Oct 30, 2013

Bittersweet Times. Cheap and Cheerful?

In the words of Tony Abbott, these are bittersweet times for Australia.  After 12 years, Australia is withdrawing all its troops in Afghanistan by Christmas.  It's a bittersweet return because the war that was fought saw 260 Australian soldiers wounded, 40 killed and neither a victory nor a defeat in the battle to reshape and control a country that has refused to yield to the ideas and will of the outside world.  For many of us with no direct connection to the conflict, these statistics and widely held beliefs are all we perceive Australia's role to have been.

Beyond Tony Abbott's words though, are some hopeful statistics.  Australian funding and resources have helped improve the quality of life of the most vulnerable citizens of Afghanistan - its children.  It has been estimated that child life expectancy and standard of living indices have improved in the time that Australia has intervened in the conflict.  Perhaps this is a victory after all and evidence that all was not in vain.  Hopefully this is a legacy that will continue to reap benefits to the community in ways that war could not.

I'm drawing a very long bow here but our role in Afghanistan got me thinking about how Australia interacts with other parts of the world.  Like Bangladesh.  The country which now has the dubious honour of being home to sweatshops for many global brands.



I posted a photo of these tops I found at Kmart on instagram this week.  It was a mindless post, like practically all my contributions to instagram are.  $6 for a top to easily inject a bit of colour into my work wardrobe.  Not quite disposable fashion but the price enabled me to buy the top in a selection of colours to get me through the next few months.

My question is about the deeper implications of these cheap and cheerful finds I'm celebrating.  Cheap for everyone involved but cheerful?  The consumer and the retailer are both obviously grinning all the way to the bank but how about the people who actually produce the clothing.  On the one hand the retailer provides employment and pay (granted it is pay at the minimal legal rate of the host country) for the people who need it most but at what long term cost to the community and the environment?  Kmart is one company that has signed an agreement that attempts to protect the rights of workers (thanks to L for drawing it to my attention).

An extension of this thought is the fact that practically everything I own was at least partially made by someone on a minimum wage in another part of the world.  Is it 'more ethical' to own certain items over others?  Take my iPhone for example.  That was made in China and I've seen official video of what the accommodation and working conditions for factory employees looks like.  People sleep in dormitories housed in ugly blocks in sterile industrial parks.  It looks clean and from a distance (or perhaps it's the lighting) you can't see 'pollution'.  It could be argued that what you can't see should worry you the most when it comes to manufacturing.  Are deaths from staff suicides related to quota pressures and social isolation any less or any more than the death of staff in a factory fire?

My solution does little more than soothe my conscience.  I will buy only what I need and not use price as an excuse to buy more.  How about you?  Can we be ethical consumers in these times of disposable fashion and rapid cycling technology?




Before I go, thank you to everyone who made dishwasher suggestions.  I ended up getting a Bosch from Appliances Online.  It's amazingly quiet, quick and my dishes are sparkling.  The kitchen is slowly but surely moving into the stainless steel age.  The fridge will be next.  But not too soon, I hope.  Better not have jinxed myself.



Oct 28, 2013

4 pm Chocolate Biscuits. Sunday Evenings at Woolloomooloo.

When it hits 4pm on a Monday afternoon, there's only one kind of biscuit to be having with your cup of tea.


McVities Digestives dipped in dark chocolate. They're the perfect chocolate biscuit for the business end of the week. Tim Tams are more of a made it to Wednesday snack. As for Fridays? Who needs chocolate when you could have a glass or two of something instead?



The chocolate biscuits were in aid of a frustrating run I've had today with personal admin. Why is that bank send you cheerful friendly reminders after they've lost your credit card statement in the mail? What's wrong with a text message the day before payment is due?

 And then there was the fiasco of the CTP green slip and car rego renewal. I was all set to pay my rego online today, only to find that I had to get my green slip first and that required my car insurance policy details. NSW Roads and Maritime Services, I think the rego and green slip system needs to streamlined. Seeing as concepts like Krispy Kreme and Koko Black are making it across the country to WA, how about reciprocating with an exchange of ideas on car rego payment? In WA, all drivers need to do is pay one bill like they would a phone or electricity bill.

Enough thinking out loud. How was your weekend?




Mine was pretty spectacularly. I went put to dinner with family on Sunday night. We went to Woolloomooloo. Which I'm so proud to be able to spell now. The wharf is such a beautiful part of the world to be at sunset. It's typical Sydney with the collision of disparate elements of the city in the one breathtakingly beautiful place. To the left of me were million dollar super boats bobbing along on the jetty. Some were so large they added themselves to the sky line. Nautical photo bombing, I think you'd call it.



To the right were navy vessels. Massive structures that dominated the water for more altruistic purposes than the pleasure craft I'd just turned away from.




I wonder what it'd be like waking up every day to the panorama of water, park land, boats and city skyline. I wonder if it's enough to ease the pain of trying to complete frustrating personal admin tasks on your laptop?




We had dinner at China Doll on the wharf. A bottle of Pol Roger was shared and enjoyed.



The staff were fabulously kind and generous, treating our table to dessert to help us celebrate the engagement we were honoring.





No photos of the food, I'm afraid. It got too dark. But rest assured, it was delicious. My favourite dishes were the duck pancakes and five spice tofu. Dessert wise, the ginger panacotta was spectacular. The fireworks that ended our meal I'm sure weren't just for our table. The Opera House was celebrating its fortieth year.

Dress and necklace - Red Phoenix Emporiom, legging - Supre, bag - Louis Vuitton.
It wouldn't be a night out involving champagne without a selfie, would it? Here I am at the Radisson Blue. A very funky hotel housed in a refurbished part of the wharf.



Lip wise, it was all about the berry stain with a bit of lip pencil for staying power. I mixed it up budget wise with a Models Prefer pencil gloss (in the aptly named shade Cocktail Hour) and a Chanel lip pencil (Rouge Sienna).


And there you go. Monday is just about done. Have a lovely evening.

Oct 25, 2013

Keeping Calm on a Friday. Dishwasher Brand Suggestions, Please.

The grammar's not quite there but the sentiment is.




It's been one of those days.  The kind where work has been the least of my worries.  I woke up to find that our middle aged dishwasher had shaken off its mortal drainage pipe sometime in the night leaving yesterday's dishes drowning in a pool of murky water.  Then my earliest start for work backfired when there was an half hour delay on a stretch of the M4 that usually takes me 3 minutes to drive.  More dishwashing dramas unfolded in the work kitchen when I tried to fill the handle of those sponge tipped detergent dispensers over the carpet and then didn't close the dispenser properly....  

Do you think the fact that the majority of my dramas related to the dishes suggests that I just need to stay out of the kitchen on weekday mornings and just buy breakfast on the run instead?  It's sounding very appealing. But it doesn't change the fact that I'm looking at spending this weekend looking for a new dishwasher.  I've got my eye on a Westinghouse or a Bosch but all suggestions are much appreciated.  I'm looking for something silver and with a removable cutlery basket.  The trays just frustrate me.

Given that I'm meant to aspiring to calmness and being thankful that it's Friday, I'm going to stop with the whinging and move on.




The parking gods at work have been smiling down on me.  I've got a spot in the undercover car park that's only a short hike (as opposed to trek) to the main building.


www.womencitizen.com

In news that is probably Prince George was christened earlier this week.  He's three months old already.  I love how babies of this age look like wise old souls.  As if they're deep in thought about the ways of the world and your attempts to engage them by cooing and cuddling them are distracting them from very important things.  Paradoxically, as they get older, they suddenly seem to discover the humorous side to life.  Toothy grins on waking after a good night's sleep and throaty chuckles every single time you play 'forehead butts'. 


www.whatekatewore.com

The Duchess looked fabulous in her cream McQueen suit and fascinator.  I'm normally not a fan of the ruffle and the bustle together but it looks gorgeous on this jacket.  The detailing adds a bit of excitement which is just what a cream suit needs.




I wonder if Kate's post baby fitness regime involved the cross trainer?  It has to be my favourite piece of cardio equipment at the gym.  It's the only machine I use which seems to make time fly by and the increases in intensity level aren't as painful as say the treadmill or bike (ugh, it's bike day for me at the gym I think).  The only thing is, I wish that the muscle man icon on the machine was shaded in green from the neck down with extra emphasis on the abdomen.  It would save me so much workout angst as I try to bargain with myself to do fit ball crunches and planks.









Oct 23, 2013

Blurred Lines. Boom Tish.

Well, hello!




It's hump day and I couldn't resist starting today's post with a bit of Jimmy Fallon and The Roots collaborating with Robin Thicke on a version of Blurred Lines.  It's a clip that never fails to make me smile with it's harmonies, energy and all round feel good buzz.  I'm sure you can play the clip whilst you read the rest of this post.  Live on the edge, press play!

Coincidentally, I also need to report back on my Maybelline brown eyeliner trial.  Blurred Lines the song and blurred lines the makeup technique.  How inspired is that?



The three products I trialed over this week were:

  1. EyeStudio Master Liner 24 hour cream in brown $12.50
  2. Unstoppable eyeliner in cinnabar $17.25
  3. Line Express eyeliner in brownish black $8.50.


Wouldn't you know it, the one that worked the best for me was actually the cheapest of the three, Line Express.  I'll preface my observations below with what I was looking for in an eyeliner:

  • softness and ease of smudging (okay I'll call it blurring for the purpos of this post)
  • lasting power through the day
  • how well the liner came off with my standard makeup remover - the green Shu Uemura cleansing oil
  • how well it wore with my preferred method of lining - just inside the top lash line, I think this is referred to as tight lining by the professionals.  For some reason, lining above the lash line or trying to create flicks and the like just doesn't work for me.  Especially when I'm in a rush first thing in the morning.

www.thebeautyjunkee.blogspot.com



EyeStudio Master Liner 24 hour cream in brown $12.50

Presentation
  • solid plastic barrel and lid, no smudge tip
  • wind up pencil
Pros
  • deep brown black shade
  • didn't irritate my eyes (contact lens wearer)
  • easily removed with cleansing oil
Cons
  • felt a bit 'waxy' to me
  • took a few attempts to get a decent line
  • wore away during the day.



www.maybelline.com.au

Unstoppable eyeliner in cinnabar $17.25

The most expensive of the three, I had high hopes for Unstoppable.  It's waterproof and is meant to glide on effortlessly and last the day.

Presentation
  • wind up pencil in a plastic barrel, again the packaging is sturdy
  • no smudge tip.
Pros
  • perfectly serviceable shade of brown, no shimmer nut not as matte as the Eye Studio shade of brown
  • easily comes off with cleansing oil
  • lasted well through the day

Cons
  • I found this to be waxy like the previous eyeliner and also quite difficult to apply smoothly
  • couldn't blend it easily
  • I thought this was a bit expensive for what it was.
www.maybelline.com.au

Line Express eyeliner in brownish black $8.50

My favourite of the bunch and at a very nice price too.  It's going to give my regular eyeliner (Model's Prefer at Priceline, $8.95) a run for its money.  There's a lot to be said for the humble eye liner pencil.  So you do have to sharpen them once in a while but they mostly come with a handy smudge tip.  They're also cheap enough to enable you to buy a few spares for work or travel.

Presentation


  • wooden pencil that requires sharpening (sharpener not included)
  • smudge tip at other end of pencil.


Pros

  • soft textured pencil that applied smoothly
  • easy to blend but at the same time eyeliner stayed where I wanted it to be without leaving unintentional smudge marks everywhere
  • I like that this particular shade of brownish black wasn't too harsh but also not too wishy washy either.  Looks 'done' even without any fancy tricks with eyeshadows and highlighters.
Cons

  • only a minor point but I thought the clear plastic lid and cover for the smudge tip looked a bit flimsy.



Oct 22, 2013

Wholebean Instant. Ikea in the Workplace.

These are exciting times in the world of  instant coffee.  Perhaps it's a consequence of how coffee pods have filtered into supermarket and chain store shelves which in turn has seen many of us turn our back on the age old tradition of dumping tablespoons of brown granules into a random mug full of boiling water and hoping that whatever passes your lips will make you eyes open just a little wider.


Tea in pods and whole bean coffee dressed down in a jar of instant.  It's doing my head in!


Being time poor and a bit lazy, I've been clinging on to instant coffee despite the invasion of the pods.  I was rewarded for my loyalty with this relatively new addition to the supermarket shelves.  It's called Carte Noire and it (or perhaps the kudos should go to those clever people in sales and marketing)  identifies itself as wholebean instant.  

Price wise, it's meant to be around $10 for tin, which weighs 100g.  The standard jar of instant coffee contains the same amount of coffee by weight but look larger in comparison. 

When I opened my tin of Carte Noire, I was expecting to see something like the graphic on the front label - namely a few beans mixed in with the granules.  It wasn't to be.  The coffee looks exactly like International Roast but has the intoxicating smell of coffee beans.  I spooned my usual 2/3 of a tablespoon into my mug and topped it with cold milk before adding boiling water.  This was all to try and create a temperature of 'hot water, just off the boil' which is how this coffee is meant to be made up (it's not really brewing, is it?).

But, what does it taste like? Rather good, actually.  More like that drip coffee favoured by American diners than the shots of espresso that we consider the gold standard of coffee in Australia.  The coffee has a rich taste but isn't bitter.  I'm hoping that Moccona jump onto the bandwagon and release their own version of Wholebean Instant because I quite like the taste of their coffee.




That weekend trip to Ikea has reaped benefits for my working life. I decided that my desk needed a bit of minimalist Swedish design to help it get itself organised.  Forhoja ($19.95) is a set of boxes that fit together as a nest but unpack to provide quite a bit of storage space for desk top items.




Nothing like a calm and orderly 'after Ikea' shot, is there?  Those purple push pins were from typo, $2 for the box of 16.  I'm determined to bedazzle our notice boards with the very next roster I need to pin up.





I've made good on my commitment to bringing in lunch from home.  It's back to salad topped with cans of various things (tuna and corn at the  moment).  My old salad containers now have lids that are bent out of shape that don't close properly so they have been replaced with these Ljust jars ($7.99), another Ikea purchase.  I know that they're described as jars but when you take the lid off, they are just like bowls.  They're made of an acrylic and the lids are clear.  They also come in a version with a clear base.

More than 200 homes have been destroyed since last Thursday as scores of fires burned through thousands of hectares of bush, farms and rural communities outside Sydney New South Wales Australia
www.telegraph.co.uk

And that's all the frivolity for today's post.  Things are still pretty serious with the bush fires here.  I've just heard on the news that the threat of a mega fire is very real and also that two fires have been joined together in a controlled fashion.  It's heartbreaking hearing the stories of everyday people whose lives have been blighted by the fires - the loss of their homes, their memories and businesses.

There has been so much goodwill shown towards the fire fighters but I was disappointed to find out that some of the publicans serving free beer to the brave people fighting for the safety of others have been slapped with fines and warnings about the responsible service of alcohol.  Could there be a more appropriate time to shout someone a beer?






Oct 21, 2013

Garnier's BB, Sparkling Cranberries and Hermes for iPhones.

I'm calling this photo 'a change is as good as a holiday'.  How fortuitous was it that I took a photo of my new BB creams on top of the suitcase I was meant to be putting away?






My excuse for blogging a second impulse makeup purchase in as many days is that I've managed to misplace the Kiehl's BB cream I usually wear.  Things always happen for a reason.  After I flapped around for a day with a BB free face, I was at Coles buying some milk and found the Garnier BB range on special for $10 each.  I've previously used the regular version of the cream but my skin didn't cope too well with it.  This time around, I've chosen the sensitive skin formula and also the new eye roll on version which for some reason only comes in the 'light' shade.  Perhaps the research unit at the Garnier Institute discovered that the bags under everyone's eyes responds to the one shade whilst discolouration of other parts of the face does not.  The sensitive skin BB cream also contains SPF 15 which isn't clear on the packaging but is stated on Garnier Australia's website.

I'm glad I lost my regular BB cream because I'm very impressed with Garnier's so far.  It wears very well and doesn't look greasy or chalky when worn on its own.  I think there still is a trade off for high SPF face care.  You get the sun protection but have to suffer a bit of a ghostly pallor for it.  I've talked myself into settling for SPF 15 on account of the fact that I spend all day indoors for work.

The eye roll on is lighter in consistency than the Youthful Radiance version which is also tinted.  Despite this, it did a good job of hiding last night's poor sleep.  It's even easier to blend that Youthful Radiance and also dries to a nice, non greasy finish.

It looks like Garnier isn't just Australia's #1 BB cream brand but mine as well.  I've tried L'Oreal's in addition to Kiehl's in the past but Garnier still wins overall for me.  It's a nice price, performs well and is easy to purchase from both supermarkets and specialty retailers.  Reader J tells me that Aldi in the UK have a killer BB cream but I haven't seen it in their Australian stores.  I just had a quick look on the Aldi Australia website and couldn't find it there either.  I'll keep my eyes peeled.




This time last year, I was battling a serious orange juice habit.  Not just any kind of OJ, mind you, but that pulpy, freshly squeezed kind.  I couldn't start the day without a large glass and I reckon I drank twice as much OJ as milk or water back then.  Fortunately, Baby SSG is none the worse for it.  These days, I have a much healthier relationship with oranges.  One a day consumed as the whole fruit is all I need at the moment.


I do have a new drink obsession this year though - sparkling cranberry juice.  It's refreshing, has just enough fizz and best of all, it may be labelled 'diet' but doesn't taste it at all.  A four can pack retails for around $6.



My other 'thing' for the warmer weather is chambray.  It's been decades since I've worn it and I'm making up for lost time.  


Shirt and tank top (in both photos) - Cotton On, belt and shorts - GAP.


I got this shirt from Cotton On and I live in it at the weekends.  I'm a firm believer in how a soft cotton shirt can save a pair of short shorts from going to wrong town in a thirtysomething closer to forty woman's wardrobe.





Another idea for the shorts could be an artfully tied scarf.  I discovered the Hermes iphone app a few weeks back and it's so convenient to have the scarf knotting cards on your phone.  You never know when your advanced scarf knotting techniques could be called for and it's always nice to be prepared.

That's all from me today!

Have a good one.




Oct 20, 2013

Hello Suburbia, Goodbye Inner City.

I've only been back at work for a fortnight and I'm already saying it. Gee, the weekends get away from me these days. I'm sitting here at 5pm for a late afternoon tea - steaming cup of tea to the left of me and a couple of quadruple chocolate brownies to the right of me. It'll be dinner time soon but the winning combination of chocolate, carbs and tannins is what I currently need in large amounts.





My life as an inner city train commuter has drawn to a close. I'm back in the suburbs, getting used to driving, parking and fiddly things like blue toothing my temperamental Nokia work phone that's just holding it together thanks to metres of sticky tape with the fancy system set up in the car.







I've said goodbye to coffees (from hole in the wall cafes) on the sidewalk next to chalk boarded menus





and returned to old haunts with table service and those killer almond croissants.






My daily cardio hit of running along train station promenades





and through parks that are home to both a memorial to fallen soldiers and the much loved Rabbitohs





have given way to gym based work outs.




In some ways it feels like I've never been away but in others, it feels like I've missed some major developments.



My local post office is now considered busy enough to have it's own bank of 24/7 parcel lockers. Yes I've registered and I've got a fancy new postal address for my next online purchase. The more depressing development is that our local Video Ezy has shut. Just when I got a new DVD player and managed to get it to work after having to read the instructions only once.


I gave myself cabin fever this morning. Mainly because I spent yesterday doing an industrial strength declutter. I went through my entire wardrobe and the good news, it's now more streamlined and my wardrobe is now full of clothes hung by type and colour. The bad news is that I fit most of my work clothes so I no longer have the legitimate excuse to shop that I thought I'd have.


Undeterred, I took myself to the Bermuda Triangle that is Rhodes (it's as treacherous as Costco, I'm telling you) and found some happy news at Target.



Which is how I ended up with three brown eyeliners. I'll report back once I've tested them out.



Then it was off to Ikea. Along with the half of Sydney that wasn't at the beach today.




Christmas has arrived already at Ikea. Seeing the Ikea straw reindeer on display never fails to get me feeling festive. I think I might invest in one this year.



It was lunchtime by the time I got through my shopping list (and found even more things that weren't on it). The menu at Ikea has gone all fancy. There's ribs, cannelloni and calamari on offer these days. I settled for some hot smoked salmon and a fruit salad.


The major reason for my Ikea trip was to get the house set up for a more grown up Baby SSG. He's fascinated with furniture and the magic of being able to pull himself up on it. This chair and table are just his height and best of all did not require any assembly on my part.



The reason for my gladness is that I've spent far too much time with Allen keys this weekend.



Job 1 was dropping the base on Baby SSG's cot. Not as easy as it sounds. Especially that moment when the last screw for the base came out and the storage drawer beneath the cot dropped. Loudly and heavily.










Job 2 was less complicated but a bit more frustrating. The mission was to convert the Stokke high chair from baby to infant mode via adding some new bits and pieces to the base. We got there in the end.




And then there was the quality time spend with a screw driver setting up this DJ turn table and percussion unit. Oh the beats we'll be bopping to in coming weeks. Thank goodness for that off switch.

Throw in some grocery shopping, ironing and restocking of the linen cupboard ($79.95 1000 count sheet sets are back at Costco, spread the word and get a set or two for your mum while you're at it) and I'm ready to find the remote for the telly and settle in for the night.

But before I go, these are some of my favourite Instagram photos I took in Redfern.



The day the sky went cotton wool hazy and the moon went red.




A semi secret inner city garden at the international school just up from Central station.




And of course, Prince Alfred pool, my home away from home.
Have a lovely evening and an even better week. It'll fly by for all of us, I just know it.


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