Buying presents online? Make sure you know how to protect yourself

Don’t let online scammers steal your Christmas cheer this year
You’re making a list, you’re checking it twice, you’re settling down in front of your laptop with a glass of vino to get started on your Christmas shopping. Battling it out in over-crowded shopping centres is for suckers according to the latest figures – 70 per cent of Australians plan to do at least part of their Christmas shopping online.

Purchasing presents from the comfort of the couch seems flawless – almost. Just as it is for Santa Clause, the Christmas rush is a busy time of year for online scammers.

“The potential for identity theft increases as consumers share more personal information across multiple devices that are often under protected,” says Sean Duca from security technology company McAfee.

“Understanding criminals’ mindsets and being aware of how they try to take advantage of consumers can help ensure that we use our devices to enhance our lives, not jeopardise them.”

Duca says the most common scams online shoppers fall victim at this time of year are deals on must-have items like iPads that seem too good to be true, phony shipping notifications that carry malware designed to harm your software and fake gift cards often promoted via social media.

Phony e-tailers – websites that look like legitimate online stores but really fake – are another common problem.

But don’t shutdown your laptop and head off to fight with the masses just yet. There are some simple but effective checks you can use before you begin the annual Christmas shop-fest.

1. Secure sites will have web addresses beginning with https:// (note the extra ‘s’). If in doubt, shop elsewhere.

2. Review apps: Many brands have launched apps that allow us to shop direct from our smart phones and tablets. Be sure to check the reviews of an app before you download to confirm it’s legit.

3. To avoid being scammed the safest bet is to purchase directly from the official retailer of the product you’re buying. But if that’s discount is too tempting, at least compare the RRP with the official website. If the offer seems too good to be true, there’s a good chance it is.

4. Check gift cards that you receive for suspicious misspellings in the sender’s name or the name of the card company itself. Double-check web addresses on the sites you use for shopping and look at customer reviews to verify an e-tailer’s legitimacy.

5. Don’t click on the link in a shipping notification alert email if you don’t recall the purchase. It could infect your PC with malware such as keystroke recording software.

6. Make sure your entire household’s devices have protection, such as McAfee LiveSafe, which protects all your PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones.


Article courtesy of Nine MSN / Shop ‘Til You Drop

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree! Christmas Tree Ideas & Alternatives for Small Spaces

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree!  You’re Way Too Big For My House! Christmas Trees & Alternatives for Small Spaces

This year will be my first tree in my Sydney apartment.


I have always been a Christmas person. Even as a child, it wasn’t just the presents that made this my favorite holiday. It was the weeks-long build-up and all the traditions along the way. In early December my mom would get out all of the decorations from the attic and we would help her decorate the house, something in nearly every room. The grand finale, of course, was trimming the tree and it was so pleasurable to open the boxes of ornaments – “remember this one? who made that one? oh, my favorite!” Fastforward to adulthood and I’ve never had a Christmas tree in my own apartment.

For one thing, I’ve never spent Christmas day in my own, adult home. I always travel to my mom’s or, since marrying, alternating to my in-law’s home. But the primary reason I’ve never had a real Christmas tree is that I’ve always lived in small apartments. A tree takes up quite a bit of room and even small scale trees didn’t seem worth the effort.

Are you, too, a Christmas tree lover but don’t have room for the ‘full monty’? Here’s something to think about – what is it about a Christmas tree you love the most?

Is it the twinkling lights that make a room feel cozy?


3 strands of string lights inside of a bird cage by blogger Young Wifey.

  • There are plenty of places in a home to use string lights for a similar effect. Hang them like a garland, wrap them around a wreath or bunch them up in a bowl. Turn them on in the evening and bask in the glow. If you don’t want to store lights year-round, candles are a great substitute.

Is it the scent of evergreen that your brain nostalgically associates with the holiday?


Apartment Therapy Tutorial: How To Make a Silvery Swag

  • You can always buy a scented candle or potpourri, but the best substitute is just greens – hang a wreath inside your home instead of on an exterior door, make a swag for a doorway, arrange greens on a mantle or tabletop or, most simply, arrange some cut greens in a vase. Sometimes you can get fresh greens at the grocery store and you can almost always get them from any place that sells fresh Christmas trees.

Is it having a place to hang ornaments and other decorations?


Ornaments hanging from a screen by blogger Into Vintage.

  • String garlands around a doorway or across a mantle, ornaments can be hung from thin tree branches that you find outdoors or from string or wire that you hang up on a wall. You can create some vignettes around your home using your favorite ornaments and decorations or even make a tabletop Christmas Village .

Is the form of a tree just too strong a symbol of the holidays for you to abandon?


A “light tree” made by Jennifer of A Merry Mishap.

  • If it’s the form of a tree that you crave, you can create one out of almost anything on a wall or door. (Bonus, you can put your gifts under it on Christmas morning). Decals, chalkboard paint, washi tape, whatever supplies you have around. Here are 15 ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Ok, ok, get a tree. Just get a small one. May I suggest:

  1. A super skinny tree
  2. A really short tree
  3. A tabletop tree or robust rosemary plant
  4. NOT an artificial tree unless you can store it outside of your home (but if that’s an option, there are very slender fake trees, like this “pencil tree”)

Tabletop spruce trees ($12.99 each) at my local Whole Foods

Urban areas especially cater to apartment dwellers and often have the shrimpiest trees from the farm. If the place you’re buying a tree from doesn’t have something small when you go – ask if they have anything they can bring tomorrow. Tabletop trees or rosemary plants are usually under $20 and will last long past the holiday.

So, however you Tannenbaum it up around your house – enjoy!

If you need assistance with your Christmas organising or events call My Concierge. We can also take care of your property if you’re travelling.

(Image credits: Flickr user bambe1964 under CC BY 2.0; Young Wifey; Tess Wilson; Into Vintage; A Merry Mishap; Carrie McBride)

Interior Design 101: 5 Mistakes You’ll Never Make Again

Interior Design 101: 5 Mistakes You’ll Never Make Again


Take heart, rookie decorators; everyone needs a little push once in a while when it comes to finding their personal style. We’ve learned some very helpful lessons through trial and (a lot of) error so don’t follow in our footsteps. Avoid these common first-time decorating mistakes.

1. Catalogue Crush — You know when you walk into someone’s home and it feels sorta familiar? Like you’ve seen it before, say, in your mailbox? Even if you love a certain retailer, every room needs a little source variety. Try saving up for one great piece from a higher end retailer than you’d normally frequent, or go the other way and stalk craigslist until you can add some vintage interest into your room’s decor. However you do it, learn to master the art of the mix!

2. Unfriendly Furniture — Think of the furniture in your room like friends at a party — the wallflowers don’t have much fun. It’s a common mistake to park your sofa or chairs on a wall or in a corner, but it’s usually not the way to encourage intimate conversation. Imagine yourself doing various activities in your room and group your furniture accordingly — sitting in your reading chair usually calls for a table to stash your drink or snack, your armoire needs a bench or chair close by to lay out your outfit. As long as you keep a reasonable flow, you can’t go wrong with a cluster.

3. Loathsome Lighting — An overhead fixture is not your friend. Allowing yourself to exist in anything other than golden, layered lighting is a huge rookie mistake. A good rule of thumb is that you need at least three separate light sources in any room (and that ceiling monstrosity doesn’t count). Vary the heights and strengths of your lighting to make even your cheapie basics look expertly expensive.

4. Atrocious Artwork — We’re not knocking your taste in art (by all means, hang what you love) but please make sure to hang it properly. No one wants to crank their necks to see your lovelies. Art that’s too high or low is a dead giveaway of a decorating rookie. Eye-level is the goal so, unless you hang out with a lot of giants, aim for the middle of your piece (not the hook, that will be higher) to be about 57” high. Here’s a handy guide.

5. Forgetting Your Gut — This idea can manifest itself in many ways. Are you using hand-me-downs you hate just because you feel you “should” keep them? Did you let someone talk you into buying something for your home because it was cheap/practical/necessary to them but it’s not right for you? Did you pick a wall color after seeing a beautiful, inspirational image, but something about it is just wrong? If something isn’t working, you must change it! Even if you spent time and money to get it that way, not addressing what you know isn’t working is costing you even more in energy and satisfaction with your home. Don’t get stuck in the error of your trial and error. Be bold! Fix your mistakes asap to keep your momentum on track.

Courtesy of Apartment Therapy

(Image: Adrienne Breaux/Allison Burke’s Modern Mix)

12 things travelers forget (and how to make do without them)

 Even the most meticulous packer will occasionally leave something at home. From the inane to the important — swimsuits to suits, and pajamas to, yes, even passports — the items we forget don’t have to define our vacation.

These 12 things are commonly left at home, but there are ways to survive a trip without them.

Bathroom products

Shaving cream, toothpaste, a razor, deodorant, a toothbrush — pick any item from this list and you’ve probably forgotten it at least once. Bathroom products tend to be the ultimate forgotten items, as many of us leave ‘em right where we usually keep them: in the bathroom. Thankfully, most hotels are wise to our forgetful ways and offer staples like shampoo, razors, toothpaste and toothbrushes for free. If the item you’re looking for isn’t in your room, ask at the front desk. You may also get an amenity kit on your flight if you’re traveling overseas; some airlines will toss a toothbrush and toothpaste into the kit, so it’s worth checking the kit’s contents before just leaving it on the plane. Forgot deodorant? Try to find some baking soda or an alcohol-based product (like hand sanitizer) to kill the bacteria and hold you over until you can get to a store. Forgot shaving cream? Try using conditioner or make your own lather out of a heavy dose of soap foam.

How many times have you forgotten your toothbrush? (Image: ektogamat)

How many times have you forgotten your toothbrush? (Image: ektogamat)

Vision products: Contacts, contact solution and glasses

If you’ve ever struggled to decipher letters on an eye chart, you’ll understand and appreciate what an ordeal it is to forget your glasses (if you’re wearing your contacts), your contacts (if you’re wearing your glasses) or contact solution at home. Since contacts and glasses are prescription-based, it’s going to be tough to replace them when you’re far away, though you can get a decent deal on fast-turn around glasses in markets like Beijing’s Glasses City if you happen to be in Asia. You may be able to order a new pair of contacts to be swiftly sent to you on vacation, but it will probably cost you. Instead, make do with whichever vision aid you did remember (i.e. the one you had on when you left home). While it’s not ideal (and won’t thoroughly clean your lenses), adding some salt to water (preferably distilled water, or at least bottled water) and storing your lenses in that overnight will suffice in a pinch.

Let's go *sightseeing!* (Image: sfloptometry)

Let’s go *sightseeing!* (Image: sfloptometry used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)


You remembered your gadgets, but when their batteries finally die, you realize you’ve left your chargers (lifelines?) behind. Sound familiar? Today’s menu of tech items we travel with is quite long: Tablets, cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and e-readers all have chargers that are easy to leave plugged in — at home. Before you panic about being disconnected and run out to purchase a new power line, try to find a fellow traveler who will lend you a charger. It’s also worth checking with the front desk at a hotel to see if they have extras. (After all, chargers are said to be the most left-behind item at hotels.) Another option? Electronics stores are ubiquitous these days, especially in airports and cities. Consider powering up using a charger that’s plugged into a device on display. Some airports even offer charging stations (with built in chargers) that you can use for a fee. If you’re the traveler who leaves your chargers at home every time you head out for a trip, consider snagging a bag that provides all the power you need, which is more difficult to forget and will charge your devices on the go.

Charging station at the airport in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States (Image: sixteenmilesofstring)

Charging station at the airport in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States (Image: sixteenmilesofstring)

Voltage converters (outlet adapters)

International travelers are privy to the fact that you need voltage converters to plug in appliances in other countries. But it’s easy to forget the ins and outs of electrical sockets and currents around the world when you’re running out the door. There aren’t any true replacements for the real thing (which you can buy in the airport, if need be), but adapters are another item hotels will likely have available for you to borrow. If not, and you’re just trying to charge a cell phone that uses a USB cable, plug the cable into the USB port on the hotel room television for a quick fix. Just turn the television on and voila: Let the charging begin.

Plug in! (Image: whatleydude)

Plug in! (Image: whatleydude)

Umbrellas and rain coats

Whether you’re heading to a destination known for being a bit damp or just encountered some unexpected rain, leaving your wet-weather gear behind can make for a pretty soggy vacation. There’s an easy remedy though (that doesn’t involve buying a new, low-quality umbrella or poncho from a street vendor). Ask someone at the place you’re staying or an employee at a local business if you can have one of their unused trash bags. Cut a hole in the bottom of the bag for your head and one on each side for your arms, and presto: a free poncho! If you’re worried about keeping your head wet, use a separate, smaller bag to make a plastic bonnet of sorts. You may not look stylish, but you’ll be dry.

Embrace the rain (even if you forgot your gear). (Image: tonythemisfit)

Embrace the rain (even if you forgot your gear). (Image: tonythemisfit)

Makeup and makeup remover

Facing the world without makeup is usually a pretty tough task — at least for ladies. And it’s not much of a stretch to picture yourself leaving your entire makeup bag in a drawer in your bathroom, or that one product you can’t live without at home on the counter. If you’re taking an early flight or an overnight flight, you may not even apply makeup (and, in that case, may not even think very hard about bringing it with you). Fear not, makeup-less friends. Head into a makeup store or a department store with makeup counters, express interest in products you haven’t tried before and ask the consultants to apply them so you can get a sense of what they look like. Many consultants will even beat you to the punch and suggest a makeover. If you like one of the new products you tested, go ahead and make a purchase. If not, at least make sure to thank your consultant. Even if you’re not in love with the products you tested, you’re ready to join the world with a free makeover. If you forgot makeup remover, wash your face with mild soap, then try using a little bit of lotion or olive oil to remove any excess. (Just don’t get those items in your eyes.) Forgot perfume? Ask for a sample at a department store counter (the staff will give it to you in a tiny tube that’s travel friendly), or just enjoy going au naturel for a change.

Make do without your make up (Image: thamiress)

Make do without your make up (Image: thamiress)


Some of us are prepared: We go to the bank ahead of a trip, grab some cash (in the local currency, if necessary) and tuck it away in an easy-to-reach area of our wallets so we can pay for things like cabs as soon as we arrive. Others of us are, um, not quite as organized. Thankfully, forgetting cash isn’t usually the end of the world these days, though you will want to remedy the situation by making a pit stop at an airport ATM — at least for an emergency stash. After all, you never know when you’ll need to give a tip or something will come up as “cash only” during your trip and you’ll be stuck without a way to pay. If you’re traveling overseas and need some cash in the local currency, an ATM is still your best bet. Sure, you may incur fees from your bank and the ATM issuing the cash (don’t skimp too much on your withdrawal amount for this reason), but you’ll still get a better rate than you would exchanging money, especially at airports.

Money, money, money (Image: Images_of_Money)

Money, money, money (Image: Images_of_Money)

Prescription medications

You may remember to take them every day, but did you remember to bring them with you? Forgotten prescription medicines can produce a pharmacy field trip for you, but the good news is that if you are in the United States and you have refills available at your home pharmacy, you should be able to call your doctor or your home pharmacy and have them transfer the prescription to a pharmacy in your destination. Problem solved. If you’re traveling overseas, check in with the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to ask for advice. Or, better yet, if you purchased travel insurance, call the insurance company and see if they can help. It’s unlikely that the prescription can be directly transferred overseas since laws vary by country, but an insurance company or embassy contact may be able to help recommend a clinic or doctor who can evaluate you and write you a new script in your destination.

If your scripts slipped your mind, don't panic. (Image: paul_lowry)

If your scripts slipped your mind, don’t panic. (Image: paul_lowry)


This one is, well, irreplaceable. But believe it or not, it’s quite popular to forget your undies on a trip. If you leave your unmentionables at home, you’ll basically have one of four choices: use bathing suit bottoms as a replacement (here’s hoping you remembered those!), go commando, snag some new pairs at a store, or wash the pair you’re wearing daily. It’s easy to quickly wash a pair of underwear in the sink with any kind of gentle soap you have available. Just hang them in the bathroom to dry overnight, or use a hotel hairdryer to speed up the drying process.

Forget your undies? (Image: superfantastic)

Forget your undies? (Image: superfantastic)


For many of us, our smartphones and tablets are like extra limbs, so we often have a hard time forgetting to bring them with us (if you do, perhaps it’s a sign that a digital detox is in order!). But headphones, on the other hand, have a unique ability to squiggle off into remote corners of our bags, pockets and drawers, meaning they’re out of sight — and out of mind — until we want to listen to some music at the airport or watch a movie during a flight. If you find yourself in this predicament, keep in mind there’s a good chance you can find an extra (free) set of headphones on the plane. Many airlines will provide passengers with free or cheap sets so they can take advantage of in-flight entertainment systems. Check in your seat pocket, see if the flight attendants hand them out before the flight, or if all else fails, ask a flight attendant if extra sets are available. Don’t forget to take them with you to use throughout your trip.

You'll be happy to snag a free set of headphones if you forget your own. (Image: jdhancock)

You’ll be happy to snag a free set of headphones if you forget your own. (Image: jdhancock)

Hotel room footwear

Turns out, many of us prefer to keep our tootsies covered when we’re strolling around our hotel room. Whether it’s a pair of flip flops or a pair of slippers, travelers tend to enjoy a solid layer between their feet and the floor when they’re kicking back. If you left your hotel room footwear behind, there are a few items that may help. While hotels frequently offer complimentary slippers to guests, shower caps (also given out readily) will do the trick. You may look a bit silly with shower caps wrapped around your feet, but if you’re desperate for hotel footwear, they’ll help. And they’ll double as protective rain gear for your regular shoes, too. Alternatively, the socks from airline amenity bags are also handy for wearing around the room.

Hotels often offer complimentary slippers for guests. (Image: _e.t used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Hotels often offer complimentary slippers for guests. (Image: _e.t used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Corkscrews and bottle openers

There comes a moment on most trips when you find the perfect spot to relax and you think to yourself, ‘Tomorrow, I’d like to sit right here and sip a [insert beverage of choice].’ It’s hard to remember to plan ahead for this moment and, unless you’re a regular old MacGyver, chances are you’re not carrying a Swiss Army knife (avec corkscrew) in your back pocket. Moreover, if you’re trying to travel on the cheap, ordering alcoholic beverages to the room is typically not your most budget-friendly option. So, you’ll probably scour your surroundings for a shop that sells wine or beer. Now comes the hard part: Getting those bottles open. If you’re at a hotel, corkscrews and bottle openers may be available. If not, give these tricks a try: In terms of wine, in the absence of a screw cap or a corkscrew, don’t forget that pushing the cork in will be just as effective as pulling it out. (Hey, we didn’t say this was classy.) Find an object that is only a little smaller around than the size of the cork and long enough to be able to go into the bottle a little bit (tubes of mascara often work well). Then, work your magic. You could also try this bottle-in-a-shoe trick. For beer bottle tops that don’t screw off, find a very sturdy, hard surface (it may get a little scratched, so make sure it’s not something like a counter or tabletop in your hotel room that can’t get damaged), line the cap up so the edge sits on top of the surface, then come straight down on the top of the cap with your hand to dislodge it. There are also plenty of hard objects (like keys and spoons) you can use to get up under the cap and loosen it around the edges.

Sometimes it is an emergency... (Image: haydn used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Sometimes it is an emergency… (Image: haydn used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Budget Friendly Entertaining: Ten Ways to Save on Food, Decor, Drinks & More


Entertaining at home doesn’t have to cost a lot. In fact, parties on a budget require some creative planning that we think is a fun challenge! If you’re looking to save on your next shindig, we rounded up some great ways to keep costs down from The Kitchn.

The most delicious holiday in the world – Visit every three-Michellin-starred restaurant in the world.


I can’t stop thinking about this tour by VeryFirstTo. Visit every three-Michellin-starred restaurant in the world over six months. 109 restaurants. 12 countries. So induldgent. My two favourite things together! Good food and luxury travel.

At 182,000 pounds I might have to eat two minute noodles for a while first.

If you could go to any restaurant in the world today where would you go?

For me it would be Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York.

Veloce!! Free tickets to the italian film festival are good but free tickets to italy are better non??

Movie tickets are bueno but airline tickets are molto bueno! Honda are offering one lucky couple $30,000 of la dolce vita with a luxury trip to Italy. There are also 12 month unlimited passes to Palace Cinemas up for grabs. … Continue reading

Andiamo! Win tickets to the Italian Film Festival in Sydney


The Lavazza Italian Film Festival is on during October in Sydney (9 October to 3 November) and will have you falling in love with Rome all over again.

Thanks to our amici at the Italian Film Festival and The Concrete Playground there are ten double passes to give away (valid for two complimentary tickets to one festival session of choice). To be in the running, subscribe to the Concrete Playground newsletter ( if you haven’t already), then email with your name and address.


Good luck!

Our pics – Opening night film The Great Beauty gets the Rome theme underway with its knowing nod to the works of Fellini and Rossellini. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes.

Coming full circle is the closing night presentation of the magnificent 1972 film Fellini’s Roma. A frenzied love letter to Rome that begins with an autobiographical retelling of the iconic director’s own arrival in Rome during the years of Mussolini, that then winds its way through unconnected vignettes set both past and present through the city that dazzle with the affective brilliance of Rome in its many guises.