Archive for Daily Living

 

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JumpAbout Trampoline Park, Rivervale

2 February 2016

Jump About Trampoline Park

My boys and I were recently invited to check out a new trampoline park, apparently the largest in Perth – JumpAbout!

Yep, we were excited to check it out, because my boys love a good jump session and quite frankly, I needed them to burn off some energy.

Jump About Trampoline Park

JumpAbout is WA owned and operated, has 2 large jumping trampoline areas with 300 interconnecting trampolines, a dodgeball area, a bouncy slide, a climbing wall, a soft climbing area for toddlers, a slot car racing track, gaming arcade and (most importantly) a cafe and lots of tables to sit and watch. It’s a really big area!

I found that the centre has a really different atmosphere to other trampoline parks that I’ve been to.

At other parks, spectators are on a raised platform that look down into the trampolines, so you feel “watched” and I always get the feeling that there’s a small element of “showing off” and “trying to look cool”… so it feels quite intense, especially with the loud music, large crowds and strict time sessions.

But my experience at JumpAbout was almost like going to a public park… it was chilled, easy going, lots of room to spread out and have some personal space, and no one was going to scold/police me if I did something minor like sit on the floor to remove my shoes.

They seemed a bit more relaxed about the session times and movement to and from the trampolines and the spectator area, meaning, we could wander around to different trampolines, take a toilet break, hang out at the climbing wall, go back to jumping, stop to have some water… it was great!

Prices are slightly cheaper too, which suits larger families and big groups.

Jump About Trampoline Park

My older boys ended up spending most of their time at the dodge ball arena, while my youngest boy and I explored the rest of the park.

We spent about 2 fun hours at the park – jumping for 1 hour; trying the other activities, hanging around and having a snack.

It was a fantastic and super relaxing experience for me because I have older kids (6-14). But if my kids were any younger, I would’ve had to follow them around and therefore, it wouldn’t be so relaxing. Then again, when you take toddlers anywhere, you can’t really relax haha!

Cheers to the JumpAbout team, we had a blast!


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Perth City Bridges Run: Thunderstorm

30 January 2016

Perth City Bridges Run Jan 2016

This weekend, I scheduled a run on a day the forecast was: 100% chance of rain and thunderstorms.

I guess I was hoping that the weathermen got it wrong!

I woke up bright and early at 5:30am, met up with my brother-in-law at 7am and we ran/walked a distance of 15km around the river, bridges and city.

I probably ran about 12km and walked 3km. My pace averaged around 6:30min/km.

I felt great after! I wasn’t drained or exhausted or suffering any pains.

I think I’ll work on some interval running to increase my speed and strength.

But overall I’m happy with doing regular 12km distances and I’ll stick with that for a bit. I might even be able to hit the 21km half marathon mark earlier than I thought!

Anyway, turns out that we started so early that we missed all the rain and thundery action. We didn’t get wet at all.

We even managed to squeeze in a coffee and chat later. Brilliant start to the weekend!

 


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Luxe Business Cards by Moo

18 January 2016

Brought to you by Moo

I have been meaning to make myself some simple business cards for… um… 5, 6 YEARS??

Haha and being a graphic designer by trade didn’t help me either. I couldn’t just make any old card – I HAD to make them properly. And PROPER cards took time. So in the end, they didn’t get done.

Anyway, recently, by some glorious timing of the universe, the kind folk at Moo.com hit me up to test out their new luxe business cards.

This is what I came up with!

Moo Cards by Karen Cheng

I made some simple luxe business cards with my contact details and a photo on the back.

Even though there were lots of gorgeous templates on the site, I chose to “Design my card from scratch”.

I chose 30 photos – colourful, vibrant, striking photos, all taken by me, that reflected the vibe of my blog. I simply uploaded them onto the Moo site and fiddled around with the landscape and portrait settings.

Most of the photos were taken with my DSLR Nikon D90 (old model), point and shoot Nikon P300 (old model), my new iPhone 6plus and even my old iPhone 4s (YES the images still looked great!).

Most of them were hi resolution photos, but again, a few were snapped on my 4 year old smart phone. I did enhance the colour saturation and brightness a little on all the photos in Photoshop too.

Moo Cards by Karen Cheng

I wanted a very simple front for my card.

I simply typed in my name and details into a MOO text template, chose Garamond font and chose a dark grey colour.

(Btw, yes I erased my phone number in this photo!)

Moo Cards by Karen Cheng

The Luxe by Moo collection uses a gorgeous, premium quality card stock, with a coloured seam (you can choose from 8 colours), has a weight of 600gsm, and I went with the matte finish.

Prices start from AU$39.95 for 50 cards.

You can even make luxe mini cards, luxe square cards, postcards and notecards, which is kind of cool.

Moo Cards by Karen Cheng

I ordered 100 cards for AU$79.90, and because I only had 30 photos, some were repeated 3 or 4 times, which was fine with me.

I placed my order, I paid a bit extra for express printing and delivery and they arrived at my doorstep 6 days later!!

When I opened the box, I was shocked and deilghted. They looked amazing. I could hardly believe it. I was mostly surprised by how great all my photos looked, as I had expected them to look a bit pixelated and digital (like when I get my digital photos printed out).

I am SO impressed with the quality, the ease with which I made them, the online interface and the price. I totally recommend them!

Cheers to Moo for this opportunity!


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My Summer Poolside Sandals

14 January 2016

Holster Sandals

I’ve been a huge fan of Holster Sandals for years and I have a few pairs that come out every summer.

Because they are “jelly style” sandals, I love wearing them to the beach or pool… instead of my nice leather sandals.

They have a nice sole padding too, so they are more comfortable (and stylish) than than my beach-bum, rubber flip-flops haha!

Holster Sandals

The team at Holster sent over a pair of Flat Sandals (Heaven T-bar) from their latest Summer Collection and I road tested them while I was away on holiday at a beach resort.

They got buried at the beach, accidentally left in the sun, splashed with chlorine pool water, wrapped up in a towel, left in a beach bag overnight, splashed with lemonade (so I washed them with soap and towel dried them), then I also walked in them for a few hours too. Typical wear and tear for a beach/pool holiday right?!

I probably didn’t treat them very well, but they served me so well.

There are heaps of bright, rainbow coloured sandals with pretty acrylic jewels, but I’m more of a black sandal kind of girl. And I also like this Pandora in Champagne colour one too. What about you?


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Silver Sands Beach, Mandurah

12 January 2016

Mandurah Beach

My boys will be turning ages 13, 11 and 7 this year!

At this age, I LOVE that I can take them to a place – any place – and they will make their own fun.

While I didn’t strip off my clothes and jump into the water too, I was SO entertainined by their spontaneity and my heart grew SO big from watching them play in the waves.

*Love*


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A Trip To Adventure World, Perth

29 December 2015

Adventure World 2015

Perth is not exactly world renowned for its theme parks, but it does have a few fun parks with rollercoaster rides, water rides, and race tracks – just enough to keep the kids happy and busy all day.

We headed off to Adventure World with a few of my children’s friends, on a gorgeously, hot summer day. There were 8 of us in total: me and 7 boys — eeep!

Once we set up a base camp of towels in the shade, all the 12 year olds and 10 year olds ran off to the water slides. Argh, I was so nervous about letting them run off by themselves. But that’s one thing I love about this place: it’s family friendly and it’s mostly safe. My kids and their friends are pretty sensible and reliable, so I trusted that they won’t do anything silly or irresponsible.

Adventure World 2015

As for me, I got to hang out with my 6 year old. But he was soooo grumpy about it!

I thought it’d be a nice opportunity to spend time with him and show him all the rides that I used to go on as a kid!

“Come on! Lets go on this ride! Let’s jump into the pool and slide down that water slide! Let’s explore the kid’s pool! Let’s go on the monorail! Let’s watch the go-karts!”

But nope, he had a bad case of Mr. Shitty Attitude about the whole place. He just wanted to sit on the towels and eat chips. Then he just wanted to go home. For real??

Adventure World 2015

After an hour of gentle pushing and trying all kinds of psychological parent tricks, I was about to give up and take my 6 year old home, when the bunch of 10 year old boys came back… and so I asked if THEY could take him on a ride or two.

Suddenly this was THE COOLEST PLACE EVER!

If the big brothers were having a good time, it must be cool! Hanging around mum = not very cool.

I wasn’t offended.

I was happy and relieved that he finally loosened up and could finally enjoy the fun park. And I was also happy that I didn’t waste my money on his entry ticket and that I didn’t have to work out how to “punish” him for his bad attitude, or at least, not even making the slightest bit of effort to change his attitude. Phew.

Adventure World 2015

After he loosened up, we had a much better time together.

I took him up on the monorail and he squealed with delight!

There were a couple of random boys on the rail car behind us (maybe 10 year olds?) who kept bumping into our car. We were going at a good pace, but they were purposely speeding up to catch us and bump us. I asked them politely to stop, but they laughed at me and did it a few more times, so I turned around, put on my Angry Asian Aunty tone, and blasted the hell out of them.

Ok not really, I just spoke sternly to them, at length.

But while I was speaking sternly, I was thinking, this could backfire on me, they could start bumping me harder. Or worse, be filled with monorail rage and do something really reckless? So as words left my mouth, I was also trying to think of a backup plan. Hmm, nothing really came to mind.

Anyway, they stopped bumping us and slowed right back. A win for the AAA in a bikini ha!

Adventure World 2015

I bought snow cones for everyone, which looked so pretty, but for the record, were a complete waste of money. We should have just bought slushies.

Adventure World 2015

It has been 3 or 4 years since my kids were last at Adventure World, so they haven’t been on the go-karts before. The bigger boys lined up for 40 long minutes, but it was worth the wait. It ignited all their video game racing skills and it blew their minds! They loved it.

I actually thought that I’d get an hour of quite time by myself, so embarrassingly, I brought a book!

Turns out that I was up and about on my feet, in the water and on rides with my kids the whole time – and having a blast!


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Christmas Festivities 2015

26 December 2015

These last few days (or weeks?) have been a huge, happy blur.

Our lives have been filled with food, catching up with friends and families, cleaning the house, parties, washing dishes, swimming, fruit platters, relaxing, toys, video games, movies and hours of doing nothing much.

It has been a bit tricky to keep track of the details and recall what happened where and when haha.

But I love to keep a record of the events on my blog, so here goes!

Christmas 2015

Christmas Eve dinner was at my place, with just a small number of guests from both sides of our family: 12 adults and 6 kids in total.

My sister and brother in law (visiting from London) joined us for the first time. My husband’s aunty and uncle were there too.

There was waaay too much food as usual! I successfully delegated out the cooking, so all I had to do was bake the ham and roast vegetables. It was very easy, relaxing and rather enjoyable.

The kids helped to dust, clean, vacuum, clean windows, sweep cobwebs, put up the decorations and set up our swimming pool – they were so helpful. I was so proud of them and glad that they were happy to lend a hand. I rewarded them with fruit smoothies and a swim.

Christmas 2015

My 6 year old wrote out all the table name cards, and he announced that he didn’t think the name “Karen” suited me very well. He much prefered my name to be “Mum”.

He pointed out that since 3 out of 5 people in our house called me “Mum”, which is more than 50%, I should strongly consider changing it.

I told him that only THREE people in the WHOLE WORLD gets to call me “Mum” and one of them is HIM, so he should feel extra-special and he should try working out that percentage.

Christmas 2015

My favourite eats for the evening were my Yorkshire Puddings! Omg they were super crispy and amazingly delicious with gravy.

I used this Yorkshire Pudding recipe (the same one I use every year) but this time I accidentally left the oil in the pans in the oven for too long (I forgot about them until I smelt burning butter coming from my oven — oops!). I also used less batter in each muffin pan, because I had to make 18, not 12.

These combining factors made my puddings rise spectacularly. It was a bit of a fluke, but now I know for next year.

Christmas 2015

My 12 year old made this lovely Christmas Cake with his grandpa.

It tasted so good – however there was a bit of cooking drama over at grandpa’s house. They burnt the first cake, because they mixed up Fahrenheit and Celsius… and they baked the cake at 275C for 4 hours, yikes.

Thankfully they had enough ingredients to make another cake the following day, so Christmas dessert was saved and nobody’s house was burnt down.

Christmas 2015

On Christmas Day, we all woke up early and some family members came over for breakfast (leftover ham). We opened presents and hung out at home. It was really lovely and relaxing.

We don’t follow any Santa traditions in our household. That is, we don’t leave milk and cookies out for him, we don’t fill up stockings, we don’t write letters and the kids don’t get “a present from Santa”.

I think this irritates our kids a bit, because there is a lot of discussion about Santa traditions at school, especially in the younger grades.

The kids do get presents, but we’re just pretty low key about it. They just receive one simple present from us and one silly present from me (this year I gave them Star Wars Pez Dispensers haha!).

We actually sit them down and discuss what they’d like for Christmas. And this year, they requested to receive money from us and relatives, instead of toys, so it can go towards buying a few secondhand laptops for our household.

In a way, I’m a bit torn, Christmas is usually supposed to be about gifts of love, surprise, being thoughtful, the joy of giving…. and here we are, being so practical about gifts! Oh well. For us, Christmas is more about family gatherings and spending time with loved ones.

Christmas 2015

For Christmas evening, we went to my parent’s place for another big feast and swim.

My husband set up his telescope and we saw the rare full moon on Christmas day. I managed to line up my smart phone camera with the telescope eye piece and took this snap.

It was very cool and very magical.

A perfect way to end the day really.

So I hope you all managed to have a wonderful, magical and stress-free Christmas too!

Here’s me wishing you all much happiness and love for the new year!


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Endless Summer Fun

21 December 2015

Liam Christmas 2015

I just had to share this beautiful photo with you all!

My kids and their cousins were in the midst of a water fight… and my 6 year old took a second to smile up at me, from behind his shield.

Hehe this photo makes every molecule in my body smile.

It captures the childhood I’ve always wanted to create for my kids – Endless hours of summer holiday fun; Endless playing with cousins in my parent’s pool; Endless bowls of snacks, fruits and BBQ dinners; and endless amounts of laughter, games and fun.

I’ve pretty much just recreated my own childhood right there, so yep, life is pretty sweet right now.

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday!

xxx


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Just The Two of Us

14 December 2015

Tasmania, Cradle Mountain SnapA few weeks ago, my husband and I went to Tasmania for 10 days.

Just us. No kids.

It was awesome! We became a couple again. Not mum and dad. Just Karen and Andrew.

And you know what? I realised that I’m a pretty fun person!

I’m adventurous! I’m relaxed! I’m easy going and nothing seemed to shit me at all!

And my husband? He’s really cool! He’s funny, engaging, super fun to talk to and so chilled, plus he’s an excellent and well-matched travel companion for me. That’s right, I actually loved hanging out 24/7 with my husband of 13 years haha!

During the trip, I had a thought: Hey we are a pretty cool couple… when we’re NOT shouting at the kids, battling fatigue, juggling schedules, barking out instructions, breaking up fights and riding the tense ups and downs of parenting. Ha!

A short break from normal life, was just what we needed for this year.

I’m so happy to be finishing this year on a high and eagerly awaiting to see in the new year!

Hope your week is filled with love and loved ones! xxx


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Girls Trip to Singapore 2015 – Day 2

7 December 2015

A few weeks ago, I headed over to Singapore with some girlfriends for a Girls Only trip (no kids, no husbands!), where we hung out in cafes, boutiques, and just chilled out.

Here’s a run down of what happened on Day 2!

(Read day 1 here)

Singapore Girl's Trip - Day 2

We woke up bright and early and on my friend’s recommendation, we headed over to Tiong Bahru.

It was love at first sight for me. I loved the 1930s streamlined architecture, the textures, the plants, the whitewashed walls, the way that the whole area had been cleaned up and revitalised, mixing old and new.

Only later, I looked up its history and discovered it was one of Singapore’s oldest residential estates, featuring 30 or so pre-war apartment blocks for the upper class — and now the area was one of Singapore’s “hippest and trendiest” cafe and shopping areas.

Singapore Girl's Trip - Day 2

There were so many quirky, hipster cafes and eating places. We settled for fresh pastries and coffee at the Tiong Bahru Bakery.

We bought an apple crumble something, a matcha croissant, and a curry sausage pastry thing.

As you can see, we split our goodies three ways.

Singapore Girl's Trip - Day 2

Most of the cute and quirky boutiques at Tiong Bahru opened at 12pm, so we popped over to check out the Tiong Bahru Markets instead.

It’s been more than 10 years since I’ve been to a wet market in Asia.

I loved the visual chaos, I loved how it was so unpretentious and raw.

I loved that all the Asian uncles and aunties didn’t care how their wares were presented, how they scribbled their prices on little bits of cardboard, how stunning strands of orchids were sitting in dirty plastic buckets!

I was so so so inspired by all that rough, raw, dirty loveliness… but I had no idea what to do with that inspiration, so I just soaked it all up and enjoyed it. And I took a few snaps.

Singapore Girl's Trip - Day 2

Gorgeous bursts of colour.

They almost look fake!

Singapore Girl's Trip - Day 2

Loved the clean, fresh smell of raw seafood.

I wanted to stroke the fish (to feel the freshness), but I don’t think the uncle would’ve liked a random woman touching his fish ha.

Singapore Girl's Trip - Day 2

Chaos! Hundreds of packets of random dried stuff!

 

Singapore Girl's Trip - Day 2

Next we walked over to Books Actually (9 Yong Siak St), a beautiful, artful, independent bookstore with a surprising selection of works.

There were lots of classics, popular modern titles, but I was mostly impressed by the amount of Singaporean authors and emerging writers (stacks of titles!) and the fact that they have their own publishing arm and supported local writers.

Singapore Girl's Trip - Day 2
I found a book that was on my “Classic Stories I Must Read Before I Die” List and promptly bought it, even though it was a little more expensive than if I had bought it online. Happy to support brick and mortar bookstores!

Ok after that, we headed home – mainly because nothing else was open, and we had to get changed for our next engagement.

Singapore Girl's Trip - Day 2

We jumped into a cab and went to the Boutiques Fair at The Pit Building for 12pm.

It’s a huge fair that hosts over 120 designers and independent sellers, all within one air-conditioned space. It features independent fashion labels for women, children, men, homewares, jewellery, bags, toys, art, trinkets and more. The brands and designers are from all over the world, and it’s all very girly.

There was so much good stuff to look at, but I didn’t buy anything.

Why? I don’t buy cutesy/designer/adorable things for my kids; I couldn’t afford $350 French designed earrings; I couldn’t fit bronze-painted concrete pots in my luggage; and I have already have zillions of screen printed t-shirts.

Singapore Catch Silk Shirts

The only thing I wanted to buy was a 100% silk blouse from Catch.Com.sg.

Their silk shirts were freaking AMAZING for the price. I have an Equipment silk shirt and an Isabel Marant silk shirt, which are both eye-waveringly expensive (I bought them on sale though). The Equipment silk is strong and smooth (but not the exquisitely soft type); The Isabel silk is soft and delicate (but possibly too fragile). I think that the quality of the Catch Silk Shirts sit somewhere in between the two. It’s really good.

The shirts are also designed for smaller framed women, so there are lots of XS and XXS sizes.

Unfortunately I didn’t end up buying one, because er, I wanted to buy FIVE blouses – I wanted the navy long sleeve, white short sleeve, black short sleeve, black shirt sleeve with neck tie and navy short sleeve) – and I couldn’t decide which one to get and I didn’t want to make a rushed decision. Plus they sell their shirts online, so I was going to mull over it for a few weeks.

By 3pm my girlfriends had shopped up a storm, but we were keen to move on.

Singapore Girl's Trip - Day 2

We made our way over to The Rose Veranda for high tea buffet at the Shangri-La Hotel.

I’ve never had a high tea buffet before. It was very posh, relaxing and the food was absolutely lovely.

It wasn’t the typical English high tea that I was used to. It was very different, but still yummy! I ate so much salmon sashimi. There was laksa too haha.

It was soooooo nice to sit around on beautiful chairs, nibble on small portions of food, drink amazing teas, talk to my girlfriends… for 3 leisurely hours.

Plus there was no rush to go home to cook dinner, feed and bath kids. Bliss!

Singapore Girl's Trip - Day 2

THEN. After all that sitting and eating, we decided we needed a WALK.

We drove over to Orchard Road and had a looooong, meandering shopping session.

We bought tonnes of presents. It was a successful shopping trip.

The weather was unusually lovely, so we were happy to walk around outside and enjoy the Christmas lights too.

The photo above was taken in Robinsons, my feet were hurting and I needed to sit down again. My girlfriends were troopers though, they blitzed through that department store!

Singapore Girl's Trip - Day 2

As all the shops began to close, we ended up at a food court, craving for something refreshing and sweet.

This ice kachang and chendol were not the best we’ve had, but it hit the spot.

Looking back on our day, it all seemed so indulgent, frivolous and girly… but hey, it doesn’t happen often! This is what we came here to do!

The following day? It was just as full of activity, shopping and eating! It’s kind of amazing what you can fit into a day when you break it up into 3 hour blocks :)


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Oh So Green!

26 November 2015

Tasmania Ferns

I am absolutely LOVING all the greenery in Tasmania!

The lush, rich, deep, mossy emeralds and forest greens are making my heart beat with sheer delight.

I feel so happy and healthy just looking at it all.

Can’t wait to share more :)

See you soon!


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Hello From Tasmania!

23 November 2015

Tasmania Forest, Franklin River Walk

Hi everyone!

I’m currently in Tasmania with my husband.

We’ve done a few bush walks, found beautiful waterfalls in the forest, drove around mountains, crossed over from the East to the West… It’s been amazing so far!

We have a few more days here and I can’t wait to share my photos with you all.

In the meantime, I will be leaving you all with a few pre-written posts I have scheduled this week, enjoy!

Oh and I’m updating on Instagram (@karenlycheng) and Facebook (@karenchengblog) so please go take a peek!

Xxx


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Girls Trip to Singapore 2015 – Day 1

18 November 2015

My girlfriends and I organised a quick trip to Singapore.

We had a very simple plan. We wanted to eat local food, try new cafes and trendy bars, get manicures, have high tea, go to little fashion boutiques and independent specialty stores, and do a bit of shopping.

Basically, we wanted to enjoy 4 days of doing girly stuff, without husbands or kids!

It has been so incredibly rare for us to have this kind of lengthy girl time together… so during our whole trip, we were constantly pinching ourselves and lapping up our relaxing, kid-free schedule.

Yet at the same time – hilariously – we were missing our little babies so much!

Singapore, Maxwell Food Centre 2015

We landed in Singapore in the evening and head straight to the Maxwell Food Centre.

I used to work in Singapore (in my early 20s) and I used to come to this food centre every day.

The food was soooooo good and soooooo cheap.

Singapore, Maxwell Food Centre 2015

My absolute favourite dish was the Char Kway Teow (the fried flat noodles on the banana leaf plate). I used to eat it twice a week!

Of course I couldn’t find the same stall or the same Chinese uncle who used to cook my noodles, so I bought a plate from another stall. It was OK. It was a bit sweet. It did not make my toes curl with delight.

My friend had the Lor Mee (yellow noodles with gravy) which was pretty good.

Singapore, Maxwell Food Centre 2015

My other girlfriend waited in a ridiculously long queue for Singapore’s famous Tian Tian Hiananese Chicken Rice, which apparently has been endorsed by countless international celebrity chefs.

I was rather skeptical about all the hype… until I took a mouthful!

WHOA, it was freaking amazing! The chicken was so silky soft and tasty, the rice was so fragrant and the sauce was absolutely delicious. But I think what made it even better was that it was $4!!

It was definitely the winning dish of the night.

Singapore, Chinatown 2015

After all that eating, we needed a bit of a WALK before we even contemplated having drinks at a bar.

We headed over to Chinatown, and took a stroll through the outdoor markets on Sago Street, where I spied these pretty ceramic bowls.

Singapore, Chinatown 2015

I bought a wedge of fresh watermelon in a bag (for $1) as we walked through the markets. Reminded me of my childhood!

We also walked along Smith Street, Temple Street and Pagoda Street and saw some temples (including the Sri Mariamman Temple).

It was all very close to each other, and the weather that evening was just lovely for a stroll.

Singapore, Club Street 2015

We walked over to Ann Siang Road, where there were lots of restaurants and bars.

Singapore, Club Street 2015

We ended up on Club Street for drinks.

I was actually dying for a coffee, but I had a mocktail instead haha!

I had been up since 4am (to catch a plane) so I was really tired and ready for bed.

(Read my post about Day 2 of My Singapore Girls Trip here. We visited some wet markets, a delicious bakery, found a gorgeous little bookstore, went to a fashion/homewares/jewellery fair, had a posh high tea and shopping on Orchard Road! We packed in so much in one day!)


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A Quick November Hi!

12 November 2015

Hi everyone!!

1) I’m back from my quick trip to Singapore – I had such an amazing time, can’t wait to share my photos and stories with you all!

2) I got a bit sick after I came back, so I spent the last few days in bed. I actually took a 3 hour nap one day, during the day. I never do that! Even when I had newborns, I hardly ever slept during the day. I must’ve been real sick.

3) On the flip side, I actually enjoyed the delicious feeling of disappearing from social media and being “off the grid” for a few days.

4) But my energy has returned, I’m all zippy, happy, bouncing around and loving life again… instead of, you know, feeling like crawling into a hole and wanting the world to swallow me up haha.

5) I’m back to updating my blog, instagram, facebook and snapchats. And I have heaps of new projects coming up… I’m super excited!

Oh and I’m filling in a whole heap of blank holes in my blog.

Yes I am one of those crazy, old school bloggers, who still keeps my blog as a kind of diary of my life events – so please, please scroll down to catch up on the old stuff – yay!

xxx


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The Color Run – With Kids and Sparkles

5 November 2015

I recently did The Color Run with my two older kids (ages 12 and 10) and it was SO MUCH FUN!

The Color Run 2015

Yes, this was us, taking selfies at the starting line!

I have done the run before – two years ago with my girlfriends (I wrote about it in this post)… and I was surprised by how many kids and families were there. So I was keen to take my kids the next time it came back to our city.

The event isn’t really a RUN… it’s a jog.

A fun, 5km jog!

That suited me just fine.

Dotted along the 5km course are colour zones, where coloured powder is thrown at you while you run. There was a blue zone, yellow, orange, purple etc… and this year there was a new sparkle glitter zone and a new foam/snow zone!

While the event volunteers try to aim at your clothes, the colour and glitter goes everywhere, which is all part of the fun.

The Color Run 2015

My boys had a LOT of fun!

They really enjoyed the messy nature of the event and getting completely splattered with colour.

I liked the free fresh fruit at the end, the music, the relaxed vibe and the crowd of happy people.

The Color Run 2015

We hung around after the run, and loved watching the crowd of people throwing colour in the air.

We took some cool video and slow-motion video too.

The Color Run 2015

We chilled out on the grass and enjoyed the sunshine.

We arranged some flatlays and the grass… and I am embarrassed to admit that my 10 year old’s flatlay was better than my flatlay haha!

The Color Run 2015

Here’s our obligatory before and after photo.

It was seriously, so much fun!

We hope to do it again next year with more friends :)


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GENERICS Urban Apothecary – Beauty Survival Kit and Cleopatra’s Rose Milk Bath

27 October 2015

After a crappy and hormonal day yesterday, I was feeling so BLAAAH that I decided to take this morning off to cheer myself up.

Usually I like to 1) get stuff done to feel productive, 2) bake something yummy and beautiful to feel creative, 3) force myself to exercise so I feel all righteous, 4) force myself to clean my house so I feel cleansed, or 5) do something a bit unexpected to lift my spirits.

(I don’t go shopping because that always goes wrong!!)

Anyway, today I needed a serious case of spirit lifting!

I road tested the new Beauty Survival Kit by GENERICS Urban Apothecary.

GENERICS Urban Apothecary, Beauty Survival Kit

GENERICS Urban Apothecary is a new brand offering a range of simple, affordable, handmade skincare using premium Australian certified organic and natural ingredients.

They are paraben free, SLS free, no artificial fragrances, no animal cruelty and no toxic chemicals.

The unisex range includes mud masks, lip balms, moisturisers, cleansers, hand creme, hair care & spa care.

When I visited the store, all the smells and scents wafting around the shop were just heavenly!

GENERICS Urban Apothecary, Beauty Survival Kit

This Beauty Survival Kit is a limited edition set, retailing for $99, with a $255 total value of all the individual items.

There is a mineral body mask, organic body lotion, organic body custard, vegan lip balm, lip brush, mascara wand, dual eye shadow brush, eye shadow / highlighting brush, organic botanical perfume, tinned vegan soy candle, organic face moisturiser… and the best selling Cleopatra’s Rose Milk Bath.

GENERICS Urban Apothecary, Beauty Survival Kit

Cleopatra’s Rose Milk Bath

Oh what a treat! I haven’t had a foot soak in years!

Knowing that I was going to take some pretty photos, I snipped a huge bunch of fresh roses from my garden to decorate my tub.

I blocked out 1 hour from my schedule, I grabbed a book, armed myself with a towel and set up a little basin of hot/warm water.

I sprinkled half the milk bath powder into the water, although I think I was supposed to use more.

I gave it a stir and the gorgeous rose fragrance filled my living room.
GENERICS Urban Apothecary, Beauty Survival Kit

The foot soak was AMAZING!

It was immediately calming, relaxing and totally indulgent.

After the soak (less than an hour), my feet felt so refreshed and soft. You can use them in a regular bath too, which I imagine would be equally amazing.

These vials of milk bath powder would make great Christmas presents too!

Hope you enjoyed my photos!

They were so fun (and relaxing) to take :)


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Reaching Out and Volunteering for Charity

15 October 2015

Red leaves of Autumn

I took this photo back in 2004.

It was of a tree outside the hospital, in which my husband had chemo and surgery.

I stood in the carpark, looking at the beautiful leaves, with tears streaming down my cheeks.

The photo – blurry, unfocused, striking – reminds me of cancer, death, life and love.

It reminds me of that single moment when everything was tumbling down, all around me.

I printed the photo and have it framed in my house. I guess, when life gets too crazy, I look at this photo to remember the things in life that matters the most.

OK why am I sharing this?

This weekend, I’m volunteering at a 2 day charity event, which is raising funds for cancer research.

Handing out water bottles? Helping people with name tags? Picking up rubbish? Cheering on participants? Dressed in a tutu?

It doesn’t sound very worthwhile. It actually sounds kind of pointless, trivial, unnecessary and insignificant.

Wouldn’t it be better to work hard at raising $10,000 for the charity instead?

Perhaps.

But I remember that moment with the red leaves.

How, when my husband and I were living in chaos, I didn’t need money. I didn’t need grandiose gifts or gestures.

I just needed someone to reach out, give me a hug, have a cup of tea with me, have a chat and share a laugh.

Sounds trivial. Sounds insignificant.

It’s these things that mattered the most.

Do head over and join me on Instagram (@karenlycheng) and Snapchat (heykarencheng) to check out my volunteering antics!


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October Coffee Catch Up

14 October 2015

Phew! With the kids back at school, the house is quiet once again. I can sit down and THINK!

You know, HAVE THOUGHTS!

These last few weeks have been a bit chaotic.

1) My computer hard drive crashed and was told by a Mac guy that “it was cactus”. I lost 6 months of photos, emails, contacts, documents and development work. I was DEVASTATED!

I had a moment where I closed my yes, squeezed the bridge of my nose between my thumb and finger… and instead of letting out a string of curses, screams and tears, I just sighed “Aaaaaah craaaap!” Things could have been worse.

It turns out that I found most of my photos, which were still on my cameras (thank goodness!), my emails and contacts were backed up on my server (such a blessing!) and most of my recent documents were not super critical (phew!).

I did lose 6 months of blog development work, which was – honestly – only 4 months of full time work, and if I really thought about it… it wouldn’t be difficult to redo.

THAT’S WHAT I’M TRYING TO TELL MYSELF! TRYING TO STAY POSITIVE!

2) A few weeks ago, I went for my regular pap test and my doctor gave me an ALL OVER check up.

She found a small lump on my breast and sent me to get a mammogram and ultrasound.

I knew my boobs and didn’t think the lump was anything unusual, but it was a lump nonetheless.

Yeah, there was a little bit of uncertainty at the back of my mind. A niggly, unsettling thought of what if?

I didn’t entertain that thought though. I just went ahead, had the test and waited for the results.

The results were all clear. Everything is all good.

I’ll go into a bit more detail in another blog post.

You can be sure that I’m holding onto the words “thankfulness” and “gratefulness” like precious gifts from above.

3) Speaking of gratefulness, I am working with some amazing clients at the moment!

I know at the end of the day, it’s a business relationship, but working with such lovely, friendly, passionate, creative people, who love and support my work; getting to choose my own projects, come up with fun and exciting ideas, that are realistic for me to do, given my desire to be at home with my kids – is really a dream come true!

I love my work! If only it could pay more! Oh well, can’t win at everything!

4) Oh, I’ve got two trips coming up.

One to Singapore, with a couple of my closest girlfriends!

One to Tasmania, with my husband!

Yes, yes. It’s not exactly magazine-glamorous like Paris, Santorini or Turkey.

But hey, I could be stuck in a 7 hour transit at a foreign airport with my best girlfriends (or my husband) and have the Best. Time. Ever. It’s more about the sharing of experiences and the journey, than the destination for me.

5) So I know I say this ALL the time. And it’s probably an indication of how much I adore my kids and parenting over the years.

But I just have to say: My kids are at such a great age at the moment!

They are age 12 (year 7), age 10 (Year 5) and age 6 (year 1).

They are all funny, quirky, inquisitive, full of personality, confident, smart, interesting, little people, who I actually like to hang around with!

(Yes they are also annoying, loud, rude, obsessed with computer games, but that’s another blog post…)

6) OK I have seriously lost the plot with my exercise and healthy eating.

It’s all been very irregular, sporadic, disorganised, and haphazard… and it’s been um… 4 weeks?

I need routine! I need goals! I need some kind of plan! I just need to put on my running shoes and get outside, really.

I think I’ve put on about 3kgs. I think I’ve lost muscle mass. My super skinny jeans are a bit tight around my waist, hips, and thighs. And I need to unbutton them whenever I sit on my couch to enjoy my bowl of ice cream haha!

7) Lastly, do you remember that epic 200km bike ride that I did (in 2012 and 2013) called The Ride to Conquer Cancer?

I volunteered to be part of the Event Crew last year (2014) and I loved it. I dressed up as a giraffe and a frog.

So this year, I’m volunteering again! And yes, I’m dressing up again. I’ll leave it as a surprise, unless you’ve seen my snapchats, then you’ve probably seen me in my wig already haha!

I’m really looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone and helping out a great charity event :)

Alrighty, I could go on and on!

Gotta go!

xxx


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Creating Holiday Moments with Stayz

9 October 2015

Brought to you by Stayz

Hi everyone!

I have recently been working with Stayz (Australia’s largest holiday rental website) to help inspire families to create new holiday memories.

I love this idea. It is so inline with how my husband and I raise our kids. We love taking any opportunity to get away from our daily routine and to create family experiences that we’ll remember forever.

Last week, we took a trip to Dunsborough, a very popular holiday spot in the South West region of Western Australia (and one of our favourite places) – filled with beaches, wineries, forests, caves, bush and cafes. We also invited some good friends – another family – to join us.

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

And yes, we stayed at a Stayz house, called “Happy Daze, Dunsborough” right next to the beach!

The coolest thing about Stayz accommodation is that you can rent the WHOLE house.

They have over 40,000 properties across Australia, in 1,700 locations so there are lots of options for groups of any size. That means, you can holiday with your family, your extended family, or even multiple families.

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

This particular house had enough beds for 8 people, two living areas, a fully equipped modern kitchen, air conditioning, all bedding and towels provided, a washing machine, a clothes dryer, a front yard for the kids to play, a balcony, and much more. It was just fabulous.

To put things into perspective for you… the last time we went on a family holiday, we went into the BUSH, where there was no running water, I didn’t shower for 3 days and er… I had to dig my own toilet!

So you could say that I am not accustomed to this level of luxury! I was really pinching myself and counting all my blessings!

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

There was no formal check-in; the key was hidden in a safe box on the property.

We simply arrived, unlocked the house, we were greeted by a beautiful, spacious home, a bottle of local white wine and we cracked open the cheese and crackers to celebrate!

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

The kids immediately went downstairs to play, in the separate living room, and some started a soccer game on the front lawn.

What did the adults do?

Within 5 minutes of arrival, we were sitting on the balcony and watching the sun set in the peace and quiet. Ahhhhhh!

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

That night I cooked a big dinner, fed all the kids and set up a DVD for them to watch downstairs.

Us adults were able to sit and have a quiet dinner! With loooong conversations!

It was so lovely and relaxing.

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

The next morning, my husband (bless him) woke up early and made pancakes for everyone. What a treat.

Again I sat on the balcony and enjoyed the sunshine, while chatting to my friends and kids.

Oh my, it was bliss.

Such simple pleasures!

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

During the day, we took a long walk on the footpath which ran along Geographe Bay.

The kids took turns to scoot or walk. In fact they were falling over themselves to walk and talk with an adult, just to hear our stories and get some undivided attention.

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

We headed over to Meelup Beach, which was still and calm.

The sky was cloudy and the water was a bit too cold for a swim.

Nonetheless, the colour of the water turned into a brilliant turquoise everytime the sun peeked out from behind a cloud and hit the ocean.

We saw whales! About 9 of them swimming across the bay!

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

My kids and I ran around, making sand castles, playing chasey, writing our names in the sand and taking photos (yes I took selfies and snapchats with my 12 year old!).

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

There was also a fresh water stream next to the beach, which trickled into the ocean.

My husband started a “dam building project”, which excited ALL the kids, including 8 other random kids who were also on the beach and also wanted to join in.

They worked on that dam for 2 hours!

I think that was the highlight for all the kids.

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

That night, I made a 6-hour, slow-cooked Moroccan lamb shank stew with potatoes, carrots and brown rice.

I brought along my extra-large slow cooker just so I could make it. But I was also very pleased that the kitchen had everything I needed; even little things like olive oil, salt and ground cumin – which I forgot to bring.

It was soooooo delicious! And of course, we had to wash it down with more local wine.

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

Next morning, my friend made perfect eggs, bacon and homemade bread, for breakfast.

Again, I was pinching myself on the balcony – I was so happy!

Oh and you know what else made me happy?

Although I told everyone that the beach was my favourite part of the trip, I have to admit that HAVING A DISHWASHER was my most favourite thing haha!

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

The kids played and played.

There was a stash of books, board games and card games in house, including our old favourite – Twister!

Stayz Holiday in Dunsborough 2015

We also enjoyed heaps of local cafes, art galleries, the shops and the bakery.

Overall, it was a such an easy and effortless holiday!

We didn’t have to wash the bed sheets or towels before we left. We just had to give the place a quick sweep and wipe down the kitchen surfaces.

I loved that there were so many things that we didn’t have to stress and worry about – towels, wifi, hair dryer, iron, washing machine, dust pan, matches, candles – it was a whole house, filled with household items. It made life sooooo much easier.

It felt much more homey, spacious and private than a caravan park, motel, hotel or even a Bed and Breakfast.

And because of all that, I absolutely loved that we had so much time to be together as a family, enjoy each other’s company and just have fun.

Renting a house like Happy Daze, for two families, was perfect for us!

So here’s a big, big thanks to Stayz!

If you’re thinking of heading off to find a house to stay in, you might be interested in this…

*Stayz Holiday Throwback Competition*

Win a $1500 Visa Gift Card to put towards your next holiday, or towards a new designer handbag – that’s kind of like a holiday right? :)

You DO need a blog to enter – Write a blog post about your favourite childhood holiday and then fill out the entry form here.

If you DON’T have a blog, that’s okay, you can post your favourite holiday throwback photo on the Stayz Facebook Page or on your own Instagram account (with the #Stayz and #HTB tags) and you could win a $100 Westfield gift card.

Check out more information about the Stayz Holiday Throwback Competition here.


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Win $1500 with Stayz Holiday Accommodation

30 September 2015

Brought to you by Stayz

Hi everyone! I have some super exciting news to share!

I’m teaming up with Stayz, Australia’s largest holiday rental website, to showcase a few fun projects coming up.

Stayz, Dunsborough

Firstly.

Stayz Holiday Throwback Competition!

Win a $1500 Visa Gift Card to put towards your next holiday, or towards a new designer handbag – that’s kind of like a holiday right?? Haha!

You DO need a blog to enter – Write a blog post about your favourite childhood holiday and then fill out the entry form here.

If you DON’T have a blog, that’s okay, you can post your favourite holiday throwback photo on the Stayz Facebook Page or on your own Instagram account (with the #Stayz and #HTB tags) and you could win a $100 Westfield gift card.

Check out more information about the Stayz Holiday Throwback Competition here. It’s really easy!

Yallingup, Wyadup Rocks

Secondly.

I’ll be showcasing a few Stayz holiday accommodations around Australia, over the next few months! Wayhey!

I have so many friends who have used Stayz, who rave about the houses they rented and their holidays. I’m so excited to be road testing and featuring some of these places for myself!

I love the idea that you can rent a whole home, big or small, most often with a capacity for multiple families – this suits our holiday style perfectly.

If you’ve been a long time reader, you probably know we love our camping and holiday trips with friends. We love to be social, we love to create memories, we love our family time, and we love having new adventures and experiences with our kids.

Here’s to new family adventures! Starting next week!

Follow me on Instagram (@karenlycheng) or Snapchat (heykarencheng) to keep up with our holiday antics!

xxx

(Photos are some of my favourite holiday memories. First one was in 2012 while holidaying at Geographe Bay, Western Australia. Second photos taken in 2015 at Wyadup Rocks, Western Australia.)


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A Little Catch Up With Sandals and Flowers

21 September 2015

Schutz Flatlay

Happy Monday everyone!

As I mentioned a few posts ago, it’s fashion week season… and I had the pleasure of attending 8 different events in 5 days.

Sounds a bit intense? Yeah it was, but I’m not complaining! It was fun! I made so many new contacts and friends, saw some great shows, I exercised my networking and conversation skills, plus I really wanted to support the local designers, talented creatives and small business owners again.

Also… I guess I wanted to announce to everyone that I was back in the blogging scene again.

Last year I took a break from the fashion scene because I wanted to concentrate on the business side of my blog.

That has worked out really well, as I have been inundated with heaps of new, fun, interesting, paid work over the year; possibly too much for my schedule, but I think I’m now a bit of a pro at sayin’ NO, choosing work that suits me, and making sure it doesn’t affect my work life balance.

I still want to cook delicious meals for my family, have coffee with friends, go shopping with my mum, have long conversations with each of my kids, be a kind of rock for my boys as they grow up and head off to high school, go for runs in the sunshine, volunteer for charity, bake treats, vacuum my own house and grow my own vegetables in my garden.

I won’t be a millionaire, I won’t be famous, but hey I’m happy doing my own thing.

I feel successful!? That’s all that matters right?

So I’m very thankful and grateful for how everything has been going in the last 12 months.

Blogging is a very different landscape now.

I’m more of a freelance digital creative now, busily creating visual and editorial content for my blog and social media, and selling media space across my platform. Ha, that sounds so formal. I prefer to say, “I just write about stuff and take photos.” Haha!

I hope to do a lot more writing here.

I know it goes against the new social media and Instagram culture. I know it goes against all the stunning, image-driven, picture-heavy websites that gets all the eyeballs these days (which is a talent and art in itself!). Everyone says, “People don’t like to read lots of words these days. No one reads blogs anymore.”

That may be true. But as much as I love visual style, art, design and appreciate the creative geniuses behind it all… there’s something about the written word, a voice that cuts through everything else, that truly inspires me.

I have been working on rolling out a few things on my blog. Hopefully it will all be finished soon!

Thank you for reading! Hope you have a fantastic week!

In the photograph: My new Schutz Sandals from Shopbop, Stripe top from Love Bonito, Skirt from Base by Ben, and some roses from my garden.


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Blossoms In The Sun

20 September 2015

Blossom in the Sun

Carrying on with my theme of finding beauty in details… my plum blossom plant is going crazy!

It is bursting with colour and joy in the warm sunshine! It is beautiful!

Ironically, we planted it in our front yard, next to an ugly grey concrete fence… and it’s a bit tricky to take a pretty photograph of the whole plant.

So to take THIS photo, I had to CRUSH myself and SQUAT awkwardly between the fence and the plant, point the camera into the sun, close my eyes, and snap continuously while waving my phone blindly.

Thankfully the postman didn’t stop by or I would’ve looked like such a freak!

The resulting photo was close to perfect though :)


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Commissioning Artwork from Around the World – Easy, Affordable and Exciting

16 September 2015

Brought to you by The Commissioned

The Commissioned
(Photo from The Commissioned)

I was recently introduced to The Commissioned and invited to experience their art commission services.

Having a background in art, design and photography; having a lot of friends who purchase art for their homes; and having bought my own art, I was really drawn to the whole concept of the website.

I was excited beyond belief!

What is it?

The Commissioned has a large selection of talented artist from all over the world. You can look through their bio, browse through their works, and then start a direct conversation with an artist to commission a work of art for yourself.

You can chose colours that will suit the décor of your house. You can choose a subject that will celebrate a special moment in your life. You can capture a special message as a gift to a friend. The scope is endless!

My Commissioning Experience

I had quite a clear idea of what I wanted.

I wanted an abstract painting inspired by one of our family walks through a beautiful forest.

I took some lovely photos during the walk and wanted to capture the moment somehow. I also wanted the painting to have blurry figures of my 3 children, just to remind me of that happy moment as I looked at them through the leaves.

Sign up and Browse!

I signed up to the site and began to browse through the hundreds of artists, view their works and read about a bit about them (you can actually browse without signing up).

When you sign up, you get to see all the artists’ indicative prices and the size of their paintings, such as: Small Canvas (11×14 inch) USD123.20 or Medium Canvas (24×36 inch) USD691.20.
You can also “Favourite” the artists whose works catch your eye, so you can view them again later.

I was quite fascinated to discover artists from all over the world – United States, Asia, Europe, Philipines, Japan, Moscow, Finland, Poland, Russia, Spain, Argentina and more.

In the end, I utterly fell in love with artist, Deusa Blumke’s work.

Art by Deusa Blumke

She was born in Brazil and currently pursuing Masters Degree in Singapore. She has a looooong list of exhibited works in her portfolio, has won a few awards for her art… but most of all I loved her style. I loved her spontaneous strokes, her bold colours, her blobs, splatters and unique layering.

Art by Deusa Blumke

Examples of Deusa Blumke’s work (courtesy of the artist).

So I sent her a message to start a conversation.

I requested that I was keen for an abstract painting based on the theme of “A Forest Walk”. I’d like the painting to look more like a forest, not a path in a forest.

I enclosed some photos I took while on our recent forest walk. I told her that I would love for her to use them as inspiration for shapes and colour, in particular greens, blues, greys, browns, whites, black (but not too much black!)

Forest walk in Boranup

Forest walk in Boranup

I told her I loved the colours, strokes, movement and spontaneity of her featured artworks and would like the painting to have the same strokes, blobs, movement and spontaneity. I don’t really like the use of hard lines/edges and geometric shapes.

Forest walk in Boranup

I also mentioned to her that I would like the painting to include 3 little abstract figures in the background, dressed in a navy/grey blue (much like the photo above). However I didn’t want them to be the focus of the picture; they are just playing within the scenery.

Forest walk in Boranup

She loved the photos! She agreed to the collaboration, we settled the price, I made the payment and she set to work.

(I was given a promo code to use at The Commissioned for this review.)

I was super, super, super excited, and a bit nervous!

I couldn’t believe I was going to own one of her paintings! But what if I don’t like it? What if it’s not quite what I wanted? I guess I can ask her to tweak it a bit?

Updates: Work in Progress

A week later, Deusa sent me an update: A photo of her work in progress!

Work in Progress by Deusa Blumke - The Commissioned

Holy cow! Amazing! – Was my first response!

Usually a sketch is adequate for the first stage of communication, but all artists, designers and creatives work in different ways… and it can be a bit risky for a client to see an unfinished photo of the artwork. I had to keep that in mind.

It’s like a wedding cake maker sending a photo of their fruitcake; A car paint shop sending a photo of their first coat; A chef sending a photo of their chopping board. The masterpiece is not yet revealed! It’s still in progress!

I have to admit that I stared at the unfinished painting a bit more than I should have. I got a bit worried. The graphic designer in me kicked in and I was concerned that there was too much brown, and not enough bright colours, and maybe I should send a message to direct her?

I probably could have done that. The website has a “Creative Studio” section, which brings together all your conversations with artists, all your current and past commissioned works, and any photos sent back and forth.

The site basically makes it very open and easy to have a conversation with the artist.

But I wanted to see the whole process through, being respectful to the artist, being true to the art process and having confidence in her talent.

So I didn’t ask her to change anything. I knew she would deliver something amazing in the end.

It would be like me telling a master chef, halfway through making my meal, to “OH REMEMBER TO ADD SOME SALT TO MAKE IT TASTY OK?”

Out of curiosity, I asked if she could send over some photos of her workspace, so I could publish it on my blog. Seeing photos of the work in progress, within the workspace, was pretty exciting! But this might not be a typical step in the commissioning process.

Work in Progress by Deusa Blumke - The Commissioned

So cool!

A few days later, she sent some more photo of her work in progress.

Then a few days later, she sent a few more.

Finally, 12 days after we agreed to collaborate, she sent over her final photos and a message, part of it saying, “Unless you would like to have some more of a certain colour or adjustments, I’m finished :)”

I didn’t want her to do anything else to it! I was absolutely thrilled with her final work!

A Forest Walk by Deusa Blumke - The Commissioned

I was so so so happy with it!

I pinched myself, as I couldn’t believe that it was MINE and that Deusa had painted it for me, based on my photos.

She did such an amazing job! Her layers of dots make the leaves and lights look like they are dancing and sparkling. The watery brown blobs make me smile, remembering how fun it was to stomp through the mud. She had captured that perfectly.

And can you see the 3 little figures? How gorgeous!
OK I know that it was my idea, but I love that they are there in the landscape and I have to search for them a bit with my eyes. And I love that they are in a kind of glowing spotlight on the ground. The visual balance of green dots all over the painting is just wonderful. It’s an absolutely gorgeous artwork to look and STARE at :)

I was gushing! I couldn’t wait to have it delivered.

I finalised the details on the website. The project was complete and it was published into my personal art gallery (on the site), along with a direct URL and details.

(You can view mine here: Karen Cheng’s Gallery )

Next, I paid a bit extra for secure international delivery, and after a few days, the painting arrived at my doorstep, wrapped up in lots of bubble wrap, sticky tape and a secure box.

A Forest Walk by Deusa Blumke - The Commissioned

I made a special little space in my home for it.

But then I felt that it got lost (visually) next to all my objects, so I hung it on the wall instead.

A Forest Walk by Deusa Blumke - The Commissioned

To be honest, I was very unsure whether this whole experience would run smoothly, and I was worried that I would have a poor experience. I mean, the whole IDEA of buying art online, sounds fraught with danger, dodgy sellers and con-artists!

But I was very, very pleased with the whole process. The customer service was excellent. There was an online chat function, and team members were all incredibly helpful.

I have already told 5-6 good friends about this site. I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut about it. Okay, I may have raved about it.

I also pointed them to another client review on the site, because I know lots of grandmothers, aunties, mothers who would LOVE to get something similar for their special girls. Basically she commissioned a watercolour illustration of her daughter dancing through a forest, with cute little forest creatures! So cute!

As for me, I am tempted to get another painting commissioned, as I have another two ideas:

1) A unique, abstract family portrait, with 5 abstract figures playing at the beach. I liked the idea of bright blue sky, blue-green ocean and yellow sand. I liked the idea of a bright, bold painting to remember all my family’s trips to the beach.

2) A still life of some pale pink roses in a crystal glass jar. I wanted pastel pinks, pale greens, lots of white and black. Basically I wanted a stylish, moody painting to hang above a small white table and add a colourful lift to a corner in my house.

What do you think??

Do pop over to The Commissioned for a peek!

Enjoy!


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A Quick Break From The Computer…

14 September 2015

Coffee with the Hubs

Snuck out of the house and met up with my husband for a coffee break.

Still a bit crazy about him.

(And tiramisu. Always crazy about tiramisu.)


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A Bouquet From My Garden

7 September 2015

Flowers for Leah

On the weekend, my niece turned 13!

Aaah, I remember when she was born! I was pregnant with my first child, unsure about being a new mother, I was still anxious and undecided about things like whether to use cloth nappies or disposable nappies. And yet, I was so excited that my child would have a similar-aged cousin. Seems like a lifetime ago :)

Before we headed out to the 13th birthday party, I prepared a giftcard (that’s what she wanted), but I just felt so… lazy, cheap, thoughtless and uninspired!

I thought I could do better.

So I crept around my garden and picked some simple flowers, bundled them up, stuck them in a clean mayonnaise jar, wrapped them up with some brown paper, brown string and voilà – a cute and simple gift!

I’m so happy with how they turned out.

I had lots of left over flowers, so I made one for my house too.

Hope you all have a gorgeous day!

xxx


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My Mediocre Attempts at Cooking

6 September 2015

So according to my blog, it must seem that everything I cook is just FABULOUS DARLING!

I don’t feature my mediocre stuff, because reeeeally, as much as people say that it’s trending to #KEEPITREAL, who actually wants to click on and read about someone’s mediocre attempts at cooking? Not me.

Sure, I can see appeal of featuring EPIC FAILED COOKING ATTEMPTS. That would be funny!

But mediocre is just so, mediocre. Right?

What? Did I hear you say no?

Alrighty then!

Tart Fail

1. Raw Coconut Chia Pudding on Hazelnut Tart  (Like eating squishy cardboard!)

Ok so I made a “semi raw” Chocolate Raspberry Tart last week. I thought I would be clever and make a proper “raw” version, with zero added sugar (except for a few dates).

Tart Fail

Looks so pretty right? Styled so nicely right?

Nope. Ugh, it was so bland and weird!

It was as if I had a head cold and I lost my sense of taste – I could feel the interesting textures in my mouth, but there was ZERO flavour haha!

Plus I was trying to do too much by combining two desserts (chia pudding and hazelnut crust). Lesson learned: keep it simple.

No diary, no gluten, no sugar, no cooking and… no taste! Ha!

Pancakes Fail

2. Gluten Free Pancakes (Tough like rubber!)

I don’t know where I got this recipe. No doubt some hipster hippy healthy food blog. Hmm, it wasn’t exactly a winner.

I bought some crazy expensive gluten-free flour and mixed it with a weird ratio of potato flour, brown rice flour and coconut flour. It was just a bit silly and complicated. Too painful for Sunday morning pancakes if you ask me.

They’d make a great underlay for your wooden floors!

Ribs Fail

3. Honey Pork Ribs (Hello Heart Disease!)

Maybe I bought the wrong kind of ribs. Maybe I added too much soy sauce.

Whatever the case, it felt like I was eating big rectangles of rubber fat coated in salt.

I could feel my arteries clogging up with each bite. Aakkk.

Frozen Buns Fail

4. Re-baked Homemade Bread rolls (Or, How To make rocks!)

I recently found a fantastic bread recipe and have been making lots of bread for my family.

But I really wanted to try half-baking the bread, freezing it, then re-baking them at another time.

This was my second attempt and I still couldn’t get it right. They came out under-cooked and tasting like warmed up play dough – gross!

Inspired? I bet you are!

Happy cooking!


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Healthy Strawberry Smoothies!

27 August 2015

Strawberry & Raspberry Smoothie

After school, I usually make smoothies for my kids (so that’s about 4-5 times a week).

Each time I make about 750ml (3 x 250ml) of one batch; then I make a smaller batch for myself, because I like my smoothies with nuts, coconut, spinach and other weird, healthy stuff.

I use a NutriBullet, however I think any high speed blender will do the trick. My mum bought it for me and it was kind of a surprise/unwanted present, because I already had a (non-high-speed) blender. Initially I was very reluctant to use it, and it sat on my shelf for months. Why? Because I hated the TV infomercials! The marketing people say the blades breakdown the cell walls of fruits and vegetables, unlocks nutrients, and makes women prettier?!? Ugh I couldn’t stand it.

Anyway, the blender and I are friends now.

So… I’ve been sharing a few of my smoothie photos on instagram (@karenlycheng) and a few people have asked me to share the recipes on my blog.

Er, I don’t actually have an actual recipe! I just throw stuff together and play with proportions. If I put more raspberries, it’s going to taste more like raspberries!

The other day I made a concoction that I shall call: A Healthy Strawberry Smoothie

1 cup of fresh or frozen strawberries
1/2 cup of frozen raspberries, blueberries or mixed berries.
1 banana
1/2 green apple
1 cup of coconut water
1/4 cup natural plain yogurt
1 teaspoon of honey (optional)

(This makes about 750ml)

I don’t believe in adding extra sugar to my smoothies. I think the sugar from the fruit is enough. But sometimes my apples or berries are so sour and tart that my kids refuse to drink the resulting smoothie, so I add a bit sweeter fruit like grapes, frozen mango, and if nothing else works, I add honey or maple syrup to make it a bit more palatable.

Enjoy!


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Buy Korean Skincare Online from Aniqa Australia!

25 August 2015

Brought to you by Aniqa

Aniqa Korean Skincare - Cremorlab and Mizon

I’m so excited to introduce you all to a new kid in town: Aniqa is an Australian-based online store that stocks some of the hottest Korean skincare products around.

What makes Aniqa different?

Aniqa stocks a carefully edited selection of “boutique” Korean beauty brands – such as, Cremorlab, Mizon, Be The Skin and Caolion.

There are thousands of Korean beauty brands out there, so if you’re a Korean skincare newbie like me, and you just want the best products from the best brands… this site is a godsend!

If you’ve been reading Vogue and other online fashion magazines and beauty forums, you’ll notice that they frequently feature products by Cremorlab, Mizon and Be The Skin. Also, big names like YouTube beauty queen Michelle Phan and Olivia Palermo rave about Cremorlab and Mizon too.

The Aniqa site is run by two passionate and hard working women, who are dedicated to trying and testing out every single product; listening to their clients, finding out what works, what sells and what are creating the most buzz around the world. There’s a nice personal touch to the highly professional site.

The site is beautiful, easy to navigate, secure, and most of all, you can get your Korean beauty fix with ease – cheap and fast! No need to pay gazillions of dollars in shipping from the US or wait 3-4 weeks for your order from Asia.

Aniqa Korean Skincare - Cremorlab

But first, I wanted to talk about where I’m at.

I’m in my mid-30s and skin care is really important to me. I wear sun cream, I wear a hat, I eat well, exercise, drink water, get 8 hours of sleep … most of the time, I do all the right things :)

Over the years, I’ve leaned away from drugstore brands and have reluctantly bought into the world of expensive skincare products from global brands. I say reluctantly, because a little part of me dies when I purchase a bottle of cream for $185!!

But I can’t complain really. If I work hard in keeping up a regular skincare regime, I see results.

When I take care of it, my skin is clear, radiant, smooth and it glows.

I’d say that my skin is at its optimum level. I rarely have dull skin days anymore.

I have been using mostly SK-II products (Facial Treatment Essence, Facial Treatment Gentle Cleanser, Stempower Cream and face masks), Lancome (Advanced Youth Activating Concentrate), and some products from Clarins, Shiseido, Alpha-H, SkinCeuticals, Philosophy and Trilogy.

My main problem is that it’s all so expensive.

(And I haven’t done any lasers, peels, dermabrasions, injectables, fillers, light therapy, or surgery before!)

My Recent Switch to Korean Brands!

I had been hearing a lot about Korean beauty products and how they are taking the world by storm. Everyone seems to be loving them – Vogue editors, fashion and beauty magazine editors, celebrities and hardcore fans on online beauty forums have been trying them out and absolutely loving them.

It sounded good and I was curious to try. I wanted IN on beauty products specially designed for Asian skin!

But…

1) I was reluctant because I didn’t know where to start!

2) I am aware (and possibly quite cynical) that this too is just another “trend” and “hype” in the cosmetics industry.

3) It was difficult to buy Korean beauty products in Australia.

So a couple of months ago, I got a call from an old high school friend… she and her business partner had set up an online store specialising in Korean skincare products, Aniqa. It was a nice site! She wanted to work with me and my blog and we set up a meeting. Usually I am very cautious and reluctant when working with skincare brands. Most times I just say no thanks. I have had some really bad experiences in the past. The results ranged from terrible to mediocre, and who wants to read and hear about terrible/mediocre products?? I only ever want to talk about stuff that I actually LIKE and USE.

I was trying to find a nice way to say, “Uh no thanks babe. I’m happy with SK-II and my little routine!” I didn’t want to go through that whole testing out skincare products journey again – ugh!

But she was an old friend, a lovely person, super-smart, super-genuine, self-starting, go-getting kind of person… so we met up, we caught up with each others’ lives, we talked and laughed for hours… and she gave me a box of products to try out.

That was in June.

And for the last 2 months I have been hooked on using these new products!

Now for the first time, I actually enjoy looking after my skin. I use a facial sheet mask twice a week, and I do a scrub twice a week. I bounce with excitement knowing it’s FACE MASK DAY! Or I go through the day and think, YAY I GET TO DO A SCRUB TONIGHT!

I cannot seem to express how much sheer joy and pleasure I have when I go through my routine and seeing my skin glow!

The result?

Well, I keep waking up in the morning and my skin is gorgeous!

Every day I look in the mirror and think – holy crap, er wow?!

I can honestly say that my complexion is more radiant, smoother, has less redness and is more hydrated than it’s ever been over the past few years. My skin is optimum + a few notches up.

Now whether that’s the result of ONE product, or a RANGE of products, or that I’ve simply upped my skincare regime and have now made it a positive priority in my life… I’m not entirely sure. I would say that it’s a combination of all three/four reasons.

The fact still stands, I see great results and I’m liking it.

Another result is a change in attitude: Taking care of my skin is not a boring, futile chore at the end of the day. It is seriously so. Much. Fun… and I think that inner joy and sparkle comes across in my face too :)

Yes I still get an occasional dull skin day, where my skin is not radiant and smooth. But… that is possibly connected to hormones, sleeping at 2am, eating way too much chocolate, exercising with makeup on my face, not drinking enough water, experimenting with new makeup (reviewing for blog posts) and sitting in a room with a heater/aircon on for 5-6 hours. Haha all the major no-nos!

And yes it’s probably the same amount of skincare regime work (possibly a bit more) as before with my old products SK-II, Lancome, Shiseido, etc.

So then, what was the difference? Why switch?

1) The prices.

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence (150ml) is about AUD$185 and Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence (270ml) is AUD$58.

SK-II Stempower Cream (80g jar) is AUD$200 and Mizon Collagen Power Lifting Cream (70ml) is AUD$55.

Ok I know I seem to be hard on SK-II. That wasn’t my intention! I DO love, love, love their products and they DO work for me. But it’s so expensive… $385 for two products?? Whereas two equivalent Korean products (as mentioned above) would set me back $113. Yes I know this is a self-inflicted, first world problem… Haha don’t judge me!

2) Using products in the same range.

Because the prices are great, I can afford to buy all the products in the same range (for example, Mizon Pore Range, Cremorlab Hydro Plus Snow Falls Line) so I’d be happy to use all the toners, serums, eye creams etc. And while a small part of me thinks these ranges are just a marketing ploy, I still like to think that products from the same range should work together chemically, in terms of the right pH, active ingredients, layering and absorption.

3) The smell is simply ah-mazing!

Aniqa Korean Skincare - Cremorlab

Where to start?

The brand Cremorlab (recommended by YouTube beauty queen Michelle Phan and Olivia Palermo) has a huge cult following. Their most raved about products would be Cremorlab Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence ($58 – pictured above), Cremorlab Triple Bright White Bloom Foam Cleanser ($39 – pictured above), Cremorlab Smooth Pudding Moisturiser ($65)

And their range of amazing Cremorlab Sheet Masks (starts from $5 – $14) are often featured in fashion and beauty magazines.

Aniqa Korean Skincare - Mizon

Mizon is stocked in Urban Outfitters in the US! According to online beauty forums, Mizon’s range of Snail Repair creams and gels are JUST AMAZING. (These are not stocked on Aniqa yet!) Their serums are also really popular.

My favourite so far is the Mizon Collagen Power Lifting Cream ($55) and the Mizon Collagen Power Lifting Toner ($40).

I am hoping to try the Mizon Hyaluronic Acid 100 Serum ($65) too.

Be The Skin is also another popular product, often raved about by fashion and beauty editors. I personally haven’t tried any from this brand yet, but I heard that these were good: Be The Skin Botanical Nutrition Power Cream ($58) and Be The Skin Botanical Nutrition Power Serum ($59).

I have tested out most of these products mentioned above and I’ll be posting my reviews on which worked best for me!

I’ll also be testing out a few other popular Korean skincare products… so stay tuned!

Happy shopping!

xxx

(Btw, I had a few messages about the flowers in these photographs – Yes I photographed these photos! I sourced the purple Native Wisteria and Camellia branches from my garden, the Almond Blossom from my neighbour’s garden, and the white Lisianthus flowers are from the local florist.)


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The Luminaries and Other Good Reads

19 August 2015

The Luminaries

Many years ago, I made a promise to read one “Man Booker Prize Winner” novel a year.

Well, I didn’t really stick to it. For 10 years – consumed by looking after small children – my brain couldn’t handle “literature”. I read a lot of Twilight and easy-to-read Popular Fiction instead haha.

But I’m trying to get back into the more cerebral stuff.

I really, really enjoy it. Like fashion, exercise and cooking… it makes me feel good.

I’ve updated my Good Reads profile, if you want to check it out.

I managed to add some of the books I’ve read over the years (that I could think of!) and rated them etc.

I like classics, modern literature, popular titles and a bit of sci-fi. I don’t really like youth fiction or romance. However Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourites!

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, won the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and I managed to finish her book earlier this year.

It’s a murder mystery, historical fiction set in New Zealand in the days of the gold rush, with complicated interconnected characters and plot.

I don’t even like murder mysteries. But I liked this novel because I adored her language and story telling (a bit like Charles Dickens), her description of characters and her unfolding of the landscapes and events.

The author is 28 (!!!) and did an incredible job weaving such a complicated narrative. There is also an added technical depth; apparently there are 12 characters, 12 star signs, 12 chapters, and each chapter is half the length as the one before it. But it didn’t really add THAT much to the story, only that the chapters got shorter and it felt more exciting towards the end, leading to the story’s climax.

It’s impressive. But not for everyone!


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Speedfit – Personal Training and Electronic Muscle Stimulation

14 August 2015

Brought to you by Speedfit

I do some pretty cool/strange things for my blog… and for my latest adventure, I electrocuted my muscles to tone them up!

These two photos were taken one day apart, before and after my session at SpeedFit, in Northbridge.

Eeep, my biceps have never been so full and perky before.

Before and After, Speedfit, EMS Training Perth

So let me give you the back story.

I have been very fit and active for the last 3 – 4 years. I run, cycle, play netball, do yoga, boxing, weights, cross training and more.

I first tried EMS (Electronic Muscle Stimulation) in Singapore last year. Initially, I did NOT like the idea at all. I thought it was cheating, unnecessary and against my idea of what it means to be “an active and healthy person”.

However, once I tried it, I actually thought it was pretty good (and weird)!

I was quite surprised.

The fact is… it worked. My muscles became very toned, very quickly.

Ordinarily I work very hard to keep the weight off, so most of my exercises are for me to tone up, strengthen my core, improve my posture and flexibility, keep my body healthy, strong and injury free. I also exercise because it’s fun, it makes me feel good, it challenges my mind and it helps me sleep better. I don’t focus on body sculpting or maintaining rock hard abs.

So I could see how EMS training could complement my active lifestyle.

And if I could afford, I would do it on a regular basis :)

Having toned muscles would be like icing on the cake for me!

I’ve been told that EMS Training is huge in Asia and Europe. Apparently it is a thriving and popular industry; studios are as common as regular gyms and no one thinks twice when you mention you’re off to the local EMS studio.

So when SpeedFit EMS Personal Training contacted me, it turned out that they were the first to bring the concept to Australia (several years ago), and I was keen to work with them to spread the news.

Speedfit, EMS Training Perth

SpeedFit launched in Perth 2 years ago and now have more than 700 clients. They have 2 studios, one in Northbridge and one in Claremont.

I turned up early on a Tuesday morning for my 10:30am session.

It was a cold, windy day. I was dressed in a white shirt, grey knit, grey coat, black jeans, thick socks and boots. My motivation to exercise was er… 2/10.

I thought that the studio would be quiet and empty at that time, but there were two women doing their workout session ahead of my time slot and one other woman in the waiting area, who was going to do her session at the same time as me.

I had a little chat to her and she told me that she had been doing EMS Training for 4 months and absolutely loved it. She said she hated going to the gym, she has two kids under 4 years old and this was her only form of workout.

The two women finished their session and raved about their workout. They had a beaming post-workout glow as they walked out the door.

After seeing and chatting to the other women, I was pretty excited to get started and my motivation to exercise rose to 7/10.

Speedfit, EMS Training Perth

EMS involves putting on a suit that delivers electronic impulses to your major muscle groups to make them contract.

A personal trainer leads you through a customised workout and apparently a 20 minute session is equivalent to 4 hours at the gym!

Speedfit, EMS Training Perth

I went into the private change rooms, took off all my clothes, stored my watch and jewellery safely in a locker… and then I put on the supplied cotton top and 3/4 leggings.

I have to wear this cotton outfit because there has to be a thin, single layer of fabric between the electrodes and my skin. Plus I’m going to sweat like crazy so I’ll be able to discard them in a laundry bag for someone else to wash. It’s all part of the service. Yay.

The instructor sprayed the EMS suit with water and fastened it onto me.

Speedfit, EMS Training Perth

She also strapped on little belts and wires on my biceps (arms), quads (legs), glutes (bum).

I felt like I was wearing a soggy corset!

Speedfit, EMS Training Perth

My instructor plugged me into the EMS machine and I suddenly felt like a bubble jet printer.

Charge me up baby!

Speedfit, EMS Training Perth

This is the EMS machine.

Looks like a cute, harmless robot!

Each little knob adjusts the strength of impulses to each muscle group. And the big knob on the right controls the overall impulse levels to all muscles.

Speedfit, EMS Training Perth

The instructor customised the machine, tweaking the impulses to suit my comfort level.

What does it feel like?

It feels like little massage balls bumping on my skin. It’s not painful at all. It doesn’t feel zappy, or pinchy or twingey on my nerves.

It feels a bit weird and kind of nice, when set to lower levels.

But what’s the point of a low-level massage right? I wanted to tone up my muscles and get a workout!

This is me about to start!

Speedfit, EMS Training Perth

Once the machine began the program, it led me through a 20 minute workout session.

The impulses went for 6 seconds and stopped for 4 seconds.

I had to tense my muscles, HOLD for 6 seconds, then I got a 4 second break to change positions.

It’s a bit like yoga, in that I had to concentrate on the position of my body, arms, legs and back.

The instructor went through different workout positions, like squats, rear leg extensions, calf raises, bicep curls and more. It was pretty simple.

As the workout went on, I realised that I could handle a higher level of impulses, so I just reached out and changed the levels to my liking.

The instructor also started to push me a bit and upped the levels for me bit by bit.

Speedfit, EMS Training Perth

By the end, the impulses were quite intense. I wanted to go hard! I was puffing and sweating as I finished.

I pushed myself quite a bit and I think I did really well. After all, I wanted to see results :)

The whole thing went for 20 minutes. So quick!

Immediately after the workout, I was able to have a shower in the private change rooms, blow dry my hair, change into my clothes. My instructor made me a protein shake to help with my muscle recovery. I was in and out in 45 minutes.

(I probably could have been in and out in less time, but I stopped to chat to my instructor and asked her a lot of questions).

I stepped out of the studio looking as fresh as a daisy. I caught up with my friend for lunch and she could not believe that I just “had a workout at the gym”. I was glowing with a fabulous post-workout feeling! I felt amazing!

That evening, my biceps ached a bit and I knew I had worked them quite hard.

I took a photo of myself in the mirror (at the top of the post) and was very impressed to see that my biceps were significantly rounder and fuller than before.

I have been lifting 5kg to 7.5kg dumbells and working out my arms (twice a week, for the last few months), but I’ve had to slow down because my elbow/forearm hurt a bit and I didn’t want tear anything. So this was a great way to compliment my weights workout and give my arms a boost. I’m really happy with the results.

What Are The Benefits?

There’s lots of information on the website about the Benefits of EMS and a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Pricing – How Much Does It Cost?

SpeedFit suggest that you do training once a week, and they have created several membership packages to suit different lifestyles.

See their Price List here.

*Special Offer*

So here’s the big plug – SpeedFit have a special offer at the moment: TWO trial sessions for $90!

(The standard rate for one session is $90). This is a pretty cool offer, especially if you – like I was – a bit unsure whether it’ll work for you, and just want to give it a go.

Call and Book for a Session

Northbridge
telephone: 08 9328 3448
email: northbridge@speedfit.com.au

Claremont
telephone: 08 9384 6182
email: claremont@speedfit.com.au

Hope you enjoyed my review!

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

xxx