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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.


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


Win $200 to Spend at Vision Direct

19 December 2014

Vision Direct X Karen Cheng

I’ve teamed up with Vision Direct to give one lucky winner a $200 voucher to purchase a pair of hot new sunglasses!

You can choose from styles like Ray-Ban, Celine, Gucci, Chloe, D&G, Givenchy, Missoni, Michael Kors, Tom Ford, YSL and much more. The range is really impressive and the prices are the best I’ve seen online.

Vision Direct X Karen Cheng

Vision Direct have put together a Christmas Gift Guide so you can see the best and most popular styles in simple categories (glamour, career, retro, trendy etc).

The photos above is a collection of glamorous styles, including frames like Dolce & Gabbana, Tom Ford, Celine and Gucci. I like the Celine one!

Vision Direct X Karen Cheng

And these are a collection of on-trend styles, including Dolce & Gabbana, Ray-Ban, Fendi and Italia Independent. I have my eye on the tortoiseshell Fendi one in the middle!

I have bought sunglasses from Vision Direct before. I accidentally bought the wrong size (I bought the kid’s size, duh!), so I organised an exchange, I sent the small pair back, the new ones arrived in great time. Overall I was really happy with the shopping experience.

This Christmas, they let me pick a new pair for myself too! I made a huge wishlist and managed to whittle it down to two – a Celine pair and a Saint Laurent pair.

Saint Laurent Sunglasses Bold 1

In the end, I chose these Saint Laurent Bold 1 sunglasses. They are gorgeous to wear!

Saint Laurent Bold 1 Sunglasses

I like the slight square and angular shape of this style, which looks a bit fresh and different to the round, cat-eye shapes that I usually wear.

I don’t know much about the technical specifications of sunglasses, but the glass is really clear, it has UV protection, the frame feels smooth on my face, and the weight of it is nice and solid; not too heavy and not too light. The arms sit perfectly on my head/ears and it hangs on securely, without pressing too tightly at my temples. The bridge slides down my nose a tiny bit, but well… that’s something I’ve gotten used to when having a wide Asian nose!

What do you think? Which pair would you choose?

***GIVEAWAY DETAILS***

Who Can Enter:
This giveaway is only open to residents of Australia, over the age of 18 years. Sorry to my international readers!

What You Win:
The winner will receive a gift voucher to spend at Vision Direct worth AUD200. Not transferable for cash.

Giveaway Ends:
The giveaway will run for 7 days. It starts from 18 December and ends on 24 December 2014, 11:59pm  (GMT +8)

What you have to do: This giveaway is now closed!

I will close the competition on 25 December. The winner will be randomly selected via random.org and contacted via email.

If the selected winner doesn’t respond in 3 days, then I will redraw another random name. I will announce the winner as soon as possible on my blog.

Good luck and have fun!


High Tea Fundraiser for Borderless Friendship WA

16 December 2014

I had the pleasure of attending a High Tea Fundraising Event for Borderless Friendship WA (BFWA).

BFWA is part of the Borderless Friendship Foundation (BFF) in Thailand, who work with 350-400 communities in the remote areas of Northern Thailand. Specifically, they enhance the lives of children, youth, women and vulnerable people within those communities; helping them with food, education, medical help, safe drinking water and sanitation.

I did a bit of reading up on them; although they are not a large organisation, I’m deeply impressed by the kind of work that they do. They sound like a very hands-on group, who activate people in their community for help. And their projects seem approachable enough that even myself and my children could possibly join in.

With that in mind, I was keen to meet some of the generous and driven people behind the scenes of the event.

High Tea Fundraiser for Borderless Friendship WA

The event was held at The Terrace Hotel, which incorporates the heritage listed St George’s House. I always love looking up and enjoying the juxtaposition of the old bricks, 1900s architecture and the shiny glass windows of the modern skyscrapers above.

High Tea Fundraiser for Borderless Friendship WA

The high tea was lovely! The weather was perfect. There were 110 guests, all sitting in the outdoor courtyard, under the trees and the dappled sunshine.

I planned to “watch what I eat” but in the end I scoffed 4 chicken sandwiches (omg they were so delicious), 3 divine chocolate things, 2 utterly perfect scones, 1 very moist orange and almond cake. And by the end of it, just like the very hungry caterpillar, I was looking for a nice green salad :P

High Tea Fundraiser for Borderless Friendship WA

There were lots of fabulous items on auction and things to bid on and buy!

High Tea Fundraiser for Borderless Friendship WA

I really wanted this gorgeous hand woven, organic cotton rug (the label said it was for a baby room)… but I talked myself out of it, because 1. I don’t have a baby; 2. I have wooden floors and fabric rugs are not suitable; 3. If I were to use it as a rug, in 5 years it would be dirty, gross and ruined, so I would want to preserve its beauty by keeping it in a box…. so really, if i bought it, it would not be used.

Instead I went big and bought a stack of raffle tickets – all for a good cause right?

High Tea Fundraiser for Borderless Friendship WA

There was also a fashion show! Designer Phoebe Longwood recently launched a new designer dress hire business in Perth, called The Library Dress. She treated the guests to two catwalk showcase of her dresses; one show had designer labels and one had her own label.

The three stunning dresses pictured above are a few styles from her own label. I’ll be blogging a bit more about her dresses next week, so I’ll save the details til then!

High Tea Fundraiser for Borderless Friendship WA

Here’s a pic of Phoebe and I – looking all kinds of amazing – me in a Three Floor dress and Phoebe wearing one of her own designs!

I had a really lovely time, I enjoyed the high tea, we had lots of girly chat, and a bit of fashion spying and shopping. In the end the event raised $6000 for such a great cause!

Thank you for having me!

xxx


In Search for Simple, Stylish Studs

5 December 2014

Kings Park, Nov 2014

I want to share with you my latest wardrobe mission: Firstly look at Example A, the photo above. Look at my earrings. I have been wearing those silver ball earrings for the last 5 days straight.

My everyday style is casual but polished. I wear button down shirts, jeans, crisp tshirts or cropped pants and tailored shorts. AND I like to wear nice earrings to finish off my look. So I’ve worked out that…

I am lacking a good collection of simple, stylish stud earrings!

I do own a few pairs of good earrings (Karen Walker, diamond studs, Marc Jacobs, Gordana) but the majority of my studs are cheapie buys from DIVA, blogshops, Louvisa or Sportsgirl… which cost me somewhere between $3 – $12! I cycle through them quickly, the metal wears off and they end up in the bin within a year.

So I’m thinking that I would like to up my stud style.

I found a stack of cool studs at Shopbop! They are priced between $40 – $90, and brands range from Tory Burch, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs.

I figured I could just buy 2 and it’ll tip me over $100 and therefore I get free worldwide shipping. Sounds pretty good right?

Who’s with me?

Happy styling everyone!

xxx


A Sparkling Date Night at C Restaurant

4 December 2014

C Restaurant, Perth

C Restaurant is Perth’s only revolving restaurant. It is 33 stories up and has amazing and sweeping views of the city.

The restaurant was built in the early 80s and has changed its names, management and chefs many, many times. Understandably, with each changeover, the owners have tried to do something different, reach a different clientele, bring in a new eating concept and new menus. So over the years, I have heard many different reviews and conflicting opinions about the place – and I’m sure everyone who has lived in Perth feels the same!

I was invited to try out the new midweek menu, and took the opportunity to have a date night with my husband!

I have previously been to C Restaurant for dinner (about 10 years ago) and for a fashion show (3 years ago). I was very keen to put aside all the reviews I’ve heard, come to it with fresh eyes (and taste buds), and just have a lovely evening with my husband.

We enjoyed a 4 course meal from the Midweek Summer Menu at $99 per person, available Monday-Thursday only. However on the website, I notice that it is now 3 courses for $99.

C Restaurant, Perth

We arrived at 6:30pm and the view was AMAZING!

(more…)


The Slower Lifestyle?

24 November 2014

Basketball Feet

My husband and I once made a promise that we were NOT going to become parents who crammed our children’s lives with tonnes of extra curricular activities, soccer, football, cricket, hockey, tennis, swimming, gymnastics, martial arts, music, languages, and extra tuition.

We enrolled them into ONE thing per year – and that was it.

Our plan was to… um, spend time with our kids instead??

I have to be honest… the ambitious TIGER PARENT in me found this to be very difficult.

I felt an ENORMOUS sense that I was STARVING my kids from new and important experiences. I felt that my children had so much potential and given the right environment (and lessons), they would be able to flourish, grow, and develop so much more. I felt that everyone around me had their kids in 2 or 3 or 4 extra curricular activities, and that my kids were going to be behind their peers and lack the advantage they need to succeed. I had serious FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out!

Yes, yes I know that spending time with my kids is important. But really, how many times do my kids have to follow me to the grocery store to buy apples? How many times do I have to push them on a swing? How many times do I have to explain things about the world to them – mundane things like how traffic lights work, what are the rules for wishing wells, what’s a credit card? Surely they must get bored of me and need some other kind of stimulation?? Surely kids need to be pushed and challenged so they can learn and excel?!

Oh god. For the last 10 years, I have been in a constant internal struggle about whether we were doing the right thing. I felt like I was just stumbling along and making things up as I go. I felt like a very mediocre parent. I felt that this “slower lifestyle” that we chose was just a lazy cop out. Did we take the easy way out?

Do they need more? Do they need less? We’ve made so many boring, long-term, conservative decisions – to live in a city where the rest of our family lives, to live in only one suburb, to not move the kids from school to school, to live within walking distance from our school and parks. No big overseas holidays, no sudden career changes, no over spending, no gaming consoles, no ipods – we are pretty strict. Perhaps too strict?  Life has been quite boring. But in a good way. Stable, safe, secure.

I guess we wanted to keep life at a slow pace, with low stress and low tech.

But my, how things are starting to change.

Both my bigger kids have interests and hobbies now. One is almost in high school too! There are volunteer meetings to attend, excursion payments to arrange, health forms to fill out, sports uniforms to buy, fundraising activities to support, music concerts, presentation assemblies, parent orientations, parent and teacher meetings…

This weekend, I had to ferry my kids to 3 basketball games, and I stayed to watch 3 hours of basketball. (My husband had to work over the weekend). The first game was at 7:45am Saturday morning and the last game finished at 7pm on a Saturday night! All the way through the first game I was thinking – I HAVE SO MUCH WORK AND HOUSEWORK TO CATCH UP ON! WHY AM I DOING THIS? AFTER ALL WE TRIED TO CUT BACK, HOW DID PARENTHOOD END UP LIKE THIS?

So during the second game, I had to consciously put away my frustrations.  I sat back and just tried to chill out and organise my thoughts. Why am I so stressed?

I realised that I’m so glad that we chose a “slower lifestyle” for their early years, because now life seems to be stepping up a notch or two now. And since I spent so much time with them as younger kids, I am feel a bit happier to “let them go” and let them start exploring the world for themselves.

For my 11 and 9 year old, we’ve gone past all the intensive care stages with them (the newborn stage, the toddler stage, and the pre-primary stage). We’re at a stage where there’s a lot more guiding, supporting, creating positive environments, discussions, making clear rules and consequences (and sticking with the consequences, even though it hurts me more than it does them) and standing back. They’re learning about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, their peers, their society, the world, and how they fit into it all. It’s a stage that is actually really exciting and rewarding.

So when I look at my kids now, I feel they’re off to a good start.

Even though they can be a pain in the arse most times, my kids are actually pretty great. I’m so pleased and proud of how they are growing up. I really like them! And I feel privileged that I got to be their parent!

I guess we did something right, right??

By the end of the second hour of basketball, as I sat on the bench with basketballs rolling at my feet, with another hour of a basketball game ahead of me, life and parenthood didn’t feel all that bad after all.

If only I could go back 10 years and reassure myself of that we were doing the right thing!


Burn Out Tank Tops

21 November 2014

Burn Out Tanks from FashionJunkee

When I was occasionally doing exercise, I felt OK about buying expensive, high quality active wear that will last for years and years.

But now that I’m active 3-4 times a week (sometimes more), I go through my gym / running / active clothes so quickly that I often find myself with a pile of used, stinky clothes and nothing to wear! And sometimes “having nothing to wear” becomes an easy excuse for me to skip going for a run for that day haha!

So I’ve been looking into more AFFORDABLE active wear – that still looks good and looks a bit different.

Let me be honest, sometimes when I turn up to a gym class and see that 5 other women are wearing exactly the same Target top as me… I know it’s not a fashion show, but I still feel a little un-special OK?

I also don’t like active wear with big shouty slogans, like “ONLY YOU CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN!” – and I only say that, because I used to have a tank that said that and I felt ridiculous whenever I wore it :P

Anyway, so I found some really cool tank tops from FashionJunkee.

They are animal print, burnout tank tops, similar to the Stella McCartney range, and waaaay cheaper.

Burn Out Tanks from FashionJunkee

They look SO COOL! And they are only US$12!

The tank tops are made from a light cotton blend, they are soft and breathable. Because of their loose fitting design, they are comfortable and easy to wear and move around in.

They come in different colours like Aqua, Peach, Lavender, Lime Green, Coral and of course Black and White. Check out the whole colour range here.

I’m usually a size AUS 6/ UK 6 / US 2 and the tank that I’m wearing is a Size SMALL. It would easily fit someone size AUS 6 – 8.

The ‘burnout’ design makes the tank a little sheer, so you can show off your coloured sports bra, or layer another coloured tank top underneath.

And you can wear them as casual wear, beach wear, pool side wear…. they are super versatile!

FashionJunkee have been my blog sponsors for a really long time! They are based in the US and so the team have organised a special shipping promotion for all my US and international readers.

$25 Shipping on orders of $75 or more for International orders
$7 Shipping on orders of $75 or more for Domestic U.S. orders
The promo runs across the whole site, so you don’t need to use a code.

(For my Australian readers, the flat $25 option is cheaper than the new US parcel forwarding service by Australia Post!)

Plus if you sign up for their mailing list, you’ll be the first to be notified about their Black Friday and Cyber Monday coupons and deals!

Buy a couple of tops! Buy for your girlfriends!

Enjoy!

( See all my Daily Outfits here )

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


A Little Update on Liam

19 November 2014

Liam at 5 1/2 Years

My little Liam is growing up!

He’s 5 ½ years old now and he just loves school! He loves being at school, playing with his friends, listening to teachers, following instructions, earning stamps on his “good-work” chart, doing craft, doing new things, and learning new things. His social skills have developed so well in the past year. He does have a reputation for talking WAY too much… but that is definitely better than him not talking enough, right?

He’s also quite a bright cookie and possibly quite advanced for his age.

For example, the other day I was helping my 9 year old do his homework, which involved classifying words into nouns, verb, adjectives and adverbs. Liam was SO interested in this that he too made himself a chart and started classifying words he knew. I went one step further to teach him about building sentences and clauses (oh my god!) and helped him create more complex and interesting sentences. He was SO excited. I could see it in his eyes. They grew wide and sparkly with wonder and amazement. I seriously could not believe we were doing this for fun??

Then we do this thing… where he recites the NATO phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta…see more here) out loud, as fast as he can while I time him with my stopwatch. Again, we do this for FUN?? He does it in 45 seconds (and I can do it in 24 seconds)!

Er yeah, so I’m really happy with how Liam is coming along academically.

BUT… we’ve been having trouble with his active side.

Both my husband and I are pretty sporty and active. And my other two boys (aged 11 and 9) are VERY sporty. They will zoom through their homework after school so they can head to the park to play football, basketball, soccer, hand ball, ride their bikes, go on their scooters, climb trees, or just run! I only have to say, “There’s 1 hour before dinner time, why don’t we go…” and they will zoom out the door, grab their hats, jump on their bikes and be on their way to the park. It’s easy to be active with my big boys.

But for Liam, it is a HUGE chore to get him outside. My shoes hurt, I can’t find my socks, I’m too tired, I have a scratch on my finger, it’s too sunny outside, I don’t want to put on sun cream, I have the wrong hat, my socks don’t match, waa waa waa. Most times the battle is soooooo difficult and emotionally draining, that I just skip my exercise for the day and stay home with him. It is definitely not a good thing for either of us.

But once the kid is ON a bike, or ON a scooter, or has decided that he’ll run through the park… he is absolutely fine! He is always happy as can be to be there!

We have recently signed him up to play in a basketball team, mainly because 6 of his closest friends were also in the team. But he doesn’t like it very much. He would much rather be at home doodling in his book, playing with Lego, organising his room, or working through an online learning program on the computer.

Because he doesn’t really enjoy being active, I find that he is much more drawn to being on a computer screen (playing educational computer games, maths, spelling and puzzle apps on the tablet) than my other 2 kids. I’m not sure if that’s because he’s the youngest of 3 kids and he’s been exposed to things at a younger age. Or it’s because of his personality. Or his age, as he is much younger than my two older kids after all. Or maybe it is his interest in computer games makes him less interested in being active?? Ugh, who can know?

He’s a great sleeper. He sleeps 7:30pm at night and wakes up at 6:30am. He gets very, very cranky after school (3pm) and I sometimes force him to have a nap for 1 hour, or at least make him lie down in his room with the curtains drawn. I find that makes him a much happier member of our family.

He is definitely the most “cuddly” and most “open to showing love and affection” of all my children. He loves cuddles, he absolutely adores me, and he seeks me and my husband out daily to give us a great big hug in the morning.

I hope he doesn’t grow out of that too soon!


Matches Fashion Brunch at Mosmans

17 November 2014

Matches Fashion Show at Mosmans

Let me be honest here. One of the best perks of my job is that I get to go to events, take photos, talk to people, and write about the experience in my own personal voice – and get paid for it! It’s always different and always interesting.

However, not all of them are fancy and glamourous. I do go to lots of simple and not-so-interesting events too.

So when a brand holds a special event – where you can see the effort and special consideration that went into all the details from table styling, to flower styling, fragrant styling, food styling and fashion styling… I definitely sit up and take notice!

Matches Fashion Show at Mosmans

Matches Fashion came to town, inviting a whole bunch of digital influencers, editors, stylists and fashion journalists for a lovely champagne breakfast, to showcase their latest collection and to launch their VIP Online Service.

The event was held at a super posh riverside restaurant, Mosmans Restaurant, which has one of the most stunning inner-city views of Perth. The big, glass windows opened us up to the river and glorious natural light streamed into the venue. It was a gorgeous day for a fashion event!

Matches Fashion Show at Mosmans

We were treated to a 3-course breakfast (so much delicious food and not enough tummy space!) and very pretty table styling (I sooo wanted to nab a candle or two!).

I sat on a table full of ladies – all whom I didn’t know – and we all talked freely and happily about travelling, food, weddings, textiles, art, fashion and most of all… online shopping.

I also sat next to the new business and event director, Catherine West, and was able to ask her lots of questions and get all the hot goss!

(A bit more about that later.)

Matches Fashion Show at Mosmans

The thing that I enjoyed the most was the fashion show. I was struck by the very cool styling!

The use of pattern mixing and accessories to brighten the whole outfit is not a new concept. But these guys did it exceptionally well.

The fun, printed skirts were my favourite!

Stella Jean Pony Print Skirt (view)

MSGM Orange and Black Skirt (view)

Matches Fashion Show at Mosmans

A hint of oriental and ethnic prints, but with a modern twist.

Stella McCartney pleated dress (view)

Dolce and Gabbana printed top and skirt (view)

Matches Fashion Show at Mosmans

Bright, bold, high-contrast stripes never go out of fashion!

Stella McCartney blue and green dress (view)

Sarah’s Bag, VROOM Clutch (view)

Tibi black and what top and skirt (view)

DVF Fox Fur bag (view)

Matches Fashion Show at Mosmans

Vertical stripes, a-line cuts, and bright colours were definitely eye catching.

Roksanda purple dress (view)

Fendi Fur Bag (view)

Peter Pilotto green and patterned dress (view)

Pierre Hardy eye clutch (view)

There was so much fashion inspiration!

Going back to the table conversations over salmon and poached eggs…

I was very frank with Catherine. I told her I didn’t know much about Matches Fashion. I’ve heard of their name, I’ve been to the website, but I’ve never bought anything from them.

She told me that Matches Fashion first began as a boutique in London about 25 years ago. It now has four stores in London, but predominately it is an online store, stocking over 400 designers, and delivering to over 190 countries.

Their main point of difference is their dedicated fashion-concierge team called MyStylists, who offer 24/7 styling advice. She tells me that it’s really popular; customers love the personal advice, they love that they can ask about the fit of some pants, the chest length of a dress, the material of a skirt, and that they are less likely to return an item if they’ve talked to a stylist.

I personally have NEVER used an online stylist. Mainly because I feel like I might be talking to a robot? Or a call centre worker in a different country who just won’t be able to relate to me? And I also feel that I can just Google search the answers of my own questions by myself thank you very much. Eg, I wonder if the dress has a very loose fit across the chest? Because I have a small bust, sometimes the neckline of a dress can be too low and the material at the chest can be too baggy.

ANYWAY I was introduced to a few Matches Fashion MyStylists (one was based in London and another in Sydney, both have flown in for the event) and yes they seemed like friendly, practical, modern, NORMAL human beings, who were gorgeously dressed! And yes, maybe next time I want to know the fit of a dress, I might pop them an email. They are supposed to be experts in this area after all. Why would I spend hours doing Google searches through fashion forums and agonsing over the unknown details??

So I think I might give them a go, because I’m always looking to review new online shops and shopping experiences!

Heartfelt thanks to Matches Fashion and to the PR teams, it was a lovely event!


The Remarkable World of Bees

13 November 2014

Recently we noticed a bunch of bees hanging around the entrance to our shed. The bunch grew bigger and bigger; and after a week it was obvious that they were living in the shed. I know you’re supposed to just ignore them and they’ll ignore you, but soon there were SO many bees flying around our backyard that I felt quite unsafe going outside.

They had made a bee nest in one of our shed cupboards, and while it was really just a small nest – my nephew is allergic to bee stings and he was coming over in a couple of days – I completely panicked!

I quickly called for a pest exterminator and the bees were gone the next day.

On hind sight, I shouldn’t have panicked. I should have just stopped for a moment to think about it a bit more… because I do happen to know that bees are REALLY IMPORTANT to the environment, and our human existence on the earth!! Bees are literally making fruit and other important food plants grow, as well as pollinating all the other plants in the world. They are making the world go around!

I am sooooo annoyed and angry with myself, because it turns out you can find – very easily – local bee lovers who will extract and move the bees to a new home FOR FREE. A quick search on Google or Gumtree shows that there are 4 or 5 different services in my local area! I really feel so terrible about it all.

And then to add further pain to my guilt, we pulled out the honeycomb… to discover how freaking amazing bees are.

Honeycomb

Look at the hexagonal pattern of the honeycomb! It’s so consistent and mathematically perfect! It looks like a man-made material fit for space travel!

The honeycomb is made from wax. The bees have glands that convert some of the honey the make (sugar) into wax, which is released through small pores on their bodies. The wax particles are then chewed up by the bees, softened in their mouths, spat out and then shaped into the honeycomb.

It was awe inspiring for me to think that little insects made this object – something that looks so man made – and that they have been doing this for thousands and thousands of years, before human existence!

Honeycomb

Bees are said to be remarkable engineers, impressive mathematicians, and highly intelligent creatures. Their honeycombs are an efficient use of resources, display superior construction and strength, and maximises honey storage… so much so that there is a full history of studying honeycomb technology, spanning from 60BC.

Also it has been documented that bees do a special dance and wiggle, as their way of communicating the direction of a food source, relative to the sun and their current position!

The more I read up about them, the sadder I felt about it.

Some of the honeycombs from our shed had a bit of honey in it, but we weren’t able to eat it because it had been poisoned.

So I guess I wanted to share my photos with you all, in hope that if you ever find bees in you backyard or out in the open, where they might be considered a threat… please do a quick search for bee lovers in your local area who can move them safely and in an environmentally friendly way!


Melbourne Cup at The Cottesloe Beach Hotel

6 November 2014

For those who are not familiar with Australian celebrations, the Melbourne Cup is a major horse race that happens at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, but watched by the whole nation. It has been running for about 150 years and according to the interwebs (so it must be true!) it is one of the richest horse races in the world!

It’s a huge event in every Aussie city and town. Even for those at work, everyone stops work to watch the race, share a drink and a silly hat. Restaurants, bars, pubs are full of Melbourne Cup lunches, and boutiques and department stores cash in on selling dresses and hats.

I’m not actually a huge fan of horse racing, betting OR drinking copious amounts of alcohol. So I don’t usually attend Melbourne Cup events, because they are pretty much wasted on me.

But this year, I was invited to a super special GH Mumm Champagne Melbourne Cup event by a PR buddy of mine (Thanks Caitlin!) at the Cottesloe Beach Hotel.

Well, since Cottesloe Beach is such a spectacular location (like Bondi Beach in Sydney, but much nicer), and since the invite made it clear it was a SERIOUS dress up event, I was inspired to try a little harder this year!

You might have read my last post… about how I painstakingly made a sculptural, arty head piece to wear, and then put together an outfit featuring a brand new dress from In Good Company and Alexander Wang. I was quite excited!

Melbourne Cup Day 2014

I arrived at the event and immediately found another buddy of mine, fashion stylist and blogger Andrea, looking absolutely fabulous daaarling.

The entrance was decorated with flowers (we weren’t actually at Flemington, as the sign suggests!) and there were beautiful horses being paraded on the street. Real horses! We took plenty of photos.

Melbourne Cup Day 2014

I tried to take a selfie with a horse, with my best horse face. But my nose is way too flat and short and obviously not long enough.

Melbourne Cup Day 2014

Look at us! Find a red carpet and you’re bound to find a fashion blogger on it!

We made our way up to the VIP bar and found the crème de la crème of the Perth fashion and social set.

We mingled, we sipped on champagne, and we gobbled up amazing nibbles. Then… just as we moved over to chat to the fashion designers, tv presenters, celebrities and sports stars… MY FASCINATOR BROKE. It rolled off my head, bounced off my arm and landed on the floor like a very large, and very dead mosquito.

I completely cracked up laughing. OMG how typical! How embarrassing!

Melbourne Cup Day 2014

Look at my dead mosquito. The sculptural bit came away from the headband bit, and in this photo, I was just holding it together in my fingers.

I put it together with sewing pins, super glue, but mostly a hot glue gun… which has never, ever failed me before! I should have used… um, computer cable ties? Fishing line? Bolts? Magic? How will I ever begin a career in millinery now? Crafty Karen FAIL.

Thankfully I had a SPARE FASCINATOR in my car. I had brought it along, in case I chickened out of wearing my DIY sculptural one. Oh the irony.

Melbourne Cup Day 2014

Phew. This is me with my spare fascinator, which cost me $35. I felt a bit unspecial. But it did the job. Nobody could accuse me for breaking the hat-wearing tradition.

Melbourne Cup Day 2014

As for the rest of the event, it was full of fabulous food, fascinators and spring fashion. There were hundreds of people there!

It had a great energy and atmosphere, it was colourful, fun and frivolous.

Melbourne Cup Day 2014

There was also a fashion show with clothes from ACO Boutique in Cottesloe. And there were awards for best dressed guest and best fascinator – guess who didn’t win :P

Melbourne Cup Day 2014

There was so much pretty fashion!

I managed to bump into a few other buddies of mine and yes, I had a fabulous time in the end daaarling!

And next year… I will consult a structural engineer about the design of my arty fascinator. Or at least my husband.