Made me smile: the last for 2012!

Kind of a big one today as I missed last weeks so I just shoved the photos into some multi-frames to avoid overloading this post with too many photos!

photo 1 (2)Callie my baby who brings light to my days with her morning cuddles, chocolate strawberries which although were technically made for a gift still made their way to my mouth…only a couple, hot summer weather which means it’s time for cold salads with grilled chicken and chipotle dressing as well as ice-creams for dessert.

photo 2 (2)The first swim of summer, a few of my presents, incredible sunsets, amazingly cute Christmas cards
photo 3 (2)Eating too many pavlova’s at Christmas and not feeling any guilt, staying at Mum’s for Christmas eve with some fluffy friends like Digby and this cute little rabbit called Chewbacca, random and cute presents from family (these taste like cupcake batter…seriously strange but delicious)

photo 4 (2)Christmas morning hot chocolates with baileys to get through the day, Christmas lunch (just one of the amazing meals I had on the day), making fluffy friends, NZ Christmas crackers
photo 5 (2)A new mug that sums up my daily life, breakfast with Edd while we are on holiday, iced chocolates cause it’s too hot to drink anything else and more cold salads with ham and pineapple.

Other things that made me smile: having 3 Christmas celebrations on the one day, a new mixer that is far too fancy for our Kitchen but that I can’t wait to bake with, wedding dress shopping and success, reflecting on the past year, Christmas albums, sleep-ins, re-watching Game of Thrones, getting much better post surgery and a family who spoil me rotten!

2012: A year to be thankful for

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So as 2012 comes to a close here are some of the things I am thankful for (in no particular order πŸ™‚ )

1. A fiancee who loves me and an imminent wedding to make me his wife after 6 years of being best friends

2. A 4 year university conjoint degree, over and finished so that I can graduate next May and move forward in my career path

3. A family (and future in-laws) who supports me through stressful exam times, wedding planning, surgery, moving and so much more

4. A cat who is my baby and who gives me cuddles everyday (and who is still the cutest cat I know, despite her lack of a tail)

5. A surgery that I have needed for a long time that finally occurred and that will make life a little easier and my health a lot better

6. A Grandma who despite her disease remains someone I can spend time with, drinking coffee and appreciating the little things in life

7. A future that is uncertain but exciting and a present that is challenging but rewarding

8. A home that despite its many challenges has been a roof over our head and a place where we could put up Christmas decorations

9. A country where violence is minimal and Guns are heavily controlled so that we can feel safe at home, in town and in schools

10. Friends online and off who are a constant source of laughter, girl talks, beauty advice and support for all aspects of my life. This year I have met an incredible bunch of people who have truly changed my life (even when they live in a different country)

11. A blog that started as a little idea and grew into a lot of little ideas. Still growing and still deciding what it should be but a source of joy and escape from day-to-day life for me and a way to learn how to become better in a variety of ways

12. New neighbors that are nowhere near as loud or unfriendly as the previous ones

13. A flat that is situated two minutes walk from a mall. Both a blessing and a curse but definitely something I am thankful for, along with the starbucks that comes with it

14. An amazing Thai restaurant just down the road that I will miss with a vengeance if I leave

15. A summer Christmas full of beach swims, pohutakawa trees, ham and salads for Christmas lunch, family spending time in the sun and blue skies

16. Some amazing books that have filled my time with adventures and my mind with thoughts and knowledge

17. Children who have made my life tiring but fun-filled and who teach me more than any lecturer or text book could

18. Emotional challenges that although testing have made me a stronger, better person, happier in myself

19. A university education that has enlarged my knowledge as well as my options and opportunities in life. It also showed me the path in life I would like to walk down at some point in the future to create change and inspire lives.

20. A life that is full of love, laughs, challenges, chances, friends, families, strangers, smiles, tears, growth, cats, changes and so much more. A life that is mine to screw up and learn from fixing. A life that is mine to share with people who hold my heart. A life that I will always be thankful for, every second that I receive to live it.

Xx

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Friday’s Letters: Coming to an End

Dear Christmas: I don’t care if Santa isn’t real, this time of year will always feel a little bit magical. Thankyou for giving me the chance to see three different family groups in one day. Dear Pavlova: it wouldn’t be Christmas without you. Dear Family: We are a crazy, mixed up bunch but I wouldn’t wish for anything different. Thankyou for spoiling me, as usual. Dear Car: Your battery may have died right before Christmas when no-one could fix it except for a very useful step-Grandad, but we all lose our motivation to get the motor started every now and again. I hope this new battery keeps you going for another few years. Dear Edd: Thankyou for my wonderful presents and for remembering things I mentioned that even I had forgotten. Your a keeper. Dear New Mixer: Welcome to the family. You are a little fancier than our other kitchen appliances but I look forward to making many cupcakes and other delicious items with your help. Dear Callie: I am glad you loved your Christmas presents! The treats have been going down very well and you look even cuter than normal in your brand new collar. Dear Summer: If you are going to give us such unbearably hot and humid weather at least give us the sunshine to go with it? Dear Future: Little by little plans are emerging and I now find you slightly less frightening than before. I am also happy that France is still a part of next year. Dear 2012: It has been an interesting and challenging year which has flown by frighteningly fast. Although I happy to start anew in 2013 I am thankful for the things I have learnt and the amazing people I have met over the last year.

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Albums of December in Christmas Spirit

Hi All!

So I am putting up my albums for December a bit early this month as I have included the two Christmas albums I have been loving and thought it made more sense for people to see what they are before it’s Christmas πŸ™‚

There won’t be a made me smile this week, not because I haven’t been smiling but because I have this to put up and I’m currently visiting lovely family and trying to muck around with transfering photos is a bit fussy. Next week i’ll just do another double post.Β  Anyway here are some of my favorite albums of the month.

1. Christmas Classics

This is my favorite Christmas album at the moment as it is full of a huge number of Christmas songs by Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King ColeΒ  all of whom I could listen to for hours on end. Their jazzy renditions of a bunch of classic Christmas tunes are fun and catchy without being annoying (which is my usual response to Christmas CD’s). The only thing weird about the album is that their are a couple of songs that are featured more than once (sung by the 3 artists). Other than that this is the perfect Christmas album for me and the only one I could play year round (although I won’t haha).

Songs you should go listen to: Have yourself a merry little Christmas (Ella Fitzgerald), O’Holy Night (Nat King Cole), The little boy that Santa Claus forgot (Nat King Cole) and White Christmas (Ella Fitzgerald)

2. Michael Buble: Christmas

So I think everyone and their Mum loves this Christmas album and its always hard to resist the seductive, sillky smooth voice of Buble and he does some lovely Christmas classics that are very easy on the ears πŸ˜‰ Not as amazing as my first choice but one that I would happily listen to over the Christmas period.

Songs you should go listen to: All I want for Christmas is you, Ave Maria, Blue Christmas and It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

3. Of Monsters and Men: My Head is an Animal

Okay so I do like listening to non-Christmas music during December as well and this album has been a sure but sudden favorite. After listening to it by accident on Spotify I was obsessed and since then the album is usually played through at least once each day. The first time I heard them was actually on an advert and I had always loved the snippet of song so I was very pleased to come across the album.Β They are a 5 piece band from Iceland of all places that seem to be getting a lot of well-deserved attention in the music world. The album falls in to the alternative/indie/pop/folk genre but they have a very clear sound that makes them pretty recognizable. I can’t get enough of the loud/quiet contrasts in their songs and the great female/male combinations in the vocals. As usual I find music hard to describe so just go give them a listen on Youtube or Spotify!

Songs you should go listen to: All of them. But if I have to choose a few – Dirty paws, Kings and Lionheart, From Finner and Love, love, love.

4. Birdy (Birdy)

Last up is my most recent find after hearing her cover of Skinny Love by Bon Iver on Youtube (an incredibly beautiful cover I might add) – a 16 yr old with an incredible voice who could take original songs and transform them into something delicate, soft and full of emotion. So far as I know most of the songs on the album are covers but this doesn’t diminish the quality of this album at all that is carefully stripped down to the very evocative and haunting piano chords that allow Birdy’s pure and beautiful vocals to soar through a variety of excellent songs.

Songs you should go listen to: 1901, Skinny Love, White Winter Hymnal and Shelter (my absolute favorite, an excellent cover of The XX)

So there are my picks for the music of December. If I am missing out on any great Christmas albums please let me know!

Today is Christmas Eve here in New Zealand and I hope that whereever you are and whatever you choose to celebrate everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday season πŸ™‚

xx

Adventures of a Bride to Be: Choosing a celebrant

Hi All,

I know my Adventures of a Bride to Be post was ages ago but with life running havoc wedding planning sort of fell to the side for a little while. First off, I have so much to do it’s not even funny (i’ll tell you a secret, I still haven’t got a dress! Shhh….) and the wedding is February 17th! Very quickly approaching. Panic stations in full mode right? Wrong. I’m not sure why exactly but I feel pretty calm about the whole thing. As long as Edd and I have somewhere and someone to marry us, everything else will fall in place (at least that’s what I am telling myself haha, might just be effective defense mechanisms in place so I don’t break down completely!).

Anyway, this week we crossed off the important decision of confirming the celebrant we wanted and I thought I would write a post about the process we went through as I found this pretty challenging at first. I started by scouring the internet to search the huge numbers of celebrants available to us here in Auckland. In my mind I had vague ideas about the kind of person I wanted. This was things like I preferred a female celebrant (not sure why exactly), wanted someone with personality and humor wanted someone who was flexible to our situation and our needs for the ceremony and most importantly someone who we personally felt a connection with. Although a celebrant was going to be a stranger at the wedding I wanted someone who didn’t feel like a stranger and had the personal connection with us as a couple (if that makes sense). Oh I should probably mention I also had money in mind haha, I wish that wasn’t the case for weddings but the cost was pretty important for us as well.

Unfortunately, searching the internet makes it relatively easy to see what a person looks like and their gender but otherwise it is very difficult to judge their style or their personal approach to creating the ceremony alongside you. I was finding it hard to make any decisions based on websites and directory profiles. On top of this I was continually shocked at the prices for the celebrants! I was going in thinking between $350 to $450 maximum (having zero experience in this area I should add) and so seeing people charging $500-$700 for the minimal packages (not including rehearsals for example) I was a little flabbergasted. After a month or two of scouring websites I sort of temporarily gave up and stopped looking. I had looked at so many profiles and websites that I wasn’t really feeling positive or enthusiastic about the process anymore.

During this period of rest from the celebrant hunt Edd and I saw a sign for the Howick Wedding Show and thought we would pop along to it (along with Edd’s parents) . Whilst there we met two celebrants, one of which has become our current choice, all booked in. The first one (Kathleen) although a registered celebrant, wasn’t actually there advertising herself as a celebrant but was displaying a venue however being a friendly, chatty person she asked us about our wedding planning and our progress and after hearing the dismal state of my celebrant search offered up her services. During this chat Edd and I (as well as his parents) felt completely at ease with Kathleen and we walked off and looked at each other with a look that said mutual agreement that she would be a great choice! As if a personal connection after 5 minutes wasn’t enough we also encountered the 2nd celebrant who was there to promote her services. We approached her for a chat and had zero connection, to me she felt cold and very professional (not in a particularly good way). This only confirmed for us that Kathleen was someone special who would bring her personality to making a beautiful ceremony with us.

Monday, this week, Edd and I had our first meeting with her. To be honest I think we were a little nervous mainly because we both had strong opinions on what kind of ceremony we wanted and we were worried that her amazing personality could translate into someone who wasn’t very flexible around the ceremony and its crafting. Thankfully the meeting went better than I could have imagined. Kathleen gave us heaps of materials and said that we could go away and basically write the ceremony (and use her guides and examples if we wanted) ourselves that would reflect us as a couple and be personal and unique. We left with big smiles on our face, I must say! The cherry on top was her amazing price of only $450 (she dropped down to $400 for us very kindly, shh!) and that included a rehearsal if we wanted.

So here we are now, Edd and I with some pretty exciting homework to do πŸ™‚ . I look forward to spending time with Edd choosing the words that are going to join us together in marriage and can’t wait for the actual day! We are also planning to write our own vows so I may do a little post on how I find that process in the near future (would also appreciate any tips haha!).

I don’t know if this was helpful for anyone but I thought I would share my random experiences finding a celebrant and leave a link to Kathy Bigwood for any upcoming brides in Auckland who want someone friendly, fun, honest and helpful!

Here are my 4 tips at this early stage for Celebrant choosing πŸ™‚

1. Although it can be hard to sift through the huge numbers of celebrants, the directories online can still be helpful to give you some places to start (like here and here). Look for celebrants with a website so you can go and have more of a look at their personal style. Some websites my even have a video (such as Kathy’s website) which I found helpful in seeing the Celebrant in action. This can also give you some ideas about what you want/don’t want in your own ceremony

2. Don’t be scared of getting in contact. At the beginning I avoided asking questions and sending emails as I was worried I would feel locked into some sort of agreement (silly, I know) and at the end I realize that asking questions is really the best way to get an idea of who the celebrant is and how they respond to you and your personal preferences for the ceremony (including pricing which I found often wasn’t available on the website). Asking questions can be a good way to find out how they usually work with couples, whether they have experience with the venue, what their experience is and qualifications are as well.

3. Choose someone you BOTH feel completely comfortable with and have a connection with. Although meeting them in person obviously helps a lot with this phone conversations or even conversations over email can still give an indication of whether you will feel a connection with. You want someone on your day who will be there to help give you the best ceremony possible and you don’t want someone who will make the ceremony feel awkward or not personal.

4. Stick to your guns. Luckily we had no issues with our personal preferences but I think when it comes to your wedding the celebrant is there for you, not the other way around. If they refuse to create the ceremony you desire then move on. It’s your day and your wedding and you don’t want to look back and regret the decisions you made around the core event of the day.

Again, this is all just from my own limited experience πŸ™‚ I would love to hear any of your experiences or tips for celebrant choosing or for planning the ceremony/writing vows.

Xx

n.b. This post was not sponsored or influenced in any by any of the people or websites I mentioned apart from my own experiences with them. All opinions are completely my own, crazy ramblings πŸ™‚

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Friday’s Letters: 4 sleeps

Dear Nose: We have had our differences but I appreciate your amazingly quick healing. Dear Job Applications: I am not sure why you have to be so complex and difficult but the sooner I get a job and can stop filling you in, the better! Dear Edd: Thank you for buying me pfeffer-nusse and for introducing me to these weird but wonderful Christmas cookies. Dear World: Thanks for sticking around for the time being. I would have been devastated for it all to have ended before I could open all my presents under the tree. Dear Summer: As much as I adore your sunny swims and bright skies the sleepless nights thanks to unbearable heat is getting annoying. I am now walking around half asleep each day. Dear Self: Hang in there. Life is tough and confusing at the moment but its also an exciting challenge. Don’t get taken over by stress and don’t forget to sit and enjoy life every now and again. Life will continue, one way or another. Dear Christmas: 4 SLEEPS! I am so excited I just spend hours on end sitting and watching all my presents. I can’t wait to spend the day driving to 3 different family Christmas events. It will be exhausting but amazing, as always. Dear Callie: Thank you for making me smile. Thank you for waking me up when I am sleeping in and should be doing more productive activities (like petting you). I hope you love your Christmas presents.

12 Nail Polishes for Summer!

IMG_5559Hi All!

I always get excited when a new season arrives as I love searching through my nail polish and picking out the ones I think are well suited! Summer is my favorite nail polish season as I am a sucker for bright creams and tan-improving shimmer shades. This month I couldn’t help but also include a few neons as they have been a raging favorite this summer and although I normally don’t wear any neon at all I do enjoy a pop of it on my nails πŸ™‚ So here are 12 of my favorite colours for summer

IMG_5522Butter London: Slapper and OPI: Fly

First up is my favorite shade to wear in summer – a beautiful bright teal that makes my skin look tanned (not an easy feat may I add) and is bright but also a little bit different. I know these both look identical but they aren’t and I honestly couldn’t choose just one! It’s a problem, I know πŸ˜‰ Slapper has more green than fly which is a tad dustier and more blue toned. Both are stunning colours year round but even more so in summer with floral dresses and beachy hair waves. It always makes me feel a little bohemian chic (my favorite style especially for summer). Both have great formulas that are perfection in two quick-drying coats.

IMG_5529OPI: A Roll in the Hague and Butter London: Macbeth

These are two of my favorite brights that I have been looking forward to sporting for the summer. A Roll in the Hague has been a favorite all year and is an ideal bright orange for summer. It is the right colour and tone to avoid looking halloweeny or clashing with my skin tone. Macbeth is a gorgeous pink-toned bright red (much more of a bright red than the picture would suggest). I admit I mainly got this for the name (so sue me, I’m strange) but it is a gorgeous red for summer and looks lovely on the toes!

IMG_5517Essie: Fiji, Essie: Knockout Pout and OPI: Kiss Me On My Tulips

Aside from teal blues which are my go to colour shade I love a nice pink polish during the summer and here are 3 I see myself using a lot this summer. Fiji is a beautiful pale pink that is great for a more demure and polished look. This pale shade again does wonders for my pale skin. Knockout Pout is a beautiful salmon pink that has a touch of coral. Not a neon but still bright and beautiful. Lastly Kiss Me On My Tulips is the hot pink of the bunch! I love this, especially on the toes, and it feels very summery to me (although it did hail from a spring collection). All of these are beautiful and formula applications are easy for Knockout Pout and Kiss Me On My Tulips whilst Fiji (being such a pale shade) is a little fussy that requires a few careful coats to get the beautiful, even pink colour. It’s worth it though πŸ™‚

IMG_5513Essie: Beach Bum Blu and OPI: Cozu-Melted in the Sun

I am a cream girl when it comes to nail polish but I do love a good shimmer every now and then. Beach Bum Blu is a beautiful light blue shimmer that creates a foil-like effect and is rather mesmerizing in the sun. The OPI is a beautiful bronze/peach/rose-pink shimmer metallic that looks gorgeous with a tan and comes to life in the summer sun. Both of these are pretty sheer and require a few coats to get an opaque colour however the Essie is fairly easy. The OPI on the other hand I find slightly harder to apply nicely as it is very watery and doesn’t want to stay on my nails 😦

IMG_5519Orly: Glowstick, Kleancolor: Neon Orange and L.A. Girl: Hyper

So last up here are my 3 favorite neon nail polishes for the summer. Orly Glowstick is one that was released this year and creates an eye-searing yellow highlighter shade when applied (2 sheer coats) over a nice, opaque white polish. This is my favorite of the neons as the yellow is a perfect, bright shade. Kleancolour is a great, affordable brand here in NZ with a lot of shops selling their shades for around $3 so when I saw this neon orange I picked it up straight away! If you can put up with the notorious smell of these nail polishes from Kleancolour the colour is great and the neon is satisfyingly crazy bright. These polishes consistently impress me with their opaque formulas and despite being a neon this was no exception with two coats (no white base coat) providing the perfect neon orange. Last up is the L.A. Girl neon pink. This is the least neon of the 3 which although VERY bright, doesn’t quite have the same painfully luminescent quality that the others do. The thing I adore about this polish however is that in ONE coat it is opaque. Super easy to get neon (ish) pink nails and no fussing around with a white base coat which I like.

So there are my 12 nail polish picks for Summer here in NZ! Hope you are all enjoying the last month of 2012 (no matter what the season). Please leave any of your summer essential nail polish colours in the comments as I love hearing what other people reach for this time of year πŸ™‚ The only question for me is which should I wear first?

Xx