Real Talk (and goodbye).

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When I was in Santorini earlier this year, it was a place unlike any other.

Well, actually, it kinda was, but not in a way that I – and probably most of you whom had never been – had actually ever imagined. You see, on Instagram and on glossy postcards in souvenir shops, the Santorini that had ingrained in my mind was of the whitewashed, pastel-domed, blue Aegean Sea variety.

The first stray dog I saw, I thought nothing of it. Then I started seeing more, and more, with each one looking even more neglected and malnourished than the last. Then I read about the poor donkeys; the ones that are forced to trudge up and down that ridiculously steep hill to ferry tourists to and from Fira under duress with the stealth crack of a whip. It was like an arrow through my heart; but more than anything, it shattered this honeymoon image I had of this place. Sure, 10% of what laid before me was awe-inducing, jaw-droppingly magical. But the other 90%? Disappointingly – but understandably so – it’s stuff that you would never see on your Instagram feed.

I’ve been blogging for almost 10 years – that’s a third of my life (yikes!) – and in that time, so much has changed in so many ways. When I started my first blog in 2006, I had in total three readers – three friends who were bloggers themselves. It was like some secret club. It was at least half a decade before blogging became a ‘thing’; before blogs could become a brand; before bloggers became The Next Big Thing; and way before anyone could actually fathom that we could all be paid in some way or another to simply wear clothes.

Back then, we didn’t give a shit if our food looked as unphotogenic as heck. There were no Diptyque candles as props, no peonies in brown paper to serve as Instagram-bait. It was all about forging friendships, meaningful conversation, meeting new people and learning more about each other. Fuck, it was like ten years before we even knew what a selfie was.

Back then, I didn’t care who was reading or how many of you were reading. I was blogging my vegemite on toast, my sneaky lunchtime purchases from Sportsgirl, my wedding speech for God’s sake. Because old school blogging was never about creating a Brand. It was never about wearing gifted clothes, sitting front row at fashion week, working for free in exchange for ‘exposure’, or getting invited to events where once you got there, you sorely wish you were sitting on the couch in your PJs eating potato chips. It was never about making a corner of your home all perfectly pretty when in actual Real Life it looked nothing like the 640×640 frame you’ve just spent an hour meticulously editing. And it was never ever about pimping your pet Frenchie or your two-year-old on Instagram just to acquire those three lauded F’s: Free stuff, Followers and Fame.

What happened to just creating beautiful things for the sake of just wanting to create beautiful things?

Yesterday, Jamie and I did something we hadn’t done in years; creating something personal together that wasn’t for ‘work’. I guess anyone who is a photographer (or any creative) would be nodding knowingly at the thought of this – doing something – anything – incredible and inspiring without having to fill a brief. And only doing it for yourself. So yesterday we threw the camera in the car and drove down to our favourite spot to take a few photos of the sunset, the windswept afternoon and my growing bump with my toes in the sand. Stuff that we used to do (minus the bump, of course) that would set our hearts on fire in our own little ways. This makes me happiest and seeing these photos we created together will mean more to me than any ‘work’ we’ve done together.

The thing is, my life also did a 360 this spring. I’ve lost two close family members in the space of less than 10 weeks. I will never understand how some things can suddenly be taken away from you when you least expect it. Life is so quick, and so intense, and sometimes, too short and unfair for me to be able to ever comprehend. My bones can’t stop shaking like trees and every day has been a hurricane since then. It’s been so hard to carry on as normal, to go about my days without feeling guilty about enjoying them; to let that familiar feeling of loss in again so soon. Too soon. Above, all it has become so unfathomably sad that I will never be able to take that time back to have one last conversation with them.

Which brings me to the point of this post. That all good things, I guess, must come to an eventual end.

After almost a decade of sharing my life online, this will be the last blog post I’ll be making on here to make room for new adventures – things that get my heart racing with the people in my life who remind me to be grateful for just being alive. Or just to realise what a big deal being able to live my life offline a bit more really is. It’s hard to walk away from something that has opened the door to so many amazing opportunities, new friends, and ultimately, a place where I share a part of my life but I can’t imagine anything worse than having a phone constantly glued in one hand while I hold my baby in the other. I’ll still be doing the occasional instagram, the odd tumblr and snapchat from time to time. Oh – and I almost forgot to mention, I’ll still be contributing to Vogue Spy Style for the time being. I have quite a few travel and maternity style posts lined up for the next few months, so keep a look out.

My other baby though – A Cup of Chic (and here!) – will be where I’ll be spending all my time now before I spend all my days nursing another baby in three and a half months’ time. I can’t wait.

As for the Real Talk? Well… You can either go out and chase your dreams or stand by and watch other people chase theirs.

Photography by Jamie Lau.

Somewhere over the rainbow.

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I was waiting at a pedestrian crossing with puffy eyes, a sour taste in my mouth, stuck in a daydream, and drunk in a haze of my own weary thoughts, when I noticed a bearded guy standing across the road from me wearing this black t-shirt. On any ordinary day, it – and he – would have been as non-descript and faceless as anyone else; but today, it was different.

Emblazoned across his chest, in big white scribbled letters, were three of the most powerful but simplest words that, for the past few months, have haunted me.

Let it be.

It only took a second, but I wildly clung onto that moment because all these voices inside my head were becoming the better of me. And it made me less fearful of embracing life and all of its short straws, the cards it deals and how unfair it all may seem at the time. And then there was this guy; unknowingly selling hope to those of us who think the worst things in life come free to us; and those who run from the rain but sit in bathtubs full of water (gracias, Charles Bukowski); those who hope for a better life; and all of us who wage war in our own heads, sweating the small stuff but never thinking that if we just picked up all these pieces, we could put ourselves back together again.

It made me realise that things are what they are; life is what it is; things will be what it will be; and that sometimes it’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.

As the pedestrian light turned green, the guy selling hope hurriedly brushed past me and little did I know that a few weeks later, my life was going to change forever. But, infinitely, for the better.

Hearts beat fast.

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I remember the first time I picked up my first DSLR; a rookie Nikon D60. It was on my 24th birthday and two days before I was due to go on this photography adventure with two guys I barely knew (I think when you’re single – or in my case, newly single after being in an 8-year relationship – everything seems reasonable). I obviously knew nothing then – about photography, about life, about love, about this risky business, about the likelihood that I could have been ambushed, or about the very fact that one of those guys I was standing on the jetty with that night would later become the person I’d choose to spend the rest of my life with.

So this post is for the Keepers in our lives.

The ones who make our lives infinitely better during the highest of highs and the lowest of lows; the ones we can sit on rooftops with at 2 in the morning with the stars bright and the night so young. This post is for the one-of-a-kind friends who know exactly what goes on inside my head and reminds me there’s no reason to be afraid, ever. And most of all, this post is for the one person I’ll be spending the rest of my life with, teaching me the greatest love I’ll ever know.

Calm before the storm.

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I’ve been sitting here since last night writing an eloquent and witty opening paragraph for this post; about how it’s been a month since I swapped ice cream and sandals weather in Santorini with the impending grey and gloom in Perth; about how it’s actually not quite winter yet; but how it doesn’t really matter because winter in Perth is usually just sweaters and Birkenstocks weather anyway.

Then I backspaced the entire thing because all of it – the weather, the Santorini blue, the small talk, celebrating the fact that I’ve been comfort dressing in monotones lately – seems so futile after an ominous morning I’ve spent inside a dimly lit room, listening to a doctor saying things I didn’t want to hear today. It’s funny how a single moment can make your heart beat so fast when you don’t want it to beat at all.

So I backspaced the whole paragraph because there is nothing more paralysing than pretending not to care.

But I remember the afternoon these pictures were taken, and I remember how much I love this outfit, how much I loved the way the clouds rippled across the sky for just a few seconds. And how wearing grey – and all at once – has this magical ability to instil a sense of calm in me as I fall in and out of fear on an otherwise gloomy day.

But then the wind changed. It started to rain shortly after. It’s unnerving how a split second can make you feel like you’re either on top of the world, or under it.

And it’s times like these photos let me remember how beautiful the world is before it all comes crashing down.

In collaboration with Topshop | wearing curved hem tunic over raw-edge sweatshirt, MOTO slim boyfriend jeans, and grey long duster coat. All items available from Topshop instore.

Styling by me. Photographs by Jamie Lau.

With glittering eyes.

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It’ll be a year this month that I quit the full-time skirt suit and cubicle life after eight years to go out on my own.

I won’t sugar coat it; 12 months on and I still wonder if I did the right thing. And by that, I mean the right thing by my bank account, the marketing career I’ve built over almost a decade, and my husband, who still wakes up at 6am (sometimes 5) to put in a 13 hour day at work whilst I sleep in ’til 10am. It’s a guilt that paralyses me every morning, even though I’m so grateful to be surrounded by the most incredible support network (and by that, I mean the full-time emotional counsellor that is my husband, who will always be my biggest supporter) and who believes – sometimes more than I – that what I’m doing is exactly what I should be doing right now. Nothing more, nothing less.

The thing is, everyone wants to be successful until they find out what success looks like.

Often, it’s working weekends (if you’ve been following me on Snapchat @agirlnamedmish, you’ll see what a typical, lonely Sunday looks like for me), it’s working every single day when you’re on a two month ‘holiday’, it’s the very fact that you will never, ever, get ‘paid’ to go on leave if freelancing or self-employed (I will not take annual leave for granted ever again). And believe me when I say that you don’t appreciate sick pay – or Saturdays – until it’s taken away from you. It’s ironic that I haven’t had a proper holiday or weekend since I held down a full-time job.

It’s loneliness, deadlines, late nights, no social life, self-doubt, fucking hard work and more mistakes some people make in a lifetime. When I quit my “real job” a year ago, little did I realise that a monthly mental meltdown and lots of ugly crying into my pillow would lay ahead of me. But sometimes the most rewarding thing for me is knowing that every day is a lesson and a challenge – in the best way possible. There are some things I’ll never ever do again (like staying up until 4am in a Paris hotel meeting a deadline for a client, then being told to start over again the next morning); things I’m trying to be better at (not procrastishop on ASOS); and things that I still want to achieve (giving myself two days off in a row). I’ll admit, I’ll look at you all with envy as you make your way each morning to a decent-paying, comfortable job; and I still can’t quite muster up the courage to delete the Seek app on my phone… but it’s true what they say – the grass is greener where you water it. And this is, after all, the lifestyle I’ve chosen for myself.

As entrepreneurs, we are propelled and are driven to create something from nothing. So when success happens (and I stress that ‘success’ has a different definition to all of us), it’s one of the most incredible, exhilarating, rewarding things you will ever experience. And I kinda think I know why: all those late nights, all that self-doubt, all that work no one ever sees save for that pretty picture on Instagram…and all those damn mistakes you swear you’re never gonna make again. Without them, success just doesn’t happen.

If you grab a copy of this month’s Renegade Collective (the June issue is out today), you’ll see me talking about my biggest achievement yet since I took that leap of faith and left the corporate world. I still don’t think what I do is anything out of the ordinary but seeing my story on the pages of a national magazine – and one that I read cover to cover every month – is still very much a pinch-me moment.

As for what’s the biggest lesson I’ve learnt about going out on my own so far?

Oops is better than what if, and if success is always going to be a work in progress, then we are never done. There is no finish line. And that is exactly what should keep us going.

Start over each morning.

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Days go on, months pass us by, and each year turns into birthdays that begin to lose their lustre. It’s been a year since this post and it’s funny how when you turn 30, you think you’ve got everything figured out.

If I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that everything probably figures itself out eventually.

Grand plans, best friends, big dreams under the hum of the streetlights. Maybe sometimes they need to fall apart to fall together again?

photography by Nich Hance McElroy

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?

Tags:

It’s all in the Detail.

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Checking in with a quick post because it’s 1 in the morning and a hot shower – and sleep – has been on my to-do list for the past few hours!

After returning from Europe last year, my husband Jamie and I were incredibly fortunate to be tasked with a styling/photography assignment back in October at the jaw-dropping beautiful Detail MC office in Fremantle. I have been meaning to share our work with you all for months and months but it wasn’t until I stumbled across these images tonight that I dropped everything (ASIC paperwork could wait…) to put together this post.

I loved everything about this job. With the earthy and rich tones of a photogenic character office already doing half the job for us, it wasn’t hard to take a beautiful photograph.

It was this very commissioned photography assignment, though, that inspired this post and as I look back on these images that Jamie and I produced, I know for sure where my heart lies the most. Because the heart knows what the heart knows, and for me, it’ll be always behind the camera.

Thank you Claire, Sarah + Paige for making it so easy, but most of all, fun. x

Creative direction & styling: Michelle Lau

Photography: Jamie & Michelle Lau

You should love for no reason.

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I’ve had this post sitting in drafts since mid-October so it’s almost a relief that I’ve been able to steal some time this afternoon to share them with you. Finally! 

I received these film scans from Natasja a little while ago (the first post was all digital but hey, #filmisnotdead). It’s kind of a continuation from that post but I didn’t quite elaborate on the what, why and how my personal collaboration with Tasj came about. For those new to my blog, Tasj photographed my wedding (almost four years ago, now!) and thanks to Instagram, we’ve been able to keep in touch since then.

One Sunday afternoon, she showed me the way to one of her favourite spots in Perth and we spent the next couple of hours with just each other, her camera and the sunset. We thought it’d be kinda fun if we shot me in my wedding dress again, though this time, it would be different. So I gathered my Church’s boots, a navy Acne blazer and a couple of sweaters, and wore them with my Marnie Skillings dress. I did my own hair and make-up (though probably not very well) and I almost forgot how much I loved this dress, and still do.

It was the most fun I’ve had in such a long time. Her son Harry helped draw chalk on the black drapey background. Then there’s Tasj, who always makes it so easy, so effortless. And for once, it was just really lovely to know we were creating something simply to inspire something beautiful.

Don’t wait 3 days to text first.

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I took this photo at the end of a sweltering summer’s day after cutting my finger with the knife whilst I was hastily slicing the lime. I reached for a bandaid from the first aid drawer, ripped it open, and after running my finger underneath the tap in much of the same careless fashion, I got on with the photo before the light could disappear from the horizon.

In some ways, it’s a metaphor of how I’ve started the year as well as how I’ve managed to keep my head above water over the past few months: running on empty from one thing to the next without ever really stopping or having time (and dare I say, the inclination) to.

I also suppose now is the time to admit that the future of this website – this accumulation of four years’ of my life – hung in the balance for a while. What am I working towards, one reader asked. The truth is, I had been asking myself the same question since I gave up the Monday to Friday six months ago. What was a hobby became work and it was then – when perhaps passion got mistaken for foolishness – that I realised that sometimes truth hurts. But sometimes truth helps, too.

It’s been a year of making mistakes, months of sleepless nights, and a lifetime of realising it’s always the last key on the keyring that opens the door to a place – perhaps a life after blogging – where I was always meant to be.

So it’s with can’t-eat, can’t-sleep excitement with undertones of nausea, that I’ll soon be starting a new chapter. For those of you following me on Instagram, I know it’s not news to you so bear with me! Say hello to A Cup of Chic – the little shop of style my good friend Jess and I have dreamt into life for all things life/style & home. We officially open for business when our online store launches at the end of this month, but for now you can follow me and our grand adventures at @acupofchic where I’ll be spending most of my days inspiring your every day.

We’ve been working tirelessly behind the scenes since November but I don’t think I’ve ever felt more fanatical and enthusiastic about anything in such a long time. Sure, taking a stab at being a (real!) first-time entrepreneur has presented its many challenges so far but I guess I’ve come to realise that the truth – the real truth – lies in realising that failings are inevitable but regret is eternal. And that the soul doesn’t know a thing about deadlines.

Plus, life is clumsy and I refuse to wear a helmet.

As for cutting myself with the knife – don’t think I’ll ever learn. Hope to see you there.

Gratitude.

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London, 2013.

I’ve been keeping up to date with the news lately and all of it overcomes me with so much sadness for the world. From everything that’s been happening in Sydney and North Korea to what’s happening right now near Surabaya, I’ve never felt more guilty about worrying about whether or not I’m updating my meaningless blog enough, anxious about getting on an AirAsia flight in 3 months’ time, wishing I didn’t have so much food to eat at Christmas, or getting upset over spilling stuff on shoes that equate to someone’s yearly salary in Vietnam.

Maybe living in Australia means I’ll never appreciate how lucky we really are. And maybe after everything that has happened this year, the one thing I’ve learnt is that happiness and success is merely this: going to bed each night with your soul at peace.

A breath of fresh air.

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One of the hardest things about freelancing (and essentially, owning your own business) is feeling the guilt that sets in at the mere thought of having a day off – even on a weekend. After a particularly trying week, my husband managed to drag me out of the house yesterday to recharge, refresh and unwind an hours’ drive away from home. I put on something dressier than what I have been wearing lately (which, to be honest, doesn’t take much), and we drove somewhere we had the whole place to ourselves. With my phone out of range the whole afternoon, switching off was exactly what I needed.

I also can’t remember the last time I posted a picture of what I’ve been wearing – what I’ve been truly wearing – day to day. Not to say that this above outfit is what I wear every day – ha, if only! If anyone is looking for Equipment silk shirts by the way, I’ve found them at The Outnet (prices on the US site seems to be the most favourable – I did the hard work for you and cross-checked regions). Those PJ silk tops have my name written alllll over them.

Anyway, despite what my Instagram will have you believe, life lately has merely involved coffee runs because I’ve run out of Nespresso, turning up to meetings in five-day-old-hair (I wish I was joking, but #lifegoals) and doing all my grocery shopping in these Sömn linen pants that I’ve also been wearing to bed. Because, #freelancelyf.

And I feel like a hypocrite saying this but, as some of you may have noticed, it’s something that has reflected in both here and on social over the past couple of months. Taking incessant photos of myself for funsies suddenly seems pointless, narcissistic and self-indulgent. Because you know, taking photos of my food has a lot more substance. Does anyone agree? Do you actually want to see more #whatimwearing posts or are you totally satisfied with the gazillion instagrams of peonies at the moment?

Let me know what you think below!

P.S. thanks so much to all of you who has left me a question over the past few days. Keep them coming!

Ask and you shall receive.

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For those of you who have been following me for a few years now, remember the Ask function on Tumblr?

It probably made my blog a lot more entertaining (and mildly controversial) but I decided to give it up after a good two or so years because 1. I could never be as sharp-witted as Rumi; 2. I could never, ever, be as dedicated or as succinct in replying as much as Margaret; and 3. My Tumblr started to become an Agony Aunt column of sorts, and I was conscious that for my readers who couldn’t care less what my favourite colour YSL BDJ or favourite size Emile was…well, I’m pretty sure I was fast-tracking to an Unfollow.

So, before my inbox implodes with yet another travel/career/life/handbag question – and before I explode with yet another sob story on life lessons – I thought I’d shift the focus on you this week. 

Have a question – big or small – you’ve always wanted to ask me? Need some advice on life’s pressing issues?

Simply leave your question in the comment box below (feel free to remain anonymous – most people just seem to use a fake email address particularly if they’re being a jerk, but whatever floats your boat) and I will shortlist and answer ten questions in an upcoming Q&A post. To give you an idea, I seem to get asked these questions a lot on social and/or in real life:

How do you edit your photos?

How tall are you?

What’s it like blogging for Vogue?

Do you think blogging is viable as a full-time, long-term career?

Why do you never socialise?

How did you come up with the name of your blog?

When do you plan on having children? (ok, so this may or may not be asked most by a certain mother in-law)…

What do you do for a living nowadays? (hi, mum!)

If, for whatever reason, you can’t comment below, post your question on either my Facebook or Twitter and I’ll add it to this pile. The more thoughtful and constructive the question (and if it’s a super popular and pressing question!) the more likely I’ll answer it. And though I have no issues with constructive ‘feedback’, please try to play nice! I’m afraid Tumblr never really had a Jerk Filter and neither does WordPress for that matter.

In the meantime, head over to The Daily Edited blog where I most recently answered things I’m often asked by fellow bloggers and Instagrammers.

Looking forward to reading (and answering) your questions soon!

The Midnight Train.

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Christmas Stollen by Wild Bakery, copper trivet from Kitchen Warehouse, tea towel by Country Road, small plate from Empire.

As time wears on, I find myself becoming more and more of a private person. I’ve been blogging for almost nine years now and have voluntarily shared so much of myself online, from break-ups and depression to moving out of home, to the day I married my husband, and the moment I left my day job after eight years to go out on my own. These days, the more I put myself out there – particularly in front of the camera (where you can’t hide from anyone) – the more I crave time behind the lens.

I’ve been getting into a lot more styling work lately and I’m finding being ‘behind the scenes’ my true happy place. It may sound trite, but this whole year – my 30th – has become so much more of a journey of self-discovery than I had imagined. The day after my birthday, I realised turning 30 isn’t actually as big of a deal as everyone (and I) made it out to be. But it wasn’t until it was suddenly November (!) that the light switch came on. Because it’s what came after 30 that struck the world for me:

Discovering ‘doing what you love’ in its truest, most disarming and earth-shattering sense of the phrase. Realising that the entire year was just this silly dance of trial and error. Being defeated by what I thought I was good at it; then stumbling across something buried deep inside me that has made everything fall neatly into place.

I want to set the world on fire. And although life for me will always be one big experiment, it’s the sound of the shutter, with my own eyes peering through the looking glass, that I’d say, really is, my happy place.

Styling + Photography by me.

Pyjama Dressing.

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 Equipment silk signature shirt in Rosewood, Country Road leather loafers, IKEA sheepskin rug.

Life has been so overrun with work and other things lately that I haven’t found a chance to properly update you all on my behind the scenes (other than The Meltdown) until now. I woke up this morning with no rush to be anywhere aside from a trip to the post office and breakfast with my sister. And it made me realise that sometimes the littlest things can mean so much.

In preparation for the house move, my husband and I have been busy packing up our life in a series of cardboard boxes knowing that we probably won’t be opening most of them until 2016 when our new house has (hopefully) been built. I’ve been pinning like crazy (check out the pseudo-progress here) and so far we’ve decided on these kind of floorboards and this kind of kitchen with a black subway tiled feature wall with these light fittings. I couldn’t be more annoyed/exhausted by it all but I’ll try to keep documenting our progress along the way!

I’m also in the process of another online venture (more on this later!) and embarking on my first styling/photography job later this week.

In the meantime, I’ve also started to take on a bit more marketing work which has meant leaving the house in things other than sweatpants and three-day-old-hair. Though the work is decidedly more corporate than creative, everything else has been so refreshingly casual and chill, making getting dressed in the morning so easy.

I’ve been living in silk Equipment shirts (best places to shop for them are The Outnet and ForwardForward) and a pair of perfectly worn-in patent loafers. Now on the hunt for the perfect pyjama jacket/shirt (similar to this) to take my definitive guide to lazy dressing to a whole new level.

Photographs by me.

The French Girl Effect.

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I know things have gotten a little quiet around here.

And maybe a little stale.

I guess I’m missing the old me. And in some ways, my old life. Weekends spent just the way I like them to, instead of making friends with shadows on the wall on a lonely Sunday afternoon, with the screen of my laptop staring back at me. Talking about my day without worrying if it’s “on-brand” (yes, that brand thing). Knowing what I want to do with my life, instead of worrying about what tomorrow will hold. And most of all, coming home from a long day at work and falling into bed without feeling an ounce of guilt about it.

They say doing what you love is a great to earn 30K a year, and it couldn’t be further from my truth. When this blog suddenly became a means to put food on the table and a roof over my head (I’m still not letting my husband pay my bills), I think my passion for it died along the way. Because when you’re working until 3am in your Paris hotel room, it’s hard to love your job.

In all honesty, I could see it coming. My husband keeps reminding me why I chose this path. But when it hits you like a bus, it gets hard to dust yourself off and keep moving. I’ve spent the past few weeks in a state of there’s-more-to-life-than-taking-photos-of-myself. Because right now, I’m grappling between setting the world on fire without sending this blog up in flames. I gotta keep moving. Keep hustling. Stay humble.

Or, I could go just buy a burger after this.

Photographs by me.

It’s always the next dream.

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For weeks now, I’ve been thinking about penning a “Career lessons I learnt in my 20s” kind of post. It just seemed more purposeful than telling you what I’ve been wearing lately (which, by the way, can only be described as a heavy rotation of stretchy leggings and a tank top with holes in it).

I would never usually do this, but since my thoughts truly capture the spirit and cornerstone of the aforementioned post, I thought I’d share my reply to a comment I recently received from a reader that stopped me in my tracks tonight.

Michelle,

When a young woman has the opportunity to get a University education do you think that writing a blog at the end of all that effort and work would inspire them to bother [if] you were in the position of advising/mentoring a teenager now? It is disheartening that those who have been granted intelligence in life do not take full advantage of what has been given to them. Would your husband be satisfied, I wonder, to only write a blog on Pharmacy after he completed his education and gained his qualifications? You could do SO much more than this!

– J.J.

 

Wait. What? You mean there’s more to life than taking photos of yourself? There are more meaningful things to do in life than Instagram what I’m eating for breakfast? There are actually more intelligent things to write about than the nine types of shoes every girl needs in her wardrobe? Damn. I actually thought I was onto a good thing here with my glorified sweatpants and my Rockstuds…

J.J., whilst I can kind of see the thinly disguised point you’re trying to make, consider this: Mark Zuckerberg is a Harvard dropout. Forbes compiled a list that encompasses self-made billionaires who never bothered to get a uni degree. The late Steve Jobs – also a dropout but better known as an inventor – who singlehandedly replaced compact cameras with an iPhone. He did this with little more than a fervent entrepreneurial spirit and his parents’ garage, no less. Heck, Einstein barely finished high school before his balls could drop. And I think he turned out just fine.

My point is, “Intelligence” doesn’t always come neatly packaged up as 200gsm ivory parchment paper affixed with a crimson wax seal.

An oft-glorified university degree is not the be-all and end-all.

Nor should it validate one’s intelligence.

I also kind of think it’s insulting, judgmental, short-sighted, snide, and rude to make an unapologetic mockery of what people (university-qualified or not) choose to do for a living, whether it’s blogging or bookkeeping.

I am the first to admit that a Bachelors’ degree has its place and its value in an ever-increasing competitive job market. But I’m also one of few to admit that so can a blog: something that says to all the smug, social media-phobic Baby Boomers out there: “Rather than spend my free time channel surfing on the couch, I’m building a website and getting my name and my work out there because – to be perfectly frank with you – a uni degree will only take me so far”.

I think, first and foremost, it’s so important to consider that everyone (“writing a blog” or not) lives a life with differing priorities, goals, and pathways as to how to get to where they want to be.

And let’s be real here; we can’t all be the next Amal Alamuddin (sorry, Clooney). Last time I heard, there are more graduates then there are jobs. So what can us mere mortals do?

Stand out from the masses of black mortarboards and take your qualifications further – do as I have done and use a blog as a means to build your personal brand online; to showcase your work; as an “online CV” to give future employers a reason to recruit you, as if to say, “Hey, I can be good at something other than my day job, too, you know.”

When I landed my first “real” marketing role eight months after graduating with a degree in Finance and Marketing (back before Facebook even existed), I will freely admit it were my formal qualifications and a handful of work experience that got my foot in the door. No doubt about it. But it has been this very blog that has given the edge. This blog led me to co-write two published books (one of which has gone on to receive an international award); I currently have the honour of contributing to Vogue.com.au. This blog is the very reason I’m currently spending my days as a part-time freelance marketing strategist. And it has given me the absolute privilege of presenting training workshops, which in turn, gives me a chance to inspire people to make a positive difference in their lives.

And you know what else a HELP debt and Commerce degree hasn’t bought me? #friendsforlife.

In other words, I blog to help get me to where I really want to be – to build a meaningful, gainful, and purposeful future when I eventually do “retire” from the blogosphere (I’m not so naive as to think my blog – and potentially every other blog out there – doesn’t have an expiry date). So whether I’m blogging to help me establish a small business, engage new clients and employers, embark on a new career, or to simply meet new people; is that such a disheartening thing? In my humble opinion, that is the epitome of taking full advantage of what life has thrown at me.

But I can only speak for myself. Fact is, I don’t blog full-time. I spend 90% of my life off the interwebz.

So in light of my version of War and Peace in reply to your comment, what’s my advice to the next generation?

Everyone has his or her own story. But it’s no one else’s business as to how they choose to write it.

Happily ever after.

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So it’s been all tumbleweeds and crickets for the past week and for that I’m sorry! In short, we left for Europe on Friday and didn’t arrive in Berlin (via Paris) until Sunday just before midnight. As you can imagine, the first thing I did was take a much-needed shower and sleep horizontally after 50 hours (!) in transit. I won’t lie; it was horrible. More specifically, it was all baby wipes, packing PJs and two changes of clothes in my carry-on, and brushing my teeth in airport bathrooms.

Since then though, we’ve enjoyed travelling through Berlin and Nurnberg; and are currently in Helsinki accidentally eating reindeer and going on a Granit and Marimekko bender.

After literally breaking out in hives all over my face a couple of hours before we flew out (I put it down to stress/exhaustion/self-promotion-fatigued), I decided enough really was enough and unplugged for the first few days of my trip. For the most part, this holiday is a very personal and sentimental one for my husband and I, and it was the wedding of our two good friends over the weekend which I was looking forward to the most.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share a handful of personal holiday snaps from the wedding day as it really was such a beautifully personal, heartfelt celebration with some of my nearest and dearest friends. A castle wedding (at the Schloss Faber-Castell in Nurnberg – yes, as in the Faber-Castell that made your watercolour pencils and Connector Pens) wouldn’t have been anything but achingly perfect in every single way.

I’ve always believed the single most incredible part of any wedding – that makes the sheer effort that goes into it worth every moment of wanting to elope – is the simple fact that everyone who matters to you has come together to be the same room (in my friend’s case, her guests travelled from 16 different cities to be at her wedding). My girlfriends and I, ourselves, were 13,678 kms from home to see two beautiful people make the sort of promise that comes after living apart for three years. With love like that and friendships like this, it was all at once, and wonderfully all too much.

Falling in love falling apart.

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The year of falling: Falling in love and falling apart. Of living earnestly and honestly in sun-dappled everything. The year of letting it flow through me like rain, like honey. Like nothing. The year of memories stored in biscuit tins, office cubicles, and happily ever afters in the half-tones of day. Waiting for the toast to pop as I draw the curtains and throw the covers off. The year of leaving it all behind. Of taking a left turn. Setting my life on fire. And seeking those to fan my flames. The year of letting in pain more than the light. Because if there is one thing my 20s have taught me; it is suffering which gives us the most valuable lessons. The year I discovered I wanted it more than I was afraid of it. Being so content I could cry. Of smiling at people I’ve never spoken to. Coffee with those I’ve never known. Taking the road less travelled. The year of making peace with myself, right here, right now. The year of running ’til we see the sun.

Thank you Natasja. I love them all.

Waking up slow.

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Some things are worth waking up for. For me, it’s cream cheese on toasted bagels and sunlight on the window pane.

Actually, you know what’s making me really happy right now? The very fact that today, I was able to shut the laptop, sit on the couch and spend thirty minutes catching up on celebrity gossip (well played, Marlon & Delta. Also, will Jay Z and Beyonce make it to Paris unscathed?). 

The only other thing that’s bringing a little joy in my life is Country Road’s Spend & Save, which starts today. I’ve got my eye on some silk shorts from the new spring arrivals as well as some homewares. The S&S ends Aug 24th, which also happens to be closing date for the #COUNTRYROADSTYLE competition (remember to tag your CR outfits, homewares and flat lays #countryroadstyle when sharing to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter for your chance to win a $1000 CR gift card – enter as many times as you like).

The Tapas Bread Plate (above) has had no chance to gather dust in my cupboard, even if I came home with it in, erm, three different colours.

Class in progress.

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I must admit, I was feeling a little selfish driving home from my first blogging workshop last Saturday.

I didn’t expect to be graced with the presence of such an extraordinarily creative, diverse, and driven group of people. I loved that everyone had so many blogging aspirations to bring to the table, whether it was taking a daunting leap to carve their own personal space online (kudos), getting a great business idea off the ground, or making economics sexy (double kudos).

It was as much of a learning experience for me as it was for the beautifully inspiring people I was so lucky to meet – and teach (!) – at my first Art of Blogging workshop, organised by The Creatives and Perth stylist extraordinaire (and possibly my new favourite person) Stacey Clark. Did I mention Stacey is travelling to Portland shortly to meet and stay with Katie and Nathan from Kinfolk over Thanksgiving? I kind of wish I was joking.

But back to the workshop – we laughed, we learned, we mingled, we shared our wisdom and so much of our experiences. I peppered our conversations with things like how to start a blog (what is a blog?), how to write and how to photograph (for Instagram, too!), how to get out of that creative slump (because we’ve all been there, right?) as well as so many other tips and tricks that I’ve drawn from my own humble experience in my eight years of blogging.

If you’re thinking about taking that leap of faith head first into blogging and keen to learn how (as well as meet inspiring creatives in Perth), my next workshop (and the last one before I head off overseas for a month!) will be held at the jaw-droppingly beautiful Wine Store + Kitchen on Saturday 16 August. Spaces are filling up quite fast, so get your skates on and snaffle a ticket. There’ll be fun stuff for free. There’ll be yummy food and delicious wine. And there’ll be me, of course.

P.S. A huge thanks to the Raw Kitchen Fremantle for providing the beautiful venue, Stacey for working tirelessly behind the scenes (and in front), and Sarah & Jinn for being so patient and so creative behind the lens all day long (and it was a long one, I know)! And last but not least, to all the girls I was so lucky and privileged to meet and chat with, thank you so much for coming along. I hope it was as rewarding and enriching for you as it was for me.

Photographs by me and the impossibly talented Sarah & Jinn from The Silver Lining.

Marzipan & Honey.

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Downtime is a word I haven’t used in a while.

It’s been around six weeks since I quit the day job and although I’ve been so lucky to take on a few more projects (which – don’t get me wrong, are so rewarding and so exciting), it has left me updating my blog at midnight, in bed, in my PJs. I’m looking forward to sharing some of my upcoming work with you, though, starting next week where I’ll be spending a few days in Melbourne to shoot something I’ve been planning for months now.

In the meantime, though, when it gets all too much and when I can steal a couple of hours for myself, I discovered all I need is a slice of carrot cake, a cup of tea, an hour before sunset, and my own company soaking up the languid haze of the late afternoon in forgotten corners of my favourite cafe.

As simple as simple gets.

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One of the things I looked forward to most after giving up the day job was the prospect of sleeping in. Tossing aside the bed covers in my own time. Drawing the curtains to see the first light. Making breakfast – a proper breakfast. And spending the rest of the day decidedly make-up free, and hair undone in an awkward abandonment.

The only thing I’ve yet to master is being home at the right time to catch the postman. Four weeks and I’m still doing this silly dance with UPS.

Breakfast, however, is starting to come together. The question of whether I can buy avocados or smoked salmon and still come under the weekly grocery budget remains unanswered, so this week it’s all about the oatmeal, bagel and waffle breakfasts. I started my Tuesday (because – let’s be real here – starting things on Mondays never happen) with an apple, almond and coconut oatmeal bowl. I didn’t immediately warm to the idea of combining apple with oats but this was surprisingly really good.

It feels silly to post a ‘recipe’ to be honest, because all I really did was warm up a bowl of oats with milk in the microwave, then drizzled over it with honey. For the topping: I sliced half a Fuji apple (word to the wise: slice it thinly if you’re going to be Instagramming this…), then grabbed a handful of almond and coconut flakes (the more, the merrier!).

I also took the chance to refresh my home with new bowls and serving plates from Country Road. The Dias oakwood oval plate (above) is a favourite as it’s served so many different purposes already. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be capturing my #countryroadstyle homewares (and accompanying breakfasts) on Instagram (because, $1000 gift card)! The best part is, you can take part in it too.

It comes in waves.

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A quick hello before the weekend’s up.

As I prepare to rush to the airport tonight to bid my best friend of half my life bon voyage (she’s booked a one-way ticket to embark on a maybe permanent life/career move to Canada – and I’ll be bringing along the Kleenex tonight, no doubt), you can catch up with the fun I’ve been up to lately over here.

Mondays have otherwise become my favourite day of the week since giving up the day job. There’s something so fresh, so brand new, so promising and anticipative, and so hopeful about Mondays.

Three feet deep.

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Life right now is veined with simple gold: omelettes and cleanskins for dinner. Milo in my old clothes. Drunk tulips on my desk. Sleeping in on Monday mornings. Apple pie on Tuesday night.

The past few weeks of hitting the pause button have taught me something about happiness maybe being a beautiful alchemy, and an epiphany that’s always been half in shadow but come to light quicker than I had expected:

That even though I’m lying awake at 3am thinking about how I’m going to pay the mortgage at the end of the month; I’ve actually never been happier.

Because there’s something so simple and empowering about not missing what you can’t have, and never craving the life you once had.

The Art of Blogging Workshop.

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I have this profound inability to say no to things that come my way, because I’ve somehow been coaxed into hosting a blogging workshop in Perth with the amazingly inspiring team over at The Creatives.

I’ll be presenting The Art of Blogging workshop on Saturday 26th July from 10am to 2pm, where I’ll give you free reign to ask me whatever your heart desires when it comes to the world of blogging (no when-are-you-having-kidlets good for nothing questions please – my mother in-law already takes care of that!).

I’ll also show you how to create compelling content and beautiful images, as well as drive traffic to your blog whether you’re blogging for business or for fun. As some of you know, I’ve been blogging personally for almost ten years, am currently blogging for Vogue.com.au and jumped on the corporate blogging train for a little while, too. I’m really excited to be sharing my secrets to running a blog and how to beat the dreaded bloggers’ block. We’ve all been there!

The Art of Blogging workshop will involve a delicious meal (I hear wine might be on the cards, too…), little extras and oodles of networking. Spots are super limited, but I hope that some of may be able to join me as I host my first ever workshop. It’ll be informative and lots of fun (albeit a little scary for me)!

You can reserve your ticket or find out more just by clicking HERE.

It will be so lovely to meet you all!

In a new place.

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Although I didn’t mean for this to to happen, I’ve realised it’s been almost a week since my last post! Things have kind of gotten intense, lately, I guess. As some of you have gathered from instagram, I called it a day and quit my job on Friday, leaving for the freelance, feast and famine, full-time-blog kind of life.

I won’t lie; the thought of waking up tomorrow without a 9-5 cubicle job to fall back on terrifies me more than excites me. But something had to be done about the sleepless nights and the furrowed brows. So here I am.

I’ve spent the entire weekend making room in my tiny home for a workspace. You wouldn’t have guessed it, but my mum found the glass desk off someone else’s kerb (she loves roadside collections as much as the next Asian) and the chair is from a hair salon which they didn’t have any use for anymore (it’s strangely in perfect working order, though). As for the dying orchid, well… that’s all mine.

A love that lasts.

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There’ll be times on my lunch break when I’ll meander my way through my favourite bookshop, florist, candle store, or magazine stand, and I’ll come across a book, a boardgame or a freshly baked cake that someone I know would hold close to their hearts. But then I’ll remember that their birthday was five months ago, or in six months’ time, so much to my disappointment, it’ll invariably return to the shelf.

Ever since I was little, I’ve always regarded gifts as things that marked special occasions or accompanied certain celebrations.

But then, like the last page I’ll turn of a good paperback; or like rounding the last street corner on my bicycle; like the last key on my keyring that opens the door; or like suddenly walking into love…I had an a-ha moment. And it hit me like a tornado; that everything I had believed in up to this point seemed so silly. Not to mention a little bit selfish.

Why do we wait for an occasion? Why long for ceremony? Why wish for any other day but today? Because aren’t ordinary days – with love that lasts and eternal sunsets – the ones worth celebrating?

The road less travelled.

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Monday sleep-ins are such a rare commodity. Fortunately I’ll be getting to do just that tomorrow morning, as it’s a long weekend for us here in Perth. Still, it amazes me how quickly Sunday rolls around – never mind half the year that has already flown by.

I’ve spent nearly the entire weekend flicking through Cereal’s travel pages and booking flights, train tickets and hotels with my mother in-law’s famed baklava to keep me in high spirits. Close friends of ours live in Germany, so my husband and I are taking a couple of weeks off at the end of August to see them live happily ever after in the heart of Europe.

Having never been to Germany before, we’ll be spending some time in Berlin, as well as extending our travels through to Paris and Helsinki – the latter of which I can’t wait to start planning for. Finland’s the kind of place people ask why we’d even bother visiting, but that’s it, isn’t it?

Because it’s always when we take the road less travelled that memories seem to linger in our minds so much longer upon returning home.

Life lessons I learnt in my 20s.

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It’s hard to pinpoint what the single most defining moment of my 20s was.

Bursting into post-breakup tears in someone’s backyard with a bunch of random people consoling me? Graduating from uni and receiving my first real paycheck? Knowing all the words to Taylor Swift’s angry songs? Or how about that time I met this guy at a bar and agreed to marry him 8 months later?

One thing’s for sure: I’m leaving my 20s behind this week with life lessons I can count on two hands. I hope you’re sitting down with your morning coffee, ’cause this is going to be a long one.

1. Losing him will help you find yourself.

I was sixteen and so in love. An intoxicating, heart-stopping, high school sweetheart kind of love. But a third of my life later, he was gone. Just like that. I cried for a week (or four.. okay, maybe eight) until I met someone else who promised me the world for two months, until he left too. It was then that I started writing a blog. Pouring my sorry little heart out to anyone who’d care to read. And from that point on, I learnt the beauty in goodbyes.

It’s unnerving – in a Sliding Doors kind of way – to know that if I had stayed with him, this blog – this micro-universe I’ve created – would have probably never existed. I would have never met some of you. Or my husband, for that matter. And I would have never written this book, either.

Your 20s give you time. Time to leave the one who’s not The One. Time to get your shit together – find your worth – and maybe meet the one who is. It may seem unfathomable when you’re heartbroken, but you’ll come out the other side better, smarter, wiser. After all, what doesn’t kill you, will only make you stronger. All you have to do is to lose that fear – and him.

2. All the stuff you’ll regret will be the stuff you didn’t do.

I’ll be turning thirty with a few regrets. It’s almost exclusively stuff I should have done three years ago. Things I should have done three months ago. All the things I didn’t do, or haven’t done.

I wish I had seen more of the world in my early 20s. Saved more money. Paid off my debts earlier. Cut toxic people out of my life. Most of all, I wish I had taken risks: quit my job, sell my car, move to Scandinavia, be a journalist or a nomad, or not see my family for half a year even if it nearly kills me.

I look back now – six years on – and although I don’t regret the life I’m living now for a second, there is still a big part of me that regrets not seizing the moment when I had the chance. What about now, I hear you ask? Well, there’s mortgages to service, jobs to hold down, bills to pay, babies to make. Most of this stuff was just a blip on the radar when I was in my early 20s.

3. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

There’s a quote floating around on the interwebs that goes a little something like this:

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

I’m certainly not the most accomplished person I know, but I do try to put 100% into everything I do. My husband is probably the only person who truly knows the science behind my blog, the book I co-wrote, the photos I Instagram, the stuff I write. To paint a quick and superficial picture for you, my behind-the-scenes looks a little like this:

Spending 7 hours writing/proofing this post, and another 5 hours planning/photographing it.
Taking 1.5 hours to edit this photo on my phone
3 months just write this chapter
Each day: up at 6am, work 7-4, exercise until 7pm, then work on this blog from after dinner until midnight. I never stop thinking, even if I want to or need to.
It took 4 plane trips, 36 hours and a 45 minute light plane ride just to see this.
8 years to work my way up from a marketing assistant to a marketing manager.

It’s so easy to presume that everyone else effortlessly leads a better life(style) than you do – heck, I still fall victim to it (that’s why I deactivated my Facebook account – plus I got sick of all the faux birthday messages). It’s so important to realise that good things don’t come to those who wait – and that everything in life is usually just a clever game of smoke and mirrors or a shitload of work (and often both). Remember that behind every dream there is an element of blood, sweat and tears. Everything takes time. Success is just a series of small wins. And nothing worth it ever came easy.

4. Your parents aren’t as half-bad as you think.

The thing about getting older is that you start to see your parents in a different light. You see wrinkles on their hands that you’ve never noticed before. You see them getting sick – and taking longer to recover. A dullness in their eyes that has only come with age. You start to see their flaws because you’ve inherited them too. Most of all, you begin seeing them as who they are: perfectly imperfect people who are doing the best they can with what little they have – and with the instruction manual they never received.

I grew up in a household where physical and emotional abuse was a daily occurrence. The visible scars have disappeared but time never heals those wounds buried deep inside my mind. Needless to say, I had an unconventional and dysfunctional relationship with my parents, which has honestly only ‘normalised’ over the past 6-12 months. And although I wish that maybe things could have been different, I realise now that the love was always there. It was just squirrelled away in pockets my parents were too afraid to dig deep enough into.

As the months and  years pass, I think they, too, realise that life really is for rent. One of my biggest wishes now is to enjoy the time I have with them before it’s too late.

So be nice to your parents. There are people out there who aren’t lucky enough to get the chance.

5. Not everyone is going to like you. And be okay with that.

I learnt very early on that the colour of my hair despised some people. I was eight when I was called ugly every single day by the Aussie kids in my class. Being the only Asian kid at my primary school, no one would go near me. I was constantly teased because of my mother’s name. Big kids on bikes would pass me as I walked home and call me a ‘nip’. I didn’t even know what that was until years later. It continued in high school but waned when they realised I spoke better English and ran faster than they all ever could.

So my formative years were pretty shit, but things have looked up since then. Probably because I’ve stopped caring so much. Everyone’s got an opinion, and whilst some people will dislike you for big reasons, others will pick on you for petty ones. Unless they’re your husband, your best friend or your mother, remember that what people think of you is actually none of your business.

6. People change. Things change. It’s no one’s fault.

I will put it out there: since getting married three years ago, I no longer see/speak to half the people on my wedding guest list. It sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

It’s not that they’re bad friends. Or that I’ve been crap at keeping in touch. Life got in the way. People moved away. I disappeared from Facebook. We all got busy. It’s no one’s fault, really. No one’s been a bad friend or anything.

If I can be honest, though, it has taken me the past 12 months to be okay with this. I was the one who had 500 ‘friends’ on Facebook until one day – the day after my 29th birthday – an innocent ‘cull’ made me bitterly realise I could probably count the number of good friends – can’t-live-without-friends – on no more than two hands.

But then I learnt to appreciate each and every friendship for what it was: my work BFFs whom I don’t see so often anymore, the platonic male friendships I made after the break-up (then naturally dispersed when I married my husband), my engaged friend who went along on the crazy 12-month ride they call wedding planning, and all the others I held close to my heart who defined my 20s. Like relationships, these friendships taught me an important lesson and so much gratitude: that even though they might not last forever, they were there when I needed them most.

7. Fake it ’til you make it.

By the time you’re on the wrong side your 20s, you’ll realise that everyone’s screwed up some way or another. We all pretend to know everything but, dig a bit deeper, and you’ll realise that everyone from their mid-20s to their late-60s just flies by the seat of their pants.

The biggest thing I’ve learnt? That faking confidence will get you somewhere. Not out of the woods completely, but at least out of the neighbourhood and down the street a little.

Public speaking used to turn my stomach into anxious knots. I never thought I could ever look after my own marketing team. And I never, for a moment, thought I could blog for an audience of tens – sometimes hundreds – of thousands of people. Even now, the latter makes me really anxious. But I’ve learnt that to do what I need to do – and to do it well –  I need to face my fears head-on with a strong belief in myself that allows me to persist in the face of failure, no matter how petrified it makes me feel.

As Bill Cosby once said, “Decide that you want it, more than you are afraid of it.”

Because confidence is everything.

8. What would you do for free?

When it comes to figuring out what you should do for the rest of your life, a lot of people suggest thinking of something that you’d happily do for free. On some level, I agree. On another, I call bullshit.

As you can tell from the thesis I’ve written so far, my love for the written word knows no bounds. But I know for certain that it would suck as a full-time job. It’s not until you write and publish a book that you realise it’s just work at the end of the day. There are rules. There are deadlines. There’s the being paid less than what you’re probably worth (and the inevitable chasing up of invoices) or the not-being-paid-at-all, and there’s a whole lot of people telling you that you’re doing it wrong after you’ve done it.

That’s when the very thing you’ve always loved doing becomes a chore because it becomes your livelihood.

My take on it? Relinquish it as a hobby (or freelance on the side, if you want the best of both worlds) but if, like me, you rely on the security of a full-time income, find a day job that you don’t mind getting up in the morning for. Only then can you live by your own rules, doing what you truly love without relying on it solely to make ends meet.

9. You can have it all. Just not all at once.

It was year 11 Economics when I learnt about Opportunity Cost.

Defined as “a benefit, profit, or value of something that must be given up to acquire or achieve something else”, Opportunity Cost will sadly become more and more applicable in your late 20s.

In an ideal world, I would have, by the time I turned 30: travelled the world, lived abroad for a year or two, started my own business, got married, given birth to my first child, climbed the ranks in my career, built my forever home, turned this blog into a full-time gig, still have money in the bank and keep my sanity intact.

Sounds ridiculously unrealistic, doesn’t it? I’ll admit that I’ve achieved maybe half of these things over the past decade, but it hasn’t been without a lot of sacrifice. But I have prioritised – and that has made the world of difference. What makes you happy? What gets you up every day? Figure that out and those sacrifices will seem like less of an opportunity cost.

10. You are not free until you have no need to impress anybody.

The truth is, I’m still figuring this one out.

Pursuit of emptiness.

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It’s embarrassing how much I am drunkenly, achingly, in love with Hannah’s blog.

It’s always the words.

And hers are so effortless, but so heavyweight; never purposely written for pomp, and always so congruously devoid of superflous details. Hannah’s is appropriately pared-back, refreshingly grounded, and gives me hope that something so simple can, in fact, be just as ridiculously beautiful.

Which is kind of how I felt when I bought my first Muji product precisely three years ago from a forgotten corner of a Stockholm department store. That day – with the gentle whisper of encouragement from my husband (who already was a Muji connoisseur from all his previous trips to Japan) – I purchased an in-flight cotton travel set. It was striped pale blue, and contained an inflatable air pillow and sleeping mask fashioned from the softest brushed cotton and housed in a matching cotton bag with a simple rope drawstring. Three years of flying from one corner of the world to the other, and I still never get on a plane without it.

Since then, my husband and I have filled every nook and cranny of our little home with things from Muji on our overseas travels. Chopsticks, bobby pins, pens (oh, the pens!), hair elastics, plush toy tool set (um, yes, you read right), striped shirts, affordable acrylic storage (that has such a cult following that it deserves its own Instagram account), tatami home slippers, and mittens we purchased out of slight desperation at the Broadway store because it was bitterly cold in New York that day. Heck, we’ve even got a palm-sized hairdryer, in typical Japanese fashion.

Trips to Muji (which, by the way, translates to “no-label quality goods”) are always on my travel itinerary. There’s something so therapeutic, so calming, so clean and pure about embracing the essence of this lifestyle brand, worlds away from any other place and every other brand.

When Muji headquarters in Melbourne emailed me last month, I was – rather aptly – in Japan. It was the day after we had visited the flagship store in Tokyo, fawning over porcelain rice bowls, delightfully minimalist pyjamas, the softest jersey bed linen, and those striped shirts (I can never get enough).

Fast forward two weeks when I was in Melbourne for all but 18 hours. I managed to squeeze in a quick afternoon coffee just before the H&M launch with the ever-lovely and effervescent Muji PR & Marketing team (hi, Kat!) who were, at the time, knee deep in preparations for their second store opening this side of the equator.

I smuggled a few products from Muji’s skincare range (something I haven’t tried on my face before) in my tiny carry-on back to Perth, and am ridiculously excited to embark on what I anticipate will be a new, all-consuming, obsession.

Muji’s pursuit of emptiness speaks to me in ways very few lifestyle brands have. Its train of thought is unnervingly reminiscent of mine: my uncluttered desk, the list-making, my penchant for crisp, clean bed sheets, the way I line up my shoes, colour-code my closet, work with no less than six different coloured highlighters, and wrap my presents in brown paper then tie them all up with string.

Who knew this deliberate pursuit of emptiness would leave me feeling so full, so content, and never, ever, really wanting what is more than necessary.

April.

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This month has already flashed by in the blink of an eye.

Japan came and went, I dropped into Melbourne for all but 18 hours to see for myself how GPO transformed into H&M, I’ve been battling an unrelenting viral infection since I returned, and I became a doting aunty again two days ago.

And, as you can see, things are looking a little bit different around here.

I’ve been feeling terrible for being absent from this blog since the revamp went live. I had been meaning to put together a post days ago but the truth is, I have been spending any spare time I have drinking the honey, lemon & ginger tea I hastily made for myself, blowing my nose every two minutes and filling up my bin with copious amounts of tissues. So glam. Migrating from tumblr to wordpress has also aged me by about 20 years (probably a lot more for my kind, ever-so-patient friend & magical web designer, Jess) but I think we’re finally out of the woods with this one.

I hope you like the new-look!

Breaking up is hard to do.

For anyone who’s experienced the pleasure and the pain of looking for a job, you would know that it’s a lot like finding (and losing) love.

Like being in the throes of a bad relationship, being stuck in a shitty job conjures up the same kind of rollercoaster emotions. It starts with a complete lack of effort on your part. You’re in disbelief as to how much you once cared. And loved.

And now, suddenly, nothing. There’s a numbness that ensues after mornings at your desk characterised by a whole lot of “screw you” and evenings spent achingly crying into your pillow because you’re convinced that no one’s going love you. Or hire you. Or like you. Ever. Again.

It’s blindingly obvious that you’re under-appreciated and under-valued and you know you should leave, but, hey, this is comfortable. And it’s fucking terrifying out there. So you stay for a little while longer.

But then the thrill of hopping onto Seek – like it’s RSVP – gets the better of you. And you become desperate for a date; recklessly looking for anyone – or any company – who’ll take you. Putting your feelers out there after several years of taking yourself off the market is daunting to say the least.

But this is the moment that separates the good from the great. The stragglers from the sprinters.

Breakin’ up is hard to do, so crooned Neil Sedaka once upon a time, and it takes a supremely brave person to decide to leave, then a great deal of strength to actually go.

Change.

What a week. A month, even.

As some of you may already know, I quit my job last week. And although it seems those words unceremoniously flit across the page (or screen) so casually, so effortlessly, it comes after spending the past few months figuring out what truly brings happiness and meaning to my little, insignificant life. 

The truth is, even after quitting my job, I still don’t know. Some things will just happen when they happen, I guess.

One of my best friends recently called me out for having ‘changed’. As if to say, how dare I. How dare you be a different person from when we were 18. At first I was angry, but then it quickly turned into this annoying little thing that repeated over and over inside my head. And then I curiously wanted to ask, “well, haven’t you?”.

I’ve always been the kind of person to embrace change. Chase it, even. Swallow it whole like Coca Cola and savour every last drop as if I would be never given another opportunity to do so. They call it an addiction, I guess, and I’ve never been one to be content at stopping at just one hourglass-shaped soda bottle.

I have a new (exciting!) job lined up at the end of this month, so I can’t wait to embark on my next adventure. Change is as good as a holiday, after all.

P.S. Thank you to each and every one of you who left words of support and well wishes on my Instagram. I’m sorry I haven’t had an opportunity to reply to each message personally, but know that I’ve read each and every one and feel a certain amount of assurance that I’m not alone in navigating this crazy thing called Life.

Looking forward.

I’m so excited by what the next few weeks – and months – will entail.

Over the weekend I bought a second hand Orion bike from the 80s which has now become my (ok, and my husband’s!) pet project over the coming days. Investing in a commuter bike has been on the agenda for me for a while now – purely as a way to get from A to B, as opposed to training for the next Tour de France. We’ve also kind of talked about embarking on another self-guided bike tour this year or next through Tuscany, Italy. I did zero training for our last one through the South of France so I’m trying in earnest to be a bit more prepared this time.

To digress, my husband (who cycles regularly) and I compared our Endomondo apps the other day to see how each of our respective workouts stacked up. He cycled 24km for two hours (I think) and burned 320 kcal. I ran 7km (40 mins – yes, ok, it’s more of a languid jog!) and burned 567 kcal. Notwithstanding the fact that cycling is low-impact, it’s plain to see that running is the more time-efficient choice of workout. It can also wreck havoc on your joints, though, so supportive shoes are essential (i.e. instead of running in the Nike Free 3 – which are really just good for walking, by the way – opt for the 5 instead). I suffer from shin splints and other nasty exercise-related ailments quite easily so I’m on the hunt for a new pair of good trainers before I resume boxing/running next week.

But anyway, back to the pushbike. I plan to give it a fresh coat of paint (it’s currently an emerald green) and tossing up between glossy white or black. The gears and the brakes also need some TLC, which is easily done (by my husband, that is). Ha. I’m also on the lookout for a tan coloured leather bike seat.

I’ll be sure to share some before and after photos once it’s all done.

We’re also preparing for a two-week holiday to Japan in March. It was meant to be some small consolation for turning 30 in May so we’ll be celebrating my birthday early, travelling through Hakone, Kyoto and, of course, Tokyo. Whilst my husband has travelled to Japan half a dozen times already, it’ll be my first visit. Coupled with not having a single day off over Christmas and New Year, we really can’t wait to hop on a plane again!

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Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

On the last day of every year – and usually on a platform such as this blog – I would ceremoniously document the past 12 months in a matter of paragraphs. All my milestones, my hopes and my dreams, my fears and my fortunes; would be laid out before my eyes, because that’s what I’ve been doing all my life. Pleasing others. Pleasing my parents. Pleasing myself. 

2013 was different, though. I no longer had this urge to reflect on the year that was; I’m guessing out of fear that all my insecurities would seep out of my skin and bleed onto a half-painted canvas that I didn’t get around to finishing.

It was a year that has changed me in ways I never imagined, with more opportunities knocking on my door that I had ever thought possible. And although I’ve probably achieved more in 12 months than I have over the past five years, as my head hit the pillow last night, I somehow felt more discontent and unaccomplished than ever.

I remember rushing out of a subway station in Hong Kong a couple of years ago. It was pouring with rain – the kind you’d wait under a shelter for until it subsided. As I rounded the corner, I passed a beggar slumped by the side of the corridor, with an empty tin pail sitting beside him. He was amputated to the knee and to the elbows. Head cowering in the rain, and cold.

I knew in an instant, that that moment would change me forever.

I woke up this morning and decided that there will be no more angst. No more misguided melancholy. It will be the year of letting go and of leaving yesteryear in its wake. This fear of failure will melt away and I will just be happy. And I will feel grateful simply because I am alive.

Hello, 2014.

I will leave my 20s almost exactly as I had entered it:

Hopelessly in love with someone I’m sure I’ll spend the rest of my life with, but not the faintest idea as to what my life is for and what I am to do with it.

I still wander aimlessly through the pithy, clouded corridors of Life; pretending that everything is okay. I’m still paralysed by dark back alleys, tears on my pillow, forks in the road and holes in my heart.

And suddenly I wonder, what that 20 year old soft-voiced girl would think of me now?

Because I need to know that there is more to life than being good at something – or everything; and that being liked doesn’t come from being clever or witty. I need to know that meaningfulness comes from doing things for others with the certainty that they’ll give me nothing in return. I need to be reminded that being a better person comes not from a degree that’s hanging on my parents’ wall, but an aching love I have for others.

My wish for myself is this:

To make beautiful things, even if nobody cares. To end up not where I had intended to go, but to where I need to be. To be happy, whatever that means – but most of all – to be content with what I have, what I am, and what I’ve done.

I will appreciate that a setting sun will bring me a brand new day, before one day it’ll be too late. I will change the locks and throw away the key. And run deliriously in the opposite direction, even if the compass always points me back to here.

Happy New Year.