Part 1: Making my mental health and wellbeing a priority

I was listening to a podcast about stress the other day whilst driving. As with other episodes I have listened to also published by the uber-empire that is Gwynnie Paltrow’s GOOP, I found myself waiting (wanting?) to hit that cringe-worthy moment, which would spell the end of GP in my ears for good. My own personal ‘vaginal steaming’ moment if you will.

But like all prior attempts to exorcise GOOP from my podcast subscriptions, it was not to be. The content is too good yo. The episode was a live discussion with author Emily Nagoski around the reason why women experience stress differently to men. There were so many takeaways for me from the podcast, but what spoke to me most, was the concept of our ‘Inner Madwomen’.

In a nutshell, Nagoski posits that there are three perceptions of self that any woman may experience simultaneously. The first is our ‘real’ self. In my case, the wife, mother, daughter, sister, chairwoman, friend, self-employed content creator who lives in Auckland, New Zealand, has two dogs and doesn’t eat carbs. This, ‘actual’ Melissa suffers from depression, anxiety is quite forgetful, needs more sleep, procrastinates, feels like she is constantly in the weeds and failing at a lot of things.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the fictional ‘Melissa’. She is perfect. Super organised, creative, spontaneous, fit, flawless, gorgeous, inspiring, a wonderful mother and the most amazing wife. She gets everything done and does it well. She is beyond capable, reliable and never feels overwhelmed or panicked by obligation.

In between, sits my ‘Inner Madwoman’. “She is crazy because her job is impossible” says Nagoski. Reconciling our current state of self with the artificial, aspirational self is a fool’s errand. I, Melissa, am a mortal human woman and will never achieve the lofty heights of Instagram-Perfection, every moment curated and crafted with intent, mindfulness and great passion. Mates, I’m sliding into bed (usually unmade) each night after a glass or two of wine and a sink of ignored dishes, an inbox of ignored emails next to a husband who I’m sure would like to feel a little ‘less’ ignored then he currently does.

And this is where the Mad Woman goes to town. All of those tiny little daily failings become weapons with which to berate ourselves internally, over and over again as we never seem to get any closer to that aspirational, zen goddess in our heads which we’ve been telling ourselves for years that we must keep striving to be! Another appointment forgotten ” You are so pathetic Melissa, how many diaries and calendars do you have?”, another date cancelled with friends, “It’s a wonder you get invited anywhere, you’re no fun and no-one can rely on you”, another night of yelling at bedtime, “that child deserves a better mother than you”……….trust me, my Inner Madwoman has quite the repertoire, she’s been going hard for a long time.

The point of all of this (I think!) is how a little bit of recognition and enlightenment when it comes to these three selves, can go along way towards some BIG internal changes.

Silencing the Inner Madwoman is not the goal – listening to her, using her insight and thanking her is what I’ve started doing and the benefits are compounding.

Here’s one example of how a little change is having a positive impact for me, every day.

For almost 2 years, since my last major depressive episode (brought about by an external stressor which I never acknowledged), I have been really struggling in the mornings. A real, irrefutable difficulty in getting out of bed and starting the day is very common amongst those who suffer from depression. For me, it became a nasty cycle of blaming it on being too tired, so I’d sleep in, letting Dave get the boys up, make breakfast, pack lunches, bring me coffee and more often than not, take Nixon to school. Sounds inherently lazy right? Cool, add that one to the Madwomen’s list of things to feel guilty about! Does it make it easier to understand if I describe the feeling of staying in bed as a basic desire for the day NOT to begin rather than the feeling of luxuriating in bed simply because one can?

It’s impossible to describe what depression feels like in one blog post so you’re just going to have to trust me. My problems begin to snowball when the guilt kicks in. Inner Madwoman would kick things off by telling me what a piece of shit I was for not being able to get up at 6 am like Dave, WTF is so hard about making perfect bento boxes for Nixon’s lunch as the other IG mums do hmmmm? Dave is such a better parent then you are Melissa, no-one would even notice if you weren’t around so you might as well just stay in bed and sleep. Go on, you’re so tired…..

So how on earth did I turn this awful cycle of mental flagellation around?

Well, it’s totally a work in progress and babes, I won’t be saying sayonara to my prescription anytime soon, but, I think I can pinpoint a couple of things that have really helped improve my day-to-day mental wellbeing.

The first is listening to and acknowledging what that inner critic is trying to communicate instead of running from it – or sleeping from it as the case may be! Though her methods are irrational (remember her job is impossible), I have realised that this is how my subconscious communicates with me, via my worst enemy who lives in my head!

Resetting my morning routine had been weighing on my mind for a long time, and was as important to my mental health as it was to my family in general. Identifying and acknowledging this has been key. Over the past month, I have set my alarm for 6.15am, I have responded to the alarm (also key lol), I have decided to maximise and RECLAIM those 2 hours before the boys begin school in a way that sets me up for a great/better/more productive day ahead.

And, it’s working.

And, it’s helped me realise that a HUGE amount of the stress I feel (resulting in anxiety and depressive episodes) stems from time management and procrastination.

But this blog post is already way too long so let’s save discussing that for Part Two.

PS. Just remember, I’m talking about my own experiences here. I just need to get this shit out of my head and I’m making no claims that any of this may be useful or helpful to anyone else xx

PPS. Thanks to Lisa for telling me to get writing again x

Set & Forget – Investing just got easier

Check out Part 1 of my investment series in collaboration with Sharesies here

Just like anything, instilling responsible financial habits in both ourselves and our kids takes both time, patience and practice. As I mentioned last month, we began contributing to the boys’ savings accounts as soon as they were born, setting up automatic payments of $10 per week and then essentially ignoring the accounts over the past 14 years. Obviously a very passive approach to saving but one that has easily become a fixture in the family budget.

Now that we are actively teaching the boys about investment diversity with the help of their Sharesies accounts, it’s time to level-up and get them thinking about their money, and where it’s going, on a more regular basis. If kids are earning pocket money, or if they receive money as a gift from friends and family, an easy way to foster a very intentional mindset towards saving is to introduce a spend/save/donate ratio which is in line with your family’s financial strategy. This is easy to implement from a super young age using low denomination coins and different envelopes, boxes or containers for spending, saving and donating.

Applying this practice of regular contributions to existing investments is also worthwhile implementing with our kids’ accounts. Many of us probably pay into our KiwiSaver accounts with uniform deposits via our pay schedules or, manually instigated automatic payments. As of last week, we can now do the same with our Sharesies investments – auto-invest is now live on the platform and it’s so easy to set up!

I’m all about automating as much of our family’s ‘Life Admin’ as possible – especially those voluntary tasks which can be easy to overlook like, savings and investment. I’ve had Christmas Club savings in place for over 10 years now at both a supermarket and The Warehouse and let me tell you, the value-add of decision free, locked-in saving each week results in a massive high five to yourself come Christmas time. Hooking up your Sharesies account with auto-invest is another one of those adult life hacks that you spend 5 minutes on now and end up patting yourself on the back for years to come.

Why use Auto-Invest

  • Sharesies auto-invest helps you stick to an investment strategy that’s right for you. For Dave and I, this means contributing small amounts regularly to each of the boys Sharesies portfolios.
  • Auto-invest helps you build on an investment when you don’t have a large, lump sum to begin with – which is what Sharesies is all about to be honest!
  • With Sharesies auto-invest you can choose between 3 pre-made orders (one of which is specifically for kids accounts) or you can build your own DIY Order.
  • Auto-invest is faster than setting up an AP via internet banking – I’m not exaggerating. I set up auto-invest on both boys Sharesies accounts in under 4 minutes total. The platform is so intuitive and easy I feel safe and confident with what I’m doing every time I log on.

I’m pretty excited about this new offering from Sharesies for a number of reasons, but probably top of the list is that from now on, the boys will be able to see the benefit and growth in their portfolios as a result of regular investing. Getting our ‘foot-in-the-door’ and being able to purchase shares in a way that is accessible and easy to understand is a game changer for families and individuals alike. Now with auto-invest, diversification of our savings investments is just as simple to automate and as free of fees as our Christmas Club at the supermarket (but maybe not quite so boring so I should be able to get the kids to pay attention at least once a month lol).

My kids have a share portfolio – why and, HOW?!

I’m partnering with Sharesies over the next couple of months to share our family’s experiences as we dip our toes into investing on the share market for the very first time.

I’ve long lamented how painful it is trying to discuss financial ‘anything’ as a Kiwi. If you’re talking money with anyone but your partner, cue the involuntary squirm and averted eyes in 5, 4, 3, 2………1.
But, it’s 2019 and we’ve come a long way baby.

As middle-class consumer spending and debt seem at peak levels here in New Zealand (“just chuck it on the house, she’ll be right”), there is a growing undercurrent of people and families that have said ‘ENOUGH’. The Declutterers, the No-Brand-New, the Mortgage-Free Masters – alternative spending lifestyles and habits are gaining traction and attention. To balance the equation, there is a complementary curiosity developing around alternative ways to save and invest the money previously spent on a more-is-more lifestyle. I can only imagine that by the time my kids are in the workforce, our views on the growth and protection of our financial futures will be even further removed from those grounded in the brick and mortar, quarter-acre dream of yesteryear.

To be totally cliché, the boy’s financial future starts now. Well, it actually started 14 years ago, which is when I opened Ethan’s savings account. Dave and I have been contributing $10 per week to each of the kids’ savings accounts, and that’s starting to add up to a couple of decent chunks of money. I’m also that parent, who has always banked any birthday/Christmas cheques and foreign currency from Dave’s family overseas into their accounts rather than let them blow it on more plastic toys. Instilling a pattern and expectation of saving from a young age is something I strongly believe in.

But, there’s definitely more than one way to skin the proverbial cat, and I’m all about NOT putting all of my eggs in one basket (and using as many colloquial phrases in one sentence as possible!).

As such, I’ve broadened my horizons and created an investment portfolio as of late last year with online investment platform Sharesies. Frustrated by low-interest rates being offered by traditional financial institutions i.e. banks, dabbling in the share market had been on my radar for years. But, like many Kiwis I’m sure, the problem was I had zero idea about how to begin. The launch of Sharesies Kids Accounts was the impetus I needed to register and create investment accounts for myself and both of the boys.

I’m a child of ¼ acre boomers who certainly never dabbled in shares and investments, so the financial acumen of risk and return is something I was never taught. Only around 20% of Kiwis own shares so, educating myself by using the Sharesies platform and passing on that confidence to diversify to Ethan and Nixon, will expand financial literacy in our family for years to come.

How Sharesies Kids Accounts Work

  • Anyone can open an account for kids under the age of 16, you don’t have to be a parent, but the account does need to be linked to an adult’s Sharesies account.
  • Kids subscriptions are half the price of adult subscriptions (adults range from FREE for a portfolio of $50 or less to $3 per month if the investment value exceeds $3000, or a $30 annual subscription).
  • Adding to anyone’s Sharesies wallet with GIFTS from $5 is easy – perfect for those astute friends and family who get the fact that there is a finite number of Hot Wheels that any small boy actually needs.

Working with the boys on setting up their Sharesies investments has been a really interesting process, creating an ongoing, real-world curiosity around some of their funds. One of Ethan’s chosen investments is Pathfinder Global Water, a managed fund (up 6.58% since 13/2/19) which invests in socially responsible companies around the world involved in the water industry. This is such an important social issue right now, the gravity of which is not lost on a young teen, so a vested monetary interest has seen him prick his ears up more often and take note of what’s happening around the world within the industry.

Nixon is pretty keen on the Australian Resources Fund (up 7.08% since 13/2/19), he’s always been obsessed with precious metals, mining, and gems so the pit mine in the thumbnail really spoke to him lol.

Anywho, I feel like I’m ticking something off my Life List so-to-speak by monitoring and growing these investments with the kids. The share market has always been a dark mysterious cosmos, even as an upwardly mobile, uni-educated woman with all the white-privilege one might expect growing up on Auckland’s North Shore (ha!). Using Sharesies has removed that inaccessible stigma and opened the door for some really great learning and increased financial literacy for both the boys and Dave and me.

I’ll be following up next month with another insight into how we are tracking with our Sharesies experience.

Beauty Review: Dermapen 4 – My BEST skin ever

One month exactly until I hit the ‘magic’ milestone that is 40 years old, and I’m sliding in to that big birthday with skin that I’m in love with right now.

The past 12 months have definitely seen an increased investment in time, money and basically, just, attention to my skin.  I’ve simply stopped being so lazy, I’ve made washing my makeup off at night a more frequent occurrence than ‘never’, I’ve religiously applied sunscreen to my face every day and I’ve been open to experiencing a broader of skin treatments than lovely (but basic, let’s be honest) facials.

The fab team at Clinic 42 have been putting in the hard yards over the past 6 months, guiding me through a series of treatments and I’m seeing the results increase incrementally after each appointment.

To be clear, I’m talking skin treatments here, not injectables (you can read my opinion piece on Botox here).

We kicked things off with a series of three medical peels to exfoliate and brighten my complexion in a non-invasive way.  I saw amazing results using varying combinations/layering of acids, but be prewarned, this is a peel program in which your skin WILL peel.  This didn’t bother me too much and the skin turnover time was around 5 days, but, based on that, a medical peel may not be for everyone.

Next on the therapeutic menu, the most magical thing that’s ever happened to my skin – Dermapen 4. Launched in April 2018, the latest device from the market leader in microneedling is available as a treatment from Clinic 42 (read more here) and my face and I were next in line.

beauty-review-nz-dermapen-4-microneedling

What is Microneedling?

Microneedling, at its most basic level involves using a physical device to repeatedly puncture the skin via many tiny needles.  The goal/benefits are two-fold; the ‘micro-damage’ caused by the needles initiates a repair response from the body, resulting in increased production of collagen and elastin.  Secondly, the channels created by the needles deliver topicals deeper into the skin when applied after a microneedling treatment.

Sweet!  I’ll just buy a dermal-roller and get on with this at home, right?

Oh please NO.

Let’s think about this; needles going into anyone’s skin shouldn’t be re-used, ever ::::shudder:::: and secondly, a miniature rolling pin covered in needles is not exactly a precise instrument.  Needles in this instance enter the skin at an angle, which can cause tearing and increased (unnecessary) irritation.

A Dermapen 4 treatment on the other hand, is professionally administered, controlled, hygienic and precise.  The 16 tiny needles in a Dermapen 4 cartridge enter the skin vertically resulting in minimum trauma, pain and skin recovery.

Why I Love Dermapen 4

  • Treatment is FAST.  I’m in and out of Clinic 42 in 45 minutes.
  • Pain?  Barely.  There is some, but it’s mainly concentrated in specific areas.  I find my forehead the most tender, but, as you may have seen on Instagram, I’ve filmed the entire process holding my phone so it can’t be that bad!
  • Recovery is fast!  After 24hrs, I find all tenderness and redness has gone.
  • The results are too good to ignore.  Dermapen 4 is recommended for treatment of a myriad of skin concerns from fine lines to scarring, age spots, stretch marks, hyperpigmentation and more, the first thing I noticed was a reduction in the size of pores on my nose – something that had been increasingly bothering me for years.  Secondly, after one treatment an annoying, bright red burst capillary on the tip of my nose completely disappeared and finally, the resurfacing/retexturizing effect of Dermapen treatments is UNBELEIVABLE.  Seriously, wind-back-the-clock good.  I have never been happier with my skin than I am now as I stand on the grim precipice of 40 – JOKES, I’m pumped about my birthday, this next decade is going to be amazing I can feel it!

The confidence I feel is also due to the implicit trust I have in the team at Clinic 42.  Both Doctors and Nurses alike and incredibly knowledgeable, professional, warm and welcoming.  An appointment here is something I look forward to and my fab partnership with the clinic as I share my skin journey with you is an added bonus on top of the fantastic results I am seeing month by month.

Say Goodbye to Dinner Dilemmas – HelloFresh 2 Month Review

I’m a firm believer that meal kits are one of the greatest, most convenient marvels of modern living – at least for parents lol – we are hooked! However, choosing between the various subscription box options we now have in New Zealand can be a bit daunting. Our family has tried 90% of them but after purchasing HelloFresh since September it’s time to dish!

Before I get into it, HelloFresh have hooked you guys up with a discount code so you too can experience the convenience, variety and peace of mind that this awesome service had brought to our dinner table! For $35 off your first HelloFresh order, CLICK HERE – I can’t recommend it ENOUGH guys so give it a whirl!

Dinner doesn’t get any more convenient than this

I really can’t emphasise this enough. Our delivery arrives on a Monday, ready for the week ahead. Because we are not meal planning each week and shopping for dinner is excluded from our weekly shop, we are saving time (and stress) in other areas of our life – not just at 5pm every day when the “what’s for dinner/I forgot to get the meat out!” panic kicks in.

One point of difference between HelloFresh and its competitors that Dave and I LOVE is the colour coded paper bag system. Everything you need for each meal (except the chilled ingredients) is in ONE recyclable paper bag, saving time 2 ways;
I don’t have to unpack 5 meals worth of ingredients when our delivery arrives, I just pop the bags straight in the fridge.
Secondly, when it’s time to cook, I don’t have to refer to the recipe card and collect all the ingredients needed for the meal – everything is in the bag! Love it.Variety is the key to happy mealtimes in our house

Variety is the key to happy mealtimes in our house

Those of us who are responsible for preparing dinner for either ourselves or others have our go-to meals that pop up again and again, week after week – inspo is hard to come by at 5pm when everything is happening at once right? Guys, there is no need to exaggerate how amazing it is to flick through the HelloFresh recipes each week and literally be so stoked at the variety that you can’t decide which meal to make first. Not even joking.

The kids LOVE it!

I’m loving saying goodbye to second-guessing whether the meals arriving each week via a subscription service will be liked by the kids. If you’re a Classic or Family Box customer, it’s super easy to jump onto the HelloFresh site or the app and switch out recipes if they’re not quite right for you. The boys are also loving HelloFresh as the recipes are perfectly suited to family meals. In Mum-Speak, I’m not having to recreate every dinner to suit the tastes of our finicky five-year-old and stubborn teenager.

Rediscover the joy of cooking!

Our HelloFresh subscription has incidentally removed any barriers (real or perceived lol) that had been preventing Ethan (our 14yo) from getting more involved at mealtimes. He loves to cook, but stress levels in our kitchen around dinner time often mean that Dave and I don’t have the capacity to guide him through dinner prep or cooking. The HelloFresh recipe cards provide step by step instructions complete with photographs, that allow E to get started on dinner prep when he can and jump in and assist us on those busy days when another hand in the kitchen is always welcomed.  

My Recommendation…..

All in all, we are loving HelloFresh – can you tell?! Cooking, eating and sharing meals together as a family has chilled out so much over the past couple of months since HelloFresh arrived in NZ and in our kitchen – I can’t imagine life without it anymore. The service and quality of ingredients are outstanding considering how well priced the deliveries are and don’t forget, I’ve got a code to share which makes it even better value!

Try HelloFresh for yourself and you’ll definitely see what I’m talking about. Don’t forget to use the code BESTNEST for $35 off your first order and find a little more time in your day and out of your kitchen!

Our Modern Family and a Life Lived Online……….some of the time!

The Best Nest Blog turned 11 years old in October (that’s pretty much a century in blogger years lol) and, I must give credit where credit’s due.  By very definition, my blog wouldn’t be beaming its way around the world without the web, which I wouldn’t be able to access without the internet.  So, thank you mystical online world, existing in the ether, of which I have zero understanding outside of my own domain name!

Much has changed in our family over the past decade, Dave transitioned from a Marine Engineer working with his hands, on boats every day, to an IT Project Manager working from home, Ethan grew waaaayy too fast and is now a bona fide teenager, and our family grew from 3 to 4 with the arrival of Nixon just over 5 years ago. It was at this time that I decided NOT to go back to my former job and to focus exclusively on life as a ‘Mummy Blogger’.

Fast forward to 2018 and Dave and I are happily co-working from home, sharing one, long desk and at last count there are 17 devices in our home (sometimes more) connected to the internet at any one time.  That’s mental, but I know our family is NOT highly unusual, at least not here in New Zealand.  We are also travelling frequently for work,which presents its own series of online obstacles to overcome.

“With great internet access comes great responsibility”.

Our job as the parents in this online family environment is to facilitate a level of suitable internet accessibility for the boys – and their friends as is often the case.  But whilst doing so, there’s an inherent obligation to maintain their online safety, the security of our own digital assets, those of Dave’s employer and the integrity of my own online business.

What Does Online Safety and Security Mean in 2018?

So, SO much is the short answer, but if we dive a bit deeper we should be covering the following bases across all devices; PCs, Macs, laptops, Chromebooks, tablets and our beloved smartphones;

  • Virus protection
  • Protection from hackers
  • Safe, secure cloud backup to protect precious photos
  • Financial protection from in-app purchasing – thanks kids!
  • Moderation of screen time
  • Age-appropriate content
  • Real-time protection while using unsecured, public WiFi
Internet Security

The NEW Travel Essential

We just returned from a family trip to the Sunshine Coast.  As Dave and I always work during our family travel breaks, being without internet connectivity is simply NOT an option.  As such we relied on public WiFi whenever we were away from the Airbnb.  On our final day when Dave had Skype meetings after check-out, he had to sit in our rental car outside the library, so he could share his laptop screen, take his meeting and keep working.  Not a big deal but, when you rely on internet access so much, even when on ‘holiday’ it would have felt great to know that the network being used was secure. Norton’s got a product to tackle this exact issue that is our new, never-leave-home-without-it tech fave. Meet Norton Secure VPN, designed to keep personal and financial info safe when using public WiFi.  One of my late father’s most infamous quotes refers to the fact that he didn’t ‘spend all day in internet cafes waiting for someone to download all of his money’.  He was talking to his bank, frustrated at his password reset process lol.  However inconceivable this comment may seem, it could potentially happen without protection on a public network.

Dave and I have installed Norton Secure VPN on both of our phones (and Ethan’s) and laptops.  What this means is that all data sent and received using public WiFi is encrypted.  The creation of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) secures our logins, credit card info etc. and makes our extensive use of public networks just as safe as being at home.  That’s one less thing to worry about when we are far from home!

Online Security at Home…..and Everywhere Else

Ok, real talk – virus protection software is nothing new, so, choosing a product that offers comprehensive, family-friendly benefits is what’s going to impress me.

Norton Security Premium takes the cake here.  One subscription protects 5 devices from viruses and hackers, that’s really the minimum requirement isn’t it?  Over and above is what we’re really interested in and that’s what this package provides;

  • 25gb secure online storage – LOVE this.  Cloud storage is expensive guys, and I’m constantly needing more.  Why is this important?  Precious family pics are often targeted by ransomware, eek.
  • Norton Family – a comprehensive toolkit that can work cooperatively between parents and kids to both keep little ones (and not-so-little ones) safe online AND teach them healthy habits around their device usage.  The days of not knowing what your kids are actually doing online are over thanks to reports sent straight to your inbox, giving you an easy, automated way to get back in the loop and regain control over the content your kids are consuming when they’re online.

These two fabulous tools from Norton are an easy way for us as parents to take back control of the online activity happening within our families.  This isn’t about policing the internet, but, there is no way children have enough impulse control or common sense to make their own uncensored decisions about the content they access online.

Internet Security

I’m a parent and I take that job very seriously.  As someone who has dedicated over a decade to creating a viable business online via my own website and through the use of social media, I know just how brutal and often dangerous the internet can be.  On the other hand, it’s also bloody incredible, and it’s that facet of online user-experience that I want my boys to access as children.

For more info on Norton Security Premium and Norton Secure VPN, visit their website here, there is a wealth of resources on their site around keeping safe online. Thanks to Norton for sponsoring this post.

The Outdated Construct of Ageing Gracefully and Why it’s Time to Let it Go

Despite the new era of Fake News in which we now find ourselves living, there is a lot of ‘truth telling’ happening across social media as well as in traditional media (the latter to a lesser degree I would argue).  The ever-increasing conversations around mental health, suicide, rape, sexual harassment, gender equality and diversity and body positivity are undeniably having transformative effects on the way certain populations identify themselves and others.  What’s not to love about that?  But, there remain innumerable ideals and standards imposed upon us that persist in drawing a line in the sand – you’re either THIS, or THAT, you look like THIS, ergo, you are THAT, you do THIS, therefore, you can’t be THAT.

As humans we seem hard-wired in many aspects of our thinking to lean towards such binary oppositions, to latch on to mutually exclusive notions that preclude any possibility of a sliding scale or spectrum within the constructs (whatever they may be) ourselves and others choose to identify with.

I’d only recently discovered a new Instagram fave, the12ishstyle by Katie Sturino, when my jaw hit the floor whilst reading comments on a post detailing her recent Botox appointment.

New Zealand's Top Travel Lifestyle Blog Home Decor Botox Beauty Review

Many of Sturino’s followers could have cared less about her regular Botox treatments, or simply ignored them altogether, opting instead to obsess over her earrings.  But for others, this post was construed as completely undermining every single body positive post that had gone before it.  The commentary concurred that @the12ishstyle “looked like all the other women now” (really???  Is that kinda like saying all Asians look the same?  cue, “I’m not a racist, but………”), that she had let them down and they were unfollowing, that her views on body positivity couldn’t possibly be relevant because of her choice to use Botox.

Ummmmm, WITAF.

Body positivity is acceptance and appreciation of all human body types.[1][2] It is a social movement rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image, and be accepting of their own bodies as well as the bodies of others.[3] The movement sets forth the notion that beauty is a construct of society, and poses that this construct should not infringe upon one’s ability to feel confidence or self-worth.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_positivity

As far as I can tell, there are no caveats in that definition, no proviso that says “well, I can be accepting of the bodies of others so long as they don’t have tattoos, or stretch marks, or coloured hair, or botox, or microbladed eyebrows…..”.  It is pretty irrefutable that beauty is a construct of society as the definition states.  However, the assumption that any ‘body mods’ a person undertakes are a result of chasing the prescriptive beauty ‘norm’ is a dangerous one that leads to massive generalisation and marginality in the way we understand choices people make around their own bodies.

I have very prominent tattoos, 3 of them.  There was not one single outside influence responsible for any of them except the death of my father.  I’m not a member of some underground counter-culture, gang, or punk band, I simply think they’re beautiful, and if I’m honest, I’m impulsive.  If I feel like getting a new tattoo, I’ll get one.  Life is short, do the damn thing.

I feel the same way about my botox treatments – which I’ve been having for around 7 years.  The initial impetus was nothing to do with a fear of ageing, of obsessing over ever-increasing wrinkles or a desire to look ‘perfect’, lord knows that’s never going to happen and I could care less.  The reason I choose to have Botox injections (or Dysport, whatever) is that my natural countenance is the very definition of Resting Bitch Face.  The muscles in my forehead pull my frown lines together so tightly, creating such magnificent ruts that you could literally crack an almond between my eyebrows.  I was sick of looking like I was perpetually furious.

Though, because we are so attuned to accepting other’s bodies, and hence the choices one might make surrounding said body, I shouldn’t have to explain this to anyone right?

Wrong.  ‘You do you Boo’ and everything that is fabulous and really quite poignant about this seemingly throwaway, viral phrase doesn’t seem to apply if you’re over 35 and heading down the road of Ageing Gracefully.

As au naturel and simplistic as Aging Gracefully sounds, it’s just another beauty construct, one that effectively marginalizes and throws some pretty negative shade on anyone that veers off the rather narrow path of what is ‘acceptable’.  Creating blueprints and constructs (which is exactly what ‘Aging Gracefully’ is) around what women wear, how they should behave, what they should look like and what they do to their own bodies, is DONE.  Really, really DONE.

I use Dysport to combat frown lines that make small children scared, does that mean I’m not ageing gracefully?  Apparently yes.  Obviously, whoever first coined that phrase has not seen me juggle my Mum Life with work, family, friends and a massive volunteer role in our community.  I’m the very definition of grace people, I’m literally a gazelle leaping across the savannah.  It takes more than blunt force and a stubborn temperament to keep all of those balls in the air.  It requires grace and finesse.

Visiting Dr Ellen Selkon at Clinic 42 is a refreshing experience in a safe, judgement free zone.  She is the fourth cosmetic medicine practitioner I’ve visited over the years, but the first one that skipped over the part where all of my facial imperfections that ‘can be fixed’ have been pointed out – I loved her immediately for this!  For me, Botox and the discussion around it are like anything – it all comes down to personal choice.  I choose it because it has had a profoundly positive effect on the way I feel about my appearance as well as my day-to-day interactions with others.  Put it this way, I don’t get asked ‘what’s wrong?’ multiple times per day as a result of a perpetual scowl that no amount of yoga and meditation was ever going to iron out.  

To answer the most common questions about Botox;

  • Does it hurt?  Barely.  Think tiny pin-pricks.  The needle is in and out in seconds and I feel no residual pain.
  • Does your face even move now?  It sure does, I pretty much have full movement and expression when I raise my eyebrows like everyone else.  The difference is in my resting expression.  The big furrows between my brows are much smoother and relaxed.
  • Is it an ongoing treatment?  Yes.  Each treatment lasts between 3-4 months and I always book ahead to keep on track.  Since I’ve been vigilant around maintaining a regular appointment schedule, I’ve noticed increased efficacy of the treatments. 
  • Will people notice?  Not if your Doctor is amazing!  Friends might just think your skin health has improved or that you look well rested.  You WILL notice though and that’s what matters.

It’s 2018.  We have more freedom, more options, more solutions to the minutiae of problems/challenges/minor or major grievances we face in everyday life and that is the beauty of choice.  Choosing NOT to judge others, choosing to focus on oneself without projecting personal agendas on others, choosing to accept and respond positively to the body image of everyone we meet……….this is what ageing gracefully means to me.  It’s not a measure of outward beauty, rather a mindset of self-acceptance and acceptance of others combined with the inherent knowledge of when to hold one’s tongue!  Commentary around Ageing Gracefully, even if prefaced with “I’m not judging those who do….”  is unnecessary and dated, and creates a very exclusionary dialogue which is, quite frankly, boring and one-sided.  If it’s your position that I (or anyone else) am not Ageing Gracefully because of Botox then perhaps you need a little reminder that it is in fact, no business of yours anyway.

Beauty Review – Skip the Extensions, commit to Revitalash

An impulsive morning at the mall late last year, fuelled by an innate desire to be ‘sans kids’ for as long as possible, saw me agree to eyelash extensions after I had already upgraded my manicure to a bikini wax. Worst beauty mistake of my life. Though I declined the ‘sexy eyes’ option, I still left the mall looking like I’d gotten a bit lost on my way home from Carnival in Brazil.  They were so absurd that I was unable to wear sunglasses as my mammoth, plastic, spidery lash extensions meant the lenses were offset so far from my face, the frame was no longer able to rest on my nose. I raced home and gave them a good trim (it felt like cutting fishing line!) then set about trying to remove them.  This was impossible, probably due to the superglue it felt like they’d been applied with, so I found a ‘reputable salon’ and had the awful things removed safely. My lashes were damaged, so after a couple of months recovery, I gave extensions another whirl.  I did love them, they look gorgeous when they are quality lashes applied by a professional, but, the upkeep is time-consuming and expensive.  Even worse, I’m a picker, so as soon as they looked a little scraggly I found it hard to keep my fingers away from them, always trying to lift them away from my poor natural lashes, which inevitably were often pulled out with the extension.
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I decided it was time to wean myself off expensive extensions so, rather than spending $120 on another set of lashes, I purchased a two month supply of Revitalash for the same amount. Guys;  it works and it’s essentially the easiest, no-hassle step you could add into your daily beauty routine. One tiny swipe of the teeny Revitalash brush across your lash line once a day and you’re done. The secret is consistency. Stick with your application every day and your lashes will love you for it – and you’ll love them. I first noticed the difference after around 6 weeks of regular use and I haven’t looked back. Once I noticed the length improving I also noticed less lash fall.
New Zealand's Top Travel Lifestyle Blog Home Decor Beauty Review Revitalash Advanced
I currently still have a couple of ‘stubbies’ that are re-growing after losing them during the extension debacle and they are my yardsticks lol. They keep growing and growing but their neighbours do too! I am committed to my natural lashes now and the combination of Revitalash and a 6 weekly lash lift and tint is both cheaper, less time consuming and with results that look equally amazing as a set of extensions (IMO!). The Revitalash range is expanding and now includes lash, brow and hair-care products including a new Micellar water which I’ve been using over the past two weeks. Suitable for both natural lashes and extensions (many micellar waters aren’t) this is the holy grail of mascara and eye makeup removal. Less mess, less fuss and less product resulting in a quick, nourishing way to achieve fresh, clean lashes. Find Revitalash at authorised beauty stockists nationwide or visit them online at www.revitalash.co.nz Revitalash Advanced Eyelash Conditioner RRP from $75 Revitalash Micellar Water RRP $54
New Zealand's Top Travel Lifestyle Blog Home Decor Beauty Review Revitalash Advanced

Family Travel: Sea Life Sunshine Coast Aquarium

Visiting aquariums is our thing, it’s what we do when we travel and we absolutely LOVE it.  Both of the boys have always been a tad obsessed with all things ‘ocean’, an interest Dave and I can wholeheartedly get behind.

When we confirmed our (very) last minute trip to the Sunshine Coast, a visit to Mooloolaba and its famous Sea Life Aquarium was top of our must-do list.  Ethan saw it featured on a TV doco years ago (which we all watched on repeat hundred of times!) and had been super keen to visit ever since.

Our first full day in Cotton Tree was a drizzly Sunday morning, perfect for a lazy, unrushed visit to Sea Life.

The drive took 10 minutes and at 9ish, we were able to find a carpark easily, though I can imagine this would get more and more difficult throughout the day.

We had a behind the scenes experience booked in at 11.30am so set about following the kids around, exploring the many stunning exhibits on offer.

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Tidal Touchpool at Sea Life Sunshine Coast

The one we came back to again and again, was actually the very first you come across upon entry. Nixon absolutely loved the Tidal Touchpool. It was so engaging for him, I think he discovered a new fish or starfish to observe, and yes, touch, each time he led us back there.

We were so surprised by how quiet it was in the morning, we were really able to take our time and move around at our own pace.

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Freshwater Streams Zone

A family fave was the Freshwater Streams zone. Seeing the giant Barramundi and Australian Lungfish, species we don’t have in New Zealand, was awesome, they are huge fish!

We also loved the Ocean Tunnel.  The Grey Nurse sharks are the biggest we’ve ever seen, even bigger when we got to see them from the surface on our Behind the Scenes Tour.

New Zealand's Top Travel Lifestyle Blog Home Decor Sunshine Coast Aquarium
New Zealand's Top Travel Lifestyle Blog Home Decor Sunshine Coast Aquarium

This tour was an absolute treat.  We have never upgraded our entry tickets to include any experiences before so this one was so engaging for all of us but especially for our two young boys, one of whom has always aspired to be a marine biologist.  I’m not sure why but I’d always assumed that the thick tunnel walls in aquariums magnified the size of the creatures on the other side – turns out the opposite is true!  Being able to observe the inhabitants of the Ocean Tunnel from above and hear their stories made for such a memorable experience, both of the boys gave our guide their full attention throughout the tour which also included the turtle rehabilitation area – great environmental message for everyone here.

We are so stoked to have been able to tick Sea Life Aquarium Sunshine Coast off of our travel bucket list.  It’s such a perfect family excursion and provided a really interesting morning for both of our boys, even with their 8.5 year age gap which can sometimes be a tough ask!

Thanks for having us guys!

New Zealand's Top Travel Lifestyle Blog Home Decor Sunshine Coast Aquarium

Beauty Review – Dermalogica ProSkin 60 Facial

In 2018 there is no shortage of ways to spend your money when it comes to beauty treatments.   In fact, deciding on which treatment is right for you and identifying a professional salon or clinic can easily make the whole exercise fall into the too-hard-basket faster than you can say ‘pass the serum’.

I headed over the bridge last week to Bare Waxing and Skin Centre to experience one of Dermalogica’s latest professional skin therapy treatments, the ProSkin 60 Facial, which launched in salons in May 2018.  This is not a one-size-fits-all experience.  Both of the ProSkin treatments (60 or 30 minutes) are bespoke.  Customised to address individual needs and concerns, this 6 step skin journey is one I highly recommend you take!

As far as I’m concerned, a splurge on a facial is a no-brainer, providing the most bang for your beauty buck.  They have the potential to deliver some powerful results, plus, are inherently relaxing, they usually include some massage and can profoundly affect the way I feel afterwards.  I LOVE how my skin looks after a facial – come at me selfies!

My skin therapist (hereafter referred to as Gemma-with-the-magic-hands) began with a Dermalogica fave – the double cleanse.  This was a timely reminder to reintroduce Precleanse Balm to my daily routine as I’ve been rushing through this important step in the shower.  For me, this is where the magical, relaxing powers of a facial really begin.  Cleansing your skin for minutes, rather than seconds, not only increases efficacy but is also a little meditative, a little time to relax………. every day in your own shower.  We can do that, right mamas?

After an extensive skin analysis, we moved on to step two – resurfacing.  Gemma-with-the-magic-hands added lactic acid to the physical exfoliant which my skin just LOVES.  This is where the bespoke nature of ProSkin treatments is so valuable, my skin is robust and hardy, not thinning at all, so it can handle a fairly extensive exfoliation.  This would definitely not be suitable as a universal application, which is why entrusting your skin to the hands of only a professional skin therapist is SO important!

My skin was under steam this entire time so the deep treatment and masque that was applied next literally sank into my thirsty skin.  Gemma had already identified dehydration as an area of concern in the analysis and I could notice the improvement immediately after treatment.  Lush, hydrated skin instantly!

The final steps are Touch Therapies – beautiful facial, scalp, shoulder and décolleté massage and dermal layering – literally everything your skin needs to head out into the world looking its best.

I LOVED this treatment.  ProSkin 60 was comprehensive, deliciously relaxing and indulgent but most importantly, it was incredibly effective.  My skin looked amazing, more hydrated than I’d ever seen it, soft with improved texture and the most minimised pores ever.  The skin analysis alone, combined with Gemma’s ‘prescription’ at the end was invaluable to me.  I’m a bit of a product junkie and she very quickly identified that one of my faves may not be as beneficial to my skin as I’d been thinking – that’s why it pays to see a skin therapist when you can.

To experience ProSkin 60 or 30 for yourself, head to www.dermalogica.co.nz to find your nearest Platinum Skin Centre.