9.25.2012

Thankful Tuesday

This week have been a busy one for me. PapaLorp is out in his school on Saturday and Sunday, leaving me and BabyLorp alone. On top of that, I've gotten this flu bug that caused stiff neck, swollen lymph glands and headache. Not fun, considering I cannot have any relief just to get a quick appointment to the doctor.

In any case, there are still lots of things to be thankful for:

  1. BabyLorp giggling while eating dinner downstairs with PapaLorp, which leaves...
  2. MamaLorp eating dinner alone, uninterrupted.
  3. A nice grocery run.
    Today, BabyLorp and I went to grocery and met with our favorite cashier who is about to have twin boys! How excited and yet at the same time, apprehensive. Rightfully so. One baby is enough for me, much less two!
  4. A long nap together with BabyLorp (two hours!)
  5. BabyLorp still well despite me being sick.
Until next week! Share with us your gratitude for the day/week.

9.23.2012

Burberry to buy out license from Inter Parfums, Inc

One of my favorite makeup brand is Burberry Beauty. Most makeup fans know that there are only a few large companies which produce the majority of main-stream cosmetics brands, both in department store and in drugstores. For example, the L'Oreal Group are responsible for brands such as Giorgio Armani cosmetics, Lancome, Shu Uemura as well as L'Oreal drugstore brand. I wouldn't be surprised if the same mascara trend from Lancome or Giorgio Armani can be found in their cheaper drugstore L'Oreal brand (thus I never buy department store brand name mascara for this reason). Another example: Estee Lauder, Inc. which responsible for MAC, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Estee Lauder, Tom Ford and La Mer. Again, you can tell that the products from these lines all tend to have the same items (BB creams perhaps?), same type of packaging, same feel, etc.

However, from the first time I tried Burberry products, I knew it is somehow not related to one of those big companies. Burberry products are, somehow, different. The powders are very soft, pigmented, yet stay put. The colors are not overly trendy yet in line with the company's vision & overall image. The packaging is the most luxurious I've found, even surpassed that of Chanel. Hold a Burberry blush package v.s. Chanel quads on each hand and you will notice the difference in terms of the plastic used, the closure mechanism, the finish, the overall experience. Burberry's are far more sophisticated and luxe and I can tell that they spend a bit more on packaging and textures, compared to other brands.

Apparently, Burberry Beauty has been produced and developed by Inter Parfums, Inc. In fact, Burberry Beauty is the only cosmetic line produced by Inter Parfums. According to the recent press release from both Inter Parfums and Burberry here, here, and here, they failed to reach agreement on business model, and thus Burberry will buy out the perfume and beauty license by the end of 2012.

What does this mean to us, makeup fans? Perhaps Burberry will either develop their own makeup line in-house (like Chanel), or outsource it somewhere else. And that somewhere else may be very likely one of the big cosmetic companies (L'Oreal? Estee Lauder?), meaning future Burberry products will feel and look the same as other products that are produced under the same umbrella company, meaning the lost of individuality, meaning sacrificing quality for bigger profit margin. More and more makeup products available out there become homogeneous and alike -- perhaps, there will soon be Burberry BB cream as well.

Finally, for an insider look of what's going on within the production of your favorite cosmetics, I refer you to this post (I hope, hope she is still blogging!).

What do you think about this trend? Have you enjoyed a certain brand in the past and noticed the sudden change in quality?


9.20.2012

Beauty on a budget

Most of us already know: splurge on foundation, skimp on mascara. I will share with you one of my favorite money-saving tips on beauty products that I learned along the way. Perhaps this tip is lesser-known, but it works for me.

Buy designer/brand name accent color of the season, and not the drugstore dupe. Accent color to me usually is either lipstick or nail polish.

Whether it be YSL Rouge Pur Couture or Chanel Paradoxal, it is better to purchase the designer brand than the drugstore dupes. Why? Because buying the brand name product also means not only buying that specific color but also that specific texture, finish, shimmer, etc. that will never be dupe-able with mainstream drugstore brands.

Whenever I clean up my makeup drawer, the number one item that get tossed are the drugstore dupe lipsticks/nail polishes that I kept buying because I thought I was saving money by not buying the real McCoy. In search of the perfect dupe, I always bought multiples of look-alike drugstore items, but I soon discovered that the color wasn't quite right, the shimmer was too obvious, etc. If I have the guts to tally up how much I spent on those dupes, I bet I could have just bought that one shade and be done with it. Besides, one accent "it" color is usually all it takes to complete the makeup look. The rest can be easily filled in with products you already owned.

Even better, information on the it-color is readily available now from blogs, YouTube channels, etc. The original makeup artist who made up the cover of beauty magazines or created the runaway look from fashion shows often list the product name that they use. Even J.Crew now come up with their own version of the catchy red lipstick which graces the models' lips on their catalogs, a collaboration with FACE Stockholm. Finding the exact shade is no longer a guess work -- that is if it happens to suit your skin color.

For more insider tips on lipstick, check out this blog post (the blog, sadly, hasn't been updated for quite some time, but I am hoping that she is still blogging).

What is your favorite tip in order to save on makeup or beauty products?


9.18.2012

Thankful Tuesday

This week we are officially ending summer as PapaLorp will be back to his part-time professional school beginning this week.

  1. A week with PapaLorp at home.
    Any single mom would know how much extra adult at home is appreciated. While I cannot claim that I know what any single mom can do, practically, that’s how I function when PapaLorp’s school is in session. This week, I have the luxury of him at home, taking care of BabyLorp. PapaLorp is a very hands-on husband: anything I can do with BabyLorp, PapaLorp can do, and perhaps even better. From feeding, changing diaper (poopy ones, in public restroom, with only one wipe left!), to playing in the park, indoor playing area, and putting BabyLorp to sleep. I am forever thankful for the wonderful, talented, and loving PapaLorp.
  2. Peaches.
    We found the juiciest, plumpest, sweetest, most fragrant, ripe peaches at local Whole Foods. Apparently, these peaches are especially ripened on the tree and only available once every season. We picked four of this delectable fruit and devour it at home, sweet nectar dripping from our hands and mouths. Delicious!
  3. Time to read.
    Pure luxury is to read without interruption while enjoying a cup of green tea.
  4. BabyLorp recovered from his illness.
    He even giggles during nursing, offers me his bread, sings, and rocks to music. Back to his old-self again.
  5. Realizing that vacation is not where you go, but how you spend time with people you love.
    As I mentioned last week, we were glad we didn't go to our planned vacation, and although we had to pay to cancel our airline ticket and car reservation, we had a good time here during our stay-cation. BabyLorp was ecstatic when we let him loose at the Children's Museum. The next day, dad and baby had a great time in the park, eating lunch and watching ducks while mom got much needed me-time. And all three of us were enjoying ourselves playing at an indoor playground in local mall, for free. I admit that most of the time, I have high hopes for vacation, but it is really about how we spend our time together, without putting too much stress on ourselves. This is why people say they need another vacation to recover after a vacation.

Please share with us your gratitude for the week, or the day.

9.15.2012

Everyday Makeup

Some of the makeup that I use daily (Clockwise from top left: Shu Uemura eye curler,  Clinique Airbrush Concealer, Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum Foundation, Burberry eye shadows, Bobbi Brown pot rouge and Becca Shimmering Skin Prefector).

Many people who know me will be surprised if I tell them that I consider myself a makeup connoisseur. Ask me what shade of blush/lipstick/nail polish are launched by Chanel for this Autumn/Winter collection and I’ll tell you what they are. My love affair with makeup started shortly after I graduated from college, and lived in Paris during the early days of our marriage. No, it is not that Parisienne are usually loaded with obvious makeup; in fact, I hardly came across one who were. Somehow, it is the allure of looking polished, chic, yet understated that attracted me to explore the world of makeup as part of my daily grooming.

So, if makeup for me is all about looking polished, fresh, and presentable, my choice of look is the no-makeup makeup look; the one that is barely-there, sophisticated but without obvious signs, enhancing the best and and minimizing the least desirable features. On occasions, I do enjoy wearing bright lips, smoky eyes, or shimmery bronzy cheeks. Most of the days, however, my makeup is understated.

Understated makeup does not always mean minimal product/minimal makeup. I am aware of the elaborate length some women do to look naturally pretty. I feel, the older I get, the more type of product I need to use in order to help me look my best. For example, I never need to use concealer when I was in my twenties, now I need at least one type for under eye and spots (blame it to hormone). I use highlighter now regularly to cheat an illusion of a youthful skin, when my skin is mostly dull and sallow due to lack of sleep.

The following are the sampling of what I use in daily basis. They may change according to season, what I do during the day, with whom I spend my day, etc. My skin is usually somewhat normal to oily on T-zone, dry everywhere else, with sensitivity. By sensitivity, I specifically mean that I do get reaction, such as hives and welts, from topical skin products that I often treat with over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.

  • Foundation.
    Bourjouis Healthy Mix Serum Foundation #52 or Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua in Beige 20.

  • Concealer.
    Clinique Airbrush concealer, a little bit under my eyes, or Stila Concealer in 30 for blemishes.
  • Highlighting fluid.
    I dab a bit of this over my cheek bone, under the brows, and down my nose. I use either Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Pearl or Burberry Fresh Glow. These products provide luminosity that my skin sometimes lacking without looking too obvious.
  • Mascara.
    I never stay faithful to one brand when it comes to mascara and I always use drugstore brand whenever possible -- just because I toss my mascara every 3 months or so. I always curl my lashes using Shu Uemura eyelash curler.
  • Eye shadow.
    I normally use one base color and one accent color. As a base color, my trusty Burberry Trench eyeshadow does the trick. It is silky smooth and the color is close to the color of my eye lids. I vary the accent color depending on the season. This summer, I’ve been using Burberry Pale Barley a lot. For autumn/winter color, I love Chanel Illusion d’Ombre in #83 Illusoire. I normally do accent color as a sheer wash all over my lids.
  • Blush.
    Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge, Stila Convertible Color, or Becca Beach Tints are some of the blushes I’m using on rotation. In general, I favor cream blushes over powder.
  • Lip balm/tinted balm.

Finally, an excellent tutorial on no-makeup makeup look by Lisa Eldridge provides me with inspiration and tips. On future posts, I will share with you my skincare routine. I think good skin is a good foundation to beauty and most of the time, it gets overlooked.

What are your makeup routine? What products have you enjoyed using in daily basis?

9.11.2012

Thankful Tuesday

Time for a Thankful Tuesday. Although there are lots of challenges this week, I have a lot to be thankful for:
  1. Babylorp finally getting better from his fever.
    For the past 4 days, Babylorp has been having fever, the highest yet that I recorded. One time, it went as high as 104.9 F. I personally have been quite liberal with my son: I tend not to protect him like an egg, I let him roam around and eat dirt (literally) on a local public park, and unless he is totally miserable, I don’t bother with medication to fix his fever. This time, I woke him up several times during the night because he was burning up soo bad! We even went to his pediatrician once, and then to local Children’s Urgent Care once, just to be sure he didn’t have anything bad like RSV or such. Finally, yesterday, his fever broke, and his body is now covered with spots. Must love the roseola!
  2. Babylorp feeding time is getting better.
    I dread putting Babylorp to bed (long story, will divulge later), and since he was sick, his appetite went to zero. He absolutely refused to eat on Sunday. Today, we went to local park where I fed him near the pond and ducks that he loves. He ate the whole meal.
  3. Having enough money to spend on luxury in life, such as cosmetics.
    I won’t elaborate on this. Sufficed to say, I’m embarrassed, but makeup is the little luxury that I have in life. When I put on my makeup in the morning, I am saying yes to this day, with its challenges. I am ready.
  4. Cancelling our trip to San Francisco tomorrow.
    This is one of the rare occasion where I’m glad to be home: a sick child and a husband waking up with sore throat this morning. Yes, we have to pay close to $200 to cancel our airline tickets and car rental, but at least we are close to home and can nurse ourselves back to health.
  5. Fromager d'Affinois. Like Brie, but creamier. A godsend snack at night layered on top of crackers.

9.08.2012

More on Baby Food

Have you examine what goes into prepared baby food? And have you also tasted your baby’s food?

Let’s take a look at one of the best baby food available in the market, HappyBaby Organic Baby Food. We have served this “Chick Chick” a few times to BabyLorp until one day he just decided he does not like it anymore. This one retails for $1.69 for 4 ounces at my local Whole Foods.




As the name implies, the food is made out of chicken, quinoa and vegetables. But exactly how much chicken is in the package? And what kind of vegetables?




Surprised! The first ingredient listed (and thus the most abundant in proportion) is water -- which is necessary for cooking, no matter how you prepare your food, followed by corn. Chicken is the third ingredients, quinoa fifth, and other vegetables listed are potato flakes, diced onion, carrot juice and parsley. Perhaps, the should name this as “Corn Chick” as it consists mostly of corn!

Compared this to the homemade baby food I made earlier, using nothing but chock-full of salmon, mixed grain, bell pepper, zucchini, yams, sweet potato, and Kabocha squash.

How does it taste? Not bad, I must say, but it does not taste as fresh as the homemade baby food. For sure, it has a quite bitter aftertaste and I cannot taste the chicken at all. No wonder the baby decided to stop eating it all together.

By no means I’m implying that prepared baby food is bad, but I hope this post will give you an incentive to do a bit of detective work in selecting prepared baby food.

9.04.2012

Thankful Tuesday

I have a bit of a Monday, even though today is Tuesday. With Labor Day weekend behind me, I feel I’m back in the trenches. But, what better way to start another week with a Thankful Tuesday! I will try to make this a regular feature of my blog: list 5 things that you are thankful this week or the past week, or today. The idea is to make us all aware of the things in our lives that we are grateful for.

For this week, I'm thankful for:

  1. BabyLorp jamming to Whole Foods’ muzak.
    Whole Food’s muzak is not muzak at all, they actually play fine selection of mainstream music. But seeing BabyLorp sitting on grocery cart, his body swaying to the music, his legs kicking excitedly, warms my heart and reminds me of enjoying the simpler things in life.
  2. Being able to shop at Whole Foods -- at all!!
    We try to eat well, but it’s no secret that organic, local groceries are expensive. Infinitely more expensive than regular, mainstream, full-of-pesticide food. I am certainly thankful for PapaLorp who is working full-time to support all of us, earning enough income to allow me to toss into my grocery cart a variety of organic food without worrying how much each costs.
  3. A working car.
    My car is clocking over 15 years now, and I’m glad every single time I drive that it still works perfectly. There may have been some dings and scratches, but I owned it, and it has gives me lots of return in its value.
  4. A loving husband.
    He takes care of BabyLorp when I need a break and more. He helps me put BabyLorp to sleep whenever he can, feeds the Lorp in the morning, afternoon, and evening, and plays silly, mischievous games with him. This morning, I saw BabyLorp reaching his hands toward him, not me.
  5. Summer ice cream.
    Need I say more? And yes, that’s BabyLorp’s hand reaching for his last taste of the ice cream.

What are you thankful for today? Share your list of gratitude with us.

9.03.2012

Baby Food: An Introduction

Would you rather feed your baby this:
HappyBaby Organic Baby Food, Chick Chick flavor.
Or this:
Clockwise from upper left: Kabocha squash, zucchini, yams and sweet potato, red bell pepper, mixed-grain porridge with flaked salmon.

Baby food is incredibly easy to make but yet many of the moms I see still prefer prepacked food. I don’t think this is due to lack of knowledge of preparing baby food. In fact, I believe many moms set out to prepare the most nutritious food for their babies in their own kitchen and somehow fall back to the ready made jarred/vacuum packed. Perhaps, the lack of time and energy prevent them from preparing homemade food. Let’s face it, if preparing food for the adults in the family required that much effort already, pre-made baby food is a welcome relief.

I’m often asked by moms who saw me feeding BabyLorp to share what I feed him and the recipe. They are, quite honest, very simple. Most of the time, I just cook whatever food we need during the week for the adult. For example, this past week, we made beef and barley stew with carrot, celery, onion and mushrooms. The week before that, we made braised chicken with leek, tomato, carrot, and bell pepper. I’d set aside a portion of our dish, unseasoned, and grind it in my regular food processor, and freeze it in small jars or ice cube trays for BabyLorp’s consumption.

Apart from that, I also prepare vegetables and fruits every other week, especially for the baby. The selection vary on whatever is in season. I’d like to think that exposing him to a variety of food items would help him in his development of both his sensory and growth. As BabyLorp has just turned 13 months, I don’t know how much of the nutrient from solid food is actually absorbed in his still immature digestive tract (as any moms with babies of this age can attest, what comes in looks exactly as it comes out on the other end). This is also the reason why I’m still keeping up with breastfeeding. In any case, our selection includes sweet peas, bell pepper, zucchini, kale, chard (rainbow, swiss, etc.), squash, winter squash (he is particularly fond of Kabocha), and seasonal fruits (we are blessed with a variety of stone fruits during the summer). I’d lightly steam these fruits and vegetables, or even leave them raw, process them to the consistency of his likings, and freeze them.

Finally, to round up everything, I also prepare some source of carbohydrate. Our old staples are sweet potatoes and yams. Lately, I've been preparing mixed-grain porridge, which consist of one part of each quinoa, millet, and amaranth. I try to avoid things with high glycemic index like white rice.

Now, to the mix. BabyLorp usually consumes about 4-6 oz of pureed baby food in one sitting, in addition to unlimited amount of finger food (more of finger food on later post) and fruits. The composition has always been: one part meat/protein source, 2 parts carbohydrate/grains, and 3 parts vegetables. This would mean one cube of the frozen meat (from the stew or the braised dishes), 2 cubes of frozen mixed-grain porridge, and 3 cubes of pureed frozen vegetables, all thawed and seasoned lightly before serving. I also mixed some good fat in his food, such as omega-3 supplement for baby. Into his pureed fruits, I mix in one probiotic capsule, which keeps constipation at bay.

So moms, what are your thought in preparing baby food yourself? And what are some of your little one’s favorite food?

9.02.2012

End of Summer

Labor day weekend marks the end of Summer season, for the most part. Children will be back to school soon, and Fall is just right around the corner. I used to hate Summer: the sweltering heat and the intense sun is not my cup of tea for I much rather spend my days in the shade, indoor, enjoying a good book, and a tall glass of Italian soda or iced tea - my favorite summer beverages. Besides, who would want to spend the days baking in the sun when it is bad for the skin?

However, things are a lot different now that the baby is here. BabyLorp is the king of simple pleasures; crawling on the grass or eating on some dry leaves can occupy him for hours. So, what better things to do than to leave our small town home, baking under the intense sun, and go outside in the park. And that’s what exactly we’ve been doing.

At the beginning of the season, I enrolled both of us in parent-tot swimming class that forced us to go to the pool twice a week. BabyLorp, who loves water in our small bath tub, absolutely abhorred the pool. The screams, the echos, water splashing and sloshing all around were too much for him to handle. As soon as we entered the water, he wanted nothing to do with the lesson. We were lucky if I could get him to cling to one of the toys provided to distract fearful tots. Most of the time, he’d cry on and off, and we managed to somewhat follow the direction of the teacher.

The worst part came usually after the swim. As I tried juggling to get myself out of my wet bathing suit, while risking being exposed half-naked in the unisex changing room, BabyLorp would scream on top of his lungs, because he could not bear parting with me even for a moment. I often wondered why oh why do I decide to take on such trouble upon me. Heck, this is pure torture!!! Not to mention the moms/dads who were glancing at the panic-me, couldn’t stand anymore screaming that came out of the baby.

After the brief visit to hell, we came to the good part. We would go to a nearby park, sat under a shady tree, and ate lunch together. BabyLorp would sit quietly and contentedly, watching the ducks swimming in the nearby pond. For a moment, we sat there in silence, engrossed in the nature around us, the shady tree, green grass, joyous children squealing with joy in nearby play area and chirping birds. Suddenly, things were peaceful again and how glad were we to get out of the house and enjoyed the beautiful summer weather.

Some time, I like to shake things up a bit. One time, we went on a walk around the park in circle. Other time, I took some soap bubbles to blow and BabyLorp would watch with amazement as the bubbles floated around him. He’d giggle and amused himself with the bubbles, or busied himself by munching on his own toes. Even the smallest thing  -- such as trying to find own’s belly button while being shirtless -- amazed him, and for a moment, I realize how simple life can be, and that happiness is in enjoying the simplest things. Happiness is found in this moment.

The summer has taught me to enjoy the simplest things in life, thanks to BabyLorp. We had our last swim this weekend, and I’m a bit sad saying goodbye to summer. Who would have thought that having a baby would challenge your perception of life, such as your favorite season. For now, I look forward to the cooler season. I’m sure we’ll have more things to do and to discover about me and my baby.

How have you enjoyed your summer so far? And what are you looking forward to next season?

9.01.2012

On Shower and Bath

I’m inspired by this post from The Daily Connoisseur to share items I have in my shower.

Many of these items overlap to be used for baby as well. This is because I found myself overly sensitive to scents. I also feel I’d like to smell like myself when I’m snuggling with BabyLorp.

  • California Baby Unscented hair and body cleanser. It comes in a pump bottle that turns it into mild foam. I love it that it does not dry the skin; mine nor BabyLorp’s.
  • Klorane Volumizing Shampoo with Almond Milk. My hair is straight and limp, so far I've been pleased with this product. It does a nice job cleansing and gives a little lift to my hair.
  • Alba Botanica Shaving lotion. There’s a reason why this was on sale: it does not rinse off and it leaves goopy residue on my razor. I’m stuck with 2 big tubes, will use it up and move on to something else.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing cleanser. I use this daily, alternating with...
  • L’Oreal Go 360o Clean Deep Clean Facial Cleanser for sensitive skin. This one is not bad at all. It is unscented, creamy, and wash off easily. The down side is that it does not take off make up completely.
  • CeraVe lotion. Excellent, unscented lotion for daily use.
  • Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse. The lovely orange blossom scent is growing on me.
  • Mustela Stelatopia. I use this on BabyLorp’s cheek as well as my hands. It makes for an excellent hand cream.

After the shower, I usually towel dry my hair and put on a little bit of grooming cream. I’ve been using Phyto 9, which I think is the best, unscented grooming cream out there. I don’t usually blow dry my hair or in the summer, I just air-dry. Some other hair conditioner that I use in rotations are Kerastase Masquintense and Lush Jungle. Lush Jungle has such a nice, herbal scent that I love. Kerastase Masquintense is about the best hair mask out there; you only need to use it a little bit, thankfully, because it is very expensive.

On the rare occasion that I can luxuriate in a bath, I love to use Lush bath bombs. My favorite is Cedriwen Calduron with its creamy, herbally scent that is very comforting. I would love to try other products. Jo Malone Bath oil has been in my list since forever. Somehow, I cannot justify myself to take a bath at home. Perhaps because it is too indulgent, but perhaps because I also don’t have the time to enjoy it. Besides, I feel all of that water come to waste in one sitting -- my neurotic guilt from long when my mom said never to waste any water.

I have never realize the value and importance of shower until I have BabyLorp. A shower can make such a positive change in mood! There are days when I haven’t shower, simply because the baby takes so much of my time during the day, that when PapaLorp comes home, all I can do is to go to bed. Sleep has become more of a priority than grooming. But a shower can really change my mood tremendously -- I feel I am more refreshed and can function better as a mom after a quick shower. Now, I make a point to take a shower daily if I can.

What are your favorite shower/bath products? What do you do to lift your mood when you need a boost?