Monday 29 December 2014

to review 2014

This week at My Home Truths we are sharing our favourites post from 2014. I thought I would take this opportunity to do a bit of a recap of my year by sharing my top 5 posts of the year. These posts happened to be 5 highlighting events of the year as well as my most popular posts of the year. So in no particular order really here goes.

5. Sharing my secret
A few weeks ago I confessed that I had a secret and last time I linked up with Kirsty I revealed that secret and a slight weight lifted off my shoulders. I was super excited about the positive feedback and encouragement I got from my blogging friends and if you commented then I truly thank you for your support. I think reality hasn't set in just yet and it will be some time before it does, but I am nervous and anxious and excited about times ahead all at the same time! (if you don't know what I am talking about then you'll have to click the link above to find out!)

4. Trip to Vietnam
Without a doubt an absolute highlight of my year was my trip to Vietnam during the September school holidays. Not only did I met some truly awesome people, I also ate something I never thought that I would, and just got totally absorbed by the whole country. They are truly lovely and amazing people who live very simple lives with such gusto! I still feel like I have so many stories and photos to share with you from that trip! The trip was also a precursor for what I want to next year and it certainly confirmed my decisions!
This made me smile and feel like a Queen in Vietnam!

3. ProBlogger
Again another highlight of the year in a very overwhelming kind of way! Prior to January 2013 blogging was something I never really gave a second thought to, let alone knew there was a whole conference attended by 100's of people dedicated to the cause! It really was a nerve racking, eye opening, overwhelming, awesome experience.
Laney Galligan's photo.
Janet from Middle Aged Mama, Marleisa from This is Who I am.. and I catching up over lunch at ProBlogger!

2. A to Z Challenge
I was crazy enough to sign up for the A to Z Challenge in April, where every day for the month (with the exception of Sunday) you blogged about something to do with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. A lot of people chose a theme in an attempt to make it "easier". I chose to blog about me and my life as a teacher. The link will take you to my wrap up post at the end of the challenge. So if you are new around here and want to know more about little ol' me, that's bound to answer pretty much all of your questions!
1. Remembering Kathy
This was both one of the hardest posts I've ever written and also my most read post of all time. On the anniversary of her passing I shared my recollections of the days prior and post losing my beautiful sister Kathy to cancer back in 2006.

2014 has been another year where goals seemed to go unmet and it would be easy for me to be a bit doom and gloom about all of that, but the beauty of blogging is that you do have a record of all that you have done so it's been good to look back and see what has happened and what I have achieved. I am not sad to see the end of this year though, I am definitely ready to move on to bigger and better things and excited about what 2015 has is store for me! I look forward to sharing the journey with you!

Linking up this 2014 wrap up with Kirsty from My Home Truths and Alicia from One Mother Hen.

Friday 19 December 2014

for a Fitbit Flex v Garmin Vivofit Review

Thinking of buying a Fitbit or Garmin fitness tracker this Christmas?? Then you MUST read this highly professional* review of the products!

I had been looking vaguely at these new 'must have' products for a while and when my Fly Buys Catalogue turned up back in August I discovered that I had enough points to get a Fitbit Flex for free (the thousands of dollars I had to spend on groceries and fuel to get enough points doesn't count right?). So I did a little bit of research on exactly what the Fitbit Flex had to offer but ultimately I didn't have anything else to choose from so I was always going to get it. 

After seeing me with mine for a few weeks my sister decided she wanted to get a fitness tracker of her own and I (almost) convinced her of the awesomeness of the Fitbit Flex....that was until she went to the Sports Store and the sales guy talked her into the Garmin Vivofit...
It's a Fitbit v Garmin faceoff!

So whose is better? 

In many ways they are pretty much the same, both have the ability to track your steps, calories burnt, you can input your food intake and water intake, both can be turned onto sleep mode to track your sleep. 
The view of your sleep pattern on the Garmin Vivofit

My sleep pattern on my Fitbit Flex...I am definitely a crasher!

Both have apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone to track how you are going during the day towards meeting your goals. Both come in a range of different colours that are interchangeable for all you fitness fashionistas out there. 

Both also allow you to connect with other users so if you have friends and family with the same tracker then you can challenge them and track each other's progress. 
So, what's the difference then you ask? 

The main differences that set them apart are:
The Fitbit has a setting that allows you to set silent alarms. I set it to wake me up in the morning and I will admit to also setting my usual alarm on my phone as I was worried that, being a silent alarm, it wouldn't actually wake me up, but I need not worry. The 'alarm' goes off by vibrating on your wrist and the little led lights flashing. You can set more than one alarm per day which could be used as reminders to get up and move. The Garmin has no such alarm, or any alarm at all.

The Garmin has a display screen that allows you to easily see how you are travelling during the day without the need to go to the phone app. The Fitbit Flex does have five flashing lights that increase the closer you get to your goal by double tapping on it so you can get a bit of an idea, but you do have to go to your app and sync it to get an exact idea how you are travelling. The screen on the Garmin doesn't have a backlight so you need to be in a well lit area to see it. The Garmin also doubles as a watch which I think is great. 

Another difference is the batteries, I need to charge my battery using a USB dongle approximately once a week, the Garmin battery does not need to be charged and they claim it's a year long battery, so time will tell whether that is true or not. My fear (as it's almost already happened) is that I will lose the charging dongle and will have to replace it and who knows how much that would cost me. I also don't like that I have to take it off to charge! It's not counting vital calories burnt while sitting plugged into my computer! 

Price wise they are around about the same depending on where you shop and can be anywhere between $100-$130.  

Truth is we both love our fitness trackers but I will admit to loving the fact that hers has a display, but I also love that mine has the silent alarm. 

Fitbit have just bought out a new product called the Fitbit Charge which does appear to challenge the Garmin Vivofit a bit more than the Flex in terms of features but is (obviously) a little more expensive. 

*we don't really claim to be professionals and if you want to read a bit more of a professional review then click here!!

Linking up this review with With Some Grace for FYBF

Monday 8 December 2014

to share my secret..

A few weeks ago I confessed I had a secret...or rather information that I was with-holding. Well I am now ready to share that information.

But first, this week Kirsty is asking us to be a bit reflective on 2014 which has kind of worked out well for me as it links in with everything else I wanted to share today.

I looked back at my goals for 2014 and I am a little disappointed to say I don't think that I really achieved any of them.

Twenty-fourteen has been somewhat of a stepping stone year to what I have planned for 2015 so whilst it's disappointing to see so most of those goals unmet, a lot of what has happened this year has paved the way for what is to come.

One thing that happened this year was that I attended my first ever ProBlogger Event.

I walked down to the beach early the morning after the ProBlogger Event finished and while I sat watching the amazing sun rise I drafted the following on my phone....

'To have a blog I love I need to have a life I love... To have a life I love I need to change it... Who am I to write a blog about life when I hate my life**... I know there is good in my life, I know there is so much to be thankful for, but for the most part... I hate it**

This morning waking up at 5:50am like I do most mornings so many thoughts and reflections are starting to happen. The last 3 days have passed in an amazing blur of information and I have reached a point where I really think things could go either one of two ways...I could throw my hands in the air and walk away... Who am I to think I can make it in this world, and do I even want to, why am I even here? Or I could shout "Bring it on!" from the rooftops and really try and make something of this...

And like so much of my life, if you were waiting for an answer it would have to be "I don't know"... Is it the fear of failure that's holding me back or is it that it's not what I really want... I don't know...

Over the last 2 days when people have asked me what I blog about I had no real answer for them. I mumbled something about it being about whatever I wanted, whatever I felt like...I told people it started off the back of doing Michelle Bridges 12wbt, but if the truth be known I look back and I know that I even failed at that. Sure I reached my goal weight but I didn't stay there for long, my body didn't transform and it didn't 'change my life'... I do so many things in my personal life half hearted. Mostly I think because of fear... Fear I'll get it wrong, fear I'll offend or hurt someone, fear of failure... fear that it's just all too hard so I should just stick with what I know...'

**Hate is a very strong word and I considered changing it but obviously that's how I felt at the time...looking back it was a bit harsh!

I had already started making plans to make some changes in my life but it was like ProBlogger just confirmed it for me. So here goes...

*I've sold my house.

*I've sold a fair chunk of my belongings.

*I've quit my job (well not really but I've taken leave for 2015 but "quit my job" sounds so much more brave and dramatic)

*I've joined a travel blogging course.

*I've upgraded my blog a little bit (did you notice?)

*I've booked my flights.

*I'm heading overseas.

Each time I've travelled overseas I've come home with a burning desire to go again, I've come back with a strong desire to change my life and I've started researching other jobs because I've known for a long time how unhappy I've been. I've often said to friends and family that I wish I could be one of those people who sell everything a just go...but I've never actually done it...that is, until that's (kind of) what I'm doing.
Image Source

And so while I will confess to being a little bit anxious and scared about what next year (and beyond) will bring I have decided to just let what will, and see where it takes me.

Stand by for future posts about what I have planned for the year ahead and why.

Linking up with Kirsty from My Home Truths and Alicia from One Mother Hen!

Monday 1 December 2014

for another award!

I must confess I am the slackest blogger ever!!!

Although if you have been following this roller coaster of a blog you will already know that so it's not really that much of a grand confession!

The thing that constantly surprises and amazes me about this whole blogging world business is that you really never know who is reading, who you are connecting with, who is giving valuable time in their day to read the dribble here!

So I must confess I was well and truly shocked when the lovely Tonia from Tonia with an eye nominated me for a Liebster Award!!

She has asked me to answer the following questions:

1. Who is your favourite person?
Oh wow...what a tough one! I am blessed with so many wonderful people in my life! I love and adore all of them and I hope they know who they are.
My besty is can read more about our friendship from my A to Z Challenge post here.

2. What is your favourite possession?
Of all the things I own (and some might say I own far too much) I would have to go with the possession that uses up most of my iPhone (and iPad!). I guess these are my favourites because they hold my's the way I connect with all the wonderful people in my life. It is my camera, my address book, my blog, my calendar, my bank, my appointment book. Would be completely lost without it...sad I know!

3. What was the happiest day of your life?
Again I find it hard to answer this one when I have so many to choose from. From graduating from university twice, to see 4 of my 5 nephews being born, to being asked to be Godmother to by best friend's little boy!

4. Sweet or savoury?
I usually like to start with savoury and then always end with sweet.... I always love something a little sweet after dinner!
I am such a fence sitter aren't I?!

5. Jazz or pop?
Why isn't country an option?? lol...
If I HAD to choose between these 2 it would have to be Pop I guess.

6. Coffee or tea?
Tea - definitely tea. I gave up drinking coffee back in 2004 I think it was and while it took me a while to adjust to tea I now love it. I don't drink hot drinks much during summer but in the cooler months I love nothing more than a nice cup of green tea (with lemon) in the morning and some other flavoured tea before bed at night.

7. What do you miss most from your childhood?
The innocence, being oblivious to the obligations and expectations of being an adult. I think young people today are in too much of a hurry to grow up! Enjoy your youth while you can!

8. What item of clothing do you wear the most?
I am a bit of a shopaholic and if I like something I buy it, so have lots of beautiful things. But one of my favourite items was given to me by a friend of mine. She bought it back for me from Greece, it's meant to be a symbol of good luck and I wear it almost every day. It's a little big for me and I have accidently lost (and found) it a number of times, one time even finding it wrapped in paper towel in the bin after drying my hands! It is so precious to me!

9. What is your favourite time of year and why?
School holidays!! I am sure everyone loves their holidays and I am no exception. As someone who has spent my whole career working in schools I don't recall a time when I was never excited about the upcoming holidays. Apart from the obvious, catching up with family and friends, they also mean not having to set an alarm, no playground duty and report cards (although I have managed to avoid that due to different roles these last few years) and being able to go to the toilet whenever you like! What's not to love about that.....
And to all those people who think we have too many holidays, I say to you...."It's all about choices!"

10. Why did the chicken cross the road?
I am wondering why the chickens motives for crossing the road are always being questioned...can't a chicken cross the road in peace these days!

Thanks so much again to Tonia with an Eye for the nomination! I am truly chuffed! If you haven't checked her out make sure you do! I am totally envious of her frock collection!

The idea is that I now nominate people but I am so far behind and feel so out of the loop with blogging at the moment that I wouldn't know where to start so I am going to set you a challenge! If you can be bothered to comment below you have to list a blog that you think I need to check out!
For in 2 weeks time I will be on school holidays and can't wait to get stuck into some reading and writing!

Linking up with My Home Truths and One Mother Hen!

Sunday 30 November 2014

for Color Vibe Toowoomba

On the weekend my sister, some friends and I joined the 5000 odd other people to participate in the Color Vibe run.

Pre race piccies where we are all nice and white still! 

Just a couple of people at the start line! 

People dressed up and didn't waste any time smashing each other with colour. Every 5kms (apparently) we ran through a tunnel of colour. The course was a twisting track around the back hills of the show ground that occasionally felt more like a cross country event! 

That's Linny jumping up waving! Lol... Soo many people! 

... And the after photo! We managed to not get too covered but still had a great time!

This is the first time Toowoomba has hosted such an event and given that I know people who live well over 100km away who travelled in for it, I think it's pretty safe to say it was a success! 

Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT!

Monday 24 November 2014

for a Santa pic.

Kirsty at My Home Truths has asked us to share our Santa pics and given that I don't remember if I ever had a pic with Santa and don't have kids of my own I am stealing this pic from my sister.

She bought the twinnies over to Toowoomba on the weekend shopping and to get their picture with Santa! They are growing up so much and will be 1 year old in about a fortnight. Bradey (on the left) has so many teeth, which he lets his brother know about, and does the most gorgeous little slug crawl to get himself around, absolutely loved Santa and didn't want to get off him. Fletcher (on the right obviously) has only a few teeth and has been crawling hands and knees style for some time now and is pulling himself up on anything and anyone was absolutely not impressed with meeting Santa.

I don't get to see them as much as I would like but it's been so amazing to see them grow and change and see their own little characteristics starting to come through.

Linking up with My Home Truths and One Mother Hen.

Monday 17 November 2014

for some mini confessions

I must brain is fried....

I must confess I sat down to write my blog posts for the week ahead and ..... NOTHING...

I must confess, my brain is in ten million different places right now with many things going on in my world that's making for a stressed out GO.

I must confess I am trying to do too many things at once and don't think I am succeeding at any of them!

I must confess I was going to write this fab post about what to buy your child's teacher for a Christmas gift**

I must confess I will be glad when this week is over (Year 12s will be finished!!)

I must confess the thought of holidays being just a mere 4 weeks away excites and scares me at the same time.

I must confess I hate learning maths and teaching maths (which was Kirsty's prompt this week)

I must confess I have bought all but one of my Christmas presents and it feels damn good to be organised.

I must confess I was a little over all the hype around the G20 but then loved hearing snippets of Obama's speech at UQ.

I must confess that I got a little sick of reading FB status updates about how damn hot it was over the weekend. It was hot! We all felt it! Why do people feel the need to whinge about it!

I must confess it's 10:05pm Sunday night and I should have been in bed ages ago!

Do you have anything to confess.....???

Linking up with Kirsty for I Must Confess and Alicia for Open Slather!

**Vouchers to movies, day spas/beauty salons and book shops, wine, chocolate and jewellery....steer clear of coffee mugs, talcum powder and smelly soaps!

Monday 10 November 2014

for an Olympic Athlete to visit Toowoomba

On the weekend my sister and I got a little excited when we saw the number 1 item on the Things to do this weekend list.

Olympian Athlete Sally Pearson was in town in support of the St Vincent Hospital Race Day and while she was in town she made an appearance at a local Girl's Private School for a running race against some of the girls and local celebrities (and by celebrities I mean a Member of Parliament and a radio announcer). 

We opted not to line up in the ridiculously long line in 30 something degree hear to actually meet her but I was in awe to see her in person. Say what you will about her and all the drama but you cannot deny her amazing track record and her physical strength! 

Did you do any celebrity spotting over the weekend?? 

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT. 

for dinner at the #1 restaurant in Ho Chi Minh

This week's prompt from Kirsty at My Home Truths was to share our go to recipe....

I must confess I don't do cooking... I don't do recipes... But I do do restaurants so decided to link up a post that I've had sitting in my draft box since not long after I returned from Vietnam.

Recently TripAdvisor released it's best restaurants around the world and I was not surprised to see Ichiban Sushi Restaurant top the list in Ho Chi Minh.

Now I didn't eat at all the restaurants in Ho Chi Minh but I did eat at this one and it was lovely! 

We had had a busy day, we were up early for our flight from DaNang to Ho Chi Minh. Because of our early arrival our hotel wasn't ready for us so we made use of that time by visiting some local attractions. 

First stop was the War Remnants Museum. The museum was opened a mere 6 months after the war ended and primarily contains exhibits relating to the American Phase of the Vietnam War. I was keen to look at the artefacts and find out more about the effects of the war but I must confess I ended up walking out. 

Reading the stories and seeing the effects of Agent Orange was what did it to me. The US military used this horrible concoction of chemicals that they sprayed that caused horrible serious health issues, such as tumours, birth-defects, rashes and cancer, amongst the Vietnamese people but also on the returning US servicemen. I found the photos quite confronting and left to head outside to look at some of the machinery. 

After the Museum we headed into town to check out the French inspired and built 
Cathedral and Post Office.

By this time our hotel was ready so we headed there and, for those if us who had chosen the optional trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, had a very quick change and lunch and were in our way. That trip is worth a post on it's own so standby for that! Here's a sneak peek.... 

If you follow me on Instagram you've probably already seen that, if you don't, you should.... Click here! 

So after we arrived back from the tunnels eight of us from the group decided to break away and head somewhere different for dinner, it had been a long and pretty full in day and we needed some fun down time! 

One of the girls in my tour group had trusted Tripadvisor previously to decide on a dinner location with great success so we trusted her judgement once again. 

Ichiban came up as being highly recommended and within walking distance of our hotel. 

We drooled over the menu and the 'buy 1 get 2 free beers' and ordered up big! 

The waitresses relished at the opportunity to practice their English, which was already pretty good. It wasn't a long wait before our table was completely filled with amazing food.

We took our time eating and sharing entrees, mains and some even had dessert, before asking for the bill. 

Even though it was coming to the end of my trip I was still trying to wrap my head around the whole currency thing in Vietnam and had a giggle when the bill arrived and it being announced to the table that the total amount owing was 3.6million dong! 

Now that's about $190 Aussie Dollars which I think is bloody awesome for drinks and pretty much a 3 course meal for 8 people! 

The money counting begins!

So would I agree with TripAdvisor and recommend Ichiban Sushi Restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City.... Damn right I would!!

Linking up with Kirsty from My Home Truths for I Must Confess and Alicia from One Mother Hen for Open Slather.

Monday 3 November 2014

for a $50 outfit challenge

So this weekend I got a jump start on the event planning by seeing the 10 things to do this weekend on Friday night via a link on Facebook and was a little disappointed to find little there that interested me! Three of the 10 suggestions were markets and I really couldn't do that to you again (I swear there are more to do in Toowoomba on a weekend then go to Markets!)

Sunday morning my sister and I did head down to the Margaret Street Markets to visit Scarf Girl to pick up a few Christmas gifts. 

Afterwards we headed to the main shopping centre in Toowoomba, Grand Central, as I had decided that this weekend we would complete the Ms Mystery Case $50 outfit challenge

The challenge set by Ms Mystery Case is to buy a complete outfit under $50 and I decided to rope my sister in and make it a challenge within ourselves. 

I set the rules that all items had to be bought from within Grand Central and that we only had an hour to do it. 

So we synchronised watches and headed our separate ways in search of the perfect (aka bargain) outfit! 

We had discussed tactics first and thought the bottom half of the outfit would be the most expensive and difficult to find. I headed straight for Temt. Dresses are very difficult to find when you have a body shape like mine and I knew that would take way too long so I opted for some pants and a skirt, and I was shocked to find that a skirt I never thought I would ever wear fit perfectly and, if I do say so myself, looks pretty darn good! But this took me a good half hour to discover leaving my just another half hour to find the whole rest of the outfit! 

I decided my next biggest expense would be shoes so I bolted to the opposite end of the centre to Target as a friend had mentioned they were having a shoe sale. What I didn't calculate into the one hour time limit plan was the queues at the checkouts which were a bit crazy.

After getting some shoes I went on the hunt for a top! I had just 15 minutes left! I couldn't believe how hard and under pressure I felt! 

I dashed in and out of shoes but ended up back at Temt grabbing a top and some bracelets and before I knew it time was up, actually, I confess I went 5 minutes over time as Linda was already back at our meeting spot waiting for me! 

She did however let me go and grab some earrings as I still had $8 left! 

We hid our bags from each other, dropped them in the car and then went to a new cafe that has opened across the road from the shopping centre.

Primal Pantry is a new health food cafe with a full Paleo menu and we were keen to check it out! 

We both opted for the Monkey Fuel Smoothie (banana, cinnamon, nutmeg and almond milk), I grabbed the choc caramel slice and Linda chose the banana bread. It was so good!! 

After morning tea we headed home to compare outfits......

Linda used Derby Day as her inspiration after spotting this gorgeous skirt and I think she did a fab job! 

The breakdown: 
- Top from Valleygirl $14.95
- Skirt from Paper Scissors $16
- Shoes from Target $10
- Earrings from Target $2.50
- Head chain from Equip $5

Total = $48.45

My outfit:
The breakdown:
- Top from Temt $9.95
- Skirt from Temt $14.95
- Shoes from Target $7.00
- Bangles from Temt $9.95
- Ring and Earrings from Equip $2 & $5.99
(The earrings actually came in a set of 3 pairs and were the only things not on sale)

Total = $49.85

We were both pretty chuffed with our outfits and impressed with our bargain buys! It really was a lot of fun! I was especially chuffed at how good I felt in a high waisted figure hugging skirt!!

What do you think? Who wins your vote? 

Head over to Ms Mystery Case to check out other people who have attempted the $50 outfit challenge and link up your own attempt!

Also linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT!