Summer Loving

Based in the sunny land of Australia, summer is just around the corner for us here ‘down under’. Being a winter kind of girl (and certainly one who would love nothing more than to have a white Christmas), summertime isn’t always my favourite time of the year. BUT there are some things about summer that just get under my skin and make me smile. Here are a few of the reasons why I love the summer sunshine:

1. The maxi-dress. Now, I have to say, not everyone can pull off this beachy, summer look. But when you get it right, it can look fantastic! I love the fact that you can wear a long, floor-sweeping dress and yet still be dressed casually. I have two maxi-dresses (both black – what can I say, I just love me a black dress!) – the first with spaghetti straps and made with 100% silky polyester, with soft ruffles below the neckline (my “formal” maxi-dress) and one also with spaghetti straps made with 100% cotton, with thin straps across the back (making a square-like pattern on the upper part of the back) and with a thin belt across the waist (my favourite of the two). They’re also fun to accessorize, as you can get away with an obscene amount of jewellery and other accessories due to the understated dark colouring and simple designs of the dresses. And when else can you wear a long dress with sandals or flip-flops (thongs as we call them in Australia – apologies to anyone from the US or UK, for which ‘thong’ means something entirely different!).

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2. Sunglasses. Rarely are these sun-protective shields used for their supposed purpose – protecting the eyes from harmful UV rays. Oh no, these practical items can now be used as an accessory, statement or fashion masterpiece! I love cat-eye sunglasses for myself, but aviator glasses also work fantastically for some. I can’t even count the number of sunglasses I have ploughed through, but I actually quite enjoy the ‘leaving behind’ of an old pair, as it gives me an excuse to buy new ones. Who needs jewellery when you can accessorize with a dazzling pair of sunglasses?

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3. Fruit! Juicy, ripe, plump strawberries with an ice-cold glass of water and a new edition of Vogue. Bliss! Fruit is my OBSESSION in summer. My favourites are: mangoes, kiwi fruit, peaches and pineapples. Fruit salad replaces my morning cup of coffee and bowl of muesli. Fruit juice replaces my cup of tea in the afternoon. Fruit, fruit, fruit all day long! I always did have a sweet tooth.

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4. Seafood. Seafood was made for summertime. Lightly-cooked prawns with garlic butter, sprinkled with salt and pepper and laced through a light, summer salad is one of my favourite summer meals. I also love smoked salmon in summer, a wonderful alternative to bacon instead of the traditional bacon and eggs for breakfast. And a prime piece of freshly pan-seared tuna ‘steak’ with a spritz of lemon and served with a large helping of salad is a summer treat that I just can’t resist.

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5. Beach hair. You don’t have to be at the beach to get those salt-kissed, effortless beachy waves. Just spray a little salt and water in your hair, ‘scrunch’ from the base of the hair in an upward motion and voila! You have your beachy waves. A quick and easy way to achieve a stylish look.

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6. Minimal makeup. Summer is not the time for caking on the foundation and layering up the lipstick. It’s a time for light to no makeup, which is music to the ears of many who spends hours in front of the glass. Just a light layer of bright lipstick (try pink or peach), a curling of the eyelashes and a combing through of the eyebrows is perfectly acceptable in the warmer months. And I just love it!

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7. Swimming and sun-baking with friends. Now I don’t mean spending hours doing arduous laps up and down the pool until your skin resembles a prune. I’m talking short escapades into the cool water followed by a ‘drying-off’ period in the summer sun to soak in some vitamin D and build up a nice, healthy tan. This summer ritual is an activity I just can’t miss!

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8. Shopping sprees. Now of course, shopping is a ritual conducted all year round! But shopping for a summer wardrobe is always a treat. Away go the beautiful winter coats, scarves and knee-high boots and out pop the shorts, floral dresses and colourful bikinis. I just love the colour and vibrancy of summer clothing, and the combination of Christmas-time and summer colours produces a myriad of festivities, colour, happiness and joy in the shopping centers during the summer months.

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A x

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My all-time wardrobe staples

Ah shopping! That wonderful feeling of filling your hands with garment after garment of pure fashion indulgence, and the subsequent emptying of the pockets that ensues. Although there are many items that filter in and out of my wardrobe, there are some that have stood the test of time. My all-time staples. Winter, summer, dinner, picnic, formal, casual. These items are just my ultimate go-to’s :

1. The white shirt – a well-fitting, flattering white shirt can be a lifesaver when suffering from “I don’t know what to wear!” syndrome. I tend to wear it with light denim jeans, a statement necklace and coloured heels for a daytime look or with a block-coloured pencil skirt and black heels at night. Or, for a really casual look, with three-quarter length denim shorts, some gold bracelets and gladiator sandals. Perfect!

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2. Denim jeans – now I’m sure I’m not alone with this one. Everyone loves a good pair of denim jeans! I love wearing jeans with a scoop neck top in a deep shade and a bright lip to match. Or with a light, bright, collared t-shirt and ballet flats.

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3. Ballet flats – I absolutely love these shoes! They are just so easy to slip on and don’t land you in foot hospital. You can use these babies to say anything you want about you. Like (for a pair of plain black flats) “I care about the way I look but I don’t spend hours in front of the mirror” or (for a pair of embellished, coloured flats) “I’m fun and creative and love to bring life to my wardrobe” or (for a pair of bright red flats) “I love looking great and dressing up is fun but I’m a practical girl and know what’s best for my feet”. There are just so many different colours, styles and looks that you can pretty much get away with wearing them to any occasion.

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4. The beige cardigan – well, okay, it doesn’t have to be beige, but I do love me a nice, soft, neutral-coloured cardie. Or sweater (depending on what country you come from). It’s not often that I get to wear these gems because (living in Australia) it’s generally far too hot. But whenever possible I throw one on, over whatever outfit I happen to be donning. They’re comfortable, practical and look fantastic! I generally wear them in winter with a pair of grey pants, a fitted maroon shirt and a wine lip, or in summer with the sleeves rolled up paired with denim shorts and a “baggy” white top with a chunky necklace.

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5. The floral dress – winter or summer, the floral dress is always a staple in my wardrobe. It adds colour and vibrancy to any outfit, without the stress of matching together a two-piece ensemble. In summer I wear mine with bohemian-style sandals, aviator sunglasses and a small gold necklace. While in winter I wear it with black tights, ankle boots and a little black hat or flower chain.

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6. The black skirt – Just like the white shirt, the black skirt is an easy choice for any outfit. Wear with a blue Breton shirt and ankle boots or with an embellished top and black heels.

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7. The scarf – Yes, even in summer. I have so many scarves, it’s almost silly (… almost!). I have woolen ones, floaty floral ones, tassley ones, sequined ones. You name it, I’ve got it! I wear them in three main ways: doubled up and “tied” at the front, looped once around my neck, and draped loose around my neck. Generally this will depend on the scarf and temperature, but I pretty much wear them whichever way I feel most inclined on the particular day. I wear them with dresses, jeans and shirts, skirts and tops, anything really!

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8. The black heel – I think it may be time for me to purchase a new pair of black heels because I have worn mine TO DEATH. I wear them everywhere. They’re so comfortable (the ones with the lower heel that is) and look amazing, slimming down my calves instantly. I wear them with black pants and an embellished shirt, or with a simple wrap dress, or even with black shorts and a chambray shirt.

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9. The short – Shorts are the perfect casual item for a shopping day, a trip to the beach, or just a stroll through the park. Denim shorts go perfectly with a white t-shirt and flats, and black shorts go well with a collared t-shirt, tights and ankle boots.

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10. The jumper – And of course, I couldn’t leave out the beloved jumper! Whether it’s a thick, sparsely-woven wool or a close-knit affair, jumpers are perfect for that extra toasty comfort we all need every now and again. If a piece of clothing could ever give a better hug than a jumper! Doesn’t it just feel like a lovely, warm, friendly embrace? And hugging someone else wearing a jumper … ahhh it’s just too wonderful!

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A x

Coping with Stress

Finding yourself diving into a fit of rage because you got served a cold cup of burned coffee? Laughing, crying and feeling generally disorientated? Forgetting everything and finding normal conversations difficult? Stress.

Coming out the other side of 12 years of schooling may not have taught me much about actual academic content, but it has taught me how to deal with stress. Assignment after exam after bad grade after part-time work doesn’t come without a significant amount of anxiety. So I’ve had to develop some strategies to cope with changes in my environment. Although these tips may not completely relieve stress and anxiety, they will help to prevent it and remove some of the physical signs.

1. Identify the stress – this may seem like a pretty obvious step, but sometimes it helps to just sit down and think about why you’re stressing. Identifying the cause of your stress may help you to tackle it at its source. It does seem strange, but sometimes there are so many different elements which combine to cause your high stress levels that you may not even be aware of some of them. Make a mental (or even physical) list of all the areas of your life which are causing you stress and take a minute to really deconstruct them. Is there really a logical need for you to stress? Are you making too much of a small situation, when the real issues lie somewhere else?

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2. Sleep! I cannot even begin to stress (pun intended) the importance of sleep in stress relief. A good nights sleep will work absolute wonders for your stress levels. I am a big time offender in this area and am ashamed to say that even as I write this post I am missing out on some much needed shut-eye. And tomorrow I will wake up stressed. It’s just this big cycle of stress and exhaustion. Don’t do it to yourself! If you’re reading this now and know you should really be getting some sleep, turn off your device (be it laptop, phone, iPad, etc.) and SLEEP NOW! You’ll thank me later!

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3. Be positive. Now, this one can be tricky. Extremely tricky. Sometimes near darned impossible. But boy does it make a big difference. Even if it’s just one day a week. For one day you are not allowed to utter one single negative phrase. Sound easy? You just try it. You begin to realise how negative you can be when you start consciously trying to be positive. Try to work some positive moments into your day, and your stress levels will begin to ease. Even if it’s just taking five minutes to sip a warm cup of tea and think about all the positive aspects of your life. No matter how hideous your life is, there is always SOMETHING positive to think about. Don’t spend time dwelling on the negative, smile!

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4. Meditate and breathe. I tried meditating for five minutes every morning when I woke up before getting ready for school for one week. You would not believe the difference it made. All I did was sit up straight in my bed, set a timer for five minutes, close my eyes and breathe deeply. Five minutes really is a long time. Meditating in this way helps you to appreciate every moment. And it allows your mind time to relax before you race off through your day. Trust me, just try it!

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5. Exercise. This one can be impractical for some, but it really does help with stress. I mean, I was going to school five times a week, doing assignments, and working on weekends and I still managed to fit in some gym time. I’m not trying to boast or anything, I’m merely saying that it can be done. You just have to prioritize. Believe it or not, I went to the gym instead of studying for exams and I did better because of it. Now, I’m not by any means saying you shouldn’t study for exams! That’s just ludicrous. But what I am saying is that sometimes it’s best to just trust yourself a little bit. After all, your brain’s pretty complex! You just have to trust it. I always used to study, study, study until my brain hurt. And I ended up getting the same result when I studied for a while, but then trusted that my brain could handle it and headed off to the gym. Just go for a quick jog around your block or jump on a bike. Sweat and puff as much as possible, the more the better!

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These are just some of the ways I have found work best for me when dealing with high stress levels. Some steps require time and energy that frankly you may not even consider spending. But please, give one of these tips a try if you’re finding yourself pulling out your own hair when you realise you’ve left your phone at home. I’ve been there!

Hope this helps,

A x

All About Audrey

Audrey Hepburn. Ever since I was a small child I have adored this Hollywood sensation. Her timeless, simple, elegant, and signature style has always fascinated me. My favourite outfit was always her day scene get-up in Rome in her role as Princess Ann in Roman Holiday. I just loved the crisp, button-down white shirt with the striped necktie and belted skirt. It seemed like the perfect outfit for a princess in disguise. The pastel outfits of Paris When it Sizzles provided a shift from her usual colour scheme, and she looked fantastic in them! And I could never forgot the all-black outfit she donned in the nightclub scene in Paris in Funny Face. She sure can pull off the turtle neck! Her style is simple, chic and absolutely timeless, and that famous pixi-cut of hers always won me over. Here are some of my favourite Audrey looks:

1. Roman Holiday

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2. Funny Face

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3. Sabrina

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4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

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5. Paris When it Sizzles

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A x

10 of my go-to makeup products

Although I have tried a range of different makeup products, brands, and crazes, there are a few I just keep coming back to. They may not be for everyone, and depending on your skin type they may not be best for you, but they have worked for me time and time again. Living in such a hot climate, my makeup must be heatproof. However, sometimes no matter how much powder I apply, it does come off eventually. Sometimes it is inevitable. But these products do tend to stay on a little longer for me.

1. Bourjois healthy mix foundation – I find this to be one of the most natural-looking foundations. It doesn’t clog up your pores too heavily and it is brilliant for just a light coverage. It’s not too fantastic at covering acne marks or spots, but it’s great for a natural glow.

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2. Laura Mercier’s secret camouflage concealer – this is brilliant for any little spot marks you may have. It covers them up instantly. It’s also great for a hot climate as it’s very waxy and stays put all day. Also, if you find your skin gets a little darker over the summer, there are two different shades in each container so you can mix it a little darker depending on the changes in your skin tone.

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3. Estee Lauder’s double wear stay-in-place powder – this is great for warmer weather, as it ‘mattifies’ your skin, soaking up the moisture. It doesn’t look too powdery though, and just enough moisture is retained to allow your skin to look natural. You may have to take this with you for touch-ups if, like me, you have oily skin prone to sweating. I have found this to be one of the most natural and durable powders on the market, though it is a tad more expensive than most of your high street brands.

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4. Revlon’s powder blushes (my favourite is softspoken pink) – these blushes are brilliant for a natural-looking flush without making your skin oily. They are also very light, so you can build them up without looking like you’ve been in the sun too long. I’ve found them to be extremely natural-looking and easy to apply. They’re also affordable and can be found in most chemists and drug stores.

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5. L’Oreal’s super liner liquid eyeliners – these are brilliant for a quick cat-eye or for thickening up your lash line without smudging. I am the worst at putting on eyeliner. I always manage to make one line far too thick or smudge it all over my eyelid. This, however, is easy to apply. It’s literally just a “draw and go” scenario. Simple. And it stays put really well, which is unusual for liquid liners. It’s just a win win situation!

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6. Maybelline’s eyestudio gel liner – this one comes with a brilliant little eyeliner brush, making it far easier to apply. As I said, I’m not too wonderful at applying eyeliner and this one did take a little time to master. It was well worth it though! The results were fantastic. This one doesn’t stay on for as long as the l’oreal liquid liner, but it is still a great alternative. It’s also a lot more natural-looking (being a gel liner) and doesn’t cost much at all. It’s also great for a sexy smoky eye!

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7. MAC’s cream colour base in ‘Luna’ – this is brilliant for a night out. I tend to apply it to the top of my cheek bones and my brow bones as a highlighter. What’s also great is that you can apply it easily with fingers and it takes no time at all. It also adds a little sparkle to your makeup which is great for night-time. During the day it can look a little unnatural, so I generally only apply a small amount when used during the day. It’s also very dewy and moist, so only apply it to areas that won’t just look oily.

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8. Maxfactor’s false lash effect mascara – this is by far the best mascara I’ve found. It’s extremely wearable and natural-looking, none of those awful clumps to worry about. It’s also very durable, even the non-waterproof ones, so it’s great for the hot weather. After discovering this gem, I will never wear anything else!

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9. Maybelline’s colour sensational lipsticks (I love number 530 in fatal red) – these lipsticks are perfect for a pop of instant colour. They’re so easy to apply as they’re extremely moist and don’t leave your lips cracked. As they are that little bit more dewy, you may have to reapply when out. They’re almost like coloured lip balms because they’re such low-maintanance. Especially if you apply some liner underneath to create a stain (for no. 530, I use MAC’s cherry lip pencil).

maybelline colour sensational lipstick

10. Revlon’s matte lipsticks (I love no. 13 in smoked peach) – these are brilliant for long nights out as they stay put really well. Just create a stain by working it into your lips and it will stay on for hours. As these ones are matte lipsticks, they can be a little drying so make sure your lips are suitably moist before application. I would recommend applying liberal amounts of lip balm or moisturiser 10 minutes prior to application, before removing it and applying the lipstick. That way you will have the durability without the dryness.

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So there you have it, my top ten makeup products for a hot climate, or just in general.

Ta-ta, beautiful!

A x

Imperfection is beauty

Today I made a big step. I wore a bikini in front of my school friends. Okay so most of you probably wouldn’t consider that any kind of an achievement, but for me it was a symbol of acceptance. I have never liked my body. There was always something I didn’t like – my nose was too big, my hips were too narrow, my stomach was too large, my eyes were too small, and so on. You get the picture. I used to think this abnormal behaviour. Now I realise that it is behaviour common to every single other person in the western world today. In fact, it’s considered abnormal to be 100% satisfied with your body. Even vain. Perhaps it is vain to love the body you were given, but it is not vanity to accept the imperfections.

Relationships often thrive on imperfections. The freckle on his cheek marks him as an individual. The birthmark on her right hip is unique to her. Everybody has a little imperfection of their own. But that’s what makes them them. If everybody had the ‘perfect’ body, no one would have something unique to them. And no one would be truly beautiful if everyone was. As someone once said “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. In that case, everyone is beautiful. Because everyone is beautiful to at least one other person on the planet. And generally, beauty flows from the imperfections of life. Perfection is repetitive. Perfection is boring. Perfection does not even exist in this world. But the imperfections add spice to life. They’re what makes something truly beautiful.

And so today I decided to release my fears and display my imperfections to the world. And what I discovered was truly amazing. All of my friends had imperfections too. Here I had been thinking they all had the perfect bodies hiding under their clothes, but looking at them I could imagine all of the features they disliked about their bodies. But I didn’t care. Not one bit. It made me feel safe. Noticing the beautiful imperfections in others is an exercise I would suggest for anyone suffering with low self-esteem. And I don’t mean negative judgement. I just mean general observance of the details. Sometimes we focus so much on the big picture in others and on the details in ourselves that it does us some good to swap the two around. And again, not in a negative way. Just in a more realistic one.

A x

The journey

So I was a little naive when I first started on my journey to health, life and happiness. I thought, “Oh, it’ll only take a month or two and I’ll be fit, healthy, and at peace!”. Boy, was I wrong about that. The day I decided to look after my “home” or “temple”, as some who are completely at peace with themselves will call the body, was the day my naivety regarding weight loss and health began. That day was two years ago. The summer of 2011.

“I want to shape up for summer,” was the thought that first inspired my visit to the dietitian. I made an appointment at the dietitian clinic 20 minutes walk away from our house. I thought I’d better get a bit of exercise in before my first weigh-in. I hadn’t weighed myself in months. But I thought I’d better be on the safe side and burn off a few calories before my shame would be revealed. I now know that walk would have made absolutely no difference what-so-ever, but at least the thought was there. In January of 2011 I weighed in at 65 kilograms (that’s 143 pounds), the optimum weight for my height, age group, and gender. The number that would be revealed in a few moments would shock me.

That day, in June of 2011, I weighed in at 73 kilograms (or 160 pounds). I was stunned. Shocked into action. That was it, I thought, I was going to do something about this before it was too late and I became an obese diabetic. Okay, so I had a slight overreaction. Christine (my dietitian) told me that my ideal weight was 65 kilograms (my BMI, that is) and started me on a meal plan. I asked her what time I could expect to lose the weight by. She told me that it wasn’t really that simple, but that I’d probably be around that mark by Christmas. Let me tell you, I’m still not there yet.

Now, at first I thought I was a failure. I kept giving in to “special” occasions and telling myself “just this once”. In that way I didn’t exactly stick to the meal plan. Christine didn’t seem at all surprised by this. She just kept supporting me and gradually tailored my meal plan as I improved. I didn’t lose any weight though. Not even a kilogram. I felt like a complete idiot. I mean, if I couldn’t even control my own weight, what could I control? Would I forever be battling with this? I had never had a problem before.

I began to realise that this “losing weight” thing was going to take a little longer than expected. A lot longer actually. Too long really. I’m still battling with it. Two years on and it’s still my inner demon. The lies I tell myself are ridiculous. I just can’t seem to resist. Slowly, however … ever so slowly, I have lost weight. I now weigh in at 69 kilograms (152 pounds) and I’m really proud of my achievement. I realise it’s taken me an obscene amount of time, but at least I’ve done it. I didn’t give up. I battled on through the difficulties, obstacles, and tears.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, losing weight or doing anything worth doing takes time. Great things don’t happen overnight. A lot of work has to go into your dreams. And your heart has to be in it, or it will all implode and you will revert back to old ways. If you really want it, you can have it. It just takes patience. And support. But even if all the odds are against you, it can be done. You just have to be prepared to work at it. And when I say work, I mean, really work. Harder than you ever have before. For some people, weight loss is easy. I was under the misconception that this was the case for all. How wrong was I?

Remember, as corny as it sounds, it is all about the journey. Sure, the destination’s great too, but the journey is where you discover the real gems. I have learned so much about myself in the past two years that I’m actually glad I gained the weight in the first place. Before that, I never really pushed myself to the limit. I stayed in a little comfort bubble and let others do the hard yards. But now I know what I can do, and it feels great. Sure, I’m not there yet and I cave in to temptation far too often, but I am getting there.

You will too.

A x