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Author: Liesl Johnstone

Sustainable Beauty

Sustainable Beauty

When it comes to beauty products, here’s the bottom line: care for the environment and end up caring optimally for yourself on the side.


Sustainable Beauty


That’s the message from the results of research. Studies into problematic ingredients in personal care and cosmetic products have found that we should be avoiding those containing parabens. These are widely used cosmetic preservatives, and not particularly earth-friendly either.

Environmentally speaking, both the products we choose to put on our skins and how we dispose of them when they’re finished really matter. Billions of units of cosmetic packaging are produced globally every year and some cosmetic companies are rightly encouraging sustainable practices like separating out the non-recyclable packaging from the recyclable.


Quick fact: What can’t be put into kerbside recycling are the flexible tubes, the bottle pumps, caps, plus used lipsticks and eyeliners. Large tubs of creams and potions can be finished, washed out and recycled, as can things bought in glass containers.
It turns out that natural ingredients which have not been genetically modified, and which are certified organic and non-synthetic, will not do as much harm to our environment as the alternatives. Plus, they’re far likelier to be better for you.

The latest buzz-phrases in what’s good in cosmetics are ‘wild-crafted’ or ‘food-grade’ ingredients. Health-wise, the ‘endocrine-disrupting-chemicals’ are to be avoided and these are spotted as chemical names ending in ‘paraben’.
If in doubt, consult your pharmacist.



The season of entertaining

The season of entertaining

Entertaining shouldn’t seem a chore. If hosts are having fun, guests have a ticket to relax. Simple catering puts emphasis on friendships; not elaborate food.


The season of entertaining


It’s great to make a sweet slice ahead of time; even better if it’s flourless for gluten-free or low-carb guests. Chocolate-based recipes that use ground almonds are fab.  Next, a trip to the supermarket will do almost all of the food-and-drink prep for you. That’s because a few luxe ingredients are often all it takes to make an occasion feel special and taste delicious. A range of different craft beers and wines to different tastes will cater to everyone.

Good-quality breads and crackers are ideal. Ciabatta can be fried up in quality olive oil with a little lemon, garlic or chilli seasoning to become the basis for a dipping-platter to accompany drinks. It’s a good idea to research which relishes and salad dressings are your favourites, then simply add sour cream and make dressing bowls to accompany freshly chopped vegetables.

Good quality nuts, olives and cheeses, partially dried fruits, naan breads, guacamole, plus pastry nibbles from the supermarket’s freezers are all good investments for the outdoor entertaining season. Cream, full-fat yoghurt, sodas, tonics, limes, lemons and fresh herbs will all be useful when presenting platters and drinks.

Creatively concoct mocktails using drink concentrates as the base flavour. If the colour’s gorgeous, all the better. Add napkins and jugs of iced water to your table, and voila!



Melbourne’s calling

Urban therapy: Melbourne’s calling

It’s the holiday time of year. Liesl Johnstone looks at why Melbourne is hot property for your travel itinerary.


Melbourne’s calling


Almost-summer is as good a time as any for some Aussie urbanity; some Melbourne time. Wake up here, and things could definitely be worse. Straight from New Zealand, there are a couple of extra hours before the alarm, for starters.

It’s becoming a repeatable luxury that I would highly recommend…. to station myself in the midst of a bustling city a few levels up off the street (for views and interest, allowing reasonable airspace from traffic sirens) to observe life, think, walk, read, eat and drink, then sleep and repeat. Did I mention the shopping?

As someone whose cultural norm was unfailingly to ‘get away from it all’ beside the sea or into the mountains whenever possible, city breaks are a new burst of neon. Occasionally there’s something strangely comforting about being in the midst of a large bustling population. Ditto, to walk down the street at night surrounded by teeming humanity; many pedestrians; copious night-cyclists.

Parts of Melbourne’s CBD (and Sydney’s) are not dissimilar to Paris, or any city of millions. The trees and old architecture lend beauty and respectability; the street art and talented (auditioned) buskers


Melbourne’s calling


proffer whimsy and edginess. Trams are yet another reason to love it here, giving so many such ease of access; a domino to the city’s vibrancy.The State Library of Victoria seems enough proof that Melbourne has a silken lining of learning, heritage and high culture. It’s beautiful architecturally; the fourth most popular library in the world, according to the city’s official visitor guide. The La Trobe Reading Room has that hushed, grandiose feel you get from a mix of history, the patina of quality timber, big airspace and gracious balconies.

Melbourne is a true melting-pot culture and notably one with incredible menus, globally sourced. I conducted a proper scientific straw poll, questioning two local dedicated gastronomic consumers on their favoured city establishments. Checking these out online showed a plethora of Trip-Advisor back-up and hearty recommendations. In a city this size, that equals booking weeks ahead.

If a weekend ‘Spice Journey’ appeals, try booking at Maha, which bills itself as an ‘unrestricted Middle Eastern’ eatery. Duck-fat hummus, preserved lemon, charred chicken kefta, Persian cherries, smoked almonds… plus a truly global range of craft beers and inventive, other-worldly cocktails.


Melbourne’s calling


Other well-patronised, gloriously centrally-located eateries included Sezar, an Armenian establishment with a geographically extensive wine-list; Tonka, with its ‘clean, punchy flavours’ of modern India, and Taxi Kitchen with its fabulously brash marketing (announcing unequivocally that you’ve arrived) and its inventive Aussie-Asian-fusion menu. The latter is perfect for savouring local fish, meat and a flavour-kaleidoscope of dumplings.

Other favourite haunts include the Peruvian Pastuso, (particularly noteworthy for its fab spirits menu, drawn from all over the globe), and the South-East-Asian Red Spice Road with artfully presented fresh fare and mind-blowing taste hits.

The conclusion? Any cuisine in the world can be found here, lovingly crafted; likewise any fashion. Alternatively, sit riverside on the South-Wharf boardwalk and do nothing. There’s no compunction to consume. Being somewhere different and just thinking is a re-boot too.



Organic themed rooms

Organic themed rooms

It’s ideal to take design cues from the characteristics of a place.


Organic themed rooms


The perfect room for a geometric or organic wallpaper might, for instance, be one with a window overlooking a stunning copper beech tree, if the chosen pattern repeats the leaf shape or colour. So before going shopping, take a couple of pictures in the room. Which architectural shapes and scales are already on site? Look at the window shapes and sizes. Which shapes or patterns outside are within view?

If there’s an organic theme you can repeat, that’s often a successful strategy. We love repeated pattern, or shades of the same colour. Our eyes crave a certain amount of order and repetition. For an organically-themed room, it feels good to include something natural or rustic, like a vase of blooms or a potted tree. We love symmetry and we also delight in the restful qualities of green.

Vary the scale of similar shapes in other furnishings. To finish your room, it’s fun to add something unexpected, slightly crazy, or whimsical. Don’t over-think it. Often the parting touch on a successful scheme happens almost by accident.



Manscaping Magic

Manscaping Magic

Don’t be put off by ‘Manscaping’. It’s just a cute term for grooming. It underlines that everyone benefits from grooming, especially before big events.

Manscaping Magic


The facial jobs that need to be done can be checked out in the rear-view mirror when stationary, in good daylight. There are delete-able horrors you don’t notice in uneven bathroom light, like an attack of hair-sprout in the wrong spots. If you don’t fancy the tweezing-out process, there are plenty of hair dressers, man-scapers and beauty therapists who are happy to help.

Eyebrows and hair can be tidied up simultaneously; always a boon to self-confidence. Be careful to tell the therapist your desired outcome, however. You may choose to darken your brows slightly, leaving them slightly imperfect and natural-looking.  Also – at this time of year, thirsty facial, neck and arm skin all benefit from attention. It’s said that unmoisturised skin ages 40 percent faster than the regularly moisturised. A clay mask from the pharmacy is the ideal starting point. When washing this off, use tepid, lukewarm water and an old flannel. This is great skin-preparation for moisturiser.

Choose a moisturiser with a pleasing feel, unscented. When unperfumed, you can get closer in around the eyes without reaction. Fatty moisturising creams are often scent-neutral. Next, add some sharp shades!
For the rest of the face, neck and arms, moisturiser should include a good sun-protection factor. Add deodorant, gorgeous aftershave and clean filed nails, and you’re handsome.



Flavours & fun

Liesl Johnstone gets us up to the play on what’s hot in culinary circles for the upcoming year.



It’s usually something bigger than hunger that drives us to eat out. Yes, there are different world cuisines that we individually gravitate toward, but eating out is all about the vibe. The tastes and tummy-filling are only marginally more crucial than the entertainment of watching life unfold, and of how the dishes are presented. Whose menu reads ‘beef stew’ anymore? Not that many. There might be reference to an exotic location, or a less common protein incarnation. There’s an increasing trend toward accommodating differing dietary requirements, which can only mean progress.

The conventional favourites are marketed with a twist. It’s more exciting. The menu-read is primary. A beautifully nominative dish will have your salivary glands working out.  Dishes with garnishes (now there’s a throw-back-word) are a case in point. The predictable’s gone. It’s not often fruit jellies or jams. If there’s gooseberry on the menu, it’ll be couched as ‘Gooseberry afterthought’ or ‘Gooseberry sheep’s ankle’, and any jam will feature something from forest or field, or a woman’s name. Try ‘sorrel jam,’ ‘rosemary jam’ or ‘smoked marjoram jam’ (try saying that fast).

Good menus now found in our fab re-establishing city will reference everywhere in the world you could think of. Chefs of Christchurch might soon start referencing our own Kiwi regions as well as the far-flung. Our wine is proudly known by district, and local regionality in dishes might next become more of a thing. It’s happened with paint colours, after all. We already have Bluff oysters and Kaikoura crayfish, but how about Dunsandel fennel-cakes or Oamaru Tiramisu? That has a certain ring. Or Puhoi blackberry cheesecake? We might ramp up the referencing of our own Otautahi neighbourhoods. Canterbury has some evocative place-names, whether in English or Maori; even French. Let’s get regionally specific with dishes!

Now our town is humming again and establishments are filling up with live music and clientele, it’s the places with creatively low lighting, quirky unexpected décor and high comfort levels that are drawing the diners. If lighting’s low enough in the bathrooms, we can indulge in thinking we look very fine, even in the wake of too much food and liquid. This is all part of our city’s re-boot; the trend toward creative, left-field ideas. It started in the immediate earthquake aftermath of 2010 and 2011 with seemingly random-themed large-scale art on buildings and in vacant lots.

Dining is all about feeling good, and increasingly, about marketing itself to all of our senses. Satisfaction is about the flavour of the sum, including colour, texture, saltiness, surprise and delight. Canterbury restauranteurs and chefs, we love that you’re not constrained by straitjacket foodie traditions. Stay experimental!



Hair today, gone tomorrow

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Now’s the time to give your hair a little consideration. We’re often told gorgeous hair is a matter of health and good diet, which makes sense.

Hair today, gone tomorrow


So foods high in good fats and proteins are the way forward. Salmon, chicken, cheeses, olive oil, avocados, nuts… all feed hair volume and gloss from within. Add at least one egg a day, plus one brazil nut, to be selenium-safe.
Then there’s the question of how to style your healthy hair for the fun days ahead, for Cup Day, and all the other seasonal dress-ups. Elaborate up-do, or a certain cut and stylised treatment?

As with dressing, retro looks are still conquering all, such as ‘80s rock-star perms, conferring luscious heads of curls, or the dead-straight and glossy, with the middle-part. Then there’s the kinked, balayaged ombre long-bob, fringed or not.
Two things are worth considering. The first is to make a hair appointment for the ideal time, so that you’ll look beautiful, no matter which style you choose.

The second is to play devil’s advocate with your tresses. Essentially this is the law of opposites. Be contrary. If your dress is very tailored or fitted, go loose, flowing and more natural on the hair front. Conversely, if you’re in a sharp-looking yet oversized double-breasted jacket (left swinging open), a close-groomed-cut and architectural sunglasses could look fab.


If a hat or fascinator is in the mix, take it to the hairdresser and, a tad of back-combing later, your best look will materialise.



Maxed Out

Maxed Out

Change is afoot in the zeitgeist. People used to be afraid of dressing-up too much and err on the side of caution. When in doubt of the dress-code, they’d default-dress in black.


Maxed Out


But, for Cup and Show week, plus spring in general, it’s a case of new city, new attitude! A great dress for this mantra is the maxi. Roll out the red carpet. This is the dress that commits. It’s a show of strength and says you’re not afraid to be elegant. Wearing a maxi, particularly one that colourfully sports a large-scale print, is a fab brand of fearlessness.


The maxi dress is a freedom-fighter; a spirit-lifter. In a hue-rich incarnation, the maxi doesn’t require much else. Wearing one shows that you were probably born since the ‘70s. Or, if you remember the maxi the first time around, that the memories are good. It’s a flattering silhouette that’s circumnavigated the globe, outlasting trends. And right now it seems perfect.

Fashion these days abounds in options. You can either rock the almost-maxi and flash some ankle and gorgeous shoes, or wear stilts and cover the evidence in fabric. You can opt for tier-or-ruffle dressing (for instance, see Trelise Cooper’s, Kate Sylvester’s or Maggie Marilyn’s new season dresses for inspiration) or go sleek and body-con. The maxi might have sheer panels of skirting, or a low back, or have one shoulder down. All are beautiful, indie ways of living in a more glamorous universe.



Geometric Vibes

Geometric Vibes

This is a recipe for cool vibes at home: a blast of geometric wallpaper. ‘Blast’ is a technical term for one wall, but don’t hold back if you don’t want to. Go ahead and wallpaper the whole room.


Geometric Vibes



It may sound scary, but the reality of wallpaper these days is exciting and energising. If you’re timid about giving pattern a go, ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen? Maybe a badly applied paper, but you can engineer-out that possibility by hiring a pro.

Don’t hold back if you don’t want to


Interior design shops are a great place to start. How big a pattern do you want to live with? Check out papers and room schemes online, and notice something? Geometric papers are actually easy on the eye, particularly in pale incarnations. Papering one wall can define a part of the room in a vertical way that nothing else can. Rugs do the same horizontally, delineating floor spaces.
Pattern can work for you in unexpected ways. It’s helpful to drop all of your stylistic preconceptions, and let your eye be the judge. You see, large (and therefore sparse) geometric prints can work wonders in small rooms. It might feel safer to use a small repeating print, but the sum total is actually a busier, more cluttered feel.

But even clutter can sometimes be wonderful. There really are no rules. For instance, a tiny-print wall can be ‘decluttered’ visually by the addition of a large mirror. If at first you’re not content, add



Vive la contrast

Vive la contrast: Successful dressing formula

Dramatic and chic are two words for the black and white aesthetic. If you want an easy yet successful dressing formula, this is it.


Vive la contrast


However, colour theorists and stylists might add a note of caution. First, make sure your colouring suits black and white. You might look ideal alongside soft off-whites or cream, but become very wan in the presence of whiter-than-white. Or you might once have suited black, but not these days, at least not near your face. Grey, silver and creamier-whites might be the flattering version. Trust the mirror’s take on it.

Street style fashion shots plus current window displays are featuring black and white combos plus a single bright or a single pastel. If you want to wear your bright red and white patterned pants and white sneakers with a black-and-white striped shirt, go for it. Pattern clash equals sass – in a good way.


Black and white are the basis for a whole heap of great outcomes


Large prints (largely floral this season) featuring black and dusky pink, or black and turmeric are another current piece of sartorial goodness. There are exceedingly pretty options in the shops right now. If sticking to just black and white, why not do it in style with extravagant detailing like ruffle sleeves, a sequinned scene, or broderie anglaise milk-maid styling?

Or introduce wow-factor with fancy footwear like a see-through or crystal-encrusted heel. Try the outfit with a belt. Experiment with narrow and wide cinching, and vary your shoe height and style to alter the look comprehensively.
More might be more, one day; less might be more, the next. Ring the changes, because black and white are the basis for a whole heap of great outcomes!