigmentation is still there, my pores are still on the large size (but that’s my skin type), but as I said – it’s a huge difference.

It’s by far, the most effective treatment I’ve done to my skin.

It was so easy and low risk.

And I’m so happy that I tried this before trying any lasers.

Moving Onwards

I CAN’T WAIT to go in for my next treatment!!

OMG I’m seriously so excited to see the difference.

I was told that sometimes people enhance their CIT treatments with Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) or Concentrated Growth Factor or Stem Cells (CGF), which give faster and better end results… but I’m a bit scared to try it.

And to give you an idea of pricing at Iconic Medispa, HydraFacials are about $175 (face only) and one treatment of CIT is $450.

(I had a little snoop around to compare prices, and these prices are on the slightly lower end of the spectrum when compared to other clinics in Perth. And to throw a bit of gossip in here, apparently these guys have a newer and more advanced CIT machine than other clinics.)

OK that’s all from me. I might post up a few more photos after my future treatments.

Thanks for reading. Sorry it was such a long post haha!

Hope you enjoyed it!

xxx


What I Wore: Tate Modern

10 February 2017

London

When the kids are all grown up, I’ve decided that my husband and I are going to do an Art Gallery Crawl across all the major cities of the world! #LIFEGOALS

I haven’t told him yet. However I might have to negotiate with him because he’d probably want to drag me to all the maritime and war museums too. And um, I don’t know if I’m up for that.

But what a life that will be right? Haha!

Yes the days have been cold and I’m actually enjoying all this rugging up in 4-5 layers thing.

I think I might actually miss it.

Here’s what I wore while traipsing through the Tate Modern.

I won’t be getting points for fashion creativity, but hey I was warm.

Uniqlo Heattech Singlet – I didn’t think it at first, but these are so handy for a bit of extra warmth without the bulk.

Grana White Linen Shirt – Not ironed and crumpled from being stuffed in my luggage, of course.

Uniqlo Cotton Cashmere Grey Sweater – These are no longer on sale, but here’s a similar Grana Crew Neck Cashmere Knit.

Topshop Double Breasted Coat – Oh man, this coat was so nice and affordable that I wished it came in a navy or dark grey. It comes in a Pink Blush and Light Grey, and I already have coats in those colours. They’re on 20% sale if you’re keen!

Frame Le Color Skinny Jeans – As I mentioned before, I pretty much lived in these jeans haha.

Rebecca Minkoff Julian Backpack – Great size for travelling and spending all day out and about.

Acne Pistol Boots – You know when you’ve bought well when you crack a quite smile whenever you put that item on. I’ll be smiling for years with these babies.


London Diaries: Running in 4°C

6 February 2017

London Running

You know how it goes. You take your running shoes on holiday, always with good intentions to smash out a run, only to be met with the old “Hmm yeah, maybe not today”.

But for me, 4 weeks in London was just a bit too long to be INACTIVE.

So I brought my running gear and here I am, going down the lift, taking a pre-run selfie, about to smash out that run, even though it’s somewhere between 2°C – 5°C outside.

In the end, the run went well.

In fact I did THREE 10km runs over my 4 week stay. So I consider that a WIN.

 

Things I Learned About Running in London in Winter

– I like running in the cold! Once my body warmed up, I felt great! I’d go so far to say that I prefer winter running now.

– Running in a new city is so much fun! I must say that I had such an incredible time running along the River Thames, through the city, along the narrow streets, the cobblestone footpaths, past all the posh housing and renovated warehouses. I did about 10kms and I covered a lot of ground. It was so interesting and exciting!

I felt pretty safe, because it was a Sunday and there were tonnes of other runners using the same track.

– I need to wear gloves. My thumbs and the back of my hands got a bit numb. It was distracting.

My hands got SO cold that I started to look for the possibility of finding someone’s discarded beanie/scarf on the ground so I could wrap my hands around it – and lo and behold, I did find a beanie, I couldn’t believe my luck! But it was in a puddle and it looked a bit disgusting, so I decided not to do it after all.

I thought about stopping to take off my socks and use them to keep my hands warm, but I decided I’d rather have cold hands than blistered feet. These are the things I think about during my runs haha.

– I need to wear ear warmers. Especially on really cold days. My inner ears and jaw got so cold, numb and painful that I had to just stop running.

– Smartphone Maps are a life saver! I ran 10km through back streets and small paths… and I would have been completely lost without my phone!

 

My Running Dreams for the Future.

So. I enjoyed the running sooooo much, that I’ve decided on some new #LifeGoals.

When my kids have grown up, when I’m old and retired, I think I’d like to spend my holidays running through Europe in Winter, exploring and discovering the countryside, cities and streets… and of course, stopping for a coffee.


Tate Britain Gallery: Highlights

4 February 2017

Tate Britain

During my London trip, I had the pleasure of visiting all the major art galleries in the city.

I was like a kid in a candy shop :)

Of course I didn’t buy any art, but I did take THOUSANDS of photos!

I took photos of the entrances! Of the floors! Of the corridors! The art. The didactic panels. The frames. The doors. The spaces. The negative spaces. Haha I truly enjoyed every little detail.

I didn’t plan to share any of it on my blog, because seriously, even I think I over did it.

However, I do want to share these snaps from the Tate Britain Art Gallery, home of British art from the 1500s to present day.

Tate Britain

Close up of Portrait of Elizabeth I (1563) by Steven van der Meulen and Steven van Herwijck.

This is the earliest known full-length portrait of the queen. Here’s the link to the full portrait. It’s gorgeous!!

Although it looks yellow here, the background was “gold” paint and had a stunning, satin sheen to it… making the whole painting shimmer.

If I paid money to get my portrait done, I’d want something OVER THE TOP like this too haha.

Tate Britain

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (1885–6) by John Singer Sargent

I don’t know much about John Singer Sargent, except that he was a famous portrait artist based in London/Europe and he used to hang out with Monet and the other Impressionist dudes.

I recognised this painting from a high school art book (over 20 years ago), and yep… it is more amazing, more staggeringly beautiful and more mind-blowingly impressive in real life.

I have no words.

Tate Britain

Study of Mme Gautreau (1884) by John Singer Sargent

This is the sketch (yes a sketch!) of Sargent’s infamous painting Madame X, which caused such a huge controversy in Paris at the time that it damaged Sargent’s reputation as a portrait artist, and as a result, he decided to move to London. The rest of the painting can be seen here.

Whatever the case, it is a stunning study, and I would kill to be able to “sketch” like that!

So inspiring!

Don’t know about you, but I want to crack open my charcoals after all this…


What I Wore: Out to Buy Milk and Layering Up

16 January 2017

London Street Style

When I left Australia, the weather was a glorious 35°C… so yes, I’m a little surprised by the 5°C winter days here in London.

I’m not going to pretend to be a stylish fashion blogger, extravagantly jet-setting around the world, effortlessly transitioning from season to season, country to country, like I was fluent in international living!

I just want to wear my comfiest and warmest clothes, that are practical for what I’m doing and try to look somewhat OK haha.

Here I’m heading out to the shops. I’m going to buy almond milk and to put money onto my Oyster Card (a smart card for using London transport).

On this particular day, it snowed!

I was walking to the bus and I had my first experience of snow falling on my face. Wayhey!

I’m wearing:

4 Layers On Top:

BambooBody Scoop Singlet – Lovely, smooth bamboo fabric. Nice and tight to keep me warm.

BambooBody 3/4 Sleeve Top – Feels lovely on my skin. Fitted but not too tight. Great for layering.

Grana Cashmere Sweater – I love this sweater! Feels amazing and so warm. Use my Grana link for 10% off + free shipping!

Obermeyer Tuscany Jacket – This is my water-proof jacket (for sports/hiking/skiing/everyday wear), which I bought in Mountain Design Australia, a few years ago. I’ve worn it mountain climbing in Scotland, hiking in Tasmania, and I’ve worn it every weekend in Perth in winter while watching my boys play football in the wind and rain! I like its simple / minimal design and it has a fur hood, which makes it look a bit stylish!

It’s been my best practical winter purchase ever! It was a bit expensive (AUD$350) but oh man, it has been worth the money so many times over.

 

Bottoms Layers:

Frame Le Skinny Jeanne Jeans – Probably not the warmest jeans to wear in winter, as my thighs were probably the coldest part of my body, as they got wet from the rain, snow and wind. But hey they are nice and comfy otherwise.

Acne Pistol Boots – I bought these secondhand off a private seller. I have been stalking these boots for years on eBay, and finally found a lovely girl in Sydney (on a Facebook designer sale group), selling hers in my size at my kind of price (under A$200). They are ridiculously comfortable! I walked around for 5 hours in them!

 

Other Layers:

Acne Narrow Canada Scarf – a bit of a splurge, but oh my it’s so warm and feels soft and smooth for a 100% wool scarf. Not itchy at all.

Pom Pom Beanie – Just some no-brand, cheap and cheerful beanie from a department store!

Leather Gloves – I bought these in Copenhagen, at the first high-street store I walked into, Pieces.

 

So after layering up like this for a week, I’ve gotten used to the bulkiness and walking around as if I’m wearing a sumo suit. Our apartment, shops, cafes, museums and buildings all have heating, so I just end up taking most of my layers off. I don’t mind it at all now :)


Snorkelling at Greens Pool, Walpole

7 January 2017

Greens Pool, Williams Bay, Walpole

During our holiday, we had such beautiful summer weather that we spent most days at the beach!

One of our favourite spots in the Walpole and Denmark area is Greens Pool, in the Williams Bay National Park. Heck, the place is so beautiful, I think it is everyone’s favourite spot.

We’ve been there a few times to hang out and swim, but this time we wanted to do something different. We wanted to go snorkelling with the kids.

We’ve taken them a few times in the past. But they’ve never really liked it. They always get cold really quickly (within 10 minutes!) and then they spend the rest of the day shivering under a towel on the beach.

So this time we bought them some wetsuits hoping they’d have a better time in the water (these are actually called Spring Suits which I bought for $50 each).

Snorkelling at Green Pool, Walpole

Unfortunately the ocean was SO COLD they only lasted about 30 minutes in the water.

(It was the Southern Ocean after all, between Australia and Antartica!)

Plus there wasn’t that much to see underwater. A few fish and lots of sand and seaweed.

As for me, I waded into the water and – yep – even I was surprised by how cold the water was.

I was really, really, REALLY reluctant to put on my wetsuit and go for a snorkel too.

I had so many reasons not to do it: the water was bloody freezing, the kids were already out of the water and wrapped up in their towels, there was no coral to see, I’ve seen seaweed before, I was feeling hungry, it was almost lunch time and I’d have to help make some sandwiches, I didn’t have my fins, mask or snorkel, I’d have to borrow the kid’s set, the beach and sand was so lovely and warm, PLUS I haven’t worn my wetsuit in about 8 years… maybe it didn’t fit me anymore, as neoprene tends to shrink and harden when not used often.

Snorkelling at Green Pool, Walpole

But in the end, I thought OMG KAREN, WILL YOU JUST LIVE A LITTLE?!

So I grabbed my wetsuit and I literally had to squeeze myself into it.

It was soooooooo tight. When I grabbed a bunch of fabric at my leg and pulled, I broke two fingernails, because that’s how hard I had to grip and pull! I got a bit sweaty and flustered trying to put it on, it felt like it was suffocating me and I was getting a bit claustrophobic and dizzy. My collar was so tight on my neck that it felt like there were fingers squeezing at my throat.

I don’t mean to be so dramatic, but it was pretty uncomfortable and I was about to give up.

Greens Pool, Williams Bay, Walpole

But the water was calling me, so I grabbed a mask and jumped in without much thought.

Icy water rushed into my suit and I squealed EEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPP!

But oh my gosh! I INSTANTLY LOVED IT!

My suit made me very buoyant, it kept me super warm, it seemed to stretch in the water and I didn’t feel suffocated at all, I felt like I was wrapped up with a soft, fleecy tracksuit (in terms of warmth and comfort) and I ended up swimming in the ocean for about 2 hours that day – which is just unheard of for me.

I bobbed up and down in the water and I wanted to burst from happiness. I floated on my back and looked up to the sky, and every thing around me was blue blue blue, aqua blue, ocean blue, dark blue, green blue, sky blue, light blue, blue blue blue. It was just such a thrilling experience for me.

My main thought was, I have to do more stuff like this.

My husband jumped in too.

We started snorkelling around some big rocks, which had a strong current and we drifted through beautiful little pools. We were like silly kids, gleefully playing, laughing and duck diving to pick things up from the bottom.

Our kids were up on the rocks, watching us and waving to us.

Later on, my boys told me that they wished they weren’t so cold and wished they had jumped in and joined us too. I promised to buy them thicker wetsuits next time.

Snorkelling at Green Pool, Walpole

So this is was taken the next day. We went to another beach and I went through the whole drama of putting on my wetsuit and breaking my nails.

Again I spent about 2-3 hours in the water.

And again, I loved every minute of it!

Sean Snorkelling

By our second snorkelling experience (this time in warmer and shallower waters) my boys decided that they loved snorkelling and are keen to do more!

Yay, I guess the spring suits worked after all :)


Mirrored Forests

6 January 2017

Monastery Jetty, Walpole

As I leaned out towards the front of the boat to snap this photo, I actually remembered taking a very similar photos 4 years ago.

We were here, on the Frankland River in 2013, with all three of my boys, with my same friends, with their same kids, in their same boat.

I remembered gliding through the mirrored water, absolutely in awe of the view.

I remembered the reflection of the trees stretching both high into the sky above us, and down below into the inky darkness of the water. I remembered the olive green trees and the bright blue sky.

I asked my kids whether they remembered doing any of this four years ago; my oldest boy said he remembered a little bit, my second and youngest boys said they couldn’t remember anything.

Hmph, it made me a little annoyed, because what’s the point of doing all this cool stuff with the kids when they can’t remember any of it?!

So I started to point out all the meticulous details, in hope that it will be etched into their brains forever. LOOK at the texture of the still water compared to the rippled water! LOOK at the gradient of the blue sky! LOOK at the fallen branches half in the water! LOOK at the different greens in the leaves!

And even though I was soaking in everything for the second time, I still had my breath taken away by it all.


New Year LOLs

2 January 2017

New Year 2017 LOL

Before my big trip to the UK, we were invited to stay with some friends at their farm down in Denmark (Western Australia). We gladly accepted, knowing that it would be great for us to spend some quality family time together, before I flew off.

However, we planned to stay for 7 days, then after 3 days upon returning home, I was going to fly overseas for 4 weeks!

This made me incredibly tense because I felt I hadn’t finished ALL THE THINGS I NEEDED TO DO!

7 DAYS! I could do so much in 7 days!

I needed to pack up the Christmas tree and decorations, get my son’s new school uniforms tailored, set up a new phone plan for my other son, organise stationery for the kids, do a new year clean out… back up my data, email clients, finish up projects, update my blog, and zillions of other things that swirled around in my head.

And every time I thought about the THINGS I NEEDED TO DO, my palms sweated, my heart raced, my stomach felt ill and I start to feel faint and paralysed. Anxiety attack maybe?

It took some serious relaxation and cognitive techniques to realise that HELLO, I am on holiday!

This is the LAST TIME my kids will ever be 13, 11 and 7 years old, staying on a farm, with our generous friends, doing cool things like riding on tractors, go-karts, snorkelling, boating, paddling down a river. This is the last and only time I will be in this exact moment.

Life is now! Jump in or you’ll miss out on creating memories!

I’m so happy I did finally relax. We had such an awesome week.

My heart grew so, so, SO big for each of my boys, my husband, our friends, the wonders of nature and the simple life we’ve carved for ourselves.

I took so many beautiful photos and I’ll be sharing them over the next few weeks, starting with this photo of my son, sharing his New Year message for 2017: LOLs

Tee hee, enjoy!


I’m Off To London!

30 December 2016

Flatlay for London

Guess what guess what? I have huge news!

OK ok it’s probably not huge news to you folk with no kids. Or to you jet setting people who fly around the world regularly.

I’m off to London in the new year and I’ll be gone for 4 weeks – WITHOUT my husband and kids!

Can you believe that? I can’t. I’m kind of pinching myself.

I’m both excited and stunned by the mind-blowing freedom I’ll have. And I’m a bit terrified, because I haven’t been away from my home, my husband or my kids for that length of time… since I was single and childless, 15 years ago haha!

My very amazing husband is taking time off work and going to be looking after the kids for the duration of the summer school holidays.

I’m going to be staying and hanging out with my sister, my brother-in-law, and their soon-to-be-born new baby! Yaaaay!

I’ll be helping them move apartments.

I’ll be changing pooey nappies (if I can remember how to do that).

I’ll be doing a bit of work.

I’ll be hunting down the coolest independent bookstores.

I’ll be exploring flea markets and cafes.

I’ll be doing yoga.

I’ll be zipping over to Paris.

Eeeep I’m so excited!

 

Pictured above in my Winter in London inspired flatlay, I have my Acne Studios scarf, Acne Studios Jensen Booties, Jeanwest Jeans, Grana Poplin Boyfriend Shirts, A.P.C. Half Moon Bag, Stan Smith Sneakers (on sale at ASOS), Charlotte Olympia Card Holder.

And judging from the fact that I have failed to lay out any coats or knits, tells us all how delusional I am about what 2°C feels like!

Lots more updates on the way!

xxx


How to Afford Designer Fashion for Your Wardrobe

13 December 2016

FWRD Dec Sale 25% off

OK ok. I’m not exactly the embodiment of designer living and fashion haha! But I do like to mix up my wardrobe with a few designer items.

A couple of years ago, I decided that I wanted some high-quality, timeless designer pieces that would last me years.

Personally, I’m not rolling in money; we have a mortgage, we have 3 kids, we live off 1.5 incomes. But we’re comfortable, we live a fairly simple life, we love simple pleasures, we save money.

And what is life, if you don’t get to spend a little proportion of your savings on what brings you a bit of joy?

Overseas holidays, fun experiences with the kids, a car upgrade, new gadgets, music concerts, furniture, gym membership, designer fashion… each to their own, right?

So how does one start? How does one afford it?

The short answer:

1) Know what you want. Make a list.
2) Budget and have a separate savings kitty.
3) Ebay is your friend.
4) Keep track of sales from designer boutiques.

I bought my first series of $300+ items from Forward by Elyse Walker (FWRD). Not sponsored, not gifted.

I knew what I wanted, I had saved for it and the item came up on sale. I liked shopping from Forward, because the sales were – quite frankly – UNBELIEVABLE.

 

FWRD Dec Sale 25% off

I bought my Alexander Wang Heels at 60% off, Acne Studios Pumps at 50% off and my Isabel Marant Silk Blouse at 60% off.

I wear them ALL the time. It’s been two years and I’m still super happy I have them in my wardrobe. I’m hoping to get 10+ years from them.

Anyway now, as it turns out… I’m working with FWRD and pleased to let you know about a FWRD Sale Event for Australian residents only.

From 13 – 15 December (3 days only) you can get up to 25% off the entire site by using the code “GIFTFWRD” at the checkout.

(15% off when you spend $750, 20% off when you spend $1000 and 25% off when you spend $1500.)

It’s fantastic for big ticket items. Combine with a friend. Or take advantage of the already “On Sale” items in the store.

Here are a few very popular, cult fashion items that you might have on your designer wishlist!

FWRD Dec 25% Sale

Acne Studios Jensen Booties

Valentino Mini Lock Flap Bag

Aquazzura Sexy Thing Suede Heels

Acne Studios Raya Mohair Sweater

FWRD Dec 25% Sale

Zimmermann Tropicale Antique Romper

Sophia Webster Evangeline Leather Heels

Chloe Drew Leather Bag

Saint Laurent Monogram Clutch

FWRD Dec 25% Sale

Rick Owens Classic Knit Wrap

Proenza Schouler Mini PS11 Classic

Isabel Marant Dicker Leather Booties

Aquazzura Marilyn Suede Heels

Enjoy!