January 27th, 2015

December Giveaway #6 – Subtle Energies (winner)

Thank you to everyone who entered the Subtle Energies giveaway, and a big congratulations to Katherine, who was the competition winner! I will be contacting you soon for your details. Again, thanks to everyone who took the time to enter. Better luck next time!
January 26th, 2015

Planner Chat: Monthly Tasks

One feature of all of my previous planners that I never felt like I was utilising properly is the ‘notes’ section. I decided that I wanted to try and get some benefit from that area, and one of the ways in which I am doing that is by tracking my monthly “chores”. There are certain things that I need to do around the house once a month or so, and if I don’t write them down, life often gets in the way of me remembering to do them. So I figured writing out a neat little chart (with handy boxes for ticking as we go), was the best option. Here are the items on my monthly tasks list -

– Write Meal Plan
– Clean Out Fridge (toss out anything past it’s use-by date, wipe down shelves etc)
– Clean Out Pantry (as above)
– Mop Bathroom Floor
– Clean Out Freezer (take a look at what we have leftover from the previous month, adjust the monthly shopping list accordingly)
– File & Shred (clean out the paperwork drawers on my desk, file and shred where necessary)
– Movies (clear out any unwanted DVDs from the DVD drawer, replace with digital files)
– Wardrobe (purge where necessary)
– Clear out the Linen Press
– Coles Order (place the monthly order of groceries)
– TBL Filing (file away any press releases I received for TBL)
– Deep Clean Shower
– Bathroom Swaps (switch out any items I like to change monthly – razors, etc)
– Budget (check in on the previous month’s budget, and write up a new budget sheet for the following month)
– Makeup Brushes (deep clean all of my makeup brushes and my beauty blenders)

Hopefully having these all written out will be a big help in me keeping on top of everything!

January 25th, 2015

Thoughts of the week…

01) So it’s looking more and more like The X Files will be returning to television. I am very, VERY excited for this, and I hope everything runs smoothly so that Mulder and Scully can reside happily on my screen once more.

02) Speaking of all things UFO, this amazing collection of documented sighting of UFOs since the 1940s is pretty awesome.

03) Serial fans probably saw this interesting bit of news pop up during the week. Seems like Asia listened to the Serial Podcast too, and is ready to give evidence about that day in the library.

04) Pepsi says hello!

05) I absolutely need this lipstick. Thanks Emma Stone.

06) Jessie Baylin and Nathan Followill’s house is pretty spectacular.

07) I am absolutely addicted to SnapChat. If you’re a snapchatter be sure to leave your username in the comments below and I’ll add you!

08) Will Arnett is starring in a new show, and I’m very excited about it. I love Will Arnett.

09) This was my favourite viral Taylor Swift video of the week.

10) We headed down south over the weekend (although my midsummer headcold was enough to bring us home early), and it was nice to get away for a bit. I hope you all had a happy and safe Australia Day weekend!

January 22nd, 2015

Autumn/Winter Wardrobe

Natalie’s recent post about her wardrobe goals for this year got me thinking about my own wardrobe, and what I’m planning to do in 2015. Thinking back to what I’ve work over the past year, it becomes increasingly clear that I really do reach for the same pieces over and over again. With that in mind, I’ve decided to go back to my old-school style of planning my seasonal wardrobe. A good ol’ list! I find it most effective to plan for the next season a little while in advance, mostly so I can take advantage of all of the northern hemisphere clothing sales that start up as the season ends. It’s a great way to snag a bargain, that’s for sure. Here is the general overview of what my Autumn/Winter wardrobe will include -

3 x Black GAP Pencil Skirts (need 1)
3 x Dark Denim Skinny-Leg Jeans (need 2)

5 x Blouses
5 x Casual Tops (need 2)
4 x ‘Event’ Tops
3 x Cardigans (need 2)
3 x Oversized Sweaters (need 2)
3 x LBD (need 1)
1 x Winter Coat (need 1)

1 x Anorak
1 x Black Blazer
4 x Black Opaque Tights (need 2)
1 x Cashmere Scarf (need 1)
2 x Black Leather Ballet Flats (need 1)

Silver Metallic Leather Ballet Flats
Black Leather Ankle Boots
2 x Weekend Bag
3 x Clutch (need 1)
2 x Statement Necklace
1 x Oversized Statement Watch
1 x Pave Disk Necklace (need 1)

And that’s about all I’ll be wearing during the upcoming autumn/winter season. What do you think of this method of wardrobe planning? Would it work for you?

January 21st, 2015

Meal Planning/Grocery Shopping

Buckle up guys, because this is going to be a long one. I decided that 2015 would be the year of monthly meal planning. I have always planned our meals, but last year I did mostly weekly planning which did work fine for me, but I want to give monthly planning a try to see how it went. The benefit for me when it comes to monthly meal planning is mostly that I can bulk-order groceries from Coles and actually have the delivery fee be worthwhile. Last year we resorted to going in-store because we couldn’t justify the $11 Woolworths delivery fee each week for the small amount of groceries we were ordering. To be honest, I don’t mind grocery shopping, but having to try and fit it in on a Saturday morning just doesn’t work for me. I usually write up a plan the week before the new month, so on January 27th I will be planning for February’s meals. Here is a step-by-step run down of how I do it.

Step 1 – Set up the monthly plan: I keep my meal plan in an email format, and at the end of each month I write in the dates for each day for the following month. I’m sure there is a more convenient way of doing this, but this works for me because I can work on the plan during any free moments that I get at work. Once I’ve written in the dates, I go through and add in the ‘staple’ meals that we have every week/month. For example, we have steak and salad (or vegetables) once a week. Sebastian is a huge fan of steak, so I like to include this meal weekly because I know it’s something he enjoys. We have a roast every second Sunday, so that goes straight into the planner without any further thought.

Step 2 – Check the specials: I shop at Coles (I was a Woolworths girl for many years but the quality, price, and service that I’ve received from Coles lately was enough to convince me to make the change), so the week of my meal-planning I’ll hop onto their website and take a look through the current specials catalogue. I find this is a great way to save money, and can also be a prompt for meal ideas if you’re feeling stuck. For example, in the current catalogue soft taco kits have been reduced by $3.13 each. If I work soft tacos into our meal plan, say once a week, I can save $12.52 for the month. Which in the long run could work out to be a saving of $150 a year. If I can get a saving like this for 4 kinds of meals for the month, I can reduce my monthly food bill by $50. It all adds up, and I try to get as many items on sale as I can. For the most part we eat a lot of basic meals without too many processed additions, but if we’re going to have things like pasta or these kind of pre-made meals, I’m definitely going to get them on sale.

Step 3 – Fill in the blanks: As I notice things that are on sale that we could work into our weekly meals, I start to add them into the meal plan. As a general rule, I plan two full weeks of meals and just repeat them all again for the following fortnight. If you’re feeding fussy eaters, this will work out pretty well because you’ll have less options to choose from, and are probably used to repeating meals from week to week. I like to mix it up every month to keep things “interesting”. Here is an example of two weeks worth of meals for us –

Monday 2nd February – Steak & Veggies/Salad
Tuesday 3rd February – Chicken Enchiladas
Wednesday 4th February – Southern Fried Chicken & Salad
Thursday 5th February – Lamb Steaks & Cous Cous Salad
Friday 6th February – Oven Baked Fish, Chips & Salad
Saturday 7th February – Pulled Pork Rolls
Sunday 8th February – Beef Roast w. Veggies

Monday 9th February – Steak & Veggies/Salad
Tuesday 10th February – Burritos
Wednesday 11th February – Portuguese Chicken Bowls w. spanish rice
Thursday 12th February – Greek Lamb Wraps
Friday 13th February – Take Away!
Saturday 14th February – Chilli Con Carne
Sunday 15th February – Homemade Burgers

Step 4 – Grocery lists: Writing a grocery list for me (with this meal plan in place) is a breeze. I buy all of our meat and other basic grocery items from Coles online, and do a weekly shop at our local market for fruit and vegetables. With the meat that I order (mainly because we have a small freezer space available, and also I don’t like keeping meat frozen for too long), I only order 2 weeks worth. I will either pick up the remaining meat from the local market at the end of the second week of the month, or I’ll pop into Coles and do a very quick meat-only shop. (This is a lot less hassle than having to do a full grocery shop every week, let me tell you!) I start out by writing in any of the essentials that we’re run out on (we keep track of these on a running list on the side of the fridge) – which I will buy on sale wherever possible. I then go through and add in the food that we get for Breakfast/Lunch/Snacks. We’re creatures of habit, so these remain the same for the most part and I don’t have to think about them at all (eg: Milk, wholemeal saladas, soy yogurt tubs etc). I then go through the meal plan for the month and write down what’s required for our dinners for the month. Eg: Beef Steak x 2, Chicken x 3, Lamb Steaks x 2, Burrito Kit x 2. I write two separate lists – one for Coles, and one for the market (I do this part one week at a time).

Step 5 – Shopping (the fun bit): There is always a way to make money by spending money. If you regularly shop at a large supermarket chain and haven’t opted in for the available extras, now is the time. I have both an Everyday Rewards card (which is linked to my Qantas frequent flyer account), and a Flybuys card. I always log in to FlyBuys before placing a grocery order to activate any offers that are available. EG: right now I can get double points for any order that I place online, OR I could opt-in for free delivery if I place an order over $100 (plus $2000 bonus points). Which I will do, as I am placing a month’s worth of groceries (more proof that shopping monthly is a better option). These kind of points systems come in handy, if you’re really keeping an eye on your budget. Right now I have enough points to earn 2 free movie tickets. Movie tickets are $20 each, and getting two for free would impact our entertainment budget for the month. Making money by spending money. I highly recommend it. The act of online shopping for the groceries is pretty straight forward. I make my way down my list, and add things to the cart as I go. For any items that I wasn’t able to spot in the specials catalogue, I’ll search for them – sort by price, and choose the cheapest/most appropriate option available.

How I reduced my grocery bill: The first thing that made a major difference for me was of course having this meal plan in place. Having a set menu is great because it means you’re not ducking to the shop every few days to buy ingredients (which can lead to spending extra money on yummy things you spot in-store), and you can make the most of the ingredients you do have by not buying an excess of various condiments/sauces/seasonings etc that never get finished up. Having a plan in place also means that you resort to take away/going out for food FAR less often (at least in my experience). Another thing that’s made a big impact on how much I’m spending is buying items on sale where possible. It takes a little bit more time and effort, but it’s well worth it in the long run. I also buy home-branded products where possible, but this is an ongoing experiment with what can/can’t be skimped on (word of warning: do NOT buy homebrand minced garlic). Having a clearly organised and well-stocked fridge/freezer/pantry makes a huge difference. Knowing what you already have is a great way to stop yourself buying more than what you actually need. I’ve also found that eating smaller portions has made a bit of a difference. Because we’ve reduced how much food we’re eating at dinner time, there are nearly always leftovers available for lunch the following day. This has stopped me spending money buying my lunch on the way to work. Sounds silly, but it’s made a big difference. Also, eating less processed foods. The majority of what we eat will be meat/vegetable based dishes. Cutting back on “extras” = cutting back on $. The most expensive items in any grocery shop for me used to be cleaning/personal products. I now buy these in bulk every year (household cleaning) or every few months (personal products). I buy all of our personal kinds of products (soap/deodorant/toothpaste etc) from Chemist Warehouse, because everything is always on sale. If you spend over $99 delivery is free, which is why buy in “bulk” every few months. Household cleaning products (washing powder/pine-o-clean etc) are purchased in Catch of the Day sales once a year or so (I’m now at the point where I have a nice little stash in the laundry, and will re-fill what is needed when I place my annual order this year). Honestly, the biggest and best tip I can offer is to be as organised as you can. It comes naturally to be on top of stuff like this, purely because it makes my life a lot easier and less stressful when I know it’s all under control -but I know that isn’t the same for everyone.

I hope this has been of some use to some of you out there. I love stuff like this, but I know it’s not for everyone. I’d love to hear how you all plan your weekly/fortnightly/monthly meals and if you have any tips for me on saving even MORE money than I already am!

January 20th, 2015

December Giveaway #4 – Jergens (winners)

We’re nearing the end of the December giveaways, and it’s time to announce the three winners of the Jergen’s Fragrance-Free Daily Moisture Lotions! Congratulations to Ally, Caitlin, and Maria – I will be contacting you all soon for your postal details. A big thank you to everyone else who entered, and if you hurry there is still time to enter both the Book and Subtle Energies giveaways that will be drawn soon. Thanks again, and good luck!
January 19th, 2015

FOTN – Friend’s Birthday Drinks

I wore a bright lip makeup look over the weekend, and thought I would share it with you all. I tend to wear a pretty neutral makeup look most of the time, but for special occasions I like to mix things up a little bit. This was my makeup look for Saturday night. I knew that I would be wearing a dress with red and pink accents (and a wonderfully CLASHING pink necklace that Sebastian hated), so I decided a bright pink lip was the way to go. On my face: Givenchy Photo Perfexion Foundation in Perfect Ivory, Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Concealer in Light, YSL Touche Eclat in #1, Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Powder, Hourglass Ambient Light Palette, Hourglass Ambient Light Blush in Ethereal Glow, MAC Eyeshadow in Blanc Type, Givenchy Magic Khol, Hourglass Brow Arch in Soft Brunette, Lancome Hypnose Mascara, and NARS Pure Matte Lipstick in Carthage.
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January 18th, 2015

Thoughts of the week…

01) Stacey sent me this link during the week, and I could not stop laughing. I do feel sorry for Kale Chips, but it’s such a typical beagle that I couldn’t help but laugh. I wish him the very best of luck in his journey to good health!

02) So the Golden Globes were on earlier in the week, and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler slayed it as per usual. My best dressed was Anna Kendrick. Her dress was an absolute DREAM.

03) Straya!

04) It’s all happening in TV world! Broadchurch season two has started! Parks & Recreation’s final season is upon us! And Girls season 4 has also kicked off. Now I’m waiting for House of Cards to be back on my screen and all will be right in the world.

05) Taylor Swift sent a fan $1989 to help pay off her student loans. This stirred up a variety of responses from her fans. What do you think about this gift?

06) One of my favourite Blogger/Youtubers went and got herself featured on In The Gloss!

07) We went to see ‘The Imitation Game’ during the week, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something to go and see.

08) This Thai elephant going on a car-crushing rampage is probably not as cute as I think it is. Especially not to the people who’s car he’s crushing.

09) Thanks to Kimberley for sharing this site with me during the week. I’m obsessed.

10) Up there with Kale Chips, this story of a dog riding the bus to the dog park (on her own) really made my week. What a cutie.

January 15th, 2015

Planner Chat – My planning sessions

If you follow me on Instagram, you’re probably aware that I have joined the cult of #planneraddicts. Ever since I stumbled across Jen_Plans instagram feed, I’ve become absolutely obsessed with my Erin Condren planner (and the stickers to go with it). Now, these planners are not cheap. Well they’re actually not TOO BAD in the price area, but the shipping to get them to Australia is pretty steep. So you have to be absolutely sure that you want one, and that you’re going to use it often enough to get your money’s worth. I use mine every day, so I could easily justify the cost. If you’re keen to get one for yourself and would like to get 10% off, feel free to use my affiliate link to do so! Alright, back to business. I tend to sit down with my planner twice a week: once on Sunday and again mid-week on a Wednesday night, and this system works really well for me. I thought I’d take you through how I plan my week, step-by-step.

Monthly Spread – I start off my planning sessions by looking at the month overview to see what is coming up that week. I fill this section out either at the beginning of each month (with set dates like when my mortgage is due/birthdays etc), or as something comes up (a social event, a bill that is due etc). From here I get a good idea as to what the week is going to be like, and the kind of things I’ll need to plan for.

Pick out which stickers I want to use – Once I have a rough idea of what is happening that week, I’ll go through my collection of stickers and set aside any that I think I’ll want to use. There are some stickers that I every week, but if there is something special coming up I’ll pick something out to go with that particular event. I get a lot of questions about where I get my stickers from, and basically the answer is ETSY. Etsy is a real goldmine when it comes to planner stickers. I either search for ‘planner stickers’ and browse through the latest items listed, or I visit my favourite stores to see what they have available. I tend to purchase the majority of my stickers from KrissyAnneDesigns, LifePlannerWashiTape, KarolinasKrafts, AlexStudio, and ScribblePrintsCo etc.

Weekly To-Do List carry over + add – Each week I have a running to-do list, and I go through and carry across any of the items that I didn’t manage to check off for the week. Then I add any of my standard weekly chores that may not have been applicable for the previous week (like paying the mortgage, etc), and pop any new items that I also need to do that week. I love a good to-do list, and having this running list is great for me because I look at my planner so often, it’s a big reminder to get everything done.

Weather (Mon-Wed/Wed-Sun) – I check the weather app on my phone (I use ‘weather au’) and pop in the weather forecast for half of the week. Either Monday-Wednesday on my Sunday planning session, or Thursday-Sunday if I’m doing my mid-week check in. If there is a particular weather forecast that I need to plan for (extreme heat/storms etc), I tend to pop a little weather sticker along the top of the day as a heads-up for myself to plan the day accordingly.

Late Shifts or Days Off Monday-Friday – Along with the weather at the top of each day, I like to go through and mark any days of the week that I plan to stay late at work, and if I happen to have any days off of work I’ll make a note of those too. I tend to highlight these so they stand out a little bit more when I’m looking at the week as a whole.

Fill out week with standard events/to-dos + decorate with stickers – After that, I go through and fill out my week with any standard events that I have from week-to-week. These will be things like pay day, when my mortgage is due, days that I need to remember to water the potted plants in the garden, writing grocery lists, budgeting etc. I pop these in alongside any stickers that I feel like using for that particular week.

Fill out week with additional social events etc + decorate with stickers – Once I’ve filled out the standard events for the week I go through and add any new social events or weekly to-dos that I need to remember. These will be things like birthdays, social events that we need to attend, any bills that are due that week, or any travel dates that I need to remember.

Weekly Meals from monthly meal plan – The final step that I do is write out all of our meals for the week on the Erin Condren re-usable stickers that I purchased when I ordered my diary last year. These are great, but in my experience you can really only use them twice at the most before they stop working properly. I check my monthly meal plan, write out each meal for the week (or grab a previous week’s sticker if I can), and line them up in the bottom section of each day.

And that’s about it! If you have any questions about my planner, planning in general, or how I plan my week please let me know!

January 14th, 2015

December Giveaway #3 – Paula’s Choice (winner)

I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Paula’s Choice giveaway was one of the more popular of the December giveaways, and I’m not at all surprised. Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter and share the giveaway, and congratulations to Emma Bovary who was the winner of the Hydralight skin care pack! I will be contacting you soon. Thanks again to everyone else, and if you’re interested there is still time to enter the Jergens, Books, and Subtle Energies giveaways! Hop to it!