February: Tracking Spending

Tracking spending is one of those virtues punted around the personal finance blog space that I’ve always admired and never bothered with. I mean, why do I need to track my spending? I track it already because I’m the one doing all the spending! My credit card certainly isn’t scanning itself at the check out, or secretly entering its details in my favourite online stores for magic parcels to be delivered (that would be delightful and dangerous). However, in a push to pull myself together after two years of full time work and little to show for it other than an emergency fund and some expensive international trips – great things, I admit, but not necessarily aligning with my long term goals – it was time to change.

The boyf and I wrote a new budget at the start of February. This budget incorporated every single thing we could think of: rent/bills/staying alive costs; petrol; future guaranteed trips (so many weddings and family overseas); medications; homewares; garden items; gifts for all occasions; and $120 in spending money a week.

That spending money encompasses all personal expenses: aside from the standard luxuries of clothes, shoes, eating out when it isn’t a date-thing (eg if one of us has a lunch with friends), and miscellaneous whatevers, it also incorporates things like haircuts.

Hilariously, I felt pretty smug about that $120/week. That’s a lot of cash per week. In fact, and pardon my extraordinary maths skills, that adds to up $6,240 a year. And seriously, with how we had carefully apportioned and accounted for all of our expenses for the year, what on earth could be left over to spend it all on?

Thankfully my misplaced confidence didn’t allow me to justify not tracking my spending this time. My primary thought was that I could use my tracked spending as a proud record of how under budget I stayed each week (I haven’t been drinking for the month of February, which has helped significantly). I also thought it would be interesting to know for real what I spend each week on various items. For example, lattes are the devil of the personal finance world; but working in a law firm, going out to coffee is the way to stay connected. It effectively defines your personal brand. I’m okay with parting with some of that $120 to improve my work networks. However, how much of that $120/week goes to coffee? I couldn’t answer that question, and the clearest resolution to being able to do so to me was to write it all down. A final motivator was my passion for recording things with pen and paper and flipping through stacks of filled out forms. It’s weird. I blame it on being a lawyer.

I’ve been using the Mindful Budgeting program from Blonde On A Budget, which is great and simple and has some excellent guidelines and motivators. However, a blank piece of paper or the back of an envelope or honestly your notes app would do just fine. You do you. I printed off a few sheets of the weekly spend tracker and kept the current week’s sheet in the back of my planner, so that I wouldn’t have the excuse of not having it with me.

Week one went swimmingly. I diligently wrote down all my expenditures and came in exceedingly under budget. I was so excited I renamed one of my accounts the ‘Gold Star’ Account and moved all unspent pocket money there (I know. You can laugh. It is ridiculous). Week two skated much closer to the edge. In fact, the reality is I went over the allotted $120, but I lost my piece of paper with the tracker. I also got over confident – I had stayed under by around $1.50 on the Saturday, so did my gold star money transfers, only to spend $29 on Sunday (it was being a good grandchild to my nan, but still – it was over budget). The worst part of this is I never wrote it down. I used losing the piece of paper as a sign that it didn’t matter. And that was the start of the epic blow-out of week three.

Goodbye overconfidence. Goodbye gold star account. Goodbye getting ahead. I went over budget by $80 in week three. $80! And the tragic thing is, I knew it but didn’t really know it until after the money was spent because I intentionally put off writing down the numbers. Yes, I stood there and scanned my credit card. And yes I entered the details in an online purchase. And yes, I even stupidly misread the fine print and was charged for something I should have cancelled – twice. But I didn’t realise exactly how much I’d muffed it until I wrote everything down and looked at those hard figures. It was surprisingly hard to swallow, all that pride and cockiness that $120 a week is a tonne of money, and anyway, I have everything I need! What could I possibly keep wanting to buy?

Turns out, wants never go away.

Week four I forced myself to suffer the consequences. I subtracted my overspend from week three, which left me with $33.98. Just another kick in the guts of how irresponsible I’d been, if I only had that much left for a week of miscellaneous purchases such as makeup remover, coffee, whimsical stickers and you know, wine.

I kicked off week four with two zero spend days, which felt like a real win. Much like giving up sugar, cutting spending only needs you to get through the next hour without buying something. And then the next hour. And you just keep going like that, one small portion of time successfully meeting your goal at a time until you’ve whittled away a substantial amount of your larger goal. Anyway, I nailed it and only spent $15.20 – $11 on coffee and $4.20 on take-away hot chips from chicken treat. This came as a massive relief after the panic at the end of week three.

I now present below the final figures for February, made possible only by carefully scrawling down each dollar I waved goodbye to and sent on its merry way:

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NB: You’ll see that the week ending 14/02/16 has numbers in it, despite me saying earlier I’d lost my tracking sheet. A thorough scan through my transaction accounts and some sleuthing helped me piece together exactly what I had purchased in that week, so I’ve populated it that way.

What’s there to learn from these numbers?

First,  I have a big problem with impulse purchasing stationery items. The main reason for this is I told myself I couldn’t buy clothes because I have so many. Instead of that restriction reducing my total expenditure, it simply redirected my spending to a new category. This is definitely a bad habit that requires stricter monitoring in March. Second, coffee isn’t as damaging as I thought. The week of the $28.70 coffee spend was when I picked up surprise coffees for my secretaries (I’m an angel), so yes Perth has steep coffee costs but they’re not that bad. Third, the motivation behind a lot of this $120 spending makes me sad. None of it is to charity. None of it is to ethical companies, or focussed on sustainable practice. A lot of it is selfishly motivated to appear a certain way and have certain things to make me happy, and honestly, although some of it does make me happy, the collective whole just makes me disappointed at my attitude towards my salary. My salary is not just an opportunity to spoil myself with immediate wants. It is an opportunity to create the future I want, for myself and for the world, one small step at a time.

This acknowledgment is my focal point for March pocket money spending. When faced with the option of spending from my $120, I will question whether that spend aligns with those concepts: a better future for me, and for the world. Sometimes it will align with one, and not the other, and that’s okay. But on plenty of other occasions, it will be important to pull back and say yes, not to spending, but to using that money in a better way, potentially (most likely) at a later date.

Tracking my pocket money spend for the month of February has been empowering and eye-opening. It has allowed me to pinpoint my weaknesses and examine my motivations. And it gives me a base to alter future behaviours. The boyf and I also electronically track our shared expenses in a spreadsheet, which has great benefits for awareness and transparency in our relationship. But I have found great understanding of myself in looking specifically at my little slice of the pie in excruciating detail.

March is going to be Gold Star month – that poor Gold Star account really needs some love.

Resisting Temptation

I almost completely survived (but ended up failing miserably – more on that later) a four week health challenge. It was hard. It stretched me in a lot of surprising and interesting ways. And I came out of it learning a lot about how to resist temptation or cravings at those crunch times – 3pm chocolate cravings, Sunday prep (craving a Netflix binge instead of a meal prep party) and after work drinks. I’ve set out below the ten strategies that got me through the perfect eating aspect of the challenge that can easily be implemented for the resistance of any craving or temptation you’re trying to deal with: be it food, procrastination, social media…anything.

1. Remind yourself that you can do anything for fifteen minutes. 

You don’t have to resist your craving for a year. You don’t have to resist your craving for a month. Just set yourself fifteen minutes. You can survive any craving for fifteen minutes. When that fifteen minutes ends – you may be over it. Or you might need to start a new fifteen minutes. But don’t look back. Only look forward to the end of that fifteen minutes.

2. Drink water

Whatever you’re craving – just drink a glass of water. Force it down. Cry about it if you have to (no shame, I’ve been there). Then – realise, it’s gone. And you’re a tad more hydrated.

3. Eat something else first. 

Say you’re craving is for a chocolate bar (mm, those Freddo frog fundraiser boxes, gets me every time). Before you may eat the Freddo, you must eat two carrots. Two entire carrots. If you don’t eat them, well you weren’t hungry and you don’t need the chocolate. If you do eat them, you’re full now and don’t need the chocolate.

4. Go talk to someone for five minutes

This is great in an office at 3pm. Everyone wants to chat. Once you’ve chatted you’ve distracted yourself from your craving and poof! It’s gone…

5. Review your weigh-in stats.

However you record them, on your phone, in a notebook, in your head. Look at your success, be proud of yourself… Don’t eat that craving.

6. Look at your list of goals 

You are always your greatest motivation. Don’t forget who you are and why you’ve chosen to do what you do. Do it for yourself.

And if you don’t have one…

7. Write your list of goals

Why is it you’re resisting certain cravings? Are you resisting chocolate because you want to be healthier? Are you resisting using social media at certain times (or at all) to improve your focus and reduce your dependence on your phone? Are you resisting impulse purchasing to improve your finances? Get those dreams into a list, and make an action plan of how you’ll achieve them. Then, next time a craving comes along, you can comply with number 6 on this list and you’ll be reminded that the bigger picture is so much more than this small moment of craving – and the willpower you develop now will only build you into a greater version of yourself in the future.

8. List to a song

This is just another distraction – but listen to a song, listen to it loud, enjoy it, and let yourself forget that craving.

9. Habit switch

A craving is just a habit that you’re trying to cut out of your life. But I bet you also have habits you’re trying to create for all kinds of reasons. I use this strategy when I desperately want to inhale a Boost bar. I want to learn to speak Spanish. So that casual Boost bar craving comes along, and instead of running to the vending machine, I open up my Duolingo app, do a Spanish lesson (or two, or three, depending on just how bad the day has been), and there you have it – want a chocolate, learn a language. Random, and unassociated, but it does remind you in a tangible way the goals you set for yourself and habits you want to build, and therefore why you no longer want to do the other habit / craving.

10. Acknowledge it

The more zen approach to your craving basically involves sitting, acknowledging how you feel, the craving, where it came from, how it manifests, why it came about and then allow that feeling to melt away.

 

Kikki.K Personal Planner Unboxing

Monday was its usually epically terrible self until my email notification trilled, and the delightful subject line ‘Package for you!’ began blinking in the bottom right hand corner of my screen. Usually I try delay going to collect my deliveries from the darling service centre workers so that I don’t look too desperate, but I lasted about five seconds before running upstairs to view my brand new Kikki.K yellow leather personal planner (and a few other bonus purchases to qualify for free shipping because I apparently detest having money).

This box was worth the walk of shame back to my office with another delivery in hand, as it was my very first personal-size planner, and in one of my favourite colours for bringing some joy into my life. I haven’t had a personal size planner before. I was concerned that the size was too small for my messy handwriting and general impatience to be functional, and preferred the larger page sizes of the large planner. However, I’m now completely converted on having a personal planner in the collection. It is just too functional and convenient. Anyway, turning to the actual opening and exclamations of joy over this new buy.

For starters, of course the delivery packaging from Kikki.K is always on point:

I love the little stationery details. I used to have tonnes of stickers in this print, but tragically I think I used them all up. Maybe it’s time for Kikki.K to re-release them? I wish…

I purchased the Kikki.K yellow leather personal planner, the minimalist To Do list pad and the pineapple post-it notes (because I’ve already nearly used up my last set – I feel like less of a demanding pain in the ass if I give my secretary tasks written on pineapples).

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My extra treat yo’ self purchases ❤

Turning to the pride of this purchase, this planner is everything I wanted it to be: vibrantly coloured, beautiful material – both the leather and the fabric on the inside of the planner, compact, quality paper and dividers, and just generally really portable and fantastic.

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The dashboard has the standard pockets, and came with a teeny tiny To Do list. I know I’m jinxing jinx myself by saying this, but I need to get busier so I can start using all these To Do lists up!

The pre-printed tabs are Calendar, Meeting and To Do, and stickers are provided to customise the remaining tabs (or all of them, I suppose). The calendar tab has a perpetual calendar insert, and the Meeting and To Do tabs have lined paper headed with ‘Meeting Notes’ and ‘To Do’ respectively. The final tabs have unmarked lined paper to customise to your use.

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The back of the planner comes with a removable Notes pad. I’m not sure I’ll keep this one in the back of the planner, as I find the paper can get crinkled, but it is always useful to have easily removable notepaper with you at all times. I guess we’ll see.

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Is it lame that I’m excited to now have  a planner stack? Well if it is, I am happy to be lame, because it is so satisfying to look at that pile of organisation running my life.

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Overall, this planner was an absolute steal for $38.67AUD, thanks to the 40% off sale (that’s still running!). I enjoy that these planners can be constantly updated and reused according to how your life looks at that particular time. I refilled and repurposed my large Kikki.K planner from last year, so I know this personal planner is going to be a part of my life for the long haul. It’s current purpose is to track my volunteer extra-curriculars. I’ve become involved in some of the additional community programs running at work and externally, and I like to have a focussed spot to incorporate all of that information.

 

 

 

Solace in Sundays

It’s oddly fitting that the week both starts and ends with Sunday. It’s a day for recovering, for peace, for sitting in the sunshine, for snuggling on the couch, for walks along the waterfront. It’s also a day for preparation, for freshening and for getting ahead of the game.

Sundays are my cherished day. There’s that poignant sadness that comes with 3pm on Sunday afternoon, when you know your two days of quiet heaven are over, and the tumult of the work week is cresting towards you. But there’s a deep satisfaction in grabbing your Sundays and making them a day for you.

In many ways, weekends can be out of your control. There’s friends, and birthdays, and family, and life that happens, and reserving an entire day for soothing solitude and perfect preparation can be difficult. But when you find that sweet spot, those pockets of time that you can hang on to and save, especially for you, on this day, this contradictory day of rest and revving up, transform the week that has past, and the week that is coming.

I have introduced some small elements into my Sunday to transform them from a day that passes me by as full of obligatory chores, to a day that leaves me refreshed and excited for a new week. They’re ordinary. They’re small. They’re meaningless to an outsider. But to me, these small elements are everything. There is deep comfort and surety when I complete these little elements in the precious pockets of time in the day that I have invested in a joy that will carry me through the highs and lows of the coming week. And I can know that when the week draws to a close, and all that is to come is now a memory, and the weight of the new additions in life slow my feet, and wear down my mind, I know that to come is another Sunday, of the pockets of time for me, for ritual and reconnection, and for the promise of a new and infinitely invigorating week ahead.

I sit outside on the balcony, in my hanging chair, for at least 5 minutes. Just sit, with no phone, breathing in, and breathing out – acknowledging the sound of the birds, of the wind, of the cars that rumble past – of the leaves on the trees, of the new sprouts on my plants, of the breeze on my face.

I make a cup of chai tea in my most precious tea cup, and embrace the soothing smell of cinnamon as it fills our small room. I drink in slow, un-greedy sips, and acknowledge that flavour colours all parts of our lives.

I spend an hour in the kitchen, preparing fresh food for the week. I don’t individually prepare every meal, but I cut and dice, slice and store all the vegetables for the week. The tetris of the clip and seal containers in our mini fridge brings me an odd peace when it’s completed, and I know that for the next week, I can feed myself with minimal stress.

I write. I write in whatever form moves me that day – writing in planners, to coordinate the upcoming week; writing in journals, to reflect on what has happened in the past week, day, minute; writing online, to share and connect; writing letters, to connect individually. That writing provides clarity, and freedom, and creativity. It provides an outlet for whatever emotion is threatening to overwhelm me: anxiety, love, sadness, wistfulness, reflectiveness, anger, frustration, peace. And that outlet saves the snapshot in time that is me.

The sheets are washed. The end of the week signifies sheets full of memories – of tears, of sex, of grumpy alarm clocks, and midnight worrying and whispered conversations. The washed sheets wipe the slate for new memories, and for fresh, full nights of sleep and calm and love.

A mint hair mask, and an avocado face mask are applied, and I enjoy the feeling of nourishing the outside of my body, as well as the inside. The scents cause me to breathe deeply and acknowledge the emotions that they evoke. And  acknowledge that there is so much calm in deep breaths, and closed eyes.

It is with those things, these small elements snatched at constantly moving variables of the day, caught between phone calls and friends, and walks and Netflix, and brunch and birthday parties and family gatherings and beach trips, of breaking down over broken items and panicked acknowledgement that it is Monday tomorrow, that I find solace that joy is big enough to be shared amongst a party of hundreds, and small enough to fill a fleeting second. That joy is parties, and balloons, and noise and conversation and dancing, but it is also quiet and chai tea, or the soft smell of mint. That with a new week is energy and passion, and repetition and boring meetings, and new ideas and dreams and goals, and commutes, and forgotten lunches and lost work, and the highs and lows of those experiences are celebrated and anticipated in Sunday.

Travel Necessities: Organisation

Travel is the defining hobby of the 21st century; even one of the defining lifestyle paradigms. In a time where we’re shifting our thinking to experiences over things, escaping and broadening our horizons and learning tolerance and acceptance of the fantastical that defines our world, travel has gone from being a luxurious aside to something that defines us.

I tend to have a compulsive urge to dispense unsolicited advice. So I’ve compiled a series of posts setting out my travel necessities – for entertainment, your sanity, staying sanitised, organised and generally surviving time as a nomad (whether for a weekend or a year).

This first instalment addresses my favourite part of planning a trip: organisation. Everyone has their own travel style – some like to have every minute planned before they arrive, and others prefer to turn up and soak up each moment as it arrives. I have tried both, love both and both have amazing benefits. But no matter your approach, you do need to have the most basic of organisation in order to actually get yourself from home to destination, and back again, preferably with all limbs and at least your credit card, if not with a particularly healthy balance.

Passport

If you are travelling outside of your country, you absolutely must at all times have your passport. I’ve been using the same passport holder since I first went on exchange in July 2010. It is small, compact, and silver, so that I can take it everywhere, and find it very easily. While actually on the move (on the way to the airport, leaving the aeroplane, leaving the airport), I check at the start and end of each journey to make sure I have it. When I arrive at my destination, I have one spot where I keep it: in a side secret pocket of my suitcase. I never ever keep my passport in the hotel safe, primarily because I’m extremely likely to forget it (out of sight, out of mind, you know?). At least if it is packed in the suitcase, it’s guaranteed to come with me, even unintentionally.

I highly recommend getting a good quality passport holder that can easily be identified amongst your belongings.

Kikki.K stocks some of my favourite passport holders. But if you are looking for something cheaper and less likely to get dirty (if you’re anything like me, my passport holder has been through the wars), there is this cheaper and really fun option from Asos:

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Itinerary

 

 

Knowing where you’re going is kind of a prerequisite to leaving your home – even if it is just knowing the first stop. Having all your booking details is necessary for checking into flights, and generally necessary for being on time to actually get on a flight. Cue, itinerary organisation.

There’s a few ways you can do this. If you use a travel agent, they usually provide you all the info (although I’m morally opposed to travel agents). My dad still subscribes to the old-school method of printing out all of his email confirmations and having them in a document wallet. That’s fine, although it can get bulky carrying that paperwork around, and stressful if you lose it.

If you’re more like me and can’t function without your iPhone in your hand at all times, I recommend a more high-tech method. For a long time, I swore by TripIt, an app that links up with your gmail to incorporate all bookings into a trip. It’s slick, has a great user interface and is relatively hassle-free. It’s accompanied me through many trips abroad, and is generally reliable. The customer service when you had any hiccups syncing your trips was also great. However, on my most recent month-long soiree across the oceans, I found that TripIt had some trouble integrating certain information. For example, when I received an email about minor flight time changes, instead of just updating the flight details, it incorporated the email as a whole new flight path in my trip, so I ended up with three sets of flight details for every flight I took – all of which differed slightly, and  I couldn’t readily tell which flight time was the correct one. It cluttered up the screen, and complicated using the app.

Now I prefer using the Google app. It also integrates with your phone, but your trip appears as ‘cards’ on the home screen, and I find the user interface so much simpler, smoother, and you don’t need a whole separate app on your phone for the same details. It also provides useful updates like what time to leave to arrive at the airport for check in, and whether there are any traffic problems. This app works best if you have a gmail account you use for all of your travel bookings- and honestly, even if you don’t, I highly recommend making the change as it makes your whole travel experience so much more enjoyable.

The best thing about apps is if you’re one of those pick up and go as you please kind of people, if you do your bookings online, it is all automatically integrated for you.

Knowledge of how to get from the airport to your hotel/hostel/beach

Landing at your destination is an amazing feeling. There’s nothing like walking out of the metal tube that was your home for the past while to find yourself soaking up a whole new place: new accents, new people, new landscape, new scent, new sounds. However, I have found along with that is a whirlwind of activity that can distract you from cheaply and safely getting from the airport to your first accommodation location. I cannot stress enough what a relief it can be if yu have pre-planned and pre-researched the transport options and, if possible, pre-booked. Taxis can be tricky with rates, trains may only run at certain hours and to certain places, and when language is a barrier, everything is that much trickier. If you can pre-book a door-to-door shuttle, or organise a driver, or understand the taxi system before arriving, your sanity remains, you arrive safely and you don’t lose a scary amount of money on surprise fares.

Tune in next time for packing tips

E x

[Review] Lust Have It

I know subscription boxes have been around a while, but I’m still weirdly obsessed with them. Having a guaranteed surprise present arrive in your letterbox (or, if you’re like me, at your workplace, to the joy of the reception staff who have custody and knowledge of all my ridiculous online purchases) is a surprising thrill. I’ve dabbled with a few subscription boxes in the past, but often found it difficult to get a good review of the value of the box, whether it delivers on its promises, and how easy it is to sign up, to suspend, and to cancel. So I’ve taken it upon myself (to the joy of my savings account) to embark on a test and review process. Being located in Australia, quite a few boxes aren’t actually available here, so I’m starting with Aussie-based boxes and then shifting along in time (pleeeaassee exchange rate, do me some favours here) to subscriptions based overseas with international shipping.

Kicking things off is the Lust Have It Beauty Box – an Australian-based subscription for all things beauty.

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The Lust have it! card received in the Beauty Box

Lust Have It! advertises as a leading monthly beauty subscription. Each month’s delivery will involve a cosmetic bag, with 5 to 6 samples of a mix of products for make-up, skin, hair and body. If you love a product that you sampled, you can buy the full size product on the Lust have it! online store, or via the brand’s site (links to the brands are available on the Lust have it! site).

The box is $19.95 / month, plus $2.95 shipping and handling, so it isn’t the cheapest subscription out there. Then again, I like to support an Australian-based business, so all things considered, it isn’t the end of the world. You can also enter into an annual subscription for $250, which is supremely weird as that works out as $20.83/month, and you can’t renege on the contract. So I wouldn’t be locking myself in for an annual box, unless it is a gift to another person.

The Lust Have It box was my guinea pig as I found a 60% off first box coupon online (bonus!). To order, you create an account for the subscription, enter your card details for the relevant account, and sit back and wait. As I created my account just before the middle of the month, my box was sent almost straight away. I received a notification that my account had been debited, and an additional email with tracking details once my box left the warehouse.

It took exactly a week from delivery to receipt, which was half the time of that advertised on the FAQs portion of the site, although I live in a metro area which generally speeds things up.

The subscription does arrive in a cute cosmetic bag, as promised:

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The mesh is really convenient for visibility in your handbag or while travelling. The zip is very hardy, and generally this bag is really durable, versatile and super cute. There is mention on the website that you’ll receive a keepsake beauty box, but that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.

The January box contained 6 products: a blush, a lip crayon, two face products, a hand cream and what I think is a toner, but may also just be water in a pretty bottle for no apparent reason:

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Such zen-looking packaging!

Conveniently, in your cosmetic bag comes a card that explains what the products are and how to use them (thank god, because I approach beauty products like a 5 year old: with a lot of enthusiasm and zero skill).

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And if you love it, it also tells you the price if you want to go back for more.

In terms of the products themselves, the blush and the lip crayon are nice, but not really my kind of colours. The brand, Hikari, isn’t one I’ve ever heard of, although I’ve given it a google and it seems to be a US-based company specialising solely in make-up. The packaging is all clean lines and I love the black, although the plastic does feel a little cheap.The lid to the lip crayon is also a little flimsy, and something that I think would probably crack in the possession of someone whose handbag operates as a grinding machine for all possessions. However, I tried on the lip crayon and it goes on like a dream, and the colour is really vibrant and rich, so it is definitely being integrated into my weekly makeup rotations. The blush isn’t entirely my colour, so I’ll be gifting that on to someone else.

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The face scrub and face mask are from another brand that’s new to me, Skin Yoga. I loved the packaging, although once I finally worked out how to open it up, the box fell apart. Which is fine, but generally it does seem a bit wasteful. However, the packaging did give off the earthy vibe that I think the company is aiming for, which is fun in a sample-product situation.

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The box had a little tiny glass bottle with the product inside:

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Super cute, and very spa-like, although not particularly practical. As you can tell, the bottles are tiny, so I’m not sure how we’ll go getting the product out of the packaging. Also, I had a lot of trouble trying to uncork. But I think the amount of product you receive is perfect for getting a good tester of how it works, and a feel for whether you’d re-purchase. Although at $25/50g for a full-sized product, I’d probably just opt to make my own face  masks and scrubs at home with all-natural products. Or get something cheap and just as great at Priceline. But hey, I love a good indulgence, so you do you.

The hand cream is pretty standard, and the scent is nice and gentle. It’s a good size to keep in your handbag or at your desk. And the water? Look, I’m an advocate of drinking more water than just applying it to your face, but I can’t fault any attempt to hydrate.

Overall, this beauty box is fun, and I love the cosmetic bag. And as you get mostly very decent-sized samples which seem more to be full-size, other than the face scrub and face mask, it isn’t bad value at all. I’d be considering re-subscribing, but I don’t know if I am creative enough with my makeup to warrant monthly trials of new products to add. I’m more a creature of habit.

Cancelling isn’t as simple as it appears in the FAQ – there isn’t a ‘cancel’ button once you’ve logged in to your account. Instead, you select ‘Cancellation Form‘ in the bottom bar near the Contact Us area fine print. I was a bit skeptical, but I did get an email within 5 minutes confirming receipt of the Cancellation form and cancellation of my subscription as of the next pay cycle, so that was a good bit of customer service on their part.

Lust Have It! has some other quarterly boxes I’m really looking forward to trying out in future reviews, and I do think it’s a great company.

Final verdict for the Lust Have It! Beauty Box: 4/5

Health Challenge Update: Week 2 and the joys of meal prep

I can hardly believe it, but I’ve survived two weeks (and a day) of a legit health challenge. Although every day hasn’t been completely perfect, I have remained true to no added sugar, no carbohydrates and no alcohol, and generally kept up to date with exercise and meal planning and prepping.

Week 2 threw some hurdles my way. I had several meals out for work and friend commitments, which I managed to muddle my way through –  imperfectly, but with reduced food intake the following day to balance it out. I learnt that honesty is the best policy when it comes to complying with tough food intakes, and that on occasion you need to be flexible yourself with managing days where you may over-eat by balancing with a lighter day.

One of the best things I learnt this week is that nothing beats food shopping at a farmers market. Grocery shopping is one of the chores I absolutely detest; and while I’m lucky that the boyf usually picks up groceries on his way home from work, my large veggie intake and necessary weekend prep means most of the leafy greens need to be purchased on Saturday or Sunday. To make the process more tolerable, I’ve started going to local farmers markets, where you shop in the fresh air and feel a really pleasant sense of community when you fill up your canvas bag with fresh veggies. The atmosphere is really uplifting. Most of the markets I’ve been to have some live music playing, and kids running around being cute. Some have food vendors, and there is nothing like the smells of Moroccan dishes and freshly sizzling bratwurst  to wake you up and inspire you to nourish yourself in new ways.

I aim to immediately chop and store all my veg as soon as I walk through the door. This small bit of discipline keeps my mini kitchen from total disarray, and my fridge from falling subject to rogue rotting broccoli hidden in the back corners behind jars of weird sauce that I don’t remember acquiring. Some new kitchen toys have improved this process immensely, both for speed and enjoyability (my new favourite made-up word). And listening to music with the doors open and the morning breeze transforms meal prep from a chore to a joy…mostly. Unfortunately, there’s always dishes.

Week 2 has brought about some small but noticeable changes. As for the numbers, I’ve dropped 2 pounds (I prefer to weigh in pounds rather than kilos, since pounds go quicker…super lame lifehack) and 2% of my body fat. As for the non-number changes, I’ve seen my skin clear up, my eyes brighten and appear less tired (despite getting less sleep from all the early wake ups), my hair thicken and be less limp, and my posture improve. I’ve seen my body respond better to exercise, and I feel like I can push myself a lot further in the pursuit of improvement. Running has been easier, squats have been deeper, box jumps have been higher and backwards bear crawls have actually been survivable.

Week 3 has already tried to trip me up, with a late work finish making it extremely difficult to budge at 5.30am, when the alarm goes off and my work out gear sits on the lounge room floor, causing great guilt and despair. But digging deep in the hard moments makes the easy moments that much easier, and I’ve hit two work outs this week, and hit them hard.

Until next week,

E x

 

 

Crochet: Commitment and Completion

New projects litter every corner of my shoebox apartment and every corner of my brain. I love feeling inspired to explore and create and stretch myself to try new things. Often this results in more half-started hobbies than time, and a generally dissatisfied feeling that the passion flickered to become only a very underdeveloped skill with the torturous reminders tucked in various boxes that I didn’t have the wherewithal to finish it. But sometimes, the planets align, the angels sing, the sun rises on a new day and I start something and follow it through to completion. The energy and joy I feel upon seeing something through to the end makes me realise my goal should never be more than to finish something.

Crochet has filled this rare void in my life. I began with the vague idea one lazy Saturay afternoon I’d teach myself to crochet. A brief trip to Spotlight for some yarn and a crochet hook was followed by some frustrated hours in front of various YouTube clips trying to make a granny square when all of a sudden- a granny square appeared in my hands. I spent the following weeks practicing and practicing, making piles of the things and seeing them gradually become uniform in size – after many of them being lopsided confusing bundles of nothing. And tonight, I completed this: 

  
Making crochet blankets has become an unexpectedly important part of my life. I often make them for babies using 8 skeins of yarn – big enough so the blanket has some weight, but small enough that the project can be completed in a couple of weekends. It is a hobby that has brought some mental peace to watching hours of Netflix, and I’m also being mindlessly productive. It is also a hobby that has greatly benefited with an unhurried approach to improvement. Where my first granny squares were the definition of odd couples, my blankets now have a consistent tension and feel across the whole project.

 And best of all: I finish them, and immediately gift the blankets away. There is something deeply rewarding about gifting something you’ve made, with commitment and dedication over much time, and knowing that you thought of that person with each stitch. The blankets feel filled with a special type of love and joy because I make them with a purpose; and theit purpose is fulfilled upon completion and gifting. 

I am midway through an epic blanket project at the moment – one I’ve now been given the motivation to finish after more baby news and the desire to learn to make an amigurumi toy. While it is always a balance between embracing the journey and having the discipline to work towards the special accomplishment at the end – I hope you are able to find something that brings you joy. 

[Travel] SCOTUS, Washington DC

I, like every other white millenial, love to travel, and used every cent I earned while at uni on travelling and unnecessary clothes. The reality is that travel is expensive. However, some of the most amazing things you can do in a city are free. I wanted to share some of my favourite free things I’ve done while travelling – and I’m starting with possibly the greatest highlight of my life – seeing a full sitting of the Supreme Court of the United States. I recently got to visit Washington DC, and the day before we were due to fly there from Florida, I had the random thought to check whether the court was sitting. In the greatest joy of my life, we were there for their first two sittings of 2016. The information is relatively limited about how to actually attend – all I could work out from the website was that there were two lines: one for viewing the full sitting, and one for getting a three to five minute seat in the back.

The sitting on our first day began at 10am, and I saw that the seating for those wanting to view the entire sitting began at 9.30, and the 3 minute viewing at 10, so we naively turned up at 9.30. It was a chilly January day, and there were protests and music and signs and news cameras – and a very very long line of people. Turns out we had long missed the ability to view the entire sitting, so waited an hour and twenty minutes for our chance to view the court for 3 minutes.

While the line was long, it didn’t seem that long, so I was surprised that it didn’t move quicker. However, you actually go through two sets of security scanning, and are required to put all your belongings (no phones, bags, coats, anything) in lockers, with a 25c charge, before lining up again to get your three-minute moment.

The three minutes was the shortest three minutes of my life – I was so overawed watching the bench, the interchange, and making sense of the fragment of argument I heard that I felt like I barely got to absorb what I was seeing before we were being ushered out the door again. I’ll admit I got teary afterwards, much to my boyf’s embarrassment. The taster wasn’t enough, so I spoke to information about how to get a seat for the full sitting.

The man was lovely, but I could also tell thought I was a bit insane since I’d already seen it once. He recommended arriving at 7am, and explained that the police will provide you a ticket, after which you are allowed inside and can access the cafeteria and bathrooms, before being seated in the courtroom at 9.30am. Since there was a sitting the next day, we decided to just go for it.

Since we were staying in Vienna, we had the delightfully early start of 5.30am to shower and layer up for the fresh 0 degree Celsius morning, before taking the metro into DC. We arrived at the Supreme Court right on 7, and received this amazing view:

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I know. You can hardly believe it. A small line had already started to form, so I wouldn’t really arrive any later than 7 if you’re planning on attending. We were 11th & 12th in line. I went over to the shops to get coffees and use the bathroom. At around 7.45 we were taken from the street sidewalk outside the building to form a line right outside the steps, were given a numbered green ticket and directed in small groups through the security entrance. The numbered ticket is the reason it is absolutely worth turning up early, as it guarantees the order you will be seated – particularly as they can’t guarantee how many seats will actually be available at the hearing, as different cases attract different levels of interest from the public, and guest passes and media passes may take up the majority of the seats.

You go through the first bout of security scans, much like an airport scan although you can leave your shoes on, after which we lined up in numerical order. This guaranteed you could use the bathroom or the cafeteria without losing your spot. Then you move to another area for lining up, before heading to lockers to put everything away (we found out later you are allowed a notepad and pen, but I was glad to not have the distraction), go through security and then into the most wonderful courtroom in the world.

Cost breakdown:

  • Metro tickets: $10.40 for a return trip (a lot less if you’re staying in DC itself, I normally prefer to walk to these attractions)
  • Entry: free
  • Coffee: $1.80
  • Locker: 25c

Total cost: $12.45

That truly is the best part about the experience – you are allowed access to the highest court in the land, at no cost, to see the best advocates and the greatest legal minds combine. Even if you don’t have a legal background, it is one of the cornerstones of a democratic country, and your right, to be able to views he creation of law and legal rights of the people. Even as an Australian, I felt proud that this country has, despite barriers, continued to honour free and open access to the people’s buildings.

Enough of my pontificating. Below are my tips for visiting the court, which I wished I could have found in one cohesive spot before I visited. I hope they help!

Tips for visiting the Supreme Court:

  • Check the schedule online to see if there is anything on – days circled in red are sitting days. Typically the court has two hearings, at 10am and 11am.
  • Arrive very early (try look at how popular the matter is beforehand to guide your arrival time – but when you hear them say arrive at 7, they aren’t joking, and that isn’t the even too early – the numbered ticket system honours your commitment to an early arrival).
  • Dress warmly for the wait outside.
  • Bring as little as possible with you, as the lockers are quite small – and don’t forget to have a quarter handy, although there are change machines.
  • That said, bring breakfast with you, because it’s a long wait, and if you stay for both hearings, a long time until lunch. There are plenty of bins to discard your rubbish, and you can buy food from the cafeteria (may as well bring it from “home” though).
  • Read up on the matters beforehand for the background (I’m so glad I consulted scotusblog the night before, it made the day a lot easier to follow, particularly as I haven’t done any US law before).
  • Be patient – there’s a lot of waiting and no free wifi.
  • Be nice to the police – they were extremely patient and accommodating, and even brought me my glove I’d dropped outside, which I thought was far too kind.
  • Read up on court layout – there’s a really useful brochure you can get on arrival called “Oral argument in the Supreme Court” which tells you which judge sits where, in addition to other important court officer roles, and generally provides some more background that enhances your trip.
  • Remember to stand when the judges enter and exit (slight etiquette deviation from Australia, where we bow upon the entry and exit of judges).

[RECAP] The Farmer Wants A Wife Episode Two

So last night’s episode was a massive snoozefest. Here are my general takeaways:

  • Going to a guy’s farm for a sleepover with four other women is super weird.
  • All of Lachlan’s girls look the same.
  • Jedd’s face when the girls were taking off their clothes and revealing their bathers looked a little like this:
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Omg boobies.

  • Adam birthing that cow was actually the most amazing adorable thing I’ve ever seen. I want a baby calf and to feed it milk and hug it and never let it go

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    SO AMAZING ❤

  • All of the women dating Lance are incredible. I’m so grateful that they gave up their dignity and any chance of having a normal relationship with their grandchildren in exchange for entertaining me on Monday night and hanging out with a guy who only seems to wear one shirt:
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    When you look this good, you don’t need to buy new shirts. Apparently.

  • Oyster farming looks like a career I could get into post-law if I just got to eat oysters all day and not do any work.
  • LOL at the girl who told Jedd she hates seafood! Okay. Go home honey. Jedd cannot handle change or disruption in his life.
  • Farmer Bald&Beard has obviously picked his woman, and the others are soooooooo jealous I love it. ‘OMG we already ate dinner while you guys were rolling in the hay, too bad can’t have any leftovers I’m going to bed to think about how sad I am that this guy whose HOUSE I’M IN, because I’m INSANE, likes one of the OTHER women, but I’m not going home without a fight because I don’t believe in self respect *tears* *anger* *gazes at moon in despair*.’
  • One of Adorable Adam’s girls got cow poo on her face. I don’t know which one, because two of them are actually identical twins. He obviously has a thing for brunettes with unnecessarily skinny legs.
  • Farmer Matt is legit frothing over this 22 year old who apparently has managed to be ‘unlucky in love’ despite not actually having realised she is not a fully formed adult yet. Also, I really appreciate the lies she’s telling about the city and how much she wants to live in the PILBARA. Are you SERIOUS. It’s BORING AS FUCK UP THERE, and anyway, the only way you’ll get to do any environmental law is if you act for the miners whose primary goal is to systematically destroy all semblance of environment we have left because money is awesome.

To be honest, that’s all I had because I had way more fun gossiping about random people I don’t know with my fellow viewers than watching this. Hopefully next week is more exciting. I want some Farmer Drama and I want it now.

And to leave with you a parting thought: seriously, how many of the farmers sleep with all of the women? I mean. They’re in their house. It has to happen.

Until next time.