All about that bling

I LOVE bling.

There is no denying the fact.

Everywhere I go, no matter the circumstances, I am shining.

Be it glittery rings, glistening bracelets or sparkly necklaces, you can always see me coming a mile away.

Even that time I went crabbing down at the smelly mile, decked out in waders and a head torch, I was wearing my blingy chandelier earrings.

I think I was a magpie in a former life.

Or is it crows that like shiny stuff?

Ah well, some bird.

Which is funny, actually – I have a slight fear of birds.

Anyway, back to bling.

I don’t know when my love of bling started, but I do know where and how it started – my mum.

If you see a diamante phone case on a shop shelf, or a strawberry-flavoured jelly with glitter in it, you can guarantee either my mother or myself has purchased it at some stage.

We have glitter radars.

If anything even remotely shimmers, our eyes instantly turn to it and we head its way.

So, you can see how we have issues wandering around jewellery stores and shoe shops, and why my mum can’t understand her classroom cleaner’s dismay at her “overuse” of glitter on year 1 art projects.

Bling is my thing, and I think most people have a ‘thing’ – they just might not be aware they have it.

I think it is pretty cool to be known for having a particular trait or doing a particular thing, because it emphasises your uniqueness.

For me, it’s bling and pink things.

Put the two together?

BOOM.

Heaven on a stick.

If I could buy a Ford Mustang in a pale, pastel pink with a hint of sparkle, I’d be happy.

Actually, hmm, borderline Barbie, and I already have blonde hair…

I’ll rethink the Mustang custom job.

What I’m trying to say is that everyone deserves to shine (bad pun, I know).

If you are renowned for something, and you love that something, embrace it.

Ignore people who tease you for always carrying a yoyo with you, or for having Britney Spears custom ringtones for each of your friends, or being unable to go anywhere without three water bottles.

I’d get the odd face pulled from people when I’d rock up to the beach in glittery thongs (or “bejewelled shoes” as my mum likes to call them), or for buying the same stationery as everyone except in pink, but now I’m older, I don’t care.

Uniqueness is something that is often the cause of bullying or put-downs, which is such a shame because uniqueness makes us who we are.

We aren’t made in a factory; we are all weird and wonderful creations influenced by our parents’ DNA, our environment and trends.

Why bother trying to be a robot, saying and looking and feeling the same as the next person, when you can be you?

So, for those of you out there whose ears stick out a little bit, prefer Justin Bieber over Justin Timberlake, have hips that don’t fit skinny jeans or who’d rather stay at home instead of go out to a party, don’t be afraid to stick to your guns and be who you are.

Don’t feel the need to force yourself into a mould that society has shaped.

Be your own person, and don’t be afraid to let that person shine.

Someone told me that once, and I took them literally by becoming obsessed with bling, but hey, no matter how you shine, don’t let anyone dim that light.

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Welcome to 2018!

ARE you reading this on your phone at the gym, on a treadmill you waited 45 minutes for because the gym is packed with new year junkies?

Or, are you still nursing that hangover from three days ago?

Well, if you are neither, then you are probably like me: tired, light-in-the-wallet and three kilos heavier.

The new year was welcomed in style, with the usual glorious fireworks and neighbourhood arguments that the music was turned up too loud, but it was a fun party nonetheless.

Christmas was a bundle of joy, with way too much food, weird and wonderful gifts, and time spent with family.

Now, we have put away the slinky New Year’s Eve skirts, booked our hair appointments and started to cut out carbs.

It’s a new year and it’s a new me.

Well, not really.

My hair is a little grey from dealing with the usual family complaints and trying not to offend anyone and eating a bit of everything from everyone’s house.

And, you know, just generally dealing with people wears you down.

But hey, new year new me.

Regeneration time.

I could be the next Doctor Who.

Actually, nah, I’m not cool enough to pull off a fez.

I’m not one for setting new year’s resolutions, but back in the day, I totally was.

In my tweeny days, I’d got this gorgeous journal for Christmas.

The front cover had a little door, with these coloured gems inside.

It was the coolest journal ever and I kept all my tweeny-bopper secrets in it.

If my memory serves me well, the resolutions I wrote in that journal were to stop arguing with my dad and eat more healthily.

I think I should revisit those resolutions, because I am still an argumentative sod with a weakness and eternal craving for nugs and salty chips.

Some people are so good with sticking with their resolutions – they are super strict on themselves and lose weight, cleanse their skin of stress and dirt, and get fit.

I wish I was one of those people.

I’m terrible; my motivation to do stuff went out the window literally the moment my year 12 ATAR exams were done.

Now, I’m stuck in a never-ending cycle of ‘I feel fat, I should go to the gym, I’ll eat healthy; I’m too tired for the gym, gym sucks anyway, ooh cheeseburger, ah I feel fat.’

I’m my own worst nightmare, honestly.

But, for those of you who have the stamina to stick with your resolutions, I salute you.

I also hate you, but never mind that.

However, the new year is still an opportunity to embrace new changes, so here’s a few things I’m going to try.

Back posture – I have a mildly bad back, in that my lower and upper spine have a deeper curvature.

This means back pain is a bit worse for me, and my body hates me when I sit at my desk for more than five minutes.

So, goal #1: sit up straight.

Now, I’m trying to think of a bunch of other resolutions I really should keep, such as get off my butt and be more proactive about fitness, stop having so much screen time, and avoid the way home via McDonalds.

But, let’s be real, one resolution is hard enough to maintain, so I’m just gonna stick with the one.

Sit tall, shoulders back, head up.

Yeah, that’ll do for lazy old me this year.

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Getting festive

EVERY year, without fail, after everyone has started to wind down from the sugar rush of candy canes and gingerbread and has had their fill of Christmas roast chicken lunch, my mum silences the house in preparation for the Queen’s annual Christmas speech.

Rustling packages from new presents are confiscated, the kettle is taken off the boil and Grandad is told to stop talking, as Queen Elizabeth II fills the TV screen and delivers her reflection on the past year.

All families have weird and wonderful traditions at Christmas time, and this tradition is one from my family.

I’ll be perfectly honest with you; as a child, when I was old enough to understand who the Queen was and why I should care about her, the Queen’s speech was always utterly boring.

It was a few minutes of my life where I either had to disappear to the other end of the house if I wanted to play with my new toys and gadgets, or sit squished on the couch between siblings, grandparents and my parents to watch an old lady slowly chew through a rehearsed chat.

However, as I got older, I thought those times were kind of cute.

Mum would get all excited and patriotic as Her Majesty graced the screen, everyone would be together in one room instead of sprawled across the house, and we would just sit there and enjoy the last couple of hours of Christmas.

There’s a lot of fluff around Christmas time and no one can ever agree on what Christmas is ‘truly about’, but as I grow up, I see more and more that it is about family.

Get rid of the temptation to go into debt over the latest smartphone or top-line leather jacket, because debt causes stress and there is nothing worse than having a head spin during what is meant to be a holiday.

Don’t worry if the turkey or chicken is slightly burned or the salad dressing has gone gluggy, because at the end of the day, people just want to come together at Christmas and eat, drink and be merry.
I know a large family who without fail, gets everyone around the table for Christmas lunch every year.

Aunties, uncles, cousins, nannas, parents and grandkids from all over the place gather around an enormous selection of homemade pastas, biscuits, salads and a roast, and spend the day catching up and simply being together.

Curiously enough, from what I have seen of this family, no one ever complains about preparing the Christmas food.

Everyone who helps out is happy to help, and enjoys getting down and taking the time to prepare a feast for their loved ones.

In today’s world, where terrorism threats and horrific weather conditions constantly have countries on edge, I think it’s important to remember the simple things this Christmas.

Remember your family and how important they are to you.

Yes, your aunt might get tipsy like she always does, and your baby cousin will again nag you for piggy-backs all day, but just take a step back for a moment.

Christmas is about giving, and your family is something in your life that constantly gives.

Your parents gave you life, your sister gives you a lift to school every day, your nan gives you an extra meatball at dinner, and your uncle tries to give you life advice.

Family giving can’t have a price tag put on it, so if you are sitting there stressing over whether you will have enough food at your Christmas table, or that your gifts aren’t from the most expensive shop in town, just remember this: Christmas isn’t all about the family presents, it’s about the family’s presence.

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Get your sleep on

I DON’T know about you, but I think the last time I had a decent night’s sleep was back when my room was a womb.

Not even joking here; I think I have adapted a permanent state of tired and eep, it ain’t a good look.

Red and baggy eyes, staggered walking, slurred speech…

Actually, that sounds like a zombie.

Oh, great.

I’ve become a zombie.

Watch out world, Ash is on the prowl for your brains, ‘cause hers ain’t working.

To be honest, if I went to bed earlier it might help, but TV shows and Facebook and ah, there’s always some excuse.

According to my mum, I was nocturnal as a kid.

Of course, this was highly inconvenient to everyone, as they got no sleep when they were meant to, and couldn’t sleep when I was asleep because of life stuff, so even back in the day, my sleeping was silly.

Even now, as I sit here trying to focus on my computer screen while my eyes partially glaze over, I am daydreaming about going to bed.

I pretty much work a 9 to 5 job, so there’s no point complaining about that because everyone else does too.

I am eternally tired, and despite trying all the tricks – a lot of caffeine, only a little bit of caffeine, drinking lots of water, the odd set of star-jumps – I can never shake the feeling of being tired.

The worst part of it is driving.

Whenever I visit one of my friends, it’s a 40km round-trip from mine to theirs and back.

Even though my grumbling about the ridiculous cost of fuel keeps my brain semi-active, my eyes start to droop and it’s a staring contest with the road to keep alert.

(I highly discourage you to drive tired.)

In the words of my two teenage siblings, I am a ‘pathetic adult who should be out at the nightclub but can’t even stay up past 9.30pm’.

So, to avoid you becoming ‘lame’ and tired like me, here are a few tips I am trying this week.

You never know, your ‘new year new me’ could include a rested you!

#1: Put your anxiety to sleep.

I still suffer from the odd spat of anxiety, particularly when I am overtired.

I get highly irritable, very tense, and very on edge.

If you sense you are getting like this, take a second to sit away from everyone, perhaps on your bed, and just focus for a sec.

Just remember that you are only tired, and you need to take a deep breath.

#2: Use night mode on your phone.

This is on most new phones and it automatically dims your screen at a particular time, and also reduces contrasting colours.

I’m not going to say don’t use your phone before bed, because you’re going to ignore me on that, so at least dim it down and turn the volume down so everything isn’t super intense on your phone before sleep time.

#3: Don’t go to bed angry.

A common tip of advice for relationships, but it works for all people – trying to rest with unresolved anger is a hopeless cause.

Whether your mum flushed your semi-dead fish down the toilet, your partner came home for dinner at 7.10pm instead of the ‘guaranteed’ 7pm, or you just had a crappy day, take the time to either write your anger down on a piece of paper, try and mediate with the person of anger interest, or just chat to someone to relieve that anger pressure.

Oh, and make sure you screw that piece of paper up and chuck it majestically in the bin, full Kobe-spec.

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From motley crew to group of two

I WANT you to hold your hands out right now and count on them how many people in your life you currently consider to be close friends.

Now, I want you to cast your mind back to high school and do the same.

Feeling depressed now that you realise the first number is way lower than the second number?

Not to worry, I felt sad too.

When I was in high school, every second person in my year group was considered a mate.

We knew each other’s histories, what classes we all sucked at, who was kissing who, and the synopsis of what actually happened on Friday night in the pub carpark.

But now?

My friend group is much smaller.

Initially after graduation, my larger-than-life motley crew still hung about together at Midds for a swim, or down at Due South for more than a few pints, or on a random off-track fourby track while waiting to be rescued, but after a while, we stopped seeing each other.

My large group of friends was comprised of a bunch of smaller, closer group of friends, so the big group split into the smaller groups, and the smaller groups closed off to each other or split away completely.

This is inevitable, unfortunately.

People grow up, move away, get over each other and simply can’t be bothered socialising.

It can feel a bit lonely for a while, because you’re so used to having a throng of people wrapped around you like cotton wool everywhere you go, but now?

No cotton wool; exposed like an open wound.

There is a bit of an adjustment period for this, and for me, it was a string of complaints day in, day out, that I never saw anyone and life sucked and I was bored.

But, eventually you have to get over yourself and you start a job and you work for a bit, and you play online games, and chat over Facebook, and eventually, the grass looks a bit greener.

I have met some of the most incredible people since leaving high school, and I feel so lucky to know them.

Some of them are older than me, or are from different areas, so I would never have met them in high school or while in my previous social circles.

One of those friends was across the country a few years ago!

And now, that friend and I don’t let any major or minor event in our lives slip by without telling the other, and it is great fun.

The point of me telling you this is because I wish someone had told me when I first left high school, that hey, guess what?

High school friends going their own way isn’t the end of the world.

You will start new friend circles without even realising.

Once you start a job, some of your colleagues may become mates.

Don’t be afraid to ask if they want to go to the movies with you, or grab a drink after work.

Being friends with your colleagues makes each day less dragging, so go for it!

The old friend from primary school who messaged you the other day trying to reconnect, why not message back?

Give it a shot.

Friends come and go in your life, sometimes in the most unexpected ways and from the most unexpected places.

I mean, come on, I’m an ASHS girl through and through, and one of my closest friends is an ex-GSG kid, so if I can break impossible barriers, you can too!

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Oh, what a feeling

BEFORE I bought my first car, I literally had no idea what I wanted to buy.

I asked the resident car expert (Dad), and I said Dad, what car should I buy?

Well Ash, he said, it depends on what you want.

Love you Dad, but that’s not the answer I wanted.

There are way too many cars to choose from these days; ones that talk to you, park for you, drive for you and even feed you (that idea is still in the planning stages).

You’ve got the classics, the sporty ones, the people movers and the little buzz boxes.

When I jumped on Carsales for the first time, I didn’t get too far.

I said to my dad, I just want something with four doors and an automatic transmission, where do I start?

Well, let me tell you, those two filter options didn’t really narrow the search field very much.

When thinking of buying a car, you first need to determine the must-have features you wouldn’t be able to live without, or things you can’t handle.

For example, if you only have an automatic license, purchasing a 5-speed manual could prove a legality issue.

If you are four-foot-tall and thinking of buying a Patrol with a four-inch lift and 35s, perhaps think again.

Make sure the basic elements of the car, such as size, transmission, fuel type and brand, are within your budget, your locality and your capabilities.

Budget is a big deal when it comes to cars.

Don’t let yourself fall in love with a $75,000 car which would mean your $300 per week income is swallowed up instantly every fortnight when your bank chases you for loan repayments.

Even with a full-time income, a car loan can take a big whack out of your pay, so consider something you can afford cash up-front, or with a part-cash, part-loan scenario.

You may be surprised to find a fair few pre-owned cars in decent condition that are within the $3000 to $9000 price range.

Car colour.

I love my Radiant Ebony-coloured car, but that dark purple is a pain to keep clean.

If you live in a notoriously hot area or regularly use gravel roads, consider a light-coloured car.

This way, you run less of a risk cursing your car every time you go to the car wash, because the water marks stain and make it look like you forgot to rinse off the soap.

And, your car won’t become a hot pocket of hell when you leave it in the shopping centre carpark at lunchtime.

Power.

Ooh, the possibilities.

Some people froth over the chance to buy a high-powered car that would leave the average V8 for dead at the lights.

However, these cars can (do) use a lot of fuel and can require a fair amount of maintenance to keep them legal and on the road.

Perhaps steer clear of a twin-turbo supercharged car if you’re living on not too much a week, or if your partner has threatened you on more than one occasion to stop throwing more money at another car that sits in the driveway.

Comfort.

Before you get too excited behind the computer screen at the sheer sight of your dream car, go and test-drive it.

You could get in the driver’s seat and hate the feel of it, the layout of the features, or simply feel uncomfortable in it.

The phrase ‘try before you buy’ is certainly applicable to these types of scenarios.

Sit in the front and back seats, attempt three-point turns and roundabouts, and have a look inside the boot, to test whether the car will be comfortable for you, and any passengers you want to carry.

So, when you start day-dreaming about a new car, perhaps keep these few tips in mind.

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Treat yo’ self

I WATCHED a particular TV series and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

If there is one TV series you bother to watch, make it Parks and Recreation.

If you love Chris Pratt, fourth-wall commentary and epic one-liners, this show is for you.

Parks and Rec teaches its audience many things, such as standing up for what you believe in, how strong friendships can get you through anything, and that breakfast foods are the only foods worth consuming.

There is however, one aspect of the show that stood out for me.

Tom and Donna’s annual ritual.

Three words.

Treat.

Yo.

Self.

Once a year, these two characters spend an entire day doing whatever they want.

Clothes, fragrances, massages, mimosas and fine leather goods are nearly always on the agenda, and, no matter the price, on this day, Tom and Donna treat themselves to anything.

The point of me telling you this is I believe everyone needs to treat themselves.

Now, don’t think this is me encouraging you to take out massive loans to buy Ferraris you can’t afford, or to go on a six-month overseas holiday without telling your boss.

This is me, reminding you, that you need to look after yourself first and foremost.

Whether you are single, married, laden with children or just taking what life throws at you, a priority should always be looking after yourself.

I know it’s easier said than done, but it is important.

Every now and then, do something that makes you happy.

Whether that’s a new summer dress, a nice coffee, a walk on the beach or simply washing your car, take a few minutes a week (at least) to do something for yourself.

In this world, we are told too many things about how we should act and what we should do.

Once you’ve allocated enough time and money to your home, utilities, food and children, make sure there’s something left for you.

Unlike Tom and Donna, ‘treat yo self’ days don’t have to be about blowing all your hard-earned cash.

The idea of their shopping spree is about spending time together and enjoying the privileges of working hard and earning money and living where they do.

We are spoiled for choice in Albany for our ‘treat yo self’ days.

You can go to many different boutique stores or enjoy a coffee while overlooking our pristine oceans, visit historic sites or watch live entertainment close by, or simply drive along our coastline and breathe in the fresh air.

I have a bit of a naughty habit of treating myself very regularly to the odd hot chocolate, or shoes, or nugs, but hey, if you can afford it, why not?

Life is short, live it!

I am a firm believer of grabbing life by the berries and reaping all the fruit it has to give.

No one is going to live your life for you, so make sure yours is the best it can be.

Want a few ideas for ‘treat yo self’ days?

Pack some fresh fruit, some drinks, a hat and a book, and sit yourself down at Middleton Beach on a sunny day.

Buy yourself a coffee and, starting from the top, walk down the entire length of York Street and back on both sides of the street.

Go to your favourite shop and give yourself $50 to spend on something special for the new season.

Take your kids down to the park and enjoy being in the sunshine with them, and listen to their cute giggles and squeals of excitement.

Get on the swing yourself and remember how it feels to fly.

It really is some of the simple things in life that can give you the most happiness.

Just remember to ‘treat yo self’ to them every now and then.

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Keep your eyes on the road

LEARNING to drive is the best thing and the scariest thing ever.

Well, not ever, but hey, when you’re 16, everything is measured in extremes.

Being able to drive yourself around is a freedom most of us take for granted.

When you first get your red P-plates, that freedom is a newfound sensation, an overwhelming feeling, and is just super awesome.

I remember the day my licence rolled over to green P-plates, (which have no midnight to 5am curfew like red plates do), and the first thing I said to Mum was: hey Mum, can I go for a drive at 12.01am just to prove I can?

The answer was no, obviously, because I wanted to take her cool car and I was meant to be in bed, but hey, if I needed to, I could drive after midnight.

Obviously late-night driving isn’t the ultimate aim of getting a driver’s licence, but it is certainly one of the perks.

One of the best things ever after getting my licence was being able to go out and stay out late, because I didn’t have to rely on my parents to pick me up.

Of course, that also meant I became a free taxi to my mates, but that’s another story.

At the moment, my younger sister is learning how to drive.

It has brought back all the nostalgia of my trips in the car with Dad or Mum, and the memories of learning how to not crash the car.

I got my manual licence – best decision ever.

Despite kangaroo-hopping for the first few weeks of my L-plates, I got the hang of the clutch eventually and I was off.

Once I got my P-plates, I could drive any car, which meant I was never restricted to what wheel I could get behind.

This also meant saving a lot of peoples’ butts when they were, ahem, unable to drive.

But before you can become a superhero driver, you have to do the hard yards.

I know a lot of 16-year-olds out there don’t particularly fancy listening to their parents or driving instructors and hanging on to their every word, but really, it’s totally worth it when they are teaching you how to drive.

They do actually know what they’re talking about; most of them have been driving longer than we’ve been alive.

Before my Ls, the closest I had been to behind the wheel was the passenger’s seat, and until you switch sides of the car, you won’t believe how different everything is.

You are on the opposite side of the car, so you have to get used to the car’s road position from a different perspective.

You are also closer to the oncoming cars, and that’s a bit daunting when you pass your first road train.

You literally have to keep your eyes on the road the entire time you are driving, because one second in real time is like, 10 seconds in driving time.

A split-second look away can mean the difference between waving at the cyclist as they go past, and sending them head-first into the ditch.

Driving is a privilege, not a right, so making sure you are safe on the roads and are respectful of other drivers is super important.

Yes, you will get the odd person pull out in front of you, or flip you off as you go around the roundabout, but the main thing to focus on is your car and the passengers within it.

Being behind the wheel means being responsible for other peoples’ lives, so make sure you look after them.

Don’t be tempted to go that little bit faster to pull out in front of that truck so you can get to Maccas before they close.

Take your time, enjoy the ride, and enjoy the privilege of riding solo.

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Heartbreak Hotel

A BROKEN heart is something that never truly heals.

Yes, that sounds incredibly deep and meaningful coming from me, but hey, follow me on this one.

When you are a kid, your heart is bursting with happiness and smiles and love and innocence.

As time goes by and you get older, that bright, loving heart can shrink, or fall apart, or start to drain of its colour.

That’s life, unfortunately.

What matters, is how you deal with it.

Heartbreak can change your thinking on life.

It can force you to see toxicity in your life, or make you grateful for those around you.

It can help you learn coping mechanisms, or make you see another side of the human condition.

Heartbreak comes in many forms; be it seeing your parent walk out on your family for another, not seeing a loved one ever again, or saying goodbye to a beloved childhood pet, heartbreak is something everyone experiences in their lifetime.

As horrible as it is, heartbreak is something that helps define who we are.

At some stage in your life, you will lose something, because despite messages from jewellers, nothing is forever.

Part of becoming an adult is learning how to cope with that and maintaining the strength to keep going.

In my twenty-something years of existence, my heart has been broken three times.

The details of each of these three days will forever be etched in my memory.

When I was eight, I lost my nanna to cancer.

I remember pulling up the blinds on my bedroom window and sitting and staring up at the sky, endless tears streaming down my face as I kept asking the sky, why her?

It’s not fair.

When I was 18, I watched a beloved friend lay their father to rest.

I walked beside my friend as they carried their father’s coffin down the path, crying too many tears for me to catch and shaking under the weight of grief and loss.

When I was 20, I turned away from what I thought was going to be my ‘forever.’

My heart wrenched and tore into two as I drove away from him for the final time, caught up in a tornado of devastation and confusion and disbelief, feeling sick to my absolute core for weeks.

These memories will always be with me, no matter how much I try to push them away.

Whether I like it or not, these experiences have helped shape who I am today.

When shaken by this grief, I have learned how to deal with difficult scenarios and have built up my resilience.

I have learned it is okay to let your guard down and let feelings overwhelm you for a moment.

It is okay to shut out the world and just be sad, because it is important to let emotion have an outlet.

It is okay to talk to people or simply sit in silence with them, because simple companionship can be just what you need when you are sad or angry.

I am eternally grateful to the people who supported me during my three heartbreaks, but ultimately, I am grateful to myself.

I let myself deal with these emotions and I worked hard and I continued on with my life.

We only live once, so we can’t let things bog us down.

Book your stay at Heartbreak Hotel and stay for as long as you need, but remember: it is only a hotel, and it is only temporary.

Let yourself grieve or scream or rage or sigh.

But then, keep going.

Get back on that bike of yours, no matter how battered it might be, and keep going.

Even though you might have fallen off while trying to conquer those potholes and dips in the road, just tighten the grip on those handlebars and just keep pedalling.

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Giving gifts of gold

FINDING the ultimate gift is a skill I have acquired over the years.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am highly competitive.

Very, highly competitive.

As in, I will eat that extra bite of dessert despite feeling bloated and sick just to prove I ate more than someone else.

My competitive streak will get me into trouble one day.

Because of my competitive nature, finding the perfect gift for someone is a challenge I will never decline nor fail at.

(I think modesty is a gift I need to give to myself).

Christmas is less than eight weeks away, so my soul-searching for gifts is well and truly underway.

Especially because online purchases can get delayed and in-store stock can get short during December, now is the time to put away the Christmas goodies early and avoid stress shopping later on.

My bedroom cupboard already has a few Christmas gifts tucked away under hats and dressing gowns.

I think I get my love of gift-giving from my mum.

I get super excited when I watch someone open a gift from me, and I wait with wide, eager eyes to see their response.

Anyways, back to Mum.

My mum loves Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve.

She loves being amongst the ‘atmosphere’ of a buzzing shopping centre and finding last-minute stocking fillers.

My dad on the hand, hates last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve.

For him, there are too many people, too many massive queues at the checkout, and those annoying people who feel the need to let their children run around and bump into trolleys erk him.

Fair enough, I say!

The tendency to avoid Christmas shopping like the plague (like my Dad) and run with the old ‘my presence is your present’ can be avoided if you just sit down and have a bit of a think about who you’re buying for and what you want to get them, before facing the sometimes-daunting trip to the shops.

You don’t have to buy the most lavish present in the world, or try and beat everyone else’s gift.

Instead, focus on something you think will really mean something to someone.

Even if it’s simply a packet of pens for that person who always loses them before an exam, a cute water bottle for your gym junkie friend, or a beautiful bracelet you know your girlfriend has been secretly eyeing off for months; it’s the fact you have put thought and effort behind your gift that counts.

I think one of the best feelings in the world is receiving a really well-thought-out gift, because you know the giver of that gift really cares about you.

One of my favourite Christmas presents as a kid was my purple iPod shuffle.

Yep, the little tiny square ones that could only hold music, back before the days of games and cameras on iPods.

Here’s the thing: I was more excited about the big red bow on the iPod box, because I had specifically asked Santa for a purple iPod shuffle with a big red bow.

My mum has a photo of me from that morning, and I don’t think my smile has grinned any bigger than that moment, because my purple iPod shuffle had a big red bow.

It’s the little things that can count most when it comes to Christmas gifts.

So, my tip for Christmas shopping is this: don’t leave it until the last minute.

This will put you under unnecessary pressure and take away the joy of giving.

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