Sunday, June 30, 2013

What does your skin care routine look like?

I've spent many years and countless dollars searching for the perfect skin care products.

I have tried the expensive department store brands buying into the idea that it costs a lot so it must be good and I've tried the supermarket brands after realising expensive didn't equal brilliant. 

And you know what? It's tiring! 

So after years of this tooing and froing I think I have found a combination of brands that comes somewhere in between and does a pretty good job. As a mum to a one year old, I also want something that is affordable and fits into my busy life. 

For me, it's a combination of brands, but trilogy definitely outnumbers the rest in my bathroom vanity. It is a brand that seems to tick all the boxes.
  • it includes natural ingredients
  • it offers value for money 
  • I can order the products online
  • and delivery is fast - within a couple of days
Most orders also come with a freebie or two - sample sizes of products to try.

The other realisation I have come to, is that you don't have to use just one brand for all your skin care products. Mix and match and come up with your own suite of products. 

I'm able to combine a luxe brand or two with a supermarket purchase and a few middle of the range items to pull together a skin care regime that works for me. 

My skin would best be described as normal/combination. I'm oily down my t-zone and my cheeks can get a bit dry, I had quite a few break outs in my teenage years (not pleasant) but in my 20s and now early 30s my breakouts seem to coincide with my hormones. Although my dad still likes to comment on my chocolate intake when I have a breakout!!

So here is my little skin care routine.

1. Cleanser - trilogy cream cleanser
2. Toner - Clinique (only in the morning) clarifying lotion 2 for dry/combination 

7. And then one night a week I replace my night cream with trilogy roséhip oil.

And finally, my day moisturiser includes SPF30+, a must for my skin. My foundation also includes SPF15+ and I think it's definitely worth buying products that include sunscreen, reducing another step in your skin care routine.

I also try to use a mask once a week - I have a couple that I rotate from Elizabeth Arden to the Body Shop.

And finally when time and budget allow, I love to book in for some pampering at my local day spa, Otford Valley Sanctuary Day Spa. Owner, Lisa is amazing and I highly recommend a visit. 

Please note this is not a sponsored post. I am a happy, satisfied customer of a number of skin care products and Otford Valley Sanctuary Day Spa; my local day spa.

I'd love to know what skin care products make the grade for you? 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What's your battle plan?

I've spent the night watching the events in Canberra unfold on tv and social media and I didn't know if this post would make it online tonight. But I've had enough of all the drama and so my latest post about the June toy sales feels a world away from political life (and my previous life as a political staffer) and I couldn't be happier about it. 

So 18 months ago, toy sales and laybying for Christmas in June were a whole other world and one I certainly wasn't part of. I like to think of myself as a veteran shopper with plenty of experience under my belt and a well honed ability to sniff out a good bargain. But toy sales, well I didn't know much at all.

So I received a hurried introduction in June last year and even managed to frighten myself at how I jumped straight in without my usual research and planning. Last June my little girl was still in hospital after arriving prematurely and toys were the last thing on my mind. My sister who was a new mum of two months had clearly done her research and she was all over the toy sales and what June meant in a parent's calendar. Had I missed that memo?

She gave me a briefing, made some useful suggestions and sent me off to Westfield clutching a shopping list in one hand, my smart phone in the other and my credit card warming up in my handbag. Now it's important to know that I had a very small window to do this shop. I was days away from bringing our little girl home from hospital and spending most of each day at the hospital as we worked at breast feeding. So after spending almost an hour trying to and then feeding Miss S, I had a 90 min window to get to the shopping centre, grab a bite to eat, shop and then get back to the hospital and find a park, all in time to feed Miss S again. 

So I hooned around Target throwing toys in the trolley, pulling them back out, checking my list and throwing them back in, all while trying to think of all the little people I needed to buy for - Miss S, my one and only precious nephew and my beautiful god daughter (wo was three at the time), quickly assessing the bargains on offer and calculating the dollars saved by buying items on sale (always a necessary piece of data to offer to my hubby when justifying a larger than planned spend). 

I screeched into the layby section, watched the numbers tick over, had a mini freak out but then reminded myself all of my purchases were put away and I wouldn't need to think about them for a good couple of months. I had probably bought too much, but I could deal with that later. Ahhh, time to breathe. And hey I deserved a little pat on my back for ticking that toy sale box. 

So June has rolled around again and I still find myself not at all organised to do the big shop and layby. My sister has her list ready and is after ideas for Miss S. It doesn't help that Miss S and my nephew are in that in between age of 12 months plus where they're a bit too old for baby toys but are a bit too young for a lot of toys that are 3+. Maybe I should just pick out a toybox to hold all of these purchases?

is it just me or is anyone else totally unprepared for the June toy sales? Any strategies on how best to tackle them from some battle weary veterans and experts? 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Happy birthday to my Mum

Today is a special day, it is my beautiful mum's birthday. Birthdays are always an occasion in our family, they are a chance to celebrate and spoil someone on their special day.

Sadly, my mum and I now live in different cities and states, so it means we celebrate with a card, a gift, a phone call and a FaceTime video call and the promise for a girls lunch next time we see each other.

Luckily the rest of the family is on hand to make sure she is taken to lunch and a birthday cake lit with the obligatory candles. I was also fortunate to see my mum just a month ago when we celebrated my Dad's birthday milestone of 60!

My Mum is someone I admire and adore and I'm blessed that we truly are best friends as well as mother and daughter. It's a special relationship that I hope to continue with my own precious daughter. Since becoming a mum, I appreciate even more the endless and often thankless things my mum has done for me over the years, all because she loves me.

So to my beautiful Mum, happy happy birthday! I love you so very much!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sometimes thank you says it all

Since having our daughter prematurely at 26 weeks and becoming parents, life has been a rollercoaster. Our lives have been turned upside down, in the best possible way. However the first 12 weeks of Miss S's life were tough for all of us. It's very hard to describe what life is like when your days are spent in hospital and you want the days, weeks and months until you bring your baby home to pass quickly and painlessly.

My husband and I are blessed to have incredible family and friends, many of whom supported us through those gruelling weeks and beyond.

I have said thank you many times for many acts of kindness, some of which have stopped me in my tracks and made me realise how very precious our relationships are. I also wanted to thank many of these same people at my daughter's first birthday party, but my emotions got in the way and I ended up a blubbering mess. So to our precious family and friends, thank you. You know who you are. And to my husband, sometimes there are no words just a shared understanding and love; real, true love.

Thank you for listening through the tears

Thank you for our cleaner

Thank you for being brave and not showing me how truly scared you were

Thank you for spending the night beside me in the delivery room as we prayed I would be able to keep this precious little baby safe

Thank you for the care package - chocolate solves pretty much anything

Thank you for the endless hugs and I love yous 

Thank you for just doing without a second thought 

Thank you for travelling to visit and knowing how much we were craving a familiar face 

Thank you for telling us how beautiful our tiny baby was when it was hard to see her for all the tubes 

Thank you for the flowers to brighten our day 

Thank you for taking the time to cook us meals 

Thank you for accepting the good and bad and knowing we needed just a little bit of extra understanding 

Thank you for giving us the strength to make it through 

Thank you for just being you

Saturday, June 15, 2013

So, what's your number?

We all have them, dozens of them choking up our wallets and spilling out every chance they get. I have so many I often forget what I have and never end up using them.

Yup, I'm talking store loyalty cards. 

It seems that every store from Myer and Priceline to the local coffee shop now offers yet another loyalty card with some appealing reason to sign up. 

After adding up my stash I have a total of 22 loyalty cards. And in my little wallet added to the credit cards, ATM cards, Medicare card, roadside assistance, drivers licence and all the bits and pieces I carry around it's a lot.

Why is it that if I don't agree to add another card to my bulging wallet each time I'm offered one at yet another store then I feel like I'm missing out on something or the potential to miss out. I love a bargain and love knowing my shopping might be adding up to a little reward in the future. However, I'm the first to admit that many of the loyalty cards choking up my wallet offer me little in return for collecting my shopping information and building a profile of me as a customer.

Sadly, after struggling to close my wallet, I decided the time had come to add a second wallet just for loyalty cards to my already mammoth handbag/baby bag. Crazy, uh huh!

Then, one day a kind saleswoman, obviously someone who had experienced the same frustration as me at carrying around so many cards and after watching hundreds of customers flick through said wallet and many other loyalty cards, suggested I use a smartphone app that I could just add the details to. Then I could just hand over the loyalty card numbers when making purchases or scan the membership number on my phone. Seriously, why had I never discovered this before? What rock had I been living under?

Well I downloaded Stocard app (I'm sure there are quite a few out there on the market) for my smart phone and while I have added all of my loyalty cards to the app, I must admit I'm still pulling out my cards when I shop (it might have had something to do with the 'are you serious look' when I pulled my phone out at my local supermarket to scan instead of my loyalty card - I promptly put my phone away and pulled out my card again). Argggh! 

Note to self - try this app again next time I'm out shopping. Don't let one sales assistant deter you from ridding your wallet of loyalty cards. 

I can definitely see some merit to having loyalty cards as long as you get some value as a customer and you limit the number you use and carry around with you. 

From my experience the best loyalty cards on the market include:

MYER one - one of the most used loyalty cards in my wallet. I shop at Myer a lot for a range of different things and I like knowing my shopping points are adding up to a gift card. Often it's just a $20 gift card every few months, but every little bit helps. 

Priceline - another of my more commonly used cards. I love Priceline for price, variety and location. I like knowing that my purchases will add up to a little reward every few months. A nice little surprise in the mail. 

Fly buys - possibly THE most used of my loyalty cards. I shop at Bilo and Coles a couple of times a week, so it gets whipped out each time no matter how small the purchase. I also use it at Target and when filling up the car at Coles petrol stations. For me, this offers good value. Points can be used to use Fly Buys dollars, so at times I have converted a whole heap of points and taken $50 off my weekly shop. 

Gloria Jeans - there paper cards rewarded you with a free coffee after purchasing 10 coffees. They now have a new system where you have a plastic card and you sign up online. Not sure what the reward is now? So jury's still out on whether this one will remain in my wallet. 

Bakers Delight - paper card offering a free loaf of bread or six rolls after five visits and spending at least $6 on each visit. Not bad value and no shopping data collected by Bakers Delight. 

Witchery - not the most used card in my wallet, but definitely one I have used a bit more lately and seems to be good value. It can also be used when shopping online at Witchery. I purchased some pants and a blazer recently online which came to about $200 and I received $15 to spend at one of their stores or online. I went into a store to use my $$ to avoid paying a shipping fee of $9.95 (it would have eaten up my reward money). I was also disappointed that the $15 reward had a use by date on it of about a month. Other loyalty cards that offer rewards don't usually have a limit on using the gift card which is always a big plus. 

The final one I have in my every day wallet is for my local pharmacy. They offer gift vouchers once you have spent a certain amount of money on items in store excluding prescriptions. I find this handy as  a mum as I'm usually stopping into the chemist at least once a week (I went through a period of a couple of weeks once where I was in there every day). So this one is good value. 

These are the loyalty cards that sit in prime position in my everyday wallet. They're easily accessible, purely because I use them so much and I can see value to using them. 

What's your take on loyalty cards, do you have any favourites and have they taken over your wallet?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pint sized fashion

One of my purchases for
Miss S from Ollie's Place
Confession time - I love to shop. It's in my DNA and I find shopping quite relaxing and therapeutic, unless I have to buy something for an event or occasion and then it's all kinds of stressful.

So pre mummy days, I used to spend quite a bit of my time and hard earned money shopping. Usually to fill my ever bulging wardrobe. My husband was and is always astonished when I open my wardrobe to get dressed and exclaim 'I have nothing to wear'. So when Miss S arrived, I was on maternity leave and our household budget was significantly reduced, I think he remained ever hopeful that my shopping days were over or would drop to an absolute minimum and needs basis only.

But, as many mums do, I discovered online shopping was a much more appealing option than bundling a newborn into the car, packing bags of baby food, nappies, bottles, clothes, blankets, toys and all other manner of baby paraphernalia into the car, unloading it into a pram and then dragging it all around a shopping centre while attempting to squeeze into a change room with it all. 

So the lovely Australia Post delivery lady and I became great friends. Luckily my hubby as at work when all of my purchases arrived and his only clue was the credit card bill. That is, until he was home from work one day and three purchases arrived at once. Yep, what are the odds? Oops! 

Anyway, now that I'm a mum to a little girl, I find myself buying more and more pieces of clothing for Miss S. It's sad to say but I really do think she has a better wardrobe than me, definitely more on trend. 

We were recently at the Brisbane DFO and I came away with four shopping bags - three of them for Miss S (including this super cute hoodie from Ollie's Place) and one for me and yes mine was the cheapest! Poor hubby didn't even get a look in. 

Has anyone else experienced this change in shopping habits? Is this what the next 15 years or so will be? Or will I eventually be able to go shopping without wandering through the kids and baby section? 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The perfect chocolate brownie recipe

I've always been on the lookout for the perfect brownie recipe. After many, many attempts and eating lots of test recipes (halfheartedly of course) I have finally found the recipe that ticks all the boxes.
  • Easy to cook 
  • Gooey texture (essential for a good brownie, otherwise it's just a chocolate slice)
  • Ingredients that can be found in most pantries 
This is a Donna Hay recipe. To be honest whenever I follow a Donna Hay recipe I usually have to tweak it in some way whether it needs more mixing or beating, a little more of one ingredient or a fraction longer in the oven, but this recipe I have followed to the letter and the brownies turn out just right.

Melt and mix brownies (tips my own)
200g dark chocolate (I use Nestle Plaistowe - can be found in most supermarkets)
250g unsalted butter, chopped (Western Star) 
2 tablespoons cocoa, sifted (Cadbury Bourneville)
2 cups brown sugar 
1 1/3 cups plain flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon baking powder, sifted 
4 eggs (room temperature)

Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius (fan forced)
Place chocolate, butter and cocoa in saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth

Place sugar, flour and baking powder in a bowl
Make a well in the centre and pour in chocolate mixture
Add eggs and mix to combine

Pour mixture into lightly greased 20cm square cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 55-60 mins or until brownie is just set in the centre (I find 55 mins pretty spot on)

(please excuse the little piece missing - I had to check it was cooked)

Allow to stand in the tin for 10 mins if serving warm or cool in the tin. Makes 16 squares (always cut into squares in the tin).

My final tip - sprinkle with a little bit of icing sugar for a bit of fancy!

I'd love to hear about one of your favourite recipes...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What gets your blood pumping?

Exercise is something we all know we should do, it makes us feel good, has obvious health benefits and provides a sense of achievement when completed. But the challenge for me is finding something that is a good use of my time, is enjoyable to do, affordable and fits into my busy schedule.

I can have a short attention span when it comes to exercise and my husband likes to remind me I'm not the most coordinated person he's met (he's one of those annoying people who is good at whatever sport he tries - yet to test him on the ski slopes, but I'm just biding my time). So for me, I like an exercise outlet that is not high pressure and doesn't involve mirrors (generally found at exercise classes at gyms) as I don't need reminding about my coordination skills, or lack of. 

Pilates - for more than 10 years I've been a fan of pilates, on and off, starting with classes (yes at above mentioned gym with mirrors - kinda ok because Pilates doesn't require you to move in time to music - possibly my undoing) before moving onto DVDs at home. I'm a huge fan of Pilates because not only does it give your muscles a solid workout and help you achieve a lean physique but it has enormous benefits for your back. It builds on your core which is pretty much what keeps us upright and keeps it strong, protecting one of the most valuable parts of our body (and after watching my dad and his siblings struggle with back problems I know how debilitating back problems can be). It's also not a workout that leaves you completely exhausted and sweaty. I can't remember a time I did a Pilates session and didn't feel good. 

Yoga - I'm so lucky to have discovered the best yoga teacher and she lives just a few minutes away. Super handy for classes on a chilly winters night. Prior to actually doing yoga I always thought it was more meditation and breathing than anything else. But since taking up and practicing yoga, I've become a convert and always feel like I've worked hard after a class, with a little bit of relaxation and quiet time thrown in. I haven't really embraced yoga DVDs, mainly because I'm so attached to my yoga teacher. I have recently downloaded a yoga app on my iPhone as something I can do between classes but haven't had a chance to fully explore it yet. 

Walking - a great exercise option with a pram. I enjoy walking with a pram (sometimes get a bit nervous about dogs who like to wander the neighbourhood due to irresponsible owners but that's another story) and it's even more enjoyable when I can walk with some of the gorgeous mums in my mothers grop. Walking and chatting, followed by a hot chocolate = perfect way to start the day! 

Personal training - I have succumbed to the odd personal training session with workmates. They can be a great way to get some good tips for exercise and a source of motivation. It's a lot harder to cancel on a trainer and put your exercise off. I also work in an area with views of Sydney Harbour so it's not a bad place to exercise, as long as you focus on the gorgeous views and don't take too much notice of all the beautiful people in their exercise gear. Just be aware you may be in agony in the days following a session and it's often muscles you didn't even know you had. 

Now I mentioned my dislike of exercise that requires me to move in time to music especially in a group setting. A friend of mine has just thrown a spanner in those works by suggesting Zumba classes. Now I've done Zumba in the safety of my own home and it was fun. The thought of doing it in front of other people is a little daunting but heading out to an exercise class with some friends, music, lots of laughter and calling it exercise sounds incredibly appealing. Hmm, I may just end up at that Zumba class! Stay tuned...

Over to you, what's your favourite type of exercise and is there any type of exercise that fills you with fear?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Where oh where did the last two years go?

Well it's been just over two years since my last blog post (three days over to be precise). And all I can say is life got in the way, oh and a precious little addition to our family, who will be known from here on in as Miss S.

Hmm, a quick update. Since May 2011, my hubby and I have become parents to a precious baby girl, who shocked us all with her super early arrival at 26 weeks and 1 day. She was so early we hadn't even had a chance to attend our pre natal classes. So after 12 long weeks in neonatal intensive care in two hospitals, long days of commuting, expressing breast milk, sitting beside her humidicrib and cot in hospital and trying to maintain a home while getting my head around this new and amazing role of a lifetime, we were finally able to bring our precious little bundle home. 

Since then, life has been hectic and challenging and tiring, but would I change a thing? Not a chance. 

I have been fortunate to have a full year, including 12 weeks of hospital visits, at home with Miss S and completely enjoying the stay at home mum experience. I have only just returned to part time work, a balance of in the office and working from home. So with life a tiny bit under control and a lot of inspiration from fellow mums who are bloggers, it's now time for me to re-enter the blogging and writing environment and share a bit of my world. 

Looking back on my previous posts, things seemed perfect. And I am definitely blessed, but there are times, like all of us, when my kitchen is in desperate need of a clean, I haven't called my best friend, my to do lists are getting longer, the washing is piling up and my little one is eating baby food out of a jar instead of home cooked purees. So I'm going to be a little more real and a little less perfect, just like me I guess!

If you've been here before and are returning, thank you!! I hope you find it worth your return. 

And if you're new to my blog, I hope you enjoy reading a little about my life and engaging with me. 

Comments, thoughts, ideas and general chat all very welcome.


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