A Year of Gratitude

Anyone has any recommendation for online collage maker?
When I look back throughout the year, there are many things that stuck in my memory. Winter comforts like hot tea and soups, cherry blossoms in the Spring, lots of outdoor play during hot Summer days and walks in crunchy leaves during Fall. I am also grateful for so many of you who have visited my measly blog throughout the year, dropping by with your comments, tweets, and collaborations (here and here).

For all of you, my warmest wish for the New Year. May it brings you peace and blessings, in obvious and not-so-obvious places.


Season's Greetings

Twelve selections we'd love to hear at the Land, in no particular order. Get your Spotify ready, here goes..
  1. Welcome Christmas from The Grinch. A childhood classic.
  2. All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan by Kenny Chesney, a favorite of PapaLorp, a summary of how I grew up spending Christmases: somewhere in the beach, getting a good tan.
  3. All We Like Sheep from Handel Messiah, the Dunedin Consort version. Notice how each part of the chorus is meandering here and there, really lost like the sheep!
  4. Somewhere in My Memory from Home Alone Soundtrack (this one is a good youtube video with nice sceneries from Quebec).
  5. Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney reminds me of my first Christmas away from home, where I found myself in a plush country club in Bexley, OH, slathered head to toe with Country Apple toiletries from Bath and Body Works.
  6. Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley, a Christmas when my mom, my sister, and I spent karaoke-ing at a tropical resort.
  7. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas by Michael Buble. In case you haven't gotten into the holiday mood yet.
  8. Last Christmas by Wham. Who can forget this??
  9. Silent Night from the Los Romeros, best enjoyed near fireplace with your loved ones around.
  10. Christmas Swing from Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, for all the fans of "Hot Club" jazz.
  11. Winter Wonderland by Diana Krall -- or anything from Diana Krall, really. I just close my eyes and imagine myself looking gorgeous and chic, in some swanky, grown-up party, sipping some grown-up drink, nibbling on some grown-up hors d'oeuvres, having some grown-up conversations, before I am brought back to reality by...
"More, more, Mama!!" The final selection, the most favoritest of the ToddlerLorp himself (before he discovers Alvin and The Chipmunks Christmas -- which I will spare you). I present you, the Las Vegas Brass Band Jingle Bells:

I wish you a merry Christmas and a blessed New Year of 2014, from our Land to yours.


drybar: Sake Bomb and Hot Toddy

Do you notice the hand-written thank you note that was included in my drybar order? I thought it was a very nice touch!!

This is my second installment of drybar product review (see the first here) and I waited this long to share with you the result, just to be sure that 1. I use the products regularly to notice any kind of improvement or lack thereof, and 2. I use it in the winter months when my hair is really dry and in need some serious nourishment on top of the occasional insult of blow-drying. Links are included below, not affiliate, just for convenience and for those who'd like to see the ingredients.

I knew I had to order Sake Bomb Nourishing Shampoo right away when I ordered the Happy Hour 'poo + cond. Happy Hour set is really designed to give a long-lasting blow dry, so they cannot be too moisturizing, right? My routine is normally to double-'poo: once with Happy Hour and once with Sake Bomb, then conditioner. As a nourishing shampoo, Sake Bomb is noticeably more moisturizing than Happy Hour. My wet hair does not get tangled as much as when I used Happy Hour. It suds a lot and I can feel my hair and scalp feel quite clean. I like that it is sulfate-free; however, my hair is not colored so I cannot vouch to whether or not this actually strips color away. Overall, not bad for a moisturizing shampoo.

After Sake Bomb, Hot Toddy is a natural add-on, esp if you heat-style. This product acts as a leave-in conditioner before blow-drying or using hot styling tools. My HG heat protector has been Kerastase Nectar Thermique and if you also are a Kerastase fan, I think you are in for a bit of a disappointment. I found Hot Toddy does not even hold a candle to Nectar Thermique. Just to give you an idea, I had to use a bit more than a quarter-size dollop of Hot Toddy, compared to just maybe less than a dime size of Nectar Thermique (really, just a size of a pea), to achieve that glossy, silky, frizz-free strands on my mid-length hair. I found that if I don't apply enough Hot Toddy (the quarter-size dollop, per recommendation, was about accurate in my case), my hair looks a bit dry and easily tangled due at the ends. But on the flip side, if I use Hot Toddy too much, it actually weighs down my hair, whereas with Nutri Thermique, I only use but a smidgen so my hair is very bouncy and weightless. Not that Hot Toddy can't do what it supposed to do, in my case, I need a lot more to achieve it. Apart from that, I think this is probably best suited to those with good hair condition (aka, not overly damaged/processed), or perhaps for occasional use.

All drybar product are priced sort of mid-upper range, not cheap, definitely! I'd probably wouldn't use these on regular basis, but for those special occasions when I do blow dry, I'd definitely use them.

Have you tried drybar products?


Thankful Tuesday: A Mindful Holiday

Each of these tags contains a wish from someone who can't afford it for themselves.
Consider finding one in your local mall near you.

When I start hearing Christmas muzak played in local grocery store, I know we are deep in the Holiday season. The thing is, at least here in the U.S. holiday season = shopping season. Let's not deny that there is a place for gift giving and spending. Truly, this is the time of the year when everyone should feel free to do so.

Here at the Land of Lorp, we discern what would be an appropriate tradition to pass on to the littlest of Lorp. Since I become a parent, I think much about our lifestyle in general, and micro-lifestyle around celebrations in particular. This is why they say you grow up when you become a parent, because you've never done the growing up thus far, until you have to!!

Well, you don't have to be a parent to learn from my experience. In this installment of "Thankful Tuesday," I will share some ideas of how to spend the holiday season mindfully. Most of the ideas below requires little money, some requires spending money but I assure you that they worth the feeling you will have in return. The idea of giving is to affirm the goodness that are already abundance around us, a symbol of thanks and gratitude to people who we take for granted throughout the year. Even if we only do it once a year, let it be a mindful, meaningful one.
  1. Give thanks.
    How can we acknowledge the goodness and abundance around us if we are not aware of it? Giving thanks is one of the way that we become aware of how plentiful our lives already are.
    I know a family who keeps a "gratitude jar" whereby they write on a strip of paper what they are thankful for each day for the whole year. During Christmas time, they made a chain decoration out of it and hang it on the Christmas tree. ToddlerLorp is a bit too young this tradition, but I'm thinking of a gratitude Advent Calendar maybe next year when he's old enough to participate.
  2. Give experience.
    I'm sure you've read somewhere that given the same amount of money spent on a purchase or an experience, most people reported more satisfaction buying an experience. So why not give one? We gave the Toddler's nanny-share buddy a year's pass to Teddy Bear tea party, hosted by us. Not only I know she'll use it (after soliciting idea from her mom), but it ensures that our children develop friendship & her parents have break throughout the year. A gift that keeps on giving!
  3. Give time.
    My most needed "gifts" are quite simple: a time alone for myself so I can read for leisure, a time to go out and enjoy a leisurely lunch, an extra time to sleep in. Do I get nods? Giving time is the simplest thing you can do for your loved ones.
    Giving your time can also mean volunteering at a local place. Volunteering has always been part of our life and we have met wonderful people along the way. Most importantly, volunteering is a way to keep our lives in perspective. It is a real eye-opener to experience first-hand that it does not take much to make someone else's day. This year, I'll be volunteering at Toddler's preschool to make some Christmas decoration which we will deliver to a local nursing home.
  4. Give to the "Giving Tree"/"Adopt a Family."
    The giving trees are cropping up this time around, and you can just pick one tag that suits you. This year, we picked one tag for a little girl, the same age of the Toddler, who is in need of potty training stuffs (elastic pants, training diapers, portable potty, etc). Just to think that another parent cannot afford any of the basic necessities such as potty training equipments made me realize how fortunate we are to not even think about it.
  5. Give of yourself.
    One Christmas, my Oma and Opa told all of us, their grandkids, that we could ask them anything at all about their lives. So I asked how they met. What a wonderful story that was, one that I will forever remember -- I realized how far they came to provide for their families and where my personality traits came from!
    Sure, loved ones can make you anxious during holiday gathering, but with judicious question, try to reconnect with your choice of family member and see what they have to share in terms of their lives. Their gift may surprise you.
  6. Gift of nature.
    One of my most treasured gift is actually a potted orchid from my father. He inherited a greenhouse-full of orchids from his father that he propagates further. Every time I look at the orchid, it reminds me of my family, how so much care are put into this such humble plant. Consider giving a snip of your plants to your neighbor, perhaps a sprig of life herb in a small yoghurt pot. If you have friendly, outgoing pets, consider bringing them to preschools (whose residents will shower your pets with love), children hospital, or nursing homes. Getting in touch with nature, however small, is a gentle reminder that we are all connected and life can be found in so many different living beings.
Happy giving to everyone and I invite you to share other mindful holiday ideas.


Loving Right Now

Loving Right Now, Late Fall 2013

A few things I've been loving right now, late Fall leading into Holiday season:
  • The dainty yet glowy shade, aptly name Love Glow by Charlotte Tilbury, paired with a fresh, bright pinky red of Chanel Rouge Coco in No. 31 Cambon. Both go very well with either glamorous or subdued eyes.
  • A second Simple Pleasures hat that I knitted using a hand-dyed cashmere of the duskiest grey hue from Ireland.
  • Lavender + Eucalyptus essential oil drops, hanging from a washcloth, that transforms an ordinary shower into a luxurious one. Even the garden-variety essential oil brands from your grocery stores will do!
  • Smith Teamaker Meadow blend no. 67: an intoxicating melange of chamomile, rooibos, rose petals and linden blossoms that keeps me company in chilly nights.
  • Bernardaud tea votive (similar version that I bought from Paris a long, long time ago), the votive that I give as gifts to commemorate milestones such as weddings, engagements, birth of a baby, etc.
  • Handel's Messiah, especially the Dunedin Consort's version which is impossibly, impeccably, incredibly angelic, perhaps what Handel would have intended. Click here for Spotify link.

What have brightened your spirit lately?


Burberry Nails: General Comparison

Burberry Nails No. 105 Mink - a true minky color.

Burberry has came out with new line of nail polish. When a new product launch, I scour the internet not only to see swatches but also to learn product performance: texture, pigmentation, dry time, what base/top coat would be compatible etc. etc. and so far such reviews are lacking.

I will leave it up to other bloggers to take swatch pictures, color comparisons, etc. but here I'll present the technical aspect of the product.

Lipstick on the Left, Nail Polish on the Right.

Comparison size with other brands.

Size/Price Point
Notice how TINY the bottle is. Next to the nail polish bottle is Burberry lipstick. They are practically the same in size. Eight mL of product equals to $21, so that comes down to $2.62/mL of nail polish, a higher price point than Chanel at $1.77/mL or even Dior at $2.46/mL. But really, when do you actually finish a bottle of polish to the last drop? If you do, then maybe Burberry Nails is a splurge.

Left Dior, Right Burberry. While Dior brush look wider than Burberry in the picture, notice how much nail polish Burberry brushs soak up and thus fattening it up a bit, versus the Dior brush that hardly has any polish on it.

Brush Size
The wide brush measures at 4 mm across, the same as Dior's (although Dior's is tapered on the tip). It feels denser than Dior and a bit stiffer. Wide brush is hard to maneuver on my pinky finger (I had to hold the brush sideways to paint my pinky). Also, it is not as directional to paint around curved nail bed. But the thicker bristle is quite appropriate since Burberry's polish texture is considerably thicker than Dior's (if not the thickest polish I've tried so far). Which lead us to...

If Essie is runny like skim milk, and Dior is like whole milk, Burberry is like heavy cream. My preference is somewhere along the line of Chanel and OPI (2% milk?). Thick consistency means goopy polish around the smaller area of the nails (such as around the nail bed of my pinky). Also, if you don't perfectly line up your second coat on top of your first, it'll leave a demarkation area, sort of like two layers stack on top of each other.
Apart from that, it is self-leveling. I tried some of the pale colors in person, like Nude Beige and Nude Pink, they were also self-leveling with no streaking after it dried.

Dry Time
It claims to dry in 2 minutes and hardens in 6, which actually pretty close. I waited about 1 minute per coat and when I brushed on the second one on top, the first one already almost completely dried. Not bad for such a thick polish. However, again another down side of thicker polish, it stunk of solvent for two days. (Butter London, for e.g. hardly smells of solvent after just one night).

Wear Time based on Different Top+Base Coat Combo
I'm not sure if I qualify to offer any reviews in terms of nail polish wear time. I'm a part-time stay-at-home mom (read: changing diapers 5-6 times daily, cooking, bathing the little one, washing LO's hands, etc. etc. that require frequent and prolonged contact with water, the archenemy of nail polish), so polishes usually last around 2 days on my index, thumb, or other fingers that I used often. However, I compare wear time between different top/base coat combo so you can gauge if a particular combo is a good one or not. The comparisons below are based on my ring/pinky fingers.

Deborah Lippmann Hydrating Base + CND Super Shiney Top = 5 days wear, good combo!
DLHB + Chanel Top = 3-4 days wear, a bit of shrinkage on the tip, not a good combo.
DLHB + Dior Gel Top = 4 days wear.

Burberry Nails also comes with their own top/base coat-in-one.

THM: I feel Burberry excels in color. Their colors are always wearable, sophisticated, hard to emulate. There are so many taupes, but some are too yellow, too grey, too pink, too whatever, Burberry's is just right. Other than that, the texture is too thick and the brush is too wide for my taste.

Hope this helps! Visit other reviews of Burberry Nails at Gummy Vision and Cafe Makeup.


Traveling with the Wee Ones

The Toddler and Mr. Chipmunk asleep in the flight

Travel seasons are upon us and that means the all-too-familiar art of traveling with small children (i.e bebe up until maybe 5-6 years old when your children can sit still/follow verbal command within reason): run them around before boarding, load up with special snacks, goodie bags, novel toys, timing the flight with their regular nap-time schedule, etc. However, what I always wanted to know is the insider tip from the professionals. Here, Gummy from the Gummy Vision (who is a professional flight attendant) has graciously provided candid answers.

I hope you enjoy this installment and found this useful!

Hello, I’m Gummy over @ Gummy Vision, and a Flight Attendant in my offline life. Claire asked
me if I would share some insider knowledge to help make traveling with the little ones easier!

Q: What about your view of parents walking their kids up/down aisle/or hanging out at the back of the aircraft?

A: Number one thing to say here...if the seatbelt sign is ON, you aren’t supposed to be out of your seat. If FAA is on board and sees you out of your seat with the seatbelt sign on, you as an individual can be issued a fine. I’ve never personally seen it, but I have had friends who have witnessed it. It’s not the Flight Attendants who decide when the seatbelt sign goes on and off - the Pilots make that decision, and they make that decision for a reason. Depending on where you are sitting on the plane, you may not feel turbulence...heck sometimes we don’t even feel it! But that doesn’t mean there aren’t weather reports and other planes that have reported turbulence in the area, hence the decision is made to have the seatbelt sign on or off. I realize it’s very difficult for passengers to sometimes understand the safety importance of being buckled up...usually it’s chalked up to ‘that mean Flight Attendant’...but I can tell you that I’ve seen the horrible physical injury turbulence can cause. In our yearly training, instructors relate recent incidents and sometimes will show pictures. I’ve also talked to Flight Attendants who have been out of work for months, even over a year because of turbulence. There are even Flight Attendants who are unable to ever return to work because of the injuries. I’ve not been seriously injured, but I’ve been bounced around enough to be scared and to take my seat when I’m supposed to, or if I don’t feel safe. Please know a Flight Attendant is just doing her job if she/he tells you the seatbelt sign is on and you should return to your seat. That said, you have to make the decision to follow what has been asked of you or not...just be prepared to deal with any consequences. End rant!! Ha ha :-) To get back to the original question, here is my personal opinion of parents walking up/down the aisles and hanging out at the back of the aircraft...The aisles and back/front of the aircraft is Flight Attendant workspace. Just like you may have your office space, the aircraft is our office. And lemme tell ya’...that space is usually tiny!!! You may really appreciate the opportunity to get you and your child out of your seats, but please realize that by doing so, we have to work around you. If you need to walk up and down the aisle a few times, no problem! If you need to come to the galley for a few minutes, no problem! But please don’t be in the galleys or the aisles for extended periods of time. The longer you are milling about, the more difficult and frustrating it is to work around you. As a Flight Attendant, I try to be as understanding as possible, but there comes a point where I sometimes have to ask people to go back to their seats. As an example, not too long ago 2 men were chatting in the back galley for well over 30 minutes. 2 of us were working out of the back, plus the 3rd Flight Attendant would sometimes have to come to the back for this or that. As mentioned before, our workspace is tiny!!! We finally had to ask the men to go back to their seats because we constantly had to maneuver around them (and they around us) and it was getting ridiculous. Hope you don’t think I’m saying not to get out of your seats! But please be conscientious when you do so :-)

Hello, sky!

Q: I'm sure you have been in a situation where you have been called by passengers who were bothered by crying children. What would you have done differently if you were the parent? I understand you are not a parent, but we'd like to know the proper way of "handling" this situation as to have a win-win resolution. Children are by nature unpredictable, gets tired & cranky easily and when they do, they are super hard to manage. A: Yes, more often than you might think. I have quite the ability to tune certain things out, and crying children is one of them...unless they are way loud and nonstop. If a passenger asks or complains about a crying child, I apologize and offer to see if there’s another seat. If they say anything else, my canned response is to apologize again and say something like...kids are kids...and I offer for them to move if I know there’s another seat. I only ever interfere with crying children if it’s been a long time because usually the parent has done everything they can, and I don’t see what else I am able to do differently. If it has been a long time, I’ll ask them if they need juice or snacks, or sometimes we have coloring/activity books to offer. This is a tough one because I don’t know that there’s a black and white win-win for every instance. Sometimes the child needs to work it out and simply cry and other passengers need to get over it because hey, it’s a public space of sorts and everyone was a child once too. However, the parents I see that have the most success are the ones who bring things to keep their children occupied. Snacks, games, toys, movies. Maybe it involves letting your child do something you don’t normally allow...for instance maybe you don’t usually let them eat Pop Tarts, but you bring them anyway you know they love them and it can be a special treat. I saw one lady who I thought was a genius!!! She had 2 little girls, both under the age of 5 (I asked later how old they were). She had gone to the Dollar Store and purchased a couple of drawstring bags...in it she had individually wrapped (in girly wrapping paper) everything from crayons to notepads to snacks to little bracelets to a movie to a bunch of other things. I guess that’s my point - do something to make travel special! I remember when I was little my mom always let us pick out a couple of treats before each trip and it was so fun :-)
Stretching my air legs

Q: Are there any other things that a Flight Attendant would share to parents? I'm thinking in terms of safety and comfort for the family & passenger around. We parents are quite self-conscious (apart from those who said I don't give a ****, many are actually do!). Anything you'd like to share because you are on the other side of the equation here, so to speak.
A: Here are my tidbits!

  • I think the more self contained you are, the easier it is for everyone. Things I mentioned before such as bringing your own snacks, drinks (to begin the flight) and entertainment w/ headphones. Also know that many airlines don’t have pillows/blankets anymore or they are available for purchase only, so bring a blanket or jacket or an extra something warm for the little ones. Also a change of clothing is helpful...I’ve seen plenty of children get sick and throw up...or other things. Even for the big kids. I had a young man the other day get so sick and puke all over himself in the bathroom. His Uncle ended up putting his pants in a plastic bag and then gave his nephew his jacket to cover himself with. You just never know. Heck, I even bring a change of clothes when I travel!
  • Either bring a trash bag with you, or ask for one at the beginning of the flight. It’s really helpful to keep at your seat for the flight, so that you don’t always have to wait to throw things away. Also from a Flight Attendant perspective, it’s really disheartening to see a row of seats with crackers smashed into the carpet, stickers all over the seats, trash everywhere...you get the idea. I actually do this as a passenger, except I just use the airsick bag. 
  • Don’t hand a dirty diaper to a Flight Attendant. Ever. Seriously. It might be ‘just pee’ to you...but to the Flight Attendant IT’S PEE!!!! Ask for a trash bag, please :-)
  • Don’t leave a dirty diaper in the seat pocket...please throw it away!
  • Bring wet wipes with you...lots of wet wipes. They come in handy for so many things. I even bring them because I like to wipe down my tray table (and back of the seat that the tray table rests against), arm rests, etc. Speaking of, I’d highly recommend wiping down those tables...I see all manner of things being done on them...diaper changing, toenail clipping...
  • Make sure all your electronics are charged! Many airlines don’t have outlets once you get on the plane. 

I think that’s it!! Huge THANK YOU to Claire for allowing me to post!!! Hope everyone has a fun and successful travel season coming up :-)


Adventure of online shopping at Selfridges.com.

Disclaimer: This cautionary tale is not meant to blame any party involved in the process. I share my experience solely to help others out there who might be in the same situation/contemplating to place an order. All personal information/identifier of anyone involved has been removed to further present this situation in the most objective way possible.
Update Friday, November 22nd: received an email from Selfridges.com customer service, which is very courteous and considerate of them, offering an EVoucher for all the trouble below. I thought this is a very nice gesture indeed.

Once out of a blue moon, I decided to embark on a shopping adventure at Selfridges.com. I totally get the lure of instant access to many cosmetic brands that are not available in the U.S. But to be completely honest, I did this just because. Yes, I know. I've always been prudent of my purchases and I have family members who travel to London quite frequently for business. So, I really have no immediate need to shop other than to try out this service. What harm could it do, right?

Or so the tale began...

Monday, November 11th
I purchased makeup items from Selfridges online (a Suqqu brush and some Charlotte Tilbury). It went smoothly. The site accepted my U.S. issued credit card just fine and to my amazement, the items were dispatched the very next day: kudos to Selfridges lightning-speed service!! 

Thursday, November 14th
The real adventure began when I received a phone call and an email from DHL, stating that my package was stuck in U.S. Customs. The agent needed me to provide the following information:

A .pdf attachment from DHL

I thought, wait a minute.. I read Selfridges' FAQ carefully (under "What happens if my order gets stuck in customs?") before placing this order, and it states, "Selfridges and our delivery partner aim to handle all customs documentation and formalities, including payment of any applicable tax and duties on your behalf."

Since I have no access to any of these products beforehand, I couldn't supply the necessary document that contains Statement of Intended Use, Company Name and Address, Product Labeling, List of Ingredients. Also, why do they need my Social Security Number? Right away, I emailed Selfridges' customer service (intending to follow up with a trans-Atlantic phone call on Monday), and explained my situation. 

However, that night I decided to take matters in my own hands. I searched the web and found a post from Temptalia here. Christine was so helpful by telling me the info she sent to the DHL in order to clear her items from U.S. Customs (scroll down toward the end of the post and to the comment section).

Here's what I sent to DHL. For each item, I researched the following:
  • Statement of Intended Use
    FDA made a distinction between food, drug, and cosmetics and each one of them has its own definition by law. My feeling/thought was, after reading a bit about the distinctions made by FDA, that the Customs office needs to know whether this product is cosmetics, or drugs, or food, and whether or not this is for commercial or personal use. So, I wrote, "Blush/Lipstick/Eye Pencil/(whatever your item is) - Cosmetics, for personal use, not for resale/distribution." -- Christine echoed this idea.
  • Detailed Description
    I tracked down the descriptions from either Selfridges.com, Suqqu, or  Charlotte Tilbury's website. E.g. "Suqqu's Frame Fix cream foundation is a rich and light cream foundation that does..."
  • Manufacturer, Company Name/Address
    Most likely you'll find this info on the actual packaging/box of products, but you can also find this online. In the case of Suqqu, I couldn't find their corporate office, but I could find from their Japanese website, the distribution center's address and I gave that.
  • Product Labeling
    This is a tricky one. According to FDA, product labeling is any kind of marking/labeling on the packaging of the product itself. How on Earth am I going to get this info, without seeing the actual packaging in front of me? Thankfully, CT's website is quite liberal with the description of the products, so I sent them the screen shot of each one of them (again, thanks to Christine for this tip). For the Suqqu item, I went to Suqqu's UK website and again, copy down screenshot of the product description.
  • List of Ingredients
    This one is the easiest, thanks to CT's website. However, you may be out of luck if you ordered Suqqu cosmetic items instead, because I couldn't find any online, either from the Japan nor UK website.
I typed all of the above nicely, organized all the screenshots, saved them in one pdf file and emailed it to DHL. I also asked them to call me personally for my SSN. Noone should ever send SSN via unencrypted means.

Friday, November 15th
Eight AM sharp, PST, I received a phone call from a DHL agent in LA. He was courteous and polite, despite my annoyed tone yesterday. I asked him why I needed to supply this information when Selfridges claimed to have taken care of "all customs documentation and formalities," as stated on the above FAQ. I was also particularly curious about the requirement of SSN. The agent kindly explained in great detail about the U.S. Customs process (which I won't belabored and have succinctly put above). In the event that DHL needs any of the above information to clear Customs, DHL will contact either exporter (i.e. Selfridges), or importer (i.e. moi, consumer, buyer). He also mentioned that U.S. Customs needs SSN for tax identification purpose. If you have an alternate tax identification number (TIN), you can supply that instead of your SSN. I thanked him for his explanation and courtesy and he assured me he'd inform me every step of the way. Then he said, "Oh, by the way, you are not the only one. I've got three other packages all from Selfridges with the same problem." 

Ten AM. The agent called me again and said he has pushed through my package to the U.S. Customs for clearance. He mentioned that it takes 24-72 hours for the approval and that he had no control over the package once it is in the custody of U.S. Customs. Fingers crossed. 

Still no reply from Selfridges.com customer service.

Saturday, November 16th
I checked DHL's tracking update, I cannot believe my eyes. It says "Processing Complete." Do these people really work on Saturdays?

Sunday, November 17th
A haze due to too much cake eaten at a Birthday party.

Monday, November 18th
Package arrived at my front door shortly before noon. DHL will ask for signature upon delivery. If you are unable to be home, like I did, leave them a piece of paper saying "I hereby authorized DHL to deliver my package. Please leave the package at (my front porch next to the dog kennel). Sign and date."

... and received a reply from Selfridges.com customer service:

Tuesday, November 19th
Received another email from Selfridges.com listing ingredients of each product, but only for CT's not Suqqu's. Replied back to customer service explaining my situation, thanking them for their effort.

Final thoughts:
  • Providing information and the customs delay were a slight annoyance. I got my package in exactly a week, really record time cross-Atlantic! However, I do think that my situation could have been much worse had I bought the "wrong" type of products (aka Suqqu cosmetics, for e.g. where I couldn't find the ingredient list).
  • Selfridges: speedy delivery, courteous customer service, but didn't provide complete customs documentation.
    Granted, international delivery is a new service from Selfridges and I'm sure they will smooth out the process in the future. But, I am glad I didn't wait around for the email reply from the customer service to help speed along the clearance process at Customs. Selfridges have 14 days return policy. What's going to happen if my package is stuck in Customs beyond that 14 days because I'm still waiting for their replies? 
  • DHL: great service, I thought the agent was very professional. He really didn't have to push through my package on a Friday, he could have just waited for the weekend, but he did, and my package was processed pronto. It's easy to blame the carrier when things go wrong with your delivery but remember, they are just that, a carrier.
  • Packaging issue: a separate problem. There were a mere single tissue paper wrapped in around each box of products without any padding in between. The boxes of products were practically swimming in the bigger box that contained them. The only fragile item in my order was a blush, it looked a bit knocked about (pink dusts all over the place) but nothing that warrant replacement/reimbursement. I considered myself lucky.
Why is my picture upside down?

I hope my experience helps anyone out there. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment.


Thankful Tuesday

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Eckhart Tolle.

Back to business as usual here at the Land of Lorp, I'd like to start off the week by giving thanks, in particular for:

  • Health.
    Cheesy, yes. But it's one thing that: 1. money can't buy (no matter how careful you are taking care of your body) 2. you miss it right away when you don't have it, and 3. doesn't always come back when you need it. Thankful that health is here with us now.
  • Clean water.
    Another cheese, until a recent convo with an old college roommate who now lives in Japan. She needs to buy gallons of especially treated water for her children to drink due to radiation contamination from Fukushima. Clean water that we take for granted everyday. No, we are not talking about somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa or some desert country. We are talking in a world that is as developed as we are in the U.S., where children go to school and day care and parents work just like anyone of us. 
  • Parents.
    Being a mom, I'm neither subservient nor narcissistic, at least I hope, by saying this. Whether or not you have any children, whether or not you like your own parents, your future depends on these parents raising the next generation. For their children will be your grocery checkers, baristas, doctors, lawyers, pension fund managers, policy makers, nursing house aides, etc. etc. 
  • Ice cream in November.
    Especially when served with lots of whipped cream and caramel sauce.
  • Hot soups.
  • Someone holding up the door when I was juggling the grocery and the Toddler.
  • Time for myself.
  • Silence.
What are you thankful for today? This week? I warmly invite you to share the abundance you have received today.


Maquia September 2013 - Black and Brown

This Maquia issue is one gift that keeps on giving - especially for us makeup geeks who love to pore ourselves over so many looks and makeup techniques in beauty magazines. For those who are bored, I promise you this will be my last installment of the Maquia series.

First of all, what blew me away about this tutorial is the amount of detail instruction, reasoning, product choosing that goes into it, not to mention that this tutorial is done twice over to accommodate different eye shapes!! That is really unheard of in the world of western makeup.

The title "シメるBLACK * ユルめるBROWN" is a bit hard for me to make sense. I wish the title is in kanji so it won't be so ambiguous but I sense that there's a trend of using katakana (Japanese characters usually used to describe foreign words), especially in fashion magazines, for pretty much any terms that are not necessarily foreign in nature. After reading through the whole article, I think the title may imply the meaning of "Constricting BLACK * Expanding BROWN" that refers to the quality of each color: black constricts and brown expands. Anyone/any native Japanese speaker care to put in their two cents?

Again, leave it to the marvelous, wondrous world of Japanese beauty to invent a very detailed techniques that differentiates the use of brown v.s. black, pencil v.s. liquid and lash line v.s. water line. This stuff is hard core as I would never use 4 different type of liners in one sitting at any moment.. well, maybe when I'm bored at home and have had my beauty sleep already :-)

Continue on, the article opens with lots of descriptions on why using a particular color (brown v.s. black) and particular form (liquid v.s. pencil) liner is more desirable at particular area of the eyes (clockwise from upper left):
  • Brown pencil is used toward the inner (medial) canthus of the upper lid to give a soft facial expression.
  • (Jet) Black pencil is used to fill in the entire waterline on the upper lid to give depth and elongation to the eye.
  • Black liquid is used on the upper lash line to close the gap between lashes and to give that "cute," beautiful look.
  • Brown liquid is used to draw a 5 millimeter flick to open up the eye, somewhat parallel (neither curving up nor town) to give a more natural look.
  • Brown pencil is used to line 1/2 along the lower waterline from medial canthus to brighten the white part of the eyes. The brown color expands and gives an illusion of "moist eyes," introspective gaze while lengthening the nose bridge. Wow.
  • Brown liquid is used to sharpen the epicanthic fold (corner of medial canthus, "little nip-tuck incision" as its literal translation). The article suggests the use of yellow-brown color to give "intense yet transparent feeling," aka so it won't look deliberate/fake. I guess epicanthic fold  is very prominent on Asian/Japanese eyes and thus the beauty of this particular tutorial that highlight such features.
Now, on to the tutorial. I've broken down the steps so each grouping is done using the same type of liner (brown pencil, then black pencil, then black liquid, then brown liquid). Just follow along the picture if you are confused. Again, pay attention to whether the direction asks for brown v.s. black, pencil v.s. liquid, and lash line v.s. waterline.

  1. Trace the upper lash line using brown pencil liner from middle of the lid towards the outer corner, extending about 2 millimeter upward. 
  2. Use short strokes to draw in the rest of the inward line. 
  3. Trace lines once again to blend using a brush.

  4. Trace upper waterline using black pencil liner from middle toward the outer corner.
  5. Fill in every nook and cranny. Trace the waterline once more using short strokes.
  6. Fill in the upper triangular portion of the outer corner.

  7. Hold the black liquid liner vertically and fill in the gaps between upper lash line.

  8. Use the brown liquid liner to trace the outer corner of the upper lash line, extending about 5 millimeter outward.
  9. In the inner corner, use the brown liquid liner to trace the lash line once more.
  10. Draw that "nip-tuck" corner using the liquid brown liner.
  11. Clean up the corner with q-tips and...

  12. Use the brown pencil liner once more to trace the lower waterline 1/2 way across.
Notice this tutorial above is done on double-lid eyes. I'm by far not an expert on Asian eye shapes -- in fact, I know almost nothing about Asian eyes, but below are the variations of the same theme done for single lid (一重目= Hitoe-me) and interior double lid (?? 奥二目 = oku butae - thanks, Kate!).

I thought those variations did a superb job translating a technique for different eye shapes -- if only Western beauty magazines are half as detailed as the Japanese counterparts..

I hope you have enjoyed these tutorials from Maquia. Do let me know if you decide to recreate any of the looks here (maybe even send me your picture, too!).

P.S. Products used for this tutorial are all Japanese, but in case you are interested, it's listed below (in parenthesis I also listed few Western alternatives that the article recommends -- if any):
  • Brown pencil: AQ MW Lasting Gel Eyeliner BR301 (Shu Uemura Lasting Soft Gel Pencil 02M)
  • Black pencil: KATE Slim Gel Pencil BK-1 (Chanel Le Crayon Kohl 01 Black, Rimmel Exaggerate Cream Eyeliner WP 001)
  • Black liquid: Coffret D'Or Black Keep Liner BK-34 (Anna Sui Cosmetics Liquid Eye Liner 001, Maybelline HyperSharp Liner N BK-1)
  • Brown liquid: Lunasol Intellectual Liquid Eye Liner N 03 (Estee Lauder Double Wear Liquid Eye liner in Brown)


Sick at Home

image from wikimedia commons

We are experiencing some bouts of maladies at the Land of Lorp, so we haven't been around as much as we'd like. Rest assured, we'll be back, we just need to take care of ourselves first.

Wishing you all a healthy Autumn wherever you are.


Kabocha Squash Soup

Among all of the fall/winter squash, I love kabocha the most. Kabocha squash is sweet and less fibery than her cousins butternut or spaghetti squash. The best kabochas are the ones with grayish, sometimes with orange spots, with tough outer skin; the bumpier the better. Green kabochas are too young and not quite as sweet.

This soup is easy to make and bursting with natural flavor. We use three different kinds of onions here to flavor the soup (four if you are counting the garlic), and the roasted kabocha adds a depth of flavor into the otherwise humble dish. It is a bit labor-intensive: it requires roasting kabocha ahead of time, chopping and dicing the rest of the ingredients. But once made, you have a big pot of soup waiting for you to snack on after that long cold walk outside.

Kabocha Squash Soup
loosely adapted from Thomas Keller The French Laundry Butternut Squash Soup

Makes one big pot

1 medium-large kabocha squash
Canola oil/other vegetable oil with high smoking point (peanut, coconut, etc.)

1 medium leek
1 large shallot
1 small onion
1-2 medium carrots
3-5 garlic cloves
1-2 T olive oil for sauteeing

4 cups of water or broth

Herbs for bouquet garni:
2-3 sprigs of parsley
2-3 sprigs of thyme
4-5 sage leaves
1 bay leave
5-8 whole peppercorns

salt, pepper, soy sauce and honey to season, maybe a bit of vinegar to brighten up the flavor.

Garnish: brown butter, bits of crisp bacon, creme fraiche, fried shallots, anything you like. We love brown butter so I'll include below on how to make them.
For a helpful overview, see my Vine video here.
  1. Slice kabocha squash length-wise. Be careful, it is quite tough. Scoop out seeds, discard. Coat squash halves with canola oil (or oil that has high smoking point, olive oil won't work as it'll smoke up your house!). Roast squash halves in 425F oven for approx 30-45 minutes or until very soft. Let cool. Scoop out flesh and roughly cut into 1 inch cube. Set aside. This step can be done the night before you want to make the soup/while watching your fave Friday night movie.
  2. Roughly chop leek, shallots and onion. Get the tissue ready cause they'll make you cry. Set aside a few large leek leaves (the green part) for making bouquet garni.
  3. Heat a large soup pot/dutch oven. Sweat leek, shallots, and onion until translucent, about 10-15 minutes over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. While the onions are cooking, chop the carrot and finely minced garlic. Add them to the pot along with the onion, cook another 10 minutes.
  5. Make your bouquet garni: put the herbs inside the leek leaves, tie them with kitchen string. You can put the whole peppercorns directly into the pot inside a sachet bag esp. made for bouquet garni.
  6. Add approximately 4 cups of water/broth into the pot and bouquet garni. Increase heat and bring everything to a boil. Cover, lower heat, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until carrots are tender and bouquet garni infuses the broth.
  7. At this point, fish out the loose peppercorns (they are quite unpleasant when accidentally bitten) but you can leave the rest of the bouquet garni in.
  8. Tip over the squash, bring to boil once again for another 10 minutes until heated through.
  9. Fish out the bouquet garni. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, soy sauce (it adds a certain umami taste to it) and honey if desired.
  10. Puree soup in batches, either using immersion blender or regular blender. Be careful, soup is hot!
  11. Serve with a swig of brown butter.
Brown Butter 

A proper Beurre Noisette requires slowly heating the butter over low heat until the milk solids and the milk fat separates. I don't have that much time, I just used "burned" or "browned" butter which produces the same taste without the elegance of real beurre noisette.

Simply heat a small sauté pan over high heat for a few minutes. When the pan is very hot (you can test this by sprinkling a bit of water on it. If the water spatters right away, then the pan is ready), throw in about 1/2 stick (4 Tbs) butter. Once the butter is all melted, take the pan off the heat and swirl the butter around for even browning, be careful to keep your distance otherwise it may splatter on you. 

If you'd like to flavor the whole pot of soup with brown butter, you can do this step right after your soup is done cooking and pour this very hot butter into your still hot soup. Otherwise, you can keep the butter warm and liquid to drizzle on top of individual soup bowl.

Bon App!


Maquia September 2013 - The Bible Part!

Continuing on with exploration of the Maquia magazine, this time I present you the insert, aptly entitled "Flawless Autumn New Color Bible" And a bible indeed it is, featuring 955 how-tos of over 71 brands! Beware, this post is picture heavy.

Pages upon pages of diagrams like this, I am having a hard time to choose just a few.

First off, there are three mini articles in regards to variation to Autumn makeup look. This one is especially of interest. It features the "sweet progressive makeup style" of French and Japanese girl

The French girl variation is coquettish with a combination of thick brows and red hues.

A liquid blush (this one by Addiction Beauty) is blended on the back of the hands and applied on the eyelids all over from the inner toward the outer corner. Brows are filled simply with powder and lips are blazing red with NARS Velvet Matte lip pencil in shade Mysterious Red (thanks Lucinda).

The Tokyo girl variation is a "profound performance of the art of layering." Really, it does not need translating judging from the 4 different eye shadows used to achieve this look: NARS singles in Bavaria (2084), Abyssinia (2083), shade 2081 (described as "navy," I couldn't find a match), and Tom Ford In the Pink trio.

This makeup is so pretty, I think it suits Spring rather than Autumn, no?
First, swipe the Abyssinia all over the lids using fingers, and take the Bavaria to layer on top, especially around the inner corner and towards the outer corner. Next, smudge the navy color close to the lash line to give a smoky look. Finish off with the lightest color of TF palette on the lower eyelid. Fresh pink cheeks and peach lips, courtesy of YSL Rouge Pur Couture 51 Corail Urbane finish the look.

Next article groups several key items based on color theme: beige, red, khaki, blue, gray and purple. Here's a sampling of it.

Yes, that's toothbrush + cup on the LH panel.

The last article discusses about "hybrid" makeup. I really don't understand what's so "hybrid" about it. For e.g. for the Neo Natural on the RH panel is to "omit line" (literal translation, but I think in this case it means to blur/blend) and instead to use shadow to emphasize the eye structure. It features NARS eye liner to tightline across the top line and a Lunasol Quad.

The direction for Neo Natural look is as follow: 1. Use mid-tone eyeshadow over moving eyelids (most Japanese magazines refer this to "eye hole" area), 2. Highlight tone under the eyebrow bone (notice, NOT under the brow itself), 3. Shading over the area nearest to the nose bridge to deepen the slope (aka contouring), 4. Highlight on the lower lids, and 5. Tightline the top lash. Honestly, I much rather want the direction on how to knit the sweater that she wears -- it looks so cozy!

Now, to the meat of the bible: the how-to diagrams. I've picked a few that features Western brand -- all from Autumn 2013 collections. They are quite self-explanatory but if you want more info, please feel free to post a comment.

YSL Quad

MAC Quint? When will this be released?

Dior Quint

Chanel Mystere Quad
Tom Ford She Wolf Trio

Our Maquia menagerie is not yet complete; in part 3, we will revisit the main magazine for more techniques in lining the eyes. Stay tuned.

P.S. Have you visited Kate the Genius Driveller yet and her renditions of Maquia menagerie of her own?


Design 101

image from wikimedia commons
"Design is organization of time and things."

A little plug for this free iversity course. Don't we all need a little design? I know I do with the little time that I have!


Thankful Tuesday

It's been doom and gloom (again!) in the Land of Lorp, but we are as cheerful as ever: who doesn't like a sick day at home?
Sick day means staying at home resting, possibly baking, cooking, tea-brewing, and sitting by the fire while knitting & listening to audiobook.
Apart from the many blessings of staying at home, we are also thankful for:

  • ToddlerLorp being a bird-poop hunter. Yes, after exhausting all neighborhood squirrels, the Toddler now gets smart and realizes that bird poops are easier target. They are on the ground, they don't move, and they come in many patterns, textures, and shapes. He is so excited to see them, I just wish he wouldn't say "Hi, bird poop!!!!!" with his loud, outside voice when there's another person nearby. "Oh, he sure is cute, your son, he's so friendly!" headdesk
  • A good lipbalm, given by a budding mom-scientist friend
  • A slice of banana bread, fresh out of the oven (or the toaster on the next day)
  • Clean bathroom + sink
  • Clear nose (after days of sniffles)
  • Good neighbors that money can't buy
  • Sweet kabocha squash that money can buy
  • A heart-warming viral video here
  • A pair of warm slippers
  • A good night sleep
Finally, very thankful to be surrounded of all the wonderful bloggers I met along this journey: please see my Nap-Time reading and read them out!

What are you thankful for? Do share with us your gratitude for the day.


Maquia September 2013 - Part 1

Inspired by Kate the Genius Driveller and her equally genial post of recent Maquia edition, I tried to hunt down a Maquia back issue that I saw a while ago at local Japanese bookstore. Lo and behold, not only the issue is still available, it is a steal at $5 (I think normally $12 here)! This issue came with samples of L'Occitane hair care, but who cares, give me the geeky stuff, please!

Maquia is indeed a makeup geek's nirvana. It is replete full of how-to diagrams to satisfy the inner artist/color-by-number-ist in all of us. Leave it to the wonderful Japanese beauty magazines to invent a new level of makeup precision. It even comes with a pull-out section with millions of geeky tutos, featuring the Fall palettes. Here's just one spread of eye diagrams -- a teaser for part 2 of this blog post's installment.
There are pages and pages of makeup diagrams, just in the small booklet!!

I read an equivalent of first-grader Japanese so, let me take a moment to thank the Driveller Kate herself for tremendous help of translation for this blogpost. She even did a bit of a research behind this story, so ありがとう, Kate!!

The main issue features diagonal makeup. If this is not the stuff of geekiness, I don't know what is.

The makeup artist, Chiharu Iwasaki, explained the inspiration behind this angular theory. She is a retired performer of Takarazuka Revue - a dancing/singing troupe, perhaps a Japanese equivalent to NYC Broadway troupe. Here's a video of Takarazuka performing Romeo and Juliet which is quite impressive! As someone who grew up reading Japanese manga such as Candy Candy or Rose of Versailles (as mentioned by Kate here) this is just right up my alley.

O.k. steering back from my excitement, this 45 degree makeup placement adds dimension to the flat-faced artists due to plaster-like stage makeup (think of the flat-faced Kabuki performers). It is an intentional, exaggeration of 3D-ness of the face. You can see how it applies in stage makeup itself here done by another ex-Takarazuka performer. This Maquia article explains how to translate this theory into real-life makeup.

Whether you read Japanese or not,  the diagrams in this article are very much self-explanatory. Here's a how-to on applying the theory to apply powder blush (G) on step 8, and powder highlighter (H) on steps 9 and 10...

... eye shadow.. overwhelmingly detailed with instructions galore. Step eleven suggests placing the darker shade on the corner at 45 angle upwards, followed by highlight shade in the middle of the moving eyelid on step 12. Step thirteen is to add the dark shade along the bottom lid, again at 45 degree outward from the pupil. The rest of the steps are I think self-explanatory.
Equal-opportunity application calls for finger, brush, and sponge-tip applicator. The humble sponge-tip applicator is growing on me as the tool of choice for applying powdery/glittery shadow. It packs the product nicely and precisely and suitable for highlighting the inner corner on step no. 19. The liners are layered from pencil to liquid/pen liner. A close up detail on the products they use for this tutorial (I only recognize the Tom Ford Quad in 08 Sahara Haze).

... you can even apply the theory on lips. They used NARS Satin Lip Pencil #9204 (Biscayne Park) and MAC Creamsheen in Calypso Bite.

... hair and a 45 degree selfie!
Ahh.. isn't she lovely?

Of particular usefulness is the application of this theory to apply pink shadow. Pink shadow always makes me look like I just got pinkeye, literally.
It directs the placement of bright pink color on the outer 45 degree region of the eye, using finger to blend .. "to achieve graceful look without looking swollen." Who doesn't want that? I tried this using several blush color and the result is quite nice, even for deep-set eyes like mine. 

I hope you have enjoyed this snippet as much as I have had fun with this magazine; there are so many other tips in this one article alone, I wish I can share them all with you! If you have access to a Japanese bookstore, I think this edition is definitely worth a look-see.


Thankful Thursday!

The Toddler sanitizing his Rhino friend's hands. Stay healthy, everyone!
We should be thankful everyday, right? So, today, is Thankful Thursday!

This past week have been especially hard on me. First, my nanny decided to pursue other things, which we are happy to support, but that means leaving us behind. There is nothing worse than not having childcare for working parents, really. It's like you are handed the pink slip yourself, except that you haven't done anything wrong and you thought everything goes well as it is. Second, I feel depleted physically and mentally lately. I don't know if the Toddler is requiring extra energy these days, or my attention has been divided between taking care of a kid, a household, and work on top of finding a replacement childcare. I just feel overall pessimism about the future. My glass is not even half-empty, it has been dry ages ago; somebody pour me some wine, please!

When I feel down, I feel jealousy start to creep in. Just a small chitchat with a friend who are having a date night with her husband made me want to punch her outright. The giggling video of my lovely nieces inspires the bitter sarcasm. The world is just ugly.

Time and time again, I know the antidote to these ugly yuckiness is by expressing gratitude. I usually start where I am, what I can access at this moment. If I can't be thankful for the world peace, I won't start there!

Usually, I start to be thankful about having a roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep each night, and meals three times daily. Next, I'm thankful about the nice weather we have today, the fact that I still have a running, working car to go to work, and the nanny that takes care of the Toddler so I can go to work. I'm thankful that the Toddler is sleeping now, and I have time to write this post. Thankful about being able to knit while listening to my audiobook. Thankful that the Toddler told his nanny today, "I want mama, please."  Thankful for tomorrow where I look forward to share more giggles, laughters and silliness with him. Thankful for PapaLorp who is working hard to provide us with all these material comfort.

Yes, a date night would be nice. But with so many things to be thankful for, my glass is filled again... even if it is not all the way to the top.

What kind of "ugliness" do you feel when the world seems to turn against you? Have you try the gratitude antidote?


From the Land of Lorp Featured in The Skincare Diaries!

My Skincare Routine

My Skincare Routine by declairelegenou featuring botanics skin care

Blogging for me started with a small group of new friends, all new moms, who are eager to write while our children are napping. Somewhere along the way, I meet some generous, lovely, funny, smart, engaging bloggers like Gummy Vision, whose beauty musings are thoroughly entertaining yet informative. Most importantly, she is always so friendly and upbeat, even in her comments and tweets, that I keep visiting her blog again and again.

Today, I share my skincare routine plus a product review, what an honor! Flock away to her blog and have a look here.