May 31, 2016

I Actually Am Her Kind Of Girl. Sephora Australia Online Reviewed.



Grab yourself a healthy snack (actually, since I can't see you, it what you choose to eat is strictly between yourself and your computer screen) and let's get chatting.  Though fruit and nut mix does taste as good as a Scotch Finger with a cup of tea.

The early morning queue rugged up and ordering up a storm at my work local.


Wasn't it cold on Monday morning?  The kind of cold that hits you in the face, tightens up the saggy bits and propels you to walk that much faster to the cafe on the way to work?  And didn't you just need that first coffee of the am, nay the working week even more than usual?  How good did it taste when you finally got to your warm office (with toasty hands thanks to holding said coffee in a vice like grip) and took that first sip.




We were back at the library Sunday.  This time, I had a chance to explore it a bit further.  Here's a visual of the roof's carpentry.

And here's a book I found just for me.


 
I've never watched an episode of Lena Dunham's 'Girls' mainly because, on the surface, Lena and her co-stars look like they're at a stage of life far removed from mine as twenty somethings discovering themselves in Brooklyn.  But, as I read those first few pages of 'Not That Kind Of Girl' in the library as I waited for Preschooler SSG I realised that Lena is actually my kind of girl.  The kind of girl I need to listen to because she makes me think about my own life in the context of her essays.  Aspects of my life I rarely have a chance to mull over during these hectic days of mine as a mother living the 'working and trying to have it all dream'.  As a woman whose twenties were somewhat sheltered and mundane in comparison to Dunham's.  As a person whom I am pretty sure would just never be in the fight place and at the right time to cross paths with Dunham in the off chance that we could sit for a while and have a chat.

So far, 'Not That Kind Of Girl' has been an engrossing  but at times unsettling read.  It's the kind of writing that I could read forever as I laughed, cringed and realised along with the memories and reflections.  'Not That Kind Of Girl' is shaping up to be close contender with Tina Fey's 'Bossy Pants' as my favourite memoir of all time.  Darn it, I'm risking overweight carry on and bringing it along with me on the plane.  I now have a scarily high number of books to get through on my flight.  Perhaps a limited and boring range of inflight entertainment will make it easier for me to just read all day and night?




Who would've thought that I'd ever have hardcover books on my bedside table since I crossed over to the Kindle side all those years ago?  I even had to find myself a new bookmark.  I ended up improvising with a beautiful thank you card I received last year.



www.elle.com.au
Sephora Australia.  Remember the fanfare?  And then the disappointment over pricing and the severely limited range compared to sister stores in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia (ie everywhere else but here)?  Soon after, the Sephora Australia online store started up with not much to choose from and the absence of Sephora's famed VIP points for rewards program. 

My interest in Sephora Australia's online store was rekindled last week when I saw that the ARCONA range was available through it.  Which was all the excuse I needed to place my first order.  To my surprise, the online arm of Sephora's Australian presence had really upped its game over the last few months.  The VIP points system was live, there was a much larger range of brands available and there were some pretty tempting gifts with purchase as well.  So I went ahead an placed a rather large order which qualified for free shipping, a deluxe sample and a gift with purchase.

Let's take a look at the damage.



While shipping (from Singapore, interestingly enough) was fast, I was a bit disappointed to see my order arrive in a bag rather than a box.  I'm high maintenance when it comes to my online shopping orders.  I do like seeing my more costly orders arrive in a box and a bit of gift wrapping.  I only realised just how much I've grown used to it when this order arrived in relatively bare bones bubble wrap and a plain white plastic parcel envelope.


Fortunately all the bottles and jars didn't break but the boxes were all a bit battered.  It's no big deal if you were intending your purchase for personal use but possibly a deal breaker if you were buying a gift.



This was my gift for a purchase over $80.  There are separate codes for each available gift so remember to enter your choice before checking out.  I've heard great things about Sephora's masks so a pack of five for free was a bit of a win.  While the front of the packaging states that the masks are made in France, the back says they're made in China.  Interesting....  Which are we to believe?  Perhaps the ingredients of the mask were from France but the packaging occurred in China? Or vice versa?



Sephora's famous samples with purchase aren't as generous as they are overseas (Dubai and your casual half dozen fragrance sample ampules, I remember you fondly and I need to visit you again soon).  All orders, regardless of dollar value, are entitled to one free sample only.  Higher spends seem to qualify for 'deluxe' samples.  I picked a sample of Sephora's body butter.  From the image, I thought I'd be getting a small tub of body butter.  Not the case as you can see.

In addition the above freebies, special purchase options are added as you check out.  My offer was some kind of deodorant cream in a tube for $25 which I passed on.

I'm in two minds about my order.  The fast shipping, free delivery and set of masks as a gift with purchase are all pluses.  As was the relatively nicer price of ARCONA compared to the site I previously ordered it from.   There's been a definite improvement in the range of product on offer plus the gifts and quality of the loyalty scheme.

But. I did feel a bit hard done by with the way my order was packed and the single digit number of samples included with my order.  Also, quite a few of Sephora's own brand cosmetics were out of stock online and they seem to have been this way for a number of weeks.

I am, however, now a Sephora Black member.  I'll fill you in on my perks as they materialize.

Do you order much from Sephora Australia?  Love, hate or somewhere in between?



May 30, 2016

In My Kitchen. VIVID 2016.

Well, that was a weekend and a half.  Lots was seen, lots was done and lots to share on the blog as a result.  So a good weekend all round, I think.



I'm seriously considering getting onto these blue green algae liquid supplements at the organic, cold pressed juice bar I saw on Saturday to help me keep up.  I wonder if you drink them neat or whether you add them to a regular juice or smoothie?  Or, let's face it, if you're me - your morning coffee?  Might ask a staff member when I'm next there.



An update on the Aldi Deep Fill Sandwich Maker from last weekend to begin with.




I took them at their word on the 'Deep Fill' description and went hard with all my fillings.



But just in case there were leaks, I only cranberried one round of sandwiches.




Each sandwich fit its designated slot neatly, with a bit of room to spare in fact.  I'm taking this as a sign to buy even larger bread next time.  Girlfriend loves her jaffles.




Yibidee, yibidee!  The press closed perfectly.  That's just a stray bit of turkey slice to the right in the photo.




Five minutes later and hello perfectly toasted jaffles.  The edges sealed completely though the diagonal cutting edge through each round needed some cutting on the plate.  All in all, though, another Aldi win for me.  I reckon those infamous cheese and tinned asparagus jaffles might be on the  menu later this week.  I'll convert you all to them one winter, readers.  I will.



It was the opening weekend of Vivid 2016 and we made the trip into the CBD to see as much as we could on threenager time.

Hats, gloves and backpack were prepared in the afternoon and an early dinner was eaten at home because the stress of trying to find a cheapish but nourishing meal in the city after nightfall is the kind of challenge you shouldn't undertake with a small person in tow.

I got a little adventurous with my zoodles and made Sally's  (from Sally's Baking AddictionPeanut Chicken Zucchini Noodles for me and chicken fried rice for Preschooler SSG.  Sally's recipe is really easy, it just needs a little bit of prep.  The peanut sauce is simmered in a saucepan while the meat and vegetables are stir fried in a wok.  The two are then combined to serve.



How could you go wrong with a peanut sauce that features creamy peanut butter, honey, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy and Sriracha?  The addition of grated ginger is a must, as per Sally's recipe notes.




The chicken I used was left over supermarket rotisserie chicken that I'd frozen a few weeks ago.



This might sound crazy but I didn't even miss my usual hokkien or rice noodles in this dish.



Because the peanut sauce is so rich and bold in flavour, it brought all the vegetables together in a very filling dish that I might be so bold as to suggest is just as good for you as one of those blue algae shots.



Tummies full, we set out for Vivid warmly dressed and excited about a new (for us) adventure combining public transport, colourful lights and being out at night.



The very handy app made it easy to plan our trip and there were helpful notes on what we were viewing too.



It was such a lovely night to be out.  The day's rain had cleared and the crowds were friendly and in good spirits.  There was a very visible security and police presence as well as guides at each Vivid exhibit.




Preschooler SSG loved being able to interact with some exhibits.



Sydneysiders might have a massive case of the FOMOs when it comes to events like Vivid but their support has seen the event get bigger each year with more regions of the city involved and ever increasing numbers of visitors each year.  It's a much loved event by both locals and tourists and it also ensures that there's something to do at night for people who can't do dinner, drinks, movies or the clubs.



Not the most exciting or brilliant photos from our walk, I'm afraid.



I had one hand on Preschooler SSG for most of the time we were out walking.



The spectacle of seeing art projected onto the sails of the Opera House almost kept Preschooler SSG still... until he saw some stairs that needed climbing.



Well played, Vivid!  Looking forward to seeing you grow each year.


There's history between the Opera House and Preschooler SSG.  Here he was back in December 2014 at the ripe old age of nearly two.


He just gets to the concourse that looks out onto the Harbour Bridge and something within him says, 'Run... little one!  Run as far and as fast as you can.  Run with passion.'  So he does and I do too.

May 29, 2016

Lovin' Life 29/5/2016: The Local Library.

The weather here has gotten in early on the winter vibe with yesterday being wet, grey and cold.


Umbrellas and fleece jackets were found and cardio was had as we chased each other up, down and around (don't ask) rain slicked footpaths - all the while trying to keep passersby and ourselves safe from the wayward prongs of our umbrella.



As luck would have it, our local library officially reopened yesterday as well.  Completely undercover and accessible by either escalator or lift, it was a given that Preschooler and I would be there.



With the advent of eBooks and so many other publications being available on iPads, I have to confess that I haven't been to a library for my own needs in decades.  When Preschooler SSG came along, we now visit mainly for events and classes that happen to be held at libraries.  Up until now, buying books for him has been my default option because so many of them end up being torn, eaten or drawn all over.

Fortunately, Preschooler SSG is now at an age where he knows what books are and also how to treat them.  His favourite books at home are well read rather than chewed and he takes great delight in choosing books for me to buy when we're out shopping for them.  In the last few weeks, the local library has been collaborating with preschool and facilitating sneak preview visits for the children to allow them to borrow a book to take back to class and also to stay for rhyme time and reading sessions.

So when we visited yesterday, it was I who was taken on a tour by my preschooler.  It really is a beautiful space.  There's plenty of natural light streaming in through the windows and it also feels peaceful being up above the bustle and activity of the street level cafes and shops.  I also love the use of greenery and blonde woods throughout the interior.  It's all so inviting should you need to study or perhaps just want to sit somewhere quietly on a side sofa to read or think.

The grand opening was so well supported by the local community that extra staff were needed to control traffic in the car park.  It was so lovely to see everyone in the area feel so welcome and at home in the space.  Families (obviously), people without children, people who cheerfully took the lifts for safety basically everyone and anyone who loves reading and also being connected with the local area they call home.



There was a jazz band playing the foyer, cup cakes at the front desk and of course, a live appearance by both the Gruffalo and Maisy.




Being led by Preschooler SSG, I only have the children's area to share with you today.  The theme through it is nature and trees, as you can see from the woodwork.


Preschooler SSG enjoying a good read.
Central to the library is this wooden staircase with cushioned seating to the left.



There's a slide with its entrance in the wall to the left of the seats and the pairs of legs upper left of this photo belong to Preschooler SSG and a friend who were in the middle of a chat as they waited for their turn on the slide.  I think the library staff are hoping to encourage patrons to use the seats just as seats and the steps as steps but: three year olds in an open space.  Enough said.


Tucked away in the reading areas are touch screen computers and iPads but what Preschooler enjoyed most were plain old, good old books.



I'm hoping the dedicated library bag system I've just started prevents us from losing too many borrowed books.



While our borrowed items receipt is on the fridge door as a reminder.

I'm hoping to be able to return again on my own sometime to browse the general fiction and non fiction shelves.  Reading an actual hardcopy of a book is going to be a nostalgic experience for me which is a  bit sad in some ways.  Books are one our proudest achievements as humans and for it to  be possible that they're almost redundant in my lifetime is a worry.  Hopefully patronising our local libraries a little more will help reverse this trend.

Do you visit your local library?

How do you feel about the direction reading is now taking in our increasingly paperless society?


May 27, 2016

Friday's News.

Eleven days out from my flight is way too early to even consider what I'm going to pack but at least I know what I'll be reading on board (preferably with a glass or two of bubbles on hand) as I kick back in my very attractive flight stockings.

www.qpd.com.au
Diehard Holly Madison as an author fan that I am, Holly's new memoir 'The Vegas Diaries' (linking to an e online article, you were warned...) is now on my Kindle and I'm doing the best I can to not start reading until after the cabin crew have prepared for take off and I've watched QANTAS' captivating new flight safety video.  




You know it already, I'm a long haul flight tragic.  Just looking at that safety video still is triggering happy memories and excitement for the forthcoming 15 hour and 35 minute flight to Dallas FW en route to New Orleans.

www.cdn.turner.com

In other news, it seems that Donald Trump might have unofficially clinched the Republican presidential nomination.  The world will find out for sure at the vote in July but at least we have a few weeks with which to prepare ourselves emotionally...

www.hm.com
While the design team behind KENZO have been officially announced as the next collaborators with H&M.  November 3, 2016: one for your diaries, KENZO fans.  I'm not sure there will be anything in the collection for me and I know the lines and hype will be phenomenal but I do quite like the print H&M have chosen for the promotional image above. 



We've dodged the cold for so long in Sydney (people from the Northern Hemisphere might feel that we still are with our 10C minimums and lack of snow or frost) but it's caught up with us in a hurry this week.  So it's been microwave oats (with extras) for breakfast and large bowls of soup for dinner here at SSG Manor 2.0.


My collection of Burberry outerwear has also been taken out of the archives to commemorate the cool change.  I bought this quilted jacket in Soho way back in 2009 and praise be, it still fits!!!



Ditto for all of the above with this black trench.  I'm loving the Nova Check hard right now and all I've had to do was shop my wardrobe to do it.  Here's to the longevity of timeless investment pieces!


Another thing worth raising a glass (or mug of tea) too are those days off during the week which find you both in your flannel pyjamas and with an empty laundry basket before five pm.  I really could start liking you, winter.  You've really grown on me this week.


If you're after preschooler friendly cutlery, Ikea have their Fabler range back in stock at the Rhodes store.  Stainless steel and $9.99 a set, they're a great size and design for little hands.


I had  a major victory with Preschooler SSG in the clothing and footwear stakes this week.  I've gotten him wearing both a warm jacket and sneakers.  Simultaneously.  The best I've gotten previously for one wet day was a jacket and a pair of socks(as a concession to the weather) under his favourite pair of sandals.  Oh to be so young you don't feel the cold or get thoroughly annoyed with walking around in wet shoes.



So as a reward for keeping his jacket and shoes on yesterday, we'll be braving the cold (8C is the forecast, I'm shivering already) on Saturday night for a visit to Vivid Sydney.

Have a lovely weekend!

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