What Cameras Do I Take While Travelling?

15 August 2018

Istanbul, Gülhand Park

Oh my, I love this photo! I love how it captures my son’s curiosity and wonder of the world.  I took this snap while we were in Istanbul, walking through some quiet back streets from Topkapi Palace to Gülhane Park.

I took it with my phone’s camera – and I believe that “capturing the moment” is much more important than using a “proper camera”. You see, I have a lot of photographer friends, who poo-poo my constant use of my phone camera haha!

I feel a little pang of guilt too, because in my freelance gig, I actually work as a photographer for some clients! My house is full of new and old cameras. I have very expensive camera gear and lenses. Yet they hardly ever leave my house :)

Two Cameras

So what cameras do I take while travelling?  

In the last few years, I’ve been to Singapore, Bali, Tasmania, London, Paris, all over Australia, Istanbul, Scotland and Dubai.

For all my trips, I took two cameras.

1) My iPhone –  To capture ALL the small moments.

Istanbul Photo Tile

Here’s a little edit of my camera roll during our last family holiday in Istanbul.

Basically, I like to take photos of us sitting, walking, eating, looking, smiling, laughing, horsing around.

But I’m very stealthy about it! I whip out my phone from my bag, take two snaps and immediately put it away. It takes me 4-5 seconds from identifying the moment I want to capture, getting my phone out and taking the shot, which is perfect for spontaneous moments.

I don’t go on and on trying to get “the perfect shot”. I don’t try to stage or force things too much. And I don’t like to be too intrusive to the moment itself.

I’m very aware not to annoy the people I’m with. But they do oblige me with a smile when I do.

The gallery of photos I take is like a frozen documentary of our trip. My kids LOVE it and can see the benefit of it, even days later, when we’ve forgotten all the details and order of events.

2) Sony RX100 Mark 4

This was a bit pricey for a compact camera. It cost me about $1,100 in 2016. It’s a high-end compact, with full manual controls and takes high quality video.

I wanted something small and compact to put in my handbag. I wanted to take high quality HDR + Raw photos. I didn’t want a mirrorless camera with inter-changable lenses, as I find them just as chunky as my DSLR pro camera.

It takes me about 20-40 seconds from identifying the moment, taking it out of my bag, unzipping the case, turning it on, waiting for it set up, check and change it to the right setting, then snap!

So I always find that I miss “the moment” with this camera.

I use it more when I know I want a higher resolution in my photo!

Another thing I wanted to share is my REASON for taking so many photos.

I take photos for my kids.

Not for social media, not to share with my friends (although, I usually end up sharing the highlights on Facebook).

I make photo books for all our trips, I stick the book on my bookshelf and every now and then, the kids will pull out the photo books and go — WHOA I REMEMBER THIS! THIS WAS AWESOME!

And I hope one day they will show all the photos to their kids!


What I Wore: Weekend Denim and Leather

5 August 2018

Weekend Look : Denim and Leather

Hello weekend!

Jet lag has hit me HARD this time around – maybe I’m just getting old??

I still managed to get out and about, spending time with the kids, bike riding, watching their basketball games, taking them out to sit in a cafe and go shopping for presents.

I also met up with some girlfriends for brunch and did a bit of shopping in the city, poking around little bookstores. Not to mention we had our weekly family dinner my parent’s house with homemade chicken rice – so good!

It’s my idea of a perfect weekend. Love these slow weekends.

This is what I wore!

LA Rider Leather Jacket by OAK
I spent months looking for a perfect leather jacket for my lifestyle. I considered getting one from All Saints, but they were just too bulky for my small frame and too thick and warm for Australia.

I wanted a fitted leather jacket, with cropped sleeves, that I could wear over a dress in Spring, Autumn and Winter. This one was absolutely perfect and it was on sale! It’s currently out of stock , but it’s a popular one, so it will come back into stock soon. There is also a suede version (in camel and black), which is on sale too.

Les Girls T-Shirt
I finally found a graphic tee with a scribbly writing that I like! So affordable and good quality too!

GRLFRND Denim jeans
My faves are the Candice style.

Alexander Wang Roxy Hobo Bag
Despite all the chunky silver bling, I’ve been using it as my everyday bag and I just love it! I’m such a fan of using non-boring everyday bags now.

Acne Studios Pistol Boots
Mine were bought secondhand from a private seller. But you can still buy them online directly from Acne Studios here, or try eBay!


Hair Styling

1 August 2018

Hair Dryer

Today marks a very significant milestone in my journey as a parent.

In the last few months, my teenagers have been popping into my bathroom to borrow my hairdryer to “style” their hair.

Today, the hairdryer was MOVED out of my bathroom and into theirs.

Now I have to go into THEIR bathroom to use MY hairdryer!

* They did ask me for my permission first. I agreed. Now I’m off to buy them a new – cheaper – hairdryer, so I can have mine back!

*I bought them this one in the end!


Our 3 Days in Istanbul (with kids)

28 July 2018

Blue Mosque, Istanbul 2018
(View of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, or the Blue Mosque, from a rooftop cafe!)

I had quite a few emails and messages from people asking questions about travelling with 3 kids to Istanbul.

So I answered a few common questions and included our 3.5 day itinerary (what I planned vs. what we actually did!)

Did we feel safe?

Yes. Absolutely. The tourist areas are very tourist-friendly. The locals are very friendly and hospitable!

There were lots of police in the tourist areas, but they were dressed casually (shirt, jeans and a police vest), not full-blown army/military uniform.

Currency and Exchange Rate?

Turkish Lira. Exchange rate is AUD 1 = TL 3 or 4

Food and eating out was very cheap. One morning, we ate a hot breakfast at a touristy cafe and we fed a family of 5, including 2 Turkish breakfasts, 2 omelettes, a side of bread, 5 drinks… for about AUD $30 .

One evening, we had a delicious Turkish dinner for a family of 5, including pizzas, seafood, meat grills, salads, drinks and desserts… and the total was about AUD $48.

How was the AirBnb?

It was fantastic. We booked with a “Superhost” in a 5-Star rated apartment with 2 bedrooms, lounge room, kitchen (sleeps 5 people), situated about 5 minutes walk from the Blue Mosque (which is pretty much THE top rated thing to see in Istanbul) and it cost us around AUD $500 for 3 nights.

What’s to see there?

Lots of beautiful historical mosques, buildings, museums, great river views. Lots of cool streets and districts, affordable places to eat,

A wonderful combination of Eastern and Western culture.

When is the best time to go?

Turkish summer is July/August and apparently can get very (very!) hot. We aimed to go slightly before (in June) or slightly after (September).

What should I wear?

My husband and boys wore t-shirts, jeans or shorts. I wore t-shirt with comfy jeans, culottes, or a midi skirt most days.

If you visit a big/famous mosque, they have helpers who look you up and down to judge if you are dressed appropriately, then they provide scarves, elastic skirts (for women and men!), and little plastic bags so you can take off your shoes and carry them with you.

Istanbul Basilica Cistern
(Inside the Basilica Cistern, ancient underground water storage. Photo taken by my husband.)

Our 3.5 day itinerary for Istanbul

We focused our trip in ‘The Old City’ area, or Sultanahmet District, where the majority of all the historical sights were. We booked ZERO tours, because I already did lots of research, I wanted to see specific things, I already knew the history – and with kids, our plans were bound to change, so I didn’t want to be stuck on a 4 hour tour. Our kids were aged 15, 13 and 9 years old during this trip.

Day 1

– Arrived 8am in the morning (Sunday) after flying for 17 hours from Australia.
– Drop off luggage at the Airbnb. Breakfast at local cafe.
– Took a walk around the Sultanahmet Square and Sultanahmet Fountain and saw all the big sights from the outside eg. Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Hagia Sophia, other museums and enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere. We ate food from street vendors and did a lot of people watching.
– We visited the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art and bought 5 Museum Passes (5 day pass) for TL 125 each – this was a tip I read from a few travel guides: to buy the pass a day before, in the evening, to skip the queues for the next morning.
– Our kids were very tired, so we had to head back for an early night.

Day 2

– Up early for breakfast at Sultanahmet Square.
– Morning walk to see Gülhane Park (next to Topkapi Palace), went to see Topkapi Palace. We already had the Museum Pass, so we skipped the enormous queues, it was so good.
– Lunch at Seven Hills Restaurant (roof top) with amazing views of the city!
– Went to see the Basilica Cistern (ancient underground water storage).
– Went to see the famous Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque).
– At 6pm, we walked from Sultanahmet Square to the Grand Bazaar for shopping and dinner. Took us about 20 minutes to walk there (we loved this so much, the small streets were so colourful and full of local shops and activity!)

*We did this whole day by walking!

Day 3

– Up early, first in line at 8:30am for the Hagia Sophia, or Aya Sofya (totally worth it to be early!)
– Walked to see the Istanbul Archeological Museum.
– Took a tram to north of the river, Karaköy tram stop
– Walked around Karaköy to Galata Tower.
– Had lunch at another rooftop cafe, Konak Restaurant in the Galata area.

(I planned to visit Taksim Square, walk around Taskim Gezi Park, or walked back over Galata Bridge in the evening, to the Suleymaniye Mosque, then to the Spice Bazaar — but our kids were too tired! Ambitious much?)

Day 4

– Breakfast at Sultanahmet District. The kids were tired and not feeling great.
– We checked out of Airbnb. Went back to the Hagia Sophia to take more photos.
– We ate and walked around to do some souvenir shopping near Sultanahmet Tram Stop / Basilica Cistern, where there were lots of shops and cafes.
– Then we left for the airport at 2pm for a 5pm – and we *just* made it to the plane because of the bad traffic!

On hindsight, we could have seen a LOT more sights and did more stuff.

I would have loved to have seen the Walls of Constantinople (saw it zoom by through a taxi window!), Suleymaniye MosqueHagia Irene, Taksim Square, Spice Bazaar, Dolmabahce Palace, or maybe a Bosphorus River Cruise… but we couldn’t fit it around the kids and their energy levels.

But that’s ok! It was still a fantastic trip, and we all rate it as one of our coolest trips ever!


Shopbop Finds Under AUD $200

25 July 2018

I was talking to one of my girlfriends about Shopbop, and how it was an awesome place to buy wearable designer brands (not crazy-expensive catwalk stuff)… and how the more affordable items were sometimes quite hard to find.

She asked me to recommend “some nice and fun stuff, which are under $200!

So here are my top picks!

Shopbop Finds Under $200

Perfect summer holiday dresses!

Left: J.O.A. Polka Dot Dress – An absolute staple for summer. Polka dots will always be in style.

Right: Capulet Tabitha Mini Dress – Ok this one might be a bit trendy, but it’s sooo cute!

Shopbop Finds Under $200

Super sweet, puffy tops to wear with jeans.

Left: WAYF Puff Sleeve Top – Love the sweet style and how the colours look great with denim.

Right: Flynn Skye Tori Top – my friend bought this one!

Shopbop Finds Under $200

Floral skirts to go with everything!

Left: Yumi Kim Novella Wrap Skirt – I have my eye on this one. Yum Kim has some gorgeous floral prints and this is lovely.

Right: Valencia & Vine Miniskirt – Will go so well with all my white t-shirts haha!

Happy shopping!



What I Wore: Silk Wrap Blouse

16 July 2018

Grana Silk

Before setting off on holiday, I had a number of client meetings where I couldn’t simply wear the old “jeans and a tee” combo.

Had to look a bit grown up and professional yo!

Anyway, I found the perfect top for the task.

This Grana Silk Wrap Front Blouse is just beautiful and in the league of “nice fancy tops” to wear out for day to night.

The style is simple, but I believe I could dress it up to the max for an evening party too.

Grana Silk

It’s a very lightweight silk, suited to warm weather, with a lovely drape and silhouette.

It’s super versatile too –  great to wear with any kind of pants or skirt. The style notes suggest you can wear the top tucked or untucked, but I prefer it tucked in, and bellowing at the waist and wrists.

The very unique cross-over wrap front has a fold at the bottom hem, which when left untucked, is a bit exposed for me. As there is only ONE button that closes the wrapped bit, and can show off your bra and belly.

You might have to peek at the product page to get more of an idea. But when it is tucked in, it is fine!

Grana Silk

I’m wearing the size XXS and it fits perfectly at the shoulders, arm length and chest. I’m usually a size AUS/UK 6.

It fits and drapes so well, that it instantly looks smart and polished – which is what I love about it.

Definitely a keeper!

Discount Code

If you’re keen to give it a go, do use my special code “karenxgrana” at the checkout to receive 10% off and free shipping. Unfortunately, it is only for new customers.

Also wearing Lovers and Friends skirt, Aquazzura heels, and Mansur Gavriel Bucket Bag.


How Reading Enhanced My Travel Experience

13 July 2018

Karen at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

4 months before we visited Istanbul, I started reading history books and listening to history podcasts about Istanbul. I wanted to read a fiction novel too, but I ran out of time.

I had heard that reading a novel set in a city, before you went to the city, was thing.

I never quite understood how reading could enhance my travel experience… but I get it now!

I read about all the significant Emperors of Byzantine/Constantinople/Istanbul (from 300 BC!) their career highlights and low lights, their life story, their wives and children, the current state of the city, the mood of the people, their political alliances, why they decided to spend money in a certain way and build certain buildings…

Then to actually SEE those buildings, their remnants, the city and the streets in which they walked… it made me feel like I was visiting old crazy friends and seeing their handiwork.

It made me feel like a time traveller and a possessor of secrets.

It added so much depth to everything I saw.

I absolutely loved how all the places I visited was brought to life by the stuff floating around in my head and heart.

I felt connected, empathic, humble, small. I felt like a little speck in the timeline of life.

And I had sooo many pinch-me moments and spine-tingling moments that went well beyond “wow that’s so pretty”.

I’ll definitely be doing this again the next time we travel to a new city.

(My next travel wishlist is Italy and Greece!)

Here’s to a lot more reading and travelling soon!


Acne Studios Musubi Mini Bag

3 July 2018

Acne Studios Bag

YES it’s my birthday month!

I’m currently away on holiday, but before I left, as a bit of a splurgy birthday gift to myself, I picked out this gorgeous Musubi Mini Bag by Acne Studios via Shopbop.

I love that it’s a bit different and sleek with clean and minimal lines.

I also loooove the twisted knot detail, inspired by the traditional Japanese obi sash.

In fact the name itself, “musubi” means decorative knot and there are hundreds of obi knot styles out there. I tried to find the exact name of the knot used in this bag, but I couldn’t work it out. It does however, look similar to a martial art obi knot (which is a more basic/functional knot, rather than decorative, thus a bit cheeky for the designers to use), but hey I could be wrong.

Acne Studios Bag

I love how the designers use the smooth leather to create a soft, folded structure (that looks like cloth) for the handbag.

I also like using the top handle, so it can look like a bucket bag.

The large shoulder straps (which are removable) make it feel like a sturdy satchel bag, but it’s super light overall.

Karen and Acne Studios Musubi Mini Bag

It’s a great small size for me – not mini at all.

It’s dimensions are height 22cm x length 16cm x depth 16cm.

It fits my purse, phone, beauty pouch, keys and even a small book or compact camera. The leather is strong and stiff enough to hold the weight of all my stuff, without buckling or warping the shape of the bag.

I’m a big fan of Acne Studios and their minimal style, so it’s a complete win for me.

This mini black version is currently all sold out and hopefully is restocked soon. There is a Red Mini Musubi available here, and the regular size version Black Musubi Bag or Tan Musubi Bag.

(Or you could pop over to Acne Studios online to check out the whole Musubi range.)



Hi from Istanbul!

1 July 2018

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hi everyone!

After months of planning, my husband and I dragged our kids across the globe to visit Istanbul!

I was so nervous at first. We were set to arrive on the day of the Turkey’s national elections; Australia had released a “Please reconsider your reasons for going to Istanbul” warning, and after reading about all the news reports, past riots and unrest in the area… aaah, I had such a big sense of dread and regret. Buuut you can’t live life afraid of all the what ifs.

So once my husband and I got over that… we were SOOOOO excited about going. Our kids? Not so much, as they knew nothing about the city.

Lots of people asked, why Istanbul?

Both my husband and I have always wanted to go see the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

I learned about Iznik ceramic tiles from the Ottoman Empire when I was in art school. And my husband has been interested in military history since he was a youth.

We both knew the city was full of history and culture, and that it was a little different to the other destinations in Europe.

I actually thought we would visit when we were old and retired. I wasn’t planning to take the kids along! But we just thought, Oh what the heck, let’s go!

An Extra Special Trip

This holiday is also a special birthday present for me… because I’m celebrating my big 40 this month! Woohoo!

Wow doesn’t time fly?! I remember celebrating my 30th not long ago.

Anyway, we’re spending some time in Istanbul, then heading over to Edinburgh, Scotland and the West Coast of Scotland (where my husband’s family is from).

Will be sharing heaps of updates soon!



Review: Everlane Silk Shirt

30 June 2018

Everlane Silk Shirt Review

I first heard of Everlane yeeeears ago, when everyone was raving about the Everlane Silk Shirts and how amazing and affordable they were.

But I never bought one back then, because of their crazy shipping fee to Australia (years ago it was something like $30-$40, I’m not exactly sure anymore).

Over the years, they have reduced their international shipping fee and NOW they offer a Flat Rate of US$15 to Australia.

I know Everlane occasionally offers up free international shipping, so I waited until a promo came around and finally purchased two items!

This post isn’t sponsored or gifted by Everlane. I purchased these items on my own, because I found a gap in my wardrobe and I was curious to check out their quality.

PLUS I wanted to support a fashion brand that focused on transparent and ethical processes. I read up about all their factories around the world, it’s really interesting!

I figured that… the more I spend on these transparent brands, and less on those that are not transparent, the better.

Everlane Silk Shirt Review

My Silk Review

I’m no textile expert. I have no idea about thread count, or how to compare silk weight or weave.

I just own a lot of silk shirts haha! I own 3 Equipment Silk Shirts, 1 Isabel Marant Silk Shirt, a few silk tops by Tibi… and lots of silk items from high street brands… and so I have just a solid opinion on which silk I prefer most.

I’ve read heaps of online reviews about comparing Grana vs. Everlane vs. Equipment Silk Shirts but really, in the end, I believe it comes down to your own personal preference and what kind of silk YOU like to feel and wear.

For me, I don’t really like silk with a slippery satiny feel, because to me, the fabric looks and feels like satin or polyester. And it reminds me of tops I could buy from Zara or Witchery. But I’ve found that this satiny kind of silk is a bit more crinkle resistant.

Grana silk shirts have a more velvety crepe kind of feel. My Isabel Marant silk shirt is also velvety, but much more sheer and delicate.

My Equipment and Tibi silk shirts are somewhere in between satiny and velvety.

And my preference is somewhere in between, but tending towards more the velvety feel.

What Do I Think of Everlane’s Silk?

I’d say that Everlane is more of the slippery, shiny kind of silk (almost no velvety feel), but it feels thick and strong, and has a kind of matte finish, so it’s quite nice.

When I rub the fabric between my fingers, it feels like a quality garment. So so soooo much better than high street stores. The cut and craftsmanship is there.

The inside stitching looks really good, the seams and edges don’t buckle. It’s great quality!

I did find two loose threads, one at the armpit and one at the cuff, but when I gave them a tug, they came away and no stitching came apart.

It was pretty creased up when I took it out of the packet. I had to give it a low/medium iron with lots of steam, which took me ages! The shirt seemed to handled the iron just fine, which is so good!

How’s the FIT?

I bought “The Relaxed Silk Shirt” in Size 00.

I’m usually a AU6 or UK6. I’m 160cm and I weigh 46kg.

The fit was absolutely perfect! Perfect across the shoulders and back. Comfortable around the chest, waist and hips. Brilliant length for body and arms. And cuffs were perfect too. I’m super happy!

How’s the STYLE?

Grana silk shirts have hidden buttons (which I don’t like) and no chest pockets.

Equipment shirts have exposed buttons and chest pockets and pocket flaps – nice style, but a bit safari looking maybe.

Everlane has exposed buttons and no chest pockets – I really like this combo!

I think I like the style of this Everlane shirt more than my Equipment Signature shirt. It’s just a bit more minimal. And it depends on my mood :)

Maybe because this is a pinstripe shirt, and maybe if I were to wear a plain coloured Everlane silk shirt, I’d feel that the style was a bit too plain?

Overall opinion?

Overall, I really like this shirt. I’m absolutely delighted that you can get such a great style of silk shirt in a high quality, with excellent wearability, for such a good price.

Except for the two loose threads I found, I can’t really fault this shirt!

I’m dying to get it in more colours now!

Unfortunately, I don’t have a discount code to share with you all.

I do have this referal link to the Everlane Website, and if you like my review and buy from them, I get a bit of credit put into my account. But no worries if you don’t use it!


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