Jan 31, 2017

Makeup: A Progress Report.

Makeup and religion as the topics of a BBC radio documentary.  

Well played, Roger.  Sorry I don't even understand the rules of tennis but what a brilliant win!

It doesn't happen all that often but I was lucky enough to be listening to the radio Sunday night (as opposed to doing my patriotic duty and watching the Australian Open Mens final - CONGRATS ROGER!!!) when celebrity make up artist Lucy Wearing interviewed her friend and colleague Shamain Faruque about those two seemingly disparate subjects.  You can listen to their chat here.

Wearing and Faruque during their interview, via Facebook.

Wearing begins the interview by contrasting her workday environment with that of Faruque's.  Loud pop music, up to 18 'faces' that need to be made that day (Wearing is also Ellie Goulding's personal  make up artist) and a background sense of pressure to meet deadlines, life as a make up artist in western orientated cultures is anything but a religious experience for either the artist or their clients.

Faruque, on the other hand specializes in bridal makeup and has her salon in Karachi, Pakistan.  As a practicing Muslim, Faruque considers her talent a gift from God and each face she creates is an act from Him.  She works barefoot, prays during the day at work and the soundtrack of her days are prayers and religious music.  

Aside from the connection of Faruque's art to religion, it was also fascinating to find out how she and Wearing met.  They were in Dubai where Wearing was hosting a make up class that Faruque decided to attend.  It was a ' beginners basic' level class and Wearing was astounded and humbled that an artist of Faruque's caliber would feel the need to attend.  They became friends with each inspiring the other.  Their interview was recorded both in a studio and 'live' in the make up hall of a London department store, I could just feel Faruque's dynamism and spirtuality in her words as she strolled the counters, admiring and seeking inspiration.

Shamain's work, via Google Images

Meanwhile, in the makeup baskets of SSG Manor 2.0, a little eyeshadow palette curation has been going on.  I've written previously about many of these items before but given that I've made a few purchases more recently (as in last week), a little update might be of interest to those of you who may in the same position with your own collection.  Tell me again I'm not the only one with a collection of eyeshadow palettes at age forty something and therefore should know better?

Top: L'Oreal LPN in Beige, bottom: Urban Decay's Naked 2.

I started off a year or so ago with a combination of the L'Oreal La Palette Nudes (Beige and Rose) RRP $ 25 AUD approx  and Urban Decay's gold standard Naked Palettes (2 and 3) RRP $83 AUD.

Top: Urban Decay's Naked 3, bottom: L'Oreal LPN Rose.
While I was quite happy with both brands initially, I got a bit spoilt as the months went buy.  The Naked palettes are definitely easier to work with in terms of texture, colour pay off, distinction of colour between shades, blendability and overall look on the face.  That being said, the Naked colour combinations in each palette stick very closely to their colour theme.  Yes, with all those shades, multiple effects can be achieved but they're all going to be taupe (#2) or rose gold (#3) based.  Which is lovely and all but despite those 24 shades of eyeshadow, I still didn't have what I needed for a basic brown based eyelid.

Then a two things happened:
  • I ditched the LPN because they got frustrating to work with in the hands of this novice
  • I hit pan on a MAC eyeshadow.
Result?  New eyeshadow suddenly became a necessity.

I spent a few weeks researching various options, reading beauty blogger reviews and looking at swatches and looks.  
  • I decided against revisiting masstige brands because I'd probably buy them and then go back for their more expensive equivalents after using them once or twice.  
  • I wasn't sure if another Urban Decay palette would give me what I was looking for.
  • I also wanted something that was packaged in sturdy metal or plastic.  I just can't do cardboard makeup packaging.  

Based on my research and that list of selection criteria, here's what I bought.  For reference, I'm around an MAC NC 40 -41, have dark brown eyes and (mostly) black hair.

Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar by Too Faced $70 AUD 

First impressions:
  • impressive range of shade selections for the price, all but the teal shade looking very wearable for me
  • sturdy metal compact with mirror in lid, magnetic closure and each shade of shadow clearly labelled in solid block capitals
  • a very handy cheats guide to 3 easy eye looks
  • delicious chocolate scent.

  • that instruction leaflet!!!!  I've tried Milk Chocolate and Semi-Sweet so far and they both worked first time.  I found the Naked palettes are a bit challenging to use because I had no idea which shades to use and where to apply them.  Applying what I've learned from  the Too Faced approach, I am hoping that I'll get even more use out of my Naked palettes.
  • I like how the highlight and base shades are double sized as they're both likely to be used most of all in this palette.
  • I managed to pull off both a solid brown based and taupe based nude eye from this palette alone, hope this doesn't make the rest of my collection redundant.
  • it was actually very easy to line my lower lash line with the darker shadows, I've never had much success in getting a subtle but defined line with other brands
  • softly textured in the pan but applied without much fall out (even darker shades)
  • no muddiness with blending
  • long wearing - 10 hours plus over primer on a 30C day
  • easily removed with cleansing oil.
  • can't really think of any, perhaps I should have bought this in the first place...
  • $70 not that bad considering utility and quality of product
  • might have just started a dangerous Too Faced addiction with this purchase.

The Semi Sweet lhow to guide included with the palette:

via Pinterest
It pays to read the instructions...

Les 4 Ombres in Codes Subtils - limited edition $100 AUD

Admittedly an impulse purchase heavily influenced by those words 'limited' and 'edition'.

First impressions:
  • luxe packaging
  • lovely combination of shades
  • Chanel, darling!!!


  • smooth application, a little less intense than the pay off from Too Faced and Urban Decay
  • again, it pays to read the instructions that come with the compact or to follow the tutorials on Chanel.com
  • this quad gave me a smoky taupe look with olive green tones, Naked 2 is more pure taupe to grey on me
  • I can't help but feel understated yet luxuriously chic each time I wear this quad.

  • I remember what frustrated me when I used to wear Chanel quads, application isn't quite like the buttery richness of those big hitting American brands.  Perhaps that's an issue relating to house formulas rather than an actual fault of the product.  I have read that Chanel have changed the formulation of their eyeshadows from when I last used them with most reviewers finding a vast improvement in shade intensity, longevity of wear and blendability.
  • I did find wearing both primer and an eye crayon under these shadows gave the colours more definition on me.
  • Very expensive for what will realistically be less look possibilities than the palettes with 12 or more shades that cost anywhere from $20 - $30 less.  But Chanel.  Limited Edition Chanel.

So much for all that focus in mid priced cosmetics I've purposely placed on both myself and the blog over the last few years.  I've somehow managed to qualify for a Level 2 Beauty Loop box at Mecca.  While it's very generous and will no doubt see me redirect a lot of my makeup shopping to the Big M, it's going to be interesting to see if the lure of these boxes will influence my skin care purchases (the area I've never been able to successfully divert too much funding from).  Watch this space, there's at least two samples in the photo above that I think might work for me - the By Terry eye balm and the Josie Maran argan oil moisturizer.

The Mecca effect has already begun.  I've begun wearing proper (ie greater than SPF 15) sunscreen on my face again.  To Save Face SPF 30 mineral Sunscreen ($38 AUD) has proven to be a winner for me.  It has a slight tint and wears well under make up without making it all look chalky.  It's also quite light weight in texture and suitable for sensitive skin.  I'm one of those vain people who abandoned high SPF facial sunscreen because of how awful my make up looked over it.  A non issue with To Save Face.

Have the Mecca Cosmetica Beauty Loop Boxes been a source of your undoing?

Have you bought an eyeshadow palette you just love recently?

Jan 30, 2017

Life This Week 30/1/2017: Back To Routine.

January has been a blink and you'll miss it kind of month for me this year.  Long summer days spent with family, celebrating, taking a breaking, working...  All of which has lead us to today.  The second last day of the month and the official start of my return to reality / routine.

Actually, it's not so much a date that brings me back to reality and routine, it's the traffic.  It's back and with its return comes the need to plan ahead, get those early starts and remember to listen to at least some of the chatter on breakfast radio to get the heads up on any painful traffic condition for my commute.

Preschooler SSG is in a new room at daycare this year and he's settled in already with his new classmates and teachers.  It's his last year there before Kindergarten next year.  I've scarcely had time to remember exactly how this has happened as fast as it has.

I'm back to my regular list of fruit that needs to be bought for a regular week - portable fruit for work lunches, lots of oranges for juicing, berries for breakfasts.  I tend to go easy on things like watermelon and lychees when I'm pushed for time - too much work required before I can enjoy my fruit.

Batch meal preparation has begun in earnest now that the freezer is mostly clear of leftovers but in need of easy to reheat portions of things for work night dinners.

I'm back to my regular exercise routine but this year, I'm going to add a few more joint friendly stretches and try to ease up on the high impact stuff.  Don't want my back and knees packing up anytime soon.  Formal yoga or pilates classes are just not going to happen in my current reality so I'm going to aim for a few exercises to do at home on a daily basis.  It's meant to take somewhere between 21 - 66 days to form a habit which gives me lots of leeway.

It's going to be back to those work dresses and trousers of mine as my shorts and T shirts go on slightly lower rotation through my weekly wardrobe.

On the one hand I'm already missing the summer and the fluidity of its days but I also know myself well.  I like routine and the predictable shape it gives the week.

That being said, I've got a count down going until my next trip (108 days away at time of writing) and I'm making a point of stepping back and stopping (my word for the year) to appreciate the small joys.

How are you feeling about the return to routine for the year?

Jan 29, 2017

Celebrations in Australia, Worries Elsewhere.

I took this photo after an ANZAC Day march on a particularly wet April's day in Sydney one year and in many ways it represents how I feel about what's become of the rest of world while I sit here in front of my computer.

The change of government in the United States only took place around 10 days ago but already, laws enacted by the new president have already cast long shadows and grey skies all over not only the American people but the world at large.  The only place that looks and sounds safe and 'real' at the moment is Australia.  But it's only going to be matter of time before we get swept up in the consequences of decisions made by the Trump administration.


The basic rights of women in the decisions they make about their bodies have been violated.  People who are citizens of a 'select' (read those in whichTrump business interests do not reside) group of predominantly Muslim countries are to be barred from entering the US indefinitely.  And then there's the wall to keep Mexicans out of the country.  Though, it has to be said, there aren't that many Mexicans living within China's Great Wall....

Getty Images
It's hard not to draw those frightening parallels with the rise of the    Nazi movement in Germany.  It's hard to not find some kind of prophetic truth in George Orwell's novel 1984 which sold out on Amazon recently.  And you can't help but feel that there will be repercussions.  Both from outside of the US but also within.

So it has't been the most life affirming context upon which we've been celebrating various things here in Sydney.  I am definitely not an expert or as well read as I should be on world politics but it seemed a bit callous to not at least acknowledge these new tensions in a country that fascinates me, that I enjoy visiting and that has always been so welcoming from the moment I've passed through immigration and onward to the taxi ranks outside its airports (immigration in US airports is tense and intimidating at the best of times but it has always been polite).

I spent Australia Day working from home so unfortunately, an afternoon outside waiting for the fireworks wasn't on the cards.  I did, however, manage to get to Woolworths first thing for one of the last packets of jam filled lamingtons they had left.

Coles released a lamington flavoured ice cream one year and it wasn't all that great.

The DIY version of a sliced lamington topped with some top shelf vanilla ice cream was all that and more.

Chinese New Years Day (Saturday) saw Preschooler SSG and I both with clear schedules so we made the most of it and went to Circular Quay to see what we could sea.  What a delightful pun that was.

We saw 8 rabbits in a circle practicing their tai chi under the bridge.

A lone pig basking in the sun, and looking just a little sunburnt if truth be told.

A monkey seeing no evil.

A tiger holding balloons and pinwheels, obviously having lots of fun in the sun.

A mah jong tile ox looking wistfully at a cruise ship docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

A panda looking somewhere between 'a bit stuck' and 'just having a stretch' over the top of a cruise ship.  She wasn't strictly part of the New Year animal lantern display but I couldn't resist sharing this photo.  You know, the more cruise ships I see, the more the idea of taking a cruise grows on me.  Watch this space.

Back to the New Year lanterns.  Because that's what all those animals are.  By day they are brilliantly coloured art works

but at night they become glowing, larger than life lanterns.

This restaurant new the animal lanterns obviously goes by preschooler time.  I think the sign is meant to indicate the time by which the diners need to vacate their table.

Time was marching on but we did have time to quickly look around Martin Place.

Where we stopped admire the canopy of red lanterns and golden roosters above a selection of food trucks and stalls that weren't scheduled to be in business until 5pm.

So we ended up at Maccas for an afternoon snack.  It's thirsty and hungry work doing all that walking.

Don't worry, we did have noodles (and our vegetables) for lunch before we set out for the afternoon.  This is as fancy as my Chinese cooking gets.  It was delicious though.

We had one last chance to look at the animals of the Chinese zodiac courtesy of these puppets outside Gateway near Circular Quay.  The Gateway redevelopment has really taken off.  It's a much needed collection of food and beverage options that provide a bit of variety from the cheapish and or touristy stuff across the road as well as the more spendy stuff at Customs House.  With lots of outdoor seating (including deck chairs!!), it's a lovely spot to be on a summer's afternoon.

And then we were on our circuitous way home.  A number of buses had replaced the trains to Circular Quay and it was free to ride on them.  Despite the hot day, all the staff both driving the buses and managing the crowds of commuters managed to be polite, helpful and efficient.  These signs were on literally every post from where the buses stopped up to Circular Quay.  Marquees were erected at the new bus stops and buses just kept pulling up leaving no one ever waiting too long or having to board a crowded bus.

Edited to add this photo.  I forgot to upload it earlier.  It was from a massive series of photo messages that dad sent from the CNY dinner in Perth that he and mum hosted.  Thanks for the dragon dance photos, dad.  We missed seeing them in Sydney this year.

Did you celebrate Chinese New Year?  How was your Australia Day?

Tell me Trumpalot is a very bad joke or a news satire website come to life....

Jan 26, 2017

Australians of the Year 2017.

Reading about the recipients of the Australian of the Year awards and hearing their speeches each year stirs the pride I have in my country that lives in my heart and mind.

For 364 days of the year, year in and year out, there are so many of our fellow Australians who humbly go about their business each day making our country better for all of us.  They are not sporting stars, they are not celebrities and they are not famous just for being famous.  They have big dreams, big hopes and big hearts.  What keeps them going isn't the promise of another celebrity endorsement, more columns of press in the tabloids or another industry award.  It's something more noble and enriching.  So it's wonderful to be able to recognise just a few of these Australians today for what they've done for our country.

Happy Australia Day!

Lovin' Life 26/1/2017: Happy Australia Day. Three Books.

Hello and Happy Australia Day!

Whatever you may be doing and wherever you may be, I'm hoping that you're having fun, a relax or both with family and friends.

Preschooler SSG and I will be working on our Lego Louvre.

The set comes with the most beautiful instruction manual I've ever seen for a set of Lego.

There's a few pages outlining the history of the building, its architect and lots of beautiful photos too.

Apparently, this red dinosaur is going to be living at the Louvre when we've built it.  The play set is actually from Target and only cost $5.  A solid option if you have a dinosaur fan at your place and too many dinosaur figurines is never enough.

Today's Lovin' Life is all about books I've been loving recently.  A couple of relatively new children's books and a bargain find for my Kindle.  I don't think I've really reviewed children's books on the blog. Hope you find today's reviews helpful.  At least they're shorter and more succinct than my regular book reviews.

Preschooler SSG is really loving book time at the moment  He often has a few favourite books that he insists we start a reading session with.  He's fascinated by the way words look on the page and has started spelling out words and recognizing logos and signs.  He often asks me to 'stop reading' so that he can take over with a few lines I'm pretty sure he's memorized as opposed to being able to actually read of his favourite books.

'The Airport Book' by Lisa Brown was a lovely find at, you guessed it, the airport.  Beautifully illustrated, each page takes readers through the preparation for a flight from the moment they leave home to get to the airport.  There are little sub plots and stories among the characters on each page.  It was great fun to be able to read the book and then look up and see or recall various things that we'd done to prepare for our flight.  Our paperback edition cost $14.95 at the airport but Booktopia has it listed at $12.75 at the moment.

I've always had a soft spot for Quentin Blake's work.  I can't think of any of Roald Dahl's books without also recalling their Blake covers and illustrations at the same time.

'Three Little Monkeys' is a new picture book featuring the work of BLake and his co-author Emma Chichester Clark.  With Preschooler SSG's current monkey obsession, it was pretty much a given that he'd love this book as much as he does.  Tim, Sam and Lulu are three energetic monkeys who live with their mother / owner Hilda Snibbs in a beautiful Parisian apartment (I only know this because of the glimpse of the Eiffel Tower through one of Hilda's windows in the book).  Each day, Hilda leaves her three charges alone in while she heads out on various errands (often related to the havoc Tim, Sam and Lulu create in her absence) and most days, she returns to find chaos in a new area of her immaculate apartment.  'Three Little Monkeys' is so lovely to read aloud with a refraining sentence that Preschooler SSG loves to provide as required.

Returning to more familiar review territory for my final book today.
If I had to put 'The Secret Wife' by Gill Paul into a genre, I'd call it a modern / historical romance because of the way its plot shifts between 2016 and 1914.  Kitty is a journalist who flees London to escape the fall out from a devastating revealation about her marriage.  Her destination is Lake Akanabee in the US where she takes possession of a property that was bequeathed to her.  As she restores the cabin, she discovers relics from her great grandfather Dimitri's life as a cavalry officer in Russia at the time of World War I and also the badly decomposed body of an unidentified woman.

The first love of Dimitri's  life was the Grand Duchess Tatiana.  Their relationship starts innocently enough and the pair were all but set to be engaged when political and social discord saw Tatiana's family, the Romanovs placed under house arrest and eventually executed.  Since their deaths, numerous people have come forward with claims of being the last surviving member of the Romanov family.  Gill Paul explores this theme with the story of Dimitri and Tatiana's romance.  A love survived war, betrayal and murder as well as crossing geographical and moral boundaries.

As Kitty reads more of the diaries she discovers at Lake Akanabee, she finds herself with more questions than answers.  As readers, we are privvy to some of the answers from chapters set in Dimitri and Tatiana's time.  Part of the joy of this beautifully written book was finding out how Kitty comes to discover the Romanov connection to her great grandfather and also his romantic fate.

Promotional blurbs for 'The Secret Wife' pitch it as being perfect for fans of Kate Morton.  I'd also add Paulina Simmons and anyone who loves a good page turner with a bit of suspense and history added to the romance.

Have you read any of Gill Paul's novels?

Do you have a favourite newish children's book you'd like to let me know of?


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