Inside Birchbox | September

9/12/2019


Following my newfound trend of discussing what turns up each month in my Birchbox subscription, here's September!







Brand: Dr. Lipp
Product: Original Nipple Balm for Lips
Full-sized details: 15ml, $14.50
Sample size received: 3ml
Having constant dry lips, I'm never unappreciative of a good lip product. I've been hearing (and reading) many great things about nipple balms over the years, but being a cheapskate, I have yet to try one. This is a great opportunity, and I think this is a giant perk of having Birchbox.

Brand: Davines MOMO
Product: Moisturizing Shampoo + Conditioner - For Dry or Dehydrated Hair
Full-sized details: Shampoo: 150ml, $29.00 and Conditioner: 250ml, $33.00
Sample size received: Shampoo: 75ml and Conditioner: 12ml
This is a great little sample of the shampoo and as someone who has yet found a non-herbal essence brand that I've liked, I enjoy receiving these deluxe samples.

Brand: The Beauty Drop
Product: Lighting Crew Highlighting Cream
Full-sized details: 0.34oz, $12.00
Sample sized received: Unclear
This has a beautiful look but doesn't entirely have the effect that I want when applied. I'd forever sway toward the Mac Strobe Cream first.




Brand: HUM Nutrition
Product: Daily Cleanse® Supplements
Full sized details: 60 capsules, $25.00
Sample sized received: 6 pills - 3 days worth
I never know how to feel about sample sizes of vitamins or supplements. There are never enough for me to feel effects, so they seem pointless. But it is nice to get to try new brands. Eh.


Brand: Snow Fox

Product: Herbal Youth Collagen Boosting Mask
Full-sized details: 5 sheet masks, $45.00
Sample sized received: 1 sheet mask
Sheet masks are fun to receive as it feels like a little pamper. I tried this one the night I received my Birchbox and looking past the horrid smell, it made my skin feels plump and moisturised. Would I spend $45 on them? No.

Brand: Nothing Serious
Product: Major Moisture Gentle Cream Cleanser
Full-sized details: 4 oz, $26.00
Sample sized received: 
Skincare products are my favourite things to receive and I love a new cleanser as I haven't yet found one that's made my 'best of the best' list. This would easily last me the month, so that's always a perk. 

If you have yet to read my August post click HERE.

Mocha Mascarpone Cake | RECIPE

9/04/2019


This is my husbands go-to cake recipe that always goes down well at parties. If you like a non-overly sweet cake that has some serious chocolate game, look no further. I'm trying a new layout for this recipe, so let me know in the comments what you think of it!


CAKE

I N G R E D I E N T S

D R Y

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1+1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1+1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp instant espresso powder, dissolved in 3/4 cup of hot water

W E T

  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup (1+1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1+1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325F/Gas Mark 3. 

Generously butter two 9 inch cake pans with a depth of at least 2 inches; dust with flour, tapping out any excess. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper.

Sift cups cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Using another bowl and an electric mixer, beat your butter until it's smooth. Add in brown sugar and beat again until well blended - about 2 minutes.

Add eggs into your wet mix, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. 

Incorporate your flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk between each turn. Beat between turns just until blended. 

Gradually add your hot espresso, beating just until smooth. 

Divide batter between both prepared pans, smoothing out the tops with a rubber spatula. 

Bake cakes in the centre of the oven for roughly 40 minutes - until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool cakes in pans for 5 minutes. Then run a small knife around the sides of each pan to loosen cake. Invert onto cooling racks removing cakes from the pans, and removing the parchment. Cool completely.


F R O S T I N G 

I N G R E D I E N T S

D R Y

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 1+1/3 cups sugar

W E T

  • 1+1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 16 ounces of mascarpone cheese (usually 2 containers of 8 ounces)

Sift together your cocoa powder into a large bowl; add espresso powder.

Bring 1 cup of of the heavy cream to a boil. Slowly pour the cream over your cocoa mixture, whisking until cocoa is completely dissolved. 

Add 1/2 cup of cream and your sugar; stir until the sugar dissolved.

Chill until cold, at least 2 hours. 

Once chilled thoroughly, add your mascarpone. Using your hand miser, beat on a low speed until blended and smooth. Increase speed to medium-high; beat until mixture is thick and forms medium-firm peaks when lifted - about 2 minutes. (do not over-beat your mixture as it will curdle)



C O M B I N I N G

Place one cake layer, top side up, on a platter. Spoon 1+3/4 cups of frosting in dollops over the top of the cake. Using a spatula spread the frosting to the edges.

Top with second cake layer, top side up, pressing to adhere.

Spread a thin layer of the frosting over the top and the sides of the cake. Chill for 10 minutes.

Use the remainder of your frosting to either decorate or top up the outside of your cake.

~

And ta-da, you have a yummy cake! What's your favourite dessert?

August + N.E.W.T.s Book Wrap-Up [Career : Healer]

9/01/2019


N.E.W.T.s are officially over! This is the first year I've taken part in the Magical Readathon - otherwise known as a readathon that speaks to all the Harry Potter fans. If you have absolutely no idea what I'm referencing, check out the host's video HERE. Everything that you could possibly need is in her information box. The students of 2019 have already sat their exams, but if you're interested, I'm sure there will be a 2020 edition! We're talking Wizarding career booklets, a letter from Professor Minerva McGonagall, and so many prompts. The students of 2019 have already sat their exams, but if you're interested, I'm sure there will be a 2020 edition! I chose the career path of a carer, so here were the necessary studies I had to complete.

E in Herbology

A. Mandrake! Quick, put your headphones on! Listen to an audio book (if not - green cover)

E. Read a book between 350-390 pages

E in Charms 

A. Read a book that you think has a gorgeous cover

E. Read a comic/graphic novel/manga (or a book under 150 pages)

E in Defence Against the Dark Arts 

A. Read a book that's black under the dust jacket

E. Gilderoy's memory charm - (grab a pen!) first book you remembered just now from your TBR

E in Potions 

A. Pollyjuice potion: read your friend's favourite book

E. House ingredient: read a book with a cover in your Hogwarts house colour

E in Transfiguration 

A. Read a book with LGBTQA+ representation

E. Read a book that's not a first in the series

So, yup, you counted right. I had to read a total of  10 books to successfully pass my N.E.W.T.s. Not at all daunting! Here are the books I read for each grade, and mini wrap-ups to go alongside them.

Subject: Herbology
Grade: A
Prompt: Mandrake! Quick, put your headphones on! Listen to an audio book (if not - green cover).
An Anonymous Girl 
by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

“We all have reasons for our judgements, even if those reasons are so deeply buried we don’t recognise them ourselves.”

Following a duel narrative of two women whose lives couldn't be more different, this domestic thriller covers the most basic of plots disguised by an interesting premise; When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking… and what she’s hiding.

Sounds interesting, right? Having already read the authors best-selling debut novel The Wife Between Us, I had high hopes for this. But sadly the longer the story went on, the more basic it got. This isn't a groundbreaking thriller nor is it in anyway surprising. Not once did I feel surprise at a reveal in the story, it only got more predictable. I did still rate it a solid 3 stars, because the first half held my interest. If you enjoy thrillers, I'd say give it a read anyway. It definitely isn't the worst I've read. But if thrillers aren't usually your jam and you're trying to get into the genre, this wouldn't be a great starting point.
Rating: ★★★


Subject: Herbology
Grade: E
Prompt: Read a book between 350-390 pages
Three Wishes 
by Liane Moriarty

“Baths, she thought, were just like her relationships, all "ooh, ah" in the beginning and then suddenly, without warning, she had to get out, out, out!” 

The Kettle sisters - Gemma, Lyn and Cat - have always been inseparable, which makes sense given the fact that they're triplets. This year they're turning thirty-three. What's defining their year? Divorce, pregnancy, the beginning of a relationship, a raging toddler, career woes, and an overall loss at what to do with their lives. Smashing.

This is the definition of a chic-lit novel but having read a good few of Liane's books prior to this, I still went in with high hopes. Sadly, it kinda fell flat. The story was well written and though unrealistic at times, enjoyable. My problem was with how insufferable our main three women were. They were selfish, whiny, and I honestly couldn't care less what happened to them. I expected more from the author who brought us Big Little Lies.
Rating: ★★★


Subject: Charms
Grade: A
Prompt: Read a book that you think has a gorgeous cover.
The Goldfinch 
by Donna Tartt

“Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only—if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty?”

When an explosion in a museum kills his mother, 13-year-old Theo finds himself still standing, concussed, with the notorious painting The Goldfinch in his bag. Worth millions and mourned for by the art world, the teenager doesn't know how to go about returning it. In this book by the author of The Secret History, we follow Theo as he becomes a man and the trails that goes hand-in-hand with ageing.

This is one hefty book, with an even heftier story. The writing was beautiful, I devoured Donna Tartt's way of describing near about everything. Which is good, as she does describe literally everything that Theo comes into contact with. I vastly preferred the first third of this 500+ page novel, as the last portion dragged at times. Though I think that's to be expected. The characters were written wonderfully and I found myself truly caring for Theo - even when he was being a complete dumbass. If you enjoy literary fiction that's been made to be all pretty in the writing, then pick this up. If over writing bothers you, run like hell.
Rating: ★★★★★


Subject: Charms
Grade: E
Prompt: Read a comic/graphic novel/manga (or a book under 150 pages).
Chi's Sweet Home Vol. 2 
by Kanata Konami

When Chi is found wandering the world with no place to go, he gets taken in to live with the Yamada's. In this second volume of the story, Chi has gotten comfortable with his new family so curiosity and making his own opinion ne heard now comes naturally to him. How naughty can a little kitten be?

This is the first manga series I've read, and it is adorable. Who doesn't love illustrated cats getting up to no good?
Rating: ★★★★★


Subject: Defence Against the Dark Arts
Grade: A
Prompt: Read a book that's black under the dust jacket.
Coraline 
by Neil Gaiman

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Like any young girl, Coraline is a curious child. She loves to spend her days exploring the garden of her home, finding new adventures to occupy her mind. When a door that 'leads to nowhere'  in her house suddenly opens, she gets sucked into a world of terror that may keep her from ever returning home.

I just don't think I like Neil Gaiman's style of writing. I know, the controversy! This book was okay, not great, not terrible.. just, okay. I didn't get swept up into the world, the illustrations didn't keep me interested, and the characters didn't hold my interest. What author can you just not get into?
Rating: ★★★


Subject: Defence Against the Dark Arts
Grade: E
Prompt: Gilderoy's memory charm - (grab a pen!) first book you remembered just now from your TBR.
A Man Called Ove 
by Fredrik Backman

“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”

Ove has a routine that help define his days. He wakes up, makes coffee - real coffee, not the hipster type people drink nowadays, goes on his morning neighbourhood check, goes to work, comes home, eats a dinner of meat and potatoes, goes to bed. It's a routine that works. But when he suddenly becomes unemployed, everything is thrown into shambles. He wants to die. But when a new strange family moves in on the street and continuously gets in his way, his story takes an unexpected path.

I enjoy Fredrik Backman's writing, and this was no exception. I loved this book, it made me laugh, cry, and do everything in between. It was a literary roller coaster of emotions. Ove was a loveable ass, and his story was one that touched my heart. The only downside I couldn't look past was the repeated fat shaming that grew frustrating and stopped this from being a 5 star read.
Rating: ★★★★★


Subject: Potions
Grade: A
Prompt: Pollyjuice potion: read your friend's favourite book.
A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet 
by Becky Chambers

“All you can do, Rosemary – all any of us can do – is work to be something positive instead. That is a choice that every sapient must make every day of their life. The universe is what we make of it. It’s up to you to decide what part you will play.” 

The Wayfarer is a tunnelling ship made up of an array of species, all of which add something vital to this crew. We have the tough but loveable captain, the sweet-natured pilot, the respectful navigator, the quirky engineers, the foul-tempered algaeist, and the heart of the ship. When Rosemarie comes on board as their new book keeper, things begin to change. She's human and is hiding a secret that has impacted the galaxy.

We all have books on our TBR that we know we're going to enjoy, yet we're reluctant to pick them up as they become too..  familiar. This is one of my husband @BilliamSWN's favourite books. He sold it to me as a more varied version of Firefly, which instantly sold it, of course. And I loved it. It was exactly what I expected, which could've easily made it boring but instead made it feel homely.
Rating: ★★★★★


Subject: Potions
Grade: E
Prompt: House ingredient: read a book with a cover in your Hogwarts house colour
The Help 
by Kathryn Stockett

“I always order the banned books from a black market dealer in California, figuring if the State of Mississippi banned them, they must be good.” 

After sitting on my TBR for way too long, I finally picked up this modern classic. Set in the 1960's in Mississippi, society girl Skeeter decides to put together a book interviewing all the black women living in the town who have spent their lives raising and serving the white women.

I didn't know what to expect going into this as I haven't seen the movie, but I absolutely adored it. I loved the characters, and I so badly wanted to know most of them in real life. Despite it being written in multiple POV's, I never felt disappointed when jumping from character to character - a rarity for me. I'd most definitely recommend you giving this a go.
Rating: ★★★★★


Subject: Transfiguration
Grade: A
Prompt: Read a book with LGBTQA+ representation
Every Heart A Doorway 
by Seanan McGuire

“You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. Nancy tumbled once, but now she's back. Moving into a school for children like her, who have returned, she tries to adjust to the 'normal' world again. But when students start dying, her and her group of friends have to try and figure it out.

This is the first novella in the 'Wayward Children' series written by a woman who writes literal marmite. Everyone either loves or loathes her style, my husband being on the latter end of this. Check out his... heated.. review HERE. I on the other hand enjoyed this short, wacky, but weirdly readable book.
Rating: ★★★★ (3.5)


Subject: Transfiguration
Grade: E
Prompt: Read a book that's not a first in the series
Down Among The Sticks And Bones
by Seanan McGuire

“Some adventures require nothing more than a willing heart and the ability to trip over the cracks in the world.”

Set before the events in Every Heart A Doorway, we follow twin sisters Jack and Jill as they go through their personal doorway into the moors.Choosing to follow their 'true' selves, Jack finds herself working for a doctor who seeks to conquer death, while Jill becomes a princess to The Master. A mysterious man who dines on thick red liquid and nothing else.

I 100% would've put off picking up this sequel if it didn't revolve around the only character I truly liked from book one. However, I'm indecisive on how I felt about it. Though it gave us as readers an opportunity to jump straight into the world without the introduction to a bazillion characters, it somehow still felt slow. It didn't give me the eerie True Blood style of world I wanted.
Rating: ★★★★ (3.5)


To go alongside my N.E.W.Ts I somehow managed to pick up another four books. Yay for insomnia! In the spirit of the readathon I chose to give Harry Potter another try in audiobook form. (Guess I'm going to have to give my Goodreads bio a refresh!) Brace yourself for an unpopular opinion, I didn't wholeheartedly love it. Keep reading to probably hate me a little more.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 
by J. K. Rowling 

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

Harry Potter finds out he's a wizard. It's a good time for all.

Though I liked this, I didn't necessarily love it. I think a huge factor in this is that it very closely resembled the movie, which I've seen a fair few times. It made it a little.. boring to me. It was too familiar and as I haven't yet found the Hogwarts world to be comforting. I will say that the narrator did an excellent job, if you excuse the whiny Hermione voice that ought to be illegal.
Rating: ★★★★


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
by J. K. Rowling

“When in doubt, go to the library.” 

Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts. Once again, things go tits-up.

I had similar emotions toward this book as I did with the first. It was familiar and because of that, a little.. 'haven't I read this before?' and slow paced. I will continue with the series, as I'm already more interested in some of the characters. I didn't know that Ginnie had a personality! But I haven't yet hopped onto the Hogwarts Express fangirl train.
Rating: ★★★★


The Color Purple
by Alice Walker

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.” 

Written though a collection of letters to God, Celie is an underprivileged black woman who has spent her childhood being raped and abused by her father. Now a married woman (though force) to Mr_____, she talks about her new found friendship with renowned singer Shug.

For it's time, this is a beautifully written book covering the topic of feminism, race, and what it was like to be a woman of the past. However, after I finished, I just can't put my finger on the purpose of the story. Celie undoubtedly grows into herself throughout the book, but I don't think that benefits any of the others characters very much. Unlike say, The Help, I didn't feel connected to The Color Purple. I didn't ache for the characters, and in all honesty, the constant 'button' talk felt quite.. out of place.
Rating: ★★★


Into The Water
by Paula Hawkins

“She felt it when she woke, not a presence but an absence.” 

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Having read The Girl On The Train and disliking it, I wasn't too sure what to expect with this. It was exactly as I expected, a B-type thriller that I wouldn't necessarily recommend but not one that I loathe. It was just.. okay.

Rating: ★★★ (2.5)

And there we have it! I don't think I'll be taking part in any readathon's during the month of September, so I'm looking forward to reading whatever I want. How was your reading in August? Find a new favourite book? Let me know!


8 Books To Read If You Liked The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

8/26/2019


Early last year, I finally took the plunge and picked up the daunting book that was The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Having not really delved into the world of historic fiction before, let alone books that take place over the course of WWII, I was dubious as to whether it'd be my cup of tea. As you can probably guess, my worries were for absolute nought as I found myself finishing this 500+ page book in under 48 hours. I loved it. It has now taken a place on my favourite books of all time list, and I have since picked up almost every Kristin Hannah book. But after finishing The Nightingale, I found myself wanting more. Wanting more hard-hitting historic fiction with characters who I can get behind, war time shouldn't be a niche of books that someone enjoys, yet I find it as devastating as it is interesting. It was such a dark period of our history but one I think you ought to educate yourself on. If you choose to do this through historical fiction, then so be it. Here is a list of other books that have a similar vibe to the The Nightingale.

The Tattooist Of Auschwitz
by Heather Morris 

In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival - scratching numbers into his fellow victims' arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.

Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale - a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer - it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too.

So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz.


The Girl You Left Behind
by Jojo Moyes

France, 1916. Sophie Lefevre must keep her family safe whilst her adored husband Edouard fights at the front. When she is ordered to serve the German officers who descend on her hotel each evening, her home becomes riven by fierce tensions. And from the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie's portrait - painted by Edouard - a dangerous obsession is born, which will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision.

Almost a century later, and Sophie's portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before he died. A chance encounter reveals the painting's true worth, and its troubled history. A history that is about to resurface and turn Liv's life upside down all over again .


Lilac Girls
by Martha Hall Kelly

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline's world is forever changed when Hitler's army invades Poland in September 1939--and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents--from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland--as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.


The Alice Network
by Kate Quinn

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth...no matter where it leads.


The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak 

1939, Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.


All The Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic layers within the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of Natural History. The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris.

And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer 

It's 1946. The war is over, and Juliet Ashton has writer's block. But when she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey - a total stranger living halfway across the Channel, who has come across her name written in a second hand book - she enters into a correspondence with him, and in time with all the members of the extraordinary Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Through their letters, the society tell Juliet about life on the island, their love of books - and the long shadow cast by their time living under German occupation. Drawn into their irresistible world, Juliet sets sail for the island, changing her life forever.



The Paris Architect 
by Charles Belfoure

In 1942 Paris, gifted architect Lucien Bernard accepts a commission that will bring him a great deal of money - and maybe get him killed. But if he's clever enough, he'll avoid any trouble. All he has to do is design a secret hiding place for a wealthy Jewish man, a space so invisible that even the most determined German officer won't find it. He sorely needs the money, and outwitting the Nazis who have occupied his beloved city is a challenge he can't resist.

But when one of his hiding spaces fails horribly, and the problem of where to hide a Jew becomes terribly personal, Lucien can no longer ignore what's at stake. The Paris Architect asks us to consider what we owe each other, and just how far we'll go to make things right.

Written by an architect whose knowledge imbues every page, this story becomes more gripping with every soul hidden and every life saved.


What books would you compare to The Nightingale?



Inside Birchbox | August

8/17/2019


I enjoy my monthly Birchbox subscription. Beauty boxes tend to have an 'eh' reputation in the Blogosphere but I think that's partly down to the many sponsored posts/videos we were bombarded with during the early days of bloggers beginning to get paid. I finally took the plunge in trying out Birchbox when I started to get into skincare but didn't really know what brands to try. Since then, I have kept up with my subscription as I found myself actually using and loving a good portion of the products that I receive. At the off chance that you've been debating whether or not to sign up for yourself, I thought it may be interesting to do an insiders look into a box every now and again. Without further ado, this is what was in August's box.







Brand: LIVING PROOF
Product: Perfect Hair Day 5-in-1 Styling Treatment 
Full-size details: 118ml, $28 
Sample size received: 30ml
Comb a pea sized amount through damp hair and in return receive volume, colour protection, softness, UV rays blockage, and protection from heat damage! This is a multi use product at it's finest and I'm looking forward to seeing how my hair takes it. The size is rather generous so I foresee it lasting me over a month, especially as I wouldn't choose to use something like this after every shower.

Brand: LIPSTICK QUEEN
Product: Dating Game Lipstick - Bad Boy
Full-sized details: $24
Sample size received: Full sized.
I've received many full-sized makeup products in Birchbox, which is always a perk. This lipstick is great and the price alone pays for the monthly box. However, I find the colour choice peculiar. I would've preferred a more versatile shade. 

Brand: COOLA
Product: Dawn Patrol Classic Primer SPF 30
Full-sized details: 30ml, $42
Sample size received: 5ml
Near enough every month includes a primer or moisturiser, which is (sadly) my favourite part. Each one tends to be 30ml and lasts me exactly a month - it's almost witchcraft. Coola is a regular brand that gets included. With it's added SPF, I can't complain. 




Brand: ILLAMASQUA 
Product: Gel Sculpt - Silhouette
Full-sized details: 8g, $32
Sample size received: 4g
This is the risk product of the box, at least in my opinion. Not many of us contour, and the shade of something like this is of course a personal choice. The formula is soft and blends rather easily, however I'm not sure how often I'd reach for this.

Brand: JULIETTE HAS A GUN
Product: Vanilla Vibes Eau de Parfum
Full-sized details: 100ml, $135
Sample size received: Standard sample perfume spray.
Perfume samples are always hit or miss with recipients, as many put them in a drawer and proceed to forget about their existence. I personally love them as I haven't yet found my "signature scent". If I were more wealthy, this would undoubtedly be it. 

Brand: LISE WATIER
Product: Waterproof Eyeliner - Acajou
Full-sized details: $24
Sample size received: Travel sized
A similar situation as with the contour stick, this is a risk product. However, I think an eye-liner is far more simple to introduce to your daily makeup routine.


Have you tried Birchbox or another beauty box? Let me know! 


I Ticked The Wrong Box | Why Therapy Didn't Help Me

8/10/2019


Sitting in the waiting room, my entire body was a pit of dread. My knee wouldn't stop bobbing, it annoyed me. I wanted to fidget but didn't want to bring attention to myself. It felt like a Sunday night when I was still in school, the pit of my stomach had flipped in on itself. The threat of vomit caused my throat to contract.

I was struggling. I needed help. And this stranger was going to ask how I was doing. I'd been referred by a pain clinic to this particular therapist. They wanted me to open up about the constant pain my body was putting me through, they didn't realise that the true pain had taken up residency inside my mind. I'd rehearsed what I was going to say. She might ask, 'So how are you doing?' and I was going to respond with 'Not very well, to be honest. I've been struggling a lot lately and I think I need help.' I'd said it back to my reflection multiple times, I didn't want to stammer. I wanted to finally help myself. 

She called my name, I felt the floor get swiped from beneath me. I heard my own heartbeat during the walk from the waiting room to the office. Everything was too loud. Had life always had a ticking sound? I couldn't remember. I saw dots. I found myself sitting down on an uncomfortable chair, her sitting down facing me. I noticed her earrings. Droplets with a green gem. Pretty.

"So before we get started, I want you to fill in this form. It's just some questions for me to get a sense of where you're at." she said.

Looking down at the paperwork she gave me, it asked some simple questions such as my name, age, how many hours I tend to sleep at night. But the further I got down the page, I was faced with questions such as:

Do you feel unhappy?
☐ Never
☐ Sometimes
☐ Often
☐ Always

Do you have suicidal thoughts? 
☐ Never
☐ Sometimes
☐ Often
☐ Always

I swallowed what felt like a brick, glancing up at the stranger as she filled in paperwork of her own. If I ticked those dreaded Always boxes, I'd feel like I was lying. It was too easy. What if she didn't take me seriously? It's only a stupid box. She hadn't really smiled yet, I couldn't even remember her name. My own words weren't going to be my answer, this ought to be easier, but the thought of her reading over this form and assuming whatever she was going to assume without me getting to explain.. the thought was torturous. I ticked the Sometimes boxes. 

She thanked me, took away the form, read it over, and put it down with a smile. We started talking. She asked me how I was feeling overall. I was honest.

"I've been struggling lately, for the past year or so. It seems to keep getting harder - both the pain and my mood. I've been down a lot, and I don't really know how to get help for it."

I felt a little lighter, I'd done it. Her brows furrowed, looking down at the form I had filled it.

"Well, you aren't depressed." she declared, easy, as though it were obvious. "So, I don't see what the problem is."

I stuttered, after all that prep, I stuttered. "I didn't want to seem stupid on the form. I didn't know how to answer."

"You aren't depressed." she repeated, talking as though I was dumb. 

I should've argued my case,  but does one have to argue the reasons why they're happy? It was confusing. So instead of the words I've since spoken a million times in my head, I came back with a pathetic "Oh, okay.".

We then spoke about other things that attribute to life. In regard to the physical pain, she said I had a healthy mentality toward it. Which was ironic. We discussed food, I said I'd always had an unhealthy relationship with it, she dismissed it as I was a healthy weight. I felt unheard. Like I was suddenly a pot of clay and she was moulding me to what I ought to be.


I've since gotten a little better about dealing with the haziness that was my life back then. But I still have really bad days, and at this point in my life, I no longer know whether it's a normal way to live. I had years after that therapy session (I didn't return) of what I refer to as 'loud brain days', and though it wasn't necessarily her duty to take me at my word, I can't help but wonder what would've happened if I'd ticked the right box. Or even better, if she'd of listened to me. I'm still obsessed with food, a fact I'm too ashamed to outright admit. (Why does typing out your darkest secrets not feel so scary?) Could she of referred me to someone who may of helped with that? Or is it okay? 

It's okay to save yourself. I have, a dozen of times. But the problem with it is that you only ever have yourself as a reference. I don't know what's a healthy amount of depression, or obsession, or self hatred. I've only ever been me, and I can easily imagine others going through a similar situation and not speaking up. So maybe it's normal, maybe I'm just overthinking it. Are humans all just suffering and sucking it up? I'm like a one person support group at this point, and I'm not very helpful.

If you're heading towards your first therapy session, don't be scared. Just because it didn't work out for me doesn't mean it won't for you. It's like a blind date, you may meet your personal jackpot. For me, personally, I've had two different therapists in my life. One was lovely and wanted to help, I just wasn't ready. And when I was ready, I didn't have the right therapist. It's the way of life.



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