Christmas time

Christmas Gift Guide – for the gals!

It’s Christmas time… if you’re anything like me, you’ve eaten too many gingerbread men (best served with a side of champagne), you’ve left your shopping to the last minute and are also doing your best to avoid the shops!!

I’ve put together a pick of my favourite selections from some of my sponsors – find the perfect gift for your bestie, sister or favourite lady right here, without even leaving the couch!!

gift-guide-xmas-small

  1.  Tartelette Bloom Clay Eyeshadow palette
  2. Mon purse pouch – you can customise and monogram these babies!
  3. Mon purse monogrammed luggage tag – never lose your bag again!
  4. Running bare high rise leggings
  5. Ministry of Style Waves Playsuit 
  6. Becca x Jaclyn Hill face pallet – perfection for the festive season!
  7. Quay Eyewear “My Girl” sunglasses

Or don’t be afraid to do a little self gifting – you deserve it after all!!

Wellbeing Apps

Best of the Best Wellbeing Apps

Do you use wellbeing apps?  Wellbeing apps are huge at the moment and with improvements in technology are getting better by the day.  However, it’s often hard to know where to start (and it’s so much easier to scroll through Instagram than to do something mentally taxing)!!  I’ve been road testing a few apps lately, and have found that being able to use my smart phone to fit in health and wellbeing activities around my busy schedule has been fantastic.  I can practice mindfulness anywhere, get a free workout without going to a gym, and become more mindful of my health behaviours.

No more Snapchat, it’s time to improve your wellbeing!!

Here are a few of my favourite apps:

Mindfulness and Psychological Wellbeing

  • Smiling Mind (Cost – Free!!).  This is my favourite mindfulness app – it has mindfulness meditations designed for adults, as well as for children and teens.  You’re guided through simple to follow mindfulness activities that require no previous experience with mindfulness.  The great thing about this app is that you can follow structured programs, or you can choose “bite-size” meditations from as short as 2 minutes. Once you get your practice up, you can also choose from longer and less guided meditations.  The app keeps track of your practice time, and you even receive reward badges as you build up your practice time!!  I also find the voice of the narrator to be quite pleasant!!
  • Calm (Cost – Free for a selection of meditations, then $14.99 per month on a subscription basis).   Calm is another mindfulness meditation app which is great for beginners.  With the basic free app, you can complete the “seven days of calm” course, which will take you through a 10 minute daily mindfulness meditation, which includes information about learning mindfulness before each meditation commences. You can also access a loving kindness meditation and a body scan meditation for free.  My favourite thing about this app, is the relaxing sounds and visuals which play in the background during the meditations (you can choose from a gently flowing lake, falling rain, waves on a beach and all sorts of other delightful sounds!!).   If you decide to subscribe, you can access mindfulness courses to help with anxiety reduction, increasing focus, happiness and other great topics.
  • Mind the Bump – (Cost – FREE):  This is another great app from the creators of the Smiling Mind App, in collaboration with Beyond Blue.  It’s specially designed for new mothers, pregnant mothers-to-be and for partners too, to support their emotional wellbeing when becoming parents!!  I thoroughly recommend this for mummas and mummas to be.  As well as guided meditations, it also includes introductory information about mindfulness and info on the importance of mindfully caring for your baby.
  • Mood Mint (Cost – $2.99) – Mood Mint is a game designed to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and uses a technique called Cognitive Bias Modification, which trains the brain to develop a tendency to focus more on positive information in your day to day life, rather than negative information!!

Fitness and Exercise

  • Freeletics (Cost – Free – with additional in-app purchases) – Freelethics gives you short workouts which can be tailored to your fitness level!!  You can choose from a variety of routines, and no equipment is needed!!  I just started on the “Aphrodite” which consists of a series of Burpees, Squats and Situps.  If you don’t know what the hell a “burpee” is, luckily the app also provides short videos of how to perfect each technique (Phew!!).
  • FitBit (Free, but you have to buy the Fitbit first :( approx. $80 – $370).  I recently started tracking my daily steps, using the FitBit app.  Since doing this, I’ve actively been finding ways to increase my walking throughout the day.   As well as tracking your steps, the FitBit app can store all sorts of information – you can enter your daily calories, and based on your height, weight and daily exercise, the app will calculate how many calories you should be consuming.  You can also track your quality of sleep, how much water you’ve consumed and set goals around exercise and weight.  I’ve been using this app every day for about a month now and find it’s helped me to increase my exercise, as well as become more mindful of what I’m eating each day.
  • Pocket Yoga (Cost – $4.99).  Pocket Yoga takes you through easy to follow yoga routines from 5 minutes, up to an hour long!!  This is a great way to practice yoga at home (however, I would suggest doing some initial classes first to correctly learn the poses if you’re a beginner).

Close your Facebook/Candy Crush/Snap Chat App immediately!!  There are a world of amazing health and wellness apps out there which you can draw on to improve both your mental and physical health!!  Do you use any of these?  Do you have any favourite health and wellbeing apps I haven’t listed here?  I’d love to hear about them!!

what i learned in 2015

A few small things i’ve learned in 2015

Did you spend time making new years resolutions?  This year I decided that before setting more goals that I’d take some time to reflect on 2015.  It’s been a massive year…Dash is now 15 months old, I’ve taken on a new job, got through more of my Masters degree, done some more travel and spent time expanding Pop Therapy…but what is it that I’ve learned from these things?  Here are a few of my rants below!!

1)  I can never be in control of everything….but that’s ok.  The house will never stay perfectly clean, I will never have everything on my “to do” list done, no matter how many times I go to Coles, I’m probably still out of milk, and/or paper towels,  I wanted to go to the gym but I caught a cold, then Dash caught a cold, then Dash cried, then I cried, and the list goes on…but that’s ok.  I spend a good deal of my life agonising over the small things, when really, life is pretty good.

jem 2

2)  Mindfulness is a powerful tool to unhook from worries and anxiety provoking thoughts…it’s easy to learn, practice and integrate into your daily life….finding an activity that helps you to experience flow is a great way to become more connected with the present and engage in mindful awareness.

3)  Being a parent is !@#$ing hard, but seeing Dash’s happy little face and hearing his sweet little voice is enough to melt my heart (even if he did just mash bolognese sauce into my hair and whizz all over the floor!!).  Nonetheless, it takes time to adjust to motherhood, and anyone who tells you it’s a breeze, would be lying!!

4)  Connections with others matter more than everything else.  I’m lucky to have some amazing friends and a truly wonderful husband in my life….without people we care about to share our experiences with, nothing is as special.

5)  If you’re attempting DIY fake tan application (in my case, if you’re looking to go from “translucent”, to “fair”)…use a tanning glove!!  Who knew these things even existed!?  They’re about $5, and would have saved me many a streak and uneven application….a tan glove!!?  who knew!?

6)  Having turned 30 this year, there’s no point in trying to be someone I’m not….be true to yourself, and life is a hell of a lot easier.

7)  I bought this sparkling water machine for my husband Lachy, and who knew how wonderful sparkling water on tap could be!?

8)  Upon becoming a parent, my hobbies and interests went from: guitar, yoga, travel…to: sleep, being able to eat an entire meal without interruption, grocery shopping without a baby etc.  The point of this is that I’m realising how important it is to do the things you care about, even though life is busy.  Doing things you’re passionate about is important for wellbeing, and for our sense of self.

9) I’m all for healthy eating, but these cookies are the bomb

What did you learn in 2015?  Do any of these resonate with you?  The cookies!?

Agave

How to Make a Pebble Garden

So my gardening skills are not exactly desirable…. since moving from a small apartment to a townhouse with garden beds, I have killed the following plants:  Daisies, coriander (cilatro for my American readers), basil (yes, they said it was a hardy plant, but I took the challenge and was able to destroy it), pansies and a miscellaneous pretty yellow flower which did not live long enough to mention its name to me.

*Cue gardening TV Show theme song music*

Following my plant killing rampage, I decided to set about creating a desert style pebble garden.

Agave

Agave

You might have seen my back garden makeover post – I was able (with the help of my mum!!) to resurect the back garden, which is now home to flowers and herbs, but despite my many attempts at watering our front garden bed, in the scorching Sydney summer, the poor flowers died a sad death!!

I decided that maintaining two (albeit small!!) gardens was just two hard, and set on a quest to create a Pintrest worthy, super-low maintenance, no green-thumb required pebble garden.

This is how I did it (with the help of my lovely friend Agatha, as seen here, having a tea party with me):

Agave

Shopping List:

  • 1 roll of Weed mat
  • Weed mat pegs
  • 3 Agave plants
  • 1 yucca plant
  • Several pots of Little Red Ruby for hedging
  • A LOT of white river pebbles (p.s – however many of these things you think you might need….order more!!  I underestimated how many I needed, ordering 100kg for a small garden bed….I actually needed 1 tonne!!  Unfortunately this ended being quite expensive – I found that Masters Hardware have the best price on the white pebbles for anyone who is looking
  • Some packaging foam (“why the foam??” you ask – all will be revealed shortly!!)
  • Stepping stones or pavers

The how to:

  1. Select your plants (I choose Agaves, a yucca, and some red ruby to use for edging – they are all low maintenance plants which do not require much anything…rain water is generally enough in the cooler seasons, but you can give them a quick water once a week in hot weather).  The Agaves can grow quite large with time, and the yucca plant will grow tall.
  2. Map out where you will place your plants and dig deep enough holes in your soil…then..*drum roll,* break up some pieces of your packing foam, and put this in the bottom of your hole.  (“What the….!?”)  This will help the soil to drain better!!  (Thanks to my friend Agatha for this tip!!).  Plant your plants!!  Give them a good watering to help them settle in.
  3. Roll out your weed mats (cut holes where your plants are).    You will need scissors to cut the mats to size (they come in a big roll, about a metre wide.  Make sure you cover all the soil where you plan on placing your pebbles.  The weed mat should help deter weeds from growing through in between your pebbles, and will save you lots of work down the track.  Pin the weed mat down with pegs.
  4. Place your pavers over the top of the weed mats, rather than cutting the mats around them (I did this so that weeds did not grow between the gaps of the pavers and the mats)
  5. Spread your river pebbles down over the top of your weed mats.  You will need a lot of pebbles to cover any gaps (I still need to purchase more as you will see from the gaps in my photos!!!).

and you are done….now you can sit back and not water or weed your super-low maintenance garden!!

yucca

Do you have any low-maintenance garden tips you would like to share?  Have you done a garden makeover recently?

sleep 3

Sleep Better

Having trouble waking up feeling refreshed?  A good night’s sleep makes life a whole lot better!!  Since the arrival of our new bubba, unfortunately my sleep routine is not as good as it used to be and I find myself reaching for a second (and often third coffee) most days.

sleep 2

“If only I could get another hour sleep…..if only my hair looked this good every morning”

Whilst for the short term my sleep may remain disrupted, here are some tips to help improve your sleep routine – having a good sleep routine and sticking to good habits before bed can help you to get to sleep and stay asleep easier.

  •   Make your bedroom dark.  Consider using curtains with a thick backing, or installing blinds or shutters.  Light coming in from street lights, other houses and apartments can play havoc with your sleeping patterns.  Artificial light can mess with our Melatonin levels (the chemical that helps us sleep!) and confuse our biological clocks.
  •  Keep the temperature cool.  If you are too warm (or too cold) you may have trouble sleeping.  A slight drop in body temperature facilitates sleep.  Avoid excessive layers or using heating if it isn’t necessary.
  •  Eliminate electronic devices such as televisions and computers.   Avoid falling asleep with the television or radio on.  Get rid of devices with bright lights and alarm clocks with LED lighting.
  • In the hour before you go to bed, avoid overly stimulating activities – try and minimise television and computer use as this will stimulate your brain making you feel more awake.  Try quiet activities such as reading instead.  Try dimming the lighting in your house/apartment in the hour before bedtime, to reduce artificial light and to signify to your body that sleep time in near.
  • Avoid stressful activities before bed!! Just before bedtime is not the time to reply to emails, finish assignments or homework or engage in a discussion about finances!  Avoid discussing potentially stressful topics before bed as this is likely to leave you tossing and turning.  Keep stressful discussions for the morning when you’re at your full alert level and have the resources to engage in problem solving.
  •  Establish a “before sleep” routine.  By performing a routine before bed each night, your mind will begin to associate this routine with sleep.  For example, this might be having a cup of herbal tea, putting on your pyjamas, reading for 20 minutes, washing your face, brushing your teeth, dimming the lights etc.  Establish a “bed time” and waking time.  If you go to sleep at 10:30pm every night and wake up at 6:30am every morning, your body will become used to this sleep pattern.
  • Reduce caffeine from the afternoon.  Avoid coffee, black tea and cola after about 3pm as these stimulants may affect your ability to get to sleep at night.
  • Reflect on your alcohol use.  Excessive drinking can disrupt your sleep patterns.  Whilst alcohol can make you feel tired, it produces both stimulant and depressive effects.  If you’re drinking on a nightly basis, considering having alcohol free nights during the week.
  • Ensure you have exposure to natural light during the daytime.  Exposure to natural light during the day ceases the production of melatonin, a chemical produced by the body which facilitates sleep.  During the darkness, the body then produces melatonin which causes drowsiness and sleep.
  • Keep the bedroom for sleep and sex only.  Avoid other activities such as working in bed, doing homework in bed, watching tv, studying etc for other rooms.  Otherwise you may begin to associate bed with work/stress etc!!
  • Keep your bedroom clean and free of clutter and distractions.  Take the time to create a peaceful and serene environment that facilitates rest.  Try decordating with soft textiles, warm blankets, lots of cushions and scented candles!!

sleep

Do you have a pre-sleep ritual?  Would you try some of these tips?  Sweet dreams!!

Kimono and eye mask - Peter Alexander
Cushions - Country Road
almond milk 1

How to…make almond milk!!

Is anyone else on the almond milk bandwagon!?  I’ve been drinking almond milk for two months now, because I’m following a dairy and soy free elimination diet.

I’ve found out which local cafes do almond milk coffees, and have really become used to the taste!!  I’ve been buying almond milk for home, but sometimes even the unsweetened stuff still tastes sugary.  (Just an aside – my pick of the best almond milk coffee in the inner west is a tie between the Marrick on Marrickville Rd, or Wolf and Stone in Dulwich Hill!!)

Sadly, you do pay big $$ for almond milk coffee!!  $4.20 for a small coffee seems to be the going rate, arg!!!  So I decided to give it a whirl and make my own!!

Step 1 – I needed to buy….a nut bag!!!  Yes, a nut bag – it’s a thing – as I typed “buy a nut bag” into google with trepidation, I was relieved to see that you can buy these things (it’s basically a muslin cloth bag for draining the milk) for a few dollars.  If you can’t be bothered buying a nutbag, some muslin cotton or even a stocking can be used.

So once I had my nutbag, I was all ready to prepare a delicious batch of almond milk!!!

almond milk 2

 

Beaker - Freedom

This is how you do it…

  • Activate those almonds!!  Pete Evans Style!!  (For the lay person, this means soak some almonds in water, and BOOM, they activate into a superfood!!!) So for one cup of almonds, soak them in 3-4 cups of water depending on how creamy you would like the consistency.  Soak them for at least 8 hours, or even longer!!!
  • Put the almonds and water, along with a generous pinch of salt into a high powered blender (I used my trusty Magic Bullet!!) and blitz the hell out of them under the water looks milky and frothy and the almonds have broken down to pulp.
  • Place your trusty nut bag over a glass jug or container and pour the milk through the bag to strain. Slowly raise the bag, and squeeze to strain the remaining milk from the bag.
  • If you want some extra flavour you can add a dash of vanilla, some cinnamon or whatever you would like.  I added the tiniest bit of cinnamon to mine!!

Voila, delicious almond milk for all!!!

garden1 copy

Garden Makeover

When we moved into our new home in a slightly more suburban neighbourhood, we were delighted to finally have a courtyard….however, in the typical style of the neighbourhood, the courtyard was bare cement!!  Not too baby friendly and no fun for entertaining.

We decided on an easy solution….astroturf!!!  With our new low maintanance synthetic lawn and the addition of a herb garden and some impatiens, the courtyard is now a great place to relax with a glass of wine on a summer night.

Even better?  Little Dash loves hanging out in the garden!!garden2

So far we’ve planted strawberries, mint (hello mojitos), rosemary, chives, parsley, basil and chillies.  garden3

garden5

Can you tell I haven’t been sun baking??garden4

Hat - Ace of Something - Cookies and Cream
Top - Country Road (similar here)
Shorts - One teaspoon - Brando Bandits
Yellow Chair - Ikea
Flamingos - Holy Kitsch
desk cropped and resized

Set Goals, not Resolutions

It’s the new year which means new year’s resolutions.  How many years have you found yourself setting resolution after resolution to lose weight, make more money, give up junk food etc, only to find that it’s February and you haven’t been to the gym in weeks, and have just eaten a chocolate brownie!!

Why is it that new year’s resolutions don’t work?  Simply put, they are often overly generalised or vague, and don’t have the specificity and planning which is needed to help us succeed.

My advice – set goals (and make them good ones!!).

desk2

Here are some simple principles to put in to play which have been demonstrated to help people achieve their goals.

1)  Goals must be specific!!  Want to lose weight?  How much do you want to lose?  In what time frame do you want to achieve it?  How will you measure it?
Goals that are both specific and difficult lead to the highest performance (Locke, 1996).  Making a goal specific helps us direct our action clearly and makes us more likely to achieve a difficult goal.

2)  We need to be committed to our goals, particularly when they are difficult.  Our commitment to goals comes through our belief that the goal is important (Locke, 1996).  When setting your goals, reflect on how important you feel it is that you achieve it.  Did you set the goal yourself, or are you trying to please someone else?

3)  Self efficacy and our feeling of competence to achieve a goal fosters goal achievement.  Do you feel that you have the skills or abilities to achieve your goal?  If not, what will help you to feel more confident?  Do you need a mentor, or perhaps additional resources like materials or information.  The more empowered you feel, the more likely you are to achieve your goal!

4)  Set implementation intentions.  Implementation intentions are the small situational cues we set in line with our goals, which prompt us to take action.  For example, your goal is to spend one hour each day studying.  Your implementation intentions may include the exact time you plan on studying (6pm each night), where you will do it (the desk in your room, with the TV off), the materials you need to do it (notepad, textbook, highlighters).  Setting implementation intentions has been shown to increase goal attainment on difficult tasks (Gollwitzer, 1999).

5)  Write it down and share it with others!!  You’re much more likely to succeed if you put your goal in writing, and enlist the support of others by sharing it with them!!

I hope this has helped with a touch of motivation to start 2015!!  What are you goals for the new year?

References

Gollwitzer, P.M.  (1999).  Implementation intentions:  Simple effects of simple plans.  American Psychologist, 54(7), 493-503

Locke, E.  (1996).  Motivation through conscious goal setting.  Applied and Preventative Psychology, 5(2), 117-124

xmas cookies

Christmas Inspiration

Christmas time is officially here!!  What are your Christmas traditions?  As I get older I have become a sucker for Christmas time and absolutely love decorating the tree, shopping for presents and baking Christmas cookies.  I thought I’d share some photos of our (small) Christmas tree and a few of the festive touches I’ve added to our home this year.
Even though Dash is only 12 weeks old, Christmas time seems so much more magical now we’ve become a family!!
I wanted to order birth announcement cards for family and friends after Dashiel was born but had missed the boat.  I ordered these fantastic Christmas cards in a gift tag shape from Minted and thought they would make a wonderful substitute.
The wonderful photo of Dash was taken by Victoria Poulton Photography
xmas hero
xmas2
I’ve started an annual tradition with friends – baking cookies!!  This year, we did Vanilla Snap Cookies and Gingerbread Men.  The decorating is the fun part!!
Christmas Tree Decorations – Country Road
String Lights (wall) – Freedom
Gift Cards – Minted.com
tensimplehabits

10 Simple Habits to Feel Happier

Want to feel happier?  A study by the University of Hertfordshire identified 10 habits proven to make people happier and examined how frequently people perform those habits.
Here are the ten habits!   Why not give them a try?
  • Giving: do things for others
  • Relating: connect with people
  • Exercising: take care of your body
  • Appreciating: notice the world around
  • Trying out: keep learning new things
  • Direction: have goals to look forward to
  • Resilience: find ways to bounce back
  • Emotion: take a positive approach
  • Acceptance: be comfortable with who you are
  • Meaning: be part of something bigger

 

The survey showed that Self Acceptance may have a strong link to happiness and life satisfaction, but that people often don’t put it into practice.  The authors of the study gave the following tips to help increase your self acceptance.
  • Be as kind to yourself as you are to others. See your mistakes as opportunities to learn. Notice things you do well, however small
  • Ask a trusted friend or colleague to tell you what your strengths are or what they value about you
  • Spend some quiet time by yourself. Tune in to how you’re feeling inside and try to be at peace with who you are.