Nov 15, 2018

Lovin' Life 15/11/2018: Advent Calendars.

It's just two weeks until the first of December and I'm already beside myself with the anticipation and the excitement.  Family, food, ultra long long-weekends....  and advent calendars.

I am excessive when it comes to the calendars.  We each have a gift based calendar and ... one filled with chocolate.  All four calendars take pride of place on the mantlepiece and we are both surprisingly very good about only opening one window per day.

The windows get opened in the evening (as an inducement to get through showers and the rest of our pre-dinner routine ASAP) and we count up from window number 1.  I don't actually know anyone who counts down from number 24 but it does kind of make sense to be 'counting down' to Christmas Day.

This year's chocolate calendars are the Lindor and Kinder versions that I found at Woolies.

Master SSG will also be opening the Star Wars Lego calendar while I'll be getting through this one ...

Image result for aldi wine advent calendar 2018

Just kidding.  It's the Aldi wine advent calendar in case you were curious and it costs $79.99.  It was released yesterday.  Fingers crossed your local store still has one for you.

This is my actual second advent calendar...

It's from L'Occitane and features the vibrant artwork of Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, the French designer.  L'Occitane is one of my favourite places to shop at Christmastime.  Not only are their gifts lavishly packaged but they always have generous gifts with purchase plus the 'more is more' approach to samples.

Do you open an advent calendar or two for Christmas?  Chocolate, beauty, books or booze?

Nov 13, 2018

The Updo Life.

Image result for dyson air wrap
via Google Images

I'll admit it.  The Dyson Airwrap was high on my list of Christmas Self Gifts this year.  The $700 hair miracle worker promises salon standard results on your hair with only a fraction of the heat damage.  But, I know deep in my heart that I just don't have the patience to interchange appliance heads as I go from left to right.  While bouncy curls would be lovely, I habitually scrape my hair up into ponytails at work and for most of the time that I'm not at work too, now that I think about it.

Image result for cedel pink hair spray

Thank goodness, once again, for the magical, educational, cheap and cheerful world of YouTube video tutorials.  Thanks to the good old YT, I managed to find two very helpful tutorials about how to style my hair into updos worthy of both work and the onslaught (it's all relative) of invites I have for parties and funtions for the rest of the year.  All I needed to purchase was a can of hairspray, which I found for $5 at Woolworths.

Other necessary equipment includes:
Image result for bobby pins
via Google Images
the humble bobby pin

Image result for hair elastics
via Ebay
hair elastics (unfortunately my hair is too thick for these snagless elastics)

Image result for hair brush
via Google images

a hairbrush and last but not least......  

Image result for messy hair
via Google images

days old unwashed hair, the older the better!!!!!!

Image result for topsy tail'
via Ebay

One of the keys to updos for shortish hair is mastering the 'topsy tail'.  It helps create volume at the crown and an anchor point to pin the rest of your hair to.  You could get yourself a topsy tail tool but I found it pretty easy to just flip my ponytail 'through itself' instead.  Then it's just a matter of creating the topsy tails where they best suit your hair length relative to your scalp.

My hair is currently shoulder length with heavy layering and ummm... a ridiculously expensive balyage through it.  The updos I've borrowed from the following YouTubers were both quick to execute and made my hair look almost as good as theirs.  What's more, these updos have lasted entire days and beyond at work without the need to be redone at lunchtime.

All three of the looks in Ashley Bloomfield's video above are easy to put together however look #1 worked best for me.

Alex Gaboury's do in this video is demonstrated on long hair but I could achieve it easily with mine as well.

Have you done anything interesting to your hair recently?

Do you love a good YouTube DIY video for hair and beauty inspiration?

The Dyson Airwrap?  Have you or will you?

Nov 12, 2018

Life This Week 12/11/2018: I Remember....

I'll always remember these three words.

I.  Get.  To.

It had been a long and difficult day and I was finally alone and free to spend a few (!!) minutes scrolling through my Instagram feed before going to bed, hopefully falling asleep straight away and then waking up at crazy o'clock to do it all over again.

'I get to...' was the subject of a post of one of the many motivating and inspiring people I follow on The 'Gram.  How embarrassing that I can't remember who it actually was.  But thank you for your life changing wisdom.

The idea of 'I get to...' is to replace 'I have to ... *insert eye roll and loud groan*...' with the challenge of 'I get to...' instead.  It was at once both so obvious but also so hard.  To simply change your intention regarding a specific task from resentment to possibility.

A switch flicked for me that night and I drifted to sleep pondering the possibilities and the freedom that those words now offered me.  Instead of resentment building within me at the mere thought of having to do  X for the billionth time, I now get possibilities instead:

  • the chance to learn something new when work gets even busier
  • an endorphin rush and a boost to my mental wellbeing when I hit the road for a run or the gym at dawn
  • more time to spend parenting the little guy who one day won't be waking up randomly and wanting me by his side at 2 in the morning (I'm a bit nervous about 2 in the mornings when he's a teenager I must admit)
  • that after paying the mechanic for all the stuff that needs to be done to my car, I'll have something safe to drive for at least another year for a cost that's much more palatable than buying a new car.

What do you 'get to' do?

Nov 10, 2018

Saturday. The Wanderlust 108 Wellness Triathlon, Sydney, 2018.

We've finally reached that time of the year where the weekends are pleasantly full of celebrations and not so pleasantly full of hours spent fighting the crowds everywhere are nearly upon me so I am glad that I got the chance to have a Saturday as uniquely rewarding as the one just gone.

To begin with, the weather came to the party after a week which saw it go all over the place from rainy and windy to hot and windy.  

I saw a cruise ship serenely glide through the water as I hit the hills for my long morning run

and this ....  crest ... of cockatoos were keeping an eye on my pace for the final stretch of flat towards home.

This pair of lovebirds were the closest thing I could find to a starry-eyed couple heading for home the morning after the night that was.

They did not even come up for air as I jostled around trying to find their best angle.  Young love.

It was a change of pace a few hours later when I found myself at Centennial Park for Sydney's Wanderlust 108.  Wanderlust 108 are day-long festivals held around the world that focus on wellness.  The numbers each have special significance where 1 = unity, 0 = wholeness and 8= infinite love.  This year's festival in Sydney was unique in that it is the first Wanderlust to feature a Wellness Triathlon that I will go into in more detail later.

The cynics amongst you will be silently laughing into your mugs of tea about now.  For so many reasons:

  • Sydney Shop Girl being at a wellness festival
  • 43 year old Sydney Shop Girl being at a wellness festival whose marketing features women half her age 
  • and perhaps at what wellness seems to be a euphemism for in 2018 - designer activewear, pricy and niche 'whole foods' as well as a range of lifestyle practices many in the 'mainstream' world would consider 'crunchy' and associated with the likes of 'supermodels whose names begin with M' (I try hard here not to name and shame anyone explicitly) and Instagram influencers.

To begin with, I have to admit that I shared your collective cynicism.  As I surrendered by $61 AUD ticket for a sky blue general admission wristband and race bib, I found myself wondering what I'd gotten myself into as I wrote off half a Saturday that could otherwise have been spent 'Saturday parenting'  Master SSG (breakfast out, several hours spent trying to do half an hour of homework before some compensatory mental health time at the Westfield in the Junction).

Wanderlust 108 appeared to have been made for Instagram.  From its striking wooden entry gate to the oversized toys in the chill out area and the radio station sponsored free hot drink station ... we were all Instagramming what we saw like there was no tomorrow.

For the record, I can Instagram the minutiae of an event at a speed almost compatible with a woman half my age.  It's just my hashtagging that slows me down.  And the need to find the best light and filters for my ageing skin...

But the reality of what I was a part of dawned by the time I settled down at my yoga mat on the main lawn and affixed my race number to my Lulu Lemon (of course but sadly they were not part of the festival shopping village this year ... maybe next year, Lulu?).  For a start, the women around me while mostly very young, were also all universally friendly and down to earth.  We accommodated each other as the order went around for more precise placement of our yoga mats in our assigned rows.  We took photos for each other (I took at least 7 for the group behind me because someone a bit older than me didn't like her hair in a lot of them and I didn't have the heart to tell her about the filtering and editing apps).  We felt free to ask each other random questions about the event and sought help and answers for each other as needed.

On the 5K run, the faster runners called out to redirect us when it was clear we were all heading in the opposite direction of the planned race route.  When we needed to pair up for activities, we could all turn to the stranger at our right and know that she would partner up with you no questions asked.  I say she because Wanderlust Sydney was a 90% female event this year.  I don't know what the gender breakdown is in other cities but the event here was rich in supportive, positive vibes only oestrogen.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I think the Wanderlust 5K is the only race in Sydney where participants are encouraged to rehydrate with free bottles of Kombucha from sponsor Remedy Kombucha.  I will also go on the record to say that today was the day that I first tried kombucha and I'm glad I did it but I am in no hurry to buy myself another bottle.  It was so acidic, frothy rather than fizzy and if I was Master SSG I'd be calling it 'too spicy'.   The oats and quinoa snack pack was satisfying but a bit bland.  I suck at clean living.  I much prefer my local cafe's take on things.  They serve acai with a healthy scoop of toasted muesli and fruit salad.  So I can be part of the movement without sacrificing the safe and familiar.

After snacking in the outdoor lounge, we returned to our yoga mats to find complimentary tins of tea arranged on them.

There were workshops on meditation and aerial yoga but fortysomething festival goer yours truly was happy just to sit on my mat and catch some rays.

While indulging in a bit of self-maintenance.  Which will surprise no one reading this.

The final parts of the triathlon were yoga and meditation.

Fee Zard led us through yoga and Jonni Pollard through meditation.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I got out of both these sessions as I knew I'd struggle through them both.

Fee has a wonderful energy and speaking manner.  She interspersed her flow yoga segments with a few hip-hop dance moves.  In the spirit of Wanderlust, I hipped and I hopped.  But readers, I am sure it looked dreadful.  I have Fee to thank for the philosophy of using yoga practice to improve my relationship with my self through ending each practice with a moment of 'seeing myself' and telling her that I forgive and love her.

It got too hot for me in the sun so I retreated to the shade of tree for Jonni's meditation.  I met a few other like-minded ladies including the third wheel of a group. The third wheel and I sat back to back at Jonni's instruction for the meditation session.  It was very comforting and stillness inducing sitting that way with a stranger.  I began to be more comfortable with the idea of simply sharing in the presence of emotions or thoughts rather than actively trying to respond to or correct them.  But I still found it a challenge to be still and free of my phone for 30 minutes.

I'm glad I had the chance to attend Wanderlust 108 this year.  It was well organized and a lot of fun.  Very different to the usual kind of thing I do on a weekend.  I'm not sure when I'll next have the chance to attend again but when I do return, I'll be brave and perhaps give the aerial yoga or the hula hoops a go.

Have you ever been to a Wanderlust festival?

Nov 8, 2018

Lovin' Life 8/11/2018: Just In A Good Place.

I'm lovin' where my life is right now.  Nothing specific, it's just that I'm in a good place. 

It's been a busy and hectic year (as they all are) and I'm happy that I've both survived and thrived.  I didn't begin the year with much more of a plan than to give it all my best shot and to keep looking forwards rather than backwards.

I'm excited for the end of year slow down, the good weather ahead that will hopefully be more long-term than it has in recent weeks and the fact that I have a list of catch ups and other things that will see me spend time with my nearest and dearest over the coming weeks.

I'm content with who I am and what I have.

I understand that there's a time and a place for everything. 

I understand that change happens and it will bring both the good and the not so good.  But ultimately change is exciting and I endeavour to associate exciting with the same anticipation and joy as Master SSG.

But yeah, as I was saying at the beginning, I'm in a good place and I'm lovin' life.

Nov 6, 2018

The Getaway Weekend. Dinosaur Valley.

This is the smile of a person who got off work early on Friday ahead of a weekend getaway.

And this was the state of affairs in the cold drink fridge at Woolies on that same Friday when it was around 28C by lunchtime and 30C for most of the afternoon...  Five Coke No Sugars in a sea of Other Soft Drinks.

Master SSG and I went to Leura with three other families over the weekend and from a parent's perspective, it went almost miraculously well.   Everyone enjoyed themselves, there were no injuries and the only minor annoyance of the weekend was the rain on Friday night.  But even that pelted down after we'd safely made the drive from Sydney.

This was our Air B'n'B for the weekend and this photo makes it look deceptively small. 

The most popular room with the boys... before it got buried under cushions and stuffed toys....

The house had enough bedrooms and bathrooms for us all over three compact levels.  The back decks looked out over the mountains and the boys could have happily spent the entire weekend playing in the house.  Soft furnishings were fashioned into forts, stairs were climbed on bottoms and endless games of zombie took place in between.

As for me?  I spent quite a bit of time sitting in the reading room with my latest YA romance find and a mug of instant coffee.

I'm currently reading 'The Summer I Turned Pretty' trilogy by Jenny Han.

Image result for the year i turned pretty
via The Guardian
It's a bit darker than 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before' and I like that.  Belly, the heroine of 'The Summer' is torn between the brothers Conrad and Jeremiah.  She loves them both as brothers and then romantically. It gets awfully complicated and her feelings play out against the complex landscapes of the lives of her and the boys' parents.

This is the bookcase wall opposite the pair of chairs in the reading room where I sat each morning of our weekend in Leura.

I couldn't think of a more perfect place to curl up with a good book.

I drank a lot of fancy instant coffees over the weekend. This is a Moccona Maple Pecan Crave which you make up and then top with a few chocolate leaves. It was okay. it had a pleasant maple flavour but it could have gone a bit stronger with the coffee.

Image result for moccona coffee maple
via Google impages

This is how they look at the shops.

This was our kitchen and just like home, it was the heart of our stay and where we would congregate for meals and chats.  You have no idea just how much food and drink we packed into this kitchen. It ended up being a good thing because dinner at the house was much less stressful than trying to go out with our gaggle of boisterous boys.

Of course there was champagne.

With chips because it's important to stay classy always.

Peer pressure saw the boys all eat their meat, vegetables, bread and fruit.

The main event for our party was Dinosaur Valley at Scenic World.  The exhibition opened this month and will be on until the end of January next year.  

Dinosaur Valley is a presentation of robotic dinosaurs set up in a section of the rainforest at Scenic World.

We picked a pretty perfect Saturday for our visit and we also picked opening time which was very wise because it got very busy around lunchtime.  It was so cool and shady in the valley as we walked amongst the likenesses of our prehistoric ancestors.

There were plenty of places to explore as we took our walk through the forest.

We found eggs that rattled and glowed in the shade.

The nursing / delivery trolley set up next to the hatching egg made me smile.

The boys thoroughly enjoyed the walk and were at the right age to be fascinated rather than bored or scared by the dinosaurs.

There were little suprises everywhere we looked.

We bought each boy an explorer pack, if you buy them online you get a $5 discount bringing them to $20 each.

Inside the satchel was a water bottle, cardboard binoculars and activities to keep the boys occupied.

Needless to say drinks and themed lunches were the order of the day when we ended our visit with lunch at the Scenic World cafe.

 We changed pace with out next stop at Blackheath.

There was a beautiful park which was hosting an annual fair and it was packed with families enjoying the good weather.  Our first stop was the bouncy castle.

And then the ice cream van.  I get nostalgic every time I see those vans.  The treats they serve have stood the test of time.

Master SSG picked a fabric owl to add to this collection of school bag charms and he also got to explore the police van which was part of the fair.

Back at the ranch, it was early showers and dinner for the boys before the parents settled in for the night with this pretty impressive cheeseboard.

We started Sunday with brunch and a walk through the Leura shopping area before  beginning the drive home.

The most popular shop was definitely The Candy Store, a tidy little shop that is wall to wall treats from all corners of the world.

These look familiar.  They're my favourite chocolate coated marzipan treats from Germany.

Nostalgia hit again when I saw these Double Dip sherberts. 

It's kind of okay to be politically incorrect if there's chocoalte involved, right?  There were candy Fags somewhere on the shelf too...

Our final stop was Leura Falls.

 I thought this branch angled across the falls was just beautiful.

The weekend ended far too quickly and the boys are under the impression that we're all going again this coming weekend.  I wish we were.

I love playing tourist in my own backyard.  How about you?


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