Archive for Daily Living

 

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Jacaranda Purple

29 November 2016

Jacaranda 2016

I keep saying this every year.

As we approach Christmas… we don’t have snow. We don’t have streets filled with Christmas lights.

We have Jacaranda flowers.

As I drive through the city, through the suburbs, every where I look, there are trees covered in the prettiest purple, propped up against the bright blue sky.

It fills me up with the happiest and most childlike joy you can imagine!


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Being That Chick Who Changes Tires

23 November 2016

My husband is currently out of town… and if you’ve been reading my blog for a while now… you might remember how MY HOUSE FALLS APART every time he leaves and I end up having to FIX STUFF.

Like that time I had to replace a tap, or pave some bricks.

I might sound like I’m having a humble brag… Yeah ok I am. But I’m also extremely pissed off about it. And I’m also having a big laugh at myself, because while I’m being that chick who does handyman stuff, I’m cursing and swearing and wishing I was somewhere else having a manicure.

Bike Fixing

My son’s bike is an old, rusty, BMX stunt bike (or whatever you call it)… the tire wore out and the inner tube was busting out.

So I wrestled with rusty bolts, old head bolt wrenches, a disgustingly oily chain, and a worn thread and managed to get the wheel off.

Or course I measured the tire, drove to the shops, and bought the WRONG size (my foot is pointing to the 16 inch tire, leaning against the 20 inch wheel!). Back to the shop.

Then it turned out that the inner tube was in really bad shape, so I had to replace that too. Back to the shop again.

OMG it took me freaking hours. So annoying! I could have been doing something else!

THEN it turned out that the bolt was so worn out, it wouldn’t go back on, so I had to get a NEW bolt — at which point I threw my hands in the air and gave up.

I’d rather buy the kid another bike.

So… my son’s bike is still lying in pieces, waiting for my husband to get back. I feel a pang of defeat every time I catch a glance of its lifeless, broken skeletal frame… because I’m sure bolts are $3.50 from a hardware shop?

I know I probably should have made my son help me, so he could be a part of the experience. The kid builds robots out of Lego – surely he can help with a bike?!

But I was so grumpy, it probably wasn’t a good experience to share.

Whatever. I’m off to do my nails!


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My Mid 30’s Skin Journey

15 November 2016

Skin Journey Nov 2016

Hi everyone!

This post isn’t sponsored. I’ve been working on this journey (and blog post) for 12 months now.

In that time, I researched and visited 3 medical practitioners. I paid for all my own consultations and products. I declined many offers for free trials and sponsored reviews because I didn’t want anyone to influence me with their own agendas. I was seeking genuine advice and information, from someone I trusted, and preferably from someone who didn’t know I was a blogger!

12 Months Ago

My skin was turning a corner. The signs of ageing were increasing and my skin was starting to look a bit… tired, dull, old.

I don’t actually have a problem with ageing. I’m quite happy to grow old gracefully!

But I decided that I wanted to DO something about my skin, I wanted to KNOW what could be done and I wanted to talk to an expert.

Skin Journey, Nov 2016

My Issues

I have lots of sun spots and pigmentation.

I have teenaged acne scars on my cheeks that make my skin look cratered – which has been looking worse as I get older.

I have a few tiny raised lumps/growths on my skin too: seborrheic keratosis and senile angiomas – which I have already checked out. Not cancerous.

I know my skin is prone to hyperpigmentation… so after I get a pimple, there is a dark spot or scar for up to 6 months. Thus I have lots of dark spots, especially around my nose, mouth and chin.

I’m losing general elasticity and firmness in my skin.

My Unknown 

Everyone seems to be talking about treatments like laser, IPL, fractional laser, CO2 lasers, and more. But would they work with my olive Asian skin and my hyperpigmentation? I had no idea where to start.

I’ve heard amazing laser experiences and I’ve seen people who have had great results. But I’ve also heard about bad results. I’ve read that some people are hooked on it, some people regret starting laser so young and wished they started on something a little less harsh. Some started with skin that was OK, but after a bad treatment, their skin didn’t react well and they looked older and worse because of it.

(Oh man, I did waaaay too much reading on the internet and it scared the crap out of me! It must be true right? Haha!)

Dud Experiences

I went to visit a few other doctors, found from my own research and I wasn’t particularly happy with them.

It was just little things, for example I felt like I was being spoken down to, or I felt like an idiot for being apprehensive and asking so many questions. I just didn’t have a good gut feeling with them.

For one doctor, I asked a question about a particular laser. I was hoping for an explanation of how the laser actually works to make skin look better – I know it makes holes in the skin, but how does that actually produce the desired effect in the dermis?? Instead I was told that Kim Kardashian and lots of other Hollywood celebrities use it every 6 months because it’s amazing. Oops! Not a great way to sell laser to me, sorry!

My Determatologist

Basically I wanted to talk to a real skin doctor; someone sensible, someone who focused more on skin health and skin conditions, rather than on beauty and cosmetics.

10 years ago, one of my boys had very bad eczema as a toddler and we went to a paediatric dermatologist, who was just amazing! She helped us fix my son’s eczema and now he has ZERO signs of eczema. She gave us great advice for our whole family over the years, but she doesn’t treat adults. I asked her for a recommendation for a dermatologist whom I could see, and she gave me the name of her colleague.

So I went to see this colleague and I really liked her a lot too. She’s around my age, possibly a bit older. She was honest, sensible, conservative and she knew ALL the answers to ALL my questions. She gave me a quick lesson about skin cells, in a science teacher kind of way (not from a beautician’s perspective). She did a thorough check of my skin, heard me whinge about my first world problems… and she recommended a few things to me.

My Treatment

My dermatologist said that fractional laser is the best treatment for acne scarring, because it gives the best results. But the problem is that I have to find the laser that best suits my skin type. She didn’t have the right laser for me and she declined to treat me.

She recommended that I see a particular laser clinic in Perth, but I won’t share, because I haven’t been there yet!

I asked her: Once the skin is lasered and the scarring is gone/ fixed/ skin healed … will that result last forever, or will it slowly revert back to it’s scarred state after 3-5 years? Her answer: Fixed forever. However skin will still age and will lose elasticity over time.

Vitamin A

She prescribed some Vitamin A cream to me, (which I have been using for 12 months now), and it has been FANTASTIC.

Vitamin A (or Retinol, Retin A, Tretinion) stimulates the skin cells, makes them turn over much more rapidly, therefore increases the shedding of dead skin cells. It reduces the look of fine lines, smoothes and refines the skin, improves skin tone, improves hydration, decreases sebum production, promotes healing and healthy cell growth and lots of other cell things. Sounds a bit too good to be true.

There are quite a few side-effects (dry skin, redness, flaking) and some people react very badly to it. I read that you can slowly increase your tolerance to it by starting with a low dosage.

But my skin loves it and my skin looks SO much better for it! I loooove the stuff!

Starting Laser? 

For the last year, I’ve had the phone number of that laser clinic in my hand. But I’m too chicken to start!

Whenever I think OK I’m going to make the phone call to start my treatment, a large part of my brain thinks:

“Oh man, I don’t hate my skin that much. I don’t look that bad! I’m actually quite happy with how I look. I’m going to leave it for a bit. I don’t need it yet. A bit of makeup and I’ll be right!”

It’s a mixture of not-wanting-it-bad-enough, being not-too-fussed about my skin, being happy with the way things are, being a bit lazy, being a bit fearful…

Haha so, I haven’t started any laser and that’s how it’s been for the last year.

Starting Facials

Ok so what I HAVE been doing: I’ve been getting good and effective facials, peels, skin rejuvenation, non-invasive treatments instead.

I’ve tried a few of these active facials. Some are very mediocre! Some a good and some are AMAZING!

Just like my hair, just like my teeth check ups, just like my exercise… if I do them on a regular basis – my skin looks great and feels great. It’s all about maintenance – small, slow steps upwards!

I’m sure – eventually- I’ll give laser a go, but that might still be a few years away.

I hope to write a bit more about my facials and treatments soon!

Thanks for reading!


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November Check In

1 November 2016

Hi everyone!

What have you been up to these days? I’ve fallen into a really nice routine of balancing work and play… and I’m feeling rather content and satisfied about it. Possibly, a bit guilty? Nah, not really.

1) My Eating has been pretty good except for one weird thing. I’m not on any clean eating or paleo diets. I just try to eat healthy, smallish portions… I have a piece of toast or granola + yoghurt in the morning, then I snack on a bowl of nuts and some fruit. But come lunchtime I’m seriously craving for a piece of chicken. Crunchy, crispy chicken. With skin. With soy sauce and sesame oil. With mayo and chilli. So yeah, usually I have crumbed chicken and salad for lunch.

I find it weird that I don’t crave sugar anymore. I’m not into cake, chocolate or sweet things these days. It’s all about the salt for me!

2) Too much coffee. I was recently given a bag of ground coffee as a gift. So I bought myself a mini coffee plunger and OOPS, now I drink about 3-4 cups a day! With almond milk, so it’s healthier right? Maybe not.

Ok would you believe that when I was 20 something and working the city, I used to drink 4 cups of coffee a day. Then while I was pregnant and having kids, I didn’t drink ANY caffeine at all. Only in 2012 (when I started cycling tsk tsk) I started to drink coffee again and NOW look where I am.

So I’m thinking I should back off the caffeine, but holy crap my brain hurts when I only have 2 cups.

3) Sleeping too late. Usually my target is 11pm to have lights out and my head on the pillow. But it always end up to be more like 12 – 1am. And yep, every morning I get up at 6am and totally regret it.

4) Being a Mean Mum. I used to “help” my older boys and guide them through their homework and assignments with suggestions, minor assistance, proof-reading and just a general check-up on their progress and their time management. BUT after lots of tears and fights, I’ve totally backed off and they get ABSOLUTE ZERO help now. I feel really mean, but I think it’s better for them this way… and me!

5) Injured. Ok I think this is a sign of getting old… but I pulled a muscle in my back on the weekend (just by getting out of bed) and it HURT LIKE HELL! I was in tears, and my whole back hurt with every tiny movement of my body, even breathing sent pain shooting in all directions. I couldn’t drive for 2 days and I was SOOO ANNOYED. Thankfully it went away after 3 days.

6) Feeling Super Motivated to exercise now! After my back pain subsided, I felt so NORMAL, ALIVE and SO THANKFUL that I have pain-free movement. What a blessing it is! Now I feel like doing EVERYTHING. It’s like I’m back from the dead. Run! Cycle! Lift weights! Do a cardio class! Do it all while I can! Go go go!

7) Candles. I’m sooo into candles and beautiful smells at the moment. I’m obsessed. I have to have a candle burning as I sit on my computer all day. I’ve gone beyond light, floral scents and starting to turn towards more complex, warming, incense smells.

8) My Garden is going crazy! It’s full of flowers and my heart is bursting with happiness. I’m going to put an order for a truck load of poo and mulch soon – and I’m SO EXCITED PEOPLE. Poo makes me excited!

9) Vitamins. Ugh I hate taking vitamins. My husband and my mother swear by them and believe in them with all their hearts. But I don’t like to take them because I can get a bit queasy when I take them sometimes. So now I have a bit of a psychological problem; whenever I LOOK at a vitamin, I instantly feel queasy and refuse to take it (I try to avoid, or forget, or hide them, just like a child haha!). Most times I have to force myself – because my mother and husband nag me about it. And it’s not worth the argument. Honestly, I don’t think they have any positive effect on me whatsoever (the vitamins, that is). I have a healthy diet and eat a wide variety of foods after all??

However recently, I decided that since I don’t drink cow’s milk, I will try to take calcium supplements regularly (every day). I’ve been taking them for 2 weeks without fail and my nails and cuticles have been amazing! My nails don’t flake, they are not brittle and thin, they are strong and healthy looking. And my cuticles look so plump and not-dried up. I am absolutely attributing this to the calcium supplements!

10) Work has been great. It’s pouring in from all directions, and I’m really good at saying NO, so I don’t get myself over-worked and over-stressed.

11) Family life. The husband has been busy, but still comes home everyday at 5:30pm for a walk in the park with the kids.

We’ve banned all forms of computer games in our house for the time being, kids are getting bored but they get by. My husband and I are LOVING it.

12) Still Reading. I’m still halfway through The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. I read a little bit every night. I’m going so slow with this book, it’s quite embarrassing really.

Wow that was a long list! Gotta go! Have a great week!

xxx


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Hey, I was doing just fine before I met you…

31 October 2016

Trampoline, Closer

This is what happens when you put your kids on a complete ban of computer games.

They get angry. They get bored. They get creative.

Then they go outside and write out song lyrics on the trampoline just for fun — HA!

(Closer by The Chainsmokers)

*We haven’t really set a date of the end of the ban. We’re just going to see how it goes… even I’m a bit undecided about the whole thing.


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Flying Kites in the Sunset

30 October 2016

Dryandra Kite Flying

Look at that sunset!

When we were staying at the Dryandra Woodland, my husband decided to embark on yet another project to engage the kids – making kites and flying kites.

I thought it was a bit daggy, but all the kids (even a whole bunch of our friend’s young kids) locked in their attention and focus on the project.

Can you believe he made a kite out of garbage bags and sticks (from a hardware store) — and the kite flew SO HIGH that even my jaw dropped! That guys amazes me sometimes.

I snapped this picture with my iPhone (!!) and manage to capture a beautiful father – son moment.

The only hilarious thing was that the boy wasn’t our boy! He was a friend’s son. Who liked kites more than our boys.


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Sunset at Dryandra Woodland

26 October 2016

Dryandra Woodland

On the weekend, we headed out to stay at the Dryandra Woodland with five other families.

The area is a 2 hour drive South East of Perth City, kind of near Dwellingup.

I haven’t heard much about the place, but apparently it’s a well known nature reserve and it’s great if you like to look at (or photograph) wild kangaroos, numbats, echidnas, native birds and more.

We stayed in a cluster of forest cottages – which were basic and comfortable, and had the essential toilets, hot showers, clean beds, wood fire, couches, BBQ and picnic tables etc etc.

We just had to pack clothes, bedding, towels and food – so it was really easy!

Dryandra Woodland

The sunset was just gorgeous!!!

Can you believe I just took these photos with my iPhone?!?

There had been some bushfires the previous day, which filled the sky with a lot of smoke, which in turn filtered the sunlight and gave the whole landscape a golden glow. Just beeeaaaauuutiful!

Dryandra Woodland

Look at me, looking super Aussie with my hat and all.

I just needed a long piece of grass in my mouth. And some corks hanging from my hat.

Dryandra Woodland

As the sun set behind the tops of the trees, the landscape turned a beautiful pink.

We were told that the field next to the cottages is usually full of kangaroos, but because we were flying kites in the field, they stayed away.

We arrived on Friday evening – in the dark. We spent the whole Saturday going for a bush walk, playing tennis  (there were tennis courts!), having a picnic lunch, letting the kids play on the playground, having cups of tea, building kites, flying kites, having a BBQ and going possum spotting.

Then we left on Sunday morning. Went for another bush walk, had lunch at a cafe along the freeway, then headed home!

It was all very relaxed, lovely and good for the soul.

It was a great way to catch up with friends, disconnect from the world and get away from the city for a little bit!


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Bush Walking at Dryandra Woodland

24 October 2016

Dryandra Trees

Here’s a little peek at what I did on the weekend.

We went for a bush walk at Dryandra (2 hour drive South of Perth) – with eight kids aged between 2.5 and 14!

The scenery itself wasn’t spectacular, but the Dryandra Woodland is a nature reserve and is well know for being the home to 24 mammal, 98 bird and 41 reptile species, including numbats, wallabies, possums, kangaroos, echidnas, all kinds of birds, snakes, lizards and spiders.

Unfortunately we were all such NOISY bushwalkers, we didn’t see a thing.

(However later that evening, we did manage to see kangaroos, possums, and a blue tongue lizard.)

I have lots of lovely photos to share and will upload later in the week :)


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Reading: The Name of the Rose

3 October 2016

Umberto Eco - The Name of the Rose

This year I’ve upped my reading game and I’ve blitzed through 2 books each month.

Here’s my reading list from Jan – July

Since writing that list, I read Me Before You By Jojo Moyes, on the plane going to and from Scotland/Australia.

Then I picked up this book: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.

It’s an historical murder mystery set in the 1300s about a bunch of Franciscan monks. Originally written in Italian in 1980 and translated into English, with some text/quotes left in Latin.

Yes it was turned into a movie with Sean Connery and Christian Slater, but I swore I would not watch the movie until I finished the book.

I bought this book in 2000; it was recommended to me by the owner of a small bookstore in the city. I tried to read it, but I only got a few pages in, because I found the historical language too difficult to read!

Over the years I have tried to pick it up several times. But each time I had to put it down after the first chapter because it was too hard! Or perhaps I had a bad case of baby brain?

Anyway… after recently reading Me Before You, I thought I would pick up Umberto again, for something a bit meatier.

But 2 months have passed and I’m halfway through the book haha.

It’s very slow paced, with lots of discussions about abbeys, medieval philosophy, libraries, books and monks.

I find it extremely satisfying to read.

I’ve developed a sudden interest in medieval monasteries, old books and Latin.

Although the language is slow and it’s all a bit “intellectual”, it’s delightful and interesting… and SOOOO DIFFERENT to what I read on the internet through my Facebook feed HAHA.

Which is the main aim of this reading thing!


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My Fashion Week Interrupted (By Camping on a Cow Farm)

26 September 2016

During my week of fashion shows, I took 24 hours off to go camping with my family!

The plan was to stay on a cow farm.

With a forecast of thunderstorms, rain and an overnight temperature of 3 degrees.

How did I manage to be convinced of this???

Haha well, we had already committed to it.

Plus we were going to stay at a friend’s farm and join 10 (maybe 12) other families and couples.

We didn’t want to miss out!

Camping in Harvery

It turned out that the whole experience was pretty luxurious…

(Except the bit where I had to sleep in a tent, in a thunderstorm.)

THE VIEW was amazing!!

We were up high in the landscape; and even though we were 20kms inland, we could see the sun setting over the glittering ocean. It was so pretty.

Our friends also had a lovely farm house, with a big fireplace. They had meats roasting on a spit. Lots of room for the kids to play. They had working toilets, hot showers and hey, they even had a dishwasher. Life was good.

Camping in Harvery

The next morning, we had gorgeous sunshine.

The fields sparkled with bright flowers and juicy grass.

The hills were alive with the sounds of mooing cows.

Camping in Harvery

We headed off for a walk to see the cows and horses.

Now that’s a sight I won’t forget. A bunch of happy horses surrounded by happy children, surrounded by a field of yellow daisies, surrounded by a forest of eucalyptus trees.

Camping in Harvery

The whole 24 hours was just magical.

It certainly was a huge change of scene for me.

Really want to thank our friends G & S for the kind invitation. (Also want to thank my husband for setting up and taking down our tents, and packing and unpacking the car.)

After lunch we headed home.

And what did I do? I washed my hair, dolled myself up, wolfed down some dinner and I drove off to my last 2 fashion shows for the year – haha!


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Holiday in Scotland – Standing Stones

12 September 2016

Holiday in Scotland 2016 - Standing Stone

When we were visiting Scotland, our family did quite a few walks and hikes. We climbed up mountains and cliffs, went to look for castles and waterfalls, we walked by the lochs and old ruins.

We also went looking for standing stones and stone circles!

Holiday in Scotland 2016 - Standing Stone

These were not particularly famous standing stones in Scotland. We just went to look at them because they were marked on a tourist map, near to where we were staying.

In all honesty, they were a bit underwhelming.

They weren’t perched on a cliff. They weren’t on top of a hill. They weren’t surrounded by a pretty forest. There was no information board explaining the history of the stones.

They just looked like some medium-sized rocks in a farmer’s sheep paddock.

(Maybe the local sheep farmer used a bulldozer to make a circle of rocks to attract tourist like us??)

They weren’t exactly the best example of stone circles for our kids to see.

NONETHELESS, we discussed their possible age, mythology, history and local folklore around the stones – and if we used our imagination, it was kind of amazing to think what they could have meant and how long they could have been there.

Holiday in Scotland 2016 - Stone Circle

Now before I left for Scotland, a few of my girlfriends alerted me to the “Outlander Phenomenon”.

There is a book series called “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon, about a 20th century nurse who, while holidaying in Scotland, touches a standing stone and gets transported back in time to 18th century Scotland, where she meets a rugged Scottish hunk and falls in love. It’s a historical fiction / romance / adventure type novel – which I read in 2001!

What I didn’t know was… it was turned into a TV series and everyone is quick to describe it to me in five words: Sexy. Erotic. Hot, Scottish guys.

Apparently the tv series is rather sexy… and there’s a lot of sex in it.

And apparently it’s been SO popular, that you can now go on “Outlander Tours of Scotland”, see some of the Scottish Highland locations from the novel and you know, touch some erect, standing stones ha!

So what do you know, I was going to some of those places.

With all that in mind, (and not having seen the TV series), I sent some totally innocent photos of ME TOUCHING A STANDING STONE to my girlfriends, which made them hoot and snort with laughter.

Ah, what are girlfriends for?!

(No one seems to know the exact purpose or function of a standing stone, so if they ever find out and it’s something sacred, I do apologise for making light of the whole situation!)


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An Over Supply Of Hands

10 September 2016

Gardening Gloves

I’m a little embarrassed by this. But not really :)

I think it’s hilarious (and incredibly silly) that we cleaned up our shed and found 24 pairs of gloves!?

It was like stumbling across the rip in the universe where all the odd socks go to die.

Ho ho ho.

Yes we do a lot of gardening and yard work.

Yes there are 5 people in our family.

And yes, most of them went straight into the bin after this photo.


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Unfinished Flowers with New Pathways

14 August 2016

Sketching Camelias

Inspired by the flowers from my garden and conversations with friends about the decline of the fine arts (art, painting, sculpture, literature)… I recently pulled out my old graphite drawing pencils and tried to sketch again.

It has been years since I’ve used the drawing/sketching part of my brain!

As a blogger/creative, I’m constantly taking photos, playing with composition, colours and textures in my daily life  – you’d think that “drawing and sketching” is closely connected to “being creative”? Nope!

It’s a totally different skill… and I’ve found it really difficult to get back at it again.

Just like anything really, whether it’s long distance running, tricky yoga positions, 30 push ups with your nose touching the floor, learning a new language, throwing a ball – you just have to practice, practice, practice.

And I keep telling my kids this: The more you work hard at it, the better you’ll be at it. Your brain will create little neural pathways for that skill, like making a path through a jungle, and soon the path will turn into a big, easy road.

You can pretty much do anything, if you set your mind to it!


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Pilbara Stars

10 August 2016

Pilbara Stars

Ok so I’m a bit proud of my husband and his crazy ideas.

I love that he’s super smart and into a whole lot of weird and random things – like taking photos of stars?

He recently went on a camping trip into the Pilbara Region with a bunch of good friends and he took a series of drone landscape photos, 3D photos and time-lapse photos. A shit load of photos.

The results were amazing though!

You could say, they were so amazing, I got a bit star struck and I may have promised to join him on a crazy campervan trip around Australia to take more photos. Maybe.


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Holiday in Scotland: From Where I Stood

28 July 2016

While we were in Scotland for our family holiday, we did some very enjoyable hikes across “rough” and interesting landscapes.

I was constantly laughing to myself – OH IF ONLY MY GIRLFRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW!!

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

On the day of my birthday, we went to look for some stone circles and I came across this lovely gift to the earth.

I wanted to snapchat this photo to my girlfriends, saying: “Hey hey, it’s my birthday, what are YOU doing today?” but I had no mobile coverage. What a bummer.

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

This is what most of the Scottish Highlands looked like… endless views of rolling, green hills.

It was beautiful!

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

But when it rained, most of the flats turned into big grassy bogs. It was really hard to walk through.

Thank goodness our boots were waterproof.

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

Ahhh, we had so much joy comparing the nuances of the different kinds of mud.

(My boys LOOOVED the mud!)

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

The beaches were covered with beautiful, smooth rocks like these.

I was constantly picking up souvenir rocks, until my jacket pockets were bulging and full… and I weighed 2kgs extra.

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

Sometimes there was just NO path and no obvious place to step. This was at the base of a waterfall.

Where can I put my foot? Is it slippery? What can I hold on to? I basically had to crawl across like an drunken lizard.

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

The seaweed on the beaches were covered with little air-filled pockets… and walking across them was like treading on bubble-wrap – very satisfying.

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

Lastly, I wanted to share  – for all it’s shock and delight value – this photo of my 7 year old, climbing up and over a deer fence.

Creating awesome childhood memories here!


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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

We stayed at the 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.

(At the other accommodation we went to, there were bus loads of tourists 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 it felt like a theme park. There were so many guests and strangers around that I felt I had to keep watch and stay on edge all the time.)

Suarga at Padang Padang

Breakfast was included in the price at Suarga 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 resort 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!

Of course, there were tonnes of other places I wanted to stay in Bali, which all looked equally amazing all with  great reviews, interesting features and near different locations around Bali.

So if you need a few places to start your research (or a few quick pointers) I found a list of 7 Best Value Hotels to Relax in Bali, which you might find helpful.

Enjoy!

xxx


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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.