Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (no spoilers)

The Goldfinch is Theo Decker's story. It begins with him at thirteen years old, living in New York and surviving an horrific accident that kills his mother. His father abandoned his family some years ago, so he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He longs for his mother, and struggles to deal with losing her. He clings to the one tangible thing he has left to remind him of her; a painting by Carel Fabritius, which ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld.

The Goldfinch is an impressive 864 pages long. It's a Pullitzer-prize winning novel, and has divided some people.

I really, thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Donna Tartt's prose is excellent, and she really captures the essence of her characters, and the condition of the human spirit. These characters are three-dimensional, you can almost see them and hear them (particularly Boris; I am pretty impressed with the way his dialogue comes across as a mixture of Russian and Australian) and you fall in love with them and care about them.

Tartt explores the wealthy, the poor, the middle-class, the young, the old through the voice of a child in a style that is very much reminiscent of Charles Dickens. There are so many twists and turns throughout the story - every time I was exposed to a new part of the narrative I was overjoyed, never quite sure where Theo would end up, and always wanting to know more. This book made me thirsty to read it - despite its length, I finished it in a couple of weeks.

Grief, despair, and guilt all feature heavily. Theo has wit and intelligence and somehow this prevents the novel from being too depressing.

At times I felt the novel dragged a little bit, particularly through the scenes in Las Vegas. Although Tartt did well to make you feel and understand a teenager's first use of acid, I grew a little tired of reading about Theo and Boris being drunk and high all the damn time. However, as I pushed past this, and read more of the novel I became aware of just how important these chapters were for character development and relationship building. These chapters give you a sense of just how alone in the world Theo is. So my advice is if you get stuck reading this, just push past it. It will be worth it, I promise!

I am sad to say that I was a little unimpressed with the ending. There was a resolution (not a great one in terms of what I wanted for the characters, but I still loved it), and I felt it should have been left there. However, Tartt continues with the last chapter turning into a stream-of-consciousness, philosophical rambling. This part gives you a peek into Tartt's thoughts on the book and the narrative, but it felt out of place, for me.

This book is literature. I absolutely loved reading it, and it has cemented itself firmly as one of my all-time favourites.
Rating: 5/5.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Ultimate, Glittery Party Nails!

I was pleasantly surprised with how pretty this nail polish combo turned out - I wore this for NYE (which feels like ages ago now), and the whole week following. I received so many compliments on this nail polish, it made me sad when it started to chip off (one of the disadvantages of working in retail)

OPI's 'Ogre-the-top Blue' is the base colour, (two coats) with one coat of Revlon's 441 in Radiant painted over the top. 
Sealed with a top coat to prevent chipping and to smooth out the nails - this also ensures there's no glitter chunks sticking up to get snagged. 

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Great Australian Brands

Happy Australia Day!

Aussie Day has become a bit controversial in recent years - Apart from enjoying the mandated day off, and listening to Triple J's hottest 100, I don't actually celebrate the day. Supporting local brands and products is pretty important to me, so  I thought it would be a good opportunity to call out and mention those great Aussie beauty brands, and give some of my favourites a little love. So many Aussie brands have great stories behind them, starting from humble beginnings. They're also environmentally conscious, and many of them give back to the community! 

Australis - 
Australis have been around for 25 years, with all their products priced at under $20. Affordable, great quality and they are 100% cruelty free yay! Favourite products: Oh hai brow kit, fresh and flawless pressed powder, AC On Tour contouring kit

The Purist Company - 
With skincare brand A'kin, and haircare brand Al'chemy, the Purist Company are a 15 year old Australian company with natural products at the heart of their philosophy. They don't test on animals and are passionate about the environment, so practice a business based on sustainability. 
Face of Australia - 
Australian owned, Australian made and 100% cruelty free! Another brand with great quality products at affordable prices.

Sukin - 
One of my favourite skincare brands, Sukin are environmentally conscious (100% certified carbon neutral) and offer products that feature active botanicals and essential oils. They're also cruelty free, and are luxurious without being overly expensive. 

Lanolips - 
Lanolips began in a farm on Lucindale, South Australia. The lanolips lip balm range features lanolin, a product taken from freshly-shorn sheep's wool. Lanolips lip ointments are intensly moisturising, and give your lips a great shine. My favourite is the Peach flavour. 

Banana Boat - 
Banana Boat are one of Australia's most trusted brands in suncare. They have a huge range of sunscreens that work well, but probably my favourite thing about the brand is that they are committed to educating sun safety, through their 'Sun Safe Schools Program'.

Jurlique - 
Jurlique was founded in 1985, by a German couple ('the Kleins') who migrated to Australia. Their specialties were biochemistry and botany. They created a natural skincare line, that started out with Jurgen and Ulrike growing and manufacturing their own products on a farm in South Australia. All of their farming practices are strictly organic and biodynamic. 

Bloom - 
Bloom began in Melbourne in 1993. This multi-award-winning brand has an impressive range with over 350 products. The company uses high-quality botanical ingredients, and is a proud supporter of the Children's Hospital Foundation Australia.

Lucas' Pawpaw Ointment - 
Dr Lucas originally practiced medicine in London, but migrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1876. He came seeking out a warm maybe it's no surprise that he soon moved to Queensland. Dr Lucas studied botanical research, and came across the pawpaw tree; he described the pawpaw as 'the world's greatest healing agent'. Today, the business is still family owned, and everyone can share the healing effects of the pawpaw ointment; used by almost every Australian as a lip balm, it can also be used to treat small cuts, minor grazes and nappy rash! 

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What are your favourite Aussie brands and products?

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

OOTD: Le Breton

We spent two full days in Canberra - four days if you include the days we travelled there and back. I'm a notorious over-packer, so I really tried to consolidate my sartorial options for the trip. A pair of shorts, some jeans, a singlet and a long sleeve shirt. Add to that the t-shirt and leggings I travelled in, and that's a pretty fair mix of clothing for warm and cooler weather. So when I learned that we would be going out to lunch, (to a vineyard, no less!) I panicked - I did not bring appropriate clothing for this kind of a trip. It would have been nice if J had mentioned it to me before we left that we would be going someplace

Long sleeve top is the Navy Le Breton from Popbasic (use this link to get $15 off your order*)
Shorts are from Valleygirl.
Shoes are leather sandals from 'Human Premium'
Bag is kikki.K

I was pretty happy wrangling this outfit together with my limited clothing options. What do you think?

(Disclaimer: Offer does not expire, but can only be used once per person. Although I am not affiliated with Popbasic, I will get $15 store credit if you use that link. But you also get $15, so that's a pretty fair deal for sharing the love! This is a referral program for everyone! So if you sign up, you get your own link to also share with your friends too!)

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Monday, January 19, 2015

My Week in Pictures #62

The week began with a very early morning appointment to the fracture clinic to have my cast removed! My bone was not fully healed, and my wrist was still a bit painful, so I was given a splint to wear. The long journey to recovery begins! 

We had a slight incident of mistrust at our household this past week. J brought in his backyard harvest - beans, sugar snap peas, tomatoes and some mini capsicums. Or so he told me. I was a bit dubious of this "mini capsicum" when J sliced it open and it was filled with little seeds; he tried a little bit and reassured me that it was kind of sweet, and it probably was just a small capsicum. All I can say, is I am thankful for my skeptical personality because I only touched the tip of my tongue to the inside fleshy bit of this "mini capsicum" and it burned like the fires of hell for a good half hour. I can not imagine how much it would have burned if I had eaten the whole thing! J was honestly shocked at my reaction - he tried again and felt the same heat as me. 


J and I spent last week in Canberra, visiting his family. We celebrated two birthdays whilst there, so many desserts were had. 


We went to Shaw Vineyard Estate for lunch - they had their own sheep and llamas. Watching the llamas jump up onto their hind legs to pull leaves off the tree was cause for endless entertainment. 

We started out with wine tasting, before sitting down to lunch. The food was really good - for entrees we shared an oven-baked camembert, and a dukkah mix. For mains I had the salmon. I don't eat seafood that often because I'm really fussy with it - but this was really delicious. I don't really feel like I'm that cut-out to eat fancy food though. Whilst the salmon and the polenta (and okay everything else) were amazing, I just can't help but be annoyed at the lack of "Extras" on the and a half heirloom tomatoes, two sprigs of asparagus...really? 

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Friday, January 9, 2015

New Years Resolutions

I've always loved the idea of New Years Resolutions, but have never really set them before; if I have, they've always been quite vague like "do better at uni this year". Last month, I decided that I would set monthly goals to achieve - things that I could actually work towards and keep focussed on for a month at a time. So my December goals were in action for a week, and then I broke my wrist. Not trying to make excuses, but when you only have one arm (and your non-dominant one for that matter) it's kind of difficult to do a lot of things. I'm getting a lot of movement back in my arm now, and my cast comes off next week so I'm resetting those December Goals for January. I also have some overall yearly goals I would like to achieve. Each month this year, I'll share with you what my goals are and how I've gone with achieving the goals from the month before.

2015 GOALS
- Read 30 books. 
This was my goal for 2014, and I failed pretty miserably, only finishing 10 books. I have no textbooks to read this year, so I should have more time to read fun things. 

- Get my splits
A goal I've had for over three years now, so this is getting ridiculous. I'm signed up to advanced stretch classes, and have now got a stretching routine in place so 2015 is the year I will get flat on the floor.

- Continue learning
I graduated uni last year, and as glad as I am that that's over, I still love learning, and want to continue learning. I think the hard thing with learning as an adult is you have to be really self-motivated, so I'm not going to let laziness get in the way.

- Get a job
Probably the biggest, and most important for me at the moment - I get admitted as a solicitor to the NSW Supreme Court next month, so I need to get that first "career" job.

- Cook one meal each week.
- Clean out my wardrobe
- Stretch 5 days a week
- Sort out our New Zealand itinerary
- Catch up on the journalling missed because of my broken arm
- Sort out all paperwork to be sent off to the Supreme Court for my admission!

Did you set any New Years resolutions this year? 

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

What I Got For Christmas 2014 (and Graduation)

I decided to combine this a little, and do one longer post on Christmas gifts and Graduation gifts, rather than two separate ones. I didn't get as many "tangible" gifts this year for Christmas - J and I decided not to really do gifts, because we need to save money for our trip to New Zealand in March. Dad also gave me some money to put aside for said trip. I still got some great, and really thoughftul gifts though!

So first up - graduation presents!

My graduation was at 7pm on a Wednesday night. This was really annoying because it meant after the ceremony, we drove home and went to bed, and didn't really have time to celebrate or anything. We arranged a dinner for the following night with some close family friends of ours though, and my besties' family very generously gave me this really cute photo frame, and a book titled "Swing High". I've already popped in one of my favourite photos from my graduation, and the frame now takes pride of place on my desk. "Swing High" is a book about life lessons that can be learned from childhood - it's really cute, and there's words of wisdom in there I think I'll take on forever.

Mum very generously paid for my make-up to be done at the Make Up Store - their services are redeemable for product, so I picked up a new highlighter and lipstick (as well as the lashes used on the day), and a beautiful, simple Mimco bracelet.

Mum then surprised me by also giving me this beautiful handmade, leather journal. It also has my initials on it...I'm just so obsessed with it, it's so beautiful

Christmas KK gifts! My Work KK got me a lavender and vanilla scented candle, a pack of mini OPI polishes, and a box of Lindor - these are my favourite chocolates ever. 

I was super spoiled by my Vogue KK, who gifted me this beautiful red Chanel lipstick. It's been worn a few times since I opened it - it is luxurious, balmy beautiful!

Although we said no presents this year, J and I still got each other small, thoughtful gifts. J got me a really cute cow print lunch bag - for that job I'll hopefully get soon. It's insulated, and has a longer strap for travel so it will be perfect for bringing my lunch. 

My sister got me an Instax mini, with a pack of "moo cow" film - really cute story about the film; it's actually called 'Dalmation', but obviously looks more cow print, she printed off a label "Moo Cow" and covered up the part where it says Dalmation. So cute! 

My little brother got me a See by Chloe perfume gift set. I actually love this scent because it's not super feminine, and I think that's because it has base  notes of vanilla and sandalwood. It's still very floral, with notes of bergamont, apple blossom, jasmine and ylang-ylang.

J's friend also got us these cool illustrated coasters - I made an off-hand comment when we had him over for dinner that I wanted coasters because our coffee table is wrecked, so I was really pleasantly surprised to unwrap these! So thoughtful!

New lip scrub flavour to add to my collection, courtesy of my bestie. She also got me this gorgeous cow-print pillow, below.

Pride of place on the lounge!

What did you get for Christmas this year? I love reading these posts so link yours below if you have one!

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Life, Lately #61

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, lovely readers!!
Can you believe we're already a whole week into 2015!?
I lost a bit of blogging mojo over the past month. I'm totally blaming it on breaking my arm... typing and editing with one hand is exhausting, and takes twice as long - which left me super frustrated. I also can't handwrite anything, so not being able to properly plan anything has left me very demotivated.

The 17th of December marked one of the biggest achievements of my life - graduating from uni! The past five years have been a bit of a rollercoaster, and I feel I've grown so much in that time. Donning those blue academic robes was such an accomplishment, although the tassel on the hat was slightly annoying.


Christmas was spent around at my dad's, and this year J joined us. We didn't have a super fancy table setting, but plenty of good food. It's tradition for the partners at work to gift all the employees a ham for Christmas - so this year J and I (mostly J...okay, all J) had a go at glazing and cooking it. It turned out pretty well, and we have been adding ham to almost every meal since. Good food, good champagne, good company and good presents is pretty much the perfect Christmas in my eyes.

New Years was also quite a low-key affair. After dealing with the crowds at work for Boxing Day, the last thing I wanted to do was endure more crowds in the City. My brother acquired some fireworks, so we tried our hand at pyrotechnics. A lot of them didn't fully go off, and there was one that fell over and shot sparks everywhere (first photo). It was a lot of fun though, and quite safe as long as you use common sense.
We ended 2014 playing Monopoly and watching the city fireworks on TV.
To get to the train station from my dad's house, there's a fair bit of a bush-walk to go through. We ran into a really thick spider-web, which had a giant-ass spider sitting on it (no literally...this spider had a massive butt), which was terrifying ut is funny looking back on.

We visited the race-track for family race day. We ended up being down over the whole day, but I still find the races a lot of fun. It's entertaining picking a horse by name, getting advice from my punter dad about that horse, and then ignoring that advice and picking one to bet on based on the way they strut around before the race, and depending on the outfit the jockey wears. I'm also quite partial to the omen-name bet, and couldn't pass up putting money on "Fiery Redhead" (who subsequently lost).

I went to the beach for the first time in forever with my bestie so had to tackle swimwear shopping. Ended up choosing the combo on the left. Hooray for no-match, and thanks to everyone who gave their advice on Instagram!

How was your NYE and Christmas? Leave links to your posts below!

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