The 'vanilla bean' part makes them sound gourmet, doesn't it?

One of my resolutions this year was to embark on a full 12 months of sugar-free baking. Australia Day called for an Australiana recipe: challenge accepted. I made these lamingtons from have your cake by Emily Rose. Her recipes are butter-free, white flour free and contain no added sugar. The recipes still contain sugar, just less of the processed stuff. This recipe uses honey instead of sugar. The jury is out when it comes to honey vs sugar. Some say the difference are too minimal to note; others say that honey is processed differently by your body, has a lower GI and has mineral and antibacterial properties that table sugar does not. You can start reading here or take your questions to Google.

The point of my sugar-free baking resolution is to find some healthier special occasion treats and lunch box alternatives -- to have a few other options up my sleeve when I resume normal baking in 2015 (you didn't think I was giving up cupcakes forevers, did you?)

So you may have noticed the chalk sign accompanying my lamingtons. I gotta say, they looked pretty good IIDSSM so I felt I needed to advertise their innards honestly. It's not my intent to lure people into sampling faux treats only to discover they've over-committed to a fibrous taste vacuum. They're not taste-free, but neither are they the light and fluffy supermarket lammo fingers that we all know and love. They're dense, and the 70% dark chocolate was too strong for my taste. Nevertheless, bless my nieces for sampling my baked goods (one came back for seconds, the other had the good manners to hide hers underneath a paper plate) and I also received what I think was genuine compliment from at least one adult party guest. SCORE!

You can find the recipe here (s'if you wouldn't want to). In fairness to Emily Rose, her recipe has demonstrated that you CAN trick SOME children (and adults) into consuming healthier treats.


Since coming back from our Vietnam trip last September/October a few people have asked me for tips and recommendations, so, continuing on from my earlier impressions, here it is. If you're just after a few quick recommendations, I've highlighted the best bits of each location pink.

There are many ways you can 'do' Vietnam. You can do it on a shoestring or with a little bit of luxury; you can pre-plan or fly by the seat of your pants, and speaking of which, you can fly between destinations or you can take a bus. A very long bus.

Here's how we did it, and a few things we picked up along the way.

DONG: You could certainly enjoy a very cheap trip in Vietnam. We incorporated a few treats so that pushed things up a bit. We did book a few cheapy stays ($17 per night each - there are cheaper, but let's be serious) but also had a couple of splurges. We had many massages, incorporated multiple $5 cocktails as a daily staple (as opposed to $1 beer) and so on. Withdraw two million dong at a time and that should keep you out of trouble for a few days.

TRANSPORT: We did a lot of research into modes of transport across the country. We traveled 7 locations over 3 weeks and decided to pay extra to fly between locations so as not to cut into our travel time with 16 hour bus and train journeys. Having said that, we did take the overnight train to the mountains and it was a great experience (to appreciate once... maybe not 6 times).

HOW LONG: We traveled for three weeks and we were able to visit nearly all of the areas we were interested in. I'd say you could do it in 10 days to 2 weeks weeks without missing out.

WHERE TO GO: We went to Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hanoi, Sapa, Ha Long Bay and Cat Tien National Park. If you only have time for a few cities, I would recommend HCMC, Hoi An, and Ha Long Bay. All of the places we visited had something different to offer.

OUR ITINERARY: We traveled from South to North to catch the best sun when we arrived in the North for our cruise. 

Arrive HCMC: 2 nights
Nha Trang: 4 nights
Hoi An: 2 nights
Hanoi then straight on overnight train to Sapa: 2 nights
Hanoi: 1 night
Sail out to Ha Long Bay: 2 nights
Back down to HCMC: 1 night
Cat Tien National Park: 1 night
HCMC: 1 night before flying home

Ho Chi Minh City. Such a surprise package to me. You risk your life every time you cross the road. The funny thing about HCMC (Saigon to the locals) - when you arrive you might think it looks a little run down, but we returned here at the end of our trip, and compared to some of the other sights we'd seen, Saigon looked pristine! Highly recommend a visit here to soak up the hustle and bustle of Vietnam's most developed city. We stayed at Silverland Central - basic but clean with very friendly staff and served the purpose. We went on a half day tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels which was definitely worthwhile. Our trip to the National History Museum was difficult; the Agent Orange display was extremely graphic and upsetting but it will stay will me forever... perhaps worthwhile, but have an icecream treat lined up for once you get outside to perk you up. One of my favourite memories from Saigon was our second night in the city when we went out drinking (you can take a girl out of The Shire but she'll find another Hunters somewhere in the world). I loved Seventeen Saloon (Pham Ngu Lao St) and its western band, and getting our dance on with the locals at Acoustic Bar (above). I can't remember how to get there, we were a little drunk and it was raining... but it was down an ally. You'll find it. Such fun - had a ball and this was one of my favourite nights of the trip. 

We LOVED the Nha Trang part of our trip,   but this was purely based on our accommodation - the area is a bit ho-him. This was the splurgey section of our trip. We stayed at Evason Ana Mandara in a beautiful little villa with a four poster bed and outdoor bathroom with a huge stone bath. Private beach, amaaaazing food, so peaceful. We wanted somewhere to just relax for a few days and we found it here; a tranquil atmosphere and a good chance to take a breather after the hustle and bustle of HCMC. While in Nha Trang we took a walk through the town, ate at some of the beachside restaurants (a few hits and misses - we liked the Sailing Club) and also took a trip across to the water park, Vinpearl. We weren't enamored with the city itself, but it's probably because the resort was so nice we were just happy to bask there, relax and attend massages at the spa! Vinpearl was good for some watersliding entertainment and Vinpearl Beach was nice for a little paddle as well. I have since heard that the mud egg baths in Nha Trang are worth a visit, though we didn't make it there ourselves.

Hoi An is a 'must-see' city, mainly because of its amazing old-world charm (the best food, too). Hoi An is an aesthetically interesting place to visit with its old buildings, laneways and the hundreds of colourful lanterns that decorate each and every building and float down the river every night (the lanterns are actually required by law to maintain ye olde worlde charm). We found some top-notch places to eat in Hoi An. Faifoo on Tran Phu St was our favourite - try the White Rose and the Vietnamese dumplings (like none you've had). Cava on Nguyen Puc Chu St and The Cargo Club on Nguyen Thai Hoc were also winners. Hoi An is the place to visit if you're after a tailor. There are roughly 265 million tailors in Hoi An. Lindsay got some suits and shirts made while I sat and gave constructive comments and fought off the ladies trying to force me into skirts and suits. Lindsay is happy-ish with his suits but concedes they're no Hugo Boss, and that it might not be quite the bargain people rave about. You also have to return a couple of times for fittings - just something to keep in mind, time-wise. One of the Hoi An highlights was our guided Easyrider trip along the Ho Chi Minh trail and surrounds. We paid $50 each to Mr Son Nguyen and his pal. Email or phone 05106260207 when you arrive, and tell Mr Son that Alex and Lindsay sent you. He probably hates us because we tried to negotiate a much lower price (beforehand) but turns out this was an excellent deal. We rode pillion on their bikes through the town and country and it was the ideal way see it all close up. My favourite part was visiting a minority village. I was thoroughly blown away by the remoteness and simplicity of it all. A worthwhile adventure, but be prepared for a loooong day. It swung between blistering heat and pouring rain that day; between that and being slathered in thick, sticky insect repellent and plastic rain pants, I have never in my life wanted a shower so bad. As for accommodation, we stayed at the Vinh Hung Emerald Resort. It was not too bad; I recommend it but don't expect anything too la di dah. Some other friends of ours stayed at a resort along the beach and raved about it. 

After leaving Hoi An we flew up to Hanoi. We arrived at sunset and into what I genuinely thought was the The Apocalypse. Never ever have I seen such a black and sinister sky, punctuated with a highlighter orange sun. It was seriously. depressing. More on Hanoi later. Hanoi was the jumping off point for getting an overnight train to Sapa, located north-west in the mountains. We pre-booked our train tickets through Livitrans. There are many different companies to choose from, but I walked the length of the train and peered in all the sleeper cabins and aside from different lampshades there wasn't much difference between the companies so don't worry much about that. Finding our way around the station was an ordeal... we kinda fumbled our way by sheer luck and running into a helpful expat. You'll find your way. It'll be part of your adventure. My advice: arrive 60-90 minutes before your train is due to depart. If you have spare time you can reward yourself with beer. We decided to include Sapa in our trip so that we could see a different aspect of the country - a mountain area and its native people. Perhaps surprisingly, the train was one of my favourite parts of the trip and Lindsay and I were a bit like giddy kids on school camp. We booked ourselves a VIP berth, which basically meant that we had a 4 berth cabin to ourselves rather than having to share with others. Totally worth the extra cost, in my opinion. We stocked up on treats, played card games in our berth, chatted, read, tried to sleep. I amassed zero minutes sleep. Not to worry because the train arrived at Sapa at 4am anyway. Sapa is an interesting place, though not what we expected. It is kinda chilly up there, in stark contract to the eastern cities. It feels like you're in the Swiss Alps, which is a bit of a shock to the system, with the mountain air and the log cabins. The town was busier than I'd expected. Sapa is home to "mountain people", and, while certainly very interesting and rewarding to get a glimpse into their way of life, it can be overbearing having to deal with the incessant hassling in the street as they try to sell from their baskets and ask their standard questions on repeat: "What's your name, where you from?" (this problem was much worse on the weekend - not an issue on the Monday). We stayed in Sapa for 2 nights to break up the train trips but 1 night would be enough. We took ourselves on a walk through Cat Cat Village - enjoyable sightseeing and a bit of a workout. We also took a guided walking tour through another village. A pair of H'mong women latched on to me from the get go. I quite enjoyed talking with them. We would have liked to look through their village but the swarm of harassing H'mong women were just too much to handle. We stayed at the Sapa Unique Hotel on the cheap. We enjoyed the cooking class offered by the hotel, but didn't think much of the rooms. I wouldn't give my recommendation. We did, however, find a gem at the Sapa Rooms on Phan Xi Pang Street. I think we ate there three times - food was great and same with the atmosphere. They have rooms, but not sure of the prices. I recommend Sapa if you have the time and are after a bit of a different adventure. 

After arriving back in Hanoi at 4am from the Sapa night train, we headed straight for the Hanoi Holiday Diamond Hotel. Very cheap and cheerful - couldn't speak highly enough of the service throughout our stay and I wouldn't bother looking anywhere else. Hanoi was just supposed to be a jumping off point to Sapa and our Ha Long Bay cruise, but we ended up having a whole day and night there and I'm so glad that we did. My first impression of the apocalyptic Hanoi was a terrible one, but must have caught the city on a bad day. We arrived back to a clear sunny day and enjoyed exploring the city on foot, particularly walking through the narrow streets of the Old Quarter. In Hanoi it was interesting to see the posh department stores and Vietnamese women dressed up at lunch - to see signs of prosperity in juxtaposition to the poorer areas that we'd seen; it was a side of Vietnam we'd not yet encountered. One of our highlights was visiting the Women's Museum - some of the displays were quite touching and we left feeling humbled and with renewed perspectives. We took a 2-person cyclo (the cyclo seats in Hanoi are the only ones wide enough for two bottoms!) back to the hotel which was a bit of a wild ride through the crazy traffic and something you have to do. Loved it! At night we perched ourselves street-side for some 5 cent beers (you read correctly!) got a little tipsy and then took oursevles out for some delicious food and hopped through a couple of bars. Hanoi is definitely worth a visit, even if just for one day and night.

Our Ha Long Bay cruise was another trip highlight and a little bit of a splurge as well. There are many cruise companies, but we went with Indochina Junk as they are the only company permitted to sail beyond a certain point in the bay. To enquire about booking email (currently you can't book via the website). We were pleasantly surprised by the boat, which was beautifully outfitted. Our tour guide, Hung, was fantastic, the food was excellent and the company was, too. Our cruise was a 2 night 3 day trip with 18 others (there are different options); it was nice to meet some other travelers - although it was an older crowd, it wasn't an issue. Highlights of the trip included visiting a floating village and school, kayaking to the beach where we were met with drinks on arrival, and a dinner in a cave

After Ha Long Bay we flew back down to HCMC, and from there took a hairy drive down to Cat Tien National Park, where Lindsay had booked a Gibbon (endangered monkey thing) trek. Sounded like an excellent idea but I wouldn't recommend you follow suit. The accommodation was archaic and in the absolute middle of nowhere. We went for a walk in the evening as we had nothing else to do (no TV in the room... not sure if there was even a light, just wasps and frogs and someone's old cake of soap) and it was a bit of a "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore" moment. Anyway, fast forward through the sleepless night til 4.30am when we had to get up and slather on the repellent and head out into the darkness to the trek. We got to the river bank and a man appeared out of the bushes, muttered something and gestured toward his little barge; we were't sure if he was a murderer but we hopped in anyway. He deposited us on the other side of the river. It was pitch black and there was no one around. We started to walk along this eerie path and then we kinda just spotted who we assumed to be our guide, because who else would be awake at this hour, peering through a creepy window from a creepy building? Fast forward and we found ourselves perching on a tree trunk in no man's land at 5am in the dark waiting to hear the song of the gibbons. Eventually, after a long time, he spotted some gibbons. We got to see them as well but they were so high up, sorry, they just looked like any ol monkey, and I was quite hangry by then. I was extraordinarily irritable from lack of sleep back at the house of horrors. After a few hours of pretending to be amused by the monkeys (actually I think I'd given up pretending) we headed back to the "accommodation" and I couldn't get out of there quick enough. But as a finale we had to endure three hours of the worst driving we'd ever encountered... I wanted to kiss the road when we finally arrived back at the hotel in HCMC. So yeah, I probably wouldn't recommend that one. BUT IT WAS ALL PART OF THE ADVENTURE!

We had a nice last night in HCMC involving a spa treatment for myself (highly recommend the spa in our hotel, Silverland Cental) and then some market shopping and our last supper. Plenty of authentic food to be found, but if you've had it up to here with 'pho' we found these A++ mazing Aussie burgers at Al Fresco's, oops. It was great to return to HCMC at the end of our trip before flying home - we felt a little like locals by the end.

So, that's it. Three weeks, seven destinations and one amazing holiday. Good luck - in a country like Vietnam, I know your own adventure will be just as memorable as ours.


I'm really enjoying food at the moment, but in a different way to the ham/pudding/shortbread/chocolate fest that was Christmas. It's nice to just get back into eating normally in January and replacing the treats that make you feel festive with the treats that make you feel healthy from the inside out. Plus a few little yummy morsels on the side. My instagram feed says I've really been enjoying food this week...

This morning's breakfast. Mixed berry protein smoothie. Blend the milk of your choice, water, frozen mixed berries, oats, protein powder, flax seeds, cinnamon and natural yoghurt.

This mango tree. Has been standing out the front of Mum & Dad's house for about 10 years without any action and then BAM - there's now enough fruit to fill a few crates. Might have to pop a few in my boxes (moving this weekend!)

A post popped up on Instagram raving about the detoxifying and cleansing properties of hot water with lemon. So I tried it. I really enjoyed this refreshing start to the morning. I don't really know how effective it is, but it tasted cleansing at least :)

Oh hello. Remember my new year resolution to not buy chocolate? It's going well. I haven't bought any chocolate but I've still sampled a few morsels, in keeping with my rule: I can accept, but I can't buy. My Mum looks after the Darrell Lea range at the pharmacy she works at, and she broke open a sample pack of the Australia Day Rocklea Road for the girls in the shop when she and I were walking past on the weekend. Of course we took a little sample for ourselves. Banana and lime might sound like a strange combo for rocky road - but it really is delish!


I was just reading this article and the below quote, referring to the competitive show-off culture that is becoming more apparent, and that is perpetuated through social media and by those of us who use it, self included (says the girl with the pictorial blog... *ahem*).

"I can see exactly how and why more people are wrestling with how to believe they are enough. I see the cultural messaging everywhere that says that an ordinary life is a meaningless life. And I see how kids that grow up on a steady diet of reality television, celebrity culture and unsupervised social media can absorb this messaging and develop a completely skewed sense of the world. I am only as good as the number of “likes” I get on Facebook and Instagram."

I relate this to what I wrote in my post last week, about battling your way through the "Find Your Passion" fog (the pressure to establish a dream career). But it goes further than that.

Remember the good ol' days when FB was all about how you decorated your wall with amusing gadgets? Mine had virtual Post-Its; they were pretty cutting edge. Remember the days when it was called Thefacebook? (No, I don't.) There were no notifications. Occasionally someone would post a comment on your wall. There was no news feed, so the whole universe couldn't read your conversations. You didn't have to be subjected to pictures of everyone's tropical holidays while you were freezing at your cubicle, unless you went out of your way to visit their wall. You could live in the blissfully unaware bubble of your own life. That was nice. You didn't have to worry about whether you attended an event wearing the same outfit as last week in case someone tagged you in a photo and the WHOLE WORLD found out that you sometimes wear your dresses more than once. Your happiness meter was not affected by the number that appears in that seductive red notification bubble. Heaven forbid you have no notifications at all -- or if they're all invitations to play Bejewelled (please stop). Sometimes FB feels more like a Competition of Life than a way to stay in contact with pals or to plow a virtual farm.

The competition is not only about how you look but what you do for a living, where/how much you travel and even what you get up to on the weekend. It's really beginning to bug me. But the crucial part? It's not that you're judging others on their posts (unless they deserve it or if they misuse your/you're) but it's the way you judge yourself, when you see the holiday someone else is on, or what they're doing with their life, or how fashionable their clothes are, and you berate yourself because you might be doing something totally normal and mundane, or you might be having a frightening hair/fashion day/week/life or you might not have the funds to go on a holiday right now or your boyfriend didn't give you no-reason flowers like that other girl's. Whatever it might be, social media is like a big vat of fodder for the jealousy fire. And then, when it's you who's out somewhere cool or you get a surprise present, or you're relaxing with cocktails by a pool and you're sitting at a convenient angle that makes your thighs look less like a blob than usual and the Toaster filter on Insta gives you an amazing buff and tan, there's just that part of you that feels like you have to broadcast this moment on Instagram/Facebook because if you don't, others won't see that you're good looking, in certain disguises, and that your life is cool too, dammit, otherwise it may as well not have happened at all. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way sometimes because my buddies have verified same.

Social media presents such a conundrum, to me. On the one hand, it's invaluable because it allows you to be in the loop of casual gatherings and stay in touch with friends and family, especially those that don't live close by, and get little glimpses of their lives without having to exchange full-blown emails (so 2001) or phone calls, because let's face it, it just wouldn't happen and you would lose contact with a lot of people that you legit want to stay in contact with. On the other hand I friggin hate it because of all the competitiveness and that it's so goshdamn addictive. Last week I deleted the Facebook App off my phone. Two reasons. Firstly because iOS 7 is draining my data like nobody's business and secondly, I was getting so sick of myself not being able to help scrolling through the news feed before I went to sleep and first thing in the morning and several times on the train to work! I mean, get a life. And you know what else I don't like? When you're at a social gathering that might be a bit dull and so you take to the FB scrolling. It's rude and it's sad that we can't just make the effort to be present and to make the most of the situation. Have a conversation. People watch. Drink too much. Put the phone down. Make like a Baby Boomer and turn the device completely OFF until you need to make an emergency phone call! (Okay... too far.) By the way, if anyone's wondering, I was at Cronulla RSL on Saturday night. I didn't get to tell any of you because my phone battery was dead. But rest assured I was out and I was doing something cool with a lot of other cool people. I am cool.

I'm as guilty as the next bloke when it comes to slipping in the occasional show-off on social media, much more guilty than some. Wasn't life much simpler when you just enjoyed yourself and didn't feel the need to give a running commentary? I actually legitimately think that my friends who aren't FB over-sharers or who don't have FB at all are much cooler. So let's all put that in our pipes and smoke it, ay? Yes, well, I'm still learning to edit myself and my responses to what I see (all is not always as it seems) but the deletion of the FB app is something I'm really enjoying - would you try it?

Image Credit

A Pretty Freaking Great Post


This morning I woke up with a minor case of dusty hangover head, and a healthy smoothie or eggs on toast just weren't going to cut it. I wanted pancakes. But I'm also on the health wagon and I've declared to the world that 2014 is the year of sugar-free baking. So, I thought to myself, I'm gunna wanna have a trusty sugar-free pancake recipe at hand. Correct? I googled for the least sinful recipe I could find and found one using wholemeal flour and not a grain of sugar or any form of sweetener. Sounds yummy right? Totally. We ate the pancakes, but only after we'd given them a generous slosh of maple syrup to mask everything about them. Don't let the picture fool you. These wholemeal pancakes tasted like moist corrugated cardboard patties. So I'm not going to be sharing the recipe with you. The previous time that I attempted "healthy" pancakes was with a recipe using dextrose instead of sugar. They were okay but they left a weird feeling in my mouth, kinda like I'd just brushed my teeth with baking powder. Delicious! After chowing down on our fibrous flapjacks this morning I asked Lindsay whether he thought, if you felt like a pancake whether it was worth trying to make a healthy one or whether you should just go eat a real pancake. We decided it was probably better to just eat a proper yummy pancake and satisfy the urge. But like, eat *one*; don't have an hour-long shaker pancake session (my brother and I used to do this every weekend when we were kids... come back, 10-year-old matabolisms!). So guys. Not a fabulous start to my sugar-free baking adventures but the fails are all part of the experiment. In general I am a little skeptical of healthy variations of treaty things because they usually taste LIKE SHIT inferior, but the whole point of this experiment is to find things that are worth eating, not things that you don't want to own up to having made. I haven't given up hope on the pancake situation just yet, so if anyone knows of a good recipe please let me know!


Good morning! I'm happy to share that Little Bow Thief's mini jams now have their very own Etsy Shop - hooray! Still ironing out a few kinks in terms of ordering (it's a little tricky because they're made to order and there's lots of variations) and what-not, but it's a start. Something to tick off the list! This year is going to be a little tight on the ol budget, to say the least, going back to uni full time. I'm hoping to find a handful of students to tutor in English and to keep the jam orders coming in at a nice steady pace. The larger wedding orders can be time consuming, so even two orders per month would be a great side income for this busy student. Anyway, have a look!


What is this photo? Just a little picture of my new home (well, near enough) as of next Saturday 17th January! TEENY bit excited. I've mentioned my big news a few times on this blog over the past couple of weeks but today I wanted to come and elaborate a little. Truth be told, I wrote this post a few weeks ago but have been putting off posting it, mostly because it's a little more serious than my usual posts. But, I think it's important that I share it. So, my big news is that I'll be leaving my North Sydney job in events/publishing next Friday. On Saturday I'll be moving in with my boyfriend in Wollongong. On Monday I'll be going back to uni, to do the Graduate Diploma of Primary Teaching. Think that sounds hectic? Not compared to the lead up to my decision. I'm from a group of people that I call the Career Confused. You want to do everything, but at the same time you don't know what to do. How do you pick a career path, when there are a million things you want to do? I'm no authority, but this is my path, and I hope if you're among the Career Confused that you can take something from it.

Around June 2013 I started thinking about my future career path, and what would really make me happy. I made a list of every single career "option" that had EVER popped into my head, silly and fanciful as they might be, and I do mean ever. Do you doubt me? If you got your mitts on that list (you will never) you'd see 'astronaut' smugly nestled amongst baker, masseuse, florist, actress, pilot, zoologist and forty other things. I was leaving no stone unturned; I was not going to cheat myself of any of these "options".

For every career on my list, I took a page and I wrote, to the best of my knowledge, the foreseeable job description (a day in the life of that job) and pros and cons. From there, each job was either shortlisted or culled. I wasn't joking about the astronaut by the way that is an amusing page.

Due to my study/overseas travel/itchy feet over the years I have worked in a number of jobs in different areas. All of these experiences helped me to whittle my shortlist with some sensibility. I was able to consider each job and think not just about the actual (as apposed to fanciful) job description (Florist: Yay! Pretty Flowers! All day!) but also to consider several other crucial factors: what interests me; what style of work environment do I prefer; how does the job match my preferred lifestyle; what is feasible; what will provide security (food + roof). I judged every job against my ideal criteria. Consequently, seeing as I didn't fancy living in outer space for extended periods of time, or think I would develop sudden aptitude in the sciences, 'astronaut' sadly did not make the cut. The recent viewing of Gravity has taken care of any most remaining inklings to consider this as a viable career option.

I whittled the master list down to about six options, but at the same time I started another list, entitled something clever like "Things That Can Become Extra Curricular Activities". I'd had a lightbulb moment. I realised that I don't have to turn every single interest into a full blown career. Shock! Horror! Captain Obvious! It was hugely satisfying to move some of my ideas over to this new list, rather than having to cold-heartedly strike them off, never to be entertained again. I acknowledged that I can still write and edit in my spare time; I can bake and blog; I can take floristry and massage short courses; I can join an amateur acting group; I can save a billion dollars for a joy flight in space, coming soon to an airline near you. I just have to remember to serve this list and not to forget it. This list, honestly, is probably the most valuable lesson I've uncovered from this whole ride. I know that if I serve it, it'll serve me well, and who knows what surprising avenues my extra-curricular activies will open up along the way, without the pressure of being fully-fledged careers.

For me, the question of work environment and lifestyle, when considering a career change, were hugely important. I needed to think about the job and the lifestyle and not the job title. I have worked in corporate jobs for the past few years and have known for sometime that this is not ideal for me. I'm not talented at corporate attire (I'm quite good at instigating Casual Friday on Tuesdays), I don't like long train commutes, or riding an escalator to my cubicle. The environment doesn't feel like a match for me. At the risk of sounded unhinged I'm a bit of a casually free spirit. I do think, if you are privileged enough to have the option, it makes sense to consider how your chosen career will fit in with the type of lifestyle (location, commute, work-life balance etc.) you'd prefer. You have to be aware of the points on which you don't want to compromise.

Back to my decision process. One of the items on my shortlist was teaching. The other options (about six) included publishing/editing/media (building on my current career path) and conservation. The next step in my process was to look more closely at each option. I already knew that because I have a Bachelor's degree that I needed only to go back to uni for one year to get the Diploma of Education and therefore be qualified to teach. Then I found out that 2014 is the final year that the Dip Ed is offered in a one-year package. After that it will become a two-year course. That basically pushed me to apply straight away, just to see if I'd get in, even if I wasn't yet sure if it was the right path for me. I would figure it out while I waited for the response.

And so began weeks of waiting to hear back, and of me trying to find clarity and closure on that elusive concept of "what is the right career path for me?" Some people are, I feel, blessed with just knowing what they want to do for work, or at least, with being able to pick a path and stick to it. Others, like me, suffer indecision, always thinking the grass is greener, always wanting to do a million different things. Over the last few months I think I've started to make peace with this part of my personality. It's not going to change. It's who I am. I am always going to be curious and wanting to explore. What I need to do is learn to work with this aspect of my personality but also to accommodate it. To pick a path and dedicate myself to it (for the sake of stability and becoming Really Ridiculously Good At Something) but also to pay attention to the part of me that needs to explore, and to nurture that as well.

Over the course of these meanderings I came across some invaluable material online. It had been a rollercoaster few months of trying to decide if I would be doing the right thing to get into teaching, or whether to try something else, or to decide if I should stay on my current path (publishing). I was pulled in so many different, very different, directions. I would be focused one day, and completely confused the next. I was hitting up Mr. Google like a crazy with questions like "HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM CHOOSING THE RIGHT CAREER??" (in caps so as to convey my desperation). And that's when I came across Cal Newport.

Cal Newport is a young Georgetown- based computer science professor who has written books on the topic of career choices. I emphatically recommend his  New York Times article and this YouTube video for those with career paranoia. In short, he rejects the notion that we are each born with an innate destiny, that there is ONE perfect career option for every person, and that we have to "follow our passion" to reach this magical pinnacle of happiness. The notion to "follow your dreams" has become increasingly popular recently, and catchphrases to that effect are alive and breeding on social media. Yeah, you could be having a perfectly good day until you flick through Insta and someone reminds you to "Never Settle Til You Find Your Dream". Dudes. Talk about pressure. Cal Newport's argument is that we don't all intrinsically have one set passion to follow, and the path to happiness is not to identify and follow that one passion. His argument is that it is possible to find career satisfaction if you simply pick something and stick with it. His advice is for those who are in the rut of trying to "find" that passion, or who are torn between several ideas. He argues that there are multiple satisfactory career options for everyone. In picking something and sticking with it, you will eventually gain skills and worth that will make your career path, whatever you choose, valuable. In sticking with something, your skills become a valuable commodity, and from that, you derive career satisfaction. Voila.

So, what made me decide to change over to teaching, and not to stick to my current career path and continue building on the career capital I've already gained in publishing? Surely, by Cal's argument I should just stick to what I'd originally picked? Well for me, it had to come down to looking at the bigger picture. It helps to return to my "bigger picture" to keep my floaty head grounded. Fact: I didn't want to work in a city highrise or commute. Most jobs in the type of publishing path I'd have continued on are city-based. Zoology required a 3-year degree and the jobs are both sparsely available and sparsely located. The appeal of teaching was the flexibility, the ability to express my creativity, leadership and organisational skills - all things that, when I can express them, satisfy me. Teaching offers challenges and the ability to grow and refine your craft, the position to make a difference, and  an appealing work-life balance. It was also a viable option: I had the ability to become qualified within one year; there are jobs available in teaching. And, you know, I'm 30, not 18. It's not always possible to throw caution and money to the wind.

As you can see, my decision making process considered many things.

Returning to Cal Newport's views: on the whole, I found his approach refreshing. There is a skeptical part of me that thinks that if you simply pick a career path out of a hat of interests, you might be missing out on other things that could potentially satisfy you more. I have wrestled with the question that I might be settling for something that is an easier path, and, I have to be honest, Primary Teaching didn't seem unique or exciting enough for my lofty list. But that's why I think you need to create a lofty list, and keep it. To remind you of the practical reasons behind the pathway to your decision. And if you're going to follow a lofty dream, excellent, but you're going to want to be prepared to back that up with an action plan.

There's one more thing I wanted to mention. Throughout the last few months some advice has come to me, which is: "don't concern yourself too much about choosing the 'right' career path; rather than worrying about what will serve you, pick something that will serve the world, and in turn it will serve you well." (I read this off an Angel card. Did I mention I was a free spirit?) In addition to this, our trip to Vietnam in September/October made me realise what an amazingly privileged position I am in, to be educated and to have an endless range of options to choose from. I talked to a local who worked every single day at the tourist markets, from 7am to 11pm. We met a tailor who worked 8am to 8pm every day of the year including weekends, with only 5 days off a year. We learned of farmers' wives who had to move away from their families for weeks and months at a time and sell street food to earn extra money. Their husbands earned only $60 a year as farmers. The women had no choice but to come into the city and live in sharehouses that cost them 37 cents a night; you can only imagine the conditions.

And here's Princess worrying about which career to pick. Talk about first world problems. You don't need much more perspective than that. I think that, if you're in a position to choose, it's of course worthwhile to do something that nourishes your interests, uses your skills, keeps you challenged and gives you opportunities to grow. We all have our individual set of criteria.

Well, I'm taking a leap of carefully considered and senisble faith, and I hope that it works out.

In the meantime I'll be moonlighting as a flower picking, bikkie baking, blog writing, choir singing (oh yes, forgot to mention that one) star gazing dreamer face. And I might even pick up a few new ones along the way.

Thank you for making it to the end, even if you skipped a few paragraphs. I hope you read something that resonates.


YUM. With summer having checked out over the past few days (wearing boots and a knit today) this is exactly the type of thing I feel like eating.

I was so excited this morning to stumble across a new blog - Mel's Kitchen Cafe - I'm looking forward to making this soon, and guess what, nothing naughty in the ingredients list either!

I'll let you know how it goes. See recipe here.


Throughout 2013 I dabbled in making themed party favors for my quaint little side business, Little Bow Thief (this year I'm in the kitchen making bombonniere jams). I had a lot of fun with my creations and thought I would share some of them with you. I have always loved the idea of bombonniere and small table gifts. Who doesn't love a surprise little package!? I think it all started when my parents brought me home a small bombonniere fabric dolly from a wedding they'd been to. I was only about 5 years old but I vividly remember them giving me that dolly and I still have her packed away somewhere. Hope you enjoy and see something that inspires you to get crafty for your own special occasions. x



Back to work today! I seem to have been the only one who wasn't dreading coming back to work today after a few weeks off, but that's because I only have two weeks left at the company. It's a pretty strange feeling to know that my whole routine is going to be completely flipped on its head in a couple of weeks. Exciting though. Best get back to work. For those of you back to the grind today, hope you settle back in nicely. Otherwise, hope you're making the most of the sunshine!


Alright - let's do this 2014!

I love the concept of new years resolutions. Yes it's just a new day, but it really does feel like the turning of a new leaf and it's the perfect time to look at your aspirations and how you can set yourself up to reach them. 

A few years ago I started a New Years resolutions time capsule. I took a big brown envelope from Typo, and at the beginning of every new year I write a page about the past year and my new resolutions moving forward. It's really interesting to read back on where I was at, and to read the resolutions and see what I was able to achieve (and what I totally forgot about as soon as I wrote it). I ticked off some big ones last year but needless to say there were a few that are going back into rotation again. I'm okay with that.

I already know that 2014 is going to be HUGELY different. For one thing, I am moving cities, from Sydney to Wollongong, to live with my boyfriend, and leaving my job in publishing/events to go back to uni to study primary teaching. Full scale changes!

I have a few resolutions for the new year; they include working harder to leave negativity at the door, improving my health and fitness (standard resolutions) and also looking at getting involved in some kind of performance activity... something I haven't done for years and that I still miss. But I have two food-related resolutions that I think are a little more interesting for the purpose of this blog... 

1. Sugar-free baking in 2014! I love baking. I do a fair bit of it. I have a few sugar-free baking cookbooks but I've barely even looked at them, because every time there's an occasion to bake I think, well, if I'm going to make it, may as well make it properly? But I want to give the sugar-free recipes a fighting chance, and I feel the only way to do that is to resolve to shelve the old favourites for a year and dabble in the healthier varieties. I am really enthused about this resolution and looking forward to sharing my experiments on here!

5. No purchasing of chocolate. I can accept it from others but I don't want to buy it myself. This should make the concept of Easter an actual novelty for the first time in ten years!

I hope you've set up some good resolutions for yourself. To 2014: may it be happy, healthy, adventurous and full of love and laughter. x


HAPPY NEW YEAR! Hope everyone enjoyed their new years eve, whether you were out on the town or tucked up early in bed! We had a lovely New Years Eve dinner for two at a local Vietnamese, followed by backyard shenanigans and a bonfire with friends. Towards midnight Lindsay shocked my socks off by suggesting he and I get up at 5am and walk to the beach to watch the sun rise (he's not an early riser). I loved the idea, and true to his word he got us up at 5am, we packed a bag with a blanket, jackets and emergency Pizza Shapes and took the 20-minute walk from his place down to the beach. It was the perfect way to begin the new year... and just as nice to walk back home and hop back into bed for a few hours!

It's been a busy new year so far, in my neck of the woods. Well, today has. Yesterday was spent swimming and hanging with family (loving all the pool time with nieces this year) and having naps, lots of naps. Today, Lindsay and I have been busy playing house. I'm moving into his place in a couple of weeks. YAY! After a very busy last few weeks it finally feels like it's actually happening. We've been carting stuff over here gradually but today was our first major day of tackling the flat and having a good spring/summer clean. Hard work, but working together and with the music playing, it's been fun, and everything is coming together. Home-made san choy bow for dinner and a couple of ciders were just what the doctor ordered. Right now I'm sitting on Lindsay's bed while he's going through his drawers to make room for yours truly. It's like a fashion time capsule and I'm enjoying the show. And I just scored myself a boyfriend jumper!

Well that's it from me today. Back again soon with those resolutions -- I'm pretty excited!