Three Things I Learnt At My Sister’s Wedding…

January 13, 2020
Three Things I Learnt At My Sister's Wedding. A picture of me at the reception with my sister and her new husband.

Celebrating my sister’s wedding this year was lots of fun mixed with lots of stress.  From the moment I touched down in Australia we were go go go!  It was expected and fortunately we had all worked together to make a fantastic day for my sister.  On the day of the wedding there were three things that stood out for me that other blogs and wedding magazines hadn’t covered.  These are three things I’ve learnt about the wedding day.

Friends Providing Services On The Day.

A friend who is a florist, make up artist or cake maker is a dream when they offer their services for the day.  Make sure you sit down with them and have a professional meeting about what you want.  Provide photos, detail expectations and put it in writing as you would with any other wedding supplier.  This helps remove any last minute conversations that are likely as they are your friend and their boundaries are more flexible.  Consider what role you want your friends to play on the day.  If they are distracted having drinks and nibbles are they getting everyone’s makeup done when they should?  Later at the reception is the MC Best Man remembering to start the speeches or chilling with his wife in the corner eating hot chips?

All Suppliers Provide A Written Quote.

I was shocked on the day of my sister’s wedding that two suppliers tried to double their fees after providing their services.  This put everyone in a weird position as someone down the phone claimed they had said something different.  Make sure you put everything in writing to your suppliers even if they don’t so you have something to back with.  Fortunately, both suppliers backed down as my sister was able to refer to her notes and quote back the original conversation.  A stress on the day that wasn’t fun!

The Plan Is The Plan.

Before the big day the couple should agree on timings and stick to these.  Both should delegate someone in their support group to ensure everything runs on time.  No last minute changes to fit in a grooms activity that stresses out the bride. Don’t make her have to have her bag ready earlier as it throws everything off.  Or the sudden appearance of a gift for the bride, badly timed, resulting in her crying after just having her makeup done!  Make a plan, tell the delegate of any surprises and everyone will get to where they are meant to be one time.

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Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella Book Review…

January 6, 2020
Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella.  Picture of the book and a plant on my table.

I first started reading the Shopaholic series years ago following the life of Becky Bloomwood a financial advice writer with a dark secret.  Truth was she was a shopaholic with significant debt and her life was spiralling out of control.  Christmas Shopoholic is number 9 and a bit of catching up for anyone new to the series!  Sophie Kinsella did write the series frequently but understandably the time between books as become longer.  I don’t mind as each book is well thought out and a joy to read.

Becky is married to Luke, looks after their only child Minnie, and they live outside London near her family.  This year her parents have decided to move to Shoreditch for a ‘gap year’ and hand over the responsibility of Christmas lunch to Becky.  Immediately stressed to emulate her mother’s amazing meals, Becky does what she knows best, list making and shopping!  Except it isn’t working and Becky can’t find anything perfect for the day.  There are so many demands.  Jess, Becky’s sister wants a low waste vegan Christmas.  Her best friend Suze is desperate to come to avoid her husband’s family.  Layer in an ex-boyfriend turned Rockstar to the mix, and Becky’s head is all over the place. 

I loved this book!  Kinsella has updated the series and successfully incorporated current social technologies like Instagram and Whatsapp into the storyline.  Fantastic!  Like all the previous books it is a joyful, easy read.  There is a little frustration with Becky as she hasn’t really grown up in the last ten years but there were some signs of maturity.  There is no wondering if there will be another book as the ending answers this.  If you are looking for a new series to get hooked, find Confessions of a Shopaholic at your library or bookstore.

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Pin Me! Christmas Shopaholic By Sophie Kinsella.

Self Care Vs Real Self Care…

September 23, 2019
A picture of me in my pjs sitting on my couch looking out the window.  I am drinking tea from a mug and a book is open next to me.  Self Care Vs Real Self Care.

I’ve been a little MIA the past month or so as I haven’t felt that inspired to write and I become quite focused on myself.  It has been great to have a break from obligations, sleeping in late, deep cleaning my flat and topping up my tan on the roof!  I’ve been reading across all the corners of the internet, borrowing books from the local library and devouring my magazine subscriptions.  The topic of self-care pops up frequently, where the person notes they have just run a bubble bath or done a face mask and thus ticked the box of self-care.  This has been jarring me, but it took a while to realise why.  Then I realised, this isn’t self-care!

What Is Real Self-Care?

Self-care is packaged to women as spending time on ourselves often to enhance our appearance.  It pushes a capitalist agenda which requires consumption of products to look after ourselves! Alongside the external care google’s suggests self-care with meditation, daily walking and eating a meal mindfully!  For me real self-care is taking control of my life and preparing myself for the week.  When my finances aren’t managed my stress and depression kicks in.  An overstretched social calendar, with little time to reflect, and hibernate disrupts my sleep patterns.  There is no period of time in a bath that can fix my finances and I just get out more stressed then before! Over the past few months I have made sure I practice the following real self-care habits.

I Monitor My Finances Nearly Every Day.

I’ve finetuned my budget over the past few months and every few days I check my bank accounts against what I’ve spent.  This has allowed me to keep up with those little purchases (twirl bars!) and catch out any businesses that have mistakenly withdrawn too much from my account.  Someone recently cloned my card and spent £150 on Kenco coffee.  Even my bank knows I am a hot chocolate only drinker!

In addition, each payday I am forecasting in my budget the months potential social spend.  Allocating money against lunch dates and nights out allows me to understand my true disposable income for unplanned purchases.  If I know that this amount is quite small I am prepared and ration myself to ensure I don’t use my credit cards.  I will be honest, being so on top of my finances is exhausting and frankly boring and I am looking forward to the day where I don’t have to do that!

I’m also researching and understanding finances better.  The information is out there but often women are discouraged to be financially competent.  I now know lots of the tricks of improving my credit rating and how for example reducing your credit card balance penalises you.  I’m also keen to start investing my money next year, taking this time to study the market and understand a whole new language.  I can’t wait to dip my toes into this and locking in my retirement plans.

I Review My Calendar and Social Commitments Every Week.

Each Sunday I review my diary for the week.  I plan when I will rest, do tasks around my flat like laundry and set aside time to read, watch shows and write.  Being prepared and planning even those small admin tasks into my week reduces my stress.  Prior to doing this I would reach the end of the week stressed out and self-critical.  Not keeping up with life admin frustrates me but I also feel pressure as I am the only one who can do it.  Planning for it makes life a lot breezier!

At one stage my social life was incredibly full, and the lack of balance was making me unhappy.  I’d gotten into this habit of saying yes to everything and everyone else but myself.  I have a friend who says yes to everything, but I soon realised that it wasn’t for me.  Upon reflection I also realised I never really had time with that friend that was mine.  They were always thinking about how they were getting to the next event in their diary often booking in three or four catchups/activities each day.  Now I review my diary and see what else is happening that week before I say yes.  If I already have a couple of catch ups I decline and suggest another date.  These two small changes have had the most impact on my real self-care.

I Plan My Food For The Week and Meal Prep.

A year ago, starting my current job, I stopped meal planning and bought lunch every day.  It was lots of fun eating sushi one day, a fancy salad the next or my favourite Japanese curry!  Health wise I fared ok, which was a surprise being all processed food, but my bank balance took a hit.  When I decided to get serious this year about budgeting and sorting my credit card situation food was an area where I could cut back drastically.

I plan all my meals for the week by reviewing what I will eat each Friday.  Plans change so I also check within my cupboards to see what is left and if I really need extra breakfast milk or dinner fish etc. This way when I go to the supermarket sometime over the weekend I only purchase what I need.  I will prep lunches for the week on Sunday, freezing each one and sometimes even making enough for two weeks!  I’ve done the math and I’m spending only a quarter of what I used to one food!

All of this does mean I rarely have lunch out and I do miss that.  There has been the occasional moment I forgot my lunch and spent all morning thinking of what I was going to purchase!  A decision that required lots of care as it was an unexpected treat!  However, having a handle on my food budget and knowing I have money until the end of the month is fantastic self-care for me.

How do you practice real self-care?  PF xo

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The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion Book Review…

August 12, 2019
This picture is of the front cover of The Rosie Result.  It is plain white with black text and a seagull with a scarf on it.  The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion Book Review.

The third and final book in the Don Tillmans story, The Rosie Result, is set in Melbourne, after the family have spent years in New York.  Rosie has started work on a project that requires private funding to continue.  Don sparks a racial row at his university, referred to as the ‘Genetics Lecture Outrage’, and is currently suspended.  But the real focus is Hudson, in his last year of primary school, lacking in friends and the school reporting meltdowns

I loved reading The Rosie Project for its finely tuned character of Don who see’s the world through his potentially autistic brain.  The second book The Rosie Effect felt a little rushed and didn’t pack as great punch.  The Rosie Result is meticulous in its storyline and I am sad that it is the last in this series.  Set eleven years later, Don realises the move from New York to Australia has disrupted Hudson and the family stability.  He decides that there are three projects he must complete to regain harmony in their lives.

The Hudson Adjustment Problem has Don spending time with Hudson, explaining social rules and behaviours, in a bid to stop his school requesting autism testing.  Simsion carefully navigates the world of autism and within a school information night shows the reader both sides of the coin when it comes to autism diagnosis.  Should we diagnose autism?  Should children be drugged? 

Hudson’s one and only friend is Blanche, a person who has albinism and impaired vision.  This character allows Simsion to show that there is a lot to consider for those with impairments and how to help them.  There is a part at the beginning of the book where on a ski trip both Judson and Blanche require a little more time to adjust to the snow.  I loved the fact that despite the extra thought that had to be done, Don never sees these as issues or annoyances and works through them.  It is a great way to show that with a little bit of extra thought everyone can enjoy every activity!

I can’t finish without mentioning that Don opens his cocktail bar!  The location is unusual, you can order on an app without having to speak to anyone, and the bar is completely quiet.  It is a hit within the autism community and for those who are a bit socially awkward!  We all knew he would do it!

If you haven’t read any of the books in the series I highly recommend them.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the third book in the comments.  PF xo

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If you like reading this, pin it!  The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion Book Review.

Adding Rechargeable Automatic Lights To My Flat – A Review…

July 29, 2019
Rechargeable Automatic Lights To My Flat

Last year I bought a smart plug and loved how I was able to turn on lights at home whilst on the train.  I recently bought two more in the sales and plan to create a sequence where they all turn on welcoming me home!  I am overly excited about this!  Part of the charm is one light that I put on every night is a little in the way.  One of those awkward behind the couch scenarios.  Once it is all set up I will be able to use my phone to switch it on.  Perfect! I want to go one step further and find rechargeable automatic lights for my flat.

If you read my original post about automating my home, you would be aware that whilst I love automation I am not a fan of listening devices like Alexa.  It takes a bit of research to find devices that aren’t listening!  I recently watched The Block, one of my favourite Australia home makeover shows and loved how they used automatic lights in the walk in wardrobes.  Genius!  I’ve only ever seen automatic lights in offices where buildings are trying to cut back on their energy consumption.  This technology is now available to homes and is quite cheap.

Rechargeable Automatic Lights To My Flat

If you want to it is possible to get an electrician to replace light switches with automation panels.  These sense when you are in the room and the lights come on.  My friend’s husband is an electrician and she has these in her bathroom!  I loved the idea of having automated lights in my laundry cupboard.  I often walk in there and use the light from another room, but it isn’t quite enough!  Often I am squinting, or realise half way through hanging out my laundry that I need more light.  During winter I don’t like turning on my main bedroom lights in the morning as they are too bright, but this makes dressing hard!  An automated light in my wardrobe would be fab.

When I started to research stand alone automated lights there seemed to be plenty available.  However, I realised I didn’t want to have battery operated ones.  I don’t like the idea of batteries and how they aren’t reusable.  Have you ever opened up something only to find the lack of use has meant the battery had corroded everywhere?  For me this happens often.  It’s dangerous to touch and also means the tech has been ruined.  In the UK I found one rechargeable automated puck light set.  Perfect!

Rechargeable Automatic Lights To My Flat.

After these automated puck lights arrived I started charging them with their usb cords.  Each one only needed a couple of hours and then turned green.  As I waited I worked out the optimal position with a little placement testing. The best way was to use a wedge of bluetak on the back, pop the light up and then re-enact opening or entering the cupboard.  Once I was happy I stuck the magnet to the wall permanently and like magic was done!  I’ve had them for over a month now and love them.  I still get surprised when I reach into my wardrobe and I can see everything!

What automation technology do you have in your house?  I’d love to get some ideas on what I can do next.  PF xo

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Six Things I Wish I Knew When I Moved To London…

July 22, 2019
Picture of me standing in front of a red english telephone box.  Six Things I Wish I Knew When I Moved To London.

I’ve lived in the UK four times and this current stint has been over eight years!  Often people ask me for tips and I’ve come up with this list that is not the norm.  London is a very busy city.  Often it can feel unfriendly, dirty and able to suck the life from you.  However, if you can get passed there are plenty of fabulous things to do including free art galleries, film premiers and monopoly board pub crawls!

Budgeting and Banking

Unlike Australia I have found the banking system in the UK incredibly slow.  A purchase made on Monday can appear the following Friday in online banking.  This can create a false economy and result in overdrawn fees as you overspend.  I recommend you keep a detailed budget as the £25 per day overdraft fees are legal and painful!

Visas and Citizenship.

Work out what visa you can get and then keep this to yourself.  It is no one’s business but plenty of people will ask you.  I know someone who was very open about her visa and one of her colleagues, who didn’t like her, reported her to HMRC.  She hadn’t done anything wrong, but the onus was on her to prove this.  Incredibly stressful and had she kept it to herself her colleague wouldn’t have had anything to report.

The citizenship application and process takes a minimum of six and a half years, not five.  A lot of articles online will tell you it is five.  Five years is the point where you can apply for the citizenship.  You are first granted indefinite leave to remain and then a year later can apply for citizenship.  It can take six months for your citizenship application to be reviewed or you can pay extra to go to an office and get a same day answer. I did this as my job required travel and I couldn’t be without my passport for six months!

Filter Your Water and Avoid Ready Made Foods.

After reading reports of the levels of toxins in London water I now filter everything I drink.  You can buy water from the supermarket however I’d avoid this due to the environmental cost of plastic bottles.  Ready made foods and servings for one are available in every supermarket.  I got caught out as this convenience is not something offered in Australia.  Be careful as these foods take their tole and it is not unusual to put on a few kgs quickly!

Picture of me standing in front of the london wheel pretending to cup it in my hands.  Six Things I Wish I Knew When I Moved To London.

Bring Some Of Your Own Things And Your Clothes.

At the bare minimum you will hopefully be here for two years.  The style of London will influence you and your tastes will change.  Bring all your clothes as when you return home those precious items you kept will not fit or you won’t love them anymore.  Bringing your own wardrobe is also great to help save money and spend it on theatre tickets and nights out!

Consider bringing a few of your home possessions as well.  Leave the duvet but bring your gorgeous cover.  Leave the picture frames but bring the fabulous prints.  You will be able to quickly make your new room homely and yours with a few familiar possessions from home.

London Is The Consumer Capital Of The World!

I’ve never been hit by more advertising for everything then when I have lived in London.  Every tube station is situated on a high street, where every shop is repeated.  Advertising for new clothes, the latest theatre shows or M&S meal deal hits you as soon as you step out your front door.  Set yourself budgets from the outset for entertainment and food.  If you have spent all your money don’t get the free magazines like Time Out which are going to encourage you to go out more.  Always have some savings because a last-minute ticket home for an unwell relative or a broken boiler can create a massive dent in the budget.

Give Yourself 6 Months To Settle In.

I currently live in my 22nd house and have learnt that it takes at least six months to settle into life in a new city or country.  You will be making new friends, trying to impress in a new job and completing your chores in your flat share!  Life is going to be a little stressful and it is highly likely one of these decisions won’t be right.  Probably the flatshare!  Take it all in your stride and know that it will all settle down in six months.

What do you wish you knew before you moved to London? I’d love to hear all your tips. PF xo

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Six Things I Wish I Knew When I Moved To London...