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.

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Frequent Flying and Points Collecting: The Qantas Obsession

Thanks to the previously-mentioned long distance boyfriend (now fiance!), I spent many uni holidays ferrying myself across the world, hopping from Perth-Sydney-LA-Detroit-Ann Arbor-Petoskey-Detroit-New York-Dubai-Perth (amongst other flight variations). Unfortunately, there is just no quick way to get yourself from very remote Perth to very remote Petoskey. I don’t regret a single flight I took (and there were many), but what I do regret is taking until now to start to care about collecting frequent flyer points. I think how much cash I could have saved myself if I capitalised on those points… but that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is now I have developed an absolute obsession with collecting rewards for spending money (on things I am already buying), and particularly how to maximise those rewards to my benefit.

The obsession was triggered after a weekend-er to Melbourne last year, where I remembered to enter my Velocity frequent flyer number. I had also finally remembered to use it on a code-share flight I took when we did an epic Perth/Caribbean/Florida/Washington DC/Trinidad vacation. I checked my letterbox and Velocity had kindly sent me a letter and a card saying I had been upgraded to silver status – and alongside that, I would be getting two guest passes to the Velocity frequent flyer lounge and the ability to earn bonus points per flight. Now that I felt like a special silver-class snowflake, I started to aggressively chase racking up my Velocity points (noting Velocity is the frequent flyer program linked with Virgin Australia), and am excitingly waiting for my next Virgin trip to waltz into the lounge and get a free lunch.

However, I have always maintained a Qantas frequent flyer card, and when American Express released their latest bonus offer with the American Express Ultimate card, I’ve now redirected my interest to Qantas and will secure my focus there for the next little while. For an annual fee of $450, the Amex Ultimate card was offering a potential 102,500 bonus Qantas points plus a return domestic flight between enumerated capital cities.

I agonised over whether this card was worth it. I detest annual fees at the best of times, so a very hefty $450 was very off-putting. I also read every single term and condition, which I highly recommend. This fine print exposed that the 102,500 bonus points would only come about in the following way:

  • 5,000 points on your first spend with Amex
  • 95,000 points if you spend $1,500 in the first three months
  • 2,500 upon your first Qantas spend (being a flight with a QF code, through the Qantas site)

In addition, you only enliven your right to a domestic flight after you have already made a Qantas purchase. Now armed with all those facts, I could make a much more informed decision as to whether this card was right for me.

Importantly, I never accrue debt on my credit card – it is always paid off in full at the due date. So, it is worthwhile finding a way to maximise the rewards I can get from a credit card, since the banks aren’t rubbing their hands together over the interest I’m unnecessarily paying. 

My key consideration was that we are going to be travelling quite a bit this year. I have already made two Qantas flight purchases in March, enlivening access to the domestic flight without having to make an unplanned purchase (as an unplanned purchase is not beating the system). I also had planned to visit my childhood bestie and maid of honour in Melbourne this year, meaning the domestic flight was not just for the sake of it – it really was a savings, in that I would typically spend between $550 – $700 on flights, resulting in a saving of $100 – $250 (since the annual fee of the card is $450).

Finally, there is a tiered point reward system, where you get extra points to the dollar for attending restaurants and booking Qantas flights.

So, with all of that in mind, I applied, got the card, got approved, re-directed all my direct debits and re-allocated my Paypal account’s primary card, and got excited when I saw my points balance tick to 5,000 when I made my first purchase (a $4 cup of coffee), then quickly 107,500 (since I buy everything on credit and pay it back).

With that in mind, I decided to dedicate myself solely to building up my Qantas frequent flyer point balance. I found accounts at Bankwest that allow me to earn Qantas points on a Mastercard and a debit account, so I continued my new-card rampage and signed up for those too. I now know that every cent I spend will be building up to the same unified goal.

And I can confidently say that I have gotten back the value of my annual fee in spades. I have booked a return flight from Perth to Petoskey, composed of the following legs: Perth to Sydney, Sydney to Dallas, Dallas to Chicago, Chicago to Traverse City and then a 90 minute drive home; then Traverse City to Dallas, Dallas to Sydney, Sydney to Perth. All up it is around 30 hours of travel and it is some hard work. First thing is to buy yourself a good set of noise-cancelling headphones (more on that in a future post). Second thing is to cash those points in. 

Using my Qantas points, I’ve upgraded my domestic flights (Perth/Sydney and Sydney/Perth) to business class, giving me priority boarding, priority check in, priority security and lounge access- as well as fancy service and champagne on arrival for the approximate 5 hours in the air. This will be invaluable when I’m kicking around Sydney airport for five hours waiting for my flight back to Perth. 

Cost if I were to have booked this flight with dollars: $4484.

Points: 50,000

Screenshot of search of the Qantas website for the flights on the same dates I am flying is below to back up what appears to be an outrageous claim:


Unfortunately I wasn’t able to upgrade my international flight, but I got the next best thing: a guaranteed exit row seat for my Sydney/Dallas long hauls. I’ve only managed to score myself an exit row without paying once, and it makes an enormous amount of difference to the enjoyability of a 16 hour flight. You don’t need to climb over or be climbed over at various intervals, you don’t have someone lower their chair back while you’re eating, you can stretch your legs out obnoxiously in front of you. You are also conveniently located to bathrooms so you can pick the best times to freshen up. Typically selecting an exit row costs you $180 each way for international flights. 

Cost if I were to have paid for the exit rows: $360

Total points: 45,000

So, I paid $1746 for a return flight to Perth to Traverse City, Michigan, USA on super saver fare. I also used 95,000 Qantas Frequent Flyer points. 

Total dollar value of points used: $4844

Total spent to get card: $450 (annual fee)

Total dollar gainz: $4394

So if that isn’t some proof that the time spent investigating and selecting a credit card with bonus points is worth it, then I don’t know what is.

There are billions of points programs and of course there are many ways to earn frequent flyer points. For Qantas, there’s online shopping through the Qantas store portal, there’s credit cards (like the bundle I have), there’s the Woolworths loyalty scheme, there’s the online booking of selected restaurants which gives you 100 points per person booked to dine, there’s bonus points for particular health insurance funds – and of course, there’s flying on a Qantas or Qantas partner airline. And this is far from a comprehensive list. Of course, you are trading valuable information about yourself, so if you’re concerned about privacy and big data … you know, have a think. But if, like me, you’re unfussed, well, go for your life. It isn’t a huge amount of work for the pay off. Just assess what you want to collect your points for: a flight, an upgrade, something in a particular store (remembering this is the worst or lowest value trade you can make for your points, but if you aren’t planning a trip but need a KitchenAid, well… consider your personal needs). Definitely checkout http://www.pointshacker.com.au for inspiration and advice, as well as recent deals and specials. And happy business class travels!

 

Skin Overhaul Part III

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that in December of 2016, I embarked on a skincare journey, led by my dear high school friend whose skincare knowledge knows no bounds. I shared part one, which involved my first collection of carefully curated skincare products and not ad hoc Priceline purchases, and part two, where we introduced SPF and acid exfoliation.

Things had been cruising along nicely, until I received my next skincare update from the Wedding Skincare Consultant. I was informed I’d been taken as far as one can go on the affordable skincare options – the next step was going to involve shelling out some serious coin. But as we had discussed, the amount you’re willing to spend on a piece of clothing should reflect the amount you’re willing to invest in your face. And I am known to spend an embarrassing amount on a piece of clothing. So there you have it. The foray into the expenny world of skin care began.

Stage Seven: Retinols

This is where skincare became seriously technical. Retinol is the technical term for Vitamin A. It is an extremely effective ingredient for skin transformation – reducing pores, minimising wrinkles, reducing acne scarring and basically turning you into Heidi Klum. It is available in prescription form as retinoic acid (the pure form of the ingredient), or non-prescription (being the retinol, which breaks down into retinoic acid). As I couldn’t be bothered going to a doctor for a prescription, and also the prescription form is significantly stronger, I kicked things off with an off-the-shelf retinol product – the Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil. As it goes for a cool $154AUD at Mecca, I began by purchasing the Power Couple duo for a more palatable $114AUD, which includes the Good Genes acid exfoliator, complimenting the skin hero process.

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First thing – how pretty are those bottles?

Now, serious and second thing. This product is considered an excellent introduction to retinols, as it is a relatively low dose, and also incorporates a face oil into my regime, which is more appropriate to use at night than moisturiser. I’ll have to get back to you on why…since I have no idea. But as always, I trust in my WSC, and I put my sleeping night oil to use for the first time last night.

As a result of incorporating these new products, my nightly routine underwent a shake up, and I am now incorporating using Luna and Good Genes, and taking two weeks off the previous acid pads while my skin adjusts. This has been particularly necessary because for no perceptible reason whatsoever, the entire left side of my face had an epic break out (particularly annoying because usually my pimples prefer the right side of my face so now I”m just a well-balanced acne extravaganza). So we’re allowing my skin to slowly adjust to this new reality over the next fortnight, before upping the ante with these new products.

Once we’ve adjusted to the gentler Luna retinol, I’ll be acquiring one of the prescription retinols. I’ll keep you posted.

Step Eight: Spot Treatment

While celebrating my WSC’s birthday, we ended the night with a face-care regime for me (I know, selfish). In the course of a magical pampering session, the Aesop Control gel was applied to my numerous breakouts, and worked wonders in drying them out and minimising their eruptive presence. While handing over my whole pay check for my retinols, I also hit up Aesop and purchased this little wonder ($23AUD at the Perth CBD store), and have been spot applying each time I’m randomly in the bathroom to reduce the breakout party.

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This is a convenient and affordable addition to the skincare arsenal, and I’ve been really happy with it. It is particularly great because it is clear, so I keep it in my handbag at work and reapply at sporadic intervals when I can’t possibly focus for another second.

So here’s to the next fortnight of retinols and upping the ante with the acid exfoliation. I should emphasise that after using retinols or acids, you should always use an SPF the next day – but of course, like me, you’re now in the habit of applying a strong SPF to your face every day before foundation, so that is of no particular concern.

I also wanted to emphasise that despite my very many mentions of the break out situation, my skin has become so much more hydrated and clear with each week of consistently smooshing these products onto my face. I had so many fine lines on my forehead and around my eyes, and thought that must be what happens at 26 – you become a wrinkly old prune and you can’t do anything about it. However, so much of that was purely reversible dehydration and irritation, and I’m so grateful I didn’t sign myself over to giving up and tapping out.

Of course, like any new area of knowledge, delving into skincare is complicated and there is more information out there than a normal person would know what to do with. All I can say is start slow – copy exactly what I have done if you like, and just go month by month in introducing new products. It is a surprisingly rewarding journey, and I also think is a really great chance to practice some productive self-care that will have long-term beneficial effects.

 

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.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Recently, I thought I’d make something for an upcoming afternoon tea party. However, as I did not plan it out 47 years in advance, I naturally totally panicked and couldn’t think of a single thing that wouldn’t require 3 days of preparation, hours of rising and baking time. In short, it was impossible.

And then I remembered that there are so many things you can make without baking!! So I embarked on creating the greatest, easiest, and fanciest-looking afternoon treat of all time: chocolate covered strawberries. And to help you through any similar future panics of your own, I shared my step-by-step process so you too can get gazes of wonder from friends, without the preceding panic.

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Ingredients:

  • strawberries (many)
  • dark chocolate (I went for Cadbury baking chocolate for the extra deliciousness)
  • white chocolate (for drizzling)

Items you will need:

  • sink (and maybe colander) to wash your strawberries
  • tray and baking paper to lay down your dipped strawberries
  • chocolate melting device – I did the double-boil method over the stove, but the microwave works just as well
  • if you do use a questionable double-boil as I did, oven mitts should be handy to help remove the bowl from the heat
  • fork for stirring melted chocolate
  • a bag to drizzle the white chocolate – I re-purposed a sandwich bag, but a freezer bag or proper icing bag, or literally any bag, will do the job
  • cute tray to display your very attractive strawberries

How to do it:

  • Wash your strawberries, and make sure they are thoroughly dried.
  • Set up trays with baking paper.
  • Melt your dark chocolate. I used the following precarious set up, involving a pot filled with water on my stove, and a shallow bowl that kind of balanced on top. I had the chocolate broken up into small pieces and in the bowl from the beginning, so that the melting process was a bit slower. As the bowl heated up, I’d occasionally remove it from the heat to give the chocolate a stir. It’s stealthy – the melting happens faster than it looks, so it’s better to regularly remove from the heat and stir to avoid burning, than let it go too long.
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(This photograph is from a little later in the process, but you get the vibe. It’s questionable at best, but it worked!)

  • When the chocolate is melted, remove from heat. Dip the (dried) strawberries into the chocolate, rolling around to ensure excellent coverage. Lay in straight rows on the baking paper (this makes the white chocolate drizzle a little easier later on).

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  • Once you’ve dipped all your strawberries, pop the trays in the fridge to speed up the setting process.
  • Repeat step 3 above, but this time with white chocolate!
  • Remove your trays of dipped strawberries from the fridge – chocolate sets fast, so they should be fine by now.
  • Pour the melted white chocolate into a bag – you can use a proper icing bag, freezer bag, I used a sandwich zip lock bag – any bag that you can tip the chocolate into a corner of the bag. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to snip a very tiny bit of the corner off – this will be your spout for drizzling the white chocolate.

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  • Drizzle the white chocolate along the rows of strawberries.

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  • Pop trays back into fridge to allow the white chocolate to set. Suck remaining white chocolate from the spout of the bag (my personal favourite step).
  • Once the chocolate is fully set, remove strawberries from fridge and carefully peel away from the baking paper. Lay out on a pretty tray or plate, and boom. Best. Dessert. Ever.

 

 

Empties

Otherwise dubbed (by me, anyway) as the life changing magic of using things up, the hashtag empties is one of the most soothing things on Instagram. I am obsessed with decluttering (and it’s counterpart, recluttering), but I often feel a deep sense of dissatisfaction with the degree of waste I see that accumulated in my life. This is why I’ve always favoured selling my things online; not only is it a nice side hustle, but I feel like the item is purchased because it is being used, not just being sent to rot in a Salvation Army store somewhere. 

This unfortunately doesn’t apply to beauty products. My poor mum has been the victim of many a well-intentioned clean out. As has the rubbish bin. But I am very proud to declare that today, I actually created my very own empty – I used up a Garnier hydrating face moisturiser all the way to the final gooey scoop.


And what is such a declaration without a photo to back it up? There it is, in all its glory, an extremely empty moisturiser container. 

I cannot even explain to you the sense of satisfaction that that container did not go to waste. When I was reaching the final dregs, I did resist the urge to just spread the stuff on every inch of my body, just to be done with the darn thing. But I reminded myself it was a game; a test of the deeper effects of delayed gratification and satisfaction in true consuming, not just waste. 

Of course, this is far from the only moisturiser in my cupboard. I can now move on to working my way through the next poor tub of goo, slowly but surely getting every drop and maximising it’s value. 

It’s weird – but I encourage you to scroll through the #empties on Instagram. Embrace the feeling of properly using something up, of pushing through the sense of boredom with what you have to learn to appreciate that you have it at all. Reflect on the joy or lack thereof it brought you when it’s done. And then say goodbye. 

While there is so much joy in a fresh start, there is great sense of self-discipline and achievement in seeing something to the end. And I believe that holds true, whether for a life altering path, or a small tub of moisturiser. And hey, you have to start that journey somewhere, right?