how I became a “Cool Cousin” of Melbourne

Photographed by Roberta at Chuckle Park (bar)

*This post was originally published on my previous blog, Kaleidoscope of Fashion

How I became a virtual travel guide in Melbourne

I’m one of those Melbournians who are super proud of our beautiful city. Even though we were recently knocked off our mantel of being the “most liveable city in the world“, there is still so much to love about Melbourne. 

So when online community-based travel guide Cool Cousins expanded to Melbourne last year, I signed on to be part of the Cool Cousins community. 

What is “Cool Cousin”? 

Cool Cousin is basically an online community of locals sharing their individual travel guides for their favourite things to do and places to go to in their home city. The travel guide is designed to feel like you’re travelling through a city with a “cool cousin”, so the guides are casual, fun and a little bit quirky. 

Each “cousin” also shares a map of their favourite to-dos which makes it easy for you to follow along and plan your day. 

The process: 

The process of becoming a Cool Cousin took a bit longer than I expected. Why? Because the team at Cool Cousin is super dedicated to offering an insightful experience to the users of the travel guides, so there was a lot of information to be completed upfront in order for the team to create your profile page. Most of the work involved answering questions about what you like to do, where you like to go, what is there to see etc. 

Once the profile is up and running, you can also plot your favourite places on your personal map, along with details about food and drink recommendations at your favourite restaurants, and even the best time of day to go to a particular place. 

Then comes the best part – a photoshoot with a professional photographer! 

The shoot: 

The last part in completing your travel guide is a photoshoot around the city. To do this, Cool Cousin paired me up with a local photographer. My photographer was Roberta, a former business analyst at Apple who quit the corporate world to pursue her passions in photography. She now shoots weddings and portraits in Melbourne. You can find more of her work at

The shoot is estimated to take about 1-2 hours but realistically, this timeline is only achievable if you are super prepared. Realistically, I would recommend a 3-4 hour buffer to factor in time for location-planning, outfit changes, food breaks (because posing for photos is surprisingly tiring) and travel between locations. 

The travel guide: 

My photos were processed pretty quickly but it took a while for the actual travel guide to be up and running. I got an email once the travel guide was live, and it was super exciting to see it all come to fruition!

If you want to check out my travel guide of Melbourne, feel free to head over to Cool Cousin and find me here. I am also updating my guide periodically based on new places that I’m constantly finding around Melbourne. 

Here with my photographer Roberta. I’m so grateful to have met her through the Cool Cousin shoot. We had such a great time on the day that we ended up having lunch together and hanging out for the rest of the day! After recently catching up for a double date with our other halves, we are now planning another shoot together (so stay tuned!). 


ponder | a moment in time

Musée d’Orsay, Paris | photographed by me in September 2012

*This post was originally published on my previous blog, Kaleidoscope of Fashion

Lately I find that I have been drawn to this photo from my Europe archives. Snapped almost 5 years ago to the day, it was a shot that I almost didn’t take. 

In my mind I just wanted to hurry through the Musée d’Orsay so that I could get through as many of the museums in Paris that day as possible. Having spent an indulgently long time at the Louvre and seeing Monet at the Musée de l’Orangerie, I was now running behind my self-made schedule. 

So I glanced at the time in haste, not seeing the beautiful skyline of the Louvre glimpsing through the windows, not realising that this was the historic and iconic clock face that distinguished this museum from the rest. I can still remember that feeling of pushing against time as I swiftly raised my camera to capture this image. It felt like time was always against me, and that this was just a reminder of that. 

How often do we find ourselves at odds with time? How often do we think that there’s just not enough of time, and oh how wonderful it would be if we just had a bit more time? 

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had not paused to take this photo that day. What if I had given in to my inner voice and hurried along? Or conversely, what if I had stayed a bit longer, and took my time to observe this view? 

I will never know for sure as time is always moving us forward. I cannot turn back time, and return to that day at that place to take this photo again. But in looking back at this photo, I see a beautiful reflection of time, of the entrancing magic of Paris and the wisdom to be grateful that I did pause here with my camera. At that moment, at that time. 

This post was inspired by Ariana Huffington’s reflection on time in her book, Thrive


studying law | 5 tips for staying focused when you’re working on a research paper

Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

*This post was originally published on my previous blog, Kaleidoscope of Fashion

We all have those days when there is a research paper to write, the due date is looming not as far away as you had hoped, but oh there are just so many other things that you would rather be doing! Even mundane chores such as cleaning one’s room or doing laundry suddenly become the most interesting tasks in the world compared to working on that research paper! 

So here are 5 tips to help you stay on track when you’re trying to motivate yourself to get that paper done.  

1. Develop a plan and check in with the plan 
In tackling a research-based assignments, I find it helpful to break down the research topic into several components which then allows you to develop a plan and set a tentative deadline for each of the different parts of the assignment. 

This is probably easier said than done, given that a legal research paper often involves piecing together several different issues to then be unpacked by referring to a volume of legislation, case law, journal articles and books. Still, I find that in mapping out a plan at the start, I can at least see how much time I need each week/day until the due date, and figure out what is the biggest portion of the research paper, which topics require more research than others, etc. It also gives me something to refer back to if I get stuck into the research and realise that I might be running out of time, in which case the plan can help me estimate the extension required for the due date. 

Plus, I find that drafting a plan of attack before starting the actual research encourages me to start thinking about the topics earlier on.

2. Block out time in 30 mins increments
In both work and study, I have been trying to block out my time in 30 minutes increments in an effort to maximise efficiency, improve concentration and most of all, reduce stress. This is based on the Pomodoro technique (which breaks up time in 25 minutes increments) and Gretchen Rubin’s method of squeezing tasks into 15 minutes increments. 

Pomodoro is more proactive in that you take a block of time and carve that into 25 minutes blocks using a timer, and in between each block of 25 minutes, you go and take a short break. Then you take a big break after doing 4 x 25 minutes. 

Gretchen Rubin’s method, as described in The Happiness Project, is more reactive in that you work through your day, find that there’s 15 minutes to while away before your next task/engagement, so you utilize those 15 minutes in doing some other task. 

Personally I find that 30 minutes is the sweet spot, given that legal research involve lots of reading and sometimes it takes half an hour just to read through a case. It might feel annoying at first because you’ll feel like you have just managed to get your mind stuck into something, and then the alarm goes off and you have to go and take a short break. But, having stuck to this technique in both work and study for a few months, I find that overall it helps to improve my concentration over a longer period of time and makes me feel less stressed and tired at the end of the day.

3. Schedule in mini-meditations 
Meditation is one of my favourite daily activities, usually reserved for the moments when I wake up and just before I go to sleep. It is a beautiful habit for self-care as well as for consolidating your thoughts and finding peace and quiet in an otherwise overactive mind.

I have recently become addicted to a meditation app called Windy, which has beautiful 3D scenery accompanied by the soothing sounds of flowing water, raindrops on a tent, birds and crickets in the woods. The app also comes with a handy timer function that allows you to set how long you would like to meditate for. 

In between my 30 minutes increments, I like to set 5 – 10 minutes meditation breaks in which all I do is sit on the ground and simply focus on my breathing.  This helps me to go back to the research paper after the break with a somewhat fresher mind.

4. Give yourself time to think through the issues
This one sounds more like a “free pass” for procrastinating, but sometimes it helps to give your brain space to process all of the readings and research by doing something physical such as going for a run, walking around the park or even taking a shower. Whatever activity you choose, make sure it is properly timed so that you’re not taking too much time away from working on the assignment.  

5. Think of your future self
If all other strategies fail, just think about your future self. Would your future self want to be staying up until 2am the night before a research paper is due in a desperate attempt to write those couple of thousand words, with correct referencing and coherent arguments? Would your future self want to cancel out on social plans or consume energy drinks and junk food for the sake of powering through the assignment ahead of the deadline? Most likely not. 

In which case, present self, you need to get to work on that research paper right now. Good luck!