Archive for Daily Living

 

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Recycling Computer Equipment in Perth

11 October 2018

Recycling Computer Parts

This is not a sponsored post :)

This is just something we’ve been doing for years and many people have asked me about it.

We collect all our old computer parts and regularly take them to Officeworks for their “Bring IT Back” Recycling Program – to keep all this waste out of landfill.

The equipment is sent to recyclers where up to 98% of the material recovered and recycled. Which is kind of amazing!

They accept desktops, laptops, computer mice, monitors, printers, scanners, multifunction printers, keyboards, computer power supplies, printed circuit boards, motherboards, network cards, disks and CD drives.

You can also bring empty ink & toner cartridges, mobile phones, batteries and accessories.

All the materials are used to make roads, garden beds, pen, rulers, plastic pallets and steel products.

It’s a super easy process. We just throw all the items on a shopping trolley, wheel it into the store, the person greeting customers will call someone to receive it and takes it away, while you’re still standing at the door  – so good!

You can find out more information about the program here, and here is the list of Officeworks stores that accept the items.

Enjoy!

xxx


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Finished Reading: The Brothers Karamazov

3 October 2018

The Brothers Karamazov

Earlier this year, I read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – and I loved it.

The plot rocked, the language was lush, the drama was intense and the characters were crazy!

It was also peppered with philosophical ramblings about society, theology and morality, which I kind of liked too.

So I bought Dostoyevsky’s other well-known book, The Brothers Karamazov. I did a bit of research and found an award winning translation of the book too haha!

It’s basically a murder mystery, with the story revolving around a despicable man, his three grown-up sons  and a love triangle and a murder trial.

What did I think?

Interesting story. But damn, it was a bit drawn out.

So much religious and philosophical ranting. All the characters were dysfunctional and horrible, all the relationships were messy. And I speed-read through the conversations with the devil.

Yes parts of it was pretty amazing, in particular, the language and depth of characters. You don’t read text like this anymore!

It is often rated as one of the greatest stories ever written. But I struggled to get through it. It’s not light reading.

Honestly, I don’t recommend it, unless you have a sudden burning curiosity about the book (which I had). And have 2 months of spare reading time in the evenings up your sleeve (which I had).

I do feel like I have a new level of bragging rights now, but given how I feel about the book, I might not be so quick to chime into dinner party conversations about 19th century Russian literature – haha!


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Coffee Catch Up: September 2018

30 September 2018

castorboard

It’s been a few months since I’ve shared various random thoughts in my head. I managed to sit back this weekend, take stock of things and write up what’s been going on around here.

1) Imma just cruising, thanks!

I wish I could share some HUGE, EXCITING NEWS and be all SUPER INSPIRATIONAL — but I got none of that haha!

Life is simple, life is good, life is just cruising along at a good speed.

With all the crazy shit happening in the world right now, I just want to hug my husband and kids and be grateful for stability, good health and a roof over our heads. Super happy about that.

2) Travel plans

After travelling overseas for 4 weeks, the general consensus of our household: No more overseas holidays! We just want to stay home and get shit done!

Having said that, last weekend we travelled out of town and went camping with friends. We spent another  weekend out of town with friends. My husband went on a “Boy’s Trip”. And we have an interstate trip coming up. We are blessed!

2) I’m learning how to skateboard

Three new families have moved into our street and there’s been an explosion of kids outside our house almost every day. It’s been great. I love the sound of kids NOT on their devices!

(Plus there’s a little girl who changes her outfit 3 times a day?! She’s such a cutie.)

I’m teaching some boys across the street how to ride a castor board (pictured above)… and they are teaching me how to skateboard. It’s super fun. But I’m not very good, because I’m too afraid of falling and breaking my teeth.

Once I’ve mastered basic skateboarding, I’d love to try a longboard… and then eventually try surfing :)

2) My body shape is changing!

While it’s easy to think that this is an age thing, I believe other factors might be at play here.

I’m the same weight as I have been for the last 10 years. I eat well. I exercise well. But I’m just not fitting my clothes the same way. I guess it means that I get to buy new clothes, haha!

But seriously, it’s interesting to see how my exercise routine has changed over the years. I used to do more long distance activities: 4 -5 hours of cycling, or 2-3 hours of running once a week.

Now I do more short, sporadic, high-intensity workouts, mixed up with gentle stretching and yoga, more often.

I’d love to get back into long distance running again.

(And it’s much cheaper than gym classes.)

3) Budgeting household spendings

My husband and I sat down one day, we looked at our last 3 credit card statements and put it all into a spreadsheet. It was really interesting to see the distribution of our combined income.

We spend about $350 per week on groceries and household consumables for a family of 5.

I’ve been trying sooo hard to bring that figure down. I’ve been buying in bulk. Buying on sale. Buying cheaper cuts of meat. Buying less processed foods (our weakness is chicken nuggets and frozen pizzas, they are so convenient to bulk up my teenager’s school lunch boxes. Works out much cheaper than them to buy from the canteen). Buying home-brand items. Buying from cheaper places like markets, independent grocers, in-season produce. I bake a lot of treats and desserts (instead of buying). And we don’t eat out very much.

But despite everything, my weekly bill is always about the same.

Nuts are a killer. Almonds are about $20/kg and peacans are $28/kg.

(Good grief! Just listen to me! First world problems here. Haha sorry! We eat a lot of nuts.)

On the other hand, we still manage to put 10% – 15% into savings each month and it’s very satisfying to see our savings creep up and up.

4) Health Insurance

Our other big + regular spend each month – would you believe it – is health insurance!?

We spend $280 per month on health insurance for a family of five.

I have in the past tried to cut it back (delete things off our plan that we don’t use). But after sitting down to crunch the numbers… it turns out that we actually get back ALL that amount from our kid’s dental bills, orthodontic bills, plus my husband has ongoing check ups with medical specialists and optical work.

Sooo it doesn’t “cost” us anything in the end. And if we have an actual emergency, we’re covered, so it’s all good right? I have no idea.

5) Pointless wasting of money

On the topic of money. My kids have been sooooo careless and infuriating.

We have an outside freezer. I freeze all my bulk-bought meats, bread, berries, frozen foods etc. One evening, my son went outside to grab a smoothie bar and didn’t close the freezer properly… so the next morning my freezer was beeping (too softly!) with its door WIDE OPEN. $300 worth of food was soft and mushy! I was so mad!

It took me a lot of slow breathing (and a bit of shouting) to get over it.

Ugh…. at least I cooked up a whole lot of dinners and gave it to some mum friends.

6) Teenage boys and online shopping

Also on the topic of wasting money… (just joking!)

My two older boys, who are 15 and 13year old, prefer online shopping to actual shopping.

This is amazing, because I don’t have to drag them around the shops for hours. They simply browse and buy their own clothes. To me, this is a godsend.

I always remind them to check things like: Well-known online shop? Ships to Australia? Shipping fee? Refund policy? Shop around? Read reviews. Check sizing. Sign up to newsletters to get sale updates and a discount code!

They like to compile a list, email it to me and I will send back some feedback. I’m pretty brutal though. Such as: Don’t you already have 5 plain black t-shirts?? You’re way too short to wear that style. That’ll look pretty bad in real life.

They make the purchase and they sort out the refund or exchange if it doesn’t fit.

They are excellent and very careful shoppers. Not impulsive at all. I’m very proud haha!

(They like to buy from The Iconic, ASOS, Nike AU and Adidas AU).

7) Teenage boys and saving money

The downside of possibly getting my kids hooked on online shopping (let’s face it, this is ALL my fault) is trying to teach my kids about saving money too.

I made them read “The Barefoot Investor” and they thought it was pretty good.

They’ve set up their multiple bank accounts, they’ve committed to saving over 50% of any money they receive, and they are already planning how to be millionaires. Ah to be young!

Anyway, that’s all from me now.

xxx


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Sketching: A Little Childhood Story

16 September 2018

Sketching

When I was 11 years old, I wanted to get into a specialised art program for high school, which meant I had to create a portfolio of work.

I spent months drawing what I drew best: plants.

Plants were everywhere; they were free; and they stood still!

After a few months, I had a thick scrapbook filled with my drawings of twigs, leaves, branches, trees, close up studies and landscapes.

However, my aunt was really sick with bowel cancer. She was living in our house and there were carers going in and out on a daily basis. Someone found my scrapbook and gave it to her so she could write words to communicate. She scribbled all over my drawings, and then when the pages were all used up, someone simply threw the whole book in the bin.

I felt pretty crappy! I wasn’t angry at my aunt, it wasn’t her fault. I was angry at the carers and how they regarded a kid’s drawing to be of little importance; to them, art was just “pointless and silly” which made me so mad! Ahhh I was a pre-teen!

I didn’t dwell on it too much though. I just got on with it and I rushed ONE plant drawing for my portfolio.

I got into my art program in the end!

And then I kind of stopped drawing plants for a while – haha.

So this one is for my 11 year old self.

(It’s also to reassure myself that I can still draw after all these years!)


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What Cameras Do I Take While Travelling?

15 August 2018

Istanbul, Gülhand Park

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

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

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

Two Cameras

So what cameras do I take while travelling?  

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

For all my trips, I took two cameras.

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

Istanbul Photo Tile

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) Sony RX100 Mark 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

I take photos for my kids.

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

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

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


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Our 3 Days in Istanbul (with kids)

28 July 2018

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

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

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

Did we feel safe?

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

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

Currency and Exchange Rate?

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

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

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

How was the AirBnb?

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

What’s to see there?

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

A wonderful combination of Eastern and Western culture.

When is the best time to go?

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

What should I wear?

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

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

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

Our 3.5 day itinerary for Istanbul

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

Day 1

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

Day 2

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

*We did this whole day by walking!

Day 3

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

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

Day 4

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

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

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

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


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How Reading Enhanced My Travel Experience

13 July 2018

Karen at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

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

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

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

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

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

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

It added so much depth to everything I saw.

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

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

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

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

(My next travel wishlist is Italy and Greece!)

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


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Hi from Istanbul!

1 July 2018

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hi everyone!

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

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

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

Lots of people asked, why Istanbul?

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

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

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

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

An Extra Special Trip

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

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

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

Will be sharing heaps of updates soon!

xxx


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Finished Reading: Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler

28 June 2018

Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler

One thing I love about my husband is that he is a fast reader. This means, I can pass him a book and say, “Please read this. I want to talk to someone about it”.

So we are our own little book club!

The two of us, snuggled on a couch on a Friday night, bitching about character development, writing style and plot arches haha!

While I read my last book, Istanbul by Bettany Hughes (I wrote about it here), my husband read this other book about Istanbul/Constantinople: Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler.

Then we swapped. But of course, he finished his book much faster than I did.

Richard Fidler is a well known Australian radio presenter, podcast interviewer and writer, with an interest in Istanbul starting since he was a teenager.

Richard goes on a journey with his teenage son to Istanbul and tells many, MANY fascinating stories about the city and it’s history.

But it’s not a typical historic book.

It is an easy-to-read, well-written, quick-to-digest run down about the BIG events surrounding Istanbul/Constantinople.

Personally, I found it jumped around a lot and it wasn’t linear, which annoyed me.

But overall, it was a great read and I really enjoyed the way he brought the stories to life.

No joke, it was like a real life Game of Thrones.


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Hard Gel Nails from Glamour Nail Bar

23 June 2018

Glamour Nail Bar

Before: Eeek I’m a bit embarrassed to share this haha! But hey this is real life for me.

These are my 4 week old shellac nails. I’m impressed the shellac even lasted 4 weeks. Usually they peel/lift off after 2 weeks, but they were starting to crack and one had lifted off the day before. My nails are so brittle and damaged from the shellac process, I really hate the cycle I’m stuck in, but I keep doing it because at least it gives me nice nails for 2 weeks.

I’ve never been to a high-end nail salon before. I’ve only ever been to cheap and cheerful shopping centre nail shops, where the ladies don’t speak any English.

Glamour Nail Bar

After: And this is me, after having Hard Gel Nails done at Glamour Nail Bar. I looooove them!

The results and whole experience was frankly AMAZING!

The nail technicians from Glamour Nail Bar are true professionals. They really care for your nail and shape each nail to utter perfection. They don’t just slap on the polish, throw you under the lamp and kick you out after your 30 minute time slot. Yes it’s a bit more expensive, but like everything in life, you get what you pay for.

They share expert advice, nail care, nail tips and explanations about nails treatments and process. I was even able to ask tricky questions and I learned so much about nail stuff. I’ve never had that before!

This nail service was kindly gifted to me in exchange for some social media posts, I wasn’t required to write a blog post about the process, but I got so many direct messages about it, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned.

How are Hard Gel Nails different to Shellac Gel Nails?

(more…)


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Finished Reading: Istanbul, A Tale of Three Cities

21 June 2018

Istanbul, A Tale of Three Cities

In preparation for our trip to Istanbul, I bought this book, Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities by Bettany Hughes, purely because of its raving reviews.

I didn’t know it was a historical BIOGRAPHY (oops, not a love story then!), and I didn’t realise the author was a famous historical tv host!

The book was pretty much a historical text book, but told in a conversational kind of way, and the author used big /academic words I had never heard before, like – Phagocyte, Demotic, Stultify, Encomia, Ebulliently (I wrote them down because I thought they were hilarious).

What did I think of the book?

I loved it!! It started in 80,000 BC and covered everything until the 1940s, focusing on the events of Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul.

So I feel like I have travelled through time, through the whole history of the world and emerged with a new perspective of the world and life. It was very cool.

Things that struck me:

– There was So. Much. Killing. So much politics, so many wars, mass slaughter, murder, assassinations, beheadings, eye-gouging, mutilations, rape, slavery. It was horrific!

– The history of Christianity and Islam was fascinating .

– Omg people died so young back then.

– Interesting to read about all the horrible stuff happening to society back then and realising that not much has changed, especially when it comes to crazy people in power, and perhaps while we might believe that the world is completely insane right now, compared to the shit that happened in the past, we are living in glorious and blessed times indeed.

Anyway, I’m officially obsessed with the history of Rome!

I’ve since read another historical non-fiction novel, and I’m currently addicted to listening to historical podcasts about Rome and Byzantium. I find them weirdly meditative :)


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My Morning Tea for IGA Purple Bra Day

9 June 2018

BCCWA IGA Purple Bra Day 2018

For my ambassador role with Breast Cancer Care WA ‘s IGA Purple Bra Day I thought I would throw a big morning tea for a few of my girlfriends!

This was actually outside of the scope of the ambassador project. They really just wanted me to talk about Purple Bra Day and encourage people to hold an event, I didn’t have to raise any funds or hold my own event. But where’s the fun in that?

Nothing like a bit of walking the talk, right?

Plus you all know how I love to cook and bake!

IGA Purple Bra Day is a fundraising event from 1 May – 23 June and anyone can join in the fun! You can head over to www.PurpleBraDay.com.au to register an event, or make a one-off donation.

Then you simply hold your own event… have a morning tea, a bake sale, a sausage sizzle, organise a dress up day at work, dye your hair purple (or shave it off!), set up a collection jar at your workplace, have a girls night in, or go big and challenge yourself in some way (jump out of a plane?) all in the name of fundraising for a worthy cause.

Here’s my page, tinyurl.com/kcpurplebra.

I’d love some support, any donation will help, big or small! Thank you!

Anyway, that top photo, that was my purple morning tea spread :)

I actually had ham and cheese croissants in the oven, which I forgot to lay out for the photo. And a platter of fruit. Where would I have put everything? Who knows?

BCCWA IGA Purple Bra Day 2018

It was my first time covering strawberries with chocolate.

I had to throw out my first 3 failed attempts (actually I just ate them), but it got easier after a bit of practice.

Tip: They look 300 times better once you place them in a mini cupcake case!

Tip: Spend a bit more to use really good chocolate and they’ll taste amazing.

Tip: Use a bit of coconut oil to keep the chocolate runny and easy to work with.

BCCWA IGA Purple Bra Day 2018

I put together some waffle bites – which were a hit!

I didn’t make the waffles, even though I have an awesome waffle recipe and an awesome deep-pan waffle maker. I bought pre-made waffles from Coles and they tasted surprisingly good, like doughnuts.

BCCWA IGA Purple Bra Day 2018

I made these from scratch! I made them the night before and iced them in the morning.

They were white chocolate cupcakes with purple butter cream icing. They tasted lovely, moist, but boring. Next time I’ll stir through some passionfruit pulp or something.

BCCWA IGA Purple Bra Day 2018

I used all my cute, op-shop found, vintage tea cups and saucers – yay!

This is pretty much the main reason I like to throw girly morning teas: I get to use my eclectic vintage tea sets haha.

BCCWA IGA Purple Bra Day 2018

I also bought these meringue cups, added whip cream and berries.

I had heaps of melted chocolate left over, so I made the little swirl things on top at the last minute.

(I think these were too sweet, not many people ate them and there were a lot left over).

Anyway, most importantly we had a fab time catching up.

A big, BIG thank you to my girlfriends who donated, we managed to raise $200!

Please, please help me reach my fundraising goal, you can donate at: tinyurl.com/kcpurplebra

Thank you so much!

xxx


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Finished Reading: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

8 June 2018

The Time Machine By H.G. Wells

I have a thing for classic literature and a particular thing for classic science fiction.

I recently looked into some of the earliest scifi novels and I was blown away to discover that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was written in 1818, BEFORE Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb in 1879. Crazy! I haven’t read Frankenstein yet, but it’s definitely high up in my books to read soon.

Well, I found this lovely vintage copy of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells in an op shop and decided to give it a go.

It was written in 1895. And to put that into context – the first car was invented in 1885, the first airplane was invented in 1903.

I really didn’t know what to expect!

What I thought – I really, really enjoyed it! First fews chapters were really tricky to read (omg, lots of old fashioned philosophical language), but the rest was VERY easy to read and flowed like a modern novel. However, it was CREEPY AS HECK.

(Spoiler: it pretty much descends into a zombie apocalypse tale and freaked me out! For example the time traveller was stuck in a dark hole and surrounded by little creatures with feathery fingers that tried to grab at him in the darkness, pulling him down and he was being overwhelmed by them… akkk!)

There is a scene in the story that has stuck in my mind.

It’s where the time traveller (he has no name) sits on his time machine and he turns the knob 800,000 years into the future. The sun, moon and stars zoom across the sky in a colourless blur and he pauses to find himself on an empty beach, looking up into an empty sky. I sometimes feel like my life is zooming by like that! Haha!

I definitely have to try War of the Worlds now. But I keep thinking of the movie and Tom Cruise, so it’s pretty much ruined for me :)


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IGA Purple Bra Day 2018

5 June 2018

I’m super excited to share that I am working with Breast Cancer Care WA as an Ambassador for IGA Purple Bra Day!

The scope of the project only included Instagram. So technically, this blog post is “unofficial” and I guess you could say that I’m sharing some “unofficial and behind the scenes” thoughts of the project on my blog – which in itself is an interesting irony.

Anyway, I’ve worked with BCCWA before, back in 2009 (um, 9 years ago!). I remember they were such a lovely bunch of people – warm, caring, inspiring, full of go-getters, full of people who actually stood amongst the front line of breast cancer care and actually helped people in need. I like those kinds of people.

I really admire that this charity is very “hands on”. All the funds go towards practical and personalised support for those affected by breast cancer: specialised breast care nurse support, counselling, transportation to and from medical appointments, practical and financial support and more.

For example, I read about a single mum with two young kids, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, she still had to go to work, go to chemo treatments, still do her grocery shopping and cleaning, make her kids’ lunch, take them to school… she was helped by BCCWA, who organised volunteers and service providers to help her and her family.

Sure, raising funds for breast cancer research is super important, but when someone is in need right now, nothing beats personal and practical support, which also needs to be funded somehow.

BCCWA IGA Purple Bra Day 2018

From left to right, Maya, Myself, Malinda and Christine.

This year, as part of the collaboration, I teamed up with a few other WA influencers for a group photoshoot. I’ve done many photoshoots before, but I’ve always been on the production side of things. I’ve never been IN a group photo like this before. It was heaps of fun. Our photographer Angela Della Rosa did a fantastic job.

The campaign catch phrase was #breastfriends… and by the end of it, I think we were all breast friends indeed!

You see, for the group shots, we had to get RIGHT UP CLOSE to each other. Our noses were almost touching. Our cheeks, boobs, shoulders, arms, hands were all pressed up together and our legs were all entwined haha. And we had to stand there like that for 5 minutes, smiling and giggling on cue. We felt ridiculous. Plus it was super awkward when you hardly knew someone. We spent the whole time in fits of laughter!

And of course, the photographer was spot on and the photos looked great in the end!

IGA Purple Bra Day 2018 Shoot

This is us cracking up about something. No doubt it had something to do with breasts.

IGA Purple Bra Day 2018 Shoot

This is me, always blinking and reseting my smile at the wrong moment!

IGA Purple Bra Day 2018 Shoot

And this is the studio floor! We completely trashed the place!

I took a sneaky pic of one of the BCCWA’s staff on babysitting duty, high-fiving one of the kids – so cute!

BCCWA IGA Purple Bra Day 2018

This was my solo photo! The photographer took heaps of variations, but I chose this one to be published.

I look a bit awkward and small, all squished up in semi-foetal position, buuuut I think it’s a cute photo and it shows off my Purple Bra and Purple Boots, which is what the whole campaign is all about!

So what’s this Purple Bra Day thing?

It is a fundraising event from 1 May – 23 June, where you can head over to www.PurpleBraDay.com.au to register an event, or make a one-off donation.

You can hold your own event: have a morning tea, hold a bake sale, a sausage sizzle, organise a dress up day at work, dye your hair purple (or shave it off!), set up a collection jar at your workplace, have a girls night in, or go big and challenge yourself (jump out of a plane?) all in the name of fundraising for a worthy cause.

I’ve set up my page at tinyurl.com/kcpurplebra so you can donate through my event if you like!

Please help! Thank you so much!

xxx


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Coffee Catch Up: May 2018

21 May 2018

Lemon Sky

Hi everyone!

Here’s a mysterious photo of my lemon tree, branches bowing from the weight of lemons (which aren’t very good because we don’t water it enough) set against the beautiful, blue Perth sky on an Autumn morning. The image makes me beam with delight!

Anyway, I’ve been jotting down lots of little stories for my “Catch up with me over coffee” blog post… so here goes!

1) New Ambassador Based Projects

My latest projects for Kailis Jewellery, Breast Cancer Care WA and HBF Run for a Reason (and a few more) are in full swing. Keep an eye out on my Instagram (@karenlycheng) and I’ll be posting about them on my blog next week too.

2) Reducing Freelance Hours

Recently I’ve been cutting back on the amount of work I take on, because I have a lot of LIFE STUFF happening.

I’m planning and organising our upcoming 4 week family holiday. I know this is such a first world problem, but it’s such a headache to research, look for the best deals, gather contacts and information, compile an itinerary, send emails, book tickets. It’s taken me weeks!

I think for once I’d like to go on a holiday where everything is organised perfectly for me. That’ll be a real holiday for me!

I also had a few things to organise… stuff for my father in law, stuff for the kids, and medical/dental stuff too… which brings me to my next point.

3) My 9 year old had dental surgery recently – eekk!

He and my husband woke up at 6am one morning to head to the hospital. Then he had a general anaesthetic to extract a few “extra teeth” that were pushing against his regular teeth. According to the experts, the extra teeth needed to come out now (one was growing in his palate?!) or they would cause problems in the future.

I was pacing up and down my house, my stomach all in knots and my heart fluttering from all the nervousness. I’m glad my husband went and not me.

Hours later, he was a bit sore, tired and grumpy about the numbness, but he was absolutely fine.

He even snuck outside to ride his bike on the street with the neighbours in the late afternoon! Ugh!
4) And speaking of neighbours, a new family moved into the house across the road.

They also have two boys aged 10 and 8, so they are very similar ages to Liam, my 9 year old.

They have been a breath of fresh air for our family dynamics! Liam plays with them every afternoon, for hours and hours and he is so happy! It has been wonderful to see him play with kids his own age. Sure he has heaps of friends at school. But this kind of play is a kind of long-form play brought about by boredom, hanging around and thinking up of crazy boy ideas.

Now Liam has someone to play Beyblades with, talk about Pokemons, play tennis on the street, dig holes in the garden, make books about cats, draw Minecraft pictures, build a cubby house, ride to the park, make lemonade from lemons in the backyard… all the things my older boys used to do when they were younger.

It made me realise that my older two boys (aged 15 and 13) just don’t play in that kiddy way anymore. If they did play tennis on the street with Liam, they would get so frustrated by his lack of skill, or start playing at a lower skill level, but then move to an increasingly higher level, and then eventually Liam would get frustrated. Fights! Tears! Screaming! Every! Single! Day!

So in a way, Liam has missed out on a lot of brotherly “long-form play” over the years. I’m so happy he has some new buddies his age to spend time with.

5) As for my older boys…

I’ve been slowly teaching my 15 year old some life skills and responsibilities.

Meaning: When life stuff comes up, I make him do it.
He recently bent his debit card and it stopped working. He couldn’t use it for paypass, but he could still buy stuff online. Every time he complained about it, I politely reminded him that all HE had to do was call up the bank to get a replacement. So easy!

After 6 weeks of procrastination (ugh, teenagers!) he finally looked it up online and discovered that he didn’t have to call and talk to a human, he just had to log into his account and apply for a new one online. But he now has to wait 7 more days for it to arrive in the mail haha.

Lesson: Sometimes things are not as hard as you imagine they’ll be.

He also recently broke the gears on my bike (my derailleur!) and I made him walk it to the bike shop (only 1.5km away), explain to the bike guy what happened, arrange contact details, payment, pick up details and walk back home. He was not happy, but he did it anyway. Only cost him $70 in the end.

Lesson: If you borrow something and break it, it’s your responsibility to pay for it and fix it.

Omg every day something new happens and there are new lessons to be taught. It’s been slow and painful. But he’s doing pretty well and he’s such a great kid.

6) My 13 year old boy got a job too.

I think it’s such a great/important/crucial way for teenagers to grow up, learn skills, interact with other adults and start being independent.

He has been helping my brother-in-law with house renovations, in particular, moving and cleaning bricks – hundreds of them! It’s good hard work and he gets paid by the hour.

Apparently he’s a “good worker” with a “good attitude”… which is exactly what I want to hear, yay!!

7) Thinking about universities

I know right?! What the heck?!

With lots of encouragement from his high school, my 15 year old has started to thinking about what he wants to do after high school, which university he wants to go to, what course he wants to take etc etc.

My mind is blown. I can’t deal with it.

8) Randomly, I’ve been invited to be on an Australian Reality TV Show

I received an email asking if I’d like to be a contestant on an Australian version of the Chinese mega-show “If You Are The One”!

Haha! Um, no thanks!

Firstly… 1) I’m already married… 2) I’m not exactly a fun-loving 22 year old!?! 3) I’m old, boring, I like gardening and reading, I’m cynical and sarcastic of all things media and TV reality show related and… 3) I’m ethnically Chinese, so the TV producers are probably going to portray me as an “exotic”, “piano/violin playing”, “straight A student”, “quite-spoken prude”, or “dragon cougar lady”. Haha omg no thanks!

OK that’s all from me!

Have a fantastic week!

xxx


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Mother’s Day Gifts from the Weekend

14 May 2018

Mothers Day 2018

Hi everyone, hope you had a lovely weekend, and if you celebrated Mother’s Day, I hope you were super spoilt!

For me, I told the kids I didn’t want presents – I just wanted them to wash my car :)

They did a fantastic job. My car is sparkling! They even cleaned my wheels!

(It helped that they use my Enjo car cloths, which I believe, did most of the hard work haha)

Our weeks have been so busy and rushed, that I just wanted a normal, quiet day at home – which has become so rare these days.

So my Mother’s Day Sunday consisted of a glorious 9:30am sleep in (omg I was so spoilt!), pancake breakfast, regular Sunday chores, a bit of gardening, taking one kid to his work, doing bit of shopping, hanging out with my kids, letting them play video games, bit of reading, going to the Asian grocery store and cooking for a dinner party, where we invited both of our extended families over for dinner.

As for gifts, I managed to pick out a few items for myself, including this super gorgeous Bamboo Circle Bag by Cult Gaia.

I also received a Chloé Sinature Eau De Parfum (75ml), an oldie but a goodie, via Priceline’s reward club.

Also pictured here are some Kailis Jewellery, Antheia Earrings and Twin Pearl Cuff, but these were just a loan for the weekend.

Mother's Day 2018

When my 3 kids were in Primary School, I received soooo many cute crafty gifts and cards. The teachers did such a lovely job, implementing all kinds of creative ideas for kids to spoil the mums.

Now with my two big kids in high school, I get less crafty gifts (which is a good thing!) but I do get a bit sentimental and miss all those silly “Interview Questions” or “Acrostic Poems”… thankfully I still have a kid in Year 4!

Mother's Day 2018

Talking about silly acrostic poems… I can’t tell whether my 9yo kid really thinks this of me, or he was forced to make some stuff up to fit into the poem?

I guess he could have simply used the word “awesome”?


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Finished Reading: Crime and Punishment

12 May 2018

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevesky

After reading a modern crime thriller (I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes) I read two popular, non-fiction “lifestyle” books and I didn’t really love either of them as a reading experience.

One was quite informative and interesting, the other was a bit too simplistic – I liked the idea, just didn’t like the execution. I probably shouldn’t expect to read those kind of books for pleasure anyway.

Thankfully I found Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in an op shop for $3 – yay.

After reading Anna Karenina, I fell in love with 19th Century Russian literature and was keen to try more. Crime and Punishment was one of those books that was rated highly and constantly featured in lists like “100 Books you should read before you die”.

It was incredible!

Brilliant, deep, powerful, full of drama and insight into human nature.

I was laughing out loud, dropping my jaw and gasping with delight.

It was such an awesome read for me that I’m still thinking about it, weeks after I’ve finished it.

It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read.

I’m now officially obsessed with Russian literature from the 19th Century and I desperately want to visit St Petersburg and Moscow!

I’ve also ordered 2 other Russian classics and super excited to read them!


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Finished Rading: I Am Pilgrim

15 April 2018

I am Pilgrim

After I read Jane Austen’s Emma… I was keen to read something a bit more modern and gritty haha!

I found I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes at my local op shop for $2 and my first impression was: omg it’s soooo thick.

I don’t really like crime/thriller books, but I gave it a go.

I sped through it in 14 days! It was a excellent read – written so well, it zoomed by at a fast pace, just like a Hollywood blockbuster movie.

It’s a crime story, twisting investigation, modern day terrorist, kind of book.

Really enjoyed it… but now I need  something a bit more slow paced and cerebral :)


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What is a Lash Lift?

12 April 2018

Lash Lift March 2018

Hi everyone, a few weeks ago I had a lash lift!

I posted about it on Instagram stories – but I received so many questions about it, that I decided to pop the info up here on my blog.

Lash lifts have been around for ages. I was told by my beautician friend that they were really popular about 10 years ago. But then false lashes and eyelash extensions became all the rage… now lifts/perms are becoming popular again.

​This picture is me, one day after having the lash lift. My skin looks amazing here, but it’s just a filter haha!

I’m wearing a bit of foundation, brow pencil and a swipe of mascara.

It’s a “natural + everyday” look rather than a “glam” look. It looks like I have eyeliner one, but I don’t.

What is it?

A lash lift (or lash perm) is a perm for your eyelashes, to keep them permanently curled and perfectly lifted up!

How long does it last?

Usually 2 – 3 months. But depends on your lashes and how fast they grow.

How long is the lash lift process?

All done in about 30-40 minutes. (Probably less, but I like to chat…)

How are they?

Omg they are amazing! They are zero maintenance! You just wake up every morning with perfectly perky lashes that brighten your eyes!

You can swim, sweat, cry. You can load them up with mascara. You can even get extensions put on them for a special occassion.

How do they compare to lash extensions?

I love getting lash extensions, but they are expensive ($120 for a “natural” set), they don’t last very long (3 weeks tops), they take 1-1.5 hours to put them on, and my eyes get quite red for a few days from the glue.

Plus, you have to avoid getting extensions wet, you shouldn’t sleep on your face/eyes, you shouldn’t rub them, wash them too hard – all this stuff you have to remember to look after them and make them last longer.

A lash lift is so much easier to look after. That is, there’s nothing to do! You just treat them like your normal lashes.

While it doesn’t look as dramatic, I think it gives you lovely everyday lashes, with a bit of oomph.

What do I do with them everyday?

I still wear mascara everyday. And I use an eyelash serum called Li Lash.

How much?

I’ve seen the procedure priced at $55, $69, $99 and $130 around Perth.

But I go to my girlfriend Bonnie (@bonnie_beauty_space), who has a home beauty salon in Kewdale (near Belmont Forum), who charges $30.

If you’re keen to give it a go, drop her a message on Instagram, she’d love a few new clients!

Lash Lift March 2018

Here’s a before after photo.

Left – About 1 hour before the lash lift.

Right – 1 day after the lash lift with a swipe of mascara.

Now (4 weeks later) – They still curl up nicely and they are still thick and perky.

Yup I’m definitely a convert. They are soooo low maintenance, so easy to look after, such a great effect, lasts so long, not so expensive… it’s brilliant!


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Helping Asylum Seekers with CARAD’s Food Bank

28 March 2018

I first heard about the Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD) last year, while being involved with a philanthropic group, Impact100 WA.

I was very moved by the work they do, and I put my hand up to help. I also attended one of their Volunteer Information Sessions to find out more about the organisation and how I could help… and I was hooked!

They sounded like an amazing group, doing super-amazing things that really helped people in need.

I had already donated money. But I wanted to help in a practical way.

I found out that their Food Bank Program was a great and positive way to help asylum seekers in our coummunity.

So I thought I’d share it with everyone!

CARAD Food Bank Program

This is CARAD Headquarters, 245 Stirling Street in Perth.

They are an independent, not-for-profit organisation, dedicated to providing specialised welfare and advocacy assistance to asylum seekers, refugees and detainees in Western Australia.

Many of CARAD’s clients do not have the right to work and are ineligible for financial support. Some have to wait months or years until they become eligible.

So the CARAD team runs Case Management Programs (Foodbank, Emergency Relief Services, Accommodation Assistance and No Interest Loans) which provide basic needs for asylum seekers experiencing financial hardship, with little or no income.

CARAD Food Bank Program

The Food Bank Program runs twice a week, at an allocated time, where registered CARAD clients (asylum seekers) can access fresh fruit and vegetables, pantry items, and items such as nappies and blankets.

It helps them with their weekly groceries and supplements their limited weekly budgets.

I popped into CARAD to see how it all works.

The Food Rescue truck arrived early, with boxes of donated fresh produce.

CARAD Food Bank Program

The CARAD Office exploded into action and activity!

Volunteers helped to unpack the truck and laid out the produce for the clients.

CARAD Food Bank Program

A volunteer picked up some bread, kindly donated by Loafers Artisan Bread.

They looked so good!

CARAD Food Bank Program

The pantry was all ready for CARAD clients to access (after having been pre-stocked by more volunteers).

Interestingly, they don’t put together “Food Relief Boxes” or “Pre-Assembled Hampers”.

They find that allowing the clients to choose and take what they need, much like in a shop, is a far more dignifying and practical way to support them.

CARAD Food Bank Program

Also, I was surprised to discover that all the pantry items stocked here are from personal donations.

They are not from supermarkets, not bulk delivered, and they do not come from other collection organisations (such as Food Rescue). They come from everyday people like me!

They don’t have much room in their office, but they make it all fit. Most of the time, donated items come in and go out the same day. And they are ALWAYS looking for those high demand items.

 

CARAD have an excellent WAYS TO DONATE page on their website.

Here are some ways:

1) Financial Donation. You can donate online, simply follow the links from this page.

2) Donate items to their Food Bank Program. CARAD have a list of all the items they need, highlighting some of the more urgent items that are low in stock – this list is constantly updated! So check in regularly.

All donations can be delivered to the office, 245 Stirling Street, Perth, Monday to Friday between 9am – 4pm.

3) Gift Vouchers. Buy a $20, $50 or $100 gift card voucher next time you are in Coles, Woolworths, Kmart, BigW or Target. These are a really helpful resource for the clients, allowing choice in what they purchase.

If you can’t drive over to the CARAD office to deliver it, pop it into an envelope and snail mail it (245 Stirling Street, Perth 6000)!

4) Online Shopping Delivery. Gosh how easy is this? Put together an online order and have it delivered straight to their office! Online shop orders can be delivered to CARAD (245 Stirling Street, Perth 6000) from Monday to Friday, 10am to 2pm.

5) Give your time. If you’re keen to volunteer head over to this page to find out how to become a volunteer.

CARAD Food Bank Program

This is my contribution for today! I couldn’t visit empty handed :)

I looked up their list of low stock items here and bought a few items during my weekly grocery shop. This box was about $50 worth of stuff. It was all too easy.

My kids wondered why I was buying all the extra bits and pieces, and I told them. It was a great conversation starter and a great way to get kids involved with giving, being educated and doing something practical for others.

Anyway, I hope this has inspired you in some way, or opened your eyes, or even just educated you a little (my little visit was very educational!)… and show you that anyone can help in a small way to make a positive impact on the community.

A big thank you to the CARAD staff for letting me poke around their office!


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Coffee Catchup: March 2018

14 March 2018

Flowers

Hellooo! It’s been ​such a long time since I’ve shared some updates on life!

So what’s been happening around here?

1) New Ambassador Based Projects.

I have a few new projects coming up. I’m super excited! Can’t wait to share more details in the next few days!

2) Freelance Digital / Art Direction / Blog Writing work.

Have I mentioned that I’m still juggling some freelance projects? Omg I’m so busy! Trying to finish up some jobs before I start new ones.

3) Philanthropy.

A few months ago I shared about how I’m involved with a group of WA philanthropists and how we’re trying to make a big difference with our pooled donations.

We gave away two $100,ooo grants (amazing!) back in October for projects that will make an impact in the local community. One project is about bringing people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds together with the wider community through sharing meals, culinary skills, culture, education and work experience. Another project is a support program for career and employment workshops that will build the capacity of unemployed and low income women to secure and sustain employment.

I’m hoping to feature the two projects on my blog and talk about a few of the past winners too. Inspiring stuff!

4) New Website.

I have to confess. I have been working on a new website for 5 years now! Omg this version is so old… and over the years, my new version has gone through so many redesigns – I keep buying new themes, changing the code and then breaking them, fixing them, then getting bored and distracted haha.

The most time-consuming part is going through all my old posts (about 3000 of them!) deleting, editing, fixing links… it’s like I’m like editing a book of my life. It’s exhausting. I have 8 months worth of posts to transfer and I should be all good to go. But I’m sure something will come up and it’ll get pushed aside again!

5) Kindness.

At the end of last year, a few of my friends had some horrible experiences – targeted attacks, online trolls and just having to deal with some very unkind people. Paired with all the crazy shit happening around the world… I went through a kind of kind of internal, emotional turmoil that went up, down and full circle … but found myself at a place of peace and kindness.

This year I’m trying to live with more mindfulness and kindness. I deeply believe that a small word of kindness, a simple gesture, a thoughtful gift, a smile… can do SO MUCH.

I’m also trying to spend more time with REAL PEOPLE, and less time trying to connect over devices.

6) Holidays.

Hey hey, my husband and I have finally decided on our holiday plans for this year.

We’re off to Scotland then Istanbul for a few weeks. And maybe a trip in September (maybe China?) and November (Sydney). Omg the year will be over in a flash! So excited!

7) Adulting.

Ugh, I have spent the last month sorting out our finances. I looked through our home, health, car, life insurances and superannuation. I worked out the effectiveness of our bank accounts, credit cards, savings, mortgages and investments. I worked out our monthly spending, savings, big costs for the next 5 years. I looked into phone plans, internet, utilities. I did most of the big stuff about 10 years ago… so it was time for an update. I’m constantly tracking all our small stuff every year tho.

8) Kids

My kids have their birthdays coming up in the next few weeks, so this year they will be ages 15, 13 and 9.

My 15yo is loving his job (working in a cafe) and loving the fact that he has money. It has been such a great learning and developmental experience for him… most importantly, understanding that money comes from hard work. It was a breakthrough for him (and us) when he started to calculate how many hours of work it would take for him to pay for something. It was priceless! This year, he’s in Year 10 and doing really well in school/sports/friends/life in general. He’s a bit of an all-rounder, generally a great kid, very reasonable… and he has no idea what he wants to do in the future. At this stage, I’m not too worried about him yet :)

My 13yo is an all rounder too. He loves his creative subjects, but he also likes robotics, programming and building things. Surprisingly, he’s really organised with his homework, works hard and likes to be on top of things. I don’t need to nag him at all. I say “surprisingly” because his room is always in a complete mess, but he knows exactly where everything is. He’s in Year 8 and he’s also doing well in school/sports/friends. He’s a lovely kid and he’s so kind to me! Omg he has so much energy though and plays a mean game of basketball, chess and he’s great at mowing lawns too haha.

Both my older boys make their own food – simple teenager food – instant noodles, pasta, omelettes, bacon sandwiches, chicken + cheese wraps, pizza. They love making their own smoothies too. And as long as I keep the freezer stocked with frozen pizzas, pies and hash browns, they are pretty happy.

I love listening to their teenagery stories and opinions. It truly is the highlight of my day. I love catching up with the latest updates, news and gossip. And I love that they are to keen to try out new things!

My 9yo gets a bit bored at school, but he has a great group of friends, who are the only reason he enjoys going to school. He is so polite and obedient to his Year 4 teachers (he’s a freaking angel!). But he is full of complaints and criticisms, which I have to listen to after school, and has ALL kinds of opinions about what is being taught, how and how slow it all is – haha! I’ve challenged him many times to put his brains to good use, but to no avail.

I don’t do any extra learning with him anymore, because he’s too far ahead and it just makes him more arrogant and even more bored at school. So much comes so naturally and easily to him, thus when faced with actual hard work, he avoids it or works around it, and he doesn’t think it’s necessary to do any kind of extended learning or extra challenges… so I’m struggling to keep him motivated or interested in anything! I just need to find the right thing to fire up that spark in him?

In the meantime, we make him clean the toilet and bathroom once a week. He also has to sort, fold and put away ALL the weekly laundry for the whole family (that is, 5 people)! Nothing like menial domestic tasks and elbow grease to keep a smarty-pants kid humble haha!

I do feel a bit sad that I don’t talk about my kids anymore and sharing our conversations, our weekly topics and funny things we’ve learned. Braces! Teenagers and phone plans! Teenagers and Applepay! Teenagers and online shopping! High calorie diets! Study habits! My teenager wants to start investing?! I feel like there’s a huge chunk missing from my “online version of my life” on this blog. I’m hoping that might change soon!

OK that’s all from me!

Have a fantastic week!

xxx


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Finished Reading: Emma by Jane Austen

7 March 2018

Emma by Jane Austen

After reading a popular sci-fi novel — written for 35 year old gamer guys — this book.

(Only kidding! Sorry, no judgement!)

I wanted to read something totally GIRLY. And you can’t get more girly than Jane Austen.

I did a bit of research to find the most popular Jane Austen Book (after Pride and Prejudice) and the answer was: Emma.

I actually haven’t watched the 1996 movie, starring Gwyneth Paltrow – because I knew that one day I would want to read the book. That’s 22 years people. How’s that for long term commitment?

My opinion: Typical Austen. Loved it. Prefer Pride and Prejudice.

See my current reading list here!


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Moore River 2018

13 February 2018

Moore River 2018

6 months ago we returned from a 4 week camping trip to Central Australia… and after that, I swore I’d never go camping again!

Haha not really… we just made a conscious decision to NOT go away for a while.

I mean, staying at home is SO underrated these days.

Anyway, last weekend, we finally decided to break our no-camping drought to join a bunch of our friends to camp at Moore River (Guilderton Caravan Park).

Honestly, it wasn’t REAL camping, because the caravan park had lush green grass, lovely shade from trees, and super-amazing, shared facilities  – hello microwave, electric kettles and clean, hot showers!

We did lots of swimming, paddling, hanging on the beach, sand boarding, running, sunset bush walks, playing cricket, walking to the shops to buy ice cream, talking, chilling, reading the newspaper… it was the perfect.

We only stayed 2 nights, but it was truly relaxing – even with so many young kids running around.  There were 6 families in total (including 4 sets of twins!), all our good friends and I felt totally blessed to know such lovely people!

#blessedyo


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Finished Reading: Ready Player One

9 February 2018

Ready Player One

After reading George Orwell’s 1984 and Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

I was keen to pick up a modern, sci-fi novel.

I initially bought Ready Player One by Ernest Cline book for my teenaged son.

But sooo many people raved about it, and I noticed it was rated as NUMBER 1 on this list of “Best Sci-Fi of the 21st Century“.

I can’t go past a rating like that, so I had to try it myself.

It was definitely written for sci-fi fans, males aged 35 and above, who are fans of gaming and gaming culture — all of which I am not, haha!

Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was a really fun, easy and entertaining read.

See my current reading list here!


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Painting and Sipping

5 February 2018

On a bit of a whim, I went to a social art class with my sister!

There are a few of these classes happening around Perth, but the one we went to was called, Paint & Sip in Wembley.

How it works: Each evening has a “chosen painting”. You pay to book, you turn up, have a glass of alcohol, enjoy an array of cheese, fruit, dips, food, and a qualified artist will lead you through, step by step, to paint the chosen painting – with all the paints and equipment provided.

It’s a simple and fun idea. It’s not a “proper” art class. It’s supposed to be social, enjoyable and relaxed. You’re not supposed to take it too seriously… and you’re supposed to drink a few glasses of wine!

*I have to mention that both my sister and I don’t drink much alcohol… and we BOTH went to an art school (a high school with a specialised art program). We haven’t painted in YEARS and we were itching to pick up some brushes again… soooo we were definitely taking it quite seriously haha!

Social Paint + Sip Class 2018

Our chosen painting was “Oleanders” by Van Gogh.

I was super keen to do this painting because it’s a lovely, lesser-known painting by Van Gogh.

(I thought it’d be a bit cheesey to copy one of Van Gogh’s iconic paintings, such as Sunflowers or Starry Night, but that’s just me!)

First up: We made a grid on our canvas and sketched out the painting.

Social Paint + Sip Class 2018

The lovely artist, Lousie Collier, gave us lots of great advice, including which areas to work on first and which colours to use. She was awesome!

The paints were really good quality. So were the brushes.

She even provided rags, aprons and rubber gloves.

Social Paint + Sip Class 2018

I was drinking pineapple and coconut juice tonight, which looked just like my paint cleaning water haha!

Social Paint + Sip Class 2018

Look at my beautiful mess!

In terms of painting, I have more experience with oil paints. Oils take HOURS to dry, and you have to paint with them in a certain way.

In this session we used acrylic paints, which dry in 5 minutes (!!), so I found it quite tricky to change my painting style. It was a challenge and I liked it.

I also decided that I wanted to copy Van Gogh’s painting, rather than interpret it.

This was a new thing for me, as I don’t think I have ever tried to copy someone else’s painting down to the last stroke. When I used to paint, I just went with the flow of ideas in my head at the time. So this was more of an exercise of skill for me… a very fun one!

We had to mix our own colours too. Ooooh I loved it.

It was so much fun to have so many of my old skills come back.

And see how I stacked and criss-crossed my brushes on the palette? I used to do that exact same thing in high school. Even all my bad art habits came back haha.

Social Paint + Sip Class 2018

This is my work near the end of the session. Not finished!

The session started at 7pm… and by 10pm, everyone else had finished and started to pack up.

I worked on it for another 30 minutes, but really, I need another 3 hours.

It was 10:30pm and I had to take it home to finish it off… oh well.

(And given my list of priorities, I probably wouldn’t work on it again until the kids left home!)

Louise actually said I could stay as long as I wanted, but I was getting tired and I still had to drive home.

Social Paint + Sip Class 2018

So this is my unfinished work.

I’m a little meh about it right now. I’ll finish it one day!

It was so much fun to paint and such a good night!


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Finished Reading List for 2017

9 January 2018

Finished Book List for 2017

Yay here’s my finished reading list for 2017.

I think I did OK for reading 10 books in a year, considering that I took 7 months to read Catch-22 (however I did finish 2 other books while trying to read it).

One of my life goals is to read a whole bunch of classic literature titles.

Basically I want to get through a list of “Greatest Books of All Time”, but alternating them with modern titles that catch my attention, or books I find for $2 at the opshop.

I managed to read 5 classics this year: 1984, Catch-22, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Little Prince.

Starting with the book I read last Jan (2017), here’s my list.

1. Insurgent (Divergent, #2) by Veronica Roth

2. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

3. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

5. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

6. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

7. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

8. Maestra by L.S Hilton

9. 1984 by George Orwell

10. Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot, #10) by Agatha Christie

My favourite read for the year was Murder on the Orient Express. I had never read an Agatha Christie before and it was very enjoyable. The language was very concise, and not flowery at all, which made it a fast paced story. It surprised me, I thought it’d be like reading Charles Dickens.

My other surprise was 1984. Wow talk about a creepy and depressing story! Just doom and gloom. Everyone raves about what an amazing book it is, and yes, on many levels, it’s an impressive and thought provoking story for its time. It wasn’t a fun read though. And I feel sorry for the people who had to read it in high school and “analyse” it haha!

Regret Read award goes to Insurgent. The movie was much better and it had a hot guy in it. I read it on the plane from London to Perth.

And I didn’t like The Little Prince either. I know it’s for kids, and it’s supposed to be profound and allegorical but omg it was so weird?! I almost had to put it down as a “Did Not Finish”.

You can check out my full list of Have-Read Books on Good Reads.

Or take a peek at my Finished Reading List for 2016.

Good luck for your reading goals this year!

xxx


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My Baby Succulent Nursery

3 January 2018

Stolen Succulent

This is me with a stolen piece of succulent plant!

I was at a cafe and I spotted a cool looking succulent in the cafe’s toilet. I asked a waitress if I could have a little piece and she had no idea what I was talking about (sigh!), and she said she’d ask the owner, but she didn’t get back to me. So I pinched a piece anyway. And so it’s not reeeeeally stolen?!

When we bought our first house 15 years ago, I was obsessed with succulents.

I had so many! I knew the names of them!

But then I had children. So my interest in them waned. I could barely have a shower and look after myself, let alone look after a couple of house plants.

Now I’m back at it.

I have a mental wishlist of succulents I need in order to complete my collection.

When I go on my weekly runs, I often look into people’s gardens and if I spot a succulent I want… I knock on their door to ask if I could break off a little branch so I can propagate it.

In fact, when I go for my runs, I always carry a bit of cash (2 x $5 notes) for coffee, for a snack, for emergency water or…. for the instance I come across a succulent and someone is reluctant to give me a branch for free, so at least I have $5 to offer them???

Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m always prepared for it haha!

Rare succulents can be over $20!

You only need one leaf to propagate a whole succulent.

You need a lot of time too.

Baby Succulents 2017

Here is my succulent baby nursery. The one on the left is a baby orchid.

They are my babies. My new children. Who don’t talk back.

Look how well they are doing!

I’m so proud of them.

Baby Succulents 2017

These guys have been growing for 6 months.

They are so bright, green, glossy and… succulent.

I keep their leaves polished too!

Baby Succulents 2017

These guys are new additions, from my sister’s house. Including the one I stole from the cafe.

All looking very young and perky. Doing rather nicely!

I’m also on the hunt from op-shopped terracotta pots and retro bowls, to grow them in. As I have LOTS more bigger succulents in my garden.

I definitely see 2018 as a year of daggy hobbies :)


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Christmas Celebrations for 2017

26 December 2017

Christmas 2017

Hi everyone!

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas with your families and loved ones!

We have had back-to-back parties, dinners, BBQs, lunches and outings leading up to Christmas. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been very stressful at all. It’s been very chilled, manageable and very enjoyable to catch up with everyone.

Once again, we hosted dinner on Christmas Eve with my side of the family. I managed to delegate lots of dishes, so in the end I only had to make three things, including the ham.

It looked great in the end!

Funny story, I had to look up my Christmas blog post from last year to make sure that I decorated my ham differently haha!

Christmas Table 2017

I did go a bit fancy this year, with white tablecloths, candles and a formal table setting – no plastic plates here! And although it looked really lovely, I don’t think I’ll do that again, as I prefer a more casual, relaxed vibe, where people can move around and sit with other people to talk throughout the evening.

For Christmas Day we usually wake up at a normal time, eat a hot breakfast of leftover ham, eggs and toast, then go for a walk if the weather is nice. Then we invite a few grandparents over and sit around the Christmas tree to open presents.

This year was the same. Except that this time, I felt that the kids were a little bit disappointed, because they didn’t receive brand new devices, phones or tablets or anything of that sort. Maybe they are a bit older now and were expecting more?

They had been begging me for new devices for months, to which I had said, “Absolutely not!”. And I think they believed that I would surprise them just because it’s Christmas?! Nope.

I don’t really believe in buying my kids brand new devices, just because they simply want a new one or want to own the latest version. They can just live with their old, secondhand items with cracked screens.

Anyway, they were still pretty grateful for the gifts they received, and they did thank us happily.

In the late afternoon, we celebrated with my husband’s side of the family. Kids had a blast in the pool. We all ate lots of Christmas food and desserts.

Then we are off to a few more pool parties and BBQs by the river before the year is over.

I love this time of year!

Christmas 2017


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Finding That Child-Like Joy

10 December 2017

Santa's Magical Kingdom 2017

Last week I was kindly given VIP Tickets to see Santa’s Magical Kingdom at the Crown Pyramid, Perth!

I dragged my kids for a fun – and rare – evening out.

There were interactive walk-throughs (with lots of falling fake snow!), lots of carnival rides (roller coaster, spinning things, bumper cars, sky flyer, spinning teacups and more), an extravagant Christmas show, gingerbread decorating, Christmas craft, super-sized bouncy castle, inflated mega-slide, and roaming Christmas characters.

What made it great was that you paid for the ticket entry once and you didn’t need to pay for any activities again.

There were lots of things to do inside and the 3 hour entry duration was just perfect.

The only extra things you have to pay for are food, sideshow games, or photos with Santa.

Santa's Magical Kingdom 2017

Yes my kids were probably a little old for it (especially my 15yo and 13yo), but I encouraged them to forget about “looking cool / acting cool” and just enjoy the moment.

They had a blast!!

I was so happy my kids could still find a child-like joy and have some silly fun.

Santa's Magical Kingdom 2017

There were lots of rides and my kids found a certain pleasure going on the rides again and again and again until they couldn’t walk properly.

Santa's Magical Kingdom 2017

The Christmas show was pretty good too.

We had amazing seats, right in front, but it made us feel terribly afraid that a performer might pick us out to be a “stage volunteer” for one of their acts.

There were lots of circus performers, acrobats, cute little dogs doing tricks and….

santa20Santa's Magical Kingdom 201717-05

Three guys on motorcycles driving around the inside of a globe, at the same time!

My kids had never seen anything like that before, up close. It was very cool to watch.

Santa's Magical Kingdom 2017

Lastly, I had to follow my own advice, about having child-like fun.

My kids pressured me into going on this Sky Flying Ride.

If you’re a long time reader, you’ll know that I’m VERY susceptible to motion sickness. I get dizzy if I’m in the backseat of a car! I get dizzy on my own office chair!

Santa's Magical Kingdom 2017

So here I am, next to my middle boy, who is just as prone to motion-sickness as I am.

My older boy and younger boy were seated behind us, photobombing our in-air selfie.

Santa's Magical Kingdom 2017

Looking down into the carpark below!

Oooh myyyy gosh, I got really dizzy, but it was a lot of fun + laughs. We took a lot of selfies and videos to distract us from spewing (just kidding).

Big thanks to the Santa’s Magical Kingdom team. It was such a fun night with my boys. I totally recommend it!

 

Santa’s Magical Kingdom
1 – 23 December 2017
Crown Pyramid
www.santasmagicalkingdomperth.com.au

Frequently Asked Questions here (ticket prices, times, parking, show time start etc)

 


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Exploring the City of Perth Christmas Lights Trail

1 December 2017

(Brought to you by the City of Perth)

City of Perth Christmas 2017

The City of Perth recently launched their The City at Christmas program and invited me to check it out. It sounded fantastic, because I’m always up for fun + free things for my family to see and do!

I love visiting the city during this time. The whole area comes alive with lights, decorations, activities, colour and music. And in the last few years, they’ve really struck a good thing by bringing in food markets, hawker food stalls, farmer’s markets, craft markets and open-air movies, appealing to a wide audience.

This year, the City of Perth have lots of brand new Christmas events, in particular the new “Christmas Lights Trail” featuring 16 light installations, spread throughout the city.

It comes with a map (download here), to encourage exploring around the city.

I knew my kids would love it, so I dragged them out to go exploring one evening! (Only took two kids, as the third had something else on).

City of Perth Christmas 2017

This is the Giant Bauble on Murray Street Mall. During the day it looks a bit lifeless, but once the sun sets and the lights come on, it’s quite cool.

It’s a great place for photos and selfies with the family.

My first photo in this post (scroll up!) showed the Christmas Lights Tunnel in The Piazza, Northbridge. It’s a 24m tunnel made with over 5km of lights.

That was a really awesome installation too.

City of Perth Christmas 2017

Our next favourite would have to be the Christmas Constellation in Forrest Place. It’s a huge array of dangling lights, in a cylindrical shape, that changes colour and animates to music. It is SO pretty and very mesmerising to watch.

As you can see, I took a lot of photos of the cool colours and I couldn’t choose which I liked the most.

City of Perth Christmas 2017

After that we walked from Forrest Place and headed towards St Georges Terrace.

My kids insisted we stop at the 7-Eleven (corner of Hay and Barrack) to pick up a few $1 Slurpees, and we made our way to Cathedral Square to view the Christmas Projections at St George’s Cathedral.

City of Perth Christmas 2017

This was definitely my favourite light installation. It was cute, soothing, happy and playful.

I loved the contrasting dark shadows created by the architecture.

There were so many people sitting on the grass, taking photos and enjoying the animated projections. It was a lovely atmosphere.

City of Perth Christmas 2017

Then immediately across the road, opposite the Cathedral was the Council House Lights display. It uses 20,000 LED lights to animate the colours of the rainbow.

I’ve seen this display before, but I still love it because it looks so happy and cheerful.

My Visit Plan

As I mentioned before, there are 16 installations, spread out all over the city, so it’s quite a walk. Here’s the map for downloading.

I actually went into the city the day before to plan my night walk, to see all the installations, to pick out which ones were worth coming back to photograph, and which my kids would like. I did the whole walk and I was pretty tired by the end, especially after carrying all my camera gear.

So this is what I did:

I parked at the State Library CPP Car Park (in the Perth Cultural Centre) at 7pm.

We walked into Northbridge to grab some take away dinner (chicken kebabs) and went to see the Christmas Lights Tunnel (as shown in the first photo of my post)

Then we walked to Forrest Place, where there were about 5 installations. We walked to Cathedral Square, picked up some dessert along the way, sat on the grass outside the cathedral to eat our dessert and chill out.

We probably could have seen more, but we were pretty tired and we had to walk back to the car. By the time I got back to my car, it was 9pm.

It was such a fun and novel evening for us (especially on a school night!) and my kids loved it.

City of Perth Christmas 2017

(This was one of the installations I didn’t take my kids to. It was the Giant Christmas Tree at Brookfield Place. It was pretty and stylish, but it wasn’t interactive.)

More information about the Christmas Lights Trail here:
https://www.visitperthcity.com/christmas

Christmas Carnival

Another new event for The City at Christmas program will be the Christmas Carnival at Forrest Chase, which features kiddie rides and activities.

It is a free event on Saturday 9 Dec and Sunday 10 Dec, recommended for children aged up to 10 years old. There will be fiesta balloons, merry go round, ferris wheel, human soccer table, mega-trampolines and craft workshops.

There will also be street entertainers, and food and produce market stalls set up all along the Murray St Mall, so you can grab a treat too.

More information here:
https://www.visitperthcity.com/events/christmas-carnival

City of Perth Christmas 2017

Santa in the City Competition

I also want to share that the City of Perth are running a cool Instagram competition to win a prize pack – an overnight stay at Crowne Plaza Perth (for family of four), $250 H&M voucher and Pottery Barn stockings.

Simply pick up a free cardboard “Santa on a stick” from the iCity Kiosk (Forrest Chase), take a picture of him doing something around the city, such as Santa hanging out at Elizabeth Quay, eating sushi in Northbridge or enjoying the view at Kings Park. The more creative the better!

Make sure you use the hashtag #santainperthcity to enter. Competition closes 15 Dec 2017. Pop over to visitperthcity.com for more information, full terms and conditions and boundaries of the City of Perth.

And hey, if you’re doing the Christmas Lights Trail, check out the Instagram hashtag #TheCityatChristmas and have fun!

xxx