Life Stuff: My Experience (So Far) with the US Spousal Visa Process + Relocation


Guide to being an Alien

I honestly don’t even know where to start with this! One thing I will say from the outset is that I can only comment on my own process. I’m not going to talk too in-depth about this because it’s a) boring and b) complex.

Ray and I decided fairly early on in our relationship that we would be settling in the USA. The main reason for this is that Ray has a tertiary qualification / career in law and I can take my admin skillz basically anywhere.

We got the process started last year. In very basic terms, there are three phases. The USCIS (United States Customs & Immigration Service) stage, the NVC (National Visa Centre) stage and the Embassy/Consulate stage.

The USCIS stage involves lodging a petition. The “petitioner” is my now-husband, Ray, and it involves some demographic information on me and a few bits and pieces of information on our relationship to prove that we are real and that we exist (we submitted photos, a shared bank account, stat decs from loved ones and lots of travel itineraries). That gets sent off and when they acknowledge receipt, you get a “Notice of Action 1” (NOA1). We were extremely lucky in this situation, because we’re both living out of the country there appears to be some kind of expedite process so we were only at USCIS for a few days before we got NOA2 (basically their approval of the petition). They then send the package off to the NVC.

The NVC stage is where things get tricky. The first thing you have to do (after you wait to get your case number from NVC) is submit a form saying who can be contacted and how (DS-261) for updates on the process. Naturally we just gave both our emails and that seems to have worked pretty well. Then you wait for your AOS (Affidavit of Support) bill to become available to pay in the online portal. Once that’s been paid, you get a receipt and a cover letter to send with your AOS package. This package is a doozy. Because Ray hasn’t been working in the USA, we asked his dad to be a joint sponsor. He agreed, for which we are very grateful. So we had to get a lot of financials (tax returns / transcripts + associated schedules, employment details etc) for both Ray and his dad, as well as Ray’s mum because she is a household member of the joint sponsor. It was a hell of a task. The other really complex thing we had to do was prove Ray’s domicile in the USA. Pretty hard when he is not currently living there! But we are lucky, in that we will be staying with his parents for the first little while so they wrote us a letter. We also copied his drivers licence, bank statements with his US address etc because that’s all the kind of stuff they want to see. We sent that off to be assessed and waited for the next step.

The IV (Immigrant Visa) bill comes up for payment on the online portal then it’s time to do the “big form” – the DS-260. It’s a huge form that the beneficiary (me) fills out regarding their entire life so far. Employment details, residences since the age of 16 years, parents details, a HEAP of security questions about whether I had committed or intended to commit genocide etc. Anyway, once that was done it spat out another cover sheet and I sent our marriage certificate,  birth certificate, police certificate (showing that I have no court outcomes), passport photos and demographics page… etc. After that package gets scanned in, we wait. 60 days. It takes 60 days for them to look at each package of documents, and that countdown starts from the date the last package is scanned in, not the first. Sigh.

At the end of our first set of 60 days, we got the dreaded “checklist”. Basically, we had missed one field and not included one document that we didn’t know we had to include. Anyway, no sense going on about it. We had to resubmit the documents, and send it in again. And wait another 60 days. That brings us up to today. We’re currently at day 47. Apparently, day 54 is the sweet spot at the moment so we are hoping to have a “case complete” early next week. Case complete indicates that we are DONE with the NVC, and they send our package of documents on to the final stage.

The next stage is conducted from my “local” US Consulate. This happens to be in Sydney for me, which is veeery far away. I have to take two planes to get there. Basically they allocate you an interview date and before that date you have to get a medical to make sure you are healthy and immunised. At the interview, the consular official asks a lot of questions about your relationship. I’m feeling confident about this part because Ray and I are solid. We fell in love IRL, though we knew each other internetly first,  and we’ve now lived together for nearly a year and we have a well documented relationship. All that stuff is easy. So really we’re at the end of the hardest part here.

Unfortunately, Ray has to go home at the end of his 12 month Australian visa. It’s up on the 3rd of March so we booked his flights yesterday. It broke my heart a little bit. But I also felt an edge of excitement. I’m moving to America! Soon, I’ll be the one booking those flights! What a mind trip. It’s really cold in New England, where we’ll be living. It’s so hot here that it’s hard to imagine what it’ll be like to be truly cold!

Ok I did the post I’ve been putting off for ages, so now it’s back to the fun stuff. My lovely friend Sophie asked if I could do a few posts that I think I can make a good go of; one of which is a brush post and a makeup removal /oil cleansing post. The latter might have to wait until I’ve trialled the Ren cleansing balm I want to try soon but brushes I can definitely manage. Stay tuned, dear readers!

The Freedom & Vanity Lip Product Manifesto 2015: Part 3 – “The Rest”



Ok so here we are with the conclusion of the Lip Product Manifesto. This is going to take a different shape to the others, because there’s lots of individual products. So I’m going to divide them by type rather than brand / product. I’m also doing away with the pros and cons this time as I don’t want to waste time and space, I’ll just talk about those things within the product descriptions.

There’s a fair few things to talk about so I’ll get on with it.

Balms & Creams



Would you believe, dear readers, that there are actually some missing that I just couldn’t be bothered rounding up? Anyway, as you can see I do love a good lip balm. These ones are all non-tinted and quite nourishing.

Chapstick is a classic, I don’t feel a great need to go on about it apart from the fact that Candy Cane is definitely my favourite! The reason is that it has a pepperminty thing happening which feels quite plumping and refreshing. A classic nourishing balm that is a great primer for lipstick. I normally swipe a bit on before I do anything else on my face, then before lipstick I wipe off any excess so it doesn’t slide around. Lisa Eldridge is also a huge fan of using some Chapstick and a cotton bud (q-tip) to exfoliate lips. Great stuff and will run you about $5 as far as I can remember. I got the Candy Cane and Red Velvet flavours in an amazing gift tin from Steph in a Secret Santa! Love it. Important note: the first ingredient on these is petrolatum and that’s not everyone’s jam. Personally I don’t really care, not gonna lie.

Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm is another that needs no introduction. Similar to the Chapstick, as is the Blistex. They’re both still quite nourishing but a bit harder in consistency, more of a wax than a balm perhaps. They contain zero petrolatum, the BB one leaning much further towards natural ingredients. Both cheap too, under $10.

Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 is a definite favourite for me. I bought this when I was in the USA because I was there in February and it was cold. My lightweight Australian skin and lip products just weren’t cutting it and I was drying out like a prune. Terrible! I think this stuff rocks, it’s very nourishing and comes in tonnes of different flavours. Mint is my favourite, but Mango is also nice! Mine lists petrolatum as a high level ingredient but on the website it’s no longer listed, that could be a formulation change? Anyway they’re $12 in Australia so a little pricier but well worth it, you’d have to be using it pretty heavily to ever get through a tube.

My least favourite of this lot is the Aesop Rosehip Seed Lip Cream. I just don’t like it. I don’t think it does anything really, and it smells weird, like rubbing herbs on your lips. It sinks in immediately, leaving your lips the exact way they were before. This one won’t be coming with me to the USA, and won’t ever be repurchased. Not recommended.

Which leaves my favourite! The clear winner is the Lanolips 101 Ointment Multipurpose Balm. I. LOVE this stuff. It’s naturally derived which is nice, but be warned, it does contain lanolin which can be comedogenic. I do find that if I don’t apply it carefully in the places I need it (ie, if I don’t stay inside the line of my lips) I get the odd small pimple on the outer edge of my lips. Rarely, but it happens, so just to be thorough with my review I thought I’d include that little factoid. I also have this in the “Apples” tint, which is a very faint red tinge but I can’t find it at the moment! Which is a bit of a worry as it’s lovely. It was in my handbag so perhaps it made its way into the lining via the little hole I found in my lip product pocket. I’ll have to check later. But anyway I use this before I apply lipstick and just when my lips are dry. It’s great stuff. I’m a huge fan. You can grab it on Adore Beauty for $17.95 for the 101 plus a heap of other types and tints, most of which are cheaper than that. The LemonAid is brilliant as well, I keep it at work and it’s a lifesaver.

Preps and Primers


So totes monochrome

Lip primer was a thing I really wanted to get into this year and I held out for a long time to buy the MAC Prep + Primer Lip when MAC did my wedding makeup. Alas they didn’t have it so I held out a little longer, til they had a free shipping sale. And here’s the thing, I don’t love it. It’s okay I guess. I see no difference between this and a very cheap lip balm. It’s a basic siliconey primer that claims to smooth and prep the lips but does it? I don’t know. I have quite creasy lips and I don’t think it makes any difference to either that or to longevity of the lipstick. I don’t get it. Am I doing it wrong? Find it on the MAC website if you’re interested.

I feel similarly about the Lipstick Queen Invisible Lip Liner. The description says “Keep lips looking fabulous and pucker perfect all day long with this silicone based, mechanical wind up lip liner. Apply around lips for a defined edge and to stop them from bleeding, perfecting life’s little imperfections.”. I just don’t agree at all. I think it does crap all. Part of my problem with it is that as soon as you use it, the lovely sharp liner tip is dulled so it becomes just this weird flat topped thing … I dunno. I don’t think it makes any difference at all. Lily Pebbles lied to me, wah. If you want to give it a go, you can find it on the Mecca website.

So yeah the prep/primers are a pass for me at this stage. I would absolutely love to hear your recommendations though! Gimme!

Lip Gloss

I’ll be the first to admit that lip gloss isn’t really my jam. I have a couple of old favourites but previously it’s never really been a thing that interested me that much. The sticky, overly glossed look isn’t really my jam. I’m a matte girl! However I think it absolutely has its place and I’m getting behind it a little more in my old age (weirdly). Usually when I get lip glosses it has been as gift-with-purchase and I give them away immediately. So just a couple for me, oldies and newies.

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So glaaawwssy.

Okay so yes, I have two of the MAC Lipglass in “Clear” which is weird for someone who doesn’t like lipgloss BUT it’s just really good. It’s long-wearing without being sticky and I just really enjoy it. I put a dab of it in the middle of my lips when I’m wearing a bold lipstick sometimes just to make the centre look more full and pouty! Or I wear it by itself for a sheeny juicy look. It’s great stuff.

Soap and Glory is a really fun brand of which I have quite a few items. I like these “Sexy Mother Pucker” lip glosses. The silver tube is a clear gloss, just a very plumping formulation with a long-wearing, glossy finish. It’s fantastic stuff. I’m always looking for nice plumping products what with the whole creasy lips thing I have going on.

I also have this gloss in a tinted, doe-foot applicator style. The shade is called “Half-Naked“. It’s great. A nice browny nudey neutral. Similar formulation in that it is quite plumping, and again nice and long-wearing.


Is naice.

I do also have a MAC Lipglass in “Russian Red” on the way just to see how I like a full tint gloss. It’s a colour I’ve worn before in lipstick form and liked, so I think it should suit me, shade wise.

Tinted / Stain Balms

Love a bit of this action. My top two are these little stunners:


Hello beautifuls.

I got the Fresh Sugar Rose Lip Treatment in a sample box from Sephora and it’s bloody brilliant. Incredibly buttery and soft. The tint is faint, but there. This is a lovely nourishing product. Enough said really.

Now for the star of the show.. this might be my second favourite product, by a HAIR, of this entire post. It’s the Lipstick Queen Medieval Tinted Treatment. It does remind me of that olde timey stained lip look that you see in things like Game of Thrones that probably came from the blood of a virgin nightingale or something like that. It’s beautiful! The tint itself is quite prominent which is nice for my overly-pigmented lips, and the Vitamin-E heavy formulation is so creamy and hydrating. I just love this product. Let me try to dig out a picture of it on the lips, brb.

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There we go. Nice!

Lip Liners

Again not something I’m suuuuper good at, but still, I’ll say a few words.


Good excuse to sharpen my MAC liner..

Too-Faced Perfect Lips is a really nice one, it’s a wind-up mechanical liner which is always pro for me, since it means I don’t have to screw around with sharpeners. It’s also a great nude colour, not too brown or too pink. Perfect, some might say!

MAC “Cherry” lip pencil is also beautiful, I have had this for many years now (probably 5 years) and it’s still going strong. It’s not too pink, not too blue and not too brown so it goes under a huge variety of red lipstick shades perfectly. It’s super pigmented and soft enough to go on easily without being messy. Swatcherinos:


I’ve also enjoyed the Bourjois liners, though they are quite soft. I bought one in a really lovely pink colour but it was just that smidge too bright for what I wanted so I gave it away, but formulation-wise it’s great and I would definitely buy again. Good old Bourjois!

NARS Lip Pencils

“AaaaAAaaaaAaaaaaaaaa” okay so it’s really hard to spell out the noise of angels singing from on high. Anyway that’s what’s happening here because these products ROOOOOOCKKKKKKKK SOOOO HARRDDDDD OH GOD I really love them so very much.


Hello, beautifuls.

So these magnificent creations come in three different finishes: Velvet Matte, Velvet Gloss and Satin. I don’t have any Velvet Gloss ones because glosses just aren’t really my jam as mentioned before. I have had three of the Velvet Matte ones and have recently acquired a Satin as well. One of the VMs, in the shade “Cruella”, I gave away because it was just a smidge on the dark side for me. That left me with “Dragon Girl”, a bright red/orange shade with fabulous pigmentation and “Dolce Vita” which is a brownytanpink MLBB (My Lips But Better) shade. These pencils are highly pigmented and leave a perfectly matte but not overly drying finish to the lips. Like all matte products, they are SOMEWHAT drying, but that also makes them quite longlasting. I don’t think they are as longlasting as say, the liquid lipsticks of the previous post but they’re pretty good for what they are. They’re also very easy to apply easily, and not messy. Great for the handbag and travel!

The Satin I have is “Yu”, a beautiful shocking bright pink that I think is quite flattering to all skin tones. This has more of a satin finish obviously, so it’s not as drying on the lips, but retains the high pigmentation and easy application of the VM versions. I really want more of this finish but I’m not sure which ones to choose so I might wait til I can swatch them. Speaking of which!


I don’t know why DV came out strangely here! Weird iPhone camera issue I assume.

One thing I’d strongly recommend with these, is getting the NARS pencil sharpener. I know it’s a pain to have to buy one especially for these, but it’s absolutely fabulous and really sharp, does a great job on these and I haven’t been able to find one that even fits these babies let alone does as good a job. The smaller hole is perfect for any normal sized liner pencil as well, I used it to sharpen my MAC pencil today and it did a fantastic, quick and easy job.

So, for now, that’s the end of the 2015 Lipstick Manifesto. I hope you enjoyed it. I know a lot you would have really liked to have seen all these products on my lips and that is absolutely feedback I have taken on board for future posts. Thanks so much.

My next post is going to be non-beauty related. I’ll be talking about my move to America and associated feels. Keep the feedback coming as always!


The Freedom & Vanity Beauty Philosophy: Because You’re Worth It

Lately I’ve been thinking about the form I want this blog to take. I’ve been thinking about what I want it to be, and what I don’t want it to be. I want to make a post today to talk about those things, even if only for my own benefit so I can refer back to this post if I start dropping the ball.

First, I want to share some thoughts about beauty specifically. I hope I can keep these short but to try to limit the rambling, I will put these under numbered headings.

1. It is okay to never wear makeup, ever.

Here’s a secret that you don’t get told enough: you are beautiful. You are beautiful without makeup. You are beautiful with makeup. You are beautiful when you sleep and when you make stupid faces at yourself in the mirror. You are beautiful when you do heavy squats and have that look on your face where the corners of your mouth are trying to touch your shoulders (no? just me? ok). It should not be a secret but for some reason it is. It’s a secret that most of us either refuse to acknowledge, or keep to ourselves even when we’re really feeling it. I want to stop doing that! I want that for all of us. I still have a long way to go, but I’m trying really hard.

So if you don’t want to wear makeup, you absolutely shouldn’t. Every time I hear about people shedding the shackles of makeup wearing and high fashion with such glee, I feel sad. I feel sad that they were made to feel like that in the first place. Tracey Spicer is a great example. On face value, I loved what she was saying. But looking deeper, after it was pointed out by some online friends, it made me sad that she felt that way about makeup due to her place in the world (in television). Makeup and beauty routines aren’t meant to be prisons. They’re not meant to be pain and suffering. We’re not meant to resent them. They’re meant to be creative expressions, and to make us feel like a million bucks.

I said I wouldn’t ramble so I’ll try to wrap this up but look, you just don’t have to wear it. My mother has not worn makeup a day in her life (well, not since I’ve known her anyway!) and she’s one of the most beautiful women I have ever known. Her inner beauty shines from the inside (and between you and I, her skin is bloody fabulous, she was a Clarins devotee for most of her life but now shops around a bit more as I understand it).

2. It’s okay to not wear makeup every day. I don’t.

I would go crazy if I had to wear makeup every day, personally. Some people wear it every day and it’s not a chore, it’s their choice, and they love it. Or it’s not their choice but they love it anyway – whatever! But personally I don’t. Wearing makeup is a day by day choice for me. Sometimes I think “ooh, I haven’t worn [product] in awhile, might crack that one out today” or sometimes it’s the fact that I have a new product and I can’t wait til a “special occasion” to try it. Sometimes my skin looks like garbage and I’m tired, and I know a bit of makeup will boost my confidence, but that is FOR SURE the least common reason. The only time I wear makeup during the day because I “have to” is for things like special visits at work (important people etc) or if I have a job interview and that’s mostly because of the confidence boost which we all need for those dreaded interviews!

If you don’t feel like wearing makeup to work, and your job doesn’t demand that you do, then don’t. Free yourself!

3. It is okay to break the rules of makeup. Screw the rules!

Want to wear a bold eye look and a bold lip as well? Do it! Don’t like the colours that are meant to be worn by people of your eye colour? Don’t wear them! Wear whatever you like, own it, and rock it. This goes for things that are too old or young for you – apparently – as well. Just wear things you like, you know? Wear what makes you happy, confident, and like your best self. Case in point, a very special day in my life last year. I had my makeup done by Chanel and they did a fabulous job. For the daytime section, we did a nude lip.

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Dawwwwwwwwwww but srsly dat makeups~

For the night time event, I threw caution to the wind and put on my favourite pink lipstick (MAC’s “Impassioned”) and darkened up my eyes a little. Because I wanted to!

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Now, did I get feedback that I should have kept the lip nude? Yep. Did I have feelings like that myself? Yep. But that was more of a “should have” because “they” say so thing. I’m glad I stuck to my guns and bolded up my look. I hate to say it, but #YOLO.

4. I do not have perfect skin. I will never have perfect skin. This is okay.

I had pretty darn bad acne as a teenager, and to be honest it continues even now. It’s much less aggressive and cystic now. But it still exists. I get pimples, hormonal ones mostly but also when I forget to drink heaps of water, or when I drink coke (I think, this is a thing I’m still testing / confirming, may in fact be related to replacing adequate water with coke rather than the substance itself), or when I forget to change my pillowcase every night. Or because Aries is crossing the orbit of Saturn. I don’t know how skin works! Or how astronomy works either apparently but anyway… I still get breakouts. I am nearly 31 years old. I have learned to manage it (more on this in another post) but it still bothers me.

But you know what, that’s okay. We all have skin issues. Dryness, sensitivity, breakouts, psoriasis, melasma (I get this one too, thanks oestrogen!), there’s really no end to the types or combinations of things that can go wrong with our skin. Sure, there are those total jerks who never have any problems with their skin and whose skincare regime is something like “oh I give it a bit of a wipe in the shower when I remember” but they don’t count, they’re the anomalies, not us, dammit. Ahem. Bottom line: problematic skin is more common than not. Don’t sweat it. You still deserve to wear non-cakey, fun and cute makeup if you want to! And, as always, if you don’t want to wear makeup then you definitely should not feel the need to hide your skin away. Letting it breathe may even improve its condition – who knows? My amazing friend “hanko” (code name) has a spectacular blog centred (currently) on skincare that I urge you guys to check out. Linky!

Look. The point is, dis face makes its own rules. All I can do is weather the storms alongside it.


Shameless flex insertion. Story of my liiiiiiiife~

5. Makeup is a never-ending learning experience for us all. 

I’m a super, super, super beginner at makeup. Lots of people have made amazing comments to me about how I seem to know a lot but here’s the thing. Owning a lot of makeup =/= knowing a lot about makeup! Ha ha ha… 🙂 I’m really just an amateur. Tomorrow, for the first time, some sucker is going to let me put makeup on them. Thanks Lauren! Then on Sunday my bestie Chantal is going to teach me the finer points of it, she used to be a beauty therapist so she is pretty good at the art of touching the faces of others and applying things to faces without gouging their eyes out etc. Should these things be the other way around? MAYBE. But it just didn’t work out that way. Anyway I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Point is, I’m fairly sure even the Lisa Eldriges, Pixiwoos and vintageortackys (probably my top three for tutorials) of the world would tell you that they are continually learning every single day, even though they are all experts in their fields.

Everyone starts somewhere, with a couple of key pieces (another blog post about that will be forthcoming). In this day and age we are SO LUCKY to have access to things like youtube tutorials from The Greats. We don’t have to rely on books that are static and flat. We have amazing videos of people doing makeup and showing very clearly some amazing techniques. How good is that!

6. You DO NOT have to spend a lot of money on makeup to have a good quality “kit”.

I really feel that drugstore makeup (ie, makeup that can be bought from places like Priceline and other pharmacy type places – popular brands include L’Oreal, Maybelline, Maxfactor, Bourjois, Revlon, Rimmel etc) has come SUCH a long way in the last few years. I think this is the result of the conglomeration of a lot of companies into being made under the same umbrella, then sold under different brands. For example, Bourjois is made by the same company that makes Chanel, and yeah of course it’s not AS GOOD as Chanel but for a quarter of the price it’s MUCH more than a quarter as good if that makes sense.. not sure I worded that too well but for real. It’s so good. NYX has some of the best products I’ve bought for the cheapest prices. L’Oreal’s 24 Hour Infallible eyeshadow is absolutely spectacular and I only wish it had more of a colour range, because it’s apparently an excellent dupe (“duplicate” ie a good cheaper version of) the Armani “Eyes to Kill” eyeshadows. The MAC Paint Pots we all love? You can get the Maybelline Colour Tattoo cream shadows and if you find a colour you like, they’re basically the same thing. The Tom Ford Cream Colour for Eyes is the exact same as MaxFactor’s Excess Shimmer shadows which are cheap as chips.You can see in my liquid lipstick post that my favourite was a $10 drugstore (Australia only) product. Honestly, I could go on but I won’t, you get the picture.

So that’s all I have to say for right now. I just really want to impress upon you guys that all this stuff is totally optional. You should wear as little or as much makeup as you want, whenever you want.

As long as you wash it off at night. Promise?


The Freedom & Vanity Lip Product Manifesto 2015: Part 2 – Liquid Lipstick

Time for part 2. Thanks so much for all the incredible feedback on the first part, it really means so much to me that all these awesome people in my life have taken the opportunity to let me know what they think so far!

Right! On with it.

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Let’s do this.

Lately, I’ve really been loving liquid lipsticks. I love the ease of use with the doe-foot applicators, I love the wet-to-dry formulation, they just feel so modern and fun.

These ones are once again in a loose least-liked to best-liked order. But I like all of them honestly! You’ll notice all of them are really well priced apart from the TooFaced (which is still pretty well priced just not as great as the rest). This is a section of the market where the drugstore is really kicking some serious arse at the moment.

Okay, gosh.

NYX Soft Matte Lip Creams 

This was my first foray into liquid lipsticks. These are magical. They are cheap as chips, and just wonderful little things! So much fun, lovely colour range, what’s not to like? Well, a couple of things. Let’s check them out pictorially.

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NYX Soft Matte Lip Creams – (L-R) Stockholm, Milan, Addis Ababa

It is worth noting that the light I photographed swatches in today wasn’t as good as the other day so bear that in mind.

For cream lipsticks, these are super pigmented! The doe-foot applicator makes these amazingly easy to apply. It’s much easier using one of these than using a brush or lipstick bullet, because of the finer tip and also because they are more ergonomic to hold (in my opinion). The consistency of these is super creamy, and not at all sticky or thick. It reminds me of lightly whipped cream or something. They smell kinda vanilla-ish which is super nice! They also have a matte finish. Onto the swatches.


Stockholm is a lovely peachy nude, Milan is a browny pink (more brown than it appears here) and Addis Ababa is a SUPERBRIGHT fuchsia. As you can see, these aren’t SUPER pigmented in the same way as a normal lipstick would be. They take a few swipes before they become opaque – particularly the brighter colours.

They’re also not super long lasting, which may be a dealbreaker for some but isn’t really for me because the fade is even, there’s no weird chunking or caking, they just sorta… fade away to nothing.

Still, I love them for how easy they are to use. I don’t mind reapplying when it takes 2 seconds in the bathroom at work. There’s never any mess to clean up so it’s no biggie. Great product!

Pros: EASY. Cheap as chips. Fantastic colour range. Smells nice. Goes on like a dream. Fades evenly and comfortably. Comfortable to wear, doesn’t dry the lips out.

Cons: Short wearing. Not amazingly pigmented, takes a few swipes to reach opacity. Packaging is quite minimalist and cheap but that’s kind of NYX’s thing.

Cost: $13.50 on Crush Cosmetics, or grab them at Target for $12.95. Bargain!

Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet

These are fairly new to me so I don’t have tonnes to say just yet. I like them, and I know my friend Lauren loves the one she bought, which I didn’t get and regret not getting.. anyway that’s another story (she has Pink Pong which is a fabulous bright pink!).

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Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet – 03 Hot Pepper and 07 Nude-Ist

Now, it’s no secret that I bought these because Vivianna Does Makeup recommended them and I LOVE HER oh god, I really do. She has not steered me wrong yet, and she didn’t with these beauties. I really love them! These are a little sticky/glossier than the lip creams, not quite as matte though they do dry very matte. I simply didn’t have the time to wait for full matte-ness on these today as I was running out of daylight. The packaging is much more luxe, but so it should be at a higher cost, and because Bourjois is just rad like that. Fun fact: made by the same company as Chanel! The more you know. Aaaaanyway.. swatches!


Gosh, these just did not swatch well at all! But one of the key issues with this product is highlighted here. They are just not very pigmented! You have to go over them a couple of times, a few even. The first time I wore Hot Pepper, I found that I had to add a lipliner underneath to make it really work its magic which is a bit disappointing, because part of the beauty of liquid lipsticks (IMO) is that they don’t need a lipliner. But once it was on, holy CRAP did it stay on. Nude-ist was the same, even with no lipliner, though personally I would not call this a nude shade myself. It’s quite pink. Even not on my overly pigmented lips you can see that it’s more of a pink than a nude, by a long shot. But I like it anyway, because I’m into pink neutrals.

Pros: Intensely long lasting. Great colour range. Available at most Pricelines. Great quality packaging. Dries to a lovely matte finish.

Cons: Not super pigmented, quite a lot of swipes before opacity is achieved, sometimes even requiring a lipliner.

Cost: $24 at Priceline but GUESS WHAT, they’re currently 30% off so get thee on down to your local or order online for a ridiculous saving, they end up costing $16.80! Yeeha.

Sephora Cream Lip Stain & TooFaced Melted Lipstick

I did these together because doing single ones seemed silly and I like them about the same. I’ll talk briefly about each then post the pictures.

These are both absolutely excellent products.

The Sephora lip cream stain is a much coveted item after another of my British beauty gurus, Lily Pebbles, raved about it. Every time I thought to myself “god what is she wearing on her lips, it’s amazing” it was this. So my amazing friend Jaime picked one up for me in Thailand! I was super grateful and this product did not disappoint. It’s bloody excellent. The staying power is amazing, it’s really pigmented, the colour is this perfect pinky-bluey-red and dries to a flawless matte finish, it’s just amazing.

The TooFaced product is one that I was also extremely interested in, I bought it originally in Peony which ended up being too light for me. I wanted Melted Candy real bad but it is not being sold in Australia for some reason. My amazing friend Brianna got it for me in an online Secret Santa! I was so happy when I unwrapped this! It’s a gorgeous bright orchid colour. Like the Sephora product, it has fantastic staying power and the pigmentation is great. Let’s see some pictures, shall we?

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Sephora Lip Cream Stain in 01 – Always Red, Too Faced Melted Liquefied Lipstick in Melted Candy

As you can see, these two products are pretty darn different, packaging wise. The Sephora product is your “normal” doe-foot applicator style and the Melted lipstick has a sponge applicator through which you squeeze the product, then apply the slanted tip to your lips directly.

Swatches are really where the beauty lies in these products. I mean, look at this.



How beautiful are they?! That’s hardly any swiping, just super pigmented and rich. They both dry to a totally matte, but not drying finish. They are both long lasting and require no lipliner. Enough said.

Pros: Super pigmented, dries to a matte finish, long wearing, Sephora product has amazing colour choices within the range and is very well priced. TooFaced has lovely packaging.

Cons: Sephora only available at store of same name (not even online, gj Sephora Australia), TooFaced has a limited colour range. TF shade shown above is not available in Australia though I suspect Melted Fuchsia is similar. Sephora product packaging is a little cheap but so is the product itself so it’s fine.

Cost: No idea on the Sephora. US$13 in the States, if that helps. TooFaced has other shades available for $28 at Mecca Cosmetica.

Australis VelourLips Matte Lip Creams

GOOD GOD. I just can’t even tell you. I can’t actually describe how much these rule in every way. Someone on a forum I use got me onto them and honestly, I think there may be witchcraft involved in how these stay on for so long. I don’t know how it works. It is sorcery.

I have two colours in this range and honestly the lack of range is the only reason I don’t have more. There are some interesting colours – even a purple! I would strongly recommend checking them out for sure. Lack of range might not even be the right way to describe it. There are lots of colours. I’m grasping at straws. I’m the one with the lack of range (in that I am not very adventurous and tend to stick to reds, pinks and nudes). I bought this in Hono-Loo-Loo and it was a little light for me – a common problem, you’ll find, with me and my pigmented lips.

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Australis VelourLips – NY-Cee, Mi-Am-Ee

Pretty standard stuff, right? But look at the swatches.


BAWwwwwwwwwww check that out, that’s ONE SWIPE.

The place where these babies really win though is the longevity. It’s unbelievable. You can eat, drink, kiss and talk all day and it’ll be fine. I tested these when I first bought them by applying, letting them dry for a couple of minutes then kissing my husband on the cheek pretty hard. Nothing. Not a scrap of colour on his face. Then I had a coffee. Still nothing, no colour on the mug at all. Brilliant. I really can’t say enough good things. And guess what? Not only are they my favourites they’re also the cheapest on this entire list. Yup.

Pros: Everything. Literally everything is a pro.

Cons: I guess you could say the packaging is kinda minimalist, and some might say tacky? I don’t care, it is sturdy as heck which is really all that matters.

Cost: !!!!! $9.95 from Priceline.  Do yourself a favour – go get some of these. Some. Not one. Not a couple. Get some. I know I’m gonna be getting more!

Thanks for reading! Part 3 will be primers, liners and pencils. I know a lot of you are waiting for this one because of the Nars Lip Pencils and I’m sorry to make you wait but it’ll be worth it!

The Freedom & Vanity Lip Product Manifesto 2015: Part 1 – Lipsticks

Getting ready to start. Coffee was required.

Lately, I’ve been on a huge lipstick bent. I go through phases, and this is the current one. I am still not sure that dividing them up by type is the way to go. The issue with by brand is that some brands only have 1 or 2 pieces in them so I think this is the best way. As always I would love your feedback because after this will be eyeshadow.

All the products I don’t use much anymore or don’t like as much as I once did have gone into the sell/giveaway box so these are all products I like, to varying degrees. I am going to start with the ones I like the least, which is to say that I very much like them – just not as much as the others.

You will notice that I lean towards reds and pinks. This is because my lips are extremely pigmented already, so anything that’s too brown or nude makes me look very strange! Especially anything on the lighter end of the colour scale. Sigh. I do have a couple of pinky/peachy nude colours though. On with it!

Make Up For Ever “Rouge Artist Intense” Lipsticks

I love this brand. Their HD Translucent Loose Powder is my absolute holy grail loose powder of life. So I wasn’t surprised at all that these lipsticks are rather lovely. They’re very creamy, but not too glossy like overly “wet” lipsticks can be – for lack of a better word. I started out with 32 and I liked it so much I bought another couple. I wear these pretty regularly, particularly 32 which is a really nice neutral pink – probably the best neutral pink I own. They are a satin finish – they’re not matte but they’re not a glossy finish either. The line contains multiple different finishes but I only have these three:

Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist Intense lipsticks (note: finally got rid of the watermarks after this lot!)

Pros: Amazing colour range, very easy application, highly pigmented, not too wet or dry, decent lasting power.

Cons: Smell may put some off (it’s a kind of floral/powdery scent that seems unnecessarily strong to me. Reminds me of old ladies), on the pricey side.

Cost: $35

Lipstick Queen “Sinner” Lipstick 

Lipstick Queen is the new brand from Australian lipstick guru Poppy King. I must say, I rather like it quite a lot! This is one of three products I own from this brand and when I can swatch more easily (ie, when I get to the USA probably) you can rest assured I’ll be buying more of these glorious lipsticks. The Sinner range is very highly pigmented. There is another range called Saint which is quite sheer. I haven’t tried this, because that’s not super appealing to me. When I wear lipstick I really like to WEAR it, you know? Anyway, here’s the one I have. The shade is called “Peachy Nude Sinner” but looking on the site shows me that it may just be “Sinner Nude” now because I can’t see mine there even as a sold out shade.  As you can see, it’s a lot peachier than the previous nude which is more of a pink. I got a LOT of compliments when I wore this for the first time, it’s really very much a go-to easy-wear lipstick for me.

Lipstick Queen “Sinner” Lipstick in Peachy Nude Sinner

Finally got around to removing those pesky watermarks, sorry about that. Best $1.49 ever spent.

Pros: Beautiful consistency, highly pigmented, easy-wear, satin-matte finish, great lasting power, well priced.

Cons: I literally can’t think of any. Some people might consider them pricey but I don’t agree.

Cost: $27

It’s worth noting that I have only tried this one plus the Medieval lip stain & Invisible Liner so I have very little experience with the range, really!

MAC Lipsticks

Let it be known that as far as MAC lipstick collections go, mine is pretty small. I have had a couple of others that I’ve ditched for a various reasons, but what I do have I like very much.

Lipsticks are what MAC does best, in my opinion. I don’t think much of their foundations for me personally. Their eyeshadows are very good but not their standout product line. It’s obviously their lipsticks. Errybody know dat. They come in different finishes – I have three of them in my collection. The finishes I have are Matte, Retro Matte and Amplified. Let’s talk about them in order, pros and cons included.

Matte: As the name suggests, there’s no shimmer or shine or glitter or anything like that. They are bone dry. They are EXTREMELY opaque and pigmented. They take some work to put on because of how dry they are, but once they’re on, they are ON! Hardly any reapplication is required. Lips should be well exfoliated and hydrated before these go on because after a few hours, they can start “chunking” up especially on the inner part of the lips.

Retro Matte: Basically the same as above – great opacity, matte as heck – but even more drying, therefore even more long-wearing and a little harder to put on. Again – hydrate hydrate hydrate people!

Amplified: Much more comfortable to wear, more of a satin finish than a matte. Great pigmentation, still quite opaque but not as much as the mattes. They don’t come in a huge range of colours which can be a drawback but I do love this colour!

L – R: Honey Love (Matte), Impassioned (Amplified), All Fired Up (Retro Matte), Lady Danger (Matte), Ruby Woo (Retro Matte)

Let’s have a look at some swatches.


Honey Love is a browny neutral nude (it’s my wedding lipstick!), Impassioned is a very bright true pink, All Fired Up is a reddish-pink, Lady Danger is an orange-red and Ruby Woo is a blue-red. RW is really the classic for me. The first MAC lipstick I ever bought was Russian Red which is a little deeper/darker but Ruby Woo is where my love affair started. I mean, look at it. It’s me on a stick. It’s bright, it’s classic, it’s vintage, it’s a really proper true red. I love it. It is VERY drying. I don’t wear this one as an all day colour, which I realise seems silly because it’s so long-wearing, but the truth is that by lunchtime or not much later, I just want to remove it and re-apply with more lip balm. I do have naturally dry lips so that’s a factor to consider as well.

Pros / Cons in description above (too hard to do separate things for each finish). On the whole, they are fantastic lipsticks with an immense colour range and great staying power. They are on the pricey side of things but well worth it, IMO.

Cost: $36

NARS Audacious Lipsticks

Holy grail time, people. These are THE GD BUSINESS, let me tell you. These are a new revelation for me, I did actually hold off for a long time before I bought these but when I finally cracked and bought one, another two followed swiftly after. They are DREAMY. They’re super pigmented, super creamy, super long lasted, the packaging OWNS, the colour range is fantastic.. I just really can’t say anything bad about them (but for one thing – more on that later).

I mean, just look at this packaging. LOOK AT IT.

It’s so magnificent..

Get this. The packaging is MAGNETIC. The lid snaps back onto the body of the lipstick packaging when it’s aligned properly, the lipstick cases themselves snap together IN ORDER (see above) when you have them facing the correct way, oh man I just love it. It’s so immensely satisfying. Funny story: I showed my husband these and he’s in love with the packaging. He just told me we “definitely need another one” to complete the set and make it spell the full brand name. This is why I love him.  ….. Aaaaanyway, onto the COLOURS!

L – R: Rita, Greta, Lana

The colours are absolutely amazing. Rita is a darkish, blueish red similar to Ruby Woo by MAC. Greta is a bright, fuchsia pink and Lana is a fantastic bright orange-red. I truly love them all. You would think that because they are so creamy that they’d wear off fast but they just don’t. They’re not as long-wearing as the MAC Mattes but they’re NOWHERE NEAR as uncomfortable to wear. They’re just glorious. Let’s have a look at them on the skin.


These are ONE SWIPE swatches. No doubling over them like I have for others. ONE swipe each. They’re so incredibly pigmented and opaque. They are a satin finish, which is my favourite finish I think (might be a different story if I didn’t have such dry lips). The ONLY bad thing I can say about them is that the bullet itself is HUGE. I find them tricky to apply from the bullet which is annoying because putting them on with a lip brush isn’t something I always want to muck around with. If you have thin lips and hate applying with a lip brush, just be aware of the bullet’s size. It’s only the edges of my lips that are thin (like most people, but I hate that overdrawn/painted edge Kylie Jenner look).

These are my ultimate favourite lipsticks ever. Even though they’re new I feel fully confident making that call.

Pros: Super pigmented, super opaque, long-lasting, creamy, easy to apply, incredibly comfortable, spectacular packaging.

Cons: Overly large bullet which makes them somewhat tricky to apply, fairly expensive (but worth every penny in my opinion) – the most expensive of the lot by $8.

Cost: $44

Whew! That was a lot of things to talk about and took me basically all day to write up and take pictures of etc. I had a break for lunch with my husband.

The next part of this series will be in relation to liquid lipsticks, because those are my jam. I love them and have quite a few, I feel that they warrant a whole different post so that’s what I’ll do. I have some balms, stains and glosses as well which I will probably do in a further third post.

Thanks for reading! As always, I’m super keen to hear your feedback. I’m in this blog game for the long haul and I want to make sure I get it as right as possible so I don’t lose your attention!

Have a great Sunday. Peace!

Is it a dupe? MAC Fluidline vs. Maybelline Gel Liner

Phew, what an emotional rollercoaster this was!

First up, sorry for the terrible photo quality. I’m really trying to work out how to best use the cameras that I have access to, but it’s hard. The pictures I took with my Lumix point and shoot are garbage so I scrapped them. Sometimes I’m slack for setting up my dSLR but that might be something I look at doing for the moment. Anyway – onward!

I was watching a tutorial by Jaclyn Hill about gel liners and she mentioned that she thinks the Maybelline Gel Liner is blacker and better than MAC’s Fluidline in Blacktrack. I found this compelling because Jaclyn is a huge MAC fan and used to work for them for many years.

So off to Priceline I went and grabbed the Maybelline product in “Blackest Black”.

First up, I put a very basic face on. I just used these products plus a brow pencil, I didn’t bother spraying with setting spray or anything too dramatic because I was only going to have makeup on for a very short time.

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Bourjois Healthy Mix foundation, Maybelline Fit Me concealer, Bourjois Healthy Balance powder, Wayne Goss Holiday Brush, Real Techniques Expert Face Brush

Now, onto the stars of the show.


Real Techniques eyeliner brush, MAC Fluidline in “Blacktrack”, Maybelline Gel Liner in “Blackest Black” + matching brush

First, I tested the products on the back of my hand. Please note, for the sake of accuracy I used my Real Techniques angle liner brush for the MAC one and for the Maybelline product I used the brush that came in the package.

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Maybelline on bottom, MAC on top

Now, I did this at a super zoom because I wanted to make it very clear how on the back of my hand, the Maybelline appears to have it over the MAC one. Maybe it’s a brush issue (I don’t think so), but I found it hard to get good opacity with the MAC product. I had to brush over it a few times and brushing over it sometimes seemed to make it worse. Anyway, back of the hand isn’t really that important right? Onto the eyes.

I used the MAC liner on my left eye first. The application was okay. I felt like I needed to go over the black line quite a few times. It dried super fast which is a good thing and a bad thing. It meant that it was hard to work with and went a bit cakey fairly quickly. But it did not transfer AT ALL onto my upper lid.

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Yes, I was watching youtubes while I was doing this. What of it?

Looking pretty good, apart from the wonky bottom of the line, like a blown out tattoo. Regardless, it’s a thick straight dark black line so that’s what we want. NEXT

First impressions on the Maybelline gel liner were mostly to do with the brush. I thought it was a bit strange. It is small and fine, not like a traditional thin liner brush but more like a cross between one of those and an angle brush. It’s almost wedge-shaped. Perplexing. However! I loved it. I thought it was great! It was tiny and fine, it didn’t have the big drag that some of the angle brushes have, it was super easy to work with! A happy surprise.

The gel liner itself went on like a dream. Thick, black, fantastic opacity, I didn’t have to go over any lines (apart from neatening up the bottom line of the flick itself). I was squeeing on the inside about how much I loved this liner!

It wasn’t until I looked at the pictures I had taken that I saw that it had transferred to my upper lid.

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In saying that, I didn’t put any eye primer on at all and my eyelids were slightly oily, it’s near the end of the day after all. I’m definitely going to give this one another go, because I loved the application and the brush and how gosh-darn BLACK it is! It’s a really great product, I feel the transfer is user error.

MAC’s Fluidline will set you back AU$32, the Maybelline liner almost exactly half the price at $16.95. Even with the transfer, the Maybelline product is the clear winner here ladies and gentlemen. Please stand by for how it goes through an entire day of wear at work tomorrow.

Edit: unfortunately it transferred a lot. Even with primer. Sigh. You win this round, MAC.


An Introduction – What I’m About

This is such an overwhelming post to write! I’m not planning on going into any huge amount of detail. I’ll post the basics and expand on them later.

My name is Fran, I currently live in Australia with my husband, who is American. I’m 30 years old. I work in legal administration right now (Jan 2015).

I got married just last October, in Tasmania. My husband and I met through weightlifting. You can see a pretty great rundown of our wedding here, on Rock’n’Roll Bride, which featured us this month as their first wedding of the year. He is the light of my life and will feature heavily on this blog I’m sure.

As an international couple, we had to make a call about where we were going to live. My husband is an attorney in America and as I just work in admin, we will be heading back to the USA to live so he can work. He was lucky enough to land a job in Vermont starting in September. For those Americans who might be reading and who are familiar with their state mottoes, the name of my blog might be making a bit more sense now. At the moment we are going through the process to get me an American visa for permanent residency. This is a long and arduous journey which I will probably write a post about. Hopefully, we are nearing the end of that process but you just never can tell! Still, we remain optimistic that we have finally got it right and will get some good news soon. I’ve lived in this town all my life minus a couple of less-than-12-month stints in other places as an adult so it’s pretty scary! I may die in the cold..

One thing I want to focus on at the moment is looking at product dupes. The place that I live is a smallish town and we don’t have any high end stores. We have a chemist that sells Chanel, Estee Lauder, Clarins, Elizabeth Arden, Napoleon Perdis etc but we don’t have a department store or beauty store as such. Therefore, drugstore products are something I’m very interested in, especially when they are so much cheaper.

Interestingly, a lot of makeup is made by the same manufacturers. Bourjois is made by the same people as Chanel, for example. Their foundations even smell the same!

A few other interests of mine will definitely pop up in this blog every so often. I have lost a lot of weight over the last couple of years, mostly by lifting weights. You can read about my weight loss / body image journey here – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Just a warning, Part 2 gets a little heavy on some disordered eating, body dysmorphia talk. I love lifting and will definitely post about it from time to time. NOT EVEN SORRY.

I am seriously pro-moderation, pro-body love and believe that every body is a good body. I want to help women feel more in control of their bodies, whether that be with makeup or with exercise / food love.

Anyway, I won’t go on too much longer. As this blog progresses, you’ll learn more about me I’m sure.

Thanks for reading, and welcome!