Travel Journal: KLIA Minimalism.

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I have this thing with airports. I almost always hate them with a passion – my Type A, hyperactive, impatient self has too little attention span for waiting. But on the other hand, I’m a believer that airports see more sincere kisses than wedding halls.

On Christmas Eve a few years ago, I was picking up my husband from the airport when I realised that the arrival hall of any airport the day before Christmas Day must truly be one of the happiest places on Earth.

So it didn’t feel right to start my Olympus travel journal without sharing these quick snaps I took at KLIA2 airport with my OM-D E-M1 (whilst running for my departing plane, no less). I don’t usually photograph airports ever as I’m so pre-occupied with getting to my destination on time and in one piece, but as soon as I landed at KLIA2, I drew an audible and incredulous gasp at how put together the arrivals and departure terminals at KLIA2 now looks.

KLIA2 is the new, rejuvenated home for all low-cost carrier flights, leaving all horribly tedious layovers at drab LCCT in the past (which has now become a cargo hub). And needless to say, this one took me by complete surprise.

With the afternoon sunbeams flooding the minimalist, grey and white interiors (fact: this kind of thing never goes out of style) it was as if KLIA2’s departure hall spoke an insouciant charm that knows the way to my heart.

Photography by Michelle Lau with OM-D E-M1 | in partnership with Olympus Australia

How to pack light and travel in style.

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For the past ten days I’ve been working on planes, car trips, hotel rooms in five different towns and cities, every single day and night all the while sick with a virus that I caught off my husband and trying not to divorce my parents at the same time (whom I’m currently travelling with during my Vietnam leg). The wheel on my newly minted Rimowa also snapped off yesterday so my last night in Vietnam couldn’t have come soon enough.

For a few hours last night though, I was finally able to switch off work for the first time during this holiday, having caught up on nearly all of my deadlines and projects. I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to have the laptop shut and not have it glare at me from across the room.

Sometimes when I have a few hours spare, though, I go a bit crazy because the notion of ‘spare time’ really is non-existent in my life these days. It’s like I have no idea what to do with myself (I don’t even know what it’s like to sit on a couch and relax anymore) so I swing between polar opposites. Case in point: after a leisurely dinner last night at L’usine, I painted my nails a dodgy Rouge Noir-dupe and took a pair of questionable hairdressing scissors that my husband packed to chop two inches off my hair in my equally questionable hotel room in Ho Chi Minh City. The bathroom is a hot mess but my hair seemed to survive the trauma of being hacked into.

So what has this got to do with how to pack light and travel in style? Not much, probably, but with a flight to catch at 8am and my husband tossing and turning next to me as I (not so silently) type away, all I can manage is one schizophrenic post today.

Which brings me to my latest post for Vogue. I’m doing a series of packing posts in light of my travels – and you can read the first of them here.

A few of you have asked what exactly I’ve packed for a two month holiday so I’m planning to try and write a follow-up on the plane today (told you I don’t know what rest means anymore…) which I hope to share on this blog over the coming days. I’ll also be posting my Vietnam travel journal for @olympus_au this weekend but for now, you can follow my real-time updates on Instagram to see where I’m off to next. Hint: it’s my favourite city in the entire world. Not even exaggerating.

Mornings are for oversleeping.

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CULTIVER Lila Nightshirt | French flax linen flat sheet in dusk | French flax linen sheet set with pillowcases in charcoal grey

Linen bed sheets are like a crisp pair of 501s.

The best ones are perfectly worn-in, soften beautifully with age, and bear creases in all the right places. They remind me of comforts I often miss about home; the stack of books on my bedside, an Earl Grey before bed, sunlight that envelopes the curtains at exactly the same time and same place every morning. Comfort is the ultimate luxury.

These French-flax linen sheets and their new sleepwear by Sydney-based luxury brand Cultiver (the French word for ‘cultivate’) are truly a thing of beauty. After being commissioned to style and photograph them in my own home recently, it’s easy – and quite frankly addictive – to cultivate luxury in your daily life with just the addition of linen sheets to your bedroom repertoire.

And, if nothing else, spending the morning wrapped in crinkled linen sheets and captivated in a book whilst it’s pouring with rain outside must be one of the most glorious things in the world.

Topshop: An essay on style.

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Wearing Topshop pale blue raw edge cropped shirt

My catholic high school uniform consisted of a white shirt and striped tie, and a grey pleated skirt no higher than 12cm above the knee. We weren’t allowed to tie our college sweaters around our waist, and our hair had to always be tied back with a teal scrunchie.

Even when I was 14, being indistinguishable from everyone else bored me. So I’d change out the buttons on my shirt cuffs. I wore black Clarks oxfords with a heel a little higher than everyone else. I’d find novel ways to plait my hair each morning.

Style must have come to me early but looking back, it was ironic, given that for most of my childhood, I craved to have the same colour hair and the same contents in my lunchbox as everyone else.

I find ‘style’ difficult to define. I always knew it was an intangible quality – something money can never buy and something you either have or you don’t But it wasn’t until I had a conversation with Tiffany from Perth’s Topshop Personal Shopping (a free service that’s available to anyone) that I realised style – of the sartorial kind – is merely an unapologetic interpretation of what you wear and an expression of our personality.

As Topshop Perth’s Style Ambassador for 2015, that’s precisely the message I hope to convey through these monthly ‘style essays’.

That maybe it’s okay to buy a plain Jane blue shirt in favour of the fuchsia spray-on dress that’s hanging in the shopfront window just because it’s what you think you should wear (and not because it’s something you actually want to wear). They say you should never wear two voluminous things together. That flat shoes should never be worn with hemlines longer than the knee. That you should never leave the house without brushing your hair.

But rules were meant to be broken – and having a sense of personal style is just a matter of knowing which ones to break.

In collaboration with Topshop Australia 

Photographs by Jamie Lau.

F*** it, let’s go to New York.

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I’ve been averaging roughly two hours’ sleep for the past few nights (last night it was down to an all-time low: 0 hours – fun!) but there’s still a fire inside me as I begin this post by sharing one of my most exciting pinch-me moments to date.

I could not be more excited to announce that I’m partnering with Olympus Australia as I travel around the world for the next two months with their flagship OM-D E-M1 camera in hand. My Olympus journey will take me through 10-12 cities in total (yes, including New York!) with my wanderlust documented through the lens of my E-M1 every step of the way.

I’m leaving this morning and I’ll be using my camera to share my journey with you on the blog each week (along with my usual travel tips + tricks!). And starting this morning, I’ll be posting unique content on my Instagram via #seetheworldwithOlympus and #olympusinspired, so do follow along for real-time snapshots!

Bloom where you are planted.

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Just a general question – what do you think of photography these days? In particular, photographing for OTHERS rather than for yourself. I have an instagram and often find myself photographing a certain way or certain things because I know it will generate more likes, and I tend to deviate away from things such as nerdy stuff (haha) because it won’t fit my ‘image’. We are becoming SO concerned documenting everything and curating our life to be this image of perfection that we have lost sight of the things that really matter. I’m not sure if you’ve read this brilliant post by Assembled Hazardly but do give it a read and please let me know what you think. By no means do I mean to criticise what you do (the blues and pink tones of your work seriously make me swoon so much), but…ugh do you sort of know where I’m coming from? Sorry for the rambling. 

Peonies, bicycles, cortados, and macarons.  Chemexes, Diptyque, flower runs, overly-saturated sunsets, and Aesop e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

I couldn’t agree more that so many of us on Instagram aspire to that illustrious 10K following or, at the very least, the creation of a linen-apron life lived in a Kinfolk cookbook.

I read this quote recently and it perfectly summed up the intent behind your question: “We’re too concerned about taking photos to look good for social media, instead of taking photos to create memories.”

Here’s the thing: I don’t really know how to answer your question.  As a strategic marketer, I’ve spent the past ten years paying my bills by making people want to buy into brands, products, a lifestyle. I’m still paying off a degree that essentially taught me how to create a need as opposed to just fulfilling it. I also photograph Aesop a lot. This is still my bread and butter. And I’m deeply passionate about it. At the same time, when I wrote this post, what I actually wanted to say was that it was going to be my last post for the year. And the year after that. It was supposed to be the last time you’d hear from me on here.

Because you’re right – this stuff we’re creating and ‘curating’ for a damn 640×640 square, whilst there are greater things to fight for and aspire to…. all the blogging and the instagramming just suddenly seems pointless and meaningless. It’s tiring, it’s exhausting, and 99% of it revolves around pretending to be someone we’re not.

So why do we do it? Whilst validation is only natural, online voyeurism by way of blogs and Instagram is very real and whilst I’m guilty as charged sometimes, I can also tell many others are guilty of it too as I scroll down my feed. So what do I think of it? Well, I’m probably not in a position to criticise or patronise, but I do admit #thestruggleisreal.

P.S. I’m not sure if I answered your question but thank you for such a thoughtful thing to ask and for linking to the brilliant and thoughtful article – the comments that ensued were also so insightful, as was this razor sharp book review on Amazon that said comments led me to.

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Don’t quit your daydream.

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What’s it like blogging for Vogue?

In short, hard work but such an amazing (and challenging) experience!

As a style blogger for Vogue.com.au, it’s my job to find a unique point of view and use my own personal voice and style to report on and shape the latest trends, from fashion and beauty to travel and lifestyle each fortnight.

The Spy Style bloggers are given such an enormous amount of creative control in what we blog about – which is fantastic – so it’s up to us (with guidance from the Vogue team if we require it) to come up with a topic or idea that will engage most with our readers. Unlike my blog posts here on A Minute Away From Snowing, every single post I write for Vogue is not so much about me as it is for my reader. What will they get out of this? What will make them click on the post?

From time to time, we’re given the opportunity to work on advertorial posts with local and international brands in addition to our regular, fortnightly columns. My favourites to date have been working with Cartier in Paris and my Myer digital campaigns. It’s an enormous privilege, and the pressure is definitely real, but it’s one that has undeniably opened so many doors for me. It can be challenging to come up with thought-provoking and new, creative ideas all the time, but it’s so rewarding and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity.

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Flowers and simplicity.

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What camera do you use? I’m thinking of upgrading mine but my lazy self dreads lugging around a full frame 6D (though the pictures look so, so, so rewarding).

I use my iPhone 6 (for Instagram) or my mirrorless four-thirds camera Olympus OM-D E-M5, both of which are much less cumbersome to lug around than my husband’s full-frame Nikon D600!

The correct lens for your subject matter and shooting situations also make such a difference – though probably an imperceptible one to most people. I use my 17mm f1.8 lens on my E-M5 almost all the time – it’s an incredible lens for day to day shooting and I love the bokeh it renders when I’m shooting still-life.

I’ve also just started shooting with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the 12-40mm lens. Although I’m quite used to my E-M5 now, I find the E-M1 incredibly easy to handle and very responsive (that could be due to the lens too, of course). I’m looking forward to using the E-M1 exclusively on my upcoming travels, especially with the very handy in-built wifi capability. I haven’t attempted it as yet, but the E-M1 Pro Kit is also known to be adept in low-light situations.

Overall, I would definitely recommend mirrorless cameras, particularly if you’re after a relatively light and compact non-full frame camera that still delivers. Although my husband is an avid Olympus user, he also has his eye on the Sony a7R (a mirrorless and full-frame camera) though is hesitant to invest in one until more lenses are available on the market.

Camera aside though, what’s more important is practice, an eye for composition, practice, technical know-how, practice, an ability to use and manipulate light, and practice. And more practice. The rewarding part about it all is not about acquiring a good camera to take good pictures. It’s about acquiring the innate ability and skill to take good photos. A 6D (or any other full-frame) will not automatically grant you photos that will blow your mind. It’s kind of like asking René Redzepi what oven he uses, no?

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Raindrops are the perfect lullaby.

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Hey Michelle, I have been a fan of your blog and kisses n punches for a long time, you are truly talented and I hope you will continue to blog for the rest of your life for our sakes (yep, i am being selfish here). You have mentioned you hope to start a family soon, does that scare you? You have done so well and I mean in terms of your career/blogging, do you worry you won’t have any time to blog after being a mummy? Wishing you nothing but the best. xx

Thank you so much for your kind words and sentiments! I definitely am not one to think I’ve ‘done well’ – there is always room for improvement, growth, and I will always be a work in progress! It does, however, makes me feel pretty awesome to know that you’ve followed me so far along this crazy ride!

If there was anything remotely positive about my overly dramatic 20s, it’s that it certainly gave me a ton of literary fodder. Ha. To answer your (first) question, yes, that precise topic has weighed heavily on my mind over the past few months. I also worry. A lot. About random things, stupid things, important things.

If I should be so lucky enough to start a family, I have questioned myself over and over again as to whether I’ll have time to upkeep my online space, and more importantly, whether it’ll all even matter when the time comes. I think it’s one of those ‘let’s think about it when I cross that bridge ‘ kinda situations. Because as much as I love sharing a part of my life online, there is always a part of me that likes to keep other things private (and sleep sacred).

Depending on what day it is (ha!) the thought of starting a family scares me beyond my wildest nightmares – not because I’m scared to sacrifice my career or anything like that, but because the implications of carrying, and bringing up another human is kind of frightening.

But overall I’m in a really happy place now. If there’s one thing turning 30 has taught me, it’s that time waits for no one. Like anyone, I have my days but for the most part, I know that my greatest achievement is yet to come.

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The magic of beginnings.

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How did you come up with the name of your blog? The name of my blog has seemed to have undergone a much more existential analysis post-naming it – haha! To be honest, I named my blog in real haste – it was probably thought up in my lunch break or something, but it does take reference from a particular film.

I think I must have only just watched American Beauty for the very first time, and the whole premise behind the film struck the world for me. But anyway, ‘A Minute Away From Snowing’ takes its name and inspiration from the ‘plastic bag scene’, which sees Ricky, a film-maker, documenting the beauty of a plastic bag dancing in the wind, a minute away from snowing.

It made me realise that there is so much beauty to be celebrated in ordinary, everyday things. And that is what I had really wanted my blog, A Minute Away From Snowing, to be about.

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I carry your heart.

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I’ve just got engaged and I feel like I’m missing the bride gene… did you find planning a wedding a bit overwhelming? How did you even get started?!

If there is such a thing as a ‘bride gene’, then I must have missed the boat too!

How did I get started? I did a few things: I tore out a ’12 month wedding checklist’ from Bride To Be or something; I kept all my quotations, confirmations, and vendor information in a neat folder to take with me to my wedding appointments; and I started ripping things out of wedding magazines and pasted them into an old Moleskine notebook to serve as my moodboard/inspiration folder (this is what brides did before Pinterest happened). And then after that, things got a little less overwhelming. Slightly.

First and foremost: It’s important to book the major things first, if only to secure your preferred vendors (like ceremony location/church, reception venue, photographer, videographer, florist etc). The more in-demand vendors (like photographers) can book out a year or 18 months ahead especially if it’s a popular wedding date. Taking care of the big stuff first will give you a bit more confidence, guidance, and a solid foundation to carry on with the smaller details (which will most likely stress you out a bit more than the big stuff). For me, it was more the stress from playing family and bridesmaid politics (and haemorrhaging money!) than feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of i’s a bride has to dot and t’s that must be crossed in order to enjoy that one day of your life that will eventually become a distant (but still nice!) memory.

To keep your sanity (and ego) in check when wedding planning, it’s so important to remember that you are not planning this day for you (and your future husband). Weddings are not about you – they’re about your mum, your dad, your family, and your friends. And if you’re having them – bridesmaids. So if your mum wants to invite your cousin five times removed or your bridesmaid doesn’t want to wear her hair that way, don’t get all emotional and sulk. The purpose of a wedding is to get the most important people in your lives together in the one place at the one time – something that, for most people, never ever ever ever happens again until one of them is tasked with delivering a eulogy for you.

Remember this – and remember not to sweat the small stuff. Whilst weddings are not about you, the marriage will be. So focus all your efforts on that. I promise the day after the wedding will be one of the best days of your life. Congratulations on your engagement and all the best with planning!

Photograph by Natasja Kremers.

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Stay humble. Always hustle.

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I’m still a regular and do find your blogging entertaining even though fashion is not my forte! But it is like buying a weekly or monthly magazine to only wanting to read what your favourite author has to say this time….but this is free. Your creativity allows you to talk about things that are important to you and lets you stay connected to friends and family. How do you handle your joy because it could turn from hobby you love into a job you hate? 

I achieve balance by connecting with my friends and family offline. I truly think that’s when I’m most happiest.

This year I’m resolute in updating my blog when I want to, not when I feel as if I have to.

I’ll also be stepping back from my blog a bit to focus on what gives me a new joy. And most of all, I’m looking forward to approaching my blog partially as a hobby again, as opposed to a ‘job’.

I think these small steps enable me to stay grounded and level-headed during times when I feel like I’m a hamster on a wheel. There are some exciting times ahead!

Thanks so much for reading still!

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Everyday is a hurricane.

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Definitely interested in how you edit your photos – they always look lovely. 

Oh, thank you!

Okay, without turning this into War & Peace, below is a quick rundown of how I edit my photos:

On my iPhone – vscocam

1. Depending on whether it suits my photo, I scroll through the filters and pick one that gives me my desired effect. The filter I use really depends on my photo and I use them at random so unfortunately I can’t tell you which ones I always use! S2 is always a favourite though, but lately I’ve been getting into other filters like A8. When I apply the filter, I also tone down the intensity a bit. For example, rarely do I use S2 at intensity 10. As I mentioned, I just adjust as my eyes see fit. Editing photos is a very subjective process!

2. Whether I’ve applied the filter or not, I then use the wrench function to adjust the following things:

– Exposure: Brightens up the photo. My general rule – when exposure goes up, so does contrast.

– Contrast: I don’t adjust contrast all the time, just when the photo needs it. I tend to shy away from overly contrasted images.

– Saturation: I always always always always de-saturate. Always. But that’s just me!

– Warmth: My feed is very cool-toned, so I shy away from yellows and reds. I always always always slide warmth to the left (i.e. blue tones).

– Tint: This is what can gives photos that soft, pink hue. I used to use it a lot, but not much anymore. These days it’s all about the warmth (or lack thereof). Anyway, these days I actually tone down (instead of toning up) my photos to make it less girly/saccharine/feminine or just less pink. Usually if I’ve adjusted the warmth down then I’ll adjust the tone down. This is what gives my photos that ‘clean’ and minimalist look.

– Sharpness: I religiously sharpen ALL my photos but I have to be careful that I don’t over-sharpen – the effect of which can render a photo to be grainy and/or unnatural. I usually sharpen to about 4 or less.

PS. My lovely blogger friend Grace put together an amazing vscocam tutorial recently and I found that our editing steps are almost identical (so I must be doing something right)!

PPS. The one thing vscocam (or snapseed) doesn’t offer yet is Lens Correction. The new Instagram update now has this functionality though (HOORAY!) in their editing suite so I use this a lot. It takes some getting used to if you’re a first time user but once mastered it’s game-changing.

On my laptop/PC – Photoshop

To edit my photos taken with my Olympus OM-D E-M5, I always use Photoshop because 1. Whilst it’s more time-consuming, it gives me greater control on some functions that Lightroom can’t. 2. I’ve grown so accustomed to using Photoshop that I’m now extremely quick with it! Old habits die hard.

I rarely use Photoshop to edit iPhone photos – it’s just a PITA and mostly unnecessary unless lens distortion is a real problem. When it comes to Photoshop, I use the following functions without fail:

1. Curves: this adjusts brightness and contrast easily.

2. Colour balance: like vscocam, I adjust this so my photo has a cool-toned look to it.

3. Saturation: de-saturate – always! 4. Rotate tool (I use arbitrary rotation).

For more complex edits, I use:

1. Lens correction: to fix lens distortion (both vertical and horizontal)

2. Selective colour: to tone down or bring out certain colours in a photo without adjusting ALL the colours.

3. Clone stamp: this is my secret weapon and an extremely powerful tool, but it comes with practice!

4. Sharpen tool – sometimes I need this, most of the time I don’t. I’ve been slowly learning how to use Lightroom though, particularly for major work where workflow efficiencies is a priority – usually when I’m working on a project for a client.

I always say that I’m better at editing photos than actually taking them. The fact of the matter is, whilst you should photograph in a way that minimises editing, ALL photos require editing. It makes a HUGE difference, even if it’s just a small edit. I can’t stress this enough. It’s honestly a science and I’ve been known to spend at least half an hour editing one photo on my phone, probably more out of my own perfectionism than anything else.

Can I be cheeky and ask another one? What are your top three investment wardrobe pieces?

1. A sharp black or dark navy tuxedo jacket 2. A pair of Acne straight leg jeans in used black or rocca – the Needle or the Jet are my favourite cuts 3. A pair of white Birkenstocks in summer 🙂

Do small things with great love.

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Love your blog! Photo questions: are your Instagram photos taken by phone or camera? If by phone, what app do you use?

Thank you!

I’d say (over the past few weeks anyway!) about 70% of my photos are with my iPhone and 30% are taken with my Olympus OM-D E-M5.

I recently upgraded to an iPhone 6 so I’ve been learning how to best get the most out of my camera phone. All my contributed photos to Trottermag recently were taken with my iPhone.

I’m pretty simple with my apps and I hate paying for apps if I can help it. I edit my iPhone photos with only vscocam. I sometimes edit with snapseed as well if I can be bothered or if I need to adjust the ‘ambience’. Sometimes I use the editing functions in Instagram for final touch-ups (never the filters though) if need be. The Lens Correction tool in the new Instagram updates are game-changing. I don’t use any filters aside from the ones found in vscocam. I favour S2 most of the time and A8 in small doses!

For a more thorough ‘tutorial’ (as in, you will need to sit down with a coffee kind of situation), see tomorrow’s Q&A post!

To begin, begin.

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Wearing Hello Parry silk gingham dress and wide-brimmed boater hat, Porselli ballet flats from My Chameleon.

I honestly don’t know how it became March all of a sudden.

I’ve been terribly absent from my blog over summer because as some of you may know I spent most of with my head in another online space – finally launching my new lifestyle + homewares store, A Cup of Chic. It’s exactly a month today since we opened for business, and the response has been so overwhelming. I feel so grateful, lucky, and excited to be able to have such a supportive online community to share my newfound passion with.

But before I embark on my next epic adventure (that being two months around the world – but more on that later) it’s about time I answered the questions some of you took the time to ask me late last year.

I’ll be posting a new question + answer each day for the next ten days, with the first cab off the rank below.

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Hi Michelle! Always have and always will love your blogs, whatever format they come in, and your successes in the field are testament to how hard work and perseverance can pay off. My question is: where do you want to take your blogging long-term (if there even if a long-term in your blogging future) – in other words, what are you working towards?

I love this question!

I’m sure I’ve alluded to it enough already but I know that my blog has an expiry date, particularly with the over-saturation of such blogs and websites these days. I have always been uncomfortable with referring to myself (or being referred to) as a ‘blogger’. Not because I feel it’s demeaning or patronising but more because it’s not what I do for a living. And to be frank, unless you’re Chiara Ferragni, blogging doesn’t put food on my table and it doesn’t keep the lights on. I’m a bit of a realist at heart.

So from the outset, ‘blogger fame’ has never been that thing I’m working towards. When I came back from Europe in October, I knew it was the right time to look beyond the blogging. After nine years of sharing my life online, I got tired of being the hamster on a wheel. I felt it was time to take my ‘brand’ and platform to the next level, something that perhaps promised a greater longevity whilst making the most of what I’ve achieved through my own digital presence.

Whilst this wasn’t my plan all along, my online following has absolutely given me a head start to start my own business.

So instead, I hope to use this blog to share my styling, photography, writing and other creative work. All those things are what I’m working towards long-term, in addition to growing and investing my time and effort into A Cup of Chic, which is now my number one priority.

So in short, I’m working towards financial freedom. And going to sleep at night with my soul at peace. Aren’t we all?

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My Best Japanese Beauty Buys.

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A new month means a new adventure.

In case you missed it, I took some of you to Japan last week by way of this carefully curated guide to the best Japanese budget beauty buys (at least in my humble opinion) for Vogue Australia. The post has actually been nine months in the making – but it means every single product in my guide has been tried and tested for almost a year by me. And I have to say, I had much difficulty narrowing down my favourite products!

I’m heading back to Japan later this month (look out for my packing list shortly) so I hope my list of beauty recommendations helps those of you also visiting this breathtaking and hypnotic country!

Read the full post on how to shop for Japanese cosmetics over at Vogue.com.au.