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2013 has been an amazing, surprising year for me. If someone had told me this time last year what my life would look like now I don’t think I would have believed them.

I started 2013 in a busy, sticky-floored bar in Queenstown, New Zealand. I think that was probably the latest night I had all year… March saw me start to do some serious house hunting and in about a week I will come up to my 8 month anniversary living in my own home. This year I also spent some time really thinking about my career and after some doubt I am now more committed than ever to teaching and know that, at the moment, this is where I want to be. The second half of 2013 saw me make some commitments to really looking after my health and I think my body is very pleased about that. There were also some personal challenges for me this year but I have (and still am) learning from all of them. At the risk of sounding clich├ęd I do think we learn from all the hard things that we go through, I’m really trying to anyway!

There aren’t any New Years Resolutions for me this year. The past twelve months have shown me that too much can happen in a year for me to really make specific plans, but lately I have been trying to look after myself, and those around me, as best I can. I guess you could say that that covers all of the classic health, financial and relationship goals that I would normally have, but it’s something that has helped remind me where my priorities are and I think if I get that sorted, 2014 might just bring even more wonderful things.

I hope 2013 has been a great year for you and that 2014 is one that will give you many opportunities, some that you may not even be able to imagine yet.

Zoe xx

P.S. I just included one photos in this post as going through all the pictures I've taken over the last twelve months was a little overwhelming, but this one of Lake Tekapo in New Zealand was my favourite. It is the most breathtakingly beautiful place I have ever been to and seeing it again just made me happy!
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Summer is well and truly on it's way so if you're as fair and sun-sensitive as I am it is time to up the SPF! Here are some of my favourites:

Peter Thomas Roth SP 30- This is my all time favourite body sunscreen, it absorbs nicely and does not leave the kind of greasy skin that sand just loves to stuck to. Gross. This is definitely the kind of product you forget you're wearing which is really what I'm after. I got mine from Beauty Bay which has free international shipping :-)

Clinique City Block SPF 40- This has been a must-have for me for a very long time, it is fairly lightweight, it sits well under makeup and it is one of my everyday staples in these hotter months. I also really love that the tube is small so it's a good one to throw in your bag when you find you need a re-apply!

Kit SPF 30+ Face Sunscreen- This is a new addition to my collection, I bought a little travel size on my recent Melbourne trip because I forgot my City Block. I really like it, again it doesn't feel too heavy on the skin and sits quite nicely under makeup, I'm not sure that it will replace my City Block, but it is definitely one I would buy again.

All of these options are broad spectrum which means they protect against UVA and UVB rays, meaning not only do they protect you against the rays that cause sunburn (UVB) but also the rays that cause premature ageing and long term skin damage (UVA).

Something to remember when using sunscreen is to take it down your neck and d├ęcolletage and also on the ears as those areas are just as susceptible to sun damage as your face. I also tend to buy smaller, travel sized sunscreens as I find I am more likely to carry them around with me. It is also important not to keep sunscreen too long as they can expire and come ineffective if kept for too long or stored in a hot place (as they tend to be over the summer months).

One thing that is missing from my SPF collection is a good lip balm with SPF, I have become a bit of a Burt's Bees addict and recently realised I don't have one with SPF, does anyone have any recommendations for me?

Unfortunately with Summer here that also means bushfire season for so many people, my thoughts are with all those affected and I am so grateful to all the people out there helping and volunteering, they are doing an amazing job.

Zoe xx
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My friend Megan is one of those people that always looks well-dressed and put together. I love her style, sometimes she picks pieces that I wouldn't ever think of buying and she makes them look amazing and effortlessly stylish. I am constantly seeking her advice on where to shop, what to buy and how to pair different pieces together. I had a chat with her recently about  Spring Style to share with you. 
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What are some trends that you're looking forward to heading into Spring/Summer?
Jumpsuits! I love a good jumpsuit and there is lots of great options in the shops at the moment. Surprisingly, as a colour lover, I am also loving the white and black trends that are hitting the stores, but with bold coloured accessories. I am finding myself attracted classic, structured pieces this season.

At the moment we are starting to get a few warmer days but there's still a Winter chill in the air. What clothing items will help take us from Winter to Spring? 
Invest in a good trench coat in a neutral beige. This coat will get you through Spring and Autumn on days where you need a light extra layer. This is definitely an investment piece for your wardrobe as it will serve you for years - look for a good quality coat that can stand the test of time.

Sometimes I find myself sticking with black/neutrals and generally pretty "safe" colours. How can I start to add a little more colour to my wardrobe?
I love a pop of neon in a light weight scarf or belt. I saw a lady today in a black structured dress with a neon pink belt - it gave the whole look a fun spin. Buying accessories in bolder colours means that you can afford to rotate through as trends change but invest in your classic pieces that will be in for seasons to come.

What is the one staple piece people should add to their wardrobe this Spring?

A grey loose fitting t-shirt - I bought one from Witchery a few weeks ago and have been wearing it at least twice a week, it literally goes with everything.

And most importantly, what about the shoes? 
I love a good tan heel with a wooden base and chunky heel, very versatile and comfortable.I bought a pair like this ( from Sportsgirl two years ago and they are still going strong.

I had so much fun collaborating with Megan on this post, head on over to her blog to see outfit posts, some lifestyle posts and more recently some posts on how she is decorating her new house which I am particularly enjoying.

Zoe xx
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I had pretty much the perfect weekend last weekend. My family came to visit and we had ourselves a little Canberra adventure! 

We started our weekend at my usual Saturday morning spot, the Farmer's Markets. While I gathered my weekly stash of veggies my sister picked us up some pastries, such a yummy treat! If you are a local (or find yourself visiting) I recommend you give them a try, just delish!

Our next stop was Floriade. Floriade has to be one of my favourite Canberra events, it is just beautiful and I have to confess that I have been a very bad Canberran and haven't gone for the last two years. But I am so glad I was not only able to visit, but show my family around too. My niece and nephew were just mesmerised (my nephew is a little too fast to be caught on camera it appears...) and the weather was incredible, well done Canberra!

I also promised my brother-in-law a good burger so we headed off to Brodburger for lunch, one of my favourite spots to grab a great burger, my favourite is the beef and brie but my sister tells me the chicken is great so I think I need to go back soon to check it out... 

As much fun as all the adventures were, the highlight for me was spending some quality time with my family. I am so grateful to have such wonderful, supportive people in my life, I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have that.

In other news I am now on school holidays! I am so excited to have some time to myself to relax and catch up on some me time. I'm heading to Melbourne for some time with friends and just generally do tourist things. I will update you on those adventures shortly.

How was your weekend? Do you have any must-see Melbourne destinations for me?

Zoe xx
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I've had a few really interesting chats to people over the past few weeks about jobs and careers and long term plans. Needless to say they have really gotten me thinking. As some of you may already know, I have been a high school teacher for the past four years. I went straight from school to uni and then straight back to school again. All very sensible and low-risk...

It is fairly expected that people have more than one career in a lifetime, I read that in Australia our average is around the four mark, and people are working in jobs that didn't even exist a few years ago. In my staffroom this afternoon, the question "Are you a lifer?" (someone who is going to spend the rest of their life teaching) was asked, and I could not have honestly answered yes. I don't think I will be in a classroom for the next forty years. It is a great job and I love it, but I don't think it would be fair to me or my students for it to be the only thing that I do. Being a teacher is something that takes a significant amount of time, energy, commitment, and while I have these things now and am willing to put in everything I need to, I get tired sometimes and look forward to a break. And I think that's ok.

There seem to be so many pictures on various social media sites encouraging people to find their passion and dream and follow it and leave all sense and reason behind... While I agree with the sentiment, my sensible self can't seem to believe that it's so easy to put into practice. Just a little warning, I am now going to discuss the very taboo topic of money, if this offends you in any way avert your eyes... But income is something that has crossed my mind when thinking about a career change. I like my stable, reliable income and I have a mortgage, I think it's important to think about what taking a pay cut will mean for me financially. At the same time, I also think that maybe this is the most sensible time to do something else and see how it all goes, I don't have any dependents and I really only have myself to look after.

So what would I do..? I've been trying to think about the things that I enjoy and the things that are important to me. I really enjoy working with people, particularly women, I'm just a girly girl at heart! During my time as a teacher I have had the opportunity to run a self esteem and body image workshop for young girls and I really enjoyed that. Also, if you are a regular reader of my blog (or know me in the real world!) you will know that I have quite a lot of love for beauty products. I am thinking there might be something in that... I really don't know where all this is going, I have just been doing some thinking about it all lately and wanted to get my thoughts down, and who else to share these thoughts with than my lovely blogging friends!

I'd love to hear about your jobs! Are you doing something that you love? Have you thought about leaving something sensible for something a little more adventurous? Do you have any advice for me..?

Zoe xx
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I am writing to share some really exciting news with you today. My lovely and very talented friend Vanisha is partnering up with Masha Zaric to run a Blogging and Photography workshop called Blogging with Soul. If you are thinking about starting a blog, already have a blog but are not sure about how to take it to the next level, or just need some guidance about the purpose and direction of your blog, I highly recommend looking into it.

When I was thinking about starting this blog, Vanisha was one of the first people I approached for advice. She was so supportive and we spent a significant amount of time emailing mini essays back and forth. She was a wealth of knowledge on everything from working out the audience of my blog to how I wanted it to look and who I could approach to designing it.

I have never had the pleasure of meeting Masha but her photographs speak for themselves. I have just spent maybe the last hour looking through her website, her pictures are beautiful, they are unique and creative and I feel like each of them tells a little story. If you want to see some of my favourites check out her portraits page here. Here is a picture she took of Vanisha which I just love.

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The workshop is running on Saturday the 2nd of November in Canberra, all the details are all found on the website. There are limited spots available but you still have until the 4th of October before bookings close so if you think this is something that could help your blog reach its full potential make sure you secure your place.

I hope you are all having a beautiful weekend and enjoying this amazing weather! Happy blogging everyone.

Zoe xx

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I have a confession to make. I'm a shopper. A big one. Interestingly enough, I am also a minimalist and I hate clutter and excess things that I don't use taking up space in my house. This has meant that over the past twelve months I have probably done three or four big clean outs and gotten rid of things that I don't need/use, I even had myself on a shopping ban for a while there...

I now feel like I am making much better decisions on how I spend my money. Particularly when it comes to beauty products (which used to be my downfall), I am shopping smarter, and really love everything I have bought lately.

Here are some of my shopping tips for buying beauty products:

1. Know Your Skin:
This probably seems fairly obvious but if you are really familiar with your skin, choosing products that suit you will be so much easier. The most obvious example would be buying skincare, but it also helps if you know what kind of formulas that will work with your skin when buying makeup. Whether or not you need oil based or water based, if your skin prefers liquid, cream or powder products, how essential a primer or setting powder is for you, the list goes on... If you are unsure here is a quick quiz that will help you work it out. 

2. Keep an eye on ingredients:
Knowing which ingredients your skin likes/dislikes makes shopping so much easier. If you are unfamiliar with what all the ingredients mean, just start making a list, or easier still, taking photos of the ingredient list of products that your skin doesn't like so you can see if there is some common things in them that might be irritating you. I have managed to narrow mine down to a few key ingredients, and there are some products I will just now avoid, Eve Lom and MAC Studio Sculpt Foundation, I'm looking at you...

3. Do Your Research:
For me, this is the exciting part! Read blogs, Google swatches of makeup products you like, watch YouTube videos, ask the lady who gives you your facials, and do all this well before you hit the stores.  Having an idea of things that you think you would like to try makes navigating the sometimes overwhelming beauty departments a whole lot more enjoyable. I also find it makes me slightly (and I mean very slightly) more resistant to the friendly sales staff...

4. Talk to the people selling:
This may seem to contradict my last point a little, but once you are in whatever store you're headed to, if you find yourself unsure, ask for advice. I don't mean to say that once the sales lady tells you that you will look amazing in blue mascara and fuchsia lipstick that you should throw all good sense out the window, but having a conversation about products and colours can make you a little more open to trying new things, some of the best products I have ever tried have been at the recommendation of sales staff and I am very glad I listened. At a recent Hourglass event I ended up getting a lipstick colour unlike anything I own. It's a bright coral/orange (see my face chart from the event above) and without the advice of an experienced make up artist, it would have been a colour I never would have dreamed of putting on. And I love it!

5. Know where to spend vs. splurge:
This will be different for everyone as each person's priorities tend to differ a little, but deciding the things that you are willing to spend a little more money on and the products you want to save on can be really useful. I plan on doing a more in-depth post on this but, for me, the splurging generally happens with skincare and foundation, and the savings is generally with eye makeup, lip products and hair/body products, with the exception of my new lipstick which was a little treat to myself... And I definitely support treating yourself sometimes on something totally gorgeous that will make you feel amazing!

6. Ask for samples:
This is something I have only started doing lately and now I am wondering why it took me so long to do. If there is a product that you think you would like to try but are not quite willing to commit to, ask for a sample pot. If it is a liquid product, it can go in a sample pot, and I mean everything; cleaners, masks, moisturisers, foundations, eye creams, primers, the options are endless! This is also a nice way of getting out of committing to something expensive if you're not sure, a smile with an "oh that looks great, could I get a sample pot to try over the next few days?" is a great way of avoiding committing big $$ as we all know some beauty products are... And usually the sample pot is enough for you to decide whether or not it is something worth you going back for.

8. Return/Exchange:
Sometimes, even the best researched products can not work out the way we plan. If your skin has a reaction to a product and you can't use it, take it back. This was not something I had ever dreamed of doing but during a facial at a Mecca Cosmetica store one day I was mentioning to the girl that I had recently tried the Eve Lom cleanser and reacted badly. She was amazingly helpful, she gave me two full sample pots of another one she thought I might like and told me that if it worked I should bring the other one back and swap it over. Outstanding customer service! Obviously this is not the ideal situation and I do try to avoid it but sometimes the skin wants what it wants and it's nice to know that this option is there.

I feel so much better about my spending habits recently. I really like having less things taking up space and knowing that I use and appreciate the things that I do have.

What are your beauty/fashion/accessory shopping tips? I'm always trying to make better decisions with my money, I think I might be growing up...

Zoe xx

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I love this time of year. The days are getting warmer and longer and everyone just seems to be a little happier!

Over the last few months I have most definitely been in hibernation, living alone for the first time combined with the Canberra cold has kept me safely indoors. While it was so nice to enjoy my own space and rest up while work was exhausting me, I can't wait to make the most of the nicer days.

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my photo photo aa_zpsd9c2be46.jpgI am a big advocate of at-home beauty treatment and pamper routines (read about my at-home mani tips here), but sometimes, I like to let the experts take over and treat myself to something a little more special.

My local Mecca Cosmetica has fairly frequent make-up/skincare events and when I received an email inviting me to try out an Oxygen Facial, I was intrigued... I really didn't know what to expect but I had read in an interview recently that Miranda Kerr is an oxygen facial fan, and well, if it's good enough for Miranda, it's good enough for me!

So what exactly is an oxygen facial? I certainly didn't know. It started like any other facial, a thorough make up removal and cleanse, followed by something a little different. A cocktail of hyaluronic acid* and other skin-loving vitamins which are applied to the skin in a little air pressure machine, kind of like a mini version of a spray tan machine, or if anyone has had airbrushed make-up, that kind of thing. It felt amazing, it was really cooling and relaxing, but what really sold me was how my skin felt afterwards. It felt soft, smooth, hydrated and plump. I have always been cautious of "plumping" products as I had in my head that "plump" meant puffy, not so. My skin just felt full and firm, particularly around my eye area where I have started to see the dreaded fine lines of the mid-20s appear... My skin continued to feel amazing for over a week.

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Since I started blogging I have been lucky enough to meet some of the smartest, loveliest women. At a blogger dinner one night Megan, Vanisha, Rachi, Gemma, Louise and I decided that it might be fun to start a book club, really just a nice excuse to catch-up on a regular basis, but it's also been a good opportunity to read some things that we might not have otherwise come across.

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Our latest read, which was my choice, was And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini who also wrote The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. The story follows various characters, most who are members of an extended family, over many generations. It was written almost as a collection of short stories that are connected by a character or an event. Some of the chapters were beautiful stories, and some of them were heart breaking. Each chapter seemed to focus on a relationship within the family setting, it followed a father-son relationship, a mother-daughter relationship and, one of the ones I found the most emotional, the relationship between sisters.

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Welcome to Part One of my mini series The Mid-Week Pamper, I love using my down time to treat myself and have decided that it doesn't have to be something that takes up a lot of time and involves a lot of products. I have whittled down my pamper sessions to be something efficient that can be done on a week night to break up the work week and make me feel nice.

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One of my favourite things to do on weeknights is a little at-home mani. Here is how I take care of my nails...

I start by cutting them so they are all a similar length, I prefer short, neat, almost square nails over longer ones but you can do whatever style you like. Recently more people in the beauty community have been rocking a rounded nail and it seems to be working for them. I have these straight-edged nail clippers which I love because then I just file the edges a little and am left with neat square-ish nails. There are a few different ideas about cuticle care, some people think you should cut, others think that makes your cuticles more susceptible to infection. I push mine back using this little Sally Hansen cuticle tool and then give them a good scrub using my Lush Sweet Lips lip scrub. It might seem a little strange but sugar scrubs are really good for your cuticles and I never seem to get through my lip scrubs so I thought I would give it a go to get more use out of it and it worked like a charm, plus it smells delicious!
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It's safe to say that over the past few months I have been in hibernation. It's just that time of year where being snuggled up indoors is just more fun that braving the cold. Winter also coincided with me becoming a home owner which meant that walking through my front door was pretty much the highlight of my day and there were times when I would just sigh at how happy being alone in my tiny little apartment made me.

This lack of social interaction meant that I had much more time for reading and viewing some much talked about TV shows which I was very late catching on to. Girls, created by the absolutely delightful Lena Dunham, had me hooked from the beginning, I love some of the characters, I hate some of the characters, I see myself in some of the characters, more than I care to admit... I know I'm so late jumping on the bandwagon with this one, but if by chance you're even later than me, watch it! It's pretty great.

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I spend so much time thinking about what products suit my skin type and Googling recommendations of the best ways to care for my skin that I feel I am guilty of forgetting the universally helpful, oft-neglected stars of the show. The humble beauty tools.

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Looking after my skin for the past year now has been my trusty Clarisonic. This weird little "electric toothbrush for your face" type gadget seems to have taken the beauty blogging community by storm, and it has my vote. I have the Mia which is the smaller one and I love how it makes my skin feel. Since I started using it I have noticed that my skin is clearer, I suffer less frequently from breakouts, and I feel like the products I apply after absorb into my skin much better. On nights when I can't be bothered to Clarisonic (yep, using it as a verb) I find myself reaching for my Emma Hardie cleansing cloths. If you find yourself (understandably) not wanting to shell out the $$ for a Clarisonic, I highly recommend looking into some good cleansing cloth options. These ones are one half muslin cloth, to remove traces of dirt, make up, dead skin cells, whatever else finds itself onto your face during the day... And one half microfibre, the polishing cloth for your skin, if you will. I also like that they are white as there is visible evidence that they are doing their job. I like that in a product. My tweezers made the cut to the list, not because these ones are particularly amazing, although I do like them, but because we all need to de-fuzz now and again, don't we..? I have particularly outrageous eyebrows that, if not tamed, could scare small children. I try to avoid that if possible. 

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I don't think I know many bloggers who haven't put some serious thought into their blog names, it's a very tricky thing. And then once you've narrowed it down to a few that you like and think suit your blog, finding an available URL is a whole other story...

I wanted to tell you a little bit about mine and what being Twenty-Something means to me.

So far my twenties have been pretty amazing. I've graduated from uni, started a full time job, saw my sister get married, became an aunty, travelled to some amazing places, bought my first apartment, started relationships, ended relationships, started them again. It has probably been the most exciting time of my life and I still have five more years. Here are some highlights...

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Family time with my two sisters

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Travel- The Berlin Wall

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Becoming an aunty!

  Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos Central Park, New York

 Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos Travelling with great friends! And great cider

This podcast by Meg Jay made me feel like a very empowered twenty-something (highly reccomend you watch if you haven't already!), I want to use this time to do exciting things and set myself up for the things I want to do later. I want to use this time to look after myself, get into better habits with my health, look after my skin, set myself up financially, do some more travelling and just generally enjoy my life and the people in it. 

I think this has definitely been the best part of my life so far, but it's all I know, maybe my thirty-somethings will be even better, or my fourty-somethings... In the meantime, I'm going to write about being a twenty-something. 

How did you come up with your blog name? Was it easy for you or did it take some time to come up with? I'd love to hear your story. 

Zoe xx
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For me, Winter is the most difficult time of year to keep my skin looking and feeling healthy. My skin is prone to dehydration at the best of times and the cold, in addition to being in artificial heating most days, zaps the life right out of it!

This Winter I have found some products that have really helped and I think my skin is happier than it has ever been at this time of year.

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Here is what I have been using:

Eve Lom Cleansing Balm: This is the newest addition to my skincare routine and I love it. Cleansing balms are all the rage at the moment and I understand why. In the pot this is a soft solid which turns into an oil when you rub it between your hands. Applied to dry skin it melts your makeup right off, I use a muslin cloth and warm (not hot) water to remove this.

UPDATE: A few weeks after this post my skin decided that it didn't like Eve Lom as much as forst thought, I broke out, not in pimples, but in little red, dry patches on my cheeks, in an attempt to track down the culprit I cut this out and unfortunately this was the guilty product... The amazing girls at my local Mecca store exchanged it, no questions asked and I'm now trying something new... I'll give it a few more weeks just to make sure my skin is happy again and then no doubt it will feature in my Spring 2013 skincare routine.
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Hi everyone,

Welcome to Notes from a Twenty-Something.

I've been working on this space for a little while now and have had so much fun planning it and thinking about what I wanted it to be. It's currently a work in progress so some parts are still under construction but I just couldn't wait to share it with you all!

I sought the help of my more experienced blogger friends Megan and Vanisha whose expertise was greatly appreciated, and the lovely Christina who did my design work and was very patient with me!

Have a look around and pop back and visit occasionally, there is plenty on the way...

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Zoe xx

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