De-Stress and Be Mindful

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So I finally bought a yoga mat and exercise ball! They’ve been on my ‘to buy’ list for so long now and I finally snatched them up for a huge bargain the other day. Yoga and pilates here I come! I have a couple of pilates DVD’s that I’m looking at buying to get me started but if anyone has any suggestions I would be really grateful. There’s actually pilates AND yoga classes held at my gym and, after two years of going there, I still haven’t managed to attend a single class. Ah hem, well anyway, now I can do it from the comfort of my own home! All I need now is some motivation, some great DVDs and some spare time in the midst of my mid-semester uni exams. Bring it on, I say!

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Recently I’ve been practicing some ‘mindfulness meditation’ every morning for about five minutes. I have this great app on my iPhone called ‘The Smiling Mind’ app and it’s soooo relaxing! There are a whole heap of different routines and each one just helps you to pay attention to your body and really understand your place in the world … if that makes any sense! I’ve heard of mindfulness before and there are so many good reports of how it helps people in different areas of their life. In this busy, modern world we live in, sometimes we just don’t even think about the simplest things and all the details get lost in the gigantic puzzle that is everyday life. There’s also a book I want to read on mindfulness called “Mindful Learning” by Dr Craig Hassed and Dr Richard Chambers, which is basically about mindfulness in relation to education. I could do with this one at the moment to be honest, exams are stressing me out!

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Would love to hear of any books you recommend on mindfulness and, as I said before, any pilates/yoga DVDs you would recommend.

Love as always,

A x

OOTD and The Flying Nun

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I thought I’d share with you all one of my favourite casual outfits (I literally wear this ALL the time). It’s proved to be extremely versatile and I can wear it to so many different occasions. I really love the simplicity of this outfit and I always get complimented whenever I wear it. The top and black cami are both from Review and the shorts are from Jacqui-E. The shoes are Diana Ferrari and the bag is the same as in the last OOTD (from Sportsgirl).

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Today I went out for breakfast with my mum and grandparents at a cafe in Samford called ‘The Flying Nun’. It’s basically a converted chapel with tables inside and outside. There are trees absolutely everywhere and it’s a beautiful place to just sit and relax. It did get VERY busy though at around 10 o’clock, good thing we made a reservation! I decided on a simple meal of toasted sourdough with smashed avocado and olive oil, with a spritz of lemon juice and salt and pepper on top. I have to say I was a little disappointed. It seems extremely difficult to find a good avocado on toast these days. Probably because avocado isn’t in season. Mine was definitely underripe. Oh well, the coffee was great and I even got a little chocolate-covered coffee bean on the side. How nice!

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A x

A Little Light Holiday Reading

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So I’ve been reading some really interesting things lately and I thought I might share them with you all. I’m not really much of a reader ordinarily (usually because I’m too busy) but when I do manage to snuggle down with a book (and holidays are prime time for this) I remember just how much I love it. I went to the bookshop the other day and brought home a stash of fashion/beauty related reads and a couple of travel books and I now have a rather long holiday reading list. I just love new books, and bookstores always hold an irresistible charm for me. I almost always walk out with a pile of crisp, new books tucked under my arm. The problem is always in actually reading the books, because when I get home and display them proudly in my bedroom, they almost look too good to read. But I will try to get over this and plough on. After all, there’s not many things more relaxing than settling down with a fresh, new book to while away the hours. And goodness knows I need a little relaxation from time to time. Well, bring on the holiday reads I say!

1. “Grace – A Memoir” by Grace Coddington. I just finished reading this book actually and I really enjoyed it. She has a wonderful way of putting things, and her story is intriguing. It’s not too long and the writing style is very straight forward so it’s a wonderful light read. I learned a lot from this book actually, because it’s all set long before my time. As I’m a newcomer to the fashion world (my interest only really starting a year or two ago) there is a lot of industry history that I am unfamiliar with. This is a wonderful book for a quick catch up on that, and just for general enjoyment. I would highly recommend it!

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2. “Style” and “Beauty” by Lauren Conrad. These books are wonderful starting points to build your beauty and fashion wardrobes. The writing style is friendly and informative, and there is very little mention of product names (so you can be sure she is not working for any company). They’re also great just to flick through, as the chapters are all separated into helpful sections (such as ‘makeup’, ‘hair’, ‘skincare’, etc.). I actually read Style a long time ago and found it really helpful so I thought I’d give Beauty a go. I’ve only read the first few pages but so far it looks like a great read. I’m looking forward to reading ahead!

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3. “The Dressing Table” by Clare Press. I absolutely loved this book! Yes, I have read this one too, but I loved it so much that I’m reading it again. She is such a wonderful writer and the descriptions are so delightful that you just want to go out and buy a whole wardrobe full of colourful, textured and adventurous items! It’s clear that she’s passionate about fashion and I would definitely recommend this one to anyone who is.

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4. “The Wow Factor” by Jacqui Stafford. Unlike the others, this is more of a ‘tips and tricks’ kind of book. It’s also rather small so perfect for taking with you to go shopping. I haven’t done this yet, but it definitely has some great tips for different body/face shapes and how to make the most of what you’ve got.

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5. “All the Sad Young Men” and “Tales of the Jazz Age” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. No, these aren’t really fashion books but I love F. Scott Fitzgerald so I thought I might take a look at some of his short stories which he wrote so many of. A while ago I read “Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald” by Therese Anne Fowler, which was absolutely wonderful, and so interesting! I then immediately read “This Side of Paradise” by Fitzgerald, which I was slightly disappointed with but still found enjoyable. Maybe his short stories will live up to the wonderful Gatsby (one of my favourite books of all time).

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These are just a few of the books I have on my reading list at the moment and I still have a whole suitcase filled with more (like “Anna Karenina”, “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” and “The American” – as you can see, I love my classics – along with a couple of travel books on Paris and New York). Well then, I’d better be off now … and you can guess what I’ll being doing for the next few weeks!

A x

The Time of New Beginnings

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I’ve never been much of a one for doing New Years ‘resolutions’. I have so far steered clear of this tradition, preferring to set myself goals now, rather than waiting until the 1st January to start my diet and exercise plan. But I thought it high time to give it a try. Who knows, perhaps it will work for me? I have to say that so far, so bad. The holiday season is still upon us, and holiday treats are at large in our household. Christmas chocolates, creamy cheeses, biscuits and all sorts of other naughty things are filling the cupboard shelves. Each time I reach into the fridge to grab a mango or a nectarine, some festive foe will gaze hopefully at me. It takes an obscene amount of willpower to turn down such a pretty face. And mine is slowly fading.

It probably wasn’t such a great idea to give myself such free reign in December, allowing myself to pretty much do whatever I wanted. Because in the New Year I would begin my brutal regime. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again. Anyway, I thought I’d share with you some of my once-hopeful resolutions. Please tell me I’m not the only one. I would love to hear some of yours!

1. Of course, I had to put in the cliched ‘eat clean’ resolution. I vowed to eat only fresh, healthy and colourful foods (especially focusing on fruit and vegetables in season).

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2. Exercise daily. Hah, what a joke! Daily exercise is almost laughable in this heat. Do you know how hot it is here today? 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degree Fahrenheit) at the moment. And very high humidity to top it off. Urghhh! I’m not a fan of the heat, but I don’t think anyone would be game to go out and exercise in that! 

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3. Get at least 9 hours sleep every night. Now, this one has been a little easier since I’ve been so exhausted recently. I think it might be the heat. But I definitely don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. I probably average around 7 hours currently. And I’m constantly tired. Bring on the early nights, I say!

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4. Read more, watch less. I have to say, I’m not a great reader. Well, okay maybe I am compared to some people but I really don’t take the time to read a lot. It usually takes me months to finish a book, simply because I don’t really read it. The number of books I have picked up and not finished reading is shameful. I have this huge list of books I have to read, so hopefully I can un-stick my eyes from the screen and glue them back onto the pages of a book!

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5. Be more positive. I have actually already started this one, and so far it has worked wonders. The number of things I complain about is really disgraceful. Now, whenever I feel myself starting to complain about something, I think about all the people in the world who have nothing. When I moan about my job, I think about those who don’t have one (or who earn a measly $1 a day for hard labour). When I complain about my family I think about all those people who have no family. And so on, you get the gist. And although it doesn’t always work, for the times it does it makes a huge difference.

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These are the main ones, and the ones I will be focusing the most on. Hopefully I can slowly build my inner strength and make these resolutions a natural part of my life. Perhaps that seems a little too optimistic, but I’m trying to stick to the last point here. See, I’m doing it!

A x

‘Tis the Season of Festive Traditions

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It’s Christmas everybody! I hope you all have a lovely day filled with lots of Christmas cheer, Michael Buble and heapings of Christmas pudding. Before I share with you some of my favourite gifts this year, I thought I would mention some of our family’s favourite Christmas traditions.

Every family has them. You know, watching your favourite Christmas film, going to hear the carols, making snowmen. Unfortunately, here in Australia, that last one is simply not possible. But we do have our own Christmas traditions which are just as special. These are just a few that my family and I treasure each year:

1. The Christmas movie – yes, every family has one. The corny, terrible Christmas movie filled with cheap laughs and truly awful gags. But we still love them. We have a routine in our house for watching Christmas movies. On Christmas Eve EVE we watch the first two Home Alone movies (the best ones, I think). Then, on Christmas Eve we watch Elf. And on Christmas Day we sit back with a cup of coffee and some homemade chocolates (courtesy of my talented little sister) to watch Love Actually. I know, all extremely corny and, some would say, terrible. But we love them, and they make Christmas special!

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2. Going to see the Christmas lights – okay, perhaps we have outgrown this one. But luckily for us, we have two gorgeous little cousins (7 and 4 years old) who still find this tradition remarkably special. To watch their little eyes light up and their hearts fill with joy makes me melt. It’s just so beautiful … not the lights – the children, and the Christmas spirit. The lights are another story. Talk about tacky! All extremely garish and distasteful (some of them having absolutely nothing to do with Christmas – one house had dinosaurs and cacti!), but still festive all the same. And if you can’t be tacky at Christmas-time, when can you?

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3. Christmas dinner – now, I know a lot of people seem to celebrate Christmas lunch as the main meal of the day, but we have always been all about dinner. One year, I took it upon myself to cook up a huge three course meal all by myself. For starters – a fresh, garlic and prawn salad. For mains – roast chicken with juicy baked potatoes, sweet little glazed carrots, lightly cooked asparagus with butter and little roasted vine-ripened tomatoes. Oh, and gravy of course. And for dessert – a yule log with little chocolate leaves, some delicious rum balls and some kind of German biscuit (I forget the name). It was actually a huge success, apart from the dropping of the yule log all over the floor. I nearly screamed. But we managed to piece it all together (thankfully it was already wrapped in cling film so it wasn’t contaminated) and it still tasted delicious. Tonight we are having dinner out for a change – at the Sofitel in Brisbane City. It’s so beautiful in there, with grand open spaces, views of the clock tower, elegant displays of enormous gingerbread houses and intrinsically decorated baubles. I can’t wait!

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4. Air conditioning and iced water – so of course it’s summertime here in Australia and air conditioning is an absolute must. But it doesn’t stop it being a glorious luxury all the same. I just love the cool quiet of the unassuming white box in the corner of the room, slowly sucking up the hot, sticky air and replacing it with a cool, dry breeze. And pair that with a glass filled with iced water and you have yourself a little piece of heaven! I have so many memories of dragging my mattress into my parents’ room when I was little so that we could all sleep in the air conditioning. We never really used it much any other time. So it still feels like Christmas every time we use it.

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5. The family breakfast – whilst dinner is our meal, reserved for just our little family, breakfast is a time for everyone. The grandparents, the cousins, the uncles, the aunts. I don’t always get along with every member of my extended family, but at Christmas-time I can forgive almost anything. Recently, we have narrowed the gathering down to a handful of our closest relatives and it just feels so nice spending time with them. This morning I spent precious time with my three little cousins (the two mentioned before along with another little 2-year-old who has the most adorable smile you ever saw!). Seeing them with all of their presents, huge smiles on their little faces and laughter in their voices, makes Christmas really feel like Christmas. I’m so blessed to have the family I have. Really I am. I know a lot of people who can’t stand their family. But mine is truly special.

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Well, enough sentimentality. Onto presents! I will share with you only two presents, as this post is getting rather long and I don’t want to bore you. I shall make it brief.

1. Vogue – my wonderful little sister bought me a year subscription to American Vogue, which I LOVE her for! I have read the entire December issue from cover to cover and am eager for more. Come on January!

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2. MAC paint pots – and my best friend bought me two MAC paint pots: Camel Coat and Quite Natural. They’re so smooth and lovely to apply. And they stay on wonderfully!

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Well, a very merry Christmas to you all! May all your Christmas wishes come true.

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