Archive of ‘Lifestyle’ category

The financial pros and cons of ‘buying off the plan’

Buying off the plan

When we were trying to buy a house two years ago we briefly considered ‘buying off the plan’. However we really wanted to find something and move in straight away so didn’t look into it in much detail. Famous last words as it took 6 months for us to find something to buy anyway but that is a story for another blog post. Ever since we bought our place I have had my ear pricked for real estate chat (you kind of get addicted) and more and more I am hearing about people buying off the plan to secure their first home. It is not a surprising fact considering the ACT Government is commited to the creation of numerous new suburbs. As more new suburbs emerge it is an option that more and more people will turn to when buying a house. So if you are considering buying off the plan what do you need to know? I sat down with financial planner, Michael Miller from MLC Advice Canberra to find out the pros and cons.

What does it mean to ‘buy off the plan’?

Buying off the plan is when you sign a contract to purchase a property that hasn’t been built yet. New apartment constructions are often sold this way and you can usually review building plans, layouts, and a list of the types of fixtures and fittings you can expect in the home your purchase.

What are the benefits of buying off the plan?

When you buy off the plan you are agreeing on a price from the beginning, so if the market price rises between the time you sign the contract and the property is finished you get the benefit of having secured the price earlier.

What can go wrong when buying off the plan?

There’s no guarantee that market prices will go up in the time it takes for the property to be built! If the market price has gone down, you’re still locked into the price you originally agreed.

Buying off the plan is  popular with first home buyers where sometimes deposits are low and resources are stretched. We have recently seen a number of borrowers commit to a purchase, and now that it has come time to settle they have found that lenders have tightened their requirements for loans such as requiring a higher deposit, or not counting the full rental income when looking at their ability to make interest payments. This means that the buyer risks not being able to complete their contract and forfeiting their deposit.

How can people make sure that buying off the plan is the right choice for them?

Talk to a good mortgage broker before you sign a contract, they’ll be able to help you understand the current lending market and also bring a bit of experience to what long term trends look like. Also consider looking at other properties that the builder and developer have completed in the past to get an indication of the quality of their work.

This post was written in partnership with MLC Advice Canberra.

If you liked this post you might enjoy ‘My first experience visiting a financial planner‘.

What I wore| Loafers & cropped pants



Every year, when the weather starts cooling down, I open my wardrobe and think what the hell did I wear last winter?! I don’t know if in some mad closet cleansing session I get rid of everything or I just manage to get by with the bare minimum during winter. Anyway the issue  presents itself with the opportunity to build a workable winter wardrobe that I can build upon each year.

The first thing I needed was trousers that were versatile, something I could wear to work or on the weekend.  These Zara cropped pants have completely fit the bill and also the budget for $70 each. I also invested in these leather loafers from Mode Collective. I love that the colours are neutral but the snake skin style pattern gives them character. They have given me pretty bad blisters on the first couple of wears but I am persevering in the hope they will soon be my go to shoes this winter. Are there any pieces you will be looking out for this winter?

This weekend flew by far too quickly but don’t they all? Yesterday I did a photography course with Hilary Wardhaugh – it was so much fun. I  did a course ages ago but it was far too technical and went a little bit over my head and I found myself reverting back to using auto on my camera. Yesterday it clicked, well more then before and I am really looking forward to working on my photography in manual mode, hoping to get in lots of practice so I don’t lose it again.

Oh and in other really exciting note I had an article published on HerCanberra, ten of my favourite breakfast places in Canberra, of course its about brunch!

outfit details and where to shop
Loafers: Mode Collective, $240
Cardigan: Zara, $40
Trousers: Zara, $70
T-shirts: Witchery, similar from River Island $40
Handbag: very old from Coach

Five minutes with Kerrie Hess fashion illustrator

Kerrie Hess fashion illustrator

One of the things I love celebrating on this blog is people who turn their passion into a career (that is what the ‘Canberra Independent Business Owner Spotlight’ is all about) so when the opportunity to interview world renowned fashion illustrator Kerrie Hess presented itself I jumped at the opportunity. Brisbane based Kerrie has done illustrations for the likes of Chanel, Kate Spade, Louis Vutton and Neiman Marcus to name a few. If that isn’t enough Kerrie has also authored her own book ‘Shoestring Chic’ and illustrated a number of other books by other authors including Lauren Conrad’s self titled beauty book.

The Little House at Nowhere.-2

When did you realise that illustrating was your passion in life? Oh I loved drawing and painting from about five years old and begged my mother to send me to weekend art classes.

How did you get into fashion illustration in particular? I studied at Griffith University for two years before moving to London to start my first job, initially I was doing both graphic design and illustration but I realised fairly quickly that illustration was more my passion.

Were there any times that you though about giving up? What kept you going? No not really. I feel that I have been lucky to have been doing this full time for about 17 years now. All I really wanted in the beginning was to be able to pay my rent from this path to be honest, let alone be something that would take me all over the world and be able to choose the jobs in the last five years that I really want to do creatively.

Do you have a favourite illustration? Or an illustration that is of special significance to you? If so why? I think I have two! I have a soft spot for this one, of my favourite perfume Chanel no 5. This print incidently also sold out of my shop in just over 2 minutes from going online as well. (It nearly did crash my whole shop.)

I also do love this one, ‘Rose Dior’. It’s a large original canvas for my current exhibition in Brisbane for the RedSea Gallery.

Kerrie Hess Fashion Illustrator

How do you continue to push yourself creatively? Do you ever experience “illustrator’s block”? Yes, sometimes. For this reason I like to complete a job in advance so that I am always looking at it with fresh eyes before I am sure it’s finished and that I am really happy with it. Just going for a walk, stepping out of the studio is always good when feeling like the energy isn’t right.

How do you spend your downtime – do you enjoy drawing things outside of fashion? Yes I do sometimes! I love painting without a brand in mind sometimes. Other than that, movies, park time, fun at the beach with my son Marcel is the best part of my week.

Besides from Brisbane what is your favourite city in the world and why? It’s my last home of Paris. I lived there for two years and still have Paris in my heart.

If you weren’t an illustrator what would you have be doing? Quite sure I would have stayed with Graphic Design…

What are the future plans for you and your illustrations? More prints are coming very soon to my print shop (, more original works to exhibit and a few fashion and beauty collabs with Paris based brands this year that I am looking forward to releasing! (Two favourites are Lancome and Laduree.) And of course a lovely event at The Canberra Centre later this week.

Kerrie Hess fashion illustrator

The Canberra Centre has collaborated with Kerrie to celebrate the launch of the A/W 2015 season, commissioning five new prints (like the one above) from Kerrie as well as an exhibition of her prior work.The exhibition will run from 28 March to May 2015. There are a number of special events running this weekend to celebrate the launch of the new season – you can get a fashion illustration of yourself done by Erin Whitty as well as a special weekend beauty bar and a champagne bar – I hope to run into you there!

Photos of Kerrie by Bonnie Cee

Stripes, full skirts and all things nice.






Full skirt and stripes

Full skirt and stripes


Long time no blog. I could rack up a whole list of reasons why the sound of crickets have been taking over this corner of the internet but it comes down to poor time management and not prioritising blogging. It is hard when something you are really passionate about come at the bottom of the list because you won’t “fail” if you don’t do it or you don’t have to worry about not getting paid if you don’t do it. Basically after work, uni and planning a wedding my time to blog is pretty much non-existent.

One of my big goals this year was to get into a regular pattern of blogging and to start a small income stream from doing it (hey if this is what I want to do I need to own monetising it) and I am realising that by not prioritising it I may not be failing or losing money but I am not prioritising my dreams and that is probably worse! So this week I am making a new commitment to setting time aside to spend on this space, creating content, replying to comments and just generally doing what I love. Sorry for yapping on about it but I definitely had a moment this weekend where all the thought bubbles in my head clicked and I realised i need to put my head down and bum up because things will only change if I change how I do things.

Onto the outfit…

I bought this skirt on a whim. I was meant to be buying my friend a birthday present and saw this skirt while I was out and knew it would work with a lot of the tops in my wardrobe (like the 6 striped tops that I can totally justify due to the different thickness of the stripes). So far I have been wearing it at least twice a week so am definitely happy with that purchase. Oh and don’t worry I also managed to get my friend a present.

Outfit details and where to shop:
Top: Dress from Target similar here 
Skirt: Bardot (not online but check in store) similar here
Shoes: Vintage

If you liked this post check out “Shop the look: The Full Skirt Trend”

Reflections on my three day juice cleanse

Three day juice cleanse review Three day juice cleanse review www.thegirlhassparke.comFor a long time I waned to try a juice cleanse. I was interested in the health benefits but also to see if I had the self-control to live off juice for three days (maybe not the best intentions to set out with). A living social deal became available for a juice cleanse and I decided that this was the time to jump in, I also convinced my friend Zoe to do it with me. We ordered our juices from Canberra based, ‘The Fix- Cold Pressed Juice’,  and waited for them to be delivered.

The thing is when you have never done something like this before a three day juice cleanse seems easy. You fill your head with posts from the internet from other people who found it soooo easy and even one lady who decided to extend her three day cleanse to five days because she felt so good. It seemed like this would be a walk in the park.

I woke up on the first day ready for action, feeling motivated and excited to try the juices. The first juice was delicious and I didn’t feel hungry at all. To be honest I never once felt hungry over the three days, if anything I missed the act of chewing the most. I stuck with the juices having one every two hours and felt good until about 4pm. It was then that the head ache set in and a general feeling of lethargicness. I got home from work and didn’t move from the couch until I went to bed at 8.30pm.

Day two I woke up and my head was still splitting, I feel tired and emotional. I literally open my eyes and think FOOD! I get ready in a haze and on the verge of tears (not sure why I felt so emotional). I made it to work and had my first juice, I felt slightly better but my head was still pounding. I headed into my first meeting of the day and I could barely concentrate on what people were saying let alone stringing a sentence together. The caffeine and sugar addiction was very evident by this stage.

Three day juice cleanse review

I have another juice and once again feel good but half an hour later I am back in the dumps. I couldn’t handle it, I was broken and went and bought a Thrive salad. I lasted 38 hours of 72 hours. Despite only having a salad I felt immediately better the world became clearer and my general mood immediately changed to a much happier version of myself. I really believe that the physical act of eating is so engrained in me that I am mood dependent on it. Despite the juices being really yummy I also missed the routine of meal times – taking a break and preparing and enjoying food is one of my favourite parts of the day.

I decided to keep going with the juices but I had a salad for dinner as well and then lunch and dinner on the last day. I still managed to avoid caffeine, dairy, alcohol and processed sugar and I have to say on the third day I felt great. The day after even better. I felt lighter and more energised. I also didn’t feel like I needed a coffee but I really wanted one, I like the routine and there is no denying I really like coffee. I also felt motivated to try and eat healthier and incorporate more good food in my diet and reduce my reliance on bread carbs to fill full. Despite ultimately failing the cleanse I felt much more in tune with my body then ever before.

What worked for me was doing it with a friend. Zoe was my rock during the three days and it helped to know someone else was going through a similar thing and you could talk to them about it. Zoe successfully completed the three days – you can read her last juice cleanse review here.

What didn’t work for me was jumping straight into a three day cleanse when I hadn’t done anything like it before. I definitely recommend starting with a one or two day cleanse and work your way up. It is something I will consider trying in the future. Also follow the pre-cleanse instructions – reducing caffeine and sugar and eating mostly vegan, my stubborn self thought I could just go cold turkey and that was a big mistake. I also would not recommend doing it on work days my concentration levels really suffered while on the cleanse.

If you have done a juice cleanse before I would love to hear about your experience below.

My experience visiting a financial planner

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I like talking about money. Not necessarily about how much people earn but I am interested in how they spend it, how they save it and what they save it for. In recent years I have tried to be a lot more financially responsible paying off a substantial credit card debt and building my savings slowly. Despite all of this the thought of actually speaking to a professional about my finances never crossed my mind, the main reason being I didn’t think I had enough money to bother speaking to a financial planner and that I would potentially be laughed out of their office. It seems hard to plan someones finances when they don’t really have any to begin with.

When Michael from MLC Advice contacted me to see if I would like to come in for an initial appointment despite my former preconceptions I decided I had nothing to lose. Just like you see a doctor for your health, a dentist for your teeth it did make sense to talk to someone about money and I figured the younger I did it the better my future will look.

I got an email a week before my appointment stating all the documents that I needed to bring with me. Of course I left finding these documents until the night before and realised my filing system of the closest garbage bin wasn’t the best idea. It wasn’t a deal breaker though I managed to scrounge most of the details from online accounts. I was ready (well as much as I could be) to head in the next morning.

When I arrived Michael made me feel comfortable and was generally interested in not just my finances but about my goals and aspirations for the future. I expected to walk in and have to lay out all my info straight away but for the first half an hour we actually discussed what my goals were for the next few years and how much money I would need to achieve it. My goals were pretty simple – to travel as much as possible while building up savings for when we decide to have a family.

I really appreciated that we spoke about my goals first rather then looking at where we I am at financially and feeling constricted by that rather then dreaming big and discussing my actual goals! After that we moved onto the scary stuff looking at the actual numbers which ended up not being that scary at all but rather really informative. Michael enjoys working with young people and doesn’t expect you to come in with it all figured out which is what I think made the process so pain free – I never felt judged about where my finances were at.

I had envisioned Michael going through my last bank statement and circling all the unnecessary purchases I had made over the last few months but it was really nothing like that. I actually could have hugged Michael when he clarified his philosophy is not about giving up coffee and saving every little penny. Their philosophy is one much more aligned with making sure you enjoy life but still create wealth rather then going backwards. I would describe it as a “a big picture’ approach to financial planning which when you are young you can really relate to and benefit from.

Michael identified that I had a few weaknesses with my super plan and that I could benefit from looking at including income protection options – the boring but important stuff that we stick our head in the sand about. It did make me realise if I did have to stop working all our travel savings would have to go towards keeping us alive and severly delay us reaching our goals. Other suggestions Michael made included creating a will, consolidating super funds as well as consolidating a few other little things that I have been putting off because I am lazy.

After the initial consultation they provide you with a proposal and quote for what they can offer you – I am waiting to hear back with my proposal but will share more with you when I get it.

After my appointment I felt much more aware of where my finances were at and what I wanted to use my money for, I also felt relieved about getting things under control while I am young and hope to reap the rewards later in life.

An initial consultation with MLC Advice is free so definitely worth going in and having a chat if you are interested in seeing what they can do for you. There contact details are available here and you can also follow Michael on twitter.

This post is sponsored by MLC Advice Canberra, all opinions expressed are my own.

Staples & statements

Staples and statements_ www.thegirlhassparke.comStaples and statements_ www.thegirlhassparke.comStaples and statements_ www.thegirlhassparke.comStaples and statements_ www.thegirlhassparke.comStaples and statements_ www.thegirlhassparke.comstatements and staples Life is buzzing at the moment juggling full time work, going to uni, planning a wedding and trying to blog a few times a week means spare moments are becoming a precious rarity, lucky I like being busy. We are all busy though and I am not complaining, I feel excited for what will come this year and trying to create my own path in the world. I have to say with so much going on (and so much to save for – sometimes I regret not eloping) my current wardrobe is definitely getting a work out and it is going to have to make it through the next year without a lot of updates.

I grateful that I started building up my basics meaning I can wear statement pants like these beauties from H&M with a number of different tops to create multiple looks. For someone whose wardrobe use to be predominately statement pieces I am learning the value of staples, but I will never give up my bit of flare!

Lately I have really been struggling to get into exercise so have been trying to bribe myself to get up and go for a walk at sunrise in the hope of also being able to snap a few photos – it definitely works some mornings and others not so much, so on that note I am off to bed early to try and make it up in the morning. Let me know if you have any suggestions to help me out of this rut!

Outfit details and where to shop:
T-shirt: Witchery $40
Bag: Sportsgirl similar here for $30
Pants: currently available at Australian H&M
Sandals: Django & Juliette similar from Wittner $112
Necklace: Angus and Celeste $80

Pimms, finska and finding passion

finding passion_

PicMonkey Collage

finding passion_

finding passion_

finding passion_

finding passion_

finding passion_



PicMonkey Collage1

Lately I have really been trying to hone in on and spend more time doing the things that I am passionate about, the things that make my heart sing and smile without realising. The intent of this is to then figure out how to make these passions a bigger part of my life. I am not sure yet, if I am looking for a career change (it is a big deal for me to talk out loud about dreams of making blogging and photography something I could turn into a career) or whether it is just about fitting these things into my every day life more and more.

These photos from our weekend capture so much of what makes me happy; being surrounded by people, travel and exploring new places and photography. Taking a nice photo of a person or a location fills me happiness. Then getting to to share it with other people takes it to a whole new level.

So until I figure out exactly how all these things can work together, this year I plan to take my camera more places, to practice and practice taking photos, to learn as much as possible. Then to write, share and connect with like minded people. To prioritise doing things that really light a fire within me. So this is my message to the universe, my public commitment to myself this year, to not hold back and follow a path that I have held back from walking down before. I can’t wait.

Ten lifestyle instagram accounts to follow now

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It is no secret that I am an instagram addict. Being an addict means that I follow a lot of great accounts. To me having a stand out instagram account isn’t about having thousands and thousands of followers but consistently producing quality content both in terms of photography and creating narrative.

I have previously shared my favourite travel accounts and today I wanted to share some of my favourite lifestyle Instagrammers, people like me who share a little bit of everything and let you in on their story. These people never fail to create beautiful, inspirational and authentic content and encourage me to strive to produce beautiful photos and share the joy of life. All the photos below belong to the instagrammers named – please click through to check out their accounts.

Instagram 1

1 // Netherleighblog – consistently dreamy photos, that focus on the simple things that make life beautiful. Think gorgeous flowers, baked treats and travel. Plus Kate is one of the loveliest people I know.

2 // Elsmorgan – Ellen’s photos always have me in a state of wanderlust. Think beautiful beaches, sweet cafes and coffee, always, coffee.

3 // Marsh and Rowe – this lady is me in another body (and with better photos), I instantly connect to the photos she posts. Think style (fashion and home), good food and travel.

Instagram 2

4 // Simply spoilt life – another completely dreamy feed full of daily inspiration to make life a little more beautiful. Think simply styled outfit shots, flowers, tea and gorgeous kids.

5 // Dandy moon – I love Kristy’s home taught calligraphy and the creativeness of her projects. As well as sharing the products she designs there are snippets of delicious meals, travel and fashion.

6 // Mandy Andrews – I have just started following Mandy but her photos are already standing out in my feed. Her classic but bold style, dreamy sunset photos as well as macaroons and coffee have me coming back for more.

instagram 3

7 // Saraeshu  I have been following Sarah for as long as I can remember. I love her feed because there a lot of Canberra based photos, her photos are simple but beautiful without being overly styled.

8 // Helarious Helen has a natural talent for styling flowers but not only that telling a story with her arrangements. As well as a feed full of flowers Helen shares her travels

9 // Harriet.od  this feed screams summertime. Gorgeous beaches, scrumptious fresh food and adventures that keep me having to add new places to explore to my bucket list.

I would love if you share your favourite lifestyle instagram accounts with me – I am always looking for new ways to procrastinate – my account is thegirlhassparke if you wanted to follow along. I am pretty sure my next faves I need to share are food accounts!!

If you liked this post you might like “12 wonderful instagram accounts for travel inspiration and wanderlust“.

Casual Sunday Outfit

Casual Sunday Casual Sunday Casual Sunday www.thegirlhassparke.comCasual Sunday Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Casual Sunday Casual Sunday

It has been a wet old weekend in Canberra which has resulted in me dragging out pieces from my wardrobe that are generally reserved for Spring or Autumn such as lightweight scarves. I don’t actually own many scarves but I couldn’t resist the colours in this one and despite all its colour it is a piece I find easy to throw on to pull an outfit together or make it a little more interesting. Also as a side note I have been wearing these sliders to death – they are from Country Road and very affordable, plus the white seems to go with everything and they clean easily.

I was going to be lazy and not take outfit photos today because of the rain but convinced myself to go out and get it done. I went to take these photos and as soon as I had everything set up my camera battery died. I considered throwing a small tantrum and throwing everything in my car and going home but I managed to balance my iphone on top of my tripod and get a couple of decent shots. I am not sure why I am telling you this story. Maybe it servea as a reminder that sometimes we need to think outside the box, or to never give up or simply charge your camera battery before you plan to take photos – I am sure it is one of the above.

Tomorrow I start university again. When I finished my law degree four years ago I swore I would never go back, no matter what – the same thing a lot of graduating students probably tell themselves. However after a few years its time to head back to do my Masters. I am really nervous to be honest, I am completely out of the studying routine, I haven’t wrote an essay in over four years and the fear of failure lingers in the back of my mind but hey you never know how something is going to go until you try and hiding under my desk in the foetal position is always an option. I have no doubt tomorrow I will have similar feelings to nearly ten years ago when I headed to my first uni class – some things never change.

Outfit details and where to shop:
Top: Popbasic
Jeans: New Look $35
Scarf: Blackbird via Indigo Love Collectors $40
Sliders: Country Road $80

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