Are you into chia seeds? Along with quitting sugar, chia seeds are having their moment in the spotlight. I’ve heard of them but wasn’t really aware that Chia is a species of flowering plant in the mint family and is grown commercially for its seeds.

Chia seeds are packed with health benefits – high in antioxidants; good for digestive and heart health; contain calcium and boron (both essential for strong bones); and low-carb.

I really like chia seeds and love to have them in a pudding. Basically, you take one cup of coconut milk and soak a 1/4 cup of chia seeds in the milk (for about one hour). The chia seeds absorb the milk and bulk up. Then grab whatever fruit you like – some stewed apples, raspberries, blueberries, sliced banana.

Get some dessicated coconut and nuts. Any nuts you like but I prefer walnuts or almonds. Mix them up and add some sweetener if you like – agave or maple syrup. You can toast the mixture too in the oven if you want crunch.

Get a fancy serving glass (or a jam jar like I used) and start layering – fruit, then the coconut and nut mixture, the chia seed and coconut milk mix. Decorate the top with anything you like: maybe a date or two; or some more nuts.

Then enjoy (because you will).


I’ve been reading a fair bit since my last book reviews and so it’s time for more. I’ll start with, what for me, was a very surprising book and a thoroughly good read.

Time and Time Again by Ben Elton. I’ve always known Elton as a comedian and, since I’m not really into comedy, haven’t seen much of him. When I saw this novel, I thought nah but the plot intrigued me. Anything remotely smacking of history interests me. This is apparently Elton’s 15th novel, who knew!

The plot goes like this – former soldier, Hugh Stanton, must alter the course of WWI to avoid the world of 2024 being a dark and desperate place. Time travel gets me every time but….I did find the plot a bit tired, particularly when it came to Hugh dragging his old University tutor along for the ride. I also don’t think Elton worked enough on characterization: so I was left not really feeling empathy for Stanton and his urgent quest. The book sometimes read like a young adult fiction piece but I did enjoy it.

The Separation by Dinah Jefferies. What a cracker of a debut novel! Love and lust in Malaya during The Emergency period of the 1950s. The richness of this novel and attention to detail was surely helped by the fact that Jefferies’ childhood years were spent in British-controlled Malaya.

The reader is taken through steamy Malayan jungles and a gloomy English town as the main character, Lydia Cartwright, desperately seeks her husband and two daughters who have disappeared from their home in Malacca. Some novels get under your skin and remain with you – this is one of them.

The Book of Lost & Found by Lucy Foley. Another cracker debut novel, which comfortably spans three separate timeframes. The strong, central female character, Kate Darling, pursues the truth about her late mother. A seductive read that swirls around a painted portrait that Darling inherits. She discovers a love story that started in the 1920s and, over the years, was lost and found. Hard to believe this is a debut novel as the prose is wonderful.

Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. I’m a sucker for anything Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell. I’ll start off by saying that Wolf Hall was the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner. Perhaps I should just stop at this!

The protagonist in both novels is Thomas Cromwell and you really get a taste of just how ruthless Henry VIII was towards his many wives. It’s like listening to a song: Mantel writes so lyrically and effortlessly. It would take many posts to do justice to the plot of both books and the sweeping characters. If you are interested in Tudor England and the philosophical debate surrounding Henry’s rift with Rome, then rush out and buy these two books now.

My only criticism? I did come away with an understanding of Cromwell, his humble beginnings and his rise to fame and fortune. I did not come away feeling I really knew the characters unlike Jefferies’ book, which has remained with me. Nevertheless, outstanding stuff.

A Place for Us by Harriet Evans. A gripping novel that starts with Martha Winter, on the eve of her 80th birthday, deciding to reveal a secret that could destroy her family. A cast of characters descend on Winterfold, her English country estate, and each reveal their stories, dramas and loves as we all wait for Martha to shatter the family’s peace.

I did find it a bit hard keeping up with all the characters and the different points of view. Cohesiveness was missing for me. Frankly, the part in the book that details David’s life as a child just after WWII, was the strongest part of the novel and I’d love to see Evans write on this. I wasn’t overly taken with the writing style either.

The Chocolate Promise by Josephine Moon. Someone suggested I should read this novel. Wasn’t keen to be honest. Set in Tasmania and basically about a chocolate apothecary and its owner, Christmas Livingstone. Christmas? That alone put me off but I decided to give it a go. I will say that I think the title of the book is wrong: should have been The Chocolate Apothecary.

However, a thoroughly good read that immerses you in the richness and healing properties of one of my favourite things: chocolate. It’s a sweet tale (sorry!) about love, family and friendship and transports the reader to Paris. A few odd characters I found but I thought the novel was written with enough skill to be intriguing.

Half the World in Winter by Maggie Joel. Set in Victorian England. Lucas Jarmyn struggles to make sense of the death of his youngest daughter in a train accident on a railway Jarmyn owns. You get a glimpse of Industrial England as this novel winds its way through tragedy, grief and a changing society. You pick up a lot about Victorian manners and mourning rituals.

It’s a sombre read and deals with a number of concepts: guilt, blame, revenge, a family drifting apart. Joel provides a vivid and detailed insight into Victorian England. A little slow to start but an enthralling read.

Fallen by Lia Mills. I have to admit I didn’t finish this book. It didn’t draw me in. Set in Ireland around the 1916 Easter Rising, the novel explores the role of Irish soldiers in WWI and the tensions and rebellion that took place in Ireland at the time.

I don’t know if it was the writing style or the fact that I couldn’t relate to the main character, Katie Crilly. I did appreciate the themes and sub-themes: the suffragette movement; growing into womanhood; the role of women in the early 20th Century; the physical and psychological effects of war. There were also flashes of intriguing contrasts – the ugly chaos of insurrection on Dublin streets and the serenity of peaceful swans on a river amidst the chaos.

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes. A satirical novel about Adolf Hitler who wakes up on a patch of ground, alive and well, sixty years after WWII. Aside from this curious premise, what I liked best about this novel was its realistic portrayal of the role of social media in our lives.

Everyone believes that Hitler is a superb impersonator, not the man who sent millions of Jews to their deaths. He becomes a social media and YouTube sensation and sets out to educate Germany with his rantings and ravings. A taboo subject for sure and I found Vermes handled Hitler’s character with perhaps a bit too much sympathy.

There are some brilliant lines but they make you wonder if you should be laughing. For example: a TV producer warns Hitler that his anti-Semitic ravings should not go too far and cautions: ” We’re all agreed that the Jews are no laughing matter“. Hitler replies: “You are absolutely right“.

Look Who’s Back is a 1.5 million-copy bestseller in Germany and was translated by Jamie Bulloch. At times it sails very close to the edge – Hitler bemoans “the crematoria would have to be fired up again after the first wave of arrests”. Both humorous and disturbing.

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale. A stand-out novel, which starts in Edwardian England. The main character, Harry Cane, is loosely-based on Gale’s great-grandfather. Over the course of the novel, Cane comes to realize that he is homosexual and takes himself off to the prairies of Canada where he learns to farm.

Gale sets up a brutal contrast since Cane led a privileged existence in England and must now endure unbearable cold, living in a tent and the isolation of homesteading. European settlers were given 160 acres of land, which they could possess without payment if a homesteader cultivated a quarter of it within three years.

There are shades of Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain as Cane meets Paul, a neighbouring homesteader, and the two men embark on an intense relationship against the backdrop of the Canadian prairies. Gale paints immensely rich characters and is the master of the contrast. Harry Cane has a nervous disposition complete with stutter, whereas his younger brother, Jack, is brash and adventurous. A truly loathsome and sinister character, Troells Munck, contrasts beautifully with Harry’s tenderness. A brilliant read.


Many good cappuccinos have been downed whilst enjoying good books!

I don’t think I’ve done a what’s in the makeup bag since my working trip to Bhutan in December, 2013. That’s a bit slack of me isn’t it! Quite a few things have changed since then in terms of favoured products.

I was up in the North Island last week because it was my birthday on May 8 – so let’s have a look at what I took along with me.

Makeup bag. Looks pretty Aussie doesn’t it? I bought it in Australia in 2010, just before moving to NZ. I selected it because of the colour – the orange reminds me of the Outback and the Aboriginal design will always remind me of my home country. It’s well-used and loved.

Bronzer. Easy. NARS Laguna. HG status for me. It’s the same palette I took with me to Bhutan and I’ve hit pan now. Even though it’s a bit expensive (NZ$58.00), it’s lasted for close to 18 months so far.

Blush. I took along two. My current fav blush is Clinique Cheek Pop in Ginger Pop. A sheer, buildable warm reddish coral. There’s a whole host of colours in the Cheek Pop range and I also have Peach Pop. You get a very natural looking flush of colour with these blushes. How cute is the embossed gerber daisy?

The other blush I took along is Makeup Geek’s Spellbound. LOVE anything from MUG and I have a number of eyeshadows from the brand. Spellbound is gorgeous: a soft pink salmon with a satin finish. Apparently, it’s a dupe for Cargo’s Tonga blush.

CC Cream. Rachel K Cosmetics CC Cream in Neutral. I used up the Original CC cream in the black and gold tube and then bought the pink tube in Hong Kong. Doesn’t seem to be available on the Rachel K site, so I’m wondering if it’s been discontinued. The Neutral formulation evens out the skin tone very well and prepares the skin for foundation. After I’ve finished this tube, I have a CC cream from Essence to try out but will go back to Rachel K Cosmetics.

Concealer. Three of them. Lasting Perfection Concealer in Light by Collection (UK brand). This is a thickish concealer and works well under the eye. I also use it on the eyelid to tone down any redness. The other concealer I took is Revlon’s Age Defying Targeted Dark Spot concealer in Light. Saw this being used by a makeup artist on YouTube and I really like it. Particularly, the sponge tip applicator and that it’s very blendable. Certainly will buy it again.

To cover up any spots, I use my HG concealer – The Body Shop Concealer Pencil in 01. This has replaced my previous fav concealer by MAC. A crayon concealer is such a smart idea. Very easy to travel with and the concealer itself is creamy and easily blended. Will always buy this concealer.

Primer. L’Oreal Paris Nude Magique Blur Cream in 01 Light-Medium. Silky soft and silicone-based. Does a reasonable job of blurring imperfections and I like its mattifying effect. I’d like to try The Body Shop’s primer next.

Eyeshadow. Two eyeshadow palettes and one cream eyeshadow. Let me talk about the cream one first. A recent find and it’s LOVE. It’s the 5-in-1 BB Advanced Performance Cream Eyeshadow by Bare Minerals in Barely Nude. Whenever I want a nude base, this is the eyeshadow I use. Creamy, easy to apply and stays put all day long. You can use it as an eyeshadow primer but I prefer it as nude wash of colour over the eyelid.

I took along my HG eyeshadow palette: the Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette in Atmosphere. I’m a HUGE fan of Hourglass. I have their Ambient Lighting palette and Ambient Lighting Blush palette. Love the sleek gunmetal palettes, which are very easy to travel with. The eyeshadow palette is a beautiful sculptural design and the Atmosphere palette is cool neutral shades. The colours are pale ivory, pale pink, taupe, espresso, and charcoal. The charcoal shade works really well as an eyeliner.

The second palette was sent to me from Croatia by Rosana. It’s the Absolute Nude Eyeshadow palette by Catrice (German brand). The shadows are not quite as pigmented as Hourglass but the shades are gorgeous soft nudes. Some shades are matte, whilst others have a hint of shimmer.

Mascara. Essence I Love Extreme Volume mascara. Also sent to me by Rosana. You can get Essence products in the North Island in selected Farmers’ stores. Not in the South Island as far as I know. Go figure. Essence is such a great budget brand and this is my second tube of this mascara. A great ultra-black mascara that delivers volume.

Foundation. I swapped to mineral foundation powder a few weeks ago, so took with me Bare Minerals Original Foundation in Fair and I buff in the minerals with their Full Flawless Face brush, which I bought in Rome in 2012.

Powders. I recently managed to get hold of Ben Nye’s Luxury Powder in Banana. For years, I’ve been hearing about it but never could get my hands on it. Finally found it in Christchurch and there are a number of different shades such as Cameo and Buff. The Banana shade is a translucent beige with yellow tones and it’s the most luxurious setting powder. Finely milled and wonderful to use all over the face and under the eyes. I bought the 84g shaker a few months ago. Quite pricey at NZ$46.60 but heck, I’ve hardly used any product.

The other powder I took is an old favourite: Too Faced Absolutely Invisible Candlelight powder. I’ve had this powder for about three years now and only use it to highlight the brow bone.

Eyelash curler: The Body Shop. Stainless steel and gets a good grip on the lashes.

Brows. Another old favourite that is still going strong after many years. Elizabeth Arden’s Dual Perfection Brow Shaper & Eyeliner in Soft Blonde. A soft brown shade that is perfect to fill in the brows.

Highlighter. Ere Perez Natural Cosmetics is an Australian brand. I’ve used a few of their products over the years and I really like the Natural Vanilla Highlighter in Falling Star. It’s a pearl cream highlighter with a slight shimmer.

Brushes. WAY too many to go through but I want to rave about one brush. It’s the IB120 Jumbo Kabuki Fan by Crown Brush. What a fantastic, soft brush! You can see it in the first photo below; in the middle of all the brushes. I use this one brush to apply powder, bronzer and blush. It’s replaced three brushes basically. LOVE.


Bought the makeup bag in Australia in 2010 – when we moved to NZ.


NARS Laguna – same bronzer I took with me to Bhutan in 2013. I’ve hit pan at last! Also shown is Hourglass Modernist eyeshadow palette in Atmosphere.


Catrice Absolute Nude Eyeshadow palette.


Makeup Geek blush in Spellbound.


Clinique Cheek Pop in Ginger Pop.


It’s been awhile since I’ve updated you on Zeph and Zsa Zsa. The dogs are now four years old; well, Zeph is 4.5 years. Their personalities are so very different.

I would describe Zeph as quirky. He’s a very social dog who loves meeting new people. Little Zsa Zsa is quieter and seems to have a phobia about kids. We have a number of friends who have young kids and, when they visit, Zsa Zsa disappears upstairs to hide. I think she sees it as an invasion of her private space.

Last week, there were a few days of miserable weather. Rain, drizzle and a bit cool. The dogs rush out and get wet. Then we have the drama of having to clean muddy paws and plonk them in front of the fire to get warm.

Zsa Zsa decided she was having none of this. She hates getting her paws wet, so she decided she was going to sleep through the weather. Zeph, on the other hand, was busting to go outside and play in the mud but realised it was too wet. So he sulked and looked bored. I think Zsa Zsa had the better plan :-)


Zsa Zsa has a tough life!


I’m a little bored! Where’s the sun?

Sorry faithful reader for being somewhat absent. Where does time go? I have been busy with two short consulting gigs in Christchurch and….making my own moisturiser :-)

Following on from making Honey Bee bar soaps, lemongrass facial toners and facial oils, I decided to try my hand at a basic moisturiser. I did a ton of research and this led me to formulating a moisturiser with honey (locally-sourced clover honey); glycerine; sweet almond oil; and lavender essential oil.

I like a thickish cream, so I whipped the mixture to the consistency of whipped cream where the peaks form in the bowl. Interestingly, this aerated the mixture and I ended up with a facial mousse that smells divine.

I’ve been using it for the last two weeks and I’m sold. I’ve now formulated recipes for all sorts of moisturisers: dry skin; combination; mature skin. I’ve also formulated a simple eye cream; a rich hair conditioner; and lip balms. Currently working on a formula for an effective facial cleanser and a shampoo.

I’ve had to source packaging and test out the sort of bottles and tubs that work best. I am not testing on animals so El Hubs and me are the major guinea pigs but I’ve also sent tubs of the moisturiser to friends to try. I sent one today up to Hamilton.

Really enjoying the process of thinking about what carrier oils to use or what essential oils would work best for certain skin types.


Whipped moisturiser. I like a crisp white cream.


The two back tubs were for friends and the two front ones for me and El Hubs.

Around this time of year, we get some amazing morning and night skies. Sometimes the sky is awash with apricot, mauve and orange flushes.

I rushed out to get you a photo of a recent early morning sky. How glorious is this!! This photo is straight out of the camera – I haven’t done a thing to it.


I’m spending heaps of time with Saffy these days. She is a wonderful, placid mare. A tad bossy at times but then her mum is Karma. Saffy is now three and I’ve started her schooling. She willingly accepts the saddle and, a young girl who rides Karma, has put her weight on Saffy’s back and sat on her.

Nothing has fazed this mare. When the girl was sitting on her and we walked a few steps, Saffy’s shadow was on the arena surface. That could be a scary moment for some horses who spook at their own shadow. Not Miss Saffy. She looked down at the shadow, looked back up and kept going.

Saffy is remarkably like Karma actually. Same placid, willing nature with an undertone of stubbornness. As long as you understand the stubborn part, it’s all good.

She is also spending far less time with her mum, preferring to hang around the big horse, Miss Rosie who does not hesitate to discipline her. Both Karma and Saffy have a very healthy respect for Rosie LOL.

Up until recently, I’ve been riding Rosie but am now out with a hip condition. Yeah great. Apparently, my fall in Rome in 2012 (where I had my ankle strapped up for three months) caused me to walk slightly differently. This put pressure on my right hip, along with the muscles and nerves in the thigh area. All of this resulted in a degree of pain and the occasional limp. Physio did nothing but chiropractic treatment has made it at least 60% better. Hopefully, within a couple of months, it will be back to normal.


Saddled up and ready to start schooling.


Saffy’s selfie.



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