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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Choosing the Perfect Airbnb

Obviously the word 'perfect' can be very subjective and my perception of a perfect place can be very different to yours. I recently went on a trip to 5 cities in Europe and given the insane expenses that can easily be racked up on a Europe trip, we decided to use Airbnb for the first time. 

Let me give you some context first.

I'm an extreme princess (aka snob) when it comes to accommodation. I'll only stay in a minimum 4 star hotel. 3 stars to me is really pushing it. It's like my version of camping out in the bush. Yes, I did admit to being an accommodation snob. So when it came to choosing 5 different Airbnb places, I did everything in my power to ensure it would meet my princess standards. After approximately 849 hours spent on the website (give or take), I can be fairly confident I know my Airbnb stuff. Follow my tips and you'll absolutely love every Airbnb place you stay in*.

*this cannot be guaranteed.


1. GET YOUR LOCATION RIGHT
Before you even begin the search and overwhelm yourself with the hundreds of places available on the Airbnb stratosphere, get your location right first. And *shock horror* this might not necessarily mean you're staying where all the other tourists are. 

Getting your location right depends on what your priorities are.  Do you want to be within 5 minute walking distance to all the major tourist attractions? Or do you want to live like the locals and avoid tourists? Whatever your priorities are, Google to your heart's content and check out what other tourists have said on Tripadvisor about particular areas. Their opinions on particular areas should give you a good idea of whether or not you'd like to stay there yourself.

In Venice, we decided to stay away from St Mark's Square (aka where all the tourists hang out) and stay on Giudecca island, opposite. This ended up being one of my major highlights of the trip (pictured below).

2. SEARCH BY ENTIRE PLACE/PRIVATE ROOM/SHARED ROOM
This is pretty self explanatory. Make sure you tick your preference before you click that search button to eliminate everything else.

3. CHOOSE AN EXPERIENCED HOST
...or stay at your own risk. I'd rather not take any risks, so I personally wouldn't choose an Airbnb that has less than 10-12 reviews. I want to choose a host who is experienced and one that I am able to read reviews from other people to see what their experience has been like.

4. READING REVIEWS > LOOKING AT PHOTOS
Sure, looking at photos is important but just like hotels, photos can be deceiving. It's more important that you thoroughly read through the reviews. Due to my princess standards, I pretty much read every review (or at least MOST) from each host I stayed with. People do leave very useful feedback in their reviews (such as how hard the bed was, how bad the water pressure in the shower was (yes this is important to some), how noisy the neighbourhood was, etc etc) so spend some time to read through them.

5. FILTER BY AMENITIES
If you're looking for particular amenities, such as a washing machine, air conditioning, dryer, etc - Make sure you filter your search first to save yourself a whole lot of time.

6. CHECK STAR RATING
Depending on what is important to you, you can check the star rating for each category and judge whether or not that Airbnb place is up to your standards.

7. CHECK THE HOST'S RESPONSE RATE AND RESPONSE TIME
You want to choose a host who is reliable and has great communication so that if there are any issues just before you check in or while you are there, you know you can easily contact your host.

Below are the actual Airbnb places we stayed at in each city:

London, Waterloo - Very convenient location close to train and buses
Paris, Le Marais - Favourite area in Paris and perfect apartment!
Barcelona, L'eixample - 10 stars to this host! Seriously the nicest host ever that goes above and beyond
Venice, Giudecca - Loved staying here! Such a relaxed local feel
Rome, Trastevere - Very noisy area filled with bars and restaurants so light sleepers beware

For more travel tips check out my video here.



Pictured above: the beautiful sunset from Giudecca


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Hello Fresh Review - First experience

I first came across this very interesting concept when I was watching my favourite vloggers on YouTube, itsjudyslife.  They had received a delivery from Blue Apron, which basically delivers ingredients for meals that they also provide recipes for. As I watched them cook their first meal I was really impressed with the concept and mentioned it to the hubby. Coincidentally enough, the very next day hubby came home with vouchers for Hello Fresh. Being very impressed with such a unique and new idea, I jumped online and saw that you can choose between the Classic Box or the Veggie Box. The Classic Box being the one that includes meat and fish. You can trial these boxes as a once-off for a slightly higher fee, but being the thrifty (Asian) person that I am, I decided to sign up for the regular weekly subscription and just pause or cancel if required. Note - I never intended to continue this on a weekly basis and I will explain why later. 

So here's the breakdown of what's available. The following is based on my location, so I'm not sure if the price is dependent on your postcode.

Classic Box: $69 - $279 per week
Veggie Box: $64 - $159 per week
Fruit Box: Choose between Small, Medium, or Large for $24, $35, or $65
Trial Classic Box: From $79
Trial Veggie Box: From $74 

In the weekly subscription boxes you can choose between the following combinations, although for some reason the Veggie Box has only 3 of the below options, marked with *. 

3 meals for 2 people*
3 meals for 4 people*
3 meals for 6 people*
5 meals for 2 people
5 meals for 4 people
5 meals for 6 people

I know we all have very little attention spans and I applaud you for even reading this far. So before I continue with the details, here's some photos of my delivery/meals, which was from the Classic Box - 3 meals for 2 people.


Opening the box...


Any meat and ingredients that need to stay refrigerated are packed in this box with an icepack. The idea is to leave this box out on delivery day so that they can collect it and re-use for next time.


Seasoning, stock, etc is packed in this brown paper bag.

The booklet of recipes

Easy-to-follow recipes inside

Meal #1: Ingredients ready to go!

Meal #1: Success! Chorizo paella #porkypaella

Meal #2: Ingredients ready to go! (I purchased my own couscous as they left it out of my delivery)

Meal #2: Success! Lamb kofta and couscous #arabiandays

Meal #3: Ingredients ready to go sans chilli because they forgot to include that in our delivery. Also had to purchase our own Mexican seasoning.  

Meal #3: Success! Cooked by Chef Hubby. #MexicanFeast

As mentioned above I had to purchase a couple of ingredients myself because they actually forgot to pack my couscous, mexican seasoning, and a chilli. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that this was probably a very rare once-off occasion. I did email their customer service team and they replied with an apology and said that they would compensate me for the extra ingredients in my next delivery. Now if this was to ever happen, it does defeat the whole purpose of the entire concept. If you have to a) go out to the shops to purchase your missing ingredient and b) not be able to use all of it because you only need it for one meal, than a) it's no longer convenient, and b) you're wasting food, time and money. In my case, purchasing a whole jar of Mexican seasoning when I only need 1 tsp is slightly annoying. But as I said, I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume this sort of thing rarely, if not ever happens. Now that being said, here are my overall thoughts:

OVERALL CONCEPT:
I love it. Having the ingredients for specific meals delivered to your door is awesome. I don't enjoy meal planning and I also don't enjoy grocery shopping - particularly if hubby is not available to help carry bags (so important!). This concept eliminates both of the above weekly tasks I dread doing. Also you get to try new recipes that you probably wouldn't have ever tried or might have thought was too hard. I love that it expands your own repertoire of cooking and you get to try different meals. It definitely beats the weekly steak and veggies that begin to taste a bit like cardboard...

DELIVERY:
In some areas I believe they give you 2 options for your delivery window. It's usually the same day but you can choose which time bracket suits you. For me, the only option available is Mondays between 2.00pm - 9.00pm. My delivery actually arrived at 1.30pm so it was earlier than the window. This delivery window can cause some issues for me, as hubby and I both work so we're not actually home during business hours. I was home that particular day only because I was on holidays. They give you an option to allow them to place your box on your doorstep or give to your neighbour. Now I'm not sure if I'm entirely comfortable with either of the above options. If you're mates with your neighbour you could ask them to do this, but if your neighbour also works and is out during this time than that option goes out the window. And I don't know if I really want my food to be sitting on my doorstep for 4 hours? I know it's in an ice box...Maybe I'm just being picky.

RECIPES:
I am no cook. In fact I'm quite the noob and I only started cooking when I moved out of home just over a year ago. So when I say these recipes are easy and simple, trust me they are easy and simple (not to mention delicious!). My Hello Fresh week has made me look like Super Wife.

COST:
If you regularly eat out during the week, then this will definitely be a cheaper option for you. Meals are about $10 each, and where can you really get a decent meal for $10 anymore? However if you're like me, and you grocery shop every week and generally eat at home, then it will be a more expensive option for you. So I'm not sure if I will continue it on a weekly basis - probably just occasionally when I want to be inspired again and don't have time to go grocery shopping. That being said, keep in mind you are also paying for the convenience and the fact that no thinking or brain power of your own is required.

HEALTHY OPTION?
I think this is definitely a healthier option if you eat out a lot. The recipes seem to be generally quite healthy and it's also in good, healthy portions. By good portions, I mean not massive portions that hubby and I are used to eating. When we cook too much we tend to eat more. 

So that's my review on Hello Fresh. Have you tried it? What are your thoughts?





Saturday, December 6, 2014

Don't Waist Your Time - OOTD



Top: Target  |  Faux leather shorts: Ynot  |  Chambray shirt: Sheinside  |  Sneakers: Forever21


It's been a while since I've blogged (understatement of the year). In fact, these photos were actually just taken with my iPhone while we were filming for my next #StyleDiary. I won't bother with trying to explain my hiatus from the blog, but I will post soon to recap on how my 2014 resolutions went! 

I love this top - not just because of it's texture and incredibly boxy cut - but also because it set me back a total of $3 at Target. When I came across it there were a bunch of these $3 tops that hadn't been discovered. Poor top. You were simply placed in the wrong home. In the right store with the right market you would have easily been snapped up at retail price without having to be reduced down to a sad $3. But as a result, I'm #winning!

Stay tuned on my channel for my new #StyleDiary featuring this #OOTD.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Somedays Lovin "Off Duty" Style Challenge











Kimono, Somedays Lovin  |  Crochet chiffon top & Faux leather shorts, Ynot  |  Fedora, UNIQLO  |  Heels, Dotti
Special thanks to Somedays Lovin, Arrow Divine, and Shambhala for the opportunity to enter.

To enter the Somedays Lovin "Off Duty" Style Challenge, I picked out this gorgeous kimono which I thought would be perfect for an 'off duty' look. I was inspired by the monochromatic print to keep the entire look black and white and I love how it turned out. Of course I had to complete the look with my current fav accessory, the fedora.  

What's your go-to "Off Duty" look? 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Popbasic Paloma Collection















Tee, Infinity Scarf & Clutch, Popbasic Paloma Collection  |  Skirt, Popbasic Sherwood Collection  |  Heels, Zu

I'm going to start by saying I am a big fan of Popbasic. I've loved almost every micro collection so far and love opening a box that I know has quality items. When trawling through my over flowing closet for inspo on styling the Paloma collection, I found myself gravitating towards this beautiful green pleated skirt, also from Popbasic. I promise you that was not deliberate! 

You can never go wrong with basics. And a basic white tee should belong in every girl and guy's wardrobe. This micro collection is so classic it can be worn in hundreds of different ways. Style it with your fav pair of skinnies and you'll look effortlessly chic. 

Love love. Big tick of approval from yours truly.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

WISH "Winter in the City" Style Challenge












'Unique' top, WISH  |  Track pants, Romwe  |  Clutch, Seagulls  |  The Solitaire Shoe, Jeffery Campbell

A big thank you to WISH and Honda (@honda_australia) for the opportunity to participate in the 'Winter in the City' style challenge. The shape and cut of this top is feminine, flattering and unique so I wanted to style it with a fairly simplistic outfit to allow the top to be the star of the show. The result is a classic chic look with a bit of a sporty twist. What do you think?


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Closet storage solutions - Room Tour

As requested by some of my lovely viewers, I've finally filmed a room tour! Here's some additional/details tips to my closet storage solutions which you may find useful.

CLOTHES HANGERS
...have changed my life. If your closet space is too small for the amount of clothes you have, you want to invest in some space saving hangers! The below hangers are what I have in my closet and they have helped immensely. You can find all of these from eBay, but here are some links I found:

Top row:
Right - Velvet space saving hangers. You can hook these on each other to save space, and you'll never have anything fall off a hanger ever again! Life changing. I got mine from Lincraft.
Second row:
Left - Tie hanger. Great for hanging your belts that don't have hooks.
Right - 4 tier skirt/pants hanger. I LOVE THIS!!!!!
Bottom row:
Left - Space saving hanger. Have multiple items hanging vertically rather than horizontally in your closet.
Right - Alternative space saving hanger. It's the dodgier version of the one above!






This one deserves a mention on it's own - for all you scarf lovers out there you have to get your hands on the IKEA Komplement scarf hanger! 28 scarves fits on this baby. You're welcome.



SHOES STORAGE
I love this thing to death! The perfect shoe storage solution if you don't have the space but have a lot of shoes. You can fit 14 pairs on one level with this IKEA shoe tree (OMSORG), and if you build this to the top within the frame, you can fit 5 levels = 80 pairs!!!! 


MAKEUP AND BEAUTY STORAGE
If you're like me, then you need to see all your nail polishes in order to actually use them. Find a nail or beauty salon wholesaler in your area because they might sell their items to the general public. This is the one I went to in Melbourne. Otherwise try eBay for something similar. 

Next is my makeup/vanity storage (MALM), which of course is also from IKEA. There's ample space for my makeup and beauty items but I would recommend that you use draw separators, otherwise you end up with a bit of a mess in each drawer! 


JEWELLERY STORAGE
The hubby bought this jewellery cabinet for me because he saw how much I struggled with finding a storage solution for my mountains of jewellery. It's perfect for me because I also needed a full length mirror!



ADDITIONAL CLOSET
I don't think I have a lot of clothes until someone comes over and has a melt down when they see all the clothes I have. Don't all girls have lots of clothes?! In any case, I needed an additional closet because my built-in wardrobe isn't big enough to house all my babies. This frame and drawers is also from IKEA. Search PAX and go nuts building your own closet.


DESK/STUDY AREA 
This IKEA desk (MICKE) was nice and cheap and I liked that it came with a hole to fit your cables through. The long drawer is also the perfect place to store my sunglasses collection (despite only wearing one pair all the time!)