March Coffee Catch Up

22 March 2017

Purple Skies
(I snapped this photo of the purple sky during one of my evening walks.)

Hi everyone!

This year started with an almighty bang!

So much has happened in the last couple of months… and I haven’t really stepped back to take a breather and review everything.

What’s been happening?

1) Travel. I was in London for 4 weeks. I popped over to Paris too. I was away from my husband and kids for the whole time. I absolutely loved the whole experience of travelling / freedom / exploring / wanderlust / no responsibilities.

For me, it cemented the fact that I’m on the other side of parenting young children. I had my first child at 25, while all my friends were travelling, partying, establishing their careers and enjoying no responsibilities. At the time, a small part of me was sad that I was missing out on all that – but hey, here I am on the other side, travelling, partying, establishing my career and having no responsibilities – haha not really, but kind of!

2) My freelancing business is growing! Work is on the increase. Lots of new projects are rolling in. I’m having lots of pinch-me moments in terms of the kind of projects I’m working on. Things I do right now: I run my blog, I do freelance work as a photographer, a graphic designer, an art director, a content creator and a social media consultant and manager. Phew.

Sounds so pretentious when I say it all like that. I basically sit on my computer all day and make pretty stuff ha!

I’m still working on a part-time basis. And I’m so so grateful for the work-life balance.

3) Birthdays. My children’s birthdays all fall in March & April, so they will all move up a year. I will soon have a 14 year old, a 12 year old and an 8 year old. Yikes!

Basically, I have two kids in high school, one in Year 9, one in Year 7, and one kid in Primary School, Year 3. Yikes!

4) I have mini-teenagers now. However, they are not very typical teenaged boys. You see, they are all really chatty.

Lots of parenting articles and advice columns talk about how to get your teenagers to talk… how teenagers go through a “grunting” stage… how parents can initiate conversations… how parents can talk to teens so that they’ll listen…

Not my boys. OMG I can’t get them to shut up!

My boys are really chatty. As soon as they come home from school, they will fall over themselves to tell me the latest news of the day. I get an hour-by-hour run down on what happened, who said what, who did what, what they think about their teachers, their teaching methods, the subjects at school, about the new kid in class, about upcoming events, what kind of sneaker they should buy, what happened in the latest online game, what kind of job they want in the future, their latest ideas for a fast money making scheme to make them millionaires, what they think about the latest Ed Sheeran song… omg it just goes on and on and freaking on.

I listen. I don’t get too judgemental. I laugh. I roll my eyes at them. I join in with their banter. I mock and tease them. I throw in some pearls of wisdom. Or add my own entertaining story. But most of the time, we just talk shit.

Anyway, I feel it’s a blessing that I get to hear all the crap in their heads! Better than nothing right?

5) School work. In terms of their studies, my kids seem to be doing pretty well. I have backed off all my help and assistance. I let them work out their own time management, due dates, assignments, revision and they seem to be on top of things.

However, I can’t STOP being an Asian parent. I have to BITE my tongue whenever they come home with 19/25 on a test.

Yes yes, you tried your best, but, seriously dude, how hard is 22/25?

And one day, one of my kids said to me – Hey guess what mum? I made a very cool discovery this week. I realised that if I pay *just a little* more attention in class, I can get an A in my tests. Can you believe that? It’s cool. Who’d have thought it’d be so easy?

*Face palm*

6) Exercise. I have slowed down significantly in the last few months. I blame my increasing workload. I do a bit of swimming, a bit of yoga, a bit of cycling and a bit of running per week.

Key words here: a bit.

7) Next family holiday. Omg people! This is epic! We’re planning a trip to Central Australia. We’re going to drive to Uluru. Yes we’re driving! Personally, I’d prefer to fly there, but it’s all about the journey right?

It’ll be simply amazing for our family. But there’s so much planning and preparation. And I’m a little tense about it all.

8) Anxiety. Usually I’m pretty stable in terms of my mood swings, emotions, temperament, confidence, self-esteem and overall positive outlook on life. I’m usually a happy and easy going person!

But two/three days in the month, I’m a total wreck. Little things send me into a blind panic. One word, or comment, or news article, or Instagram post from someone will send me into a deep dark pit of darkness. I think I’m shit. I think all my work is shit. Everything I do is shit. I think life in general is meaningless, pointless, and just total shit. It’s a brain-numbing paralysis. It’s totally irrational. It’s hard to breathe. Hard to think. Hard to function.

I console myself in the fact that it only happens once a month, it is not my normal, and it goes away. No doubt it coincides with my monthly hormone cycles.

9) Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been my go-to answer for finding meaning at the end of the day. Only joking. It’s how we de-stress in the evenings. I am literally snorting with laughter and doing the whole “ugly laughing” thing. It’s so good haha.

10) I’m Currently Reading two books at once. Far From a Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. I’m halfway through. The language is just lovely. But the heroine is really annoying me at the moment. Three men have fallen in love with her and vying for her attention, and she chooses the worst one. Ugh.

Just like Anna Karenina, I want to slap some sense into her. I hope she redeems herself soon. Probably not. It’d be a short novel if she did.

So I’m reading Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. I’ve always wanted to read it. My husband has kept his high school copy, so that’s the version I’m reading. It’s hilarious so far. And a bit weird. I’m loving it.

OK ten points will do for now.

Thanks for reading! I’m off for a run!

xxx


 

That Ultimate, Classic White Shirt

20 March 2017

White Poplin Cotton Shirt by Grana

Hi everyone! Ok, I’m not being paid, gifted, or sponsored for this … nor have I been asked to write this blog post.

This is totally off my own initiative, because I love sharing my awesome finds haha.

I bought this shirt myself… and I freaking love it.

It’s just a PLAIN, CLASSIC, WHITE, COTTON SHIRT.

You’d be surprised how hard it is to find a plain one?!

White Poplin Cotton Shirt by Grana

It is the White Poplin Boyfriend Shirt by Grana.

I do apologise for sounding like a crazy, Grana fanatic. But as I said, I bought it myself, and I also have it in a checkered/gingham pattern and a pinstripe pattern too.

The material just like a man’s cotton business shirt. It’s crisp, strong, really smooth, soft and opaque.

I have worn it by itself on a hot day, or layered with a singlet underneath and a knit over the top… and each time it feels soooo lovely to wear.

The XXS size is PERFECT for my Size AU6 frame.

The sleeve length is perfect for me. It sits just a touch beyond my wrist. The body length is perfect too. Not awkwardly long.

It has a relaxed fit. Not too baggy. And it fits nicely across the back and shoulders.

Best bit: Cost for quality.

It’s mind-bogglingly difficult to find a good quality white shirt at a reasonable price these days.

At AUD $79, it is such great value!

It also isn’t the end of the world if I spill something on it.

I’ve seen white shirts in Country Road (all have trendy details and over $100), Cue (styles are too fitted, over $100), Witchery (no plain styles), Myer (one was $550, hit and miss quality), Basque Petites (too fitted), Zara (quality wasn’t great), Shopbop (most over $100), The Iconic (trendy styles – big sleeves, embroidery), Forever New (trendy styles)… where else can one buy a plain white shirt? Er, not sure!

It seems as if all the stores assume you already have a plain, white, cotton shirt, so they all want to sell you ones with trendy details.

But I haven’t had a plain white shirt until recently. Most of my shirts have trendy details haha.

Anyway, even though this post isn’t a sponsored post, I did a sponsored post for Grana a fortnight ago and my discount code is still valid. So if you’re interested to buy, you might like a discount?

Get 10% off for New Customers

If you’re a new Grana customer, I have a special code for you to use to receive 10% off and free worldwide shipping. Simply enter the code “karenxgrana” at the checkout. Valid until the end of March 2017.

xxx


 

Korean Digital Perm for Medium Hair

17 March 2017

6 months ago, I went to Curi Hair Korean Hair Salon to have a Korean Digital Perm for Medium Hair – I wanted big, loose waves and straight ends.

I know I can create that look myself with my hair curler. But it takes me FOREVER to do it, because I have such thick hair.

I wanted permanent, everyday curls! I’m so lazy!

Korean Digital Perm for Medium Hair

I took in these photos of blogger extraordinaire Nicole Warne and Aimee Song to show my hair stylist.

I wasn’t expecting the EXACT same style, as their hair styles were probably hand-styled for 3 hours to utter perfection. I just wanted something that looked similar.

I didn’t want any colour either, as I had some balayage lightening leftover from ages ago.

Korean Digital Perm for Medium Hair

The digital perm took about 3 hours – although I had to go to the toilet twice because of all the tea I was sipping.

I was suuuuper pleased with the results!

They did such a fantastic job.

Korean Digital Perm for Medium Hair

I took these photos in my car after having the perm done. I loved it!!!

So as I mentioned earlier, I had this perm done in October.

I wanted to wait 6 months before doing this review, because I wanted to share what a perm was like after a long time.

Yes you can step out of a salon looking amazing, but how is it on a day-to-day basis? How is it after 6 months? Do the curls fall out? Does it still look great? Is it high maintenance? Is it frizzy af? Is it really worth it?

A Week After the Perm

I was surprised by how dry and frizzy my hair felt. It was a bit of a shock to me. I needed to put 3-4 pumps of oil and rub it into the ends of my hair to make it look good.

Blow-drying my hair took practice. I blow-dried my hair in a random/haphazard way until it was 85% dry. Then I had to twirl locks of hair with my finger and lift it up to give the curls a nice shape and a smooth texture.

The perm was pretty tricky to manage at first. It was annoying. It was high maintenance. I was quite exasperated by all the blow-drying sometimes. My hair was like a pet haha. I had to look after it. I had to get to know it.

Experiment to find out what works. I had to experiment for a few weeks. Use more product. Use less product. More twirling. Less twirling. Blow-dry in the morning. Blow-dry at night. Hair in a pony tail. Hair left out. Use more conditioner. Use less conditioner.

But after a while, I got used to it and it’s pretty easy now!

 

6 Months After the Perm

Korean Digital Perm for Medium Hair

Photo (Left): This is me with towel dried hair, left to air dry. With a bit of hair oil.

Photo (Right): This is me after blow drying my hair and twirling. Took me 10 minutes. This is how my hair looks most of the time.

I often do a beachy look, (which is really just my lazy hair look) where I just blow-dry my hair quickly and haphazardly. Then I just use some mousse, salt spray or hair wax to get rid of the frizz and help keep the curls in shape.

I still have to use about 3 pumps of hair oil. My hair is still dry and can get frizzy on humid days.

After 6 months, the curls have not fallen out.

My hair is still really curly! It just depends on how I blow-dry my hair.

Korean Digital Perm for Medium Hair

These photos are of my hair after a more careful blow-dry to create bigger, softer curls. Again this took me about 10 minutes. I used a wet-look wax on the ends.

Korean Digital Perm for Medium Hair

This is me after a very, very gentle blow-dry. The curls are much longer, smoother and sleeker. This look takes me 20 minutes to do – which I consider to be “forever” – and I hardly ever do this because I’m lazy haha. But it looks really good!

Conclusion

Having a digital perm is NOT EASIER or LESS MAINTENANCE than everyday hair. It’s a different kind of maintenance.

If you’re looking for a hairstyle that is super low maintenance, then this is probably not for you.

For me, I absolutely love it!! I like the fact that I can blow-dry my hair for 10 minutes and have lovely, everyday curls. It’s a bit messy, it’s a bit boofy, it doesn’t have to look perfect.

Everyday I channel the “messy hair, don’t care” vibe haha. I like it.

Blow-drying is much easier than using a hot curling wand. So for me, that’s a WIN.

It’s been 6 months and I think it has been totally worth it!

* By the way, this is the second time I’ve had a digital perm. The last time, I had really long hair and I wanted very tight curls. You can read my blog post about it here.

xxx


 

Discovering The Gym Life Again

13 March 2017

Brought to you by Next Gen Health and Lifestyle Clubs

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the rooftop pool!

Next Gen Kings Park Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Gen Kings Park Review
Boxing time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The trainers are lovely, friendly and professional.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They also run aqua aerobics classes and kids swimming lessons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Gen Kings Park Review
Ready for a yoga class!

Family Activities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Offer to Try 10 days for $20!

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and have a fantastic week!


 

London’s Natural History Museum : Highlights

10 March 2017

Natural History Museum London

I was going to save my “first visit” to the Natural History Museum for when I was in London with my kids.

 

They love all this Natural World kind of stuff!

Me? I don’t really like looking at dead, stuffed animals, so why put myself through the pain of seeing it all twice?

As it turned out, the museum was very cool and I really enjoyed myself.

Yes there were lots of stuffed animals.

But I had a couple of WOW moments too. Especially with the dinosaur bones.

Say what?

You’d think that after raising 3 boys, who were obsessed about dinosaurs, that I’d be pretty bored by them. Nope.

Natural History Museum London

This dinosaur skeleton was aaaaamazing.

It is the most intact and complete Stegosaurus fossil skeleton ever found.

It was presented so well –  its pose, height, directional lighting to capture its texture, the colour of the light.

Even though it was just propped up on a white platform, it was so engaging and compelling. It made my jaw fall to the floor in awe, and it made my imagination come alive!

Natural History Museum London

I also loved the specimens of deep sea fish – So weird and alien looking!

The stuffed dodo – Looked like an enormous chicken!

The swarm of hummingbirds – So tiny and beautiful!

I guess I will be taking my kids after all, and seeing it all again haha.


 

Grana Activewear Review

8 March 2017

Brought to you by Grana

Grana Move Activewear

The kind folk at Grana sent me a box of goodies to review, featuring a subject I’m very interested about – ACTIVEWEAR!!

I have loooots of activewear, all different brands, different prices, different fabrics, and different features. I’m not an ambassador for any particular brand, or anything like that, so I’m not particularly biased or loyal. I just like buying different stuff.

I asked the Grana Team to send a variety of sizes to try, so I could get my sizing right and try out a few different comfort levels.

OK here we go!

First of all, what kind of prices are we talking about?

Grana in general seem to focus on excellent quality fabrics at an affordable price. Considering that their silks are pretty awesome… you can get a nice silk button down shirt for AU$77 – that’s pretty good value! So they seem to be true to their word.

Grana have pitched their activewear at a mid-level price point and claim to have not compromised with the quality of their technical fabrics. Tops/crop tops are AU$36 – $42, leggings are between AU$56 – $65.

How’s the quality? 

Let’s get this out of the way. The leggings are NOT like Lululemon, in terms of their luxury stretch fit, super soft to touch, amazing hugging and butt lifting properties. (However Lululemon leggings start at AU$119 a pop.)

In my opinion, the Grana technical fabric is a pretty good, “middle of the range” quality.

The fabric is soft yet firm. It is not too plasticky or scratchy. (I’d say some of the inner seam stitching is a tiny bit scratchy though). The outside of the fabric is soft to touch, like jersey. But the inside is smooth and slightly slippery/spandexy like regular activewear.

The fabric feels nicer, stronger (and will probably last longer) than gear I’ve bought from BigW, Target, Kmart, Cotton On, Jeanswest, Sportsgirl.

Another nice thing: No logos whatsoever. Nice simple, minimal, clean designs. Love that.

Style: Because of this clean and minimal design, the Grana range has a very subtle, simple and understated style, which I like. Whereas Lorna Jane and some other brands are a bit loud, bold, electric and girl powerish… these Grana styles have quite the opposite vibe.

Grana Move Activewear

Many months ago, I saw a girl in my hot yoga class wearing a light pink (blush) bra top with cool cross-back straps. I wanted to get something similar and I looked the world over but couldn’t find anything like it (which I thought to be strange considering blush colours are all the rage now)… lo and behold, Grana have got that colour and I was SUUUPER excited to try!!

1) Active Crossback Sports Bra – Vintage Rose

I am so in LOVE with this style. It has bra hooks at the back. It gives your chest a nice lift. It has boob padding for a bit of extra shape and lift. I think it suits women with smallish boobs. But who knows, it might look amazing for women with bigger boobs too.

I definitely want this style in a grey or black!

The top stretched diagonally across my body and shoulders due to the cross back straps (which makes it feel slightly differently to a regular bra top). So I wouldn’t want to wear a smaller size or I think it would be uncomfortable and I might pop out during a work out??

Sizing: I am a very standard AUS /UK Size 6. This is a size SMALL. It fit me perfectly. As I said, I wouldn’t want to go smaller. It also comes in size XXS and XS. Which totally confused me, because ALL my other Grana clothes are size XXS or XS. So make sure you read the sizing info carefully before you buy.

Are they worth it? I’d say yes, for the price. But it’s more of a fashion choice. Do you need a hot looking bra top? Probably not haha.

2) Active 3/4 Leggings – Vintage Rose

When I got back from my UK trip I was about 48kgs, I struggled to put on these leggings, and when I did, they were so tight that they showed my panty line at both my hip and bum, they pinched at my leg crease and made my legs look horrible and lumpy. UGH!

Then I lost 2.5kgs and was back to my normal weight and now they fit beautifully! No lumpy legs!

Sizing: These are XS. They feel tight and like true compression tights. Great for working out in. If I wanted a more relaxed fit, I’d definitely buy S instead. I don’t think I’d be very comfortable lounging around in these XS all day.

I honestly didn’t feel any specific, ergonomic contouring or butt lifting. But they feel nice so that’s ok.

I like this style because it fits me in the leg length. No need to turn it up or bunch it up at my ankles.

I might get these in the Port colour too, because I can team it up with my black tops and they’ll look great.

Are they worth it? AU$56 for middle of the range quality 3/4 active tights, I’d say YES.

 

Grana Move Activewear

3) Active Racerfront Crop Top – Port

Oh wow, I really like this top style. It’s my second favourite item of the lot.

They are designed for low impact activities like yoga and pilates. They have no padding. They are SUPER comfy. And they look great!

That Port colour is divine!

Sizing: I’m wearing Size S, which feels perfect on me. It doesn’t feel too loose. Just comfortable. I wouldn’t want to go smaller with this style, again because I’m afraid I would POP OUT during a downward dog.

Are they worth it? Yes! Again, do you really need another cute yoga top? Probably not. But if you go through so many cheap Target activewear tops, this might be a good option to try next. For AU$36 you can’t really go wrong!

I definitely want this top in a black and grey too!

4) Active Full Length Leggings – Port

As i mentioned earlier, when I got back from my UK trip I was about 48kgs; I put these leggings on and they fit really well and were lovely and comfy (although they were too long in the leg).

But after I lost about 2.5kgs, they are a bit loose for me now.

Sizing: This is a Size S and like I said, I think they are too big for me. They are definitely too long in the leg and I will have to get them altered (which will cost about $15). They are actually really comfortable AROUND my legs. It’s like a hugged feeling, rather than a tight compression, and I actually prefer this level of compression on my legs.

But they are too loose on my tummy, hips, bottom and waist… and after a bit of walking around they slide down a bit.

They felt lovely and comfy, and I could definitely wear them all day around the house.

Are they worth it? Hmm. Personally I’d say no, because I’m short and the full length means I have to spend more money to alter it to my size. However, if I was taller and I got the Size XS, they would definitely be great value activewear at AU$65.

NOTE: I managed to tweak the fit by scrunching up the leg and folding over the waist (see below) and I made the leggings fit really well – so I kind of made 2 styles out of the 1 item. That might be a reason to buy a size up?

 

Grana Move Activewear

So these leggings are the SAME as the ones above!

4) Active Full Length Leggings – Port

As I said, I just scrunched up the length of the legs at my knees and folded the tummy part down. Looks and feels much better. It’s a much more relaxed fit for me. I could hang around all day in these leggings.

Are they worth it? Not for me. I’d rather buy the 3/4 leggings in a size XS for compression, and S for relaxed fit.

5) Active Structured Sports Bra – Grey

A very, very simple, standard bra top with racer-back design.

The fabric is nice, soft, yet strong.

It has some inner, mesh lining with a tiny bit of moulded boob padding.

Overall, I really liked this bra top.

The grey colour is nice too. It’s not marle grey. It’s more of a grey with faint dark grey stripe to add a bit of texture.

Sizing: This top is sized XS (while all the other tops I tried were Size S) and they felt a bit too tight for me. I struggled to put it on over my head. I’d feel better in a Size S.

Are they worth it? Yes! If you like a cleanly designed, super simple, comfortable bra top, with no logos or mesh panels or reflective random stuff, and with a tiny bit of lift and padding – this is a good one for AU$42.

Would I buy one? Er, probably not because I have so many sport bra tops. But hey, I might buy when my old ones eventually wear out.

 

Get 10% for New Customers

If you’re a new Grana customer, I have a special code for you to use to receive 10% off and free worldwide shipping! Simply enter the code “karenxgrana” at the checkout! Valid until the end of March 2017.

 

Hope you enjoy my review. Enjoy!

xxx


 

Finished Reading List for 2016

6 March 2017

Read: Name of The Rose and Divergent

Just after Christmas last year, I finally finished the book that I had been stuck on for 5 months – The Name of The Rose by Umberto Eco.

Haha I’m not sure if it was completely worth it, because while it was lovely and fascinating in parts, it was pretty hard work to get though it.

But hey, I have been trying to read that book since 2000 and I’ve done it damn it! I will never wistfully wonder what the book is about, or how the words flow from its pages, or what it is like to experience Umberto Eco’s literary vibe.

So after that, on the other side of the literary spectrum, I decided to read something “light and easy” and I found Divergent (Book 1) and Insurgent (Book 2) in an op shop for $2 each.

They are young adult, science-fiction dystopia novels, with a thread of romance. I’ve watched the movies. The guy was hot. I breezed through the first book in a few days.

My verdict: The movie seemed to craft the story and characters much better. It was a fun read though.

I took a longer time to get through the second book because, um the teenaged drama made me cringe.

 

So here is my completed reading list for 2016, starting with the book I read in January 2016.

1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

4. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

6. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

7. The Martian by Andy Weir

9. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

10. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

8. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

11. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

12. Me, Before You by Jojo Moyes

13. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

14. Divergent by Veronica Roth

You can check out my whole list over at Goodreads, although you have to be logged in to see the list in chronological order, I think.

My favourite book of the year goes to Anna Karenina, as I often find myself thinking about the characters at random moments in my day to day life.

Followed closely by Great Expectations and All The Light We Cannot See.

The Martian as pretty cool too; I always look at a potato and smirk.

The novel I regretted reading was The Husband’s Secret. While it was a fast-paced, engaging page-turner, set in the modern day… I got to the end and I felt like I had watched a run-of-the-mill TV drama. I instantly regretted dedicating such a huge portion of my daily brain energy to it and giving up my sleep for it! Ugh.

It was highly entertaining while I was reading it and very well written, but in terms of conjuring up lingering thoughts about human nature or society, it didn’t affect or alter me in any way.


 

3.1 Phillip Lim Soliel Bag and Shopbop Sale

2 March 2017

3.1 Phillip Lim Soliel Bag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few black bags that I really like.

Shopbop Black Designer Handbags

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

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

 

Shopbop Black Designer Handbags

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

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

 

Shopbop Black Designer Handbags

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

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

Shopbop Black Designer Handbags

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

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

 


 

Everyday Cycling for Fitness

1 March 2017

Brought to you by Reid Cycles

Everyday Cycling for Fitness with Reid Cycles

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

5 years ago, I was an avid cyclist.

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

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

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

First things first – I needed a new bike.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their prices are surprisingly amazing too.

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

Everyday Cycling for Fitness with Reid Cycles

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

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

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

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

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

Everyday Cycling for Fitness with Reid Cycles

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

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

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

It wasn’t huge and cumbersome.

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

Everyday Cycling for Fitness with Reid Cycles

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

I’ve kind of fallen in love with it!

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

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

Everyday Cycling for Fitness with Reid Cycles

Happy cycling!

xxx


 

Investment Lover Lace (Thanks to the Revolve Sale)

28 February 2017

Brought to you by Revolve

Lover Lace from Revolve Clothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wardrobe investment all the way!

Lover Lace from Revolve Clothing

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

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

I absolutely love how versatile it is!

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

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

Lover Top from Revolve Clothing

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

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

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

Happy shopping!!

xxx


 

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