A reading challenge for 2015

I love reading. I read every day without fail. Of my recent ten day holiday, two of the best days were when I spent the entire day reading – on the couch, in bed, on the beach. It was bliss.

I am quite diverse in what I read: I like a challenge, I like reading serious literature and I adore histories and good biographies, but I do need to mix it up with good detective stories and light literature as well. So when a very good friend of mine – the only person I know who reads more than me – told me about a reading challenge she had found online and taken up for 2015, my interest was instantly peaked and after hearing about it, I decided I wanted to take up the challenge as well.

What happens when I ask for books for Christmas. And my family knows about my holiday plans.

What happens when I ask for books for Christmas. And my family knows about my holiday plans.

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2014: a year in review

2014 was a big year for us both here at Sunshine and Gin and oddly enough, starting a blog together was one of the least dramatic parts of it!

In 2014 we both of us started new jobs. One of us moved house, one of us got engaged. We went to so many 30th birthday parties! We did all the usual every-day stuff of making new friends, trying new restaurants, learning how to cook new recipes and of course, we started a blog.

Happy engagement to us!

We launched Sunshine and Gin in January 2014 but we were a little slow to really get into it. Even though it’s fun, blogging is time-consuming! We didn’t get serious until May when we  may the decision to knuckle down and started posting regularly about Brisbane, travel and enjoying life to the full.

Since May, we’ve gathered over 1,000 followers (!!!). Thank you to everyone who follows us on WordPress, email, Facebook and instagram! We still get excited when we get new followers and we appreciate you liking our work and reading what we have to say. We’ve ended the year as the #6 most popular Brisbane blog on Urbanspoon and we’re pretty happy with that, though our plus ones are still getting used to us photographing our food.

Our most popular posts in 2014 were:

  1. Eat, drink Brisbane
  2. Brisbane’s Best BYO restaurants
  3. Brisbane’s Best dumplings
  4. Diner en Blanc 2014
  5. DIY floral cake topper
B, Kirst and their friends Gabi, Claire and Gemma in the Weekend Edition photobooth.

B, Kirst and their friends Gabi, Claire and Gemma in the Weekend Edition photobooth.

So, onwards to 2015!

What will 2015 hold? Career developments in our families, holidays to Europe, a lot of blog-time and of course a wedding! It’s going to be another big year.

Some people love making resolutions, some don’t. Personally, I set myself goals for the year – which I often don’t achieve – and just one ‘resolution’ of something to aim for or try in the year ahead. My resolution for 2015 is a little self-centred, but here it is:

In 2015, I want to learn how to look better in photographs.

I am going to two weddings in 2015 and I will be in a lot of photos at each of them. I don’t like the way I photograph so I am determined to figure out how to look better in photos. Sure, it isn’t world-changing but it is achievable. Other goals are to do with improving eating habits, brushing up on my German and hitting my savings targets – all the usual.

Sydney Opera House

Self with National Monument.

And how about the blog?

In 2015 we’re going to give our blog a bit of a facelift, so watch out for the new-look S&G. We’re going to be writing about travels in Jerusalem, Bangkok, England and Montenegro among other places. We’ll be trying out new places to eat and drink in Brisbane as they appear and making sure our most popular reviews are kept up to date.

Thank you all for a pretty amazing year. We hope you’ve come through 2014 with some good stories, new experiences, a year older and a little bit wiser.

Happy New Year to you all!

With love and thanks from B and Kirst

Out on the town and about to hit a Kareoke Bar

Out on the town and about to hit a Kareoke Bar

10 Things I learnt on my GAP Year

In 2009 I quit my job, broke up with my boyfriend, hoisted a backpack onto my back and set off on the biggest adventure of my life.

It was my second time living overseas as an adult (I did a 6 month exchange program when I was 19) so I thought I knew what to expect but without any solid plans, I actually had very little idea what was ahead.

In total, I was away for 15 months and during that time I visited 22 countries. I danced in Dubrovnik, drank Beer at Oktoberfest, ate goulash in Budapest and strolled the streets of Sarajevo. I learnt to snowboard (and cracked a rib), worked 3 jobs at once, put on close to 10kgs, made amazing friends who became like family, and met the love of my life.

So you can see – taking time off from my ‘real life’ to travel and live abroad was an eventful and life-changing experience!

I learnt so much and felt it was only right to share it with you. So here we go. The 10 Things I learnt from my GAP Year:

  1. Unless you are Beyonce or Bill Gates, you will never, ever have enough money to do all the things you want to do but why should that stop you from trying? I saved for 2 years to afford my trip and it was only until I got this sage advice from my mum that I bit the bullet and booked. I just wish I had done it sooner.
  2. So ok, you’ll never have enough money, but that means it’s especially important to manage the money you do have. When you’re travelling long term it can sometimes feel like you’re on a permanent holiday – and to be fair you sort of are – BUT if you want to avoid living of 2-minutes noodles for 7 months, you need to set a budget and stick to it.
  3. Time is precious and yes it does fly by when you’re having fun. Appreciate everything and be grateful for your experiences. Another thing – don’t put of travel because you’re waiting for the ‘right’ time or you don’t want ot miss out on things at home. NEWSFLASH: There will never be a ‘right’ time and yes, you will miss out on important things happening at home and people’s lives will go on without you. But making the move is worth it. Just go!
  4. Staying in touch is important. With Facebook, Skype, Email, WhatsApp and Instagram there is no excuse not to keep in touch with friends and family. I know it sometimes seems as if nothing has changed at home and that their world is not as exciting as your galivanting gypsy adventures but staying in touch makes them feel more involved in your trip and it also makes it a LOT easier when you return home.
  5. Look after your health and fitness. This is something I unfortunately didn’t prioritise whilst I was travelling. Yes, I remained active and watched what I ate, but I also enjoyed much too much local cuisine and I did a lot of partying. Alcohol + heavy meals in the cold Canadian winter…not so figure friendly.
  6. You’re your own best companion. When you’re travelling on your own for an extended period of time, it can get a little lonely. That’s why learning to enjoy your own company is a must. This is a lot easier than it sounds. Just imagine you’re dating yourself. Take yourself out for a delicious breakfast and do a spot of people watching…follow it with a picnic in a park or sightseeing at a museum. There is normally so much to do you forget that you’re not sharing it with anyone. But of course, sometimes friends do make everything better.
  7. Setting up a life is hard work. Once you’ve made it through the minefield of ‘housekeeping’ things you have to do when you move over seas (setting up a bank account, finding a place to live, etc) shit starts to get real. You realise you have no friends, are in a foreign country, perhaps you haven’t found a job yet…WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE!?!?! But stick it out because it will all work out. You’ll get a job, make some wonderful friends and pretty soon things start to feel like home…sometimes it takes a bit longer than you might like but once it all falls into place you’ll feel a huge sense of pride that you’ve got this ‘life’ thing down pat.
  8. People are friendly and interested in getting to know you. Ok so I’m not saying that there aren’t some absolute d**chebags out there, but on my GAP year I encountered so many genuinely lovely and helpful people who wanted to make sure that I was ok and also to know my story. There was an older gentleman in Salamanca who noticed me at the Pharmacy and kindly translated for me so I could get medication. A father and son who bought me a bus ticket in Serbia because I didn’t have enough of the right currency. And many locals who volunteered to act as tour guides. There’s also the people I worked and lived with – some of whom are still very valued and close friends – one of the best souvenirs a girl can have.
  9. Homesickness will strike but you’ll get through it. I first got homesick about 3 months into my travels. I was on a bus in the Portuguese countryside watching the landscape go by and all of a sudden I had an overwhelming feeling that I didn’t want to be there. I was sick of hauling my backpack around and I wanted to go home. I wanted some vegemite toast and to sleep in my own bed. I wanted to see my dad and hug my mum. I was sad and I can vividly remember having a little cry on the bus. It was one of many occasions where I felt home-sick but like most of them it was nothing a quick phone call couldn’t fix before I was back to enjoying my adventures.
  10. Planning and Spontaneity work well together. When I left Australia for my GAP year I had a ‘sort of’ plan, meaning that I had organised a couple of weeks of my trip and had booked some of the necessary stuff but I also had a lot free time that I needed to ‘fill in’. This was an ideal approach for me because it meant I didn’t miss out on any of the time-specific things I wanted to do (hello European Summer festivals) but I also had the freedom to explore places recommended by fellow travellers that I had not really considered previously.

So there you have them – some of the things I learnt while gallivanting around the globe…take them as you will but just know that they are just a few of so many more life lessons and my biggest advice would be to just jump on that plane!

10 Reasons to take a Gap Year

It is our firm opinion that travelling – be it in a couple, solo, or with friends – is one of the most fulfilling activities a person can undertake. But it goes without saying that a two week holiday in Bali or a 3 month sojourn in India is very different to long-term travel or a semi-permanent move overseas.

During our twenties, both of us at Sunshine and Gin jetted off to backpack and work abroad and what we learnt on our adventures is that taking a GAP year (or longer) to live, travel and work overseas is one of the most challenging, exciting and life-changing experiences.

We have covered some of the upsides and downsides of travelling solo, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s our comprehensive list of why everyone should take a GAP year at some point in their life:

  1. You’ll grow as a person – as lame as this sounds it’s probably the number one thing you will gain from your GAP year. Spending time volunteering in Thailand or working in London can force you to grow up quickly. It will also help you to put things into perspective so you’re better able to determine what you do and don’t want from your career/friends/partner/life.
  2. You’ll learn self-reliance and adaptability – when you’re responsible for looking after yourself 100% it can get a little tricky and exhausting at times; but when you can pay your bills on time, navigate the underground with ease, or converse in a foreign language you start to feel like a pretty put-together human being…and that’s pretty awesome.
  3. You’ll bring sexy back – so you might not be the best-looking person around but do you realise that when you’re in a foreign land you have an accent, and that having an accent makes you approximately 1,240,745 times sexier? You’re exotic, adventurous, and worldly and people are gonna want a piece of that goodness! The extra attention will leave you feeling like a champ in no time.
  4. You’ll be freeto do what you want, any old timeeeeee. Say you’re a banker and you move to a foreign land where you fall in love with a hippy and decided to throw in the towel to become a raw food chef. Well, there’re not going to be anyone to stop you because it’s your life buddy and you are free to make your own decisions 100%. Pretty sweet hey?
  5. You’ll heal – a GAP year is good for the soul. It can help mend a broken heart, allow you time to put past disappointments or hurts behind you and give you distance from things until you’re ready to deal with them.
  6. You’ll get great life and career experience – seriously, don’t worry about what potential employers will think of your time away. Living and travelling abroad for an extended period of time shows that you’re adaptable, open to change, flexible, that you have both initiative and the dedication to follow your decisions through, that you take an interest in different cultures and people…the list goes on. If they can’t see the value in an internationally experienced candidate who has all of these qualities then you probably don’t want to work for them anyway!
  7. You’ll get educated – there’s no better classroom than the school of life people. I haven’t used algebra since leaving school over a decade ago (sorry mum and dad) but I can speak to you in detail about the places I’ve visited (history of Berlin anyone?) the things I have seen and also, how it opened up my mind. Travelling teaches us so much about ourselves and the world, it’s a education worth paying for.
  8. You’ll jump out of your comfort zone (perhaps quite literally) – On my travels I’ve bungee jumped over a freezing river, caught an overnight bus through the Balkans, and para-glided in Turkey. All of these I would never have considered in my ‘normal life’ but when I’ve been feeling relaxed and happy on my extended holiday it’s seemed like a good idea to push the boundaries and you know what? It was! All bloody brilliant experiences I would do again and again if I could.
  9. You won’t miss out because you’ll be adventuring in your prime – there is no better time to travel than when you’re young, but that’s not to say that a GAP year at 65 isn’t a great idea too! When you’re young, fit and healthy and not yet too tied down with responsibility, travelling is the perfect thing to do.  You’re better equipped for physical activities (trekking to Machu Pichu anyone?) and can recover quicker from a hangover…plus you only need to worry about looking out for yourself. and you’ll have some great stories for the grand-kids when you’re older!
  10. What happens on GAP year stays on GAP year – ok so this one is true to a certain extent. You can generally behave as badly as you want on a GAP year and people back home will be none the wiser. Knock back those shots, flirt with that girl/guy you know is bad for you, eat that hash cake in Amsterdam…unless you’re instagramming the shizz out of it your reputation will remain relatively boring intact. However, on returning from your extended trip away you might unexpectedly bring home a fresh perspective, worldliness, some cool new friends and if you’re anything like me – the love of your life! It’s the risk you take people!

So there you have it, a few reasons as to why EVERYONE, young or old should take a GAP year or do some extended travel. So what are you waiting for? Where would you like to go on your GAP year and can we come?

How to organise a wedding in 6 weeks

My now-husband and I had a modern ‘whirlwind’ romance. We met, moved in together, and fell in love in three months. We’d been together 7 months when he proposed and we got married less than 9 months after our first date.

Some people are shocked when I tell them the story, others nod sagely and say ‘when you know, you know’. I think they are the ones who also ‘knew’ early on, but perhaps took a little longer over things than we did.

Anyway, when we decided to get married we also decided to do it immediately. We told our family in the last week of July, we announced our engagement to the world on 1 August and we got married on 14 September. People could not believe that we organised a wedding in 6-7 weeks, but with help and the right attitudes it came together a lot more easily and smoothly than you might think.

Here are my tips for how to organise a wedding in 6 weeks:

1. Let go of the ‘picture perfect’ wedding in your mind

This is important. If you have in your mind a plan for what you want your wedding to be like and it includes perfect and immaculate detail down to colour matching flowers to neck ties and cake decorations, handmade cake topper and getting married in a particular month because that’s when the flowers you want are in bloom, you probably can’t get married with only 6-8 weeks to prepare.

All of those details take a lot of planning and time to accomplish. It may indeed be possible to do all of those in a few weeks, if you enlist an army of helpers and run yourself ragged. But is that want you really want to do in the weeks before you get married?

If you want to organise a wedding in a short time, let go of all of those ‘perfect’ details. Let go of the custom-made gown (that might be a hard one to give up), step away from Pinterest and bridal magazines and just go with the flow. It will all come together in the end and it will still be the happiest day of your life, even without personalised bomboniere.

2. Outsource

This is a big one. I outsourced a lot of important jobs to friends and family. I asked my dearest girlfriends, all of whom have good taste and personal style, to do the flowers and other decorations. Another friend made the play-list and was the ‘DJ’. I asked Kirst, who does her own make-up flawlessly every day, to do mine for the big day.

Outsource small but important and time-consuming jobs and watch your worries be dealt with by other people. You will also potentially save a lot of money, depending on what you ask people to do.  Though you should have everyone over for dinner to say thank you.

And I promise you, your friends will Love doing these things for you! It means they are really involved in your wedding, not just guests. They are contributing to the happiness and success of your big day and it makes the day even more thoughtful and loving.

Flowers by the Brisbane Flower Markets and a dear friend, make-up by Kirst, dress from a vintage shop. Happiness, all my own.

Flowers bought at the Brisbane Flower Markets and made into a bouquet by a dear friend, make-up by Kirst, dress from a vintage shop. Happiness, all my own.

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Hong Kong Day 3: Lantau Island, a junkboat adventure and more food!

Hong Kong Big Buddha

The Big Buddha – obviously

Our final full day in Hong Kong and we went on a mission to see The Big Buddha at Lantau Island.

We’d heard mixed reviews about this place, and it is very ‘touristy’ but Tom and I both really enjoyed it. The Metro trip out takes a little while and then you jump into a Gondola to get up the mountain, but at the top the Giant Buddha awaits…along with a monastery, some gorgeous and very placid wild dogs and a heap of souvenir shops.

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One of the super chilled out wild dogs..what a cutie!

After making our way from the Gondala and past the souvenir shops to climb the few hundred stairs to the buddha and stairs we were rewarded with a pretty great view – despite the less than perfect weather! We strolled around the Buddha, taking cheesy pictures and taking in the view over the mountains until the fog rolled in. It was beautiful. Afterwards, we made it back down to the tourist traps and shared a delicious mango pancake before heading back to Hong Kong Island.

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Tourist fun

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How to beat the Post-Holiday-Blues in 10 easy Steps

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After recently returning from holidays I felt exactly like this. Fun, fun, fun, home and then boo. It hit. The post holiday depression (PHD) also known quite simply as; the harsh reality of everyday life.

I’m certainly not the only once afflicted with this illness, so I thought I’d jot down a few ideas that helped me get through the tough times, in case you too are finding yourself staring wistfully at Tuula Vintage on instagram or devouring posts by World of Wanderlust wishing you could be frolicking around the globe again…

So here we go – 10 ways to get happy again, once the holiday is over.

  1. Get active – unless you’ve been trekking the Himalaya’s or climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, it’s highly likely that you’re health, fitness and figure has been a little neglected. Whilst it’s always fun enjoying those £2 pints/Almond croissants/Perfect Paellas, not being able to flaunt your abs or fit into your skinny jeans is quite the opposite. So get active! It will not only help you ditch those extra holiday kilos, but it’ll get your endorphins pumping and boost your mood – win’s all round!
  2. Save your pennies – so maybe you splashed your savings on a knock off Celine bag and accrued a little more than expected on your credit card (Who me?!). Well so what! That’s why we have these things called jobs! If you are stressing a little about your finances since returning home, why not put together a savings and debt repayment plan. There are plenty of free and easy to use budget guides online including this one from the Sydney Morning Herald which will help get you saving for your next trip!
  3. Find something to look forward to – your friend’s birthday, a special dinner date or an evening spent curled up on the couch are great distractions when you’re missing the slopes/beach/city you’ve just visited. Socialise and spend time catching up with your loved ones and you’ll be loving home life again in lightening speed.
  4. Book another holiday or start planning your next adventure – do some research and get some ideas for where you might like to visit next, the best time to go and how long you want to spend there – then get googling or visit your local travel agent to find a great deal – the further out you book the better the price!
  5. Be kind and treat yourself – so your roots are looking terrible after months backpacking abroad? Call your hairdresser! Your back aches from the long plane trip? Have a bubble bath or beg your partner for a massage. Feeling stressed trying to catch up on work? Take some time out for yourself to relax. It’s not a crime to be nice to yourself if you’re feeling low, and small pleasures can make all the difference!
  6. Reflect on the fun you had – go through your photos, tell anyone who’ll listen your stories and enjoy the foods you fell in love with whilst away. Combine all three if you have to! Since returning from Hong Kong, all Tom and want to eat is yum cha so we’ve taken to eating Chinese on date nights and reminiscing about how much fun we had. It almost makes the experiences seem real again.
  7. Keep exploring – there’s no way you could have seen everything your hometown and nearby regions have to offer so get our there and discover it like a tourist. Visit a new bar, take a road-trip to somewhere you’ve never been before and make amazing discoveries in your own backyard.
  8. Make changes, take on new projects and challenge yourself – when I came back from overseas I was lucky enough to start a new job, which has been both a great challenge and distraction. Of course such a significant change is a pretty unusual but if you ask me, regardless of how big or small – changes and challenges are good. Often you gain a new perspective whilst on holidays so use it to your advantage, push your boundaries, throw all your energy into it and see where it can go!
  9. Get back into a routine – for some people it is a hard slog to get back to the ‘daily grind’ but the key is to think of it as an opportunity to get organised and manage your time better so you can get the most out of your days. It doesn’t have to be boring – fit in the fun stuff where you can!
  10. Distract yourself with the #100HappyDays challenge! If you’re still struggling to get rid of PHD then you better check yo’self before you wreck yo’self and join the challenge. It will help you to identify what makes you happy and become more grateful in your every day life!

And if all else fails, pour yourself a G&T and nejoy with friends!

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