Feb 27, 2009

Fresh Rain in Kenya

The other day it rained almost the whole day. Made a refreshing change to very hot summer days. The rain took me back to the time when we were in Kenya with some friends to visit local projects our church was supporting.

Lucky us stayed in a "posh" house with western style bathroom and toilet, though the water pipe was broken the whole time we were there. Every day the local ladies went down to the river to get us a big drum of water for showering. It was a dry summer so we had to save as much water as possible. We also felt a little guilty if the local ladies had to make an extra trip to the river when we ran out of water. It's along way to the river.

We had to stand on a big plastic bucket while showering so we could use the water to flush the toilet. 2 small buckets of water per person for shower. Everyone had to refrain from flushing the toilet, though flushing was a must after "big business".

One day there was an unexpected heavy rain. So a friend and I grabbed the opportunity. Us girls changed into our swimming costumes, took our bath towels, shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner with us. We went out to the side of the house where the water was pouring down from the roof, forming a natural shower stream.

The pure rain water felt so good. Water in abundance means we could took shower as long as we wanted, taking our time slowly to wash our hair and just soaked ourselves in the glorious amount of water nature provided. It felt like finding a gold mine, we screamed loudly like excited children, the rainwater was very cold!

The rest of the people stayed inside the house, taking shelter from the rain. The locals were amused, they couldn't see us but they could hear our screaming, they thought my friend and I had gone mad over the rain.

It was one of the most luxurious showering experience in my life.

Feb 26, 2009

I've been tagged!

... by the cute Little Dress Design's trishiekoh.

The rules of the game is to post the fourth picture in the fourth folder on my computer and write about it. My fourth folder is empty, so I'm changing the rules: to post the third picture in the third folder on my computer and write about it before passing the tag along to others.

My picture happens to be this avatar.

The story behind it:
1. I love cats.
2. Notice the words. Cats think they own humans. Enough said.
3. The tiara was a tribute to my online friend: Princess75.

Since "three" seems to be my theme here, I'm tagging 3 friends: my old friend Ron from Singapore and my new friends from OZ: Gem and GQ.

Elemis Absolute Eye Serum

The past few days the area where my wisdom tooth used to reside has been hurting. Back in Dec, before the tooth extraction, I had terrible nightmares of my teeth falling out of my gums. Restless nights made my eyes looked dark and puffy.

Fast forward to the moment after the procedure was done. Hubby kindly bought me Elemis Absolute Eye Serum as a "sweetener" to take my mind off the swollen cheek (and as a peace offering to soothe my eyes).

This chic bottle of serum has become my new best friend since. 2 drops is all I need for each application. I've used it for more than 2 months and there's still plenty left in the bottle. I think it would last me another 4-6 months. Perhaps longer, if I hadn't squeezed too much serum out of the dropper whenever I was too sleepy.

This easily absorbed light oil keeps my eye areas hydrated without causing milia. It's moisturising enough on it's own I don't need to use eye cream or eye gel on top of this. The dark circles are visibly minimized though not disappeared altogether - blame it on the sleepless nights caused by the hot summer weather, it made the A/C useless... I should also blame my habit of staying up till 1am when finishing a book. :)

It's the most expensive eye product I own. Though it's not that pricey when I consider the "mileage" I get from this product. Look at it this way: $82 (AUD) divided into about 7 months = $11/month = 39cents/day = 19cents/application. Cheaper than hubby's daily chocolate fix. A fair price to pay for something that works on my 30something year old eye areas. I'll update you with my progress and if (touch wood) it ever loose it's effectiveness.

Verdict: Very Musical (= highly recommended).

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Propylene Glycol, Sodium PCA, Centaurea Cyanus Flower Extract, Plantago Ovata Seed Extract, Symphytum Officinale Extract, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse chesnut) Bark Extract, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Aniba Rosaedora (Rosewood) Wood Oil, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Osmanthus Fragrans Absolute, Glutamine, Leucine, Proline, Serine, Butylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Sclerotium Gum, Methylparaben, Chlorphenesin, Disodium EDTA, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Methylparaben, Caramel, Sodium Hyaluronate, Propylparaben, Linalool.

Feb 25, 2009

Chinese Custard Tarts

A conversation with friends reminded me of this recipe for melt-in-the-mouth custard tarts. Very addictive. I'm not on diet = good for me. Hehehe...

Chinese Custard Tarts
Makes 24 tarts

Pastry for a double-crust pie:
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup cold butter
6-7 tbsp iced water

1. Place flour and salt in a food processor. Add butter in pieces. Process until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. With machine running, add enough water to make a dough that forms a ball on the blade (do not over process).
2. Knead dough lightly. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 mins.

Custard filling:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup milk

1. Heat the oven to 400F (about 200C)
2. Roll out pastry to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out circles to fit greased small, shallow tartlet pans.
3. Filling: combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Cook, without boiling, over a medium heat until sugar dissolves. Cool completely.
4. Add eggs and milk to sugar syrup. Mix to combine. Carefully pour into pastry shells. Bake for 10 mins. Reduce oven temperature to 350F (175C). Bake for 10 mins longer or until filling is set.

Feb 24, 2009

Bum Deal = Benefit

= Unfavorable/unfair

The world isn't perfect, there are plenty of bum deals around. Humankind is supposed to be advancing at a greater pace than it has ever been. Sadly it's getting more and more difficult to find honesty, truth, and originality.

Having said that, there's one bum deal that I particularly like: Benefit's Bum Deal Body Scrub.

"This super-thick scrub stays where you want it."

True to what it says it doesn't slide and doesn't make a gloopy mess all over the shower cubicle like most scrubs do. Somehow it manages to stay put, making it easier to massage on my skin.

This gentle sugar and salt scrub doesn't feel scratchy on my skin, it left my skin very smooth and nicely scented, better than a baby's bum. It also works a treat on my battered feet.

The scent is quite addictive. Not so much of "red currant" as stated on the webpage, it's a soft fruity (pomegranate?) scent that doesn't clash with my shower gel.

Verdict: Very musical (= highly recommended).

Ingredients: sucrose, glycerin, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, C20-40 pareth-10, sodium chloride, PEG-10 sunflower glycerides, glyceryl behenate/eicosadioate, phenoxyethanol, PPG-5-ceteth-20, fragrance (parfum), methylparaben, tocopheryl acetate, citronellol, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, propylparaben, hexyl cinnamal, limonene, linalool.

Feb 23, 2009

Smelling Spree: New Love and Bum Scents

Royal or not royal, bum's smell isn't something I'd like to wear on my skin (click here for the background story). It gets me curious, though it puts me off wearing Guerlain perfumes with juices that were created before/up to the 50s.

When my friend P and I met up last Friday, somehow we ended up on a "smelling spree". It was quite predictable, really, as both of us love perfumes. She was originally after Givenchy's Hot Couture, the limited edition version, which sadly isn't available anymore. Of course we visited Guerlain's counter to check out the mistress' bum smell, we just couldn't help it. And no, we're not in a hurry to spray ourselves with those perfumes.

We sprayed our arms with perfumes we were interested in. It was our scientific approach to figure out how much difference the same perfume could make on our individual skins.

In my previous post The Perfect Scent I mentioned that I was interested to try Hermes' Un Jardin sur le Nile (A garden above the Nile). So I hunted and found it at Myer. On my skin it smelled like subtle fresh green mango that settled down to a soft powdery scent that reminded me of Bvlgari's Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert.

Next to it was Un Jardin Après la Mousson (A garden after the Monsoon). On my skin the yummy cardamom top note smelled quite warm, after a long while it settled down to fresh watermellon scent.

Verdict: I LOVE both Hermes' Un Jardin scents, they're officially on my wish list!

Kenzo Les Eaux De Fleur Collection (Eau De Fleur de Magnolia, Eau De Fleur de Soie, and Eau De Fleur de Thé) smelled alright on papers, but turned out disgustingly unpleasant on both our skins.

Verdict: stay away, don't waste your money.

Moral of the story: always spray perfume on your skin first before buying it. What smells great on paper could smell disgusting on your skin.

Feb 20, 2009

Pisa: Camposanto Monumentale

= Monumental Cemetery

It's the long building next to the Cathedral at Pisa. Despite the name, it doesn't look like the usual hole-in-the-ground cemetery. It's the posh version full of artworks.

Here's the view from the inside of the cemetery. Notice the ornate decorations of the glassless windows. The tombs are those curvy marble coffins lining the side walls.

A close up of one of those. Very intricate patterns carved on the marble.

I assumed the fancier ones, with statues and frescoes, might belong to richer or more important people.

I particularly love this view.

Pity I didn't get the chance to explore the Museo Dell'Opera (Museum of Opera) and Museo Delle Sinopie (Museum of Sinopia) that are also in the area.

Feb 19, 2009

More Bushfire Appeal

Borders is trying to raise up to $200,000 for the Red Cross Victorian Bushfire appeal 2009. Bring in your second hand good quality books or purchase a new book to donate. For more info, click here.

Mirenesse has donated skincare/makeup kits valued at over $80,000 directly to the bushfire survivors. They're selling a special mascara and lip moisture pack for $10 (RRP$65) with the proceeding going to the appeal. Click here for more info.

In Essence's donation and sale is still on until end of this month. The factory outlet is at 221 Kerr Street, Fitzroy, VIC - you lucky Melb people!

Seafood Stoush

After the devastating events in Victoria, this Seafood Stoush seemed very trivial.

It's very rude for the restaurateur to reply the way he did. Words of mouth and words on internet could travel faster than fire. He should have been more tactful, especially during this negative economic climate when people are more careful with their spending. I've seen a few restaurants closed their doors recently, so yeah, I'm on the customer's side. Whatever happens to the saying "Customer is King"?!

Feb 18, 2009

The Perfect Scent

I love perfumes as much as I love cats. Somehow perfumes always captivate me. An abstract art form that allows subjective individual interpretations.

I love smelling the general "aura" of the perfume and finding the different "facets" of the scent. It's like listening to music where I can hear individual instruments playing different parts to form a cohesive piece of music. The difference is I'm using my nose to dissect the perfume's identity.

Like with music I have a love-hate affair with perfumes. I find some perfumes smell revolting. Chanel No. 5 is an example. Personally I detest it with all my heart. One whiff scarred me for life. My skin and nose hated it with a vengeance. Chanel's marketing people must have done something right to have made it popular. Though I've heard that scents react differently on different skin. If it works for you doesn't mean it will work for me. Vice versa.

Some perfumes are too heavy and overpowering they give me instant headaches. Others are too unsubstantial the scent disappeared in a matter of minutes if not seconds. Some take my breath away, love at the first whiff, like Lancome's Magnifique, Bvlgari's Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert , Juicy Couture, Jo Malone's White Jasmine and Mint Cologne amongst others. These are works of art I could appreciate.

With new perfumes being launched all the time I find that generally they smell more or less similar, I get the impression that companies are trying to copy each other instead of coming with something more original. It's getting more and more difficult to find quality perfumes that stand out amongst the masses. Too commercialized, not enough substance and not enough thought being put into it. Beautiful packagings alone won't make me buy those substandard perfumes.

Am I being fussy? Of course. What's the point of spending an insane amount of money for scents that aren't worth it? Plus I do NOT want to smell like the next person on the street. Like what someone told me years ago, "If you want to know the latest perfume in Singapore, go to Orchard Road at the zebra crossing outside Somerset MRT Station. Smell the air as you cross the street. That would be the smell of the trendiest perfume of the moment. Everyone seems to wear the same thing at that place, everyone smells the same." I put this to the test and it was the truth.

So I was glad when I came across this fascinating book. The Perfect Scent: a year inside the perfume industry in Paris and New York. Engagingly written by a journalist and New York Times scent critic: Chandler Burr.

It reveals the behind-the-scenes process of the developments of two perfumes. One in Paris, one in New York. One by Hermes, done by their very first in house perfumer: Jean-Claude Ellena. The other scent is a collaboration by Coty and Sarah Jessica Parker.

This book answers my curiosity and taught me lots of things I don't know about the perfume industry. Like the fact that "designer" perfumes aren't done by the people whose names are on the bottle, they're done by the perfumers whose names are being hush-hushed for fear of ruining the image of the said designer brands.

I learnt that "the scent wake the perfume's wearer leaves behind in a space, an olfactory infrared arc of their trajectory... the sense of the person being present in the room after he or she has left..." is called sillage.

This book has amusing titbitts that remind me of something else from real life. For example, my mother used to describe some perfumes as "smelling like human's butt". Reading page 249 confirms that my mother's suspicion was right: "The smell of clean anus turns out to be extremely helpful in perfume. In trace amounts it deepens and enriches floral scents, fleshes out green scents. Jacques Guerlain - this is a man who was creating perfumes as recently as the 1950s - famously said that all his perfumes contained, somewhere inside them, the smell of the underside of his mistress. He was referring to all three holes." Gasp.

I was quite chuffed when I read this: "... Juicy Couture, one of the best perfumes on the market, by the expert commercial technician Harry Fremont." No wonder I like Juicy Couture, I have great taste! :)

It's a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable book, with scientific facts thrown in together with interesting observations of the perfume industry and the people involved in the making of a scent. Last year a friend gave me SJP's Lovely for my birthday, so by the end of this book I've come to appreciate this particular perfume more as now I know the story behind it. As it turns out I'm already a fan of Jean-Claude Ellena's other creation: Bvlgari's Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert - another proof that I have an excellent taste in perfume. Hahaha... So now I have to try Hermes' Un Jardin sur le Nil. Hint... Hint... :)

My verdict? A must read for a perfume lover or people who are interested to know about the industry.

Book info:
ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-8037-7
ISBN-10: 0-8050-8037-6
First edition 2008

Published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC

Feb 17, 2009

In Essence Electric Vaporiser

I like my surroundings to smell nice. I already have 2 candle burners: one for melts and one for essential oils. The problem is, sometimes I forgot to replace the candle. Or forgot to buy more candles. So for the past few years I had considered getting an electric version.

I finally bought In Essence Electric Vaporiser in December. Mine is the white one, as Myer ran out of the darker colour.

The box said it "has been designed to maintain an optimum temperature to slowly release oil vapors over a period of time."

Here's how I would normally use it:

1. Fill the bowl with warm water up to the inner border. I find this amount of water lasts for about 6 hours.
2. Add 8-10 drops of essential oils.
3. Switch it on - the light underneath the logo will be on.

To clean: wipe the bowl with damp cloth and eucalyptus oil.

I use it as a humidifier/room refresher/mood lifter. Very useful in dry weather condition (or when the A/C is in full blast) as I can turn it on and "forget" about it for 6 hours straight.

I haven't used electric vaporiser from other brands so I've got nothing to compare this one with. I've used it a few times. So far so good. I love the sleek bowl design and colours. Some others I've seen look quite bulky comparably.

One thing that bugs me: I don't like the placement of the brand name and logo on the bowl. Given the choice I'd rather buy a plain looking burner that has the brand tucked in discreetly underneath. Just personal preference.

Verdict: practical and useful gadget, musically approved (apart from the brand placement).

Some of my favourite essential oil blends:
- 3 drops of lavender oil + 3 drops of cedarwood oil + 3 drops of lime oil.
- 5 drops of lavender oil + 4 drops of lime oil.
- my all time favourite: Sanctuary Spa's relaxing blend of sandalwood, bois the rose, patchouli (from UK).

Feb 16, 2009

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) is what the Cathedral Square at Pisa is known as. It consists of the Duomo (cathedral), the Leaning Tower, the Battistero (Baptistry), and Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery).

The weather was horrible: dark grey sky, raining cats and dogs. That's why the photos came out darker.

Technically the Leaning Tower is a campanile (free-standing bell tower) of the Cattedrale (Cathedral).

I thought it looked much smaller and not as tall as I imagined it to be. I suppose I was too used to the sights of modern skyscrapers. Honestly I was more impressed with the other buildings at the Square.

Here's the Battistero:

Feb 13, 2009

Verona, Italy: Romeo and Juliet's Balcony

Back to the subject of my past trip to Italy.

Verona is a city that's famous for being the setting for an ancient Italian tale: Romeo and Juliet's tragic love. So Shakespeare wasn't the first person who tell their story.

I don't like any tragic lovers' story. Still, out of curiosity I went to Casa di Giulietta (Juliet's House) to see the famous balcony. Apparently there is more historical evidence that the house was actually a bordello for many years before being bought by the city and turned into a tourist attraction.

How about Romeo's house? Though there's no proof to support the believe that any Montagues ever owned the place, his "house" is now a restaurant called Osteria Dal Duca. Apparently it's a far more worthy sight to visit. Sadly I didn't have time to do that.

On the photo below you can see traces of frescoes on the buildings' outside walls. The frescoes aren't in the best conditions as they've been exposed to weather for many many years.

Feb 12, 2009

Snail Cream and The Beauty Brains

Sometime last year A Chilean friend told me she uses snail cream on her face. Snail?! Did I hear you right? Yup. Snail cream. She said she has been using it for years. She does have good skin and looks younger than her age. I'm not sure whether it's due to using the said cream or her naturally good genes.

Google search brought me to Elicina Snail Cream. The webpage says, "original product from Chile, organic, natural and hypoallergenic... perfect for people with mixed or oily complexion... diminishes and softens wrinkles, scars, queloids, burns, age and sun spots, stretch marks, acnes, warts."

In case you haven't realized it yet: clicking on the name of the cream (the underlined green bit above) will bring you straight to the webpage and you can read all about it yourself - just to make sure you're not daydreaming and I'm not mad. :)

Well, I'm not convinced. Personally I think snails don't belong on the plates nor should they be used on people's skin. They should stay somewhere out there in the wilderness, doing whatever they're supposed to do with their lives.

Yesterday I stumbled across an appropriate article called "Are Snail Cream Good for Your Skin?" on an excellent blog called The Beauty Brains.

They said they are "a group of cosmetic scientists who understand what the chemicals used in cosmetics really do, how products are tested, and what all the advertising means... if you want to really understand cosmetic products in an unbiased, scientific way, Ask The Beauty Brains. You’ll get answers from a team of scientists who have no sales pitch and nothing for you to buy."

I like what I read so far. There are lots of interesting articles there that appeal to curious moi. I also like the way they explain things. I'm already subscibing to this one!

P.S. Check out my other post today: In Essence Donation and Sale.

In Essence: Donation and Sale

After the recent devastating events in Victoria, I found out that In Essence, one of my favourite brands, have donated thousands of essential toiletries (soaps, shampoo, conditioner) to the Salvation Army to deliver to the crisis centres and camps in need.

They have also pledged to donate 25% of all In Essence website and factory outlet sales (until 28th Feb) to the Australian Red Cross: Victorian Bushfire Appeal 2009.

Shopping with a cause, this I like. "Pink Washing" I do not like.
Stating upfront the exact percentage of the donation pledged: this I like best.

Best bargain: Scents of Zanzibar (RRP $28.90) on sale for $9.95.

Or click here to start your "shopping with a cause" with In Essence gift packs.

P.S. I'm not paid to write anything on my blog and I don't receive any commission either. :)

Feb 11, 2009

Apple Cake

Talking about Donnybrook and apples reminds me of a good recipe I have:

Torta con le mele (= cake with the apples)

3oz butter: softened, plus extra for greasing
11oz self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
3 eggs
5oz caster sugar
3 apples: peeled, cored, and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Grease a cake tin with butter and dust lightly with flour.
3. Whisk eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the butter.
4. Sift the flour into the mixture.
5. Add the apples and mix gently.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake until cooked (about 30-40mins).
7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before turning it out.

For fancier cake: serve with whipped cream or Mix Berry Coulis. Or with both.

Feb 10, 2009


We stopped at Donnybrook on our way to Valley of the Giants.

The place is famous for it's apple and stone fruit orchards. We found the huge apples on the lamp posts amusing.

Sadly we didn't get to see the Apple Festival - the next one is on Easter 2010.

On the left is the old train station that now functions as a Tourist Information Centre.

That's hubby. :)

Feb 9, 2009

Diamond Tree

We visited the Diamond Tree on our way to the Valley of the Giants the other day. It was once used as a bush fire watch tower.

The tour guide gave us 2 choices:
- having lunch there, or
- climbing to the top of the tree, having lunch later on the bus.

I looked at the height of the tree. See how small the watch tower looked on the photo below?

Then I looked at the wide spacings between the ladders.

I tried to imagine myself climbing up using those metal bars.

I chose the easiest option: lunch there. I didn't want to be stucked in the middle on my way down. Plus I was hungry. Plus only 4 people are allowed to be on the tree at any point of time.

So we sat on a wooden bench and had lunch. With the Diamond Tree on one side, the forest on the other side.

Hubby found a funny looking tree stump:

I wish this post is about real diamonds, the expensive solid shiny polished rocks variety. Perhaps next time. Hehehe...

Feb 6, 2009

William Bay

On the way back from the Valley of the Giants we had a short stop at William Bay.

I didn't want to get wet, so I sat on the side doing people watching while hubby got his feet wet in the water. He said it was cold!

The tour guide said that from where we were it's:
- 4,000km to the Antarctic (in the south)
- 5,000km to Darwin (in the north)

Makes me want to go to the South Pole now...

Feb 5, 2009

Ancient Empire Walk

After the Tree Top Walk we went for the Ancient Empire Walk. It's a ground level walk through a pocket of Tingle Forrest. If you're not brave/well enough to do the Tree Top version, you can do this instead.

I think the above tree looks like an old man's face. Two sleepy eyes, a round nose, and a twirly moustache. What do you think?

Here's the view of the hollow of a giant tingle tree.

The right hand picture is my take of "Beauty and the Beast" story:

Beauty = Yours Truly (=158.5cm)
Beast = an old giant tree (= way taller than moi)

Don't you dare say otherwise! Hehehe...

Feb 4, 2009

Valley of the Giants

Yesterday hubby and I went on a day trip to Valley of the Giants "Tree Top Walk" . The tour started at 8am, ended just after 11pm. A very long day.

There are interesting places on the way to and from the valley. I'll mention them in the next few days. Today is about the Tree Top Walk.

The roots of the huge Tingle trees (a member of eucalyptus tree with reddish dark brown barks) are very short. If people were to walk on the ground, the soil around the roots could be compacted, harming the roots in the process. That's why they built the walkway.

It's a 420m long elevated walkway through the trees canopy. At the highest point I was 40m over the ground. The photo above was taken from that height. Pretty cool, huh?! :)

The signs said the load limit is 20 people per span (section) and 10 people per platform ("stump" that holds separate sections of the walkway). I wasn't sure whether the maker of the signs ever considered the possibility that 20 of petite me would weigh considerably lesser (read: 50% lighter) than 20 of big tall hubby. Sure, I would have felt safer if the signs were to say exactly how much weight each span (and platform) could carry.

I was a little scarred when my section swung. Some people were stomping their way through! Why can't they just walk normally?! I became more nervous when I saw those stompers were of "certain size" (culprits aren't on the photos).

Though the stompers' size wasn't even a fraction of the giant trees size. The biggest one could shelter 20 people inside it. Therefore the "Giants" bit of the valley's name. See the above photo: there are people on the far end of the walkway.

Now try finding the people on the above photo. They are underneath the word "com". Compare that to the size of the tree. Bear in mind that the bottom of the big tree is about 30-40meters below. Amazing.

Can you spot the steel walkway?

Magnificent views.

Are they worth the butt pains caused by the long coach drive? Absolutely!

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