Wednesday, 30 March 2016

March Favourites

Kia Ora!

I thought I'd try my hand at a favourites post this month, particularly as I've been loving certain products for the whole of March. 


I have five things to talk about this month, all quite different from each other.

Vanessa Megan - Darling Perfume
This was from a Flora and Fauna box last year, and I'm so happy to have it! It's the perfect size to carry around in my purse, and is a light floral scent that smells divine! I can't get enough of it, and am attempting to savour it a little (although that isn't working too well). There are lots of different Vanessa Megan perfumes on the Flora and Fauna website, and the 'sample' sizes are great for trying out a scent (and last for a month at least!). 

Gerard Cosmetics - 1995
I'm a huge fan of lipsticks, and I have been reaching for 1995 a lot recently. It's easy to apply, you don't need to fuss about with it too much. It's a great brown colour, which is clearly my jam. I find that the colour fades evenly, and it does stick around for at least a few hours. I reapply 2-3 times a day, usually after eating, and find it lasts well for me. It also isn't too drying, so my lips don't feel like they are dead when I wear this. Love it!

The Body Shop Body Butter - Blueberry 
I'm officially in love with the Body Butters from the Body Shop. I've always been a little scared to attempt to use up one of the full size ones, but it's actually not as difficult as I feared. In fact, I am on track to have this one appear in my March Empties post. I love how thick the cream is, and the Blueberry scent is divine! It's sweet, without being overwhelming, and has a lingering blueberry smell. I use this before going to bed, and my legs always feel soft and moisturised in the morning. 

Bossy Cosmetics Body Scrub - Salted Caramel Scrub & Vanilla Whip Topping
Have I mentioned my body scrub addiction recently? The one I'm most obsessed with is the Bossy Cosmetics Salted Caramel scrub. It smells like hot caramel and sweet vanilla. I can't get enough of the smell, and the scrub itself is great too. The perfect size sugar granules for a great all over scrub, and you smell like salted caramel for hours afterwards. What more could you want?! 

The Herb Farm - Sleepwell Cream
This was one of the best things that I received in my Beautiful Christmas advent calendar. I use it 5-6 times a week, and find it really does help me to sleep better. I've been applying to my wrists every night just before I hop into bed, and the herbal scent truly helps me get to sleep. If I'm already tired, it helps me get to the point of sleep, and if I'm not tired, it helps me feel ready to sleep within 30-60 minutes. It melts into the skin, and the scent is gone by morning. 

Has anyone else tried any of these? What are your favourites for March?

Until next time ...

Monday, 21 March 2016

Lust Have It - February 2016

Kia Ora!

Lust Have It* has once again arrived in my mailbox, and on the blog! The last one I got was in July 2015, so it's neat to see what's happening 9 months on. They have had some great looking boxes (or bags if you prefer) recently so I'm really excited to see what's in the February box!

Lust Have It is a monthly subscription, which costs $19.95 (AUD) plus shipping, and you get 5-6 products/samples. It ships to Australia and New Zealand, and is usually with you by the end of the month - although it often takes a little longer to reach New Zealand.

You can use coupon code IFORAYS1 for $5 off your first box!

It's a red bag this month, perhaps as a special nod to Valentine's Day? The card is gorgeous!


Full details of the back of the card. 

Mellow Cosmetics Blush - Peach - RRP $14
There was an option of a blush or lipstick this month. I received this blush in Peach, and it looks awesome! Regular readers will know I'm not a big makeup wearer, so I'm popping this aside for an upcoming giveaway (hint: it's the blog's birthday in May so keep an eye out then for something special).

I do love this colour, and I've heard great things about Mellow as a brand. I do think it's a bit annoying to offer two different product options that have different RRP's. I personally would have preferred a lipstick as that's what I would use, but the $4 difference in value is a bit strange.

Garnier Fructis Full & Luscious Shampoo and Conditioner - Sample size - RRP $0.96
I've received these exact samples before, and haven't gotten around to using them yet. I'm heading away for the Easter weekend, and that seems like the perfect time to try these out. I'm not a huge fan of foil packets, but these seem to have a reasonable amount of product in them. I do like trying new shampoos and conditioners, especially when I'm travelling. 

Lanolips Everyday Hand Balm - $22.95
Full size hand cream! I don't use hand cream all that often, but this sort of thing is always useful and handy (pun intended) to have around. It's a thick cream, sinks in reasonably well and leaves your hands hydrated without being greasy. It smells quite powdery and has notes of rose - it basically smells like something my grandma would love! 

Once again there's about $6 discrepancy between the two products you could receive. I'm happy I got the hand cream as I wouldn't use the fake tan, but I do think that if you offer two options they should be the same RRP.

Be a Bombshell Mascara - Nightfall - RRP $21
Be a Bombshell is a brand that appears all the time in Lust Have It. I haven't really used many of their other products as they are makeup I don't generally use. I do use mascara though, so I'm happy to have this to play with! It's black, which is always good. I did see someone else get a brown colour, which I would love to have played with, but black is still good!

The Body Shop Oils of Life Intensly Revatalising Facial Oil - Sample size - RRP $12.82
This smells like rosemary, and feels divine. I've never used a facial oil, so I'm a little scared to try it out, but I think might have to give this a go. And wowee, look at how much it's worth. It may be small, but it looks like a great sample to try out!

The Body Shop Vitamin E Moisture Cream - Sample size - RRP $7.49
Oooh, now this one I'm excited about. I love using new face creams, and this would fit perfectly with my nightly routine! It smells beautiful, and is a great size so it should last for long enough to try it out properly.

The Body Shop Italian Summer Fig - Sample size - RRP $1.11
This smells divine! It's light, delicious, and I seriously can't get enough of it. The scent is quite strong, so you shouldn't need to reapply too often. I'm really happy that I got this sample, and will probably use it up quickly! 

Total value of the box: $80.33.

What a great box! Three Body Shop samples (of reasonable size), shampoo and conditioner samples, a mascara, a hand cream, and a blush. I'll use 6/7 products, and think it's a really exciting box.

Once again, if you want to purchase the box and get a $5 off coupon, use IFORAYS1.

Until next time ...

Thursday, 17 March 2016

January Book Wrangle

Kia Ora!

This post is really late. I don't really have a reason, other than life getting in the way of blogging. Oh well, hopefully you'll enjoy reading about the books I read, and loved. There isn't a bad one in this bunch!

I read a heck of a lot of books in January! Part of it was because of the Biannual Bibliothon (which I didn't finish to be honest), and partially because of the summer break. Let's get started!

Winter of Fire - Sherryl Jordan
This has been a favourite for years. It's about Elsha of the Quelled, a slave race that works to mine firestones from the Earth (in a very futuristic post-apocalyptic type world - where the apocalypse was so long ago it isn't really part of the plot). Elsha is chosen to be the Handmaiden to the Firelord, and she uses this position to turn many of the racial beliefs on their heads. It's a great book, with friendship and righting old wrongs as the main themes. I love the characterisation, the plot, the setting, and everything about this book. Go check it out!

In the hand of the Goddess - Tamora Pierce
Another childhood favourite (as you can probably tell since the copy in the picture is quite worn out). This is the second in a quartet, about Alanna the Lioness. Alanna is a woman who wants to become a knight, in a medieval world (with the addition of magic), and women aren't generally allowed to participate in war. She hides her identity with the help of various friends (including the King of Thieves). Tamora Pierce is a brilliant author, who puts female characters at the forefront of many issues. Tortall is her world, and she has written many novels set here. Basically a wonderful Young Adult fantasy novel, if you haven't read any of her books you need to remedy that right now.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things - Patrick Rothfuss
Another of my favourite authors! This is a short story that turned into something more. It is about one of the characters in The Name of the Wind, Auri. It's the best book I've ever read that has only one character, and no dialogue. It's a masterpiece, very thoughtful, and perfect if you already love Patrick Rothfuss' other works. Possibly not the best introduction to his world, and characters, but fantastic if you already love them.

The Method - Shannon Kirk*
Imagine a helpless, very pregnant teenager who has been kidnapped. This is not who Lisa is; she is cold, calm, and meticulous in her planning to escape. This book turns kidnapping on it's head, while exploring the fears and paranoia that a kidnapped girl may experience, albeit through a sociopathic facade. I did enjoy this book, it was fast-paced, exciting, and draws you in. If you are into thrillers, you should check this out. It's not what I would call world-changing, but it is a great read for a lazy weekend.

The Darkest Secret - Alex Marwood*
Does anyone else love watching cop shows on TV (like SVU, Castle, etc) where a case is looked at, various red herrings are discarded, and then someone you don't expect was the killer? This book is a literary version of this, in a cold case kind of way. Identical twin, 3-year-old Coco Jackson disappears one weekend during her father's birthday party. This book switches back and forth between the weekend it happened, and one weekend years later when the truth comes out. It covers the various perspectives of important characters, and eventually reveals the unexpected truth. It's not often a book can surprise me with an ending, but this one managed it with a great twist. It pulls at your heartstrings, leaves you guessing, and it was another book I couldn't put down. If you like crime novels, mysteries, or thrillers, check this one out!

The Aeronaut's Windlass - Jim Butcher*
First things first, this book is huge! I was a bit put off for awhile, but it's worth getting into this book. I loved it! The characters are fantastic, the plot is believable (for a fantasy world), and there is plenty of depth to this book. Intrigue, mysterious backstories, and an evil that is greater than any of the characters can imagine. Once I was into this book, I couldn't put it down. It required a bit of work to start with, but after the first 50 pages or so, it was effortless. I've always heard about the masterful work of Jim Butcher, and this was a wonderful book to read!

All Fall Down: Christchurch's Lost Chimneys - Geoff Rice
A non-fiction book, not something I read a lot of generally. I studied history at the University of Canterbury, and had several classes taught by Geoff Rice. After the Christchurch earthquake in 2011, this book was published. I've been looking for it ever since, but only managed to get my hands on a copy in December last year. I loved this book. It told me more than I ever wanted to know about the history of chimney's, and particularly the history of chimney's in Christchurch. I've been noticing lots of the features of chimney's in Auckland since reading this book, and honestly loved learning about them. It has a chapter on the history, and the rest is written very well. I feel like I know Professor Rice on a personal level, as he has put so much of himself into this book. If you like non-fiction, history, or just something a little bit out of the ordinary then check this out!

*PR sample and affiliate links. 

And that's that! Overall, January was a great month for me, book-wise. I'm off to make a start on the huge list of books I requested from the library earlier this week now. Keep an eye out for March's Book Wrangle!

Until next time ...

Monday, 14 March 2016

February Book Wrangle

Kia Ora

I know it's the middle of March now, but I'm catching up on all the book related blog posts this week. So be prepared for a lot of book reviews! Read on for what I read during February!

Stolen - Lucy Christopher
This book was a great read. It was told as a letter after the fact, and covered the time in which Gemma, a 16-year-old girl from London, was kidnapped and held in the Great Sandy Desert in Australia. It's a wonderful representation of the complicated relationship between Gemma and her kidnapper, Ty, and how she starts to experience aspects of Stockholm Syndrome. I really enjoyed the writing style that was used, and the way that the author explored both the details of such a complex relationship, and the effects that the setting had on both characters. The Outback is desolate and demanding of Ty and Gemma, and ultimately forces Ty to make a decision that leads to Gemma's release. It's interesting to see how the kidnapping changes Gemma as a person, and the nuances that affected her the most throughout the experience. I really enjoyed reading this, and although it's not a light book, it is a very good story.

The Martian - Andy Weir
I saw the movie in October last year, and have heard that the book was just as good so I had to see for myself. It's also one of the challenges on Book Riot's 'Read Harder' challenge to read a book and see the movie, so that was also part of my decision to read this book. I'm so glad I did! This book is fantastic! I couldn't put it down, and I laughed my way through it. The writing is witty, the science appears sound (from a non-scientist perspective), and it was inclusive of all perspectives. This is the story of astronaut Mark Watney, who is left behind on Mars after a failed mission, and has to figure out how to survive. It is a spectacular way of detailing many of the dangers of space and living on other planets, outlining the many challenges faced, and how that affects both the stranded astronaut, his crewmates, and those left behind on Earth. I really enjoyed reading this book, and the same sharp wit that is displayed in the movie is one of the predominant features of this novel. 10/10, would certainly read again!

Burial Rites - Hannah Kent 
This book is about Agnes Magnusdottir, set in Northern Iceland in 1829, and the few months before her death - her participation in the brutal murder of two men is what has lead to this conviction. This book is a fictionalised version of a real story, giving personal details to the last woman to be executed in Iceland. I would liken it to other popular true crime stories that are currently popular, such as the Making a Murderer documentary and the Serial podcast. This book draws out details about Agnes' relationships with both the murdered men, and the two others accused of their murder. It allows a different view into the situation, and the ways in which Agnes may have coped in the months between her conviction and execution. A very enjoyable read, particularly for those who appreciate true crime stories. 

The Butterfly Summer - Harriet Evans*
This book is told from two perspectives - that of Nina Parr in the present, and through a book written by her grandmother and hidden away. It describes the history, and myths, surrounding Keepsake, the family home. The horrors that have been common for the Parr women throughout history, and have been repeated through the generations, and revealed slowly to Nina when she discovers her heritage. This is a compelling book, and although it isn't what I would usually pick up, I really enjoyed it. I read it very quickly, over a weekend. and my Mum has snagged it to read next. I can't say too much more without spoiling the novel's secrets, but it was a great read, and easy - so perfect for a lazy day or a holiday at the beach. 

Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas
Celaena Sardothien is an assassin (of a very high calibre), and is co-opted into participating in a challenge to be the King's Champion by his son, Prince Dorian. There were many things that were supposed to be thrilling and dangerous in this book, but I struggled to finish it because the writing was terrible, and the plot/characters were simply boring. The old adage of 'show not tell' was clearly not told to this author because the entire book was a litany of telling the reader how wonderful, attractive, dangerous, clever, knowledgeable, and sexy the main character was. I couldn't stand the fact that most of the things had the potential to be very very interesting (the loss of magic in the world, an older form of runes and wards that were still accessible, the mysterious past of Celaena, histories of the different cultures interacting in the king's court) were glossed over in favour of having Celaena having to cope with both the prince and the captain of the guard fawning over her, and attempt to get into her pants, skipping over the action scenes in favour of talking about how great Celaena's assassin skills are, and her paltry friendship with someone who clearly is more than she seems. I was most infuriated when the author attempted to describe one or two of the tests that the potential king's champions were put through, and then the next paragraph was some seriously lazy writing - it started with some variation of "over the next week there were two more tests, both of which went well". If you're going to neglect to describe the tests, then don't bother to mention them. Most of the exciting action happens off-page and is mentioned in conversations after the fact by the characters, and what does happen on-page is clumsily written and attempts to tell the reader what happened and what to think, rather than showing the reader the events and allowing them to draw their own conclusions.
I have heard that the further into the series you get, the better the books get. But I don't know that I can force myself to read anymore as this first book is very very painful (as my workmate can attest to as she was forced to listen to my wrath after just about every page). Do not read. Or read at your own risk. 1/10, and it only gets the one as there are glimmers of hope. Urgh.

*PR sample and affiliate links. 

There you go folks, some seriously great books to check out, and one to avoid at all costs. Let me know if you've read any of these, and what you thought! Feel free to make friends with me on Goodreads if you want to keep up with what I'm reading.

Until next time ...

Monday, 7 March 2016

February Empties

Kia Ora!

It's the empties time of the month! I look forward to this part, as I finally get to throw away all the things I've been busy using up and collecting. It's quite cathartic. Check out all the things I used up this month, there's some neat products in there!

That looks like quite a few products ... let's see what exactly they all are!

Swisspers Make-Up Pads
I grabbed these at New Years when I was on holiday and forgot to take my usual ones with me. I love the Swisspers cotton pads, they are reliable and decent quality. Basically they don't fall apart and don't soak up too much product when I'm using them. I'll happily repurchase these if I need cotton pads again.

Simple Kind to Skin Cleansing Facial Wipes
I've been using face wipes a lot recently. I've been a bit lazy in my usual skincare routine, and have been using these instead of a cleanser more than I would like to admit. I love these wipes, they clean my face quite well and leave it a little moisturised too. I don't wear makeup so can't speak about those properties, but as a basic skin cleanser it's great. 

Mata Natural Aloe Vera Gel for sunburn
This gel is something I picked up in Thailand 5 years ago, but haven't used a heck of a lot since. I try pretty hard not to get sunburn, and I'm impressed about how long this lasted. I love using aloe vera for those rare occasions I do get burnt, and this was a great product. I don't know that I'd ever be able to find it again, but if I do I'm more than happy to buy it again!

Tocca Body Wash
This was a sample product from a Bonjour Jolie box last year. It was a nice body wash, this size lasted for 3 weeks or so, and the scent was great. It was a light, fresh, citrus scent and I quite liked it. I assume this is an American brand that I probably won't find easily here, but it's a neat product if you can get your hands on it.

Linden Leaves Fig Liquorice Cream Wash
I hated this product (you may be able to tell since it's still 75% full). The body cream/wash is fine - it lathers well, leaves you clean and not stripped of moisture, etc etc. The thing I can't stand is the scent. It's not pleasant, and neither my fiance or I could stand it. It smells like bad laundry detergent. Blergh. 

Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Shampoo and Conditioner
I grabbed these when I was in Australia in October last year. I love them! They left my hair feeling soft and totally hydrated. Honestly, I don't think it's ever felt better. It looks soft and shiny and I am a little sad that I've finished these. Not least because the coconut scent is fantastic! However I have a huge line up of other shampoo and conditioners to use, so as awesome as these are I won't be able to repurchase for awhile. 

Queen Helene Pomegranate & Raspberry Scrub
This is something I grabbed from iHerb and I think this bottle lasted me a good 5-6 months. I really enjoyed using it, as it was a good combination of scrubby particles that leaves your face feeling great. I didn't notice any irritation at all, and my face felt very soft and smooth after using this scrub. I also noticed that any moisturisers, serums, and essences I applied after using this scrub would sink in quicker, and my skin looked visibly smoother. I have a few other facial scrubs to try out, but I would happily repurchase this in the future!

Oasis Beauty Berry Brightening Tonic
I've used about 3 of these toners in the last couple of years. Every time I'm looking for a new toner, I can't keep myself from treating myself with this one. I love this toner, I've called it my holy grail product in the past and I stick by that. It visibly brightens my skin, helps to fade red marks, and leaves my skin a lot healthier than when I use other toners. I can't say enough good things about this toner (and other Oasis Beauty products honestly). I haven't repurchased yet as I have some other toners I want to try out but I already miss this toner.

Oasis Beauty Beauty Sleep Night Cream (sample)
I've had this sample that came with an order last year. Oasis Beauty were selling cheap versions of the full size last month because they added too much chamomile, and so I jumped on the deal. I used the sample up first, and this cream is flipping awesome! This tiny pot lasted nearly two weeks, and I love this cream. It has wonderful ingredients in it, smells herbally (in a good way), and feels great to apply as a final layer of my skincare routine at night. I'm using a full size at the moment, but I can recommend this for a great night cream!

Bossy Cosmetics Cookie Dough Scrub - Raspberry Shortcake, and Vanilla
I've mentioned my current love of body scrubs, and I got these in my recent Bossy haul. They were pretty awesome scrubs, gave a deep cleanse and left skin soft and hydrated. They both smelled pretty good, and were easy to use. These aren't the best smelling scrubs that Bossy do, so I won't buy these again, but they are a good decent scrub.

Atom Coffee Body Scrub
This was a sample from a Flora and Fauna box, and it's such a nice coffee scrub. This packet was enough for one full-body scrub, and it was perfect for one morning when I was finding it hard to wake up. I love using coffee scrubs during those difficult mornings when I can't quite get on top of the day. This one smelled like coffee and orange. My skin was soft, moisturised, and smelled lovely. I'd be keen to find more of it, and will keep an eye out in the future!

Appelles Apothecary Soap Bar
This is from a subscription box from a couple of years ago. My fiance used this and the following are his thoughts: It was ok, I enjoyed that one. It seemed to have cumin seeds in it. The only problem was it disappeared too quickly, and I wish it had lasted longer as I quite enjoyed it.

Fortune Cookie Soap What's This Lip Scrub 
This was from a 12 Days of Christmas box that was released specially last year. I love Fortune Cookie Soap products (it's my favourite subscription box) and this was a neat lip scrub. I could talk about the scrub itself, but to be honest, it smelt so great (and tasted awesome) I ended up eating it rather than using it properly. Ooops.

Urban Decay Perversian Mascara
I loved using this sample! It started to dry up and clump so I've chucked it out, but it's a great mascara. I don't often use makeup, so I can't give a proper review of this product other than to say this: it made my lashed look great, long and black, and wasn't too hard to get off. I quite like it, and would repurchase but I have several other mascaras to try out first.

That's it folks. Most of the things I used up in February were really good products, and you can see that my obsession with body scrubs is still going strong. I have already finished another one, so keep an eye out for March empties if you want to see more empty body scrubs (or anything else I use up).

Until next time ...

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Tea Review

Kia Ora!

Hi everyone. I have been taking a bit of a mental health break from blogging recently (nothing to do with you lovely readers, just some things happening behind the scenes that were a bit stressful). Now I'm back, with plenty of plans for posts to catch up on and awesome things to talk about.

Today I'm here with a review of a brand new tea company. Staten Tea have just opened their doors in New Zealand, and were generous enough to provide me with a packet of their Black tea to review. Any excuse to drink copious amounts of tea is wonderful for me, and I took full advantage of this offer.

Staten Tea is a strong, unblended black tea. It originates from the Nilgiri Mountains in Southern India. It has the grading 'Broken Orange Pekoe' and if you don't know what that means then this Wikipedia page will blow your mind (seriously it was really interesting). Basically this tea is a medium-grade black tea.

I have had this tea at work with me this week, and I've been drinking 4-5 cups a day. Which is a lot. I'm seriously enjoying this tea. It's a bit more fiddly than a tea bag, and you have to measure out the tea and use a tea ball, but it's worth it. This is a great basic blend of black tea. It's perfect for early mornings, and you can drink it throughout the day. I love a really strong cup of tea first thing in the morning, and this fits the bill. I have it a bit weaker throughout the day, and it still tastes great. The tea also tastes a lot fresher than generic tea bags (Bell, Dilmah, and the like). 

The packaging - I quite like it. The foil packet should keep the tea fresher than a jar or plastic packet, and the resealable top is wonderful! It's also a great size and should last 3-4 weeks (I hope).

The information on the back gives an awesome insight into the people who work at Staten Tea. They clearly have a sense of humour, and a great friendship. The only slightly funny thing is the measurements given on the packet. It took me awhile to register that there is 100g of tea in the packet (it's phrased as '0.1kg'), and in the instructions on how to brew the tea it is listed as .25L of water rather than 250mls or a cup. This, to me, is an odd way of phrasing it, but honestly doesn't affect the quality of the tea or the brew that I can make with it.

Overall, I am quite liking this tea. It's not the best tea I've ever ever tried, but it's a decent, high-quality black tea that is very enjoyable. My only advice would be not to over brew it, as I did to start with and it was very strong. Although if that's the kind of brew you love then this tea is flexible enough to be able to handle that.

Thank you to Staten Tea for letting me try out and review their tea before release date, and I can't wait to see what else they have up their sleeves.

Until next time ...