Tuesday, December 31, 2013

And a Happy New Year to you

It's New Years Eve and a month since my last blog post. Wow, seriously, where did that time go?

December has been a crazy month and I've been enjoying a break over Christmas and New Year. Ideas for the purple notepad for 2013 have been whirling around in the background while I've focused on enjoying the moment with my family. 

2013 has been a big year for our family. I returned to work on a part time basis after 12 months of maternity leave so the childcare, work, commute craziness element of our life began. We are doing our best to make it work so we can enjoy precious time as a family. Returning to work and to the blogging world has been fantastic for me. I love the work I do and blogging is an outlet for me to explore new ideas. 

And above all, watching my beautiful Miss S grow and develop has been the most incredible experience of all. Hubby and I love lying in bed at the end of a busy day and flicking through the photos and videos we have taken of her and sharing little stories of what she has done. So much joy and happiness combined with exhaustion, but we wouldn't have it any other way. 

I don't generally make New Year's resolutions because they usually don't last longer than a month. But instead in 2014 I will focus on goals - living a healthy and balanced lifestyle, enjoying precious moments and living in the moment with my family and friends and an increased commitment to the purple notepad (all the things I'm passionate about). 

So my little break will continue and I'll be back in the New Year keen to chat more about beauty, fashion, shopping, life as a mum and life in general. 

Happy New Year and I hope 2014 brings much love, laughter and happiness. 

What have been your highlights for 2013 and what do you have planned for 2014?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

the purple notepad's guide to online shopping

I let my fingers do the walking :-)

My online shopping directory has been floating around in my head for a couple of months now. I know how useful and valuable I find people's personal experiences and recommendations when buying products and services so I'd thought I would put together my recommendations for online shopping. These are my go to places for online shopping.

Please know they are not sponsored in any way. They are based purely on my personal experiences. 

Why I shop online

1. Convenience - having an 19 month old daughter, it can be easier to browse online when she's asleep. Sure there are times when I wish I could spend a day browsing and trying on items in store but at this stage of my life it's not always convenient. Buying from a reputable website that is flexible with returns etc is a definite. Now that we're officially into December, it's also a great way to beat the crowds. Just be sure to get your orders in asap.  

2. Choice - comparing products between websites is a whole lot easier than physically doing so. Plus, not all websites offer a physical store, others are not all located at my local shopping centre and finally, shopping overseas widens the range and choice significantly. 

3. Value for money - doesn't always come into it as there are certain premium brands I like. But with such a wide range of choices and the ability to shop around it usually means a saving of some kind and at the very least I'm satisfied I've done my research on price. 

My must-haves 

1. Speedy delivery - while I'm blown away when an item I have ordered arrives the next day or two days later, I am patient enough to wait up to a week. Anything over that and I start to get a bit frustrated. A recent $60 purchase from an overseas retailer had me pay $16 untracked postage with a delivery time of up to 9 days. The tracked postage option was about $34. The item didn't arrive in the nine days advertised on the site, when I contacted them to enquire about my order, they advised me I needed to allow up to a month and that I should contact them once the month had been reached. When I hit a month and still no parcel (the event I wanted the dress for had come and gone) I emailed requesting a refund. This was provided without too much hassle (although waiting 7-10 business days for a refund seems a bit ridiculous, I think they charged my credit card much faster than that), but I won't be purchasing from this site again. 

2. Easy returns - are a must for me! Free returns are even better. Two sites I've mentioned below offer free returns. Makes shopping for clothing online so much more appealing. This is one reason why I do hesitate when shopping from overseas retailers - the scary postage fees to return items. One friend spent $40 to return a $200 item. 

My online shopping sites

I have written about my experience with albumworks before and I have now designed and purchased a total of three albums from albumworks. The first two were smaller albums of a US holiday my hubby and I enjoyed a couple of years. We had so many amazing photos from our holiday that I felt they deserved to be displayed in an album. Something we could pick up and flick through to remind us of the amazing time we had. The final and most recent album I have had printed is one to capture Miss S' first year. I spent about 30 hours selecting the photos and designing the album and when it arrived it blew me away. The quality is amazing and it's a beautiful reminder of her very special first year. I will definitely be using this company again.

This brand is always very easy to deal with. Their products are always of a good quality, they offer value for money, designs are always changing, customer service is great and returns are super easy. I have bought tops, dresses, skirts, belts, scarves and shoes from ASOS. I've only had to return items on three occasions - the first time I went with the wrong size for a pair of boots, second time they accidentally sent me the wrong size boots (a size 10 instead of a 5 and they paid the postage to return) and the third time, the top I selected didn't suit me. I paid $8 to return it. 

I love my Bonds underwear for every day use, especially their seamless underpants. I can't always find these at Target, so their online site is my next option. Last time I bought my underwear online they had a massive sale and free delivery and returns. Both hubby and I stocked up. Not sure about returning underwear, but they do also sell singlets, t-shirts, hoodies, track pants and baby clothes. So free returns could come in handy for those items. 

Free delivery and returns which I think is brilliant. I don't find it convenient to get to a Marcs store, so online is a great option. And fast delivery. I ordered a pair of pants early afternoon Wednesday and they were delivered Friday morning. Awesome! I returned the pair of pants simply because they didn't suit me. The return and credit took over a week, but on following up I was assured this was not the usual time taken. This was a little blip but customer service was great and I will definitely be ordering from them again. Too easy!

Pumpkin Patch
Offer a great online service. Lots of sales and reasonable postage, $7.95. They have a better selection online than at my local Westfield store. Returns can be done via return mail or taken in store (my preferred option). Sizing can be a bit all over the place, but generally a good value for money product (especially on sale and they have a lot of sales). 

I have only ordered once through this site, but keep returning to browse. I love their shoes and had a positive experience when I ordered a pair of ballet flats. At $170 plus for a pair of ballet shoes they're not a regular purchase, but I have my eye on a pair at the moment and will save a few more dollars before I buy. They arrived super quick and no hassles. 

Now I admit I have only ever used this site once, to purchase a packet of tea bags. Yes, tea bags. Staples was the only place I could find them online after I tried this particular flavour of tea bag at a conference I went to. I took a photo of the tea bag and then went hunting online. I ordered my packet of tea bags at 3.30pm on a Thursday afternoon and they arrived the next morning by courier. Shipping was free. Super impressed. 

This is a long time favourite. Good range, prices and quick delivery. When the Australian dollar was high against the US, this site was super cheap. Now the dollar has adjusted prices are more inline with department store prices. But always convenient and the free shipping and loyalty discounts are definitely welcome. 

The Iconic
Super impressed with the speedy delivery. Ordered a pair of sandals on a Tuesday afternoon and they arrived next morning (and I don't live in the Sydney CBD). I haven't had to return anything so not sure how easy returns might be. 

The Little Big Company
I have purchased party items and gifts from this site a couple of times. Always arrives within a few days. Postage under a certain spend is $10.95, but considering the items I have ordered have been glassware and they have arrived without a problem, I'm happy to pay postage. 

Love this brand and how easy it is to order online. Delivery is free and within two business days, always handy when you realise there's only a couple more squirts in your eye cream. I use these products across my skincare routine, from cleanser, to eye cream and night cream. 

An easy to use website which when you sign up to, offers bonuses for members and free shipping when you spend over a certain amount. I purchased a pair of leather ponte pants on the site after I couldn't get my size at my local Witchery store. At the same I also picked up a pink blazer on sale. Arrived within a week and fit was perfect. I like that I can return items if needed to my local store to save on postage costs.

Would love to hear your recommendations on online shopping sites. What are your favourites and why? 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Christmas tale #1: shopping for a Santa sack

I have just hit purchase on a gorgeous personalised Santa sack for Miss S. Thanks Etsy!

Cute, huh? 

This year is Miss S' second Christmas. Last year she was almost nine months old (6 months corrected for her prematurity) so didn't really comprehend all that was going on. It was much more enjoyable for hubby and I and my family as we celebrated our first Christmas together and for my parents their first as grandparents (two grandchildren arriving within weeks of each other). 

This year, at almost 21 months, and 18 months corrected, Miss S has much more idea of what's going on. However, I think it will be another year or so before she understands the Christmas story and Santa. But that won't stop us taking her to Christmas mass and filling a sack with goodies from Santa. 

So, I started thinking about a Santa sack. Some people are into Christmas stockings, but for my sister and I we woke each Christmas morning to find a sack the size of a specially themed Christmas pillowcase full of presents. It was a lovely tradition from my mum. And it's a tradition I want to continue with Miss S. 

My Mum is a very clever sewer and I thought it was something she might like to do. However, she is recovering from surgery on one hand and about to go in for another operation on her other hand. Plus by the time she hunts around for material and puts it all together, Etsy seemed like a great alternative.

I could honestly spend hours looking through the products for sale on Etsy. So many talented people with amazing ideas. And yep, even Santa sacks. 

My mum, dad (yes even my dad, he needed to give the poppy thumbs up), hubby and I all thought this little reindeer was adorable and with Miss S' name on it, it is perfect. And all for $30 (including postage)

I've hit purchase and made the payment through paypal. Now I wait for it arrive all the way from London. Stay tuned for how the reindeer turns out!

I'd love to hear what you have bought from Etsy?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

the purple notepad...rested and refreshed

The purple notepad has returned from holidays...a little sad that our family holiday is over but feeling refreshed and ready for the run to Christmas. And it's going to be a busy run that's for sure.

We spent a week on the Sunshine Coast with my parents, enjoying the warm weather, precious family time and just a general time out from the rest of the world. It was bliss. Throw in an early Christmas celebration, a family reunion and precious moments watching Miss S develop her special relationship with her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousin. 

We were also fortunate to be away for the fire emergency period in Sydney. While we don't live in the areas devastated by the bush fires, we do live in an area close to bush and our little community was on high alert. I was grateful to be away. For me, all that I treasured was safe.  My hearts go out to the families who lost everything. I can't begin to imagine what they are going through. 

You may have noticed a few changes on the purple notepad. I've been busy taking part in the Media Maid Blog Academy run by Katrina Chambers (a talented blogger from my home town) and am putting all the bits and pieces I'm learning into practice. I have some planning to do about the direction I want the purple notepad to take over the next 12 months so I'll be spending some time on that behind the scenes. Trying to focus on my strengths! If there is anything you would like to see more of here please let me know. Love hearing your feedback. 

See you soon xx

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Shopping for kids clothing not as easy as you think

As the weather warms up and attention turns to summer wardrobes, it's not only mine that I need to refresh. It seems Miss S has a shortage of skirts and dresses. So I've done a little bit of shopping online for her, but I like to venture in store as well. And I've been left feeling disappointed and frustrated. It seems that despite more opportunities for brands to listen to customers, retailers are still doing exactly what they wish.

I recently paid a visit to my local Pumpkin Patch store. I'm a huge fan of their range and prices, but sometimes I'm left scratching my head at sizing. Today was a case in point. I picked out two dresses for Miss S, one labelled 12-18 months and one labelled 6-12 months, but they were the same length, width etc, ie. same size (and the one labelled 12-18 months was possibly even a little smaller than the 6-12 month one). I questioned the retail assistant and she told me it was because they were different makes. But it's the same brand. Why was there such a difference in size?

Now seriously, it's hard enough shopping as a woman with so many different makes and sizes. I'm usually an 8 or a 10, but 99 per cent of the time, I have to take both into the change room. Sometimes the 8 fits perfectly and other times, I have absolutely no hope of squeezing into a size 8. This is a situation I have accepted, I don't like it, and it's incredibly frustrating, but I've accepted it. And it adds a whole new element of fun confusion to online shopping.

But now, it seems I'm expected to adopt the same principle when buying clothes for my 18 month old daughter (not because of her size but because there is an anomaly in the sizing on offer). It must make it incredibly difficult for grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends to buy gifts for children. I know before I had a child, I relied entirely on the age advice on sizing to pick out clothing.

I also like to shop online for Miss S, Pumpkin Patch has really good sales and a much bigger selection online than in store. But selecting sizing online won't be easy relying on the above logic. It can be really hard to determine online that one dress is a different make and therefore a different size.

I expressed these concerns to the sales assistants, but unfortunately, they could not or did not want to understand my concern and frustration. And just shrugged me off.

A family member had a similar experience with Pumpkin Patch. She purchased a pair of jeans for her son for a Brisbane winter (the size was 3-6 months). By the age of 11 months they were still slightly too big for him (he's an average sized bub) and winter was long gone. Summer was approaching and wearing a pair of jeans in 30 plus degree heat wasn't really an option. She complained to the store and they offered a refund, but I wonder if anyone is reviewing the sizes on offer and whether they are relevant and useful. For some pieces of clothing, you can hold onto them and bub will eventually grow into it, but for other seasonal items, it's just a waste of money.

My hope is that brands listen to their customers and their feedback, both positive and negative. I'm definitely one for giving kudos to a brand when they get it right (and Pumpkin Patch gets it right most of the time with it's range, price, sales and online shopping and returns) but brands also need to listen to customers when they miss the mark. Australian women live with anomalies in sizing every day, do we really want to experience the same frustrations when shopping for our children?

Have you experienced this anomaly in children's sizing?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mothers group: why it worked for me

For many first time mums, mothers groups are almost like a rite of passage. I know they can be a mixed bag, some mums love them and the friendships they offer and others find them a breeding ground for comparisons, guilt and competitiveness. My experience most definitely falls in the former.

My mothers group has been meeting for more than a year now, almost every week, for a regular catch up and play date with our little ones. We have shared our highs and lows, our runny noses, day care waiting lists, challenging and sleepless nights, milestones, first birthdays and all other manner of baby related topics. But we have also shared other aspects of our lives and who we are; our husbands and partners, our careers, our families and little snippets of information shared while juggling a hungry baby, changing a nappy and now chasing after adventurous walkers.

For me, that first meeting was a godsend. After living in our little community for five years and commuting into the city for work, I hadn't really had a chance to meet many other local women. I had hoped that when Miss S arrived, I would meet some local mums. By the time I arrived at my first get together of mothers group, Miss S had been in the world for over three months, but only home for a few weeks. Yes I'd had longer to get to know my little one, but it had been done in the hospital environment surrounded by nurses and doctors, and so being at home with Miss S and me as the responsible adult, meant I came into mothers group with all the same questions and concerns any new mum has.

And what I encountered was a group of mums, all going through the same thing, and a wonderful group of women who have become my friends, women I trust and genuinely like. We don't continue to catch up just because, but we do so because we like each other and genuinely enjoy each other's company. Our catch ups have extended to a mum's night out (planning for another one is underway), BBQs with our husbands and partners, birthday parties for our precious little ones and regular walking catch ups followed by a much needed coffee or in my case, a hot chocolate or tea.

I also have no doubt Miss S enjoys catching up with this little bunch of babies. They have seen each other almost every week for the past year and there is a sense of familiarity. Like most one year olds, there's not a lot of playing together, but I have no doubt in the years to come, they will be great friends. And yes, I do hope we will continue to catch up in the years ahead. Yes, it may become more challenging, if and when more bubs come along, all combined with day care, school and work, but hopefully we will still make the time to get together.

I have recently been asked by a few friends pregnant with their first hub about mothers groups and my advice has been to give it a chance. I think about what I would have missed out on had I decided a mothers group was not for me simply because I was worried about stories of competitiveness and constant comparing of babies. One of the many things I have learned since having a baby and having a baby prematurely is Miss S will do things on her time and so she should. Instead, as mums, we should enjoy the new experiences and friendships our bubs have brought us.

What's your experience of mothers groups? Did you meet other mums? Do you still catch up? What makes it work?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A simple recipe for gluten free banana bread

I have a few family members and friends who either have coeliac disease or are gluten intolerant. For me, reducing my intake of gluten is more of a lifestyle choice, but I'm always on the hunt for good gluten free recipes for hubby and Miss S to enjoy and to cook for family and friends. 

A friend recommended trying the White Wings gluten free self raising and plain flours and she advised it was as simple as replacing standard flours with these gluten free ones. I admit I was a little doubtful, but I gave it a whirl and was amazed at how good this banana bread tasted. 

This is a recipe I originally found online and tinkered with a little.

Unfortunately I was unable to find the White Wings gluten free flours at my local supermarket but was able to find them at a larger Coles supermarket near my office. They are a little dearer but well worth it. 


1 and 3/4 cups White Wings gluten free self raising flour
1/4 cup White Wings gluten free plain flout
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
2 eggs, lightly whisked
50g butter, melted
2 overripe medium bananas, mashed

What I also really like about this recipe is that the ingredients are always in either my pantry or my fridge. And it's a great way to use those over ripe bananas!


Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Brush an 11 x 21 cm loaf pan with butter to lightly grease. Line the base and sides with non-stick baking paper.

Sift the combined flours and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and make a well in the centre. Place the milk, eggs, melted butter and banana in a medium bowl, and stir until well combined. 

Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the top with ground cinnamon (I love cinnamon).

Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes and check a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and set aside for five minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into slices to serve. 

The banana bread can be eaten fresh or toasted over the next few days. I love it with a nice thick coating of butter! Mmmm!

And best of all, it's a recipe that hubby and Miss S love.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

And the sun came out...

Life has been a little crazy of late - jam packed schedules, long to do lists, busy workplaces and a few health challenges. But I'm starting to see the light as things start to calm down and literally see the light as the weather starts to warm up and the days get longer, little by little. 

I have had a glorious weekend, definitely helped along by the divine weather, but a visit to my hairdresser, some me time (thanks to my awesome hubby on babysitting duties) and time spent with people I care about has been the perfect pick me up. And a visit to the playground with hubby, Miss S and our beloved pooch was the perfect way to end the weekend, especially watching Miss S totter around and be amazed by our local playground. 

So with a spring in my step (terrible pun and a week early) look out world!

How has your weekend been? Have you been able to enjoy the glorious weather? Or is it still a little chilly where you are?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wanted: the perfect pair of jeans

I have been wanting to buy a new pair of jeans for a couple of months now. I have my trusty jeans that I adore and love spending time in, but it's been a while since I owned a dark denim pair. So, I dragged my hubby and Miss S along, firstly for opinions and secondly, it's often too hard to navigate change rooms with a pram.

My first and only stop (yay success) was Just Jeans - found a perfect pair of Levis after trying on a couple of pairs and sizes. 

But my frustration when buying pants and on this occasion jeans is that I almost always need to have the hems taken up and there's almost always an extra cost for me to do so. 

There are a couple of exceptions and why I'm raising this issue. I have bought jeans overseas, in London and San Francisco. The Moto jeans I bought from Topshop were available in a range of lengths - perfect. I could buy a pair of jeans while on holiday and wear them that very same day. I also bought a pair of Levis in San Francisco and they were the perfect length for my height. Again, perfect, I could wear them that same day. 

So yesterday I went into my local Just Jeans store yesterday with my size, 27 x 30 (30 referring to the length) and no luck. I checked online when I got home and nope my Demi curve Levis only come in 32 length. 

Now I have come to terms with the fact that I'm vertically challenged but I'm a pretty standard height and I'm not alone in being short. I don't understand why when companies like Levis make their jeans in a range of lengths, why Australian stores can't stock them. 

I have this issue when I'm buying most pants - pants for work, casual pants and even exercise pants from Lorna Jane and Lulu Lemon. 

Having to take my hems up is time consuming and always adds to the cost of my outfits. And there's no way I can go shopping with the intention of buying a pair of pants to wear that night or the next day because I can't be sure I will get a same day service on my hems. 

I love my new jeans but they are still sitting at Just Jeans waiting to have the hems adjusted. Sadly I will have to wait until next weekend to give them a spin. 

Does anyone else share my frustration at the lack of options available for shorter people, or the tall people amongst us, do you have the opposite experience?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

No sick bed for this mummy

The dreaded lurgy has hit our home and hit it hard. All three of us have been knocked down by three different and potent bugs. 

After a visit to the doctor, hubby and Miss S were handed prescriptions for antibiotics and I was left empty handed with age old instructions to keep up my fluids and rest. Rest?

Totally easy to do with a 16 month old.

So before Miss S entered our lives and changed them forever, hubby and I would have retreated to the safety and warmth of our bed, emerging only for food, water and bathroom stops.

Now, we had no choice but to battle through. 

So hubby spent the weekend on his sick bed and now the situation has reversed. Hubby is on the mend and I'm now feeling terrible. With one healthy parent on deck, I'm retreating to bed and resting up. 

I'll be back to the purple notepad once my head has cleared and I have emerged from the fog. 


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