Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Simple Gift

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight."

The events in the world lately hardly inspires any gratitude -- a sentiment I shared with many around me, real or virtual, most of them parents.

The truth is, when time is hard, I am most thankful for what I already have. I usually start small; food on my table, warm blanket on my bed, roof above my head, my son giggling (despite his froggy, throat-y, wet cough), time for silence and solitude.

Then I am thankful for so many people like you and me. People who, despite their worries, discouragement, fear, failure, still wake up in the morning and decide to make the best of their days by doing the right thing, by honoring each other's presence. Parents who rushed home to dinner, despite being late so many times before. Children who are hoping for their parents for dinner. Bus drivers who stop a few seconds longer so those who are running can come aboard from the pouring rain. Pharmacists who take that one last prescription a few minutes after closing time, knowing that the child need it that night. Grocery clerks who said thank you with a smile. Neighbors who asked, "Oh!! Do you want some of my basil?"

I am thankful for each and every one of you who makes this world simply work. When I witness these act of love and kindness, they restore my faith in goodness, in the universal bond that tie all of us as one human family, in something bigger than us. This is what gives me hope for a better future for me and my family and for all of us. Each one of us is a simple gift to one another.

Wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving. May your home filled with love and gratitude.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Autumn/Fall Favorite Tag

Autumn Favorite

Fall is my favorite season of the year. The Tod and I would often sit together in the park bench, waiting for the chestnut tree to go "POP!" and for the chestnuts to fall down, or he would often chase squirrels to no end. And since the rainy days are here and I can't take good pictures, I dust up my Polyvore and make a good use of it. All links are non-affiliate, so click away!
  1. Favorite Candle
    It's a tie between Diptyque Figuier and Mariage Freres Darjeeling candle. I'm not sure if Mariage Freres still carries candles, but theirs are some of the best-smelling yet underrated. If you got a chance to go to Mariage Freres boutique, you will know what I mean -- Mariage Freres shops smell of heaven! Mariage Freres also sells incenses which smells equally heavenly.
  2. Favorite Lip Color
    Aerin Mini Lipstick in Dahlia (discontinue) -- a sheer, blackened berry that is great as a stain or full-on. Aerin came up with a new line of lipstick that is worth checking out.
  3. Favorite Drink
    Blue Lotus Chai. I love this steeped in almond milk or whole milk if I feel particularly indulgent (almond milk can be quite rich by itself, too). This is not a tea, per-se, rather it comes in the form of powder and you mix in with milk/water. Very potent, yet very comforting and full-on delicious.
  4. Favorite Blush
    Charlotte Tilbury Breakfast at Tiffany's is the buttery, biscuity peach flush that I yearn every Fall (here she is in action with my version of Tom Ford's biscuity makeup). It goes with any lip color (including the clashing color of Aerin Dahlia above) and so very easy to blend.
  5. Favorite Clothing Item
    A thick, wooly, camel-colored infinity scarf (like above from J.Crew).
  6. Favorite Fall Movie
    Back-to-school movies remind me of Fall. I'm particularly fond of Les Quatre Cents Coups by François Truffaut. Having a son myself, I find the movie more charming each time I watch Antoine Doinel fends off the daily beatings of ordinary life.
  7. Favorite Fall TV Show
    Downton Abbey. Yeah, looking forward to their last season.
  8. Favorite Thanksgiving Food
    This has to be PapaLorp's legendary sausage stuffing with mushroom. He cooks the entire Thanksgiving all by himself many, many times and while his turkey often hit/miss, his stuffing never disappoints.
    Yet another one of PapaLorp's speciality is green bean casserole. His secret? He follows the recipe printed on the Frenchy's Onion. Oldies but goodies!
  9. Favorite Halloween Costume
    I'm not a big costume-wearer but now that the Tod is here, I make one every other year (so I won't have to sew every year). This year, he is Qiao Hu or Shimajiro (depending on which country you watch it -- it is basically the same tiger). This is the equivalent of Daniel Tiger for preschoolers in China/Taiwan/Japan.
  10. Favorite Perfume
    I always pull out the classic combo of Jo Malone Nutmeg Ginger + Grapefruit cologne. Nothing better than a slight edge of spice, tempered with a little zing-sweetness of grapefruit. 
Thanks for the tag, Monika, and Happy Fall to everyone.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Living Below Our Means: Simplify

A valuable lesson I learned from using up what I have is simplifying my routines. It's a no brainer. Less product = less money spent to buy products = less time to get ready = less waste. First, let's assess the situation.

As it turned out, skincare is not only my sore point of product accumulation. Haircare products are also piling up!! Notice this particularly crowded area of the cabinet.

My hair is shoulder-length and I occasionally style it. At the very least, I blow dry it straight every 2-3 days or so. Do I really need this much product? Many of them are already sample/travel size (in fact, almost all of them are), I have yet to use any of them up since at least a year.

So, here's the process that I went through to weed out unnecessary products, which are often disguised as must-haves.

First I grouped these products in terms of their functions.

As you can see, some of the products such as the Spice Sister Wax or Living Proof Styler can multitask. Right there and then, I can already spot some potential items to keep.

In the thickening group, I thought of the differences between these three products. Well, the Bumble and Bumble is used when the hair is damp, but it gives somewhat tacky finish. Ditto with Kevin Murphy, this one gives even more thickening power. I found that Percy & Reed Bodifying Cream gives the best of both worlds: thickening yet not too tacky. So this is the one that I keep.

The redundancy in the heat protector group is massive! Most of them are a variation of leave-in conditioner with perhaps some added benefit like tacky/grippy finish, glossy finish, etc. Kerastase Nectar Thermique is bar none the best product I've tried that gives my hair a silky smooth, glossy finish, whereas the Spice Sister Wax actually doubles as curl enhancer. So I keep these two.

In the texturizing group, the Spice Sister is already in (surviving the previous elimination). I use Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray and blowpro faux dry to give some grip to next-day hair, in case I want to braid or do the bun. The Oribe, although nice-smelling and really works, is honestly too overpriced (and overhyped) for the function; whereas blowpro sounds like a good overall texturizer/dry shampoo-in-one (did I mention that blowpro is unscented, too?). 

In the end, I kept only four: Percy & Reed Bodifying Cream, Kerastase Nectar Thermique, Spice Sister Wax and blowpro. 

... aah.. they do spark joy!
I used up the rest of the products and won't repurchase them anymore in the future (well.. except maybe for the Oribe if I run out of the blowpro).

Other examples of simplification that I've used for skin care:
  • Core routine of acid toner + retinol/retinoids + sunscreen.
    Inevitably, moisturizer and anti-oxidants will have sneaked in as vehicle of one of these, eliminating the need for separate moisturizer all together.
  • Nice-to-haves are non-foaming cleanser and serum.
    I think I'm done with expensive cleanser or cleanser obsession of sort. My goal is to use less commercial cleanser in lieu of bulk common products. For example, I've been using coconut oil with great result as makeup remover/first cleanse (I have dry skin -- probably not for those with oily or combo skin, unless you double cleanse and rinse using cloth). I also grew fond of cleansing with clay (just simply mix a bit water with clay as second cleanse or morning cleanse). Both coconut oil and clay can be bought in bulk for not much money at all.
    Serum is no longer a must-have for me as many of the formulation of good products would have already contained some antioxidants, humectants, etc. A serum worth buying for me would be something that has a good concentration of vitamin C (with appropriate pH) with loads of antioxidants and hyaluronic acid, in a packaging that protect the potency of the product.
  • Splurges would be facial oils for massage and masks.
  • Doing away with cotton buds/pads and switched to all cloth.
    I found cloth to be superior to disposable cotton in terms of cleaning surface (it is gentle and cleans well at the same time) and product absorption (I use so much less product because the cloth retain products so well than the product-waster, thirsty cotton pads). Sadly, I saw reusable cloth rounds sold for ridiculously expensive price, which makes me think of opening up my own business of sewing cloth pads and muslins.
... and here are a list of skincare items that I do not need:
  • Eye cream
  • Foaming cleanser
  • Facial mist, essence, etc.
  • Mechanical exfoliant
  • Lip scrub, mask, treatment, cleanser whatever (a dab of lanolin will do it all)
  • Cleansing device (Clarisonic, Foreo, etc.)
  • Cleansing wipe (actually, I do still use it for the Tod, but we keep these in the car)
  • Primer of any kind

Finally, I must admit that these products still have utility in my makeup cabinet:

  • Dual-phasic eye makeup remover, for those stubborn waterproof mascara
  • Cleansing oil (the kind that has petrolatum in it)
    As much as I want my coconut oil to dissolve all my makeup, I found cleansing oil is particularly effective in dissolving high-silicone content base products (including sunscreen). With that said, I have not replaced the gigantic Shu Uemura bottle that I finished this summer and have not missed it since.
  • Rubbing alcohol.
    For sanitizing and cleaning makeup tools like eyelash curler, to other general use. I always keep a big bottle.

For more inspiration, check out this post from Monika or for those who like to shoot for the stars, check out the Zero Waste Home. Using less products = producing less waste of packaging.

How do you make your decision to simplify your routine?