Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: The Bronze Horseman

In all honesty, it's been a while since I've read this book. Probably about 3 years. 
It's been about a year since I finished off the entire trilogy. But I'm reading the prequel to the story at the moment, Children of Liberty

I'm going to disregard how long it's been to start off my book review series. This book has firmly cemented itself on my favourites list, and so it's fitting that it's my first review. 

Well-loved book cover. 

What's it about?
Set in Leningrad in 1941, The Bronze Horseman tells the tale of two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha. The Metanovs live in poverty; but they know so many who are worse off than them. 
Hitler moves in on Russia, the country is under blockade and the Russian winter sets in. On the day that Hitler advances on Russia (22 June 1941), Tatiana meets a young officer, Alexander. 

I'm going to steal this next line from the blurb of the book because it's so beautiful:

"Confronted on the one hand by Hitler’s unstoppable war machine, and on the other by a Soviet system determined to crush the human spirit, Tatiana and Alexander are pitted against the very tide of history, at a turning point in the century that made the modern world."

TL;DR? It's basically a historical romance; a love story set in WW2. 

My Review:
This book is so beautifully written, and so capable of bringing out so many emotions, I literally devour it every time I read it. I find that this book is one of those best read twice; you miss so many details the first time around because the story is so absorbing. 
The characters have so much depth to them; Alexander at first seems merely a handsome soldier in the Red Army. You later learn he has many secrets - most revealed during the next two books. You will fall in love with him, and then there are things he does that will anger you, and almost make you hate him. You will fall for the characters as if they were real. Tatiana starts the story as a naive 17 year old girl. By the end of the book she has grown into a woman and it is this growth and character development that I long for when I read. This, combined with the remarkable setting is all it takes to transport me to Leningrad.

I think part of what makes this book (and the trilogy) so amazing is that Tatiana and Alexander's love should have been doomed from the beginning. The historical elements are nicely tied into the book without weighing it down. Those who appreciate history will enjoy reading it due to the historical perspective it gives. Those who don't will still be able to enjoy the book and appreciate it as literature. 

Whilst reading this trilogy I cried, I laughed. It ripped my heart out and put it back together again. 

You HAVE TO read this book. 

Have you read this book? What's your favourite trilogy?

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A plea of sorts...

Yesterday the People's Choice round in the Best Australian Blogs (held by the Australian Writers Centre) competition opened, and I am one of the blogs in the running to win!

So I really need your help!

I would love if you could take a few quick seconds to vote for me (it is actually so quick). Just go to page 5 of the survey, under T-Z and find "Where is my mind?" (hit up CTRL+F on your keyboard to find it quicker), tick the box and then fill in your deets (so they know I'm not spamming entries). Make sure you fill the survey right to the end to ensure your vote is counted.
Everybody across the world can enter, so I'd love if my international readers voted for me too :)

(voting closes on Tuesday, 30th April)

If you have voted for me, thanks so much - I realllllly appreciate it :)

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Searo Nail Colour Dry Spray

J bought me this for Christmas last year, and after using it consistently for about three months now, I thought I should share the amazing-ness with you. 

Firstly; this product is Japanese. I have no idea where J bought it from (although I have asked him several times, he cannot remember the store name for the life of him - bless! It was from somewhere in Canberra, though) and I haven't been able to track it down on ebay, or Amazon. I also haven't been able to find much information about the company or the product, so that kinda sucks. I'm guessing a Japanese website somewhere has to have more information. 

The can is 75mL, and just like the name suggests, you use it to dry your nailpolish. It has a "three year shief life" according to the back, but I'm guessing they mean shelf life. So that's pretty decent, and you won't have to worry about it expiring on you any time soon. As for longeivity, I've been using it on and off (mostly on) since Christmas and I think I have about half a can left. Admittedly, it is kinda hard to tell with aerosols. 

So the big question - does it work? I am a super skeptic, and the first time I used it, it didn't work. I was incredibly disappointed. But, I gave it another shot, sprayed it a little further away and BINGO, guys we have a winner! 

I've found it works best when sprayed about 10 cm away from a nail that's had about 3-5 minutes air-dry time. I spray it for about 2 seconds on each nail, and BAM just like that my nailpolish is dry to the touch. No smudging.

This product is HG-worthy; it cuts my nailpolish-drying time down by like 75%, and time is money, peeps! 

I'm dreading the day it runs out, because I have no idea where to pick up a replacement. Next time we head to Canberra I'm just going to have to stake out all the stores there for it. 

Have you used a nail drying spray before? Do you read Japanese?

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

How To: Silky, Soft and Smooth Hands

How's that for alliteration?
As a pole dancer, I fight really hard to get rid of the gross callouses that grow on my hands. and have developed a routine to help keep my hands soft and silky smooth.
These tips work well if you use your hands a lot in your day to day life. Whether your hands are roughed up from sport or a hobby such as gardening, never fear!

As much as I love hand creams, I cannot use them on the days I have pole because that's downright dangerous. So I have to turn to other methods. On the days I pole I always make sure to wash off my grip aid really well so it doesn't continue to dry my hands out for longer than absolutely necessary. That night in the shower I'll exfoliate the skin on my hands with a pumice stone
I got mine from Target and I absolutely love it because it has a little rope to hang nicely on my shower caddy, and it's got a rubber grip all the way around so it's easy to hold even in running water.

My next favourite thing is this callous shaver from Revlon. Once a fortnight, while my skin is really soft after my shower, I'll gently shave off the callouses at the base of my middle finger. (gross, right?) If you've never seen one of these before, they're actually designed for feet. Be careful though, because it is a razor blade you're using so you don't want any nasty cuts that could possibly get infected.

In between pumice and callous shaver treatments, I'll use some of Crabtree & Evelyn's Hand Recovery, usually once a week. This is basically like a scrub for your hands; it deep cleanses, exfoliates and moisturises all in one 60 second treatment. With awesome natural ingredients such as sea salt for exfoliation, algae, macadamia nut oil, and shea butter for moisturising and lavender oil for soothing, you know it's going to be good. The La Source one has a nice sea air scent too, which is quite refreshing.

Every night that I'm not poling, (or very early in the mornings on the nights that I plan to) I'll usually apply a hand cream. I love both the Crabtree & Evelyn Avocado hand therapy (review here) and the Body Shop's Almond Oil Hand Rescue for deep moisturising.

And that's it! My hands remain soft and supple for day-to-day activities whilst not being too slippery for poling!

What are your favourite hand remedies? Are you a hand cream lover or are your hands ignored in your beauty routine?

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Love the look of motivation on Snookie's face as she hunts down a bee. 

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: Pelactiv Facial Refining Deep Cleansing Scrub

I received a sample of this product back in December in my Lust Have It box and was intrigued at its claims that it would "dissolve dead skin cells and decongest pores".
I will get to that in a sec, but I thought firstly I'd research the company a bit; I've not heard much about Pelactiv, but being a 100% Australian made and owned company gives them brownie points with me. 
According to their website, their products are created by Australian skincare therapists and leading biochemists, using Australian native plant extracts and lactic acid. Their products are not tested on animals. 

What is it?
Don't you hate when products have long-winded names that don't actually get to the point of what they are? Basically, this is a gentle exfoliator. 
I use it twice a week, in the shower after cleansing. I massage it into my face and neck for about a minute and then rinse it off with water. 

+ Although the product has a slightly gritty texture, it doesn't feel overly abrasive which I love. 
+ Ingredients include desert fuschia and melaleuca oil, both of which host anti-bacterial and anti-septic properties to help prevent against future breakouts. 
+ I feel like I get a really deep cleanse with this, without the feeling of my skin being stripped of all oils and moisture. 
+ Doesn't dry my skin out
+ My pores are noticeably more clear when I've used this twice a week, consistently for a few weeks. 
+ Contains both jojoba oil and vitamin E, as well as a bunch of other good stuff. 

- Slightly pricey with a RRP of $49 for 150mL. That being said, a little does go a long way with this one. 
- Has a slight tea tree oil scent to it. I personally love tea tree oil, but if you are one who hates this scent you may not enjoy that too much. 

Although I wouldn't exactly say that this is a miracle product, I love that consistent use provides good results. I have definitely noticed less blackheads since including this product in my skincare regime. I still have heaps left in the bottle, so as of today am undecided as to whether I would repurchase. The only thing dissuading me from doing so is the price. (Being a poor student sucks!)

Have you used this product before? If not, what's your favourite exfoliator?

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Monday, March 18, 2013

My Week in Pictures #27

Last week was super busy, meaning I've started this week off quite exhausted.
Late nights, early mornings and frantically trying to catch up on law readings is taking its toll on me...and it's only the beginning of week three.

I've finally got all my textbooks. I have so many pages of readings to catch up on I actually can't count it. So I'm chipping away at it with lots of colour and lots of energy drinks.
Side note - I've made a vow that I am never buying Mother again. I always get suckered in because of how cheap it is but it tastes like rubbish and doesn't even keep me that awake. So I lose out on both counts.

I am however, totally winning at life with these cute-as-hell post it notes. 

As I was leaving work on Thursday I noticed pole queen Jamilla Deville swinging from a pole in Lorna Jane!! I excitedly ran in, asked for an autograph and made a total fool of myself. She was so lovely and omg check out those GUNS! Funnily enough, I was running off to my pole class when I saw her, and man was I pumped for an hour of dance and an hour of handstands...

I also may or may not have a bruise on my ankle from falling down and smashing into the pole...

I spend all week looking forward to Saturday night - steak night. mmmm protein and vegies. 

Wanna come over and help me with my washing? It's getting a bit ridiculous...

What did you get up to last week? Have you ever had a total embarrassing fangirl (or fanboy) moment?

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Desk-Essential Beauty Items

With blogging, uni work, and general catching up on emails, it's really not a surprise that I spend a LOT of time at my desk. As such, I try to make it an area that is not only functional, but comfortable. Keeping a stash of essential beauty items on one of my shelves helps accomplish this. 

I used to keep all this stuff in a small gift box, but when my friend Meg gifted me this glass container for Christmas, I immediately switched. It actually ended up saving me space because it's tall, so fits more in. Also, because it's see through, I find that I reach for the items more frequently. 

So what exactly do I keep within reach?

Hand Creams
I'm such a hand cream addict, and am so weird about keeping my hands soft and smooth. Maybe four hand creams to have within reach at any one time is slightly excessive? To be fair, I do occassionally switch these ones up with whatever one is in my handbag for something different. 

Body Shop Almond Oil Hand Rescue and Hand and Nail Cream. I prefer to use the hand rescue cream at night, when I've finished studying and am about to snuggle on the couch or jump into bed. The hand and nail cream sinks in really nicely, so I use that as a more general hand cream during the day. 

Say it With Scent Vanilla Hand Cream: Another light hand cream, I use this one when I'm bored. It does moisturise well, although I wouldn't say it's an 'intense' moisture surge. I love the scent of this one (surprisingly, since I'm not normally a vanilla kinda gal). 

Crabtree & Evelyn LA Source Hand Cream: I've done a whole video reviewing this, and it is still one of my favourite, go-to hand creams. I absolutely love the scent, the texture...basically everything about this one. 

Lip Balms and Scrubs

Maybelline's Baby Lips: No really, what can I say about these that hasn't already been said before? I love them. 

Blistex Complete Moisture: I really think this is one of those non-negotiable, everyone-should-own-this products. No really, EVERYONE. Including the boys. I love the SPF in this, and I love the way it treats my lips if they do get burnt, or are dry and flaky. 

Speaking of dry and flaky...

LUSH lip scrub in Popcorn and Sweet Lips: Yeah, I'm one of those gross people that lick this off after using it. My argument is, it's my own dead skin cells and you probably inhale a million anyway, so a few more can't hurt. These are really yummy, and are a good exfoliation. I find that by keeping these next to my desk I'm more likely to use them than if they're in my bathroom. 

Face Masks

Apivita face masks; express beauty with cereals and express beauty with ginko biloba: Again, I find I'm much more likely to use these if they're in my line of vision constantly. I try to use a face mask at least once a week, and since I don't always get a heap of free time, I'll usually have one on while I'm blogging or assignment-ing. 

Tea Samples

Just because they're delicious, and I'm running out of room in the kitchen to store these. 

Other Misc Beauty Items

Antiseptic Ear Care Spray: Sometimes my piercings will play up - especially if I've knocked one of them on something. It's always a good idea to keep one of these handy. 

Pure Therapy Intensive Moisture: This is a repair gel that provides intense moisture to very dry skin. I tend to break out in rashes when I'm stressed (sexy, non?) so I keep this at my desk to help with the inflammation.

What beauty products do you keep at your work / home desk? 

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Oh Google, what an outcry you have caused!

You may (or may not have) heard that Google are closing down Google Reader, apparently due to lack of use.

There have been many articles and tweets expressing annoyance over the past 24 hours about this, and a petition has even popped up to save it. There has also been a bit of confusion about whether GFC is going away too.
In about June last year, Google took away GFC for non-Google related blogs (so for instance if you were hosted on Wordpress, you could no longer use GFC). Their blog doesn't say anything about GFC going away.
Google are not a stupid company - I believe they're trying to make people move across to Google+ (eurghh) but they would announce if GFC was going too, surely? They're not going to piss people off for no reason.

Anyway, if you are a a Google reader user and lover you have until July 1st to find some alternative RSS readers. So check out the list below for alternatives and places to find me:

RSS Readers:

If you used reader for more than reading blogs, then NewsBlur is a great RSS reader, available on computers, ipads, iphones and android devices. To make it even easier, Mashable have a great article on how to export all your RSS feeds from Google Reader.

If you use Microsoft Outlook, you can also subscribe to RSS feeds on there.

RSS readers are really easy to find - take a look around the web to find one that best suits your needs.

Blog-following alternatives:

I love how easy it is to find other blogs on Hellocotton, and the layout is really easy to follow and read. Follow me here.

One of the blogging communities' favourite blogging readers for quite a few years. I'm sure Bloglovin are loving all the extra traffic they're getting. With an easy to use interface and a sleek design, I love this site. There's also a great extension for Chrome that shows you how many unread blog posts you have to check up on! Unfortunately, I have noticed over the last 24 hours the site crashing a bit - probably due to the extra traffic. Hopefully they can update their servers to handle the amount of users they'll surely get. 

Not the easiest method to keep track of all the blogs you follow, but it can be done by using the 'lists' function.  Most bloggers tweet to advertise their latest posts, so you can easily go straight to their page from there. Follow me: @michaelaarghh


You should be able to continue to read blogs straight from your dashboard if that's what you already do. When you log into blogger, notice how to the top right of your "reading list" is the option to "View in Google Reader"? That means that by going through the reading list, and clicking on the individual blogs to read, you're not using Google Reader.

Are you happy or sad to see Google Reader go? What are your plans for reading up on blogs come July 1st?

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

New in Subscription Boxes: Europe in a Box

Over the past few months I have done monthly reviews of what I received in two beauty boxes that I was subscribed to. These boxes were a great opportunity to try out a bunch of samples from many different companies at a reasonable price.
Today, I'm going to share with you a new subscription box: Europe in a box. 

The concept of food subscription boxes isn't new; there have been a few companies launching over the past 6 months with aims of bringing healthy snacks to your door. No fuss, no muss.
So how is Europe in a Box different?
This box is about more than receiving some nuts and snacks; it's about culinary and cultural education.
I've had a lot of friends travel to Europe in the past 12 months, and almost all of them comment on how great the food is over there. For them, receiving this box of authentic treats would invoke memories of their expereience. For me, I've never travelled to Europe, so this is a cheaper way to try out those foods and snacks until I can actually get my butt over there.

Each box contains four gourmet products each originating from a different culinary destinations in Europe, including an authentic imported drink, additional samples and a keepsake.(1)

If that's not reason enough to sign up, a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of each box are donated to All Together Now, the only national charity in Australia dedicated to tackling racism issues. How great is that!?

You can sign up online at, with membership prices starting at $48 per month, with free shipping.

Cyndie, the creator of Europe in a Box has also also kindly given me some discount vouchers for you guys, valid until the 30th March! Just type in either of the below codes at check out:
SPREADTHELOVE: to get $5 off your one month transaction (this is a one off fee, not a recurring transaction)
DISCOVEREUROPE: $10 off a 3 month subscription.

Have you travelled to Europe?
What was your favourite food over there? Let me know! 

(1) Note taken from media release. 
Disclaimer: I was asked to write this post on behalf of Europe in a Box. I am not being paid for this post, nor are any of the above links or discount codes affiliate links. I really think this is a great idea and thought you guys would be interested in hearing about it :)
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My Week in Pictures #26

I went back to Uni last week, was late to buy my textbooks and already I'm behind on my readings. It is for this reason that I'm also behind on blogging. I swear, I'm just trying to work out a routine. I thought I'd be able to get two posts up today, but after getting home at 9.30 from my second job, then having a shower and sitting down for half an hour the night's already mostly escaped me. I'm not going to make promises for this week but my aim is to go back to posting every day (except Sunday). I have a stack of posts planned out, it's just trying to find the daylight to photograph for them that's keeping me from posting.

So to my new followers; please stick around. I am usually a much more dependable blogger than this.
To my old followers; thanks for still coming by to check me out. My organisation is shitty at the moment and that's not really an excuse. But I'm sorry. 

My apologies if you follow me on Instagram as you may have already seen those photos, but this is what I got up to this week:


Playing this and reading this. I have Tomb Raider to thank for my love of games; when I was really young my mum used to play the original TR, and I'd watch and if I was really good she'd let me have a turn. I've played every TR game that has come out, and loved them all most of them. This one is actually really amazing. Amazing graphics, amazing story, amazing fun. I've only played it once (again...the whole I-have-no-time thing) but I love it, and am dying to get back into it when I have a spare hour or two. 

A Clockwork Orange has been keeping me company on the train to uni. I'm only a few pages out from the end and am really enjoying it. It took me a while to get into, because it's a strange style of writing and there are a lot of made-up words (ETA: One of my instagram followers has informed me the words are actually Russian slang, not made-up words) which take some time to learn but overall it's a good read.


I went and visited my mum and little brother (although he's not so little anymore!) this weekend in QLD. To say I miss them is an understatement. We spent lots of time together, ate lots and talked heaps. Mum bought my little brother a puppy dog for his birthday (see above!). He's just the cutest, tiniest little fluff-ball. He's a shnoodle, which is a shitzu x poodle and his name is Charlie.

My little bro and I went out for a walk, and I made him snap some street pole shots for me...


Bonus points for creativity with that tree? I thought it was funny. 

I was actually quite busy last week, with lots of meeting up with friends and running around. I unfortunately didn't take many photos of my escapades. That being said, I have a new phone now. It's a lot quicker than my old one and actually takes decent photos. So I'll be able to bug even more friends when we go out for coffee. (pleeeease, just one more shot of your coffee!)

How do you deal with your routine changing? Hopefully a lot better than me, which is to freak out and cry to my boyfriend about everything I have to do, rather than actually do it.

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