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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.


Liam Turns 6

9 April 2015

A happy birthday to my red-headed cutie-pie!

Liam - 6 Years Old


The Sweater and Pencil Skirt Formula

7 April 2015

Pencil Skirt and Sweater

Let me tell you what I’m big on at the moment… the good old formula: Sweater + Pencil Skirt!

I’m a little excited that the change in weather means it’s now sweater season!

This pairing makes life so much easier when I’m trying to race out the door.

Yesterday I dragged out a whole bunch of sweaters and realised that moths had eaten through 2 of my best sweaters, sigh.

Here are some tips if you’re thinking about buying yourself a new sweater.

1. Over-sized and baggy knits are very “in” at the moment. If you’re a size S, you’re supposed to buy a size M, or even size L if you dare. But I’m not such a big fan of over-lengthened sweater sleeves. I prefer to just wear a sweater with a loose shape, in my size. But whatever floats your boat!

2. A sweater in a neutral colour (black, white, grey or beige) will obviously match more skirts in your wardrobe and therefore guarantee that you’ll wear it for 3-4 seasons. Just keep that in mind when you’re about to buy a very “on trend” colour like forest green, maroon or camel.

3. Knit is important. I love fine wools and cashmere, but realistically I can’t afford to buy luxurious, high quality knits all the time. I find that knit blends with a bit of cashmere still feel lovely against my neck and arms.

4. Get yourself a lint shaver to get rid of any fuzz or pill that might build up on high contact areas. Do a search on ebay and I promise you’ll find one that costs $5 and ships from Hong Kong. It’ll bring new life to your old knits!

Pencil Skirt and Sweater
Wearing: Piper knit sweater (cotton and cashmere blend for $60), Country Road cap, Sportsgirl skirt, Fiorelli handbag (20 years old!), Witchery pointed flats.

Here’s some shopping inspiration for black knit sweaters and pencils skirts. Enjoy!

 


Fragipanis

4 April 2015

My husband is a sweetheart. But sometimes he’s a bit crazy, in a daggy, sweetheart kind of way.

Years ago he decided that he wanted our backyard to be full of frangipani plants, and in each colour available.

It was a long term project. He had to buy some plants in different colours, he knocked on people’s door asking for cuttings, we may have stolen a few cuttings. Then we had to grow the cuttings, wait for them to flower – which sometimes took years!

Finally, we have 4 colours which we are really happy with!

Frangipani White
White. This is the most common variety. They are hardy and so easy to grow; just stick a branch cutting in a bucket of sand, and water it every now and then!

Even though you see these white  fragipanis everywhere, I still adore how fresh and happy they look!

Frangipani Pink

So many people ask for a cutting of our pink fragipani tree, and we happy to give them. But they are really difficult to grow and sometimes it takes 3 years to flower, and most of the time they look like a dead stick in a pot.

Frangipani Orange

Vibrant orange/pink/yellow. Crazy mixture of colours, I don’t know if they are orange or yellow sometimes.

Frangipani Dark Red

Oh these are my favourite! Deep, dark pink. They look so moody.

We still have an orangey-red one which we are hoping to flower soon!


Dictation

26 March 2015

The other day I was waiting to pick up my kids from school, sitting in my parked car, when I realised that my head was about to explode, because I had all this shit (stories, half sentences, ideas and thoughts – did you see that? I made an acronym!) swirling around in my head, and if I didn’t write it down, I knew I would forget them.

So I fiddled around with my smart phone and I decided that the quickest way to do this… was to use the dictation function to “write down” some of my sentences.

I’ve never dictated my writings before. I’ve always found it awkward and unnatural.

The idea of dictating my raw, unedited thoughts to another human being… just terrifies me haha!

Anyway, so I pressed RECORD and suddenly… I was speechless.

“Uuuh. Uuuumm. Yeah. Hello? Ok. Right. I shall start: I was going to say… hang on. Is this recording? Yup. OK, as I was trying to say….”

(So awkward right?)

After a while, I got the hang of it.

I spoke, and my smart phone took my speech, turned it into words and automatically typed it out.

It was quite fun! The actual dictation software wasn’t very good though. I’m guessing my Australian accent got lost in some of the translations?

I did a lot of self editing too.

“…blah blah blah. Ugh, no, I didn’t want to say that! What I meant to say was… Blah blah blah. Hang on, back up a bit. Scratch that last thing. Oh my god I sound like an idiot! That was a terrible sentence! Do I even speak English? You know what I mean, don’t you? OK what was I saying again?”

For someone who has spent the last 15 years writing stories online with a personal and casual voice, I didn’t expect to be so terrible at dictating them out loud!

I guess, with everything, it just takes a little practice!


Building a Stylish Waredrobe: Khaki Jacket

25 March 2015

Khaki Jacket + White

I’ve owned a khaki jacket for years. In fact, I have two khaki jackets, which I wear every year when the weather cools down. I pull them out at the start of Autumn, I wear them through Winter and even through Spring.

Khaki jackets usually describe the casual, “parka” style coat.  They look great with a variety of neutral colours (blacks, denims, grey, whites, navy, patterns) so you can throw them over most outfits and it looks pretty fab. They are great value.

Anyway at the end of last winter I tore a hole in one of my jackets, because I was walking too close to a wire fence! I probably could sew it back up (with a patch?) but I’m lazy and not that great with a needle and thread.

So this jacket (in the photo above) is my new replacement jacket from Jeanwest! It fits a whole lot better. It has a nicer “slimming” look, yet I can still wear a shirt + knit jumper underneath, without looking bulky, like an eskimo.

As I’ve said in the past, building a wardrobe with classic, key pieces is a whole lot of fun, especially when I see the results – that is, the ease in which I can put together a relatively stylish outfit and feel great!

I’m wearing: Jacket from Jeanwest, stripe top from Sportsgirl, shorts from Zara, Ray-Bans from SunglassesShop, Converse Chuck Taylor from SurfStitch.

*Psst, don’t forget that you can get 12% off your total order from SunglassesShop, using the code KAREN12 (including sale items)! Valid until 27 March 2015, including free worldwide delivery and no fuss returns.*

Here are a few related shopping deals I’ve found over the interwebs -

Happy shopping!

xxx


Checked Love with L’America

12 March 2015

L'America Checked Dress

Look at me!

I know!

I look sooooo “street style” in this photo – I might even pass off as a real fashion blogger! Take note of the urban background, the cropped-off face, and the contained, nonchalant pose ;)

I admit, it’s not quite me.

L'America Checked Dress

Ah this is a bit more familiar: me, back at home, being goofy in front of my studio mirror haha!

Anyway, I bought this L’America gingham dress from David Jones a few weeks ago. L’America is the cool, street wear, sister brand of cult Aussie label, Ellery.

The dress was on clearance sale and had a further 25% off the original 50% off. Or something like that. I think I ended up paying $35 for it? It was originally $150. I can’t seem to find a link to it online, I’m guessing that it was from their last season’s collection. (Oh here it is. But it’s out of stock.)

I stood in the changing room, wearing the dress, thinking: Why is this size 6 on clearance sale? What is wrong with it? There must be something very odd about it, which is why they can’t sell it.

But I absolutely loved it! It was so cool and so cute! Summer style (tick!), off-shoulder (tick!), black and white (tick!), flippy skirt (tick!), short and mini length that’s good for me (tick!). For $35, I couldn’t really go wrong.

Now that I think about it… I have quite a few clothing items with checked patterns. And I’m surprised by how timeless they are. I mean, I have been wearing my checked shirts (red+black shirt and white+black shirt) for years. That must be a good sign.

I put together a whole heap of checked love for you to browse. Hope you find something you like!

 


Wednesday Afternoon Catch Up

4 March 2015

Soooo, what been happening in my life? I’ll tell you what’s happening. ANTS!

1.
We’ve been BATTLING ants in our kitchen for the last 4 months. To keep them under control, we have had to keep the kitchen spotless. And I mean SPOT-LESS. I’ve had to clean up every scrap, every crumb, every drip, every bit of used cutlery in the kitchen, three, four, five times a day. And then scream at the kids to clean up after themselves, four, five times a day. It’s been driving me insane!

OK. Yes. Our kitchen looks freaking amazing, but OH MAN it’s been hard work.

So we recently spent the weekend, pulling apart our kitchen cabinets (oh joy!), removing our oven (ah!), our cooktop (huh!), and our fridge (sigh!); turning our kitchen upside down and inside out, to hunt down the ant’s nest. So thrilling, I know. Turns out they are living INSIDE our brick walls.

After a few drops of ant poison, we may have won this battle. Our kitchen however, looks messy again.

2.
Holy crap it’s March already! We have my second boy’s birthday, my third son’s birthday and my husband’s birthday coming up this month. I’m planning lots of kid’s parties, dinner parties, sleepovers, outings and get-togethers. I can’t wait! I’m in the mood for some partying!

3.
I have been drinking almond milk in my tea and coffee for 2 years now. No, I don’t make my own. I just buy long-life cartons from the supermarket.

Everyone keeps saying I should buy a Thermomix so I can make my own almond milk; It’s healthier, they say! It’s fresher! It doesn’t have any additives or other stuff! Yes, yes I know… but no thanks. I prefer the convenience of always having a zillion cartons stored in my pantry, so you know, if there’s ever a global shortage of food, I’ll have enough almond milk to last me years!

Anyway, getting to the real point of this list item… I recently bought a carton of Almond & Coconut Milk blend (link) and omg it tastes amazing. So creamy and delicious that I want to drink my body weight of it each day. Not sponsored. Just happy to share my latest loooves!

4.
I dropped my little compact camera the other day. It slipped out of my handbag, slid off a bench top and crashed onto the concrete floor. It still works, but it’s a bit temperamental and traumatised by the fall.

I went into a camera shop to begin my search for a replacement camera, but the lady who spoke to me was having a bad day. She was gruff, impatient and sighed a lot. She treated me like such a dumbass, unworthy of her sales knowledge. I probably should have felt horrible and angry about the whole situation, but I found my inner zen and managed to maintain my happy, easy-going, friendliness.

I was thinking that maybe I should speak up, to her, or her superior, to let them know that I felt belittled by the way she spoke to me? OK I didn’t, but she was speaking to me in a belittling kind of way.

Possibly in my younger days, I would have gotten really worked up about it; I would have felt compelled to inform her manager, lodge a complaint, try to change the world, try to make the world a better place…

But in the end I just let the small things slide. I wasn’t going to let her bad day bring me down. I just felt a bit embarrassed and sorry for her. On my way out, I chirped, “I think I’ll look online and see what they recommend there! Thanks for your help anyway and hope you have a wonderful weekend!”

Like water off a duck’s back.

Don’t let the shit stick.

5.
I’ve been running again! 5k here. 3k there. It just feels so good to do short distances. And it feels particularly good to run without the pressure of trying to top my personal best record. Run for fun. Who would have thought?

I’ve also been on my bike too! It’s been a few months since my last cycle. Now, a gentle 2km-3km ride is enough to make my leg, bum and thigh muscles feel a bit sore. But it’s a GOOD feeling of soreness. The ache lingers for days and feels more like a tightening and toning of my body. I like it. Perky bum, here I come!

I’m still walking, still lifting weights, still doing strength exercises and still being active every day.

I’m loving life, loving movement and loving what my body can do!

 


3 Seconds of Weightlessness

26 February 2015

Jetty Jumping

I tried NOT to think about it.

I knew if I actually stopped and considered my situation, I would find myself overcome with fear.

I took two fast steps towards the edge of the wooden jetty and leaped high into the air. In the 3 seconds before my feet touched the water, my senses exploded and I was suddenly so aware of the moment. As they say, it was as if time had frozen.

3 seconds is not very long. But curiously, it was long enough for me to have a conversation with myself, in my head.

Stay upright. Don’t do anything silly. This will be over in a sec. You want to be alive at the end. Just hit the water with your feet. Don’t land on your back or head. Mother Karen has spoken.

I’m weightlessness. I’m floating. I’m flying. I’m suspended in air. This feels unnatural.

My hair is going to get wet. Thank you stating the obvious.

I’m falling. Like in my dreams. This is a bit freaky. My stomach is going wobbly. I want to throw up. Oh god why am I taking so long to hit the water? I don’t like falling. I tense my body.

As I hit the water, it swallowed me up.

Cold fingers of water slid up my legs in an instant; up my stomach, up my chest, up my neck. It snaked around my ears, across my face, up over my head, like urgent hands pawing through my hair.

The sky disappeared. The world turned blue. A white ceiling appeared above my head. The blue squeezes my chest and grips my face.

It’s over. I’m cold. And I can’t breathe.

Would I do it again?

I’m not so sure.

Maybe I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had just screamed, WAAAHHHOOOOOOOOOOO!!

 


Monday Morning Catch Ups

16 February 2015

Life has been zooming by so quickly! Suddenly it’s almost March!

I’ve been feeling a strong urge to sit down and take a moment to catch up with everything. So I’m going to try something a little different today. Let’s pretend that we’re at a cafe, having coffee and we’re having a bit of a catch up…

1.
The other morning I had a meeting in the city, but one of my boys turned out to be sick (he was dizzy and nauseous) and he had a strange, sharp pain in his lower abdomen. I had to cancel the meeting, take him to the doctor and keep an eye on him all day – while he stayed in bed, flopped himself around the house and complained how dizzy he was.

I actually thought his appendix ruptured?! But it turned out that he just “might have pulled something” while he was sprinting around the park like crazy, reckless, testosterone-filled boy with his brothers the evening before.

2.
Also last week, my other boy crashed his bike, injured his wrist (slightly), grazed his face (lightly) and broke his adult, front tooth! ARGH! I had to rush him to an emergency, after-hours dental clinic to get x-rays and fix his tooth.

Sure I was worried about the accident, a possible head injury and possible broken bones… but above all, I was extremely grumpy about the dental bills and that he was so careless and reckless!

3.
My two big boys, aged 11 and 9, have shared a room for the last 5 years and I believe it’s because of this that they have formed a really strong, brotherly bond. It’s been the best thing for them. But a few weeks ago, we decided that they needed a bit of space for themselves and we moved my oldest boy into his own room, that is, into the room that I have been using for my office. This obviously meant that I had to move my office/work things OUT of that room.

So for the last 4 weeks, I have been on an almighty clean-up and organisation frenzy of our entire house! I’ve been trying to do about 1-2 hours of cleaning, sorting, throwing and organising per day. I’m almost done!

4.
I received a sample of Organic Chamomile Flower Tea, and have been totally obsessed with it. It’s floral, but gorgeously smooth and earthy. Nothing like the stuff from the supermarket! It comes in a loose leaf form, which really makes it look like a bag of dried-up garden clippings. In fact it looks exactly like the daggy bowl of potpourri in my mother’s toilet window sill.

5.
My husband has been super busy at work lately. He usually gets home *just* in time for dinner, after which we all take a sunset walk in the park. It’s so nice to get out of the house during that time; we all chit chat about our day and have a kind of family news-telling session. My husband and I quickly work out what each child needs for the rest of the evening: to work quietly on a school project, to finish homework on the computer, do some research on an interesting topic, to chill out and watch a bit of TV, or to RUN around and use up some of their youthful energy… then my husband and I will split up the tasks so we can have one-on-one time with each of them. It’s hard work, tiring but… fulfilling!

6.
In terms of exercise, I haven’t been running or cycling lately. I have just been doing full-body workout routines at home, at night, after the kids go to bed. I work up a sweat with my floor exercises and dumbbells and I can feel all my muscles (and ass) getting bigger, tighter and rounder! Way hey!

7.
Oh and netball! I play netball once a week. I still love it. My team mates and I have been playing so well lately. The other night we were against a team, that we had previously lost to. But we were on fire, we totally smashed the game and we won! It was a sweet victory for us. It’s such a buzz to win!

8.
A friend of mine is currently going through a family crisis, which has collided with their home renovation plans. So another friend of mine has helped them out by organising a backyard busy bee for them. About 30-50 people (including kids!) from our school community turned up to help; each person doing a little bit of mowing, weeding, moving sand, cleaning walls, window washing, cutting trees, digging out stumps, moving rocks, shifting bricks, demolishing a shed. 7-8 hours of work on a 40C day! What an amazing little community I live in! What an amazing bunch of people I know!

9.
I’m really looking forward to the Chinese Lunar New Year (on the 19th February)! Can’t wait to hang out with my aunties, uncles and cousins again. All my clean eating, healthy salads, raw smoothies will be going out the window. I’m going to get stuck into some roast pork, roast duck and peanut cookies!

10.
Ahh, March is party month for us. My husband’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, my 2nd son’s birthday, my 3rd son’s birthday fall in March. I can’t wait to organise some kick-arse parties!

Bring on March!

 


Going Short

11 February 2015

I have been itching to get my hair cut short (shoulder length) for a loooong time!

But every time I get to the hair salon, I completely chicken out and ask for ” just a trim thanks”.

Hair Cut - Feb 2015

So last week, I rocked up at my regular hair salon (Curi Hair in Subiaco) and finally asked for SHORTISH HAIR.

I also decided that I wanted a digital perm (loose curls), to give my hair a slight curl.

Eeeek I was so nervous! I had absolute faith that my senior hair stylist would do an amazing job, but whether it was the right decision, on my part?!?! My tummy was a wobbling like jelly from the anticipation. I kept thinking – OMG what if I hate it!?!?!

This is my before photo. I had not coloured my hair, or had a hair treatment in 6 weeks. It was in a bit of a mess, it wasn’t styled. I went to the gym and it was overdue for a wash! I really needed to chop all my ends off!
Hair Cut - Feb 2015

And ta da! This is my after shot!

Hair cut - Feb 2015

Yay! It feels fantastic! I love the length! I love the curls at the end!

I haven’t had my hair this short in 13+ years?

Hair Cut - Feb 2015

This is me the day after. I feel so fresh and light.

I’m so so happy with it!


Our Big, Wobbly, Blue Thing

28 January 2015

When we bought our house (many years ago), there was a swimming pool in the backyard.

While it’s quite common to find pools in suburban backyards in Australia, this pool was really old (and ugly) and it was not very well looked after by the previous owners. So we would have needed to spend something like $7,000 – $10,000 to refurbish and fix it.

The pool was also right smack bang in the middle of the backyard; it was all fenced up and it pretty much took up the WHOLE backyard. There was no where for our kids to run around or play.

Added to that, both my husband and I have lived in homes with swimming pools and we knew the time and cost associated with keeping a pool. AND for 7-8 months of the year in Perth, the weather gets a little too cold for swimming, which means we have to look after the pool even though we’re not swimming in it for most of the year.

So basically, after long deliberation… my husband and I decided to get rid of the pool.

Fast forward to the present… boy do we we regret that decision!

Ok we don’t REGRET-regret it. We just feel a little annoyed every time we have to pay $22.40 for our whole family to visit the local swimming pool.

I suppose swimming at the beach and river is FREE. But trips to the beach or river is usually a 3-4 hour day trip, plus money spent on lunch/coffee/ice creams. Which is fine, really. If we want to save money, we just have to be more organised to pack a healthy lunch and snacks. However, it’s a little trickier to organise a QUICK swim at the beach during the school term. And it’s a bit annoying when you make all that effort to go to the beach and the kids only spend 30 minutes in the water.

Oh my god! Listen to me whinge and complain about my first world problems!

I should have just started this post with – LOOK AT OUR NEW POOL!

Paddel Pool

We got an above ground pool, which is about 5m x 5m round! It’s huge!

My husband and I – having grown up with REAL swimming pools – did not think very highly of above ground pools. (Because ahem, they looked like oversized paddle pools for toddlers!)

Nonetheless, we set it up under our patio (in the shade), filled it to a depth of 60cm, and we put a special pool cover over it so we can get the temperature to stay at a gorgeous 28C – 30C.

IT IS AMAAAZING! The kids are in and out of the pool 3 or 4 times a day. They can invite their friends over and they ALL play happily for hours. They are so happy. I AM SO HAPPY.

My 5 year old, who, before Christmas was terrified of putting his head underwater and used to wrap his arms around my neck like a scared koala whenever he was in water, is now a confident swimmer who happily duck dives for coins off the bottom of the pool! He made ALL that progress in 2 weeks!

Paddle Pool

And of course I had to take a selfie of myself in the pool! Wayhey!

Yes I’m still wearing my day makeup and earrings, and everything looks very nice and peaceful in the setting sun. But I should have turned the camera around and taken a photo of my kids… who were standing on the other side of the camera aiming their water pistols at me!!

I made a deal with them; if they let me take a few photos, and I put the camera away safely without getting it wet, then they could make a whirlpool and squirt me with their water guns :P


Sticky Date Pudding Recipe

19 January 2015

Stick Date Pudding

This sticky date pudding is an euphoric, eyes-roll-to-the-back-of-your-head-delicious indulgence :)

I have been using this recipe for the last 10 years and it’s an absolute winner every time. It’s so simple to make too.

I haven’t made it the last few year though, because the recipe asks for a lot of sugar, and I’ve been trying to cut back on making super-sweet desserts for my family. However last week I pulled out the recipe from my archives and made it with NO ADDED SUGAR.

It still tasted delicious! Especially when we ate it, hot, with a *small* dollop of ice cream.

I’m not sure where the original recipe came from, as I scribbled it down many years ago.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Sticky Date Pudding

200g chopped pitted dates
1 1/4 cups of water
1 teaspoons of bicarb soda
60g butter
3/4 cup of castor sugar (or use none at all!)
2 eggs
1 cup of self raising flour

Caramel Sauce
100g brown sugar/maple syrup/honey/rice malt syrup (or use none at all!)
100g butter
1 cup of cream

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Combine dates and water in a medium sized saucepan, bring to boil, remove from heat, stir in the bicarb soda and stand for 5 minutes.

2. Add butter (and sugar, if you’re using it) to the date mixture and stir it until the butter has melted. Blend/process until smooth (I use a hand blender). Leave the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

3. While waiting for date mixture to cool, grease a 20cm round cake tin and line with greaseproof paper.

4. Beat the eggs into the date mixture, one at a time. Then fold in the sifted flour. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 50 minutes.

5. While waiting for pudding to bake, make the caramel sauce by gently heat the butter and cream (and sugar, if you’re using it), without boiling, and stir for 3 minutes.

6. After 50 minutes, take the pudding out and pour 1/2 the caramel sauce all over the top and put the pudding back into the oven for 10 minutes.

7. Serve the pudding – warm – with the remaining sauce and ice cream!

* I make the whole mixture in the large saucepan. No need to transfer into a mixing bowl – it saves washing up!

* One time I made this sticky date pudding with no added sugar, but smeared a 2 tablespoons of maple syrup over the top as a sweet glaze. I found that it was just enough to add a lovely sweet-stickiness to the pudding.

* By the way, dried dates (even the organic types) are 68% sugar. Even though it’s a natural sugar, that’s still a huge amount. So if you’re trying to cut back on sugar, maybe you should make yourself a banana bread?


Off the Shoulder

9 January 2015

Off the Shoulder

Off the shoulder tops have become extremely popular again these days.

I used to own 2 of them (about 10 years ago) and um, I was once told that I had “nice collarbones” (??)… so I liked that these tops could show off my collarbones!

But the elastic of my old tops have since disintegrated, so I thought I’d buy a mid-priced, new one and relive my collarbone baring days.

That was back in September! I have been looking for a nice, mid-priced one since then. I didn’t want a cheap, flimsy one, so I expected that I had to pay around $60-$80. It had to be plain (not embellished) but not too plain. I had to be long (not too cropped) but not too long that it fell like a tunic. I didn’t like too much lace either.

Anyway, I bought this off-the-shoulder top from The Iconic, but it cost $120 and the fabric was not fantastic. The seam of the elastic wasn’t great either. It just felt and looked like a $30 garment. It wasn’t worth the price, so I returned it.

Then I bought another one from ASOS and returned it too. I looked through lots boutiques and the malls, but they were all so overpriced (like $90 -$150)!

It was only last week that I found this one from Sportsgirl for $69.95.

Off the Shoulder
I wore it out on Thursday night, for a girl’s night out… and I just adored it.

It was actually quite annoying to wear! The elastic that goes around my arms restricted my arm movements. So whenever I went to give someone a HELLO hug, the elastic sprung up to the top of my shoulders and I had to keep pulling them down back onto my arms haha. Such a pain! But it looked so cute!

I’m also wearing Acne Studio jeans, Senso heels, Witchery handbag, Shopbop earrings.

Here are some other places I found some off the shoulder tops.


Happy shopping!


To To Vietnamese, Perth

7 January 2015

To To Pho

Vietnamese food is one of my favourite cuisines in the world. And no matter what the weather is like outside, I just *love* catching up with my girlfriends over a hot bowl of Vietnamese beef pho!

I have a few favourite Vietnamese restaurants that I like in Perth. One of them is called To To, in East Victoria Park.

The decor is modern and quite classy… that is, it doesn’t have plastic tables and chairs, and plastic plants! The place is pretty noisy, cramped and the service is not that great though. During peak hours, you could be waiting outside for 15-30 minutes to get a table too.

But it’s unfussy, quick and easy. And most importantly, the food is pretty great.

Actually, I’ve been coming here for YEARS and I only ever order the Cooked and Raw Beef Pho and Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls… so I don’t know about the rest of the menu!

To To Vietnamese
875 Albany Hwy
East Victoria Park, WA

To To Vietnamese on Urbanspoon


My Zombie Christmas Ham Gets A Makeover

26 December 2014

In the last few years, we have hosted a large family celebration on Christmas Eve at our house.

For us, this is our “official Christmas dinner” with the turkey, ham, roast vegetables and all the trimmings. Everyone gets dressed up a bit, we sit down for a proper sit-down meal with nice silverware, tablecloth, napkins, decorations and a Christmas centerpiece etc.

I do most of the cooking – which I love to do. I’m pretty organised too. I keep all my recipes in a special Christmas file. I take photos to keep a record of what I did each year, the photos help me keep track of which decorations I used and what my colour theme was. I also make notes on how to improve next year, and place everything into my little file.

So yup, I think I’m pretty awesome… EXCEPT SOMETHING WENT WRONG THIS YEAR!!

Christmas Food 2014

After roasting for 4 hours, I took my ham out of the oven… and it fell apart! It looked soooo baaaad! I was horrified! I was so embarrassed! I wanted to throw it into the bin and start again!

I’m not entirely sure what I did wrong. I swore I followed the recipe to the letter.

Usually I’m a rock star at roasting ham! Usually my hams are a thing of beauty! Usually I get a round of applause when people taste the lush juiciness, the deep sweetness and the complex spices infused in my hams!

This? This one looked like a zombie ham from a horror movie, and that a dog ate half of it!

Sigh.

The ham was falling off the bone. It tasted great, but it just looked AWFUL.

So after some painstaking reconstruction and a some makeover cooking hacks, I managed to pretty it up, slice it up and present it like this:

Christmas Food 2014

Looked OK right?

Thank goodness the Christmas ham was saved!

Christmas Food 2014

To compensate for my ham failure, I managed to make the best looking  and best tasting Yorkshire puddings in my life!

They were the last dish to be cooked before the meal started, and I timed the puddings perfectly, so everyone ate them piping hot from the oven drizzled with gravy. Yuuum!!

I used this recipe, but I used butter and a bit of turkey dripping, instead of sunflower oil.

Christmas Food 2014

This was some of the spread on our dinner table.

Christmas Food 2014

For dessert, my father in law and my 5 year old son made a traditional Christmas pudding. It’s a recipe that has been in the family for decades and basically consists of steaming dried fruit and suet (animal fat) for 8 hours.

The kids fell over themselves (in the dark) to gather around to see the “lighting of the pudding” which is always good fun. Burning brandy is hypnotic!

We served the pudding with hot custard, and while it didn’t look very appealing, it tasted wickedly delicious.

I had 2 bowls and didn’t regret it.

Christmas Food 2014

And speaking of wickedly delicious, you can’t go wrong with a good old Christmas pavlova.

I had 2 slices and I didn’t regret it either!

 


Thriller Live Concert

23 December 2014

I recently took my eldest son out to celebrate a huge milestone in his life: graduating primary school (!!!).

We went to watch Thriller Live, a stage show celebrating the music of Michael Jackson. I had not heard about the show before, but I was given two complimentary tickets to check it out, and I was delighted to discover that it first started in London 6 years ago and has since toured the world, visited 26 countries, played 3000 shows and has been viewed by 2.5 million fans. It sounded cool!

Michael Jackson's Thriller Live

I had to clarify a few key points with my son. No Michael Jackson died in 2009 so he won’t be on stage. We’re going to watch OTHER people sing his songs.

We assumed that ONE guy was going to be impersonating Michael Jackson for the duration of the show. But it turned out to be a bit better than that – there were FOUR guys and ONE lady singing all his songs.

So with all the people, costumes, back up singers and dancers on stage, it was a really fun performance that was full of movement and energy.

The singers did a great job for both the singing and dancing. They were not an *exact* match of Michael Jackson’s voice (I wouldn’t expect anyone to have an exact match!), but they were still talented performers and they were very enjoyable to listen to.

Michael Jackson's Thriller Live
(Photo courtesy of Thriller Live)

At this point I have to confess that I am not a HUGE Michael Jackson fan. I don’t own any of his albums, nor have I been to any of his concerts. So I felt a little unworthy and ignorant when it came to knowing the full chronology of his hits.

But as each song and dance came on stage, I lit up like a child at a fireworks display! I KNOW THAT SONG!

I was clapping my hands with glee. YES! I REMEMBER THIS ONE! AND THAT ONE! OMG THIS ONE WAS BRILLIANT! IT WAS SO POPULAR!! JACKSON WAS A GENIUS! HIS SONGS WERE AMAZING! THEY STILL ARE! THEY DON’T MAKE POP SONGS LIKE THEY USED TO!

Michael Jackson's Thriller Live
(Photo courtesy of Thriller Live)

There were songs like ABC, I Want You Back, Blame It On The Boogie, Smooth Criminal, Beat It, Billie Jean, The Way You Make Me Feel, Bad, Dangerous, Heal The World, and of course, Thriller.

It was such a great show! It was so much fun to watch!

At The Crown

As for my son, he didn’t know any of the songs, since I forgot to give him a crash course in MJ music history, but he thought the songs and dancing were pretty cool too.

Overall, we had a really great “mother and son” night! We enjoyed a nice dinner before the show, then we bought six Subway triple chocolate chip cookies (way hey!) for dessert, sneaked them into the theater and munched on them until our teeth hurt.

And during the show we stood on the seats, clapped and danced to the music (everyone else was doing that too!) and discussed pop music history in the intermission. We had fun!

Thriller Live is playing in Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland.

Check out more details at the Thriller Live Australian Tour website.

xxx