[THAILAND] o17. AYUTTHAYA – OF RECLINING BUDDHAS AND WISHING WELLS

Following a seafood-induced food coma and a brief exposure to Thai Buddhist rituals at renowned Wat Phanan Choeng, our local Thai friends took us on yet another cultural tour – the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, also known as Wat Lokkayasutharam. At this point it would be useful to note there are more than 2 Temples with Reclining/Sleeping Buddhas in Ayutthaya – one of which is indoors at Wat Pho, and 2 others are documented below.

In good faith, devotees typically purchase incense sticks for prayers, which came with flowers, candles, joss-sticks and 2x2cm flecks of gold paper for ‘dressing’ the Buddha. A huge test of devotion often involved patience for adhering the flimsy pieces of gold, bound to escape like seeds of the dandelion in the wind.

The first thing about ‘Sleeping Buddha’ at Wat Lokkayasutharam that amazed me was its absolute size, followed by the sense of peace upon seeing the gentle unassuming smile of the sacred giant. Putting aside fatigue of travel and accumulated stress, an aura of serenity took precedence as all else fell into the background. Away from the bustling city was this figure of faith on which many troubles were unloaded, to which hopes and dreams were articulated.

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Gold Flecks on the Reclining Buddha

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It suffices to say that the Kingdom was wealthy, to be in possession of enough to construct multiple such shrines in praise of its gods. IMG_6665

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Within the shrine more surprises were in store. Wishing wells, treacherous stairs, relics from another life. To make a wish at this particular wishing well, you have to conquer a tough flight of stairs.

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Wishing well for the weary – only by conquering a treacherous flight of stairs could you be deemed eligible to cast your wish

If one reclining Buddha wasn’t enough, we visited and prayed to yet another, this one albeit with a much brighter smile in my opinion! Don’t you feel instantly cheered up by this mega-watt beam? For a truly cultural experience this part of Ayutthaya is definitely not to be missed. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing the the local customs of praying and showing respects to local monks, as well as learning to different eacf part of the city from another by events that went down post Burmese-invasion. I don’t think there was any other way I could have learnt more from the trip.

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

10 SECRETS TO GOOD SKIN

Shh… I’m letting you guys in on what I do to keep my skin minimally flawed and young-looking.

I’m not without vices – my lifestyle certainly does a great deal of harm to my skin. Constant travelling, difficult climates, dry-air in airplane cabins, late nights, sleepless days, junk food and irregular meals, social drinking and partying – all these adds to the daunting task of damage-control, and to maintain my current skin conditions.As I get older I’ve come to realize the importance of a good skincare regime. Party season has come and gone. January and February is the time for healing and pampering the skin you’ve subjected to abuse. Over the years I’ve tried many products, methods, and these are the ones I’m gonna keep:

 

1. CLARISONIC for cleansing the skin.
If like me your work requires a high volume of makeup, the highly raved-about sonic skin-care cleansing brushes works wonders unplugging clogged pores. I got hooked onto using my Clarisonic MIA ever since I got mine from L.A. and now it’s a necessity in my day-to-day regime. I get my replacement brushes (you’ve got to change them once every 3-4 months) each time I hit the States, since it’s way cheaper in SEPHORA USA. I don’t use fancy cleansing foams: a respectable store-bought brand like Innisfree, The Face Shop or Laneige would suffice for me. The rotating motion of Clarisonic brushes gives me all the reassurance that my skin is being taken care of.

 

2. SHEET-TYPE FACE-MASKS
At least 3 times a week I engage the usual suspects who take really good care of my skin: 我的心機 (My Scheming Beauty), 我的美麗日記 (My Beauty Diary), Innisfree, Etude House, Laneige, ODBO, Acwell. In under 25 minutes I can get a variety of results depending on whether my skin feels especially dry and tight, or oily and clogged.

I get them from COSMED Taiwan, Watsons Hong Kong, and from the big brands themself in Seoul. Try not to purchase them from online stores as there’re tonnes of scams out there peddling the fakes. Yes! Even face-masks are fake these days.
On days when I do apply my face-masks, I see visible differences.

 

3. SERUM LAYERING
Like lots of people I face the dilemma of deciding which type of serum to use. Well, it never hurts to layer them. I use a good combination of 2 – 3 serums (without toners, because honestly I fail to see the use of toners) from a customised variety. I love Vichy’s Idéalia Life Serum, Laneige’s White Plus Renew Essence, Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum and Turnaround Concentrate, Innisfree’s Green Tea Seed Serum, DHC Japan’s PQQ Up-Gel and Vitamin-C Serum, Bio-Essence Radiant Youth Essence etc. Just remember to leave a good 10-second gap between each application.

 

4. OVERNIGHTERS
I never let my skin go dry in the night. After the serum shots I plump up my skin with heavy creams, especially at night. I trust Vichy’s Idéalia Night Cream, Kiehl’s 24-hour Moisturiser, Bio-Essence V Face-Lifting Cream, and Laneige’s White Plus Renew Night Cream. In the day, I rely on just a thin layer of sun-block after the serum.

Confession: I have lazy days whereby I skip all the serum and face masks steps and go straight to sleeping masks. In those instances, Laneige’s Sleeping Mask and Vichy’s Night Detox masks come in really handy.

 

5. COLLAGEN BOOSTS
I’m a big fan of Meiji’s Amino Collagen, but I find it troublesome having to dissolve it for ingestion, and for travellers who don’t always have the luxury of luggage space, powdered collagen is a hassle. Kinohimitsu’s pack-of-6 BB Beauty Drink (Blended Bird’s Nest with Acerola Cherry) is a shot of collagen I take every few months. In between these courses, I try to take SATO’s Hakubi White C pills which are way easier to take around the world with me. Honestly, this seller at Qoo10 sells Kinohimitsu at a way cheaper price than I’ve actually seen in Japanese pharmacies.
A colleague once told me that collagen takes effect from the day you start taking them, so your skin is preserved from the time you begin to ingest collagen. Do yourself a favour and start early! You don’t have to take them everyday but once in a while, the stuff does wonders.

Confession: I dissolve my Meiji Collagen in coffee to replace my milk and creamers.

 

6. TEAS TEAS AND MORE TEAS
My favourite BB Detox Tea from Kusmi Tea is my go-to morning drink (in place of my regular cappucino) after every late-night party accompanied by drinking. Also on my list are Pukka’s Detox Tea from the UK, and Arifoğlu 9-in-1 (Arifoğlu Dokuzu Bir Yerde 9 in 1 Karışık Bitkisel Çay) from Turkey. It’s no secret: green tea, yerba mate, rosemary and thyme are great for your skin in the long run. They also give you plenty of hydration, minerals and anti-oxidants.

 

7. OMEGA-3 FISH OIL SUPPLEMENTS
No way you can do without this. Unless you live in Norway and eat fish for breakfast lunch and dinner, all day everyday. I’ve only recently started to take them on a daily basis and discovered good small changes to how my T-Zones no longer secrete sebum so unwontedly and frequently.

Confession: I love smoked salmon, cooked salmon, fresh sashimi, raw salmon, steamed salmon and salmon with buttered, battered crusts. Basically anything salmon, but I suspect that has little to contribute to good skin in the long run if you’re always eating them pan-fried or oven-baked.
8. MULTIVITAMINS
This is another no-brainer. Without the essential vitamins your body simply cannot function. When the basic functions go into hibernation mode, your skin condition is compromised. So help yourself: take your daily multivitamins. I go for ALIVE! Women’s Multivitamins or Centrum.

 

I’m sure way more females have extensive skincare regimes and secrets. Do share and I hope these are little tips to pick up along the way. Your skin doesn’t get any younger. I don’t have the most perfect skin, but I try.

Viktoria Jean Li

 

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[ROME] A NIGHT AT THE VATICAN

Probably the only time you can catch the night scene outside St Peter’s Square is if you spend the night at Vatican City, or if you’re reading this as I’m about to show you a couple of my night scene captures. Outside St Peter’s Basilica on the day we arrived, there was a huge preparation for an important religious mass that would take place the day after, hence in the evening and well into the night, throngs of people gathered outside St Peter’s Square, setting up temporary food stalls and flea-market style cabins showcasing collections of costume jewellery, fine jewellery, art, tourist mementos, souvenirs, little collectibles of Vatican’s finest architecture, and flowers – from fine skinny stalks to big fluffy bouquets. As midnight approached, the crowd thinned, and melancholic street-lamps were just about the only ones creating shadows on the sidewalks. This is Vatican City at night, for you.

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[ROME] 10 SNAPSHOTS OF VATICAN CITY

Bringing to you a quick showcase of the world’s smallest independent state – all 109 acres (44 hectares) around St. Peter’s Basilica and the palace of the Vatican. In and around are beautifully preserved cultural sites, lush green gardens, and museums which feature some of the world’s most famous sculptures and paintings. Home to architectural inputs of Bramante, Michelangelo, Giacomo della Porta, Maderno and Bernini, its chapels and homes distinctly echoes of Baroque and of the Renaissance.
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St. Peter’s Basilica:

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[ROME] IN ALL ITS RUINED BEAUTY

What everyone should love about Rome: its historic ruins and scatters of exquisite shambles. Much of this city appears discarded – as if picked apart by fickle historians and deemed unworthy of more than an afterthought. Centuries of time gone by lay preserved in these archived sites, untouched by restoration, that are as common in central Rome as trees are in Hyde Park. Charmed by relics as old as the gladiators, we stopped to appreciate a seemingly forgotten piece of land. Sometimes we forget how beautiful things are, if we just let them be.

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[ROME] PIAZZA DEL POPOLO

Flanked by the Via Flaminia, Piazza del Popolo was an important entry point to Rome’s city centre for travellers entering the city via the Adriatic Coast. Today, the piazza still hums with a steady stream of travellers eager to check this off their travel itinerary. We took mandatory shots with Rome’s iconic obelisk which was initially erected to commemorate the conquest of Egypt, thereafter in 1815 the renowned Giuseppe Valadier redesigned by adding walls around the square, giving the piazza its current oval shape. The piazza’s church, Santa Maria del Popolo, located near the Porta del Popolo, contains many impressive works of art, including Rome’s oldest stained-glass windows and two famous paintings by Caravaggio.

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So much beauty and history in one place!

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[ROME] THE SPANISH STEPS

We took the best part of an hour to conquer the celebrated Piazza di Spagna, otherwise more fondly known as the Spanish Steps, which rises up towards the Church of Trinità dei Monti. Summer was shrouding us all in killer heatwaves. Nevertheless we managed to revel in the refined, eighteenth century atmosphere, once home to reknowned English poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

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Some college dude tried to breakdance. 20140727-155530-57330360.jpg

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The shots would have turned out better if the backdrop wasn’t marred by construction in progress! But still, been there, done that. Spanish Steps – checked!

Security in these tourists areas: military personnel everywhere.
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Piazza di Spagna (The Spanish Steps)

Biking the Golden Gate Bridge | Part (IV)

This is the part we say goodbye to an awesome biking expedition:
from stopping at various landmarks at San Francisco bay, to biking till the foot of the bridge, and then across the bridgeto exploring the city of Sausalito, I had so much fun that I forgot to feel tired.

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From the pier at Sausalito, we booked ferry tickets bound for Embarcadero at 10USD each (inclusive of our bikes). The ferry arrives and leaves the pier at frequent designated timings, making it uber convenient to come and go from the island. As we wheeled onto the ferry, I found myself comparing Sausalito’s residential houses to Cinque Terre. So beautiful in the sunset it was!

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Saying goodbye to the Golden Gate! Looking at you from afar once again. The sky was such a lovely addition to this landscape.20140307-164727.jpg

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Ladies and gentlemen, the island behind yours truly is the Alcatraz. This is the closest I’ve ever come to snapping a shot with the prisoner island; I will come back to set foot on it!20140307-164738.jpg

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A beautiful shot of San Francisco bay – I’m still mesmerised.20140307-164758.jpg

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So we bid farewell to the iconic structure, and to this crazy road trip which was a reckless idea borne from wanting some adventure. We spent a total of 6 hours and in this span of time, covered 8.5miles/13.5km of land on our bikes. I was so tired on the flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong, and my butt/calves/thighs/toes were hurting so bad. Still, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything ^^ and I strongly urge everyone to go for this bike trail if you’re in San Francisco. You have to, at least once in your life.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

La Galette, Copenhagen

If you love pancakes, and the French comic series Asterix, La Galette is the place for you!

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The place is a well-kept local secret as it is hidden from the sidewalk. Upon seeing the cardboard Asterix cut-out, you need to enter the gates into the yellow building and walk further in. The owners are French and boy, they do know how to whip up a good crispy pancake!

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In French, the galette is a flat, round or freeform crusty pancake – almost like a crêpe but crispier. La Galette offers both decadent sweet or savoury buckwheat pancakes. The interior is a small cosy space with an open-concept kitchen. From where I sat I could hear the chefs speaking French. When the (cute) chef served up my Pomme Caramel – pancakes with French caramelized apples – he actually said bon appetit and I melted! There’s just something about French men…

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Thereafter my Pomme Caramel tasted extra sweet and yummy!
C’était vraiment délicieux! Merci beaucoup..

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The pancakes are all within the range of DKK 40 – 110. Mine costs DKK 45 and tasted amaaazing. The range of pancakes are really stunning and varied, and you can really trust the chef to deliver the taste of French pancakes direct from Paris. Mes compliments au chef!

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La Galette
Coffee and Pancakes
Larsbjørnstræde 9
Tel: +4533323790
Opening Hours:
Mon – Sat 12:00 – 16:00 & 17:30 – 22:00,
Sun 16:00 – 22:00
Map

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[THAILAND] oo2.Island Lovin’

Headed for Thailand’s Koh Samui with my favourite travel pals in exactly 3 days’!! ❤
So stoked about scuba-diving, and living the island life in my friends’ resort. Also can’t wait to start partying at the local hotspots on Chaweng Beach.

Koh Samet Thailand

On our last trip to Koh Samet, another offshore party island in the Gulf of Thailand, we spent our afternoons snorkelling, swimming, speed-boating, tanning, scuba-diving, Thai-massaging, getting our asses bruised from bumpy rides on the island lorry and eating the freshest seafood the island has to offer.

Though we won’t be in time for Koh Samui’s famous full-moon parties, my local Thai friends insist that the island’s year round nightlife is insane. I’ll believe when I see it!

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg

Swans at Schloss Leopoldskron

A glimpse of the rococo villa from the bank across, while surrounded by a gorgeous bevy of swans. Contrary to popular belief, the Schloss Leopoldskron palace was never used as the Von Trapp villa in Robert Wise’s Sound of Music!

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Leopoldskron Palace is privately owned and not accessible to the general public, unless you’re a registered resident of the castle accommodations.

Schloss Leopoldskron River Palace
We were in Salzburg mid-September while temperature hasn’t descended to an insane low, though dark clouds and rain weren’t merciful enough to spare us.

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One of 3 scenes filmed here was of Julie Andrews and the children falling into the Leopoldskroner Weiher. I remember that so well now!

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Sound of Music Tour
Our larger-than-life, don’t-seem-like-she’s-been-doing-this-everyday-for-twenty-years tour guide.

Swans at Schloss Leopoldskron

Schloss Leopoldskron Swans riverside

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Friends who were excited at meeting swans who aren’t people-shy.

Schloss Leopoldskron
Leopoldskronstraße 56-58
5020 Salzburg

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Travel-diary: the Beauty of Christchurch

Or rather, the beauty of Peppers Clearwater.
Wouldn’t mind waking up to lakes and greens everyday!
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Facts: The February 2011 Christchurch earthquake of magnitude 6.3 killed 185 people. 4,423 earthquakes were recorded in the Canterbury region above a magnitude 3.0, from 4 September 2010 to 3 September 2012.

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Nevertheless, the city still retains such scenic beauty! Some economists estimated that it will take the New Zealand economy 50 to 100 years to completely recover…

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The villa we were staying in: right by the lake.
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Definitely adding sky-diving and bungee-jumping to my wishlist for the next trip!

“There is nowhere else in the world where, within two hours of an international airport, you can ski at a world-class alpine resort, play golf, bungy jump, raft, mountain bike, hot-air balloon, wind surf, whale watch and visit internationally-acclaimed wineries and gardens.”

London Lovin’: Notting Hill

Autumn leaves crunching beneath my feet, light rain smattering wet droplets on my leather outer. Can you imagine how happy I was to see the ‘travel bookstore’ with a blue door on Notting Hill?

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Mostly I was busy snapping pictures, head in the clouds, wishing I could step into a bookstore and meet my personal Hugh Grant.
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William: I live in Notting Hill. You live in Beverly Hills. Everyone in the world knows who you are, my mother has trouble remembering my name.
Anna Scott: I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.

The romantic comedy still gives me the chills! Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant has this electrifying chemistry that not a lot of onscreen couples (or real-life ones for that matter) have quite managed to produce.

So here I am, my camera not quite capturing the charm of Notting Hill. Its exquisite nature doesn’t scream urban city or first-world sophistication. What I love is its tame English elegance – a popular setting for numerous films and novels.
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Comprising Ladbroke Grove, Portobello Road, North Kensington, Westbourne Grove and Notting Hill Gate, Notting Hill is essentially a large district that an afternoon of exploration on foot is not gonna cover.
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A Singaporean Chinese Restaurant! Gosh 😀 a piece of home
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And here I encountered Patisserie Valerie
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Also, I found what I was looking for: Book Warehouse and Waterstones.
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FYI Novels by G.K. Chesterton (The Napoleon of Notting Hill), Colin MacInnes (Absolute Beginners), Michael Moorcock (the Jerry Cornelius quartet), RC Sherriff (The Hopkins Manuscript), and Alan Hollinghurst (The Line of Beauty) have exclusively featured Notting Hill.
As did the films The Knack …and How to Get It (1965), Performance (1970), with Mick Jagger, Notting Hill (1999) and Lava (2003).

Am ending off this post with Ronan Keating’s hit. I love the feels that the song brings.

I’m a ’90s kid and this is so nostalgic.

Book Review: I Heart London

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Published June 7th 2012 by Harper

Book Number 5 brings Angela back in full circle. She is summoned home for her mom’s 60th birthday party to a weed-rolling dad, and an ex-fiance who still wishes to stick his tongue down her throat. Plus her mom convinced the family and friends to hold the Angela-Alex wedding in 6 days’ time – right in her own London backyard!

Jenny, her best-friend-since-running-from-a-ruined-wedding-to-New-York, heads the wedding convention like a fashion tyrant, taking charge of decorations, makeup, stag/hen night, music, wedding vows…
but when New York clique meets London pals, things start falling apart.

Louisa, Angela’s best-friend-since-childhood, is now a mom and she definitely has different wedding plans for Angela. Adding to the mix is Angela’s brass-band-trumpet-playing dad who insists on trumpeting horny love songs alongside the wedding march and a cake-maker who bakes one giant car-sized cupcake instead of dozens of small bite-sized ones…

Is every consummation of love destined to be a disaster for Angela?

Alex as usual, is the perfect sweetheart in this one. Occasionally there are mentions of his slutbag days in Brooklyn, which adds to the wedding tension, but never once did he fail to make Angela the most blessed girl in London.

Aside from the big wedding, Angela, Jenny and Cici Spencer’s twin Delia are about to launch a transatlantic fashion magazine. Angela is scheduled to make a powerpoint presentation to the UK Management of Spencer Media while Delia does the French version in Paris.

With Cici Spencer back for revenge, this could possibly spell disaster!

I promise, no more spoilers. I really loved the ending, and like many readers I hope this is the end of it! It’s too perfect, a London wedding or not. I can’t imagine reading another Angela Clark in possibly a I Heart Singapore with her arms full of babies…
Although if there were any followups to the I Heart series…I know I would read it anyway.

If I HEART was ever to be made a movie, (as seen in I Heart New York)I would cast:
ANGELA CLARK: Alicia Silverstone
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ALEX REID (the rockstar): Nicholas Hoult
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JENNY LOPEZ (the best friend!): Cheryl Cole
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GRAHAM (gay drummer of The Stills – Alex’s band): Dan Stevens
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Craig (bassist, ladies’ man, playboy): Chace Crawford
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JAMES JACOB: Cam Gigandet
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LOUISA: Diane Kruger
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SADIE: Shannan Click
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Because I loved the series too much…
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SYNOPSIS
Home is where the heart is. Right? Angela Clark has fallen in love with America — and it’s starting to love her back. Throw one expired visa into the mix, and things quickly take a turn for the worse. She might love her life as a Brit in New York, but now she has no choice but to return to London. Not only does she leave behind her gorgeous boyfriend Alex — she must also face unfinished business back on home turf. There’s the ex-boyfriend — who she moved to New York to get away from. Then there’s her best friend, with her perfect new baby. And there’s her mum. Now, there’s another wedding in the offing — and everyone remembers how well the last one went …

Watching Snowflakes Fall

My friends amass all kinds of travel trinkets: keychains, fridge magnets, shot glasses, travel mugs, and even Starbucks tumblers with city names.

I’ve recently started collecting snow globes, after months of making sure I take a polaroid in every city I travel to, until my 5-year-old White Instax-Mini 25 took its last breath in Perth. (Rest in Peace my darling). Am currently using my Instax Piano-Black, but it isn’t the same. My first will always be my beloved baby.

Salzburg, Austria.
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Munich, Germany
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Milan, Italy
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Shaun-Paul got this for me, because I didn’t have time to browse the gift-shops for it when I was there.

There’s something addictiingly magical (if not clinically insane) about aimlessly watching snow flakes fall.

So, what do you collect?

Book Review: Window (Michele Renae)

I received this book in exchange for a review, and here it is!cover37450-medium
Date Published: October 22, 2013
My Ratings: 7.5 / 10

“I loved that word: decadent. Unrestrained self-gratification. Indulgence.”

Set in modern day France, this contemporary piece is written in sensual prose that tells of a girl starting afresh by moving to Paris.

“I moved for adventure. I crossed the ocean for discovery. I moved for the pastries and baguettes. I arrived on foreign soil for the sexy Frenchmen and the Eiffel Tower.”

And sexy Frenchmen she did get. He moves into the building directly across from her. Thus begins their incredibly naughty mutual seduction, a flirtatious game played across neighboring windows.

“This slightly dangerous liaison was all about sight and imagination.”

Artful voyeurism at its best, the two volley between windows, each act bolder than the next. Readers are exposed to an incredibly honest insight into the inner workings of women. Told entirely from her point of view, the man and woman never actually exchanges any words at all. Imagination leads to intimacy, build upon mere acquaintanceship and zero expectation that they will ever end up as anything more.

At the end of the night, with a flick of the wrist, the curtains are drawn and so keeps the relationship at its best – at a distance.

First in a trilogy, Renae has me hooked already. Cliffhangers be damned, bring on the second book please!

If Window were made into a movie, I would love to have these people casted:

SHE: Erin Heatherton
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HE: Ian Somerhalder
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SYNOPSIS:
An erotic romance behind glass…

The first time she sees her new neighbor, his sexy smile arouses her curiosity—and her desires. His hard, chiseled muscles and playful invitations are irresistible.

Bared before their windows, framed and displayed above the streets of Paris, they embark upon a provocative affair. Their daring game of exhibitionism lures her back for more and more, and she quickly realizes he is the man she has dreamed about.
Yet she’s never heard his voice. Never felt his touch. Never thought she’d experience something this exquisite.

Or this bold…
WINDOW is the first book in the Paris Secrets trilogy

Photo-diary: Rangitoto and Volcanoes

Fedora’s friend Ridge drove us up the coast at Mission Bay – Patteson Avenue
which overlooked the active volcano on Rangitoto Island
They say, you only live once
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What with volcanic hazards and possible reawakening of volcanic activity, this place is entirely too beautiful.
Then again, beautiful things are dangerous.
The Auckland volcanic field is fuelled entirely by basaltic magma, and is likely to erupt again within the next “hundreds to thousands of years”.
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It is expected that these volcanoes won’t erupt anytime soon. But then again there’s the volcanic ash from Mount Taranaki/Egmont, Taupo, Okataina, Tongariro and Mayor Island.
Soooo beautiful, right?
20131004-201716.jpgA heaping mound of Thai Food to warm up our frozen bodies…it was so cold by the seaside!!!20131004-201731.jpg Conclusion: most of us tropical climate creatures are just not made for winter.