Archive for Daily Living

 

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Holiday in Scotland: The Slow Life

24 July 2016

Holiday Scotland 2016 - Slow Life

I loved that my husband and I spent so much quality time with my boys while on holidays.

I loved that the days were so long, that our routines were so flexible, that we could just go with the flow of a slow, holiday life.

Play hangman and card games for 3 hours? Sure.

Dance around the bonfire, toasting marshmallows till 10pm at night? Why not.

Spend hours collecting 24 perfect rock pieces from a pebbled beach to make a chess set? Yes please.

I went on a long 3 hour drive, with just one kid, to explore a little town, with no goal except to come home with milk and eggs. Oh what fun adventures we had! Getting up to silly antics. Taking funny photos. Having brand new experiences. Talking and laughing like we were best friends. Then I did the same again the next day, with my other kid, and then the other.

I loved every minute I had with each boy. They are all so gloriously different!

My boys are 7, 11 and 13 now… and day by day, I can almost feel time slipping away from me, as if I’m frantically trying to catch pouring water with my cupped hands.

Most times, I’m so irritated by their noise, their 12 year old language, and their boy behaviours… but in the same breath I love them to bits and I wish that they could stay little, childlike and wildly happy.

 


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Holiday in Scotland: Ben More

20 July 2016

In Scotland, a mountain that is more than 3000 feet high (914m) is called a Munro. There are about 282 Munros in the British Isles… and “Climbing a Munro” is kind of a big thing in Scotland.

Actually, let me clarify, Munro Climbing is a big thing in my husband’s family, so since our kids were in Scotland for the first tine, there was a strong Scottish desire to pass on the flame.

The highest and most well known Munro is Ben Nevis, which sits at 1,346m (4,414 ft).

We tackled Ben More, which is 966m (3,169 ft). And just to give you a bit of perspective, I’ve climbed Ben More twice in 2002, when my husband and I were last in Scotland together.

Off we went!

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

The weather wasn’t great at the start, it was a bit overcast, windy and it rained on us too.

At least the clouds stayed off the peak, so we had a clear view of our target.

The ground wasn’t all flat grassy slopes, as the picture suggests.

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

Some parts were rocky, uneven, slippery, wet, muddy and some parts were just over grown with ferns – taller than my 7 year old!

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

There’s our target!

To tell the truth, we didn’t plan to climb to the very top. It takes about 3-4 hours to climb to the top, meaning 8-9 total hours for the kids, including rest stops.

The weather was quite unsettled on this day, so we started late in the day. Therefore in order to have a good experience, we decided to stick to a 3.5 hour climb only and a 3 hour descent.

We didn’t want to risk being stuck on the mountain with three tired kids in the cold wind and rain, and 2 hours left to walk. That would have been a bad experience for everyone!

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

We would stop every 30 minutes, have a snack and enjoy the view.

Yep, the views were spectacular! We could see our car parked by the side of the road.

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

Imagine walking up some steps for 3.5 hours… then throw in lots of loose dirt, slippy rocks and ankle-twisting grass tufts.

It was challenging and so much fun.

I really enjoyed myself!!

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

Did I mention that the views were spectacular?!

As you can probably tell, I took sooooo many photos.

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

My kids were champs. They all did so well.

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

And this was our highest point. As we suspected the weather had turned and it became much colder and windier. Clouds were skimming the peak.

We had climbed 2/3 of Ben More. The top looked so close!

Perhaps we could have climbed for another hour to the top, but it would have added another 2 hours for the trip down.

Besides, if the top got covered in cloud, we wouldn’t be able to see anything. And depending on how thick the clouds were, there was a possibility that visibility would drop to 1 metre and someone might lose their footing and fall down a cliff?? No thanks.

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

Like I said, we decided to enjoy the view and be thrilled about how far we had come.

We took lots of silly family selfies, noisy videos, and epic panorama photos.

I love this photo I took of my kids taking a nap on top of the mountain haha.

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

On the way down, I spotted this perfect thistle – the national flower of Scotland.

And I took this postcard-perfect photo of the humble, prickly weed!

All up, it was a 7 hour adventure of a lifetime and an absolute highlight of our trip.

Maybe our family will come back in the not so distant future and do the whole climb to the top.


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Holiday in Scotland 2016: Hidden Waterfalls

17 July 2016

Scotland Holiday 2016 - Hidden waterfalls

It is amazing how I can be walking along a quiet path in a Scottish forest… then suddenly I look over and there’s a BEAUTIFUL WATERFALL!

And it’s, you know, doing it’s thing, as it has been for the last hundred years or so.

There’s so much beauty everywhere.


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Holiday in Scotland 2016: Castle Hunting

14 July 2016

Scotland 2016 - Moy Castle

We explored quite a few castles and abbeys during our trip.

It was such an incredible experience to touch the moss covered rocks, to run my fingers along the edges of the stones, to feel the cold walls, to smell the musty darkness of the rooms… and imagining the kind of life people lived hundreds of years ago. My head exploded!

This is Moy Castle, built in the 15th Century, featuring 3 floors, its own well and a dungeon.

My favourite part of it was its dreamy exterior texture and colours.

Scotland2016 - Iona Abbey

This is the inside of a ruined nunnery on the Island of Iona.

The island is rather famous and sacred, because Saint Columba established a monastery there in AD563, which became central to the spread of Christianity in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom (Scotland, Great Britain, Ireland).

Scotland2016 - Croft, Malcom's Point

And this is a ruined farmer’s croft we found while one of our mountain walks.

My kids had such a hoot walking around in and around it, exclaiming how it was like a real life Minecraft house, haha!


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Holiday in Scotland: Loving the Wilderness

10 July 2016

Hi everyone!!

I’m writing from Scotland. I’m sitting in a cozy lounge room, with big glass windows overlooking a grand lake and mountains :)

It’s been glorious watching the mountain landscape change hour after hour. The light and colour changes; sometimes it’s pale blue or soft pink, or deep green, or misty grey, or perculiar purple, or vibrant orange.

The sunshine changes the shadows, which changes the textures, which changes the mountain’s features. The sky, mist and clouds change, illuminating and highlighting even more of the mountain’s features… EVERYTHING makes the mountains look different each day. It’s like an infinite masterpiece from nature.

So far, our highlight has been hiking up into the Scottish Highlands. The wilderness.

Malcoms Point, Scotland

This is Malcom’s Point, on the very remote west coast of Scotland. It’s rough, wild and definitely not recommended on any tourist maps.

This particular day, we walked about 6 hours in total, hiking over a river, through the rain, mud, rocks, poo, overgrown meadows, tufty fields, past ruined farm houses and up along little goat paths.

Malcoms Point, Scotland

We followed the stream and watched it turn into a waterfall off the cliff.

That view! I could have stared at it and soaked it up all day.

Malcoms Point, Scotland

It was such an amazing day out with my family.

My boys were thrilled beyond belief! And my husband and I were thrilled to have shared it with them!

It was definitely one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had together :)


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My Reading List for 2016 (so far…)

1 July 2016

Bookshelf July 2016

Hey everyone!

Just thought I’d give you all peek at my pretty bookshelf.

We actually have 12 more shelf-sections of books – full of non-fiction books, young adult novels, kid’s novels and National Geographic magazines. These shelves are definitely are not as neat and pretty as my rainbow collection.

Would you believe, we even have one shelf-section dedicated to multiple copies of Harry Potter Books – all of which I’ve never read. I slogged through 2/3 of the first book and couldn’t read any more of it. My oldest boy has read them all though.

And then we have another 3 shelf-sections of young children’s books, like The Hungry Caterpillar, Where is the Green Sheep and my children’s favourites that I can’t bear to throw out.

Anyway, it’s almost halfway through the year and I thought I’d share my “Books I’ve Read” list so far.

11 books in 6 months! This is definitely my record, since… having children 13 years ago haha.

I’ve started with the book I finished reading a few days ago… working my way backwards to the book I received for Christmas and started in January.

11. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (Omg hard to read, but sooo fricking amazing!)

10. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

9. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

8. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

7. The Martian by Andy Weir

6. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

4. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

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

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

Enjoy!


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When Life Gets A Little Overwhelming

24 June 2016

Bali Skies

Aah, I always get a bit fragile this time every month.

I get a bit quiet and weepy. I’m hard on myself.

I feel like such a loser. I feel like I’m failing at life. I KNOW I have so many things to do. I want to be ahead. I want to stay on top of things. I don’t want to struggle. But I feel completely paralysed. I feel that everything I have to do to move forward is just too big, too hard, too overwhelming. Like really, REALLY OVERWHELMING!

And these things are not even big things. That’s the crazy thing about it.

It’s just little things like: Maybe I should prepare dinner before the kids come home – not at 5:30pm when I’m helping them with their homework!

Things like: Ok I have a business meeting is tomorrow 9:30am, maybe I should read the brief before the meeting, not at 9:25am at the traffic lights!

Things like: Fix car brakes before winter rains – I don’t want to find my car is broken down on the side of the road! And have I don’t this yet? Nope!

Things like: My insurance company offering me to save around $700 per year in a home, health, car insurance package – I got a quote, I confirmed that YES I would save that much, but it is 4 months later and I still haven’t switched it over!

Why haven’t I done these things?

Because I’m busy. Because I’m an idiot. Because I deal with things in front of me and I forget to do the other stuff that I don’t see.

Because I’m cooking dinner, going out for coffee, helping kids with homework, going to yoga and posting on Instagram?? Is that all that my life amounts to?

Omg I feel like such a loser!

Words like… inadequate, insufficient, unsuccessful, FAILING AT LIFE come to mind. They spin around and around in my heart and they feel like the truth.

In my head I know that it’s not true.

I know I just have to make a list. Make small achievable goals. Tick things off, one by one. One step at a time. Find little motivations. Surround myself with people who love me. This is just a bump in my monthly hormones. This is not who I am. I got this.


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Summer In Scotland

20 June 2016

Scotland Edinburgh Castle
(Edinburgh Castle, photo taken by my husband in 2011)

 

Hi everyone! I have some super exciting news to share…  we are going to Scotland for 3 weeks for a family holiday!

As some of you may know, my husband was born in Scotland and we decided to take all our kids over to visit family, see the country, go hiking, find castles, climb mountains and practice our poor Scottish accents.

We’ve secured some accommodation in the Scottish Highlands, overlooking lush greenery, lakes and mountains. Aah it’s going to be so beautiful!

We’re all pretty excited!

Scottish Highlands
(Photo of the West Coast of the Scottish Highlands, taken by my husband in 2011.)

This year has been filled with so many amazing adventures, exciting successes, fun, love, growth… and of course the crazy-busy lives of our kids. Now suddenly half the year is gone and it’s almost July?!

It’ll be so good to step away from it all and spend time – real, quality time – with our kids.

I leave in a week and I can’t wait to share photos and stories with you all :)

Internet will be a bit lean, but I’m going to try and update my Facebook Page (easier to share with family and friends), Instagram (@karenlycheng) and hopefully Snapchat (@heykarencheng) – if it works in the Highlands!


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When Life Gives You Lemons…

1 June 2016

Lemon Face

So this is what happens when you ban digital devices on the weekend! Ha!

My husband spent the morning cutting down our lemon tree and made the boys gather up all the lemons and “make an emoji on the lawn”.

They also had to drag all the branches away and pile them carefully against the fence, but I they were more keen on the emoji idea.

I think they wanted to make the lemon emoji, but it didn’t look as good as the smiley face.

Lemon Face

Our lemon tree needed the massive cut because it was just too tall, and some branches were damaging the roof of our shed.

Oh and the lowest hanging lemons were higher than I could reach (maybe 2m off the ground?)… so I had to hit them down with a hockey stick!

Hopefully this prune will make it easier for me to get to my lemons haha.


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Fitness: How I Keep Motivated and Active

23 May 2016

Running

This past week, my fitness mojo has been struggling. It’s a real, begrudging, constantly-hitting-snooze kind of struggle.

The weather is now cold, wet and rainy… and the LAST thing I want to do is take off my 3 layers of warm, snuggly clothing, put on my running shorts and go outside – oh god!

But it turned out that my various pseudo-motivation techniques won out and I did manage to get a few workouts done haha.

I’m not a fitness guru, or model, or celebrity, or anyone who has to work out and look good as part of their job.

I’m just a regular, suburban mother of 3 kids… I genuinely love the feeling I get when I exercise, I love when I feel fit and strong, I love being out and about, I love pushing myself, I love the dialogue in my head when I exercise, I love the post-exercise feeling and I love my body being the shape it is.

So here are some ways I keep myself motivated and active!

 

1) Have fitness buddies.

I don’t actually exercise with them! I just have a few fitness-keen friends, who I chat to over Whatsapp or Messenger… we shoot each other messages now and then, saying “Been to yoga recently?” or “Did you run on the weekend?” or “My bum hurts from my workout!!”

Fortunately for me, I have 2 very keen fitness crazy sons (aged 13 and 11) and they like to keep fit for their sports. So they are always nagging me to go for a run, do a round of workouts, do some weights. It’s awesome.

 

2) Mix it up.

Yes I get hell bored when I do the same thing over and over.

I always try to mix my fitness up: Yoga. Running. Sprinting. Boxing. Weights. Pilates. Workout routines. High intensity interval training workouts from Youtube.

 

3) Be flexible.

If I make too many goals or plans, I often break them and feel really annoyed at myself.

So I don’t have a structured routine. I tend to be very flexible with what I do each week.

 

4) Try something completely new.

I’m about to start Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide, (not so much because I want rock hard abs like the girls on Instagram) I just want some new routines and a more structured workout.

Rock hard abs maaaaay be a nice side effect, but I doubt it, because I eat too much chocolate and instant noodles.

 

5) Try a drop in class 

To find new activities and to add a bit of fun and adventure in my life… I’ve been popping into places which offer a free trail.

I tried Hot Yoga class (38C) the other day aaaaand…. it’s not for me. I didn’t really like the sweating and the intense heat. I felt that I could get an equally effective workout doing a regular yoga class or a HIIT workout.

I’m keen to try a barre class, a proper boxing class and do a bit more rock climbing?

 

6) Buy in bulk.

Buy a pack of 10 class passes to save money.

I’m not a fan of gyms anymore, as they don’t suit my fitness interest, lifestyle and the fact that I get bored easily.

But I appreciate they suit of lot of other people. And I know that “Not Wasting Money” is a good motivator!

Hence if I buy a pack of 10 passes, you can be sure that I’ll be going to all 10 classes dammit.

 

7) Exercise at night

My kids go to bed around 8-8:30pm. My husband and I will usually head over to the lounge room to relax, chat about our day, turn on the TV or hop on our computers.

I will usually set up my yoga mat and start doing some gentle stretches (because it feels really good at the end of the day)… soon my body warms up and I’ll start to do harder stuff (like crunches), then I’ll get annoyed that I’m doing a workout in my jeans, so I’ll change into my fitness gear and start doing a full workout.

I usually do this every evening. And I feel absolutely fantastic after!

 

8) Get nice activewear.

Yep I’m pretty vain. I like the nice stuff. I like the quality. I looooove the feeling of amazing tights against my skin. No more Target or Kmart stuff for me.

I get the good stuff so I can make an excuse to wear them every day!

 

Yep, I think that’s about all the motivational stuff that actually keeps me going.

Hope you find it useful!

Have an amazing week!

xxx


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Colour From The Gloom

16 May 2016

Flowers in The Garden

My heart has been a bit wobbly this last week.

There’s been news of illness, tragedy and sadness within my circle of friends and loved ones.

Then we too have a few heath issues to deal with (one of my boys) and while it’s nothing catastrophic, it’s a stress and heartache. It’s a grey gloom that follows me around. A tightness in my chest. A stab of panic that shoots into my lungs when I least expect it.

Colour. Nature. Flowers. Leaves. Trees. The blue sky. They lift my gloom.

Looking. Soaking. Breathing it all in, reminds me that life is still pretty amazing.


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Loving That Moment

13 May 2016

Swimming at Suarga, Uluwatu, Bali

I was doing a quick backup of my most recent travel photos from Bali and I came across this photo.

I was with my mum, staying at a fancy, eco-sustainable clifftop resort — and due to a broken air-conditioner, we were upgraded to a luxurious private villa with its own infinity pool.

I was pinching myself. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a place this luxurious. I was sooo excited by the bathroom sink! The hand woven rugs! The floor boards!

I definitely was not accustomed to it all.

My mum and I woke up at 7am. We had a jam-packed day, but we still were keen to make the most of our day.

We decided to have a spontaneous dip in the pool.

I was so relaxed and happy in the water, and I think my mum perfectly captured my goofy smile.

I was truly loving the moment.

No rush. No angst. No stress. No wandering mind, stirring up internal conflicts.

No reevaluation of my life choices up to this point.

No delusions about how my life could be like this forever.

Just me in the water!


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Mums Are The Best!

8 May 2016

Uluwatu Alison and Karen

I’m not a huge fan of Mother’s Day… but I just wanted to share this pretty photo of my mum and I, while we were in Bali!

We hung out together for a few days, lazed by the pool, had long conversations, did some exploring, swam at the beach, ate lots of yummy food, and basically had a blast together! Best quality time with my mummy ever!

I’m wearing a Lover Poppy Dress (still on discounted sale at Revolve) and my mum is wearing a top and skirt from Myer.

 


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My Bali Trip: Suarga, Padang Padang

29 April 2016

Last week I headed over to Bali with my mum, to meet up with my sister, girlfriends and relatives… to attend a girlfriend’s wedding.

It was my first time in Bali! (I know. I may have been the last woman in Australia to visit Bali.) Anyway, despite having a million friends who have visited Bali, I did my own research on places to stay.

We were in Bali for 6 nights; we stayed 2 nights at an eco-sustainable boutique resort, 1 night at a moderately cheap and cheerful hotel and 2 nights at a inner city 9 bedroom villa (which we shared with the wedding party).

The venues were not sponsored. I wasn’t planning to write about any of them, but my mum and I had SUCH an amazing time in the eco-sustainable resort that I just had to share :)

Suarga at Padang Padang

Suarga Resort at Padang Padang

I had never heard of this resort before. No one recommended it to me. I found it on Trip Advisor, because it was close to the wedding venue and it stood out with its amazing photos and super-high ratings and reviews on Trip Advisor.

Suarga combines modern luxury of a resort with an environmentally sustainable ethos. It’s about 35 – 40 minutes drive from the airport, near Uluwatu, on the south west coast of Bali.

Perched on top of a cliff, the whole lounge, pool, and restaurant area of the resort had spectacular views of the ocean!

The main pool was gorgeous. I had a swim in the morning, afternoon and night time :)

Suarga at Padang Padang

The main structure was made out of recycled wood and bamboo – it was architecturally stunning.

In the hottest part of the day, we sat in the open-air, shaded lounge area. With fans and the gentle breeze from the ocean, we hardly felt the tropical heat and we were very comfortable. There also seemed to be no mosquitoes.

There were only ever 5 or 6 other couples in the lounge area. Maybe there were more, but it was always so deliciously quiet.

Suarga at Padang Padang

The whole place felt very secluded, peaceful, calming and relaxing.

We read novels, we had a cup of tea, had cocktails, had an afternoon nap on the lounge, ordered some nibbles, my mum did some tai chi on the balcony, I did a bit of wonky yoga – which my mum managed to snap before I lost balance!

All the other hotel guests did the same; they just chilled out quietly and calmly.

(The other accommodation we went to had bus loads of tourist, dropping in to gawk at the clifftop views, or huge wedding parties with camera men and people with walkie talkies – it was so noisy and felt like a theme park. There were so many guests and strangers around that I felt I had to keep watch all the time.)

Suarga at Padang Padang

Breakfast was included in the price and it was pretty damn good. There were a choice of eggs, and a whole spread of locally sourced fruits and homemade organic cereals, breads and jams.

We also had some tea and cake for lunch, and ate dinner in the restaurant for both nights. It was really good quality, restaurant level, fresh, local dishes.

Suarga at Padang Padang

My mum and I booked some in-room massages, which were excellent.

The ladies who did our massages were definitely more skilled and experienced than the massage salons we went to in Seminyak.

Suarga at Padang Padang

Unfortunately for our first evening, our air conditioner ran poorly, so it was a bit warm in the room.

So for the second night, the management upgraded us to a larger room, which was brand new and had a private infinity pool.

I woke up at 7am to have a dip. It was divine.

 

Padang Padang Beach

One morning we took a walk down to the beach. I discovered that I had booked at the Suarga Resort not knowing that it was right next to the beach featured in the movie, Eat, Pray, Love, with Julia Roberts.

The beach is called Labuan Sait Beach, or Padang Padang Beach, and it seemed like every person and tour group wanted to visit this place. It cost RP 10,000 (AUD 1) per person to enter the beach and the actual entrance to the beach was cut through rock and you had to walk down some steep steps.

We went there early, around 10am. It was a 2 minute walk from Suarga. It was a good idea to go early, because by 2pm I saw three buses pull up and huge groups of people were trying to get onto the beach.

Padang Padang Beach

I had a swim out into the ocean. The water was lovely and warm. There were seaweedy bits floating on top, but that was fine. The gentle ebb of the water was soooo relaxing.

The beach was actually quite small. And by noon, it was rather crowded that I was almost stepping on other people’s beach towels to let people pass me.

Suarga at Padang Padang

Even the cocktails (I mean, mocktails) were delicious! What an amazing view!

My mum and I had a fantastic time. I would LOVE to come visit again with my husband.

Personally, I wouldn’t bring my three kids here because they are too active and jumpy (they would want to do bombies in the infinity pool, play basketball on the wooden platforms, throw a football across the garden beds)… and they would spoil the peace and quiet for everyone else. I wouldn’t bring toddlers here either, because there are lots of wooden steps and I would spend all my time nervous and edgy that they might fall over.

We paid AUD$380 per night for a Muso Pentroom, with two single beds, and it was totally worth it.

We also paid an additional AUD$200 for 2 evening meals, 2 cocktails, several cups of tea and cake, 40 minute drive from the airport, and 2 one hour massages.

A humungous thank you to the staff and team at Suarga!

Hopefully you’ll see us again soon :)


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Reading The Classics: Great Expectations

24 April 2016

Last month, I mentioned that I was on a quest to read some classic literature.

Now OK, I know what you’re thinking… it sounds super dorky… bordering on pretentious.

But hey, personally I think TV is rubbish, so let’s all put away our judgey hats shall we!

Great Expectations

I finished up Great Expectations by Charles Dickens the other evening.

I actually wrote out 7 huge paragraphs about my thoughts on the book, but decided to condense it all into 7 snappy sentences, since this is, like a blog and all. I mean, I almost titled this post, “7 things you need to know about Great Expectations”.

1) The novel is NOT : a cute, children’s story like Oliver Twist. (That’s what I thought it was!)

2) Pace of the story : Slow and rambly to start. The story picks up in Chapter 20!

3) How’s the old fashioned language? A bit tricky to read. I had to re-read some sentences a few times to get the hang of it. But by Chapter 3, I was all good.

 

4) Words I didn’t know: Perspicuity, remonstrance, penitentials, farinaceous.

5) The ah-ha moment at Chapter 19: We were FINALLY told WHY the story is called Great Expectations. I was tempted to google it, but I was happy I hung in there.

6) Plot Summary: A story about a good-hearted boy with lofty goals; an unexpected gift that changed his life; how he rejected his family and friends, and his moral journey through life after that.

7) Best parts: I adored the language and the found the story quite compelling in the end. It had some unexpected twists and surprises.

I liked it and might pick up Tale of Two Cities next time.


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New Lettuce

26 March 2016

Lettuce Harvest

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve kept a vegetable garden.

I’ve had endless problems with ants, rats, fruit flies, old reticulation… so much so, I needed to take a break from growing my usual run of snow peas, tomatoes, beans, zucchini and broccoli.

(I do keep  5-6 herbs though, because they are so simple to keep.)

However a few weeks ago, I found half an old wooden barrel and I just had to put some potting mix and lettuce together!

Now every few days I get a lovely bunch of fresh baby lettuce leaves to toss into a salad. Just like my old organic gardening days!


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What We Wore: Emoji Costume Party

24 March 2016

Recently we were invited to an Emoji Themed Birthday Party!

It was the birthday of my two gorgeous cousins, turning 18 and 21. Naturally they chose something uber-cool and millennial haha. They invited friends and family, all my aunties, uncles, my parents and grandparents… and most people made a fab effort to dress up.

We spent a week on our costumes – planning, sourcing props and creating them. It was heaps of fun.

This is what we wore!

Emoji Costume Party

I was the haircut girl!

I was going to lacquer my hair to make it stiff and flat, but I couldn’t get it right. So I decided to make a cardboard wig instead. It looked so silly. But authentic.

I also found a little girl’s pink top for $3.

Emoji Costume Party

My husband was too busy with work to get involved with any planning or creation of a costume.

So I made one for him – The “Frustrated Face”. Very apt, I thought haha.

Check out my mad painting skills. I even painted it up with a gradient and all!

Emoji Costume Party

My oldest boy chose to go as a money bag.

I bought some cloth, sewed up the sides like an upside-down pillowcase, then he painted a $ sign on it. We filled it up with balloons so it would look bulky and full.

He was wearing a t-shirt and shorts underneath, but the moneybag covered his clothes, so it looked a bit weird, like he was naked?!

He also made some little wads of bills, that he gave out to people and left in little piles lying around around the party.

Emoji Costume Party

My middle boy was a chocolate donut. So cute!

We made two cardboard donuts and strapped them together to his front and back.

But during the party, he collected up a few of the emoji props and added them to his costume.

Emoji Costume Party

My youngest boy wanted to go as a lollypop.

He also explained to me in great detail, WHAT his costume was going to consist of, and HOW he was going to wear it. He just wanted to print out the emoji and sticky tape it to his t-shirt.

It seemed too simple and quite frankly… inferior and substandard as a costume.

At first, I said “NO it has to be a 3D costume”, “It has to match all of our 3D costumes!”

We were going as a family and we all had to match!

I was completely happy to make him a huge, AWESOME cardboard lollypop that he could carry around, or wear on his head or body. But he refused.

I fought with him for 4 DAYS, arguing and negotiating, sweetly trying to convince him, involve him. I also tried using emotional blackmail… but nup. He wouldn’t budge on the issue.

So in the end I gave in. Humph.

Other costumes for the night – Someone dressed up as a poo emoji, a toilet, the dancing girls, my little nephews went as 3 matching sushi (salmon, tuna and prawn, so cute!), a dolphin, a city building, lots of faces, lots of girls in pink!

It was such a fun party!!


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That Blue!

15 March 2016

Moore River, Guilderton, Feb 2016

On the weekend, our family went on a quick camping trip to Guilderton and camped at the mouth of Moore River where it (almost) meets the ocean.

We just spent 2 days chilling out together, going for walks, swimming, sand boarding and eating lots of icy poles.

It was absolutely glorious to be unplugged, away from the city, and drinking up all the big blue skies!


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Big Dreams For My Family

13 March 2016

Brought to you by Lotterywest

Big Dreams For My Family

In 2002, my husband and I travelled around Scotland and England for our honeymoon.

We spent 4 weeks climbing mountains, exploring castles, looking for loch monsters, discovering quaint little towns, and visiting my husband’s birthplace.

We were newly married, with no kids – it was glorious!

Big Dreams For My Family

Now, 14 years later, with three kids in tow, one of my biggest dreams for my family is to travel back to Scotland.

I’d love for my children to explore and experience it too.

Big Dreams For My Family

However, I don’t want to just have a quick tour of Scotland, I’d love to buy a little house and live there for while. 3 months? 6 months? Ah one can dream!

Added to that, I would love to travel to China and visit the places of my ancestors too.

Big Dreams For My Family

My mother’s family is from a little village called Kaiping in Guangdong (Canton), Southern China. Apparently my great grandfather has a memorial built in his honour, because he protected his village from bandits and was hailed a hero.

The village is also known for it’s unique, historic architecture and was the setting for one of China’s highest grossing films, staring Chow Yun Fat – wayhey!

Big Dreams For My Family

My mother took these photos when she visited the Guangdong region in 1994. Her album is full of travel happy snaps, sparking in me a flame of adventure and discovering my roots.

Ah, how I would love to do a long hiking, trekking, kayaking and cycling tour around Southern China with my family!

Am I crazy? Maybe. But that’s what big dreams are all about, right?

With this weekend’s $21 Million Superdraw coming up, I’m hoping to inspire a bit of grand, wishful dreaming.

Part of me feels a little embarrassed to share my big aspirations. It probably reveals more about me that I care to think.

But hey, everyone has a Lotto dream so, here’s to life goals, epic family adventures and dreaming a little bigger!

I’d love to hear YOUR Lotto dreams so please feel free to drop me an email and don’t forget to get a ticket for this weekend’s Saturday Lotto Superdraw!

Dream bigger!


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Reading The Classics: Anna Karenina

9 March 2016

Hi everyone!

I’m on a quest to read some of the most popular literary classics before I die.

It’s a bit tricky, because between my blogging interests, fitness, shopping, cooking, and being a mum… um, I don’t really have much time to fit it in.

But just like exercise, if I want it done, I have to schedule it in and just do it.

Classic Titles

I borrowed these utterly magical editions from my father-in-law. He has a whole WALL of leather bound editions, in immaculate, drop-dead-amazing condition, that make me squirm with envy.

I asked if I could borrow a few books to photograph and I picked out some titles I have read and want to read –

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (read)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (read)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (read)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (want to read)
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (want to read)

Anna Karenina

I recently read Anna Karenina (my own copy, not this edition) and absolutely loved the language, the depth of characters, the immersion into 19th Century Russian society.

It was like Pride and Prejudice, but deeper, less-girly, with more drama and tragedy.

I wasn’t too crazy about Anna’s character though (I wanted to slap her! Get a grip woman!) but Tolstoy’s writing was just delightful and marvellous. His characters were amazing!

Anna Karenina

I was rather thrilled (more like, moved to silence) while pawing through this edition.

Either I really like books, or there’s something universally appealing of an old, beautifully bound book in perfect condition.

Anna Karenina

As I mentioned, I didn’t read this edition, but perhaps I should have. It would added a bit more magic to my reading.

Next up, I’m reading Great Expectations (my own copy, as I’m a bit too scared I might ruin my father in law’s copy!)

Check out my reading list on Goodreads.


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Framing The Great Wave

28 February 2016

Schutz Sandals and Picture Frame

I have been a lover of Japanese woodblock prints since I studied it in art school (high school).

When I started working, I managed to save up to buy a proper reproduction of The Great Wave off Kanazawa by Katsushika Hokusai, printed on beautiful Japanese paper. I bought it through the state art gallery, so it must be somewhat official.

Anyway, I finally managed to find some time to frame my beloved picture. Yay to getting jobs done!

Wearing my Suede Sandals by Schutz from Shopbop.


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Roses from my garden, just because.

23 February 2016

rosebunch

I’m into a lot of things.

I believe that’s a key to happiness… my happiness anyway!

There’s so much in this world that brings me so much toe-wiggling, eye-sparkling, ear-to-ear grinning joy.

They are kind of “simple” things though.

They are probably a little uncool too, but hey, it makes things easier for me. Simple pleasures are often the best kind right?

Yes I love clothes, shoes and online shopping.

I love sunsets, beaches, walking, running.

But I also like gardening. I like composting. I like growing things.

I like researching about manures, building worm farms, finding out about soil acidity, tending roses and pruning them. I’m totally going to be that little old lady with a garden full of roses one day.

I love having happy, healthy roses. They are like my pets. They give me flowers. They are like the gift that keeps on giving.

Sure having the fruits of my labour is nice, but really, nothing beats the excitement of my baby rosebuds about to burst into bloom in the sunset. That’s where the joy is at.

xxx


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A Change of Scene

21 February 2016

The weekends can get pretty busy for us.

All our kids play sport, my husband and I go for a run or cycle, we go out to visit friends, we organise sleepovers and dinner parties, we do lots of jobs and chores around the house, and then there’s homework and assignments to be done too.

Although it’s a bit hectic, life is grand and life is stable.

Book and Cafe

Anyway as a change of pace, I took one of my boys out to a cafe to do his homework. I didn’t think he would do very well, with all the people, distractions and smells of food, but he was great.

He had a milkshake, enjoyed the change of scene and ploughed through his work.

My coffee was terrible, but I managed to read a few chapters of my book.

What bliss!

Currently reading the gorgeously written, 2015 Pulitzer Prize Winner :

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I didn’t like the writing style at first. I found it irritatingly pretentious (ha!). But it grew on me. And now I completely adore it. And it’s all flowing and moving at a wonderful pace and slowly gripping at my heart,  because I can tell there will be a sad ending.

It’s also inspiring me to brush up a little on my WW2 history and French and German history too. Which is always a good thing for my brain!


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Perth’s Video Game and Console Museum: The Nostalgia Box

18 February 2016

A few weeks ago, my whole family took a trip into Northbridge to check out a Video Game and Console Museum called, The Nostalgia Box.

The Nostalgia Box - Photo courtesy of The Nostalgia Box
(Photo courtesy of The Nostalgia Box)

My kids – and husband – are a bunch of gaming freaks. Me? I just tolerate video games.

My husband is actually interested in video games on a slightly more intellectual level too; its history, cultural and social impacts, interactive design, blah blah… which has rubbed off a bit on the kids.

So before we left, I told the kids that this was NOT an excursion to a video game arcade. This was a museum, so I expected them to come away having learned something about the history of video games. (Haha I’m so hardcore.)

The place was split into two areas. One was the museum area, more like a historical-timeline walk-through, featuring old consoles and games, and lots of interesting bits of information about the history of video games. You can’t touch any of it though. Everything is behind glass in that section.

The other section was a games area, featuring a whole stack of retro games that you can actually play.

The Nostalgia Box

In the Museum Area, I made my 10 year old and 12 year old read ALL the little panels.

I should have quizzed them at the end :)

My 6 year old couldn’t keep up, so I had to paraphrase a few panels, then he skipped off and went to the next section.

I’d say that the museum section wasn’t suitable for little kids, other than to point and show them “these are some of the game consoles that mummy and daddy used to play with”.

The Nostalgia Box

Behold the very first commercially released home video game console!

It’s called the Magnavox Odyssey released in 1972. It had no graphics capabilities, just transparent overlays, and it also came with a dice, a deck of cards, play money and poker chips.

The team at The Nostalgia Box did a good job with all the research and information. I found it all to be really interesting!

Did you know that the origins of electronic video games lay in the design of early missile defence system of the 1940s?

The Nostalgia Box2

There were LOTS of old consoles in amazing condition on display. I loved the ones made out of wood!

Then there were the consoles from the 80s… and I had to cringe, because I remember playing on some of those systems… and they are now in a MUSEUM??

The Nostalgia Box

We moved onto the next section, the Gaming Area, and I had a little PONG battle with my husband.

It was hilarious.

The Nostalgia Box

My kids had a great time playing all the retro games, like Pacman, Space Invaders, Super Mario Bros, Bubble Bobble, Sonic The Hedgehog and more.

Sure they can play these games online now, but there’s nothing like big chunky, plasticky controllers with big red buttons to take us back to the 80s.

The Nostalgia Box

I shed a little tear as I revisited my uppercuts with Ryu and was KO-ed by Ken.

YOU LOSE!!

The Nostalgia Box

What struck me the most was the MUSIC.

We listened to all that video game music for hours as a kid. Then what, after 20 something years, hearing one of those tunes again, my brain flipped a little switch and whoop there it is, embedded in my memory – who knows why – major head spinning flashback, hit me like a train, right in the feels, and filled me with such grand nostalgia.

The Nostalgia Box

We took funny photos with the props, looked at the cool retro gaming items to buy and chatted to the owner of the museum.

We must’ve spent about 1 – 1.5 hours there.

It was pretty cool!

I definitely recommend it to people who are interested in learning a bit about video game history, or wanting to revisit old favourites, and parents (with kids over 8) wanting to show their kids a different side of video games.

The Nostalgia Box Museum
Shop 3, 16 Aberdeen Street, 
Perth WA 6000
The Nostalgia Box on Facebook.

There are admission fees and family passes, check the website for more details!


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Chinese New Year 2016 – Year of the Monkey

8 February 2016

Chinese New Year 2016

Happy Lunar New Year to you all!

We celebrated our Family Reunion Dinner at my grandma’s house… and this is me, astonished by (and taking selfies with) her longan tree!

Chinese New Year 2016

It was a stinking hot 40°C day and everyone retreated indoors to the air-conditioned sanctuary that is my grandmother’s lounge room and watched “If You Are The One“, while some kids (mine) opted to play soccer outside?!?

By the time I snuck out to take this photo, some kids went back inside to find a smart phone, and the rest played Duck-Duck-Goose just for laughs!

Chinese New Year 2016

A lot of my relatives were overseas, so there were only 27 people this time… but my aunties still cooked up a storm!

Chinese New Year 2016

Tossing the Yu Sheng (fish salad) for prosperity and happiness!

I actually tried to take video of the tossing, but my 6 year old accidentally dragged all the peanuts OFF THE PLATE which sprayed out all over the table, so you could hear my other son dobbing on him, lots of laughing, and me getting snarky, possibly swearing.

Anyway, hope you all have a glorious start to the lunar new year!

xxx


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Bird Nest Feels

5 February 2016

Bird Eggs

While cleaning a high shelf in the carport, we accidentally dislodged and swept down a bird’s nest.

The nest came crashing down, but the eggs remained intact.

Eeep, we felt so bad!

The eggs were absolutely perfect orbs of white. Immaculate, unblemished, smooth, delicate. They looked like they were from another world.

They were so beautiful and so perfect that they looked almost fake, as if they came out of a plastics factory.

Bird Eggs

Unfortunately we couldn’t leave them in the carport, so we placed the nest in nearby tree.

We think the mama bird came back and everything was A-OK!


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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?