9.29.2013

I Know Where I'm Going!

Image from criterion.com
I woke up early today and checked my phone for weather forecast before heading to work. "Gale Warning!" Gale warning??

The only time I ever heard about gale was when watching "I Know Where I'm Going!" A classic Powell & Pressburger rom-com starring Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey, the movie was about a woman so sure of herself trapped in the force of nature. Throw in a century-old curse, a couple of wet Scottish Deerhounds, and a beautiful countryside, we have a recipe for a good movie to cuddle up in stormy weather.

Unfortunately, I have to go to work, so the movie will have to wait.

What's your favorite bad-weather movie?



9.26.2013

Wearing Right Now

Wearing right now

Wearing right now by declairelegenou featuring a white oxford shirt


Back to my Autumn/Winter uniform. Not much has changed, I added a silk J.Crew Silk Boy Blouse in Tossed Hearts and finally breaking into my Hunter wellies. I have a little outdoor man -- impossible chasing him around in ballet flats or a pair of drivers through the wet grass and muddy terrain. I wish I can have my hiking boots on all the time, really.

Makeup is kept low maintenance with Revlon Photoready Cream Blush (Blush Creme de Chanel's dupe) in Flushed, Chanel Mystere quad and Burberry English Rose Lip Cover. 

What are you wearing right now?

9.24.2013

Thankful Tuesday

Just like that, summer is gone. Yep, no trace of it. This morning was quite rainy and dreary, followed by patches of sun that reminds me how much I miss summer already.

The Toddler and I went to a public wading pool, or what used to be. Now, there were children playing, riding trike and scooter inside what used to be a giant pool. The Toddler said, "Want water!" I handed over a water bottle, he then said, "No, water here, Mama!" pointing to the ground. Then we went over to the outlet where water used to come out to fill the pool. He stuck his head in and said, "More more water, please!"

My little baby is now conversing. Such a magical moment to think that a helpless little person that was him once now becoming a more sophisticated person.

Aside from that, here are some of the few things we are thankful for this week:

  • Friends coming back from vacation abroad, full of stories and pictures to share.
  • Health. Lord knows this is the season of the flu and cold. Definitely thankful we are still healthy thus far.
  • Passing on baby wedge to someone else in need (bitter sweet, but I'm glad the wedge will go to a little wee one who is having reflux).
  • Tea. LOVE this. Bring on the cold weather!
  • Knitting. Still rummaging what to make, considering I've got lots of UFO (Un-Finished Objects).
  • Using warm duvet.
  • Sweaters.
  • Silence and clean air.
  • Rain.
  • Green patch of grass in the front yard.
  • The Toddler giggling silly looking at his own pictures.
What are you thankful for this week?

9.19.2013

Living Below Our Means, Part 1.

Image from freedigitalphotos.net

For some reason in our society money is a taboo subject or even not chic. Afterall, the chic-est, trendiest thing is usually the latest greatest gadget, fashion, makeup, .... (fill in the blank here). Money seems to be a means to an end.

Most of us are familiar with the common adage of living within our means, but seldom said or popular is living below our means. I'm not talking poverty, or living off garbage can, or wearing shabby clothes and so on. The true meaning about living below our means is about lifestyle choice.

Before ToddlerLorp came into our lives, we were both working professionals. We have comfortable savings, maxed out our 401k yearly, and our debts are the mortgage of our tiny duplex and a small student loan. The car that I owned is more than 15 years old now and PapaLorp would often take public transport to work. Sure, we could have afford a newer car or a bigger house, for example, we'll just put less into our savings. But we realized there's an advantage to living below our means. Smaller house means minimal upkeep, hardly needs any hired help to clean and maintain. My old car is still up and running, requires very low maintenance and with great fuel efficiency. Most importantly, we choose to use our money to build asset and wealth instead of spending it on things.

With ToddlerLorp's arrival, we practically loose one income since I decided to stay at home part-time with him. Although we've been living below our means, things are even tighter than we imagined. Here are some of our practical strategies on living below our means. These are by no means a complete list, but some that we visit again and again.

Nip the small things.
Everyone knows that little spendings add up, yet we often are not mindful and continue to spend. For example, eating out is our biggest culprit. I'm not talking about fancy dinners. I'm talking about the $4 latte for a snack, the $5 locally-made niche ice cream, or that $7 smoothie (wow, this cost as much as a plate of meal in some places!). Now, I try to pack snacks for our outings so we won't have to buy them. I put some non-perishable items such as crackers, water, raisins in the car so we have some "back up." 
Same thing applies with other purchases such as clothing, makeup, etc. Do you have a habit of purchasing things because you don't think it cost that much? Maybe a shirt/accessories from H&M? Drugstore makeup? As often as you do these things, think about whether or not you really need to spend the money.
When you are ready to move on, think a little bigger things: do we need both landlines and cell phone lines? how much TV channel do we actually watch? how many cars do we really need? Gym membership? magazine subscription? 
Small spendings add up. You get the idea, you just need to stop doing it

Think about why we spend and substitute.
I understand why some people love shopping/got addicted to it. I get a rush from purchasing/buying that new stuff, and that rush disappear almost as instantly as I wear/use the item, prompting me to anticipate my next purchase. It takes a while for me to realize that what I'm after is that anticipation and the rush, more of then than the items themselves. So I learn to substitute action that produces the same feeling. For example, working out gives me that feel of a good rush, so whenever I have time for myself, I go workout instead of shopping.
  • If I spend because I need an outlet for personal expression, rather than buying trendy clothes, shoes or makeup, I dabble into my hobbies of crafting.
  • If I spend out of lure of the biggest, newest things, I unsubscribe to the promo emails. I also turn off my twitter from companies, and stop reading beauty/style/lifestyle magazines (online or print). I keep a reading list of blogs that I can turn to about other subjects besides consumption.
You can always think of the reason behind your spending, and substitute it with different action. The more you do it, just like muscle, the stronger your sense of awareness that you do have a choice. You don't have to fall prey to your own impulse or behavior.

Cultivate relationship in place of consumerism.
This is somewhat related to the point above. Sometimes when I consume/impulse buy, I try to fill a hole inside; whether it be boredom, seeking for thrill or just feeling sad and depressed and want something new. Whenever I feel this, I go out the door and head to the nearest park, or pick up the phone to meet up with a friend for a playdate (meeting on the internet via twitter/facebook does not count). There's a life outside consumption: the simple enjoyment of meeting new people, or connecting with old, familiar friends. When you feel like consuming, drop your device and head out for real connection instead.


In the next installment, I'll share you some of my more philosophical strategy to live below our means. Keep in mind, I'm far from perfect, and slip-ups are bound to happen (esp. right after I publish this post, eh?), but you can only do your best, and if you don't start now, when? 

Are you living within or below your means? Or within your means in certain areas of your live but above your means in other areas? What are the things you wish you can change in your life in terms of spending/consumption?

9.17.2013

Thankful Tuesday

Back to Fall means back to real life for us in the Land of Lorp. So, we are grateful for:

  • Meeting back with old friends after a long summer
  • Meeting new friends in new endeavors
  • Rain!! (means fresher air)
  • Cooler weather (means sweater, tea, and all cool-weather delicacies)
  • Peaceful time for myself when the Toddler is out in school
  • New projects around the house
  • Peaceful nights
  • Teas! Did I mention teas?
  • Libraries and new books to read and explore
What about you?

9.13.2013

drybar Happy Hour Shampoo and Conditioner: Hop on The Wagon!



Sometimes, the cure to all malaise is a good hair day. So, why is it that I mostly spent money on makeup than hair products? This is where blow-dry salons find their niche. For a little bit more than what a woman may spend on a high-end lipstick (aka the gateway drug to every cosmetics brand), she can have a good hair day that lifts the mood as much as a good lipstick does. Great business idea, no?

On my last vacation, I found myself sitting in the drybar salon, with a friendly receptionist asking me if I'd like a flute of bottomless dry Mimosa. After the visit, I decided to try out their products, aka their gateway drug for those who don't have local access to drybar salon! I ordered the goodies online from drybar.com but beware, shipping can be terribly slow, especially to the West Coast (it took a full 2 weeks to receive products).

My hair is straight with fine strands, medium thickness and length. I do not perm or color my hair. I also have lots of baby hairs sticking out, thanks to the lack of pregnancy hormones that maintained my once luscious mane. My scalp is not terribly oily, but it can be quite sweaty. Finally, just like many of you, I have dry ends.

All product description and ingredients can be found at drybar.com. Links are not affiliate. Let's get started!



First up, is Happy Hour Blowout Shampoo. The texture of the shampoo reminds me a lot of honey: thick and sticky. It says to wash with a quarter-size dollop and repeat if necessary. To me, that translates more like a quarter size dollop for each the crown area and the side/nape area. When I do that, shampooing once is enough. I also wouldn't use this shampoo daily as it is quite stripping. I wash my hair every other day anyway, but still I prefer gentler formulation. In all fairness, this is what the shampoo is designed to do: to strip everything clean, and it does its job well. Today, for example, is my second day hair and my scalp still feels fine and fresh. Because of the clarifying quality of this shampoo, I also purchased their moisturizing shampoo Sake Bomb (review to come). My plan is to alternate Happy Hour with Sake Bomb every other wash.

Next is naturally Happy Hour Weightless Conditioner. This conditioner is lightweight, indeed. It does not have a lot of slip much like Kerastase to ease the hair strands as I rinse it, but it does a decent job conditioning. I put a bit more than a quarter-size dollop on my hair, focusing on the ends. I use detangler to spread the product evenly and usually leave it on while I do other things in the shower. The towel-dried hair is easy to comb but does not feel heavy. Fully-dried hair is frizz-free but not exactly glossy either (for that, you can add Hot Toddy, review to come). It is your basic conditioner, so to speak, that won't weigh the hair down for the blowout purpose.

The scent (and all drybar products have the same scent) is somewhat floral-gourmand: a little bit soapy clean, a little bit cinnamon-y. I'm not too crazy about the scent, but it's ok -- I personally much rather like fresh scent than gourmand/floral for hair products.

At my appointment, I came in to steal Alexa Chung's mane and came out looking like Shirley Temple instead. Yet, somehow I got hooked to this little salon. That is the magic of the drybar and every time I smell my hair, freshly shampooed and conditioned with Happy Hour(s), I am reminded of that last Californian vacation and dream about the next one.

For those of you who are not familiar with the drybar, have a look at Sabrina's post about her experience here -- she took lots of great pictures of the salon. Have you been to the drybar salon? or have you tried their products?

9.07.2013

Sunscreens Reviews (feat. products for baby, toddler, and mama alike).


Now that summer is officially over, we are counting our casualties. In this case sunscreens. Averaging twice daily trip to local and distant parks, beaches, and wading pools, we used up lots of sunscreens.

I've been trying many baby sunscreens on myself and ToddlerLorp (since he was a baby, too) and so far, I've tried four brands. The three are shown above, the one that is not shown is the Episencial Sunny Sunscreen (not affiliate link). All these sunscreens scores very low on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) scale. EWG rates consumer products in terms of hazard that can be caused by the ingredients and low score means low hazard; with the exception of the La Roche Posay one, since that product is not available in the U.S.

For each sunscreen, I evaluate them based on:
  • Finish (tacky or powdery)
  • White cast on the skin
  • Waterproof-ness
  • Ease of application/spreadability
  • Ease of removal
  • Ingredients (because if your kids are anything like mine, they'll want to taste everything)
(Link on products are not affiliate)

Episencial Sunny Sunscreen SPF 35
This one was BabyLorp's first sunscreen before the formulation changed. For some reason they tweak it but I saw no difference in appearance/performance. It utilizes a combination of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as physical blocks.

Pros:
  • Great spreadability and easy to remove with just water and soap
  • Slight tackiness finish
  • Slight white cast on the skin
Cons:
  • It is water resistant but NOT waterproof. In fact, this will run when used in water and can sting those tender little eyes!
  • Many artificial ingredients for a simple sunscreen (lots of acrylate polymers listed as first and second ingredients)
This sunscreen is great for days when you/kids are out and about in the park and not in the water. I probably won't put this on the littlest of babies (under 6 months old) due to ingredients and possible eye irritation.

The Honest Company Sunscreen SPF 30
This sunscreen boasts non-nano zinc oxide for protection; however, nano particles have not been shown to pose any danger to children skin. In fact, EWG favors nano-particulate containing sunscreen due to its superior protection. Regardless, the appeal of this sunscreen is its simple ingredients that claims to be "friendly to the coral reef" should ToddlerLorp earn his license to scuba dive.


Pros:
  • Marketed as water resistant but we found that it is quite waterproof. ToddlerLorp spent an afternoon swimming with it and it is still on by the time we got home to bathe him
  • The most non-whitening physical sunscreen of the bunch
  • Simple ingredients that actually work
Cons:
  • Despite of its claim, it is a pain to spread with not a lot of slip (imagine spreading somewhat liquified beeswax on wiggly baby/jumpy toddler)
  • Tacky and greasy finish that lasts for hours (or as long as the sunscreen lasts)
  • So tenacious that it requires multiple washes to get it off your little one's skin
I'd use this on infant younger than 6 months due to its simple ingredients. Best for use in the swimming pool/in the beach. Worst in the park where practically every single dirt will stick onto the tacky skin.

Goddess Garden Sunny Baby Natural Sunscreen SPF 30
While we were on our vacation, we ran out of our Episencial Sunscreen and went to the nearest Whole Foods to find this great sunscreen! On first glance, this may remind you of the Honest Company sunscreen but they are different significantly. While the Honest Company suncreen is quite thick, greasy, and tenacious (think of vaseline fortified with beeswax), this sunscreen has a liquidy-mousse consistency that spreads very nicely and dry to non-tacky finish. 




Pros:
  • Great spreadability. Shake first before applying, and the somewhat thin mousse-like product will spread quite nicely on skin. Don't be alarm if it seems like you can't rub it all down, it will dry more uniformly so long as you try to cover the area well.
  • Nice dry, non-tacky finish
  • Easy to remove with soap and water
Cons:
  • Caspar (the Friendly Ghost, that is, not Babypants nor J-Lo's boyfriend) white!!
  • Water resistant but not waterproof
This one is great for the littlest of babies due to its simple ingredients (most if not all of them are organics) for a day in the park, but not in the beach.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios with Mexoryl Melt-In Cream SPF 45
I tried to search a link for this product that I purchased in Canada, but maybe it has been discontinued? LRP comes out with so many sunscreen products now, it's hard to keep track. I personally used to use LRP Dermo Pediatrics SPF 50 (not available in the U.S.) but when we traveled to Canada, this is the only one with the closest ingredients (sans Mexoryl) to the Dermo Pediatrics.


Pros:
  • Superior sunscreen, ultra stable with Mexoryl in it.
  • Slightly tacky finish with a sheen to it (think glowy, Becca SSP-like sheen, which is actually quite nice)
  • No white cast whatsoever (even with titanium dioxide in it)
Cons:
  • Not as water resistant as the Dermo Pediatrics
  • Loads of chemical sunscreen means I probably won't use it on children, unless I really have to.
In short, great for moms with normal to dry skin (due to tacky finish), good underneath makeup, even better underneath powder/mineral makeup.

Bonus!

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

Preliminary review was posted here. I've finally used this up and I can say that this is perfect for those with normal-oily skin -- on my dry skin, even with layers of hyaluronic lotion + silicone serum + moisturizer, this sunscreen still feels too dry. It has a matte finish with silicone feel, perfect as makeup base but not for silicone-based foundation like GA Maestro (it can ball up!).
Great sunscreen overall, reasonably priced, too. I'm test-driving the UV Daily version that is made for sensitive/post-procedural skin, supposedly more emollient thanks to the mineral oil in the ingredients.


Some final thoughts on children sunscreen:
  • Always reapply. The product is only as good as re-application
  • Stay away from spray sunscreen. Although titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are relatively inert ingredients, it can irritate the lungs when inhaled (not to mention all the vehicle that it comes with!)
  • The best protection for children I found is actually wearing rash guard/SPF clothing. So long as they don't take it off, it is superior to any of the sunscreen you apply
  • These baby/children sunscreens are great for moms, too! They are not "cosmetically elegant," in fact most will make you look like Caspar. But why not? I'd rather be a friendly ghost than wrinkled like a wicked witch.
There you have it, our complete review of sunscreens. Are there any other baby-friendly sunscreens out there we need to try?

9.02.2013

A Peek into my Bathroom



Happy Labor Day and welcome back to Earth. Today, I thought I'd post one of those voyeur posts. After all, blogging is a little bit about sharing your private life to the world, no?

There's really no bath in my bathroom per se. There's a utilitarian shower with shower curtain, a toilet and a sink. All three of us at the Land of Lorp use this tiny room every day. Very convenient and practical. If I need a soak, I head to the nearest hothouse.

Let's take a tour of my tiny shower! (Links are not affiliate -- they are provided for your convenience in case you want to check out price, ingredients, etc.)


If you are a frequent of my blog, you'll notice that rarely my pictures are stylized. All the products have been used, nothing is pristine. I feel pictures with used products are more honest presentation of my real, everyday experience. So, pardon the soapy icicles from PapaLorp's Dove Men +Care soap. He likes to use soap and nothing but soap to clean his body. 

Apart from that, I have rudimentary showering equipment/tools. Razor is a must-have, of course. Then the orange puff, whose string is the only visible part in the picture above. I've been using the SALUX cloth I moved to Seattle back in 2006. I discovered this wonderful exfoliating cloth at a local Japanese grocery. The texture of this cloth is similar to exfoliating mitts that one may use in a Korean-style scrub. Combined with any liquid/cream body wash, it produces the most fluffy, luxurious lather, again reminiscent of that at Korean bath houses. I'm pleasantly surprised to find another blogger/writer, Jennifer from The Daily Connoisseur, who also enjoys this SALUX cloth. Another item that I use a lot is the black, $1.99 detangler I bought from Walmart. I use that to apply conditioner/hair mask on my hair, also to give my scalp a bit of a massage. 



On the ledge are Whole Foods Fragrance Free Shampoo, EOS Shave Cream in Vanilla Bliss, and Cetaphil Restoraderm Body Wash (a sample of which I've subsequently purchased a full-size). The shampoo is quite basic: mostly cocoamidopropyl betaine that somewhat clarifying but never strip my hair dry. It doesn't lather much like most of sulfate-free shampoo, so I just concentrate on the roots of the hair. It rinses easily and cleanly. The EOS is a non-foaming shave cream: it is a consistency of a lotion. Since it is a non-foaming lotion, I need to make sure to rinse my razor thoroughly after each use since bits of it can clog the slits in between the razor blades. The Cetaphil body wash is not the same as the original non-foaming Cetaphil. This one is surfactant-based and produces creamy foam. It is also fragrance-free, washes off cleanly and does not dry my skin. For eczema sufferer like me, I found this body wash to be superior to Aveeno/Dove/other moisturizing, surfactant-base drug stores cleansers out there.


I've reviewed the SkinMedica Facial Cleanser here. Normally, I'd wash my face before shower using non-surfactant based cleanser (like cleansing balm, oil, etc.), but for the few occasions that I can't, I use this to cleanse my face. Kevyn Murphy Hydrate-Me Rinse is a light but hydrating conditioner. I like Kevyn Murphy line in general and it does not have parabens/sulfates in it. I alternate the Klorane Mango Butter Conditioning Balm with Kerastase Masquintense (not shown) as hair mask once a week. I like the Kerastase better, so I think I won't repurchase the Klorane.

If I need a bit of luxury in the shower, I put a couple of drops of essential oil of choice on a wash cloth and set it on floor of my shower. The warmth of the water helps evaporate and circulate the aroma and before long, it feels like I'm showering in the fanciest spa. I've shared with you my favorite eucalyptus EO for Fall/Winter. During Spring/Summer, I love using the invigorating lavender EO, sometimes with orange/bergamot added to it. All of these EOs can be found at your local stores. You don't need the highest/food grade quality and a little bottle lasts a long time.

Do you use any of the products I use above? What's your luxury shower/bath product that you use regularly?