Birthday…

I have always been a birthday fanatic. I love the presents and the fanfare and the celebration and the singing and getting to eat your favourite cake. 

And joy of joys, my birthday is tomorrow! The celebration of the end of my 27th year on earth and the start of my 28th. Typically this is the night I begin my exceedingly lengthy list of goals set for the upcoming year, spanning all facets of life from personal to financial to career to fitness. 

But this year, I just can’t do it. This upcoming 28th year on earth is stuffed just about full of every conceivably life-fulfilling thing – marriage, physical distance, moving countries, changing careers, buying a home. I can’t possibly mentally squeeze anything else in. In writing this all down, I realise that there is only one goal: calm. 

I have been blessed with practically every wonderful thing in life, but struggle to maintain a sense of balance and perspective. And so, this year, in amongst every fabulous life high and fear-inducing risk that awaits, I commit to holding on to calm. Equanimity. Balance. With a healthy side dose of balloons.

Point Redemption / Freebie Round-Up

One of my favourite things in the whole world is a good old bargain. I love walking away having purchased an item that has been discounted, preferably twice, and heavily. I love collecting points – it would be fair to say that I dedicate well over 70% of my wallet real estate to all loyalty cards I can get my hands on. I’m a sucker for a free gift with purchase. And I especially love layering up points, freebies and discounts to maximise each dollar I spend.

I’ve written before about my point-collecting obsession, and how it has paid off in flight to Melbourne to visit my childhood bestie and maid-of-honour, as well as four upgrades on a mega-haul return flight to the United States. Of course, I don’t limit my point-collecting to Qantas (although a more comfortable flight experience is what dreams are made of). My primary sources of point-collecting options extends to Flybuys, the MyerOne program, the Priceline Sisterhood and Swagbucks. It doesn’t stop there – I am often sourcing coffee shop loyalty cards (although only when I’m buying coffee, which has currently been cut to once a week #weddingbudget) and checking out what freebies I can get through my health fund.

It’s been a particularly successful few months in my magpie-tendency to collect shiny points and turn them in to benefits, and I thought it was high time I did a round up! Note that earning points is only a benefit if you are buying the things or spending the money anyway. Buying things merely for the sake of earning points (unless it’s a judicious choice – see more below) is a great way to let the big bad corporates win. But on to happier things – like free stuff!

Flybuys Cash-In

Alongside my Qantas point habit, I’ve been extremely dedicated to beefing up my Flybuys account. To do so, I’ve made a point of using the hard copy vouchers that are mailed to you each quarter (although I always go through the self-serve check out when I use them because for some reason, I feel slightly ashamed), which typically get you bonus points – either a 1000 point bonus or triple point bonus on your total shop, with individual bonuses for particular product purchases. I’ve also jumped on board checking the Flybuys website about once a week. By logging in, you are given plenty of online bonus offers.

This month, the Flybuys points total added up to 10,000 points, which I cashed in for a $50 Coles voucher. This kept my groceries to an even $0 for the week (hooray!). My new goal is to collect enough Flybuys points to convert into Coles vouchers to make our annual Thanksgiving extravaganza dinner free. So I am secretly regretting spending the $50 voucher already, but hey – free money is free money no matter when you spend it.

Thanks to religiously checking the Flybuys website, I have amassed 4000 points in the last three weeks. This is mainly due to buying a $30 Dymocks voucher, which generated a 2000 point bonus. Of course, this appears to break my cardinal rule of not spending purely for the sake of points; however, first, 2000 points is equivalent to $10 in a Coles voucher, so the Dymocks voucher has an actual value of $20. Second, with all the birthday events coming up over the next few months, I will benefit from being organised and being rewarded for my spend (since I often buy people books for their birthday anyway). Extra bonus, I have a Dymocks loyalty voucher (are you surprised?) so I can collect points on whatever I purchase with this Dymocks voucher, which can go towards a future book purchase.

So, pro-tip: check out the Flybuys store relatively regularly, and make sure you activate the offers that work for you and suit your spending. The points will add up fast!

Priceline Sisterhood Points Redemption

This particular redemption was quite a nice surprise! The Priceline Sisterhood membership used to be a real pain – I was never able to find my card, and there was no way to look up a member online, or collect the points by calling in later with your receipt (yes, I actually do that). It’s significantly improved in recent months, particularly since you no longer have to wait for any hard copy reward to be mailed to you – they tell you right at the counter when you scan your card whether you have points to redeem! Thanks to my skincare rehaul, I’ve been making a few trips to Priceline over the last five months. It has been worth every cent, as  my skin is clearer and more hydrated than it has ever been. Plus, when I recently went back to buy a new tube of Hydroluron ($35 / tube), I was informed at the counter I had $22.46 I could redeem against my purchase. Best surprise ever!

While I do love Priceline, I am focussing more of my non-high end beauty spend at Coles now, to concentrate my point-collecting to Flybuys. However, there are still products that are only available at Priceline, so I’ll continue to scan my card when I go – just not as frequently as I have been.

MyerOne

MyerOne is just so ubiquitous. I literally don’t know a soul who doesn’t have a MyerOne card. Weirdly, I wouldn’t say I spend a huge amount at Myer, but the points had obviously added up and I had a $20 voucher arrive in the mail. I am hoarding this one until my Clinique Take the Day Off runs out. I absolutely love this product, so will always repurchase, but at a cool $50 a pop, any discount never goes astray. I also am not loyal in my purchasing location for Clinique – it is available across many online stores, as well as at big department stores, and typically has the same price tag, give or take a few dollars which is mitigated by shipping costs. As a result, I just purchase at whatever location rewards me best at the time I’m restocking – for a great example, see my next item!

David Jones Clinique Freebie

I don’t typically shop at David Jones – primarily because I don’t think I’m classy enough (yep). However, I also hate that they don’t have a loyalty program separate from having a store credit card. But, I had been hanging out to purchase the Clinique Extra Moisture Thirst Surge moisturiser, ever since my friend gifted me a sample a few months ago, but didn’t want to part with the $60 for a tub for nothing. Fate shined down on me, and David Jones was running a promotion where if you spent $60, you got a free nine-piece cosmetic bag of samples, which conveniently included a sample of the moisturiser, and the hydrating masque I had hoped to try at some point. Of course, I didn’t stop at the free sample bag – I also requested some samples of one of the cleansers I wanted to try.

Entertainment Book & Crown Towers

The Entertainment Book is, in my humble opinion, an absolute must buy. It offers a tonne of discounts across a variety of services, including retail and travel. This month, I was particularly enamoured with both spending our wedding night at Crown Towers, as well as getting ready for the wedding at the hotel with my maid of honour and mum. Booking through the Entertainment Book got the total price for two nights down by over $150.

Kikki.K Voucher

This one isn’t strictly a points-collecting scheme, but it does show the power of the consumer, and the importance of asking! I received a beautiful leather Kikki.K handbag for my birthday last year. While the bag itself remains in amazing condition, the colour leather on the handles has completely worn away – and this had happened within the first three months of getting the bag. Initially I didn’t do anything at all about it, but it was really starting to bother me that the body of the bag was beautiful, but the overall look was completely undermined when I put the bag down as the handles are so gross. I am a (scarily loyal) Kikki.K customer, and always have my membership noted when I purchase. Annoyingly, you don’t collect points, but I have received a lot of extra freebies for my insistence on spending all my money there, so you know, it probably all comes out in the wash. I contacted the customer service line, explained what had happened, and as the bag is no longer available and no replacement could be provided, I was given a  $70 Kikki.K voucher to compensate. I’m pretty thrilled, since I had been eyeing off a new travel wallet (mine has endured 7 years of exchange, long-distance relationships and general travel obsession and is literally threadbare), but couldn’t justify the cost – typically around $70! Of course, I’ll be waiting until the travel wallets go on sale, since this is far from an urgent purchase, to maximise the value of my bonus $70. But there you have it – ask, and ye is much more likely to receive.

So there you have it! A pretty decent haul, adding up to around $312 in value + a free cosmetic bag with samples. Everything I spent to gain these rewards I had planned for, or fits within my financial rules for the rest of the year.

Oh! And I forgot – I also redeemed two free coffees with some loyalty cards I’d hoarded in my wallet, which was a nice top off to a successful few months.

Like anything, incurring these rewards takes a bit of thought, planning and research. Of course, you can just scan your cards as and when you remember, and the points will eventually add up, and that’s great! But if you’re willing to put in the time, you can really make these programs work for you.

How to pick your wedding colours

In some ways, I can’t even believe I’m writing this post. I had this great idea in my mind that I was going to be this super breezy, chill bride, who just casually throws together a few neat elements and BOOM, instagram-worthy wedding without even trying. In reality, those instagram-styled weddings you see covering the internet involve significant planning, thinking, and creating, to get to the final product – much like any stunning photo, there is work behind it.

As I was trying to pull together the threads of my wedding, particularly, trying to get everything booked in and deposits paid (which means the nitty gritty can be decided on later), I was having a constant low-level panic about what the heck I actually wanted my wedding to look like. I sent my very patient maid of honour a panic email (I know that typically the groom would have to suffer, sorry, help with this part, but my sneaky groom is off in the USA for 6 months, so I’m bearing this heavy burden alone), saying I just had no idea what the heck I wanted! I wanted everything I saw on Pinterest – after all, I only get to be a self-indulgent bride once, and I want my wedding to have all of the trinkets that come with the modern wedding. On the other hand – I wanted the style I saw on Pinterest, not just a panic-strewn room of ill-thought out details, only added so that I didn’t miss out. I wanted cohesion and order, and a real sense of us, while also preserving the desire to have the feeling I had everything I wanted at the wedding (mitigating against FOMO).

That’s when I realised that, despite my original derision, picking wedding colours is a really good idea. Having wedding colours, or a wedding palette, gives you a starting point on which to base everything else. For example, I’m pretty passionate about the glossy white LED dance floors happening at weddings lately, while also loving the soft candle-light and greenery styling, and being besotted with the oversized vintage letters. These are all great things. But if you have all of them, you don’t have a cohesive style, which isn’t a bad thing, but it makes decision-making hard. Not only are weddings dictated by your budget, they are also dictated by your style, and the more decisive you are on both from the beginning, the more fun the rest of the planning.

After my maid of honour patiently wrote back, distilling everything I’d written to her into two clear themes (seriously, the woman is brilliant), I had a better picture of what the options were. And after assessing where I was at the time, I realised I knew exactly what I wanted – which made briefing the florist (and getting a very affordable quote) so much easier. It made picking a dress style so much easier. It made everything so much easier (and also more fun!) because I knew what I wanted now.

Are you as lost as I was? Trying to avoid all bridezilla stereotypes while also trying not to get stuck in a wedding vortex? Just looking for a way to make a darn decision? Then read on my friends, for this is how I discovered my wedding colours.

1. Get a Pinterest account

I know. Maybe you’ve held out for all this time. But I promise you, it will be worth it.

2. Search ‘wedding’ / ‘wedding colours’ / ‘wedding styles’  / ‘party styles’ / bouquets

And then pin the things you find that you like to three boards: Styling Inspiration, Colour Inspiration and Flower Inspiration. If you are wittier than I, feel free to come up with much more interesting titles.

3. Repeat for a few weeks

Just check in whenever you have some down time, and pin a little more.

4. Open up your boards

This is where it happens. You are only pinning things you like, and that stick out to you. Over time, a pattern will develop. And then, when you open your boards, THERE IT IS. Your colour scheme (and, if you’re lucky, your ‘theme’ or ‘style’).

Obviously, this won’t be perfect – sometimes you have a specific taste, other times there’s a vague theme and then, in the middle of it all, you’ve pinned a circus but that circus looked seriously fun. That’s okay. That helps build all the detail around your party. Maybe you have a photo booth. Maybe your wedding takes place inside a circus tent! But the core theme, and the thing around which you base all your billions of wedding elements, will be there, and you will know that you personally created it.

Good luck, brides. Planning a wedding is not for the faint of heart. Although it is so much fun, and in many ways, I’ve never been happier, there is a significant amount of stress-inducing expectation that comes from many external parties, and from yourself. Any time it starts to overwhelm you (including when looking at Pinterest), just take a step back, and remind yourself of what really matters. You get to marry the person you love. You get to have all the other people you love there to celebrate with. And you get presents.

Dusting off (again)

I am exceptionally bad at regular blogging! I have this dream of being the kind of person who writes regularly, and entertainingly, about the little parts of life. A lot has happened since I last wrote. I epically failed my spending challenge, mainly because I tried to cure the sadness that comes with separation with spending and material goods. Surprise: it doesn’t work. I said goodbye to my fiance for the next six months while we trial our next life, and have surprised myself with how quickly I settled back in to a long distance relationship, and at how little has changed.

I’ve been totally hooked on The Good Wife. I did a triathlon! I re-read The Handmaid’s Tale (for the first time since high school…a scary decade ago), and watched the four episodes of the television show in quick succession. I’ve hosted multiple dinner parties, as I work through my cookbook, and kept up my daily journalling project and my daily video project. I have spent time with my darling friends, and I bought tickets to Hamilton the Musical (just purchasing the tickets is a life highlight). I’ve admired the biceps that have come out on display. I did some hard-core wedding planning, and have now booked basically everything that can possibly be booked, and committed the entire inventory of BHLDN to memory. The wedding is now under 8 months away, so I’ve also begun a much more committed #shreddingforthewedding campaign which has involved working out twice a day (doubling up as therapy from the office) and eating vegetarian for dinner, as well as eating fresh and clean foods every day for snacks and not eating chocolate. In a shock twist, I received a free Tim Tam with my Skinceuticals purchase (another eye-wateringly expensive but extraodinarily exciting skincare development…stay tuned), ate it (my first chocolate in ages), and didn’t proceed to binge on any more. I don’t want to get carried away…but I feel as though I may have taken big steps towards breaking a sugar addiction.

My hair is growing, and I have folded a large number of paper cranes (which is simply delightful) for a charity ball. There have been multiple podcasts, the whole season of 13 Reasons Why (and many phone calls breaking it down over and over to work out the flaws and the fabulous of this very unique show). There have been hikes and bike rides, and dedicated skin care self love. There have been loooong phone calls, and the unwelcome return of the Skype call sound; and the unwelcome hello to the even more aggravating facebook messenger call sound.

There’ve been hundreds of cups of tea – rooibos, peppermint and chai on rotation. Fresh ground coffee in the mornings. The high of potential new race goals, and the realisation that sometimes it’s nice to just do things for the sake of it. There’s been budgets…many budgets…so many budgets. Loads of washing, and dirty hair. Consistent morning alarms (successful people wake at 5.30, and so now I wake at 5.30), and compensatory Sunday naps.

And with all of that, the picture of life. It is full of the random moments, the serene and the tears, the restless nights and the streetlights. The joy and the music, and the quiet and the fear. The rising of the sun and the rising of the moon and it happens again and again, but don’t worry, I’m back, and you’ll be stuck with my musings all over again.

Wedding Adventures: The First Foray into Finding the Dress

Weddings are made up of so many things – rings, and vows, and family tiffs, and cake, and food, and terrible dance moves, and planning, and tears, and perfect photos, and flowers, and confusing table decorations, and panic, and questioning. But, at least if the movies / the media / the magazines are to be believed, all of this fades in importance in comparison to THE DRESS.

According to every movie I’ve ever watched (and there’s a lot – I watched Bride Wars on repeat to get me through writing my honours thesis), the search for the dress is a magical time where you waltz into a dress store, and, overcome by the white and the tulle and the sparkle, the lace and the beading and the soft gentle smell of calm bride, you casually point to a random dress, try it on with the assistance of experts who tell you how beautiful you are, only to walk down the runway and onto the block, surrounded by mirrors, while your friends subtley blink back tears and tell you what a stunning bride you are. And boom, decision made. You find THE DRESS, and then go about your merry way being a perfect bride.

Well, that’s a big fat lie. I went for my first foray into finding the dress and it sucked. In fact, it was worse than looking for venues. When I finally escaped from the whole nightmare and got home, I’m not ashamed to say that I sobbed into my fiance’s arms for over an hour (okay I am a little ashamed about that, but it happened, and I can’t change it – it doesn’t even include the drive home where I sobbed by myself. Tragic).

The day started off perfectly. We’d had our engagement party the day before, and I was still flying high on the joyful emotion of that day. I was so excited I woke up at 5.30 that morning. I’d made an appointment at one store, and found another that was open on a Sunday, who hadn’t emailed me back, but I assumed was fine. When it was a more humane hour, I picked up my friend to go meet my maid of honour for breakfast and for a debrief, full of excitement and wedding discussion and life planning. It hit 10 and we left to collect my mum, and it was a real girls adventure to the first store (the one with no booking). I was starting to feel a bit nervous, but we had discussed at length the pros and cons of various styles and it all seemed okay.

We arrived, and the store assistant, sitting there doing nothing, informed me that they had a free slot at 12.30 to try dresses on. Since the only appointment I had for the day was at 12.30, that didn’t quite work for us, so we just browsed. Everything was overwhelmingly wrong: tacky material, weird necklines, no train, weird lace. I felt my hopes start to drop, and thankfully we bailed quickly and got ourselves juices and discussed options for an hour until our next appointment. When we walked into the store, I felt myself give up. The store was full of the worst of the worst in wedding gowns. Everything screamed horrible. I felt like I was having a very bridezilla nightmare where I could not bring myself out of the funk of hating every single thing I hung on my poor body (which was suffering a lot of hatred at the time). I stood on that little wooden block, surrounded by mirrors, and wanted to cry. There was definitely no say yes to the dress moments, and I was dying to get home and put the whole experience out of my head.

The world of weddings is dictated by insanely highly expectations thanks to Pinterest, the millions of wedding blogs, and the social expectation of a perfect, slim, calm bride walking down the aisle having effortlessly pulled together a chic look with the trust fund with limitless zeros that funds every brand name candle making up the complex table settings. This first dress experience sent me crashing back to earth again – realising that in fact, weddings happen in the real world. They happen to women with real bodies, and real jobs, real fiances and families, real budgets and real life emotions.

Since that first occasion, I did go on another search – and had one of those magical moments where tears prick the back of your eyes when you stand in the gown. It was so special, and a moment I’ve looked back on through weeks when work sucked and I panicked about the photographer selection. But the dress is one of millions of decisions you make in planning your wedding, and planning your life, and I’ve learned it’s important to constantly remind yourself to go easy on your dreams and hopes and expectations. Just getting to waltz in to a dress store, with your most special family or friends in tow, to mess around with what you’ll wear to celebrate your marriage, is special. The dress..well…if you can guarantee one thing in life, you can be certain that your dress will be out of fashion in a few years anyway.

A new goal – the 365 Journal

If you’ve been reading this blog a while, you may know I am a little goal-orientated. Properly expressed, I am goal-obsessed. I love goals. The more the better. Big goals, like moving across the world, and being an entrepreneur. Small goals like sticking to my skin care regime or making my bed every day. I turn basically every small part of life into a goal.

I also am obsessed with stationery. I love it more than life itself. I was recently informed by my fiance that we have too much paper in the house. So, when Kikki.K sent me a 30% off voucher last year, to thank me for being an overly spendy customer, I knew exactly what I’d be applying it to. In amongst every single gold desk accessory, I also got myself a 365 Journal. I’ve talked about it a little – my beautiful 2017 cover page was the start of a committed journalling practice.

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I’d been gifted one of these the year I went on exchange to Michigan – I was careful about recording something about each of my days. I do love to collect paraphernalia, and I filled that little book with notes, and pictures and Starbucks cup holders, and it is a really lovely testament to that year. And I knew that 2017 was going to be pretty epic in a lot of ways – lawyering, planning a wedding, planning for visas and moving and living in a new apartment, and pushing ourselves to try new and hard things, and I wanted to record it. I also wanted to use up the vast array of stickers and paper paraphernalia I’d collected over the last two years, and I do much prefer journalling when I make the pages pretty.

So I’ve been sticking to this goal – I journal almost every night, and if I forgot, I make a conscious effort to catch up on the missing days. It’s amazing what you can fit onto one page – and how, when you do journal every day, all the small but magical things that build up your day and life that are so quickly forgotten by the next week. I’m committed to recording these little memories now. The most important thing for me has been recording things, with stickers and my own hand-writing, and not doing it for instagram or facebook. Not trying to capture things for the sake of sharing it, but capturing memories for me. I also just journal whatever comes to mind. I’ve written before about following the 5-minute journal process, and I still think that is amazing and beneficial for growth and building the habit of writing. But I extra love writing about the little pieces that make up my life. I know that I am the star of a movie that only I am watching – but I learn a lot about who I am and why I do things by writing about them at the end of the day. I am proud I’ve stuck to this little goal of mine for almost two months now – and I really look forward to thumbing through my 2017 365 journal in the years to come. And hopefully, my 2018, 2019, 2020 versions…

 

 

Unboxing: Erin Condren Wedding Planner

Is it bad that I knew what wedding planner I wanted months (and months and months) before my darling fiancé popped the question? If so, whatever, I don’t care, because I have had my heart set on the Erin Condren Wedding Planner, and I’m so thrilled I have one in my hands!

Thankfully having overly high expectations did not ruin the eventual arrival of the planner; it is absolutely wonderful and makes the (surprisingly stressful) planning process a lot more fun. I also think it’ll make a really cute keepsake at the end of all of this.

In classic Erin Condren style, the planner came in an absolutely gorgeous box. Annoyingly it arrived on a day I wasn’t at home, so I had to wait an agonizing 24 hours (yep, drama queen) until it was re-routed to work.

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Everything about this is just too much. I love the thought and care that goes into some decent wrapping, especially when you’ve forked out the big bucks for a luxury product.

As with all Erin Condren planners, you can customize the cover. I had picked out the fireworks style for a while – I wanted something sparkly and fun, but not too girly (so no flowers). Of course you can purchase any other cover any time, but I’m happy to stick with this one, especially since we’re planning for our wedding to take place on 30 December, right around New Years 🙂


The inserts are great – the cover page made me extremely excited. There is a tab for each month of the year (which, luckily for me, was calendar year – but you can pick the starting month and whether you need 12 or 24 months).

And then for the serious stuff – places for lists!! The tips and suggested schedules are really helpful, since there are more moving parts than you’d even think with a wedding, and it was a great trigger to remember to do certain things, or at least write down they’re needed for later.

 And it wouldn’t be an Erin Condren without a tonne of stickers to come with it! There was a promotion on where you got three sets of stickers with your planner, plus it came with customised wedding related stickers at the back.


So planning my wedding has been so much more sticker-filled fun than I even thought! While this planner does set you back a pretty penny, I do think it will make a really fun memento of the process. I’ve filled pages with collages of images I liked from bridal magazines (like a real-life Pinterest!) and collected together the various paper paraphernalia from bridal expos so that it’s all in the one place. I brainstormed venues and thank you cards, and tracked our engagement gifts. And I even filled out the budget section, and started tracking the money out (although I’ll be setting up a proper and comprehensive spreadsheet to that effect – numbers move and change, and you need all the help you can get to avoid a wedding blow out).

This wedding planner has been a source of so much fun to me – and I’m so happy I went for it! I’m excited to keep filling it up with ideas and inspiration 🙂

 

Fabulous Fitness Options

Fitness is a constant passion of mine. It has taken many forms in my life – yoga, boot camps, pilates, boxing, personal training, running, triathlons… while I never stick with one thing for ages, I’m always doing something. I’ve had more gym memberships than I can count, and sign up to at least try most fitness fads. I don’t believe fitness has to take just one form, and I wanted to share some of my favourite fitness paths I’ve followed.

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1. Personal Training

This is by far my very favourite way to train – one on one. If you need to eliminate excuses and bust out the most sweat for every second of your work out, a personal trainer is one of the best investments you can make. I began personal training in September last year with an awesome guy who really paid attention to my limits (broken knees mean many ‘normal’ moves are outside my abilities, and my PT wrote me some great programs to focus on all the things I could do), and helped me get really close to some of my fitness goals, such as doing a pull-up. I’m now seeing my cousin and doing more high intensity boxing PT once a week, and it’s totally kicking my butt. Where a normal boxing class usually means you can slack off a little when the instructor isn’t looking, there is no moment they aren’t looking and you are forced to perform. It’s amazing. In my time doing PT, I’ve dropped 3kg and 4% body fat, and really see some serious muscle definition in my arms.

Of course, it can be one of the more expensive ways to train, so it depends on your priorities for fitness. Currently I do a trade with my cousin of an hour of tutoring for an hour of PT, which is working great for everybody, and is a great way to keep your spend low. If PT is something you’re interested in, be creative and you never know what options are out there for you!

2. ClassPass

ClassPass has been pretty controversial recently. ClassPass was officially a start-up kicking off in the USA, giving you an avenue to try out different classes all over your city without committing to a particular membership or studio. It was insanely priced at $100/month for unlimited classes, and you may have seen some of the media releases from a few months ago where the CEO came out saying the model was unsustainable, and they were switching to $100/month for 10 classes. This model allows you 3 visits to a particular gym in a month, and a total of 10 classes across the various gyms and fitness centres that are available. My colleague and I go to Box & Bike every Monday – normally a casual drop in class is $20, and of course with ClassPass, it comes down to $10. We also hit a different boxing class on Wednesday mornings, and try out different yoga classes around Perth.

ClassPass partners well with a normal gym routine, as you minimise the stale factor of going to the same gym every week. It also allows you to try out something new without having to commit and commit big – a lot of the boutique fitness classes available on ClassPass can cost upwards of $30/class for drop in, and even their memberships can really set you back. You can put your ClassPass membership on hold for $15/month, which entitles you to one class and is perfect if you’re travelling for a period of time.

3. Sweat with Kayla

The most affordable of my suggestions so far – the Sweat with Kayla app only costs $20/month for a subscription, and is an amazing program, if you’re willing to commit to it. The app is beautifully designed, and builds in a timer to keep you moving and not resting for too long, and gives you a weekly planner, plus weekly meal plans and shopping lists to help you with a holistic approach to health. Minimal equipment is required, so you could make this work at home with no gym membership after a quick trip to the Target or KMart fitness section. However, it is self-motivated, so you should be realistic with yourself as to whether you’d stick with it.

4. Swimming

My friend and I have picked up the habit of going swimming every Friday morning before work, and it is a revelation. Swimming is a great toning exercise, and is super easy on your joints, which is perfect for people like me with bad knees. Water also has a phenomenal healing effect, and starting the day being totally immersed in the pool is such a clarifying experience, especially when you get to see the sun rise over the pool. A swim pass to most public pools only sets you back around $5 – $6, less if you buy in bulk.

5. Yoga

I’ve sampled Bikram yoga, ashtanga yoga, vinyasa yoga, free yoga, very expensive yoga, yoga by candlelight, yin yoga, and they’re all super great and have their own benefits. My favourite has been some yoga studios I’ve found through ClassPass, which have super luxe studios with beautiful bathrooms and shower products you can use. An hour of yoga before or after work (or just before or after starting your day), is one of the best things you can do for your body. You literally feel your body lengthen as the stretches cause your muscles to loosen and all the tension melt away. You also have the opportunity to quiet the mind, which isn’t common in other forms of exercise – where normally you’re gritting your teeth and cheering yourself on, yoga requires you to empty the mind, and concentrate on your breath. This process is so meditative, and allows you to let go physically and mentally of the stresses you carry with you.

A unique yoga experience at home can be had with following YouTube channels like Yoga with Adrienne (she is such a babe). Or you can adopt the practice my neighbour and I began, dubbed yogatinis – where we have a martini then pretend to do yoga before lying down on our mats and tipsily jabber about our lives. Cleansing in its own way.

As you can probably see, I truly believe that fitness should be a hobby and be enjoyable – you shouldn’t need to bully yourself into enjoying loving your body and teaching it to be stronger. Whatever version you adopt, or switch between, should just be another avenue for seeking joy.

Skin Overhaul Part II

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my 2017 journey to fabulous, glowing skin, hopefully in time for my wedding, but mainly in time for loving my face more. Since that update, the every-amazing Wedding Skincare Consultant has added a few more items to my arsenal that I must share.

To recap:

Each morning consists of cleansing with Clinique’s liquid facial soap in mild, a solid all over spritz of Serozinc by La Roche-Posay, a smear of Hydroluron by Indeed Labs and a moisturise with whatever product is the current target of my empties campaign.

The evenings are similar – kicking off with removing my makeup with Clinique’s Take the Day Off balm, cleansing with Neutrogena’s Deep Clean Cream Cleanser, spritz of Serozinc, Hydroluron and moisturise.

However, it does not stop there! I’ve been informed I’ll be receiving a monthly update to this regime, giving me enough time to slowly build in new products to the basic list above. I was also warned that, after the steps I’m about to share with you below, I’ve graduated from the cheap and affordable elements of skin care to the forking out of big bucks for big reward. I’ll be adjusting my budget accordingly, but if the early results are anything to go by, it will be worth it.

So, the latest additions to the skincare journey await!

Stage Five: Acid Exfoliating

I know. Acid. Exfoliating. On your face. I saw the message and was like ‘um, what’. I always thought exfoliating = little gritty bits rubbing my face. And I thought that acid = really bad. However, there is a whole step to skin perfection dedicated to acid exfoliating that has been welcomed into my routine.

The aim of acid exfoliating is to prevent and get rid of pimples, as well as evening out skin tone, and helping with pimple scars and marks (I didn’t even realise how many of these little jerks I had scattered all over my face until I manned up and actually looked at myself in the mirror). It helps to refine your pores, brighten your  complexion and decongest your skin. And you don’t even have to use it every day!

The product I was instructed to purchase was the Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads Extreme, available at Target for around $25, Priceline and even on Asos:

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In this tub is 60 wipes that look similar to those round pads you buy to help remove makeup. Acid exfoliating is to take place twice a week (I’ve picked Mondays and Thursdays as acid days, for no particular reason whatsoever) in the evenings, after cleansing and before Serozinc. I’ve updated my little post-it on my bathroom mirror to reflect the following stages of the evening skincare regime: Take Off the Day, Neutrogena cleanse, acid exfoliation, Serozinc, Hydroluron, Moisturise, hit the hay.

I haven’t been using this for long enough to give you an update. However, this skincare journey has been going for about 2 months now, and my breakouts are significantly less often, my skin is noticeably softer and clearer, and I just feel more dewy and hydrated. I also noticed when I used the Nip + Fab pad that, despite having taken off my make up and cleansed, grime still came away with the pad. This definitely highlighted to me how gross your poor face can get, and how much care and love it needs.

Stage Six: SPFs

I’m a horrible human and don’t often apply SPFs unless I’m actually going for a walk / to the beach / spending an extended period of time outside. The point of difference coming from my WSC was that not only do you minimise skin cancer risks, sun exposure makes you more prone to pimple scarring and the scars are more difficult to remove. So, SPF was purchased!

You can of course purchase moisturisers that contain SPFs. However, I was instructed you want a minimum of SPF 30, and UVA and UVB protection. Accordingly, I am waiting to finish work to go cash in some credit card points to purchase Clinique’s Super City Block (retailing at around $40AUD from most providers), which offers 30 or 40 SPF.

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The alternative suggestion was La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios. It comes in 50SPF and is available at Priceline for about $29AUD.

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I’ve opted for this route because I have quite a few moisturisers that I’m working my way through, and didn’t want to let them continue to rot for longer. The SPF is to be applied daily after moisturising.

I’d love to discuss skin care tips and techniques! I believe that coming up next is Retinols – god knows what those are, but I’m sure in a few months’ time I’ll be singing their praises. Until then, I’m religiously obeying the biblical teachings of the WSC.