I love this photo of Zeph with Miss Rosie and Saffy. I have no idea why the three of them were lined up like this or what they were looking at.

Miss Rosie is now jumping 85cm and Saffy is rising four. Can you believe it? Nearly four years old! She’s a wonderful, gentle mare and only slightly bossy ;-)

 

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Every year, around this time, I start to look for signs of Spring. In the Southern Hemisphere, that important date for us is September 1 – six days from now. We’ve had some warmer days recently and the grass is definitely growing.

Around the property, new buds are appearing. Two cherry blossoms have started to bloom and cheery, yellow daffodils are about to pop up from underneath the elm tree in the front yard. Once the daffodils appear, I feel that Spring has arrived.

The large cherry blossom in the front yard takes its time to wake up and doesn’t usually bloom until around October. The weeping willow is also showing green tips.

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The first stirrings of a cherry blossom in the corner of our front yard.

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The daffodils are starting to push up from underneath the elm tree.

Sorry dear reader. I’ve been somewhat busy the last week or so. I’m participating in an online creative writing course. Finally going to write that fiction novel I’ve always threatened to pen.

I do, however, have time to talk about my favourite things in makeup. I find myself turning to these products on a daily basis, so I thought I’d share them with you.

NARS. I finally succumbed and bought the cult Ita Kabuki brush. This is a contouring brush due to its narrow rectangular shape and is supposed to give you those supermodel sculpted cheeks. I held off buying this for ages as I wanted to read reviews and see how well it performs by watching YouTube beauty videos.

The bristles are natural goat hair and they are soft. The design is sleek and it does a great job of giving a subtle contour and also makes blending a breeze. Did I say blending? Yep, this is where the Ita excels. Due to the longer goat hair bristles, I find it allows for bronzer to be applied to a specific, narrow area but, by turning the brush onto its side, you can blend in seconds. It’s an expensive brush – NZ $88.00 but is SO worth it.

The second NARS product I succumbed to was the Paloma Contour Blush. This is one of three contour blushes from NARS. Paloma is the middle shade – the other two being Olympia (lightest) and Gienah. The light shade in the duo is a highlighter and the dark shade is the contouring blush. Paloma is a dusky rose and the higlighter is a pink beige.

First thing I’ll say is that the powders are VERY silky and finely milled. I did worry that Paloma might be too muddy for my NC15 skin but nope, it’s perfect. Best to start off with a light dusting and build up from there. I’m not that fussed about the highlighter though. It’s a bit meh and I might see how it goes as an eyeshadow. I use Paloma with the ITA brush.

Maybelline. O.M.G. Who would have thought Maybelline would release such an outstanding eyeshadow palette as The Nudes. It finally arrived in New Zealand about a month ago and, after watching some YouTube videos, I decided to pounce. I use it EVERY day; it’s THAT good.

It costs NZ$30.00 and you get 12 natural eye shadows in a sturdy, travel-friendly palette. What I really like is how the shades are grouped as quads, trios and duos. You are not getting the quality of Urban Decay or Stila eye shadows but you are getting a very useable palette. The shadows feature a mix of satin, frost and matte shades.

The lighter shades aren’t very pigmented; they’re a little too sheer for my liking. But the darker shades, plus the bronze and gold eye shadows are beautiful. I am hoping this is part of Maybelline’s permanent line and I’m waiting for the release of the Blushed Nudes palette.

Stila. My favourite bronzer is NARS’ Laguna along with my new Paloma contour blush. I saw the Stila Stay All Day Bronzer for Face & Body in Light on YouTube (got to stop watching beauty videos hahaha!) and thought it looked very natural. Sure is. It comes in a sleek palette with a large mirror and the powder is velvety. It certainly stays on all day and gives a very natural glow. Love it.

Crown brush. I bought the IB120 Jumbo Kabuki fan brush from Crown brushes about six months ago. I adore this brush and use it for powder, blush and bronzer (when I’m not using the ITA for contouring). It’s made from Italian badger hair and sweeps on bronzer or blush and then fans it out easily. I can’t recommend this brush enough!!
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NARS Ita brush.

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NARS Paloma Contouring Blush.

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Maybelline The Nudes palette.

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Crown brush IB120 Jumbo Kabuki Fan and Stila bronzer.

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The Stila embossing will disappear soon because I use this bronzer so much!!

 

I’ve been powering through products. So many, in fact, that I’ll have to try and make this post shorter rather than longer. All products are in the photo below and I’ve tried to categorise them. So let’s get going and ferret through my trash.

Hair stuff. Two cans of the usual Batiste dry shampoo, the Tropical scent and the Blush scent (floral). One can of Pantene Original Fresh dry shampoo. Sorry but this is a crappy product. First of all, the consistency of it seemed to make my hair wet rather than soak up the oils. Secondly, the can refused to keep spraying and I wasn’t even half way through. So tossing it.

Shampoo – I finished up a bottle of Pureology Pure Volume sulfate-free shampoo for fine and colour-treated hair. Really like this lightly-scented shampoo. Didn’t weigh my hair down and I just needed a tiny amount. Certainly will repurchase. Also finished a shampoo by Australian brand, Fudge. I’ve used Fudge products on and off for years. I will say I hated the fussy design on the tube (it’s the one with the pink top in the photo below) but loved the shampoo. It’s the Colour Lock shampoo and I do feel it helped to keep my colour vibrant. Would buy again.

Conditioners. I finished up a huge (382ml) bottle of my new favourite conditioner only to find it’s been discontinued. It’s the Desert Essence Shea Butter Repairing Conditioner with Vanilla Cactus. It’s this ingredient that gives the conditioner its lovely sweet scent. The conditioner itself is buttery and really made my hair soft and manageable. I am hoping it’s being repackaged rather than discontinued.

Also finished up is a 250ml bottle of NZ brand, Evolu, Enriching hair conditioner. It’s a tad expensive I think at NZ $20.00 but is delightful. The smell alone is worth it with avocado pear, citrus, juniper, manuka honey and amaranth giving your hair a lovely lustre. I would consider buying this again.

Texturising spray. Another Fudge product – the sea salt spray – to help give my hair some volume. Yeah, not really wowed by this product but it seemed to do the job.

Soaps. You know I love my soaps and also make my own. Rosana sent me a soap from Croatia called BioBaza Antiseptic soap. Tea tree oil and Immortelle extract provide the antiseptic qualities. The bar is a crisp white easy-to-hold shape with hardly any scent and it produced a creamy lather.

Serene Neem soap from India. Not fussed about this soap. Creamy yes but I didn’t like the smell. Contains extracts of Neem leaf, so it’s great for the skin though.

Naturalus Eastern Spice soap. Picked this up at a local market. Really didn’t like the fragrance at all I’m afraid.

LUSH Willow Bark soap. Second only to Karma soap for me. A brilliantly creamy, moisturising bar scented with rose and lemon. LOVE.

Dr Bronner’s Pure Castille Magic soap. I’ve been through countless bottles of Dr Bronner’s but this was the first time I’ve tried the Peppermint scent. Nah, didn’t like it. Too strong. Will go back to Rose or Almond.

Shower gel. I really enjoyed making my way through a 500ml bottle of La Chinata Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Bath & Shower Gel. This is a Spanish brand enriched with organic olive oil and olive leaf extract. The gel is quite thick and lathers very well. I’m sure there’s a hint of lemon in this gel too. Loved it and would certainly re-buy.

Cleansers. Starting with another packet of Garnier Gentle Makeup Remover wipes. I take these travelling as they are very handy to quickly wipe off eye makeup. The individual wipes stay moist and don’t dry out.

Yes to Carrots Fragrance Free Daily Cream Facial Cleanser. Very large tube that lasted for ages. Not sure why it’s called fragrance free because it has a distinct but mild scent. This cleanser is SLS and paraben-free and very effective. Would certainly repurchase.

The Body Shop Nutriganics Softening Cleansing Oil. Another very effective product. You know I’m partial to all things Body Shop and this cleansing oil is no exception. Gentle and packed with Babassu Oil from Brazil it does not strip or dry out the skin. I like to use this as a second cleanser after taking off my makeup with my current favourite, Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water.

Apicare Manuka Natural Creamy Cleanser. Apicare is a New Zealand brand and this was a deluxe or travel-size tube. I liked it; it did the job; but wasn’t overly fussed.

Wild Ferns Manuka Honey Refreshing Foaming Facial Wash. Wild Ferns is another NZ brand and the foaming facial wash is a great product. The pump delivers just the right amount of luxurious foam. This is another cleanser I use for a second cleanse as it doesn’t take off all the makeup. Lovely scent to this cleanser.

Facial oils & moisturisers. I’m very partial to using a facial oil as I feel the essential oils in them penetrate deeply into the skin to deliver hydration. A great one I’ve discovered is an Italian facial oil by Olivella. Simply called the Moisturizer Oil it is based on 100% virgin olive oil and is paraben-free. The scent is gorgeous with hints of lemon. It absorbs straight into the skin. Already repurchased. LOVE.

Evolu Facial Serum. I think this is my third bottle and I love it as a daytime facial oil. One whiff and you are sent off into a Rose Absolute and Neroli essential oil heaven. I find it a very calming product to use and will always repurchase.

Melvita Avocado Oil. I picked this up from a Melvita store in Hong Kong. Love the rich green colour of the oil. Melvita is a French brand that is renowned for its quality products. This oil is recommended for the eye and neck area. I did find it a tad greasy but extremely hydrating. I prefer the Olivella oil frankly but I did enjoy this product.

Antipodes Apostle Skin-Brightening Serum. Antipodes is yet another great NZ skincare brand and I particularly like their Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream. Apostle is a water-based serum to help target pigmentation, brighten your skin and restore even tone. I liked the serum but can’t say I noticed any difference so wouldn’t repurchase.

Afrodita Hydra Thermal Natural Mineral Water Hydra Active Koncentrat. Sent to me by Rosana from Croatia this is a light-weight lotion that absorbed very well into the skin and was a great makeup base.

Eye care. Evolu Eye & Lip Line Serum. Get the impression I like Evolu products?! This serum contains tigernut extract, marine wakame algae and shea butter. I like this as a daytime serum; it’s not rich enough or heavy enough for my liking as a night-time treatment. I think this was my second bottle but don’t think I’ll repurchase because I prefer a richer consistency.

Garnier eye roller. To be honest, I’m not sure of the exact name of this product as all the writing had rubbed off. I think it was a treatment concealer. I liked the coolness of the roller ball but not fussed about this product. Meh.

Hand cream. Yet another Evolu product. The Nourishing Hand & Cuticle Cream in a 125ml travel-friendly tube. I really need to use more hand cream; I tend to forget to apply. This hand cream was a delight to use and contains New Zealand’s native harakeke, kiwifruit, carrot seed oil and pure vitamin E. Creamy yet easily absorbed.

Toothpaste. My favourite NZ brand, Red Seal. Two tubes: baking soda and natural. These toothpastes are free from sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), parabens, artificial sweeteners and added fluoride.

Makeup. Finally, made my way through a whole bronzer. In this case, Dr Hauschka bronzing powder. I’ve had this for years and made a concerted effort to finish it. A lovely silky bronzer that is great for my NC15 skin. I would repurchase but I have other favourites at the moment.

Essence I Love Extreme Volume mascara. I think this is my third tube. It’s a wonderful ultra-black mascara that delivers volume. I like the chunky tube and fat brush. LOVE.

An old Rimmel concealer in a tube. No idea of the name but it had a green centre, which I think was designed to sooth blemishes. I kept this in my makeup bag inside my handbag. Had it for years. Nothing special but it worked as a concealer.

The Body Shop Concealer Pencil. Wow, love this concealer. My HG used to be MAC Studio Finish concealer in NC15 but, last year, I discovered TBS pencil concealer in 01. It took me a whole year to get through this pencil and I used it every day. Always remained creamy even during the NZ Winter. Already repurchased.

The Body Shop Organic Cotton rounds – another packet of 100 rounds down. These cotton rounds never fall apart nor do pieces of cotton fluff waft off them.

Finally, my all-time favourite perfume – Fracas by Robert Piguet – which was first formulated in 1948. This is a strong, spicy perfume that is not for the shrinking violet. It contains all my favoured scents: tuberose, iris, jasmine, gardenia, lily of the valley, orange, rose and neroli. I have another bottle ready to go. You can read my review of Fracas here.

 

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I’m enjoying making my own skincare these days. I am pretty satisfied with my base moisturiser formula so I’m now tweaking it a bit. Last time, I infused lavender flowers (from my own garden) and used Lavender essential oil. For my latest batch, I used lavender flowers but tried Rose de Mai essential oil.

The consistency of the moisturiser is a little hard to settle on. I quite like it whipped to a mousse-like consistency but people who tested it said they preferred it more lotion-like. So this batch is less whipped and, aside from Rose de Mai, I used some beautiful rosewater from India (as is the essential oil).

A month or so ago, I came up with a formula for eye cream and decided to give it a go. Lots of nourishing oils in this – wheatgerm, sweet almond and apricot. I’m just not sure about the consistency so I will be the crash test dummy, along with El Hubs.

Since making my own skincare, I have noticed that my skin is less red and less prone to breakouts. I know exactly what goes into the lotions and potions, so I don’t have to worry about nasty chemicals.

Next up, I’m going to try and recreate the old-fashioned cold cream of yesteryear to use as a cleanser. Also a shampoo, rich conditioner and a body butter.

Problem is: I don’t get a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. Zeph and Zsa Zsa are always wanting to play or go on long walks!

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Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. Honestly, I wish this hadn’t been published. It’s surrounded by controversy but that is not so much the problem. The problem for me is that it demolishes a hero – Atticus Finch. Some accounts say that this book was the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird and that it was discarded. I feel it reads like a draft and is in need of some serious editing. I didn’t like the pace of this book and I thought the dialogue (more like speeches) would often go on and on. Rambling. Written in the mid-1950s, Scout is now called Jean Louise and is 26 years old. She returns to Maycomb from living in New York and discovers her father is now old and crotchety. Worse: he is a racist and a segregationist.

Set 20 years after Mockingbird, I found it very difficult not to read it as a sequel. You could say that Mockingbird is a book of hope (and one that white people feel comfortable with) and Watchman is the reality of race relations in a small Southern town. You could also say that Watchman shows us that our childhood heroes often fall from grace. Did Harper Lee really want it to be published? I doubt it.

Tyringham Park by Rosemary McLoughlin. A sweeping family saga set in Ireland. Centres on the psychological life of Charlotte Blackshaw, whose father is Lord at Tyringham Park, a grand country estate in WWI Ireland. She can never escape Tyringham Park and, frankly, you’d like to throttle Charlotte half the time. It’s a rather depressing story of egos and psychological abuse. Borders on the melodramatic with often wooden characterisation. I really wanted to like this book but I found some of the characters cliched (e.g. evil Nurse Dixon) or some scenes just unbelievable (such as a 10 year old being shoved onto a huge horse and participating in a frenzied hunting event). 

The ending was abrupt and I’m not sure the author managed to capture the social mores and life of a big Edwardian country estate. Meh!

The Umbrian Supper Club by Marlena de Blasi. Got half way through and couldn’t finish. Too wordy; too clunky; too purple prose. A story that seemed to be going nowhere for me. The book revolves around food and a group of people telling their stories during shared dinners but this became tiresome. I did learn something about olive oil (olives from different groves are often mixed up and sent to some central location and passed off as extra virgin). The author’s love of Italy, food and traditional ways is very apparent and did lend the book an element of passion. Certainly, there were mouthwatering descriptions of food. It’s a story about womanhood and the female characters are aged between 52 and 80-something. There are recipes at the back of the book, which is a bonus.

The Heat of Betrayal by Douglas Kennedy. I’m a great fan of Douglas Kennedy and this is suspense at its best. Slowish start but it then picks up dramatically. Robin accompanies her husband, Paul, to Morocco where he vanishes and Robin sets off on a desperate hunt to find him. Kennedy excels at the fast-paced plot and his descriptions of Morocco and the cast of sub-characters is well-crafted. Kindness and brutality are themes in this book. I continue to be amazed at Kennedy’s ability to tell a narrative from the female perspective.

Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale. Set in a place I know very well – the Hydro Majestic hotel in Medlow Bath (Blue Mountains, Australia). In this book, the hotel is called the Palace and the narrative is clearly based on the life and history of Mark Foy, who opened the Hydro Majestic in the early 1900s.

This is a sweeping family saga that really captures the more genteel times of early 20th Century social mores and fashion. It is well-written and well-paced. I enjoyed the very accurate descriptions of the Blue Mountains landscape at is most unforgiving. An interesting aspect to this novel was the internment of Australian-born citizens of German ancestry during WWII and eventual deportation to Germany – this is a dark underbelly of Australian history. Enjoyable historical fiction.

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase. A well-written book about a dysfunctional family. Set in Cornwall in a dusty, old rambling house, the narrative alternates between the 1960s and now. Lorna sets her heart on Black Rabbit Hall as a wedding venue but discovers secrets and betrayals aplenty. There are shades of Daphne Du Maurier in this book and, ultimately, it’s a story of the survival of a family. Enjoyed it – the only aspect I didn’t like was the stereotypical evil step-mother character.

Disclaimer by Renee Knight. Powerhouse debut novel! A woman starts reading a novel and realises it’s about her. The action gets going from this point and doesn’t relent. A tight plot and well-paced. There are shades of Gone Girl with a husband and wife who keep secrets from each other. I was irritated by the purple prose at times though e.g. “Death. Always leaving its predatory stench, like a lusty tomcat long after it has left the scene.”

A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman. Gave up on this book after about 80 pages. Couldn’t warm to the character of a 90-year old woman who bathes naked in a Cornish lake and lives in a Gypsy-style caravan in 1947. Slow start and I just couldn’t get into the writing style, although I admit the prose was often beautiful. Seemed to be about an unlikely friendship that formed between Drake, a troubled soldier, and Marvellous. Also a book that combined the literal and the metaphorical. An awful lot of memories are contained in dialogue but it was sometimes hard to tell what was dialogue as there was an annoying lack of speech marks. Maybe I missed the point of this book……

The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jeffries. I really enjoyed Jeffries’ debut novel, The Separation, and reviewed it here. I didn’t found The Tea Planter’s Wife as good and often found it a tad melodramatic and meandering. However, Jeffries excels at capturing the ambiance of colonial times, in this case Ceylon. The novel explores colonial prejudice very well through the eyes of Gwen, who has been thrust into a new life on a tea plantation with an older husband, Lawrence. Jeffries explores the tensions building in colonial Ceylon whilst offering a very tender characterisation of a young woman forced to choose between her duty as a wife and her instinct as a mother. A good read.

The Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner. Debut novel by an Australian author and I read an advanced reading copy. Rebecca Wilding is an archaeology professor at Coastal University in Australia, which seems to be a hotbed of backstabbing bitches. Accused of fraud, she heads off on holiday to Greece and Italy with her economist husband, Stephen. He disappears on the Amalfi Coast. Rebecca freaks out and imagines him having an affair with someone back at the University.

I’m not a great lover of this book to be honest. It took way too long to get into the action – it was well over half way through the novel before Stephen vanished. Often meandering with a bizarre scene between Rebecca; a kangaroo and its joey; and Rebecca’s dog.

There was a loooooong build-up to Stephen’s disappearance, then….there’s a rushed ending and we’re left wondering what happened to Stephen (although the title gives it away I guess). Stephen is kind of shoved under the carpet after the novel has spent a huge amount of effort setting him up as some kind of duplicitous scoundrel. Massive let down really. I often found descriptive scenes very purple prose and I spent the first part of the novel wondering what the point is. There were heavy, over-worked descriptions of University disputes and mediation in the first part of the book – nearly turned me off!

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Zeph was often wondering what was the point of the novel!

I regaled you in my last post with a photo of me at around 17 years old. The stand-out in that photo was the weird white jumpsuit I was wearing. I know it’s a jumpsuit because the next photo in the album (below) is of me with my Dad. Probably taken the same day I’d guess and, from the setting, I can tell it was snapped at the bottom of the front steps leading to the house (but facing towards the house). Guessing my mother took it and I’m talking about the house in Sydney where I grew up.

I was always running around with a camera from about the age of 10 or 12 years and so was Dad. He was a keen amateur photographer and, since he’s in the photo below with me, it must have been taken by Mum. She knew zilch about photography and wasn’t interested but she could point and shoot.

I haven’t seen this photo in YEARS and it’s one of the few I have of me with Dad. Happier times in many ways. Whoever said that school days and the young years are the best days of your life got that 100% right. Didn’t have to worry about elderly parents; having a mortgage; finding a job; or dealing with all the lunatics out there!

If I had my way, I’d get in a time capsule and return to when I was about 8 years of age. Happy, happy times. Doesn’t mean to say I’m not happy now but there is something carefree about your childhood and teenage years that can never be recaptured. But the photo below does capture so much for me; I can remember it like it was yesterday!!

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