Running on Empties

I really do admire bloggers who frequently post their empties. I think it takes real "dedication" to use up a product, especially those that do not deliver. At this point in my life, I'm super picky of picking my products, my empties posts would be so boring because I hardly spend any money on new items.

Nevertheless, I think empties posts are opportunity for mini review, so let's get started.

Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid:
A staple, I've used this for years. I use it as toner right after cleansing, before or after Hada Labo lotion. Definitely the best, more affordable option of chemical exfoliator in the market. I'm less inclined to try anything else because this one is done right in so many ways (pH is low, packaging is perfect, consistency is just right, non-stinging/irritating, and fragrance-free). The reason I choose the liquid version v.s. the gel/lotion version is that the liquid version has a lot less ingredients on it: less ingredients, less potential irritation. Love, will always repurchase.

Skin Food Honey Black Tea Jelly Foam:
A gift from the Skin Food store from Asian trip. This overly-scented, super drying, sudsing cleanser is basically garbage for my dry skin. I use it as a backup hand soap in my diaper bag for when we are out and about. If I wouldn't use this on my face, I wouldn't recommend you to, either. Enough said.

NeoCurtis Lumiere Bio-restorative Eye Cream with PSP:
What do you expect from your eye cream? Most people would say wrinkle reduction, decreasing puffiness, brightening of undereyes. My friends, I have none of that. What I have are sunken undereye areas due to loss of fat and aging which gives an illusion of dark circle and crow's feet which are getting deeper, again due to loss of fat, aging, and sun damage. Therefore, I'll never ever expect an $50 eye cream to fix all that -- that's too tall of an order even for a plastic surgeon. My expectation on this one was pretty low, and so is the result. It does make a nice base for my concealer to glide on, but for that, my regular face moisturizer will do. Won't repurchase.

dryBar Sake Bomb (review right here):
Won't repurchase -- too expensive and not enough result. I do, however, found a suitable replacement, a lot less expensive and more readily available. Review to come soon.

Biore UV Aqua Rich:
I bought and wore this when I was in Asia i.e. v. humid weather. I personally won't wear it here, or even buy it again; it was way too drying even back in Asia. It is an water and alcohol-based sunscreen, loaded with film-former and oil-absorbing particle that creates matte finish once applied. It makes for an excellent makeup base, again for oily skin, maybe combo skin. I ended up using this on my hands. The good news is that it gives a very good sun protection. 

Paula's Choice Skin Recovery Cleanser:
I've got this for ages, one bottle probably lasts me a year or two. I strictly use this only in the shower when I have no time to cleanse my face before with my balm cleanser. It does a decent job removing even the most tenacious waterproof sunscreen, again in the shower (NOT on the sink -- the shower is hotter, more humid, we tend to stay longer in it and thus increasing the cleansing "power" of any cleanser). Will always purchase.

Albion EXAGE samples of Bright Cleansing Oil and Moist Crystal Milk II:
The cleansing oil is very nice: it takes off all makeup and tenacious waterproof Asian-brand mascara. Moist Crystal Milk II is another story. It does give that moist skin akin to Asian skin care aesthetic, but it is loaded with a bunch of other crap that I don't care about (ethanol is one of them).

I hope you've enjoyed this mini review. Have you use any of the above products?


Drama Love

Our regularly scheduled MOTW is interrupted by the latest gift from the Tod's preschool: I found myself last week with 101+ fever, chills, body ache and the works. Thankfully, though, shake and bake = enforced (voluntary) down time, and during those down times I've been watching some unusual selections from Youtube which resurrect one of my old love: drama love.

I'm a High School's Drama Club drop-out, favoring the Computer Club and its surely useful programing language Logo. I've never been a literary buff, I enjoy reading, theatre, poetry, but the extend of my Shakespeare is the Cliff's Notes. Thankfully like many pleasures in life, a good performance just leaps and fills your entire being with joy, without you needing to analyze much about it.

An gentle introduction to the true-to-form theatre, Ben Kingsley as Feste in the movie version of Twelfth Night. Yes, he sung all those ballads and more.

For intermission, this one will surely leave you smiling:

Back to the Future er.. Past, in the series Playing Shakespeare, David Suchet and Patrick Stewart potrayed the same character, Shylock, from Merchant of Venice. If such a lecture is not your cuppa, the piece from 14:40 - 18:20 will give you a taste that these two gentlemen are so, so much more than Poirot or Picard. Sometimes, I do wonder if Hollywood grossly misrepresents their tremendous talents.

By the way, Ben Kingsley, Ian Mckellan and other actors also participated in the Playing Shakespeare series.

I hope they did have some kind of recording for the No Man's Land/Waiting for Godot Rep which sadly closed just recently. But even if I knew about the play, I have a feeling I would not get a chance at scoring the ticket. I'll just live precariously through Youtube and the bits that are floating out there.

Are you a fan of theatre? Have you seen a good performance lately?


Giving Burberry Nail Polish A Second Chance

This lousy iPhone picture was taken only to give you an idea of a 4-day old manicure that is still going and going and going...

I hate returning things. I * hate * it. As much as many other women from other countries would have given anything to have such liberal return policy allowed to us, the ladies of the U.S.A, I just hate bringing the product back on the counter, feeling half-guilty, half-deserving only to find an equally unapproving face of the SA, whom I swear I will never see again, ever. There's always that hanging feeling of both relief and remorse; what's going to happen to the product I just returned? I hope it won't become yet another land-fill commodity, just because I wanted to "try" things for the sake of my own vanity, will it?

And the guilty feeling? Why there are lots of opportunity to test before buying, of course, from make-over events, to liberal testers, etc. But makeup things are variable in terms of their test-ability. Foundation/skin care? Yes, many counters are liberal with their samples and I think everyone should take advantage of this. Lip gloss, mascara, eyeliner? Jamais de la vie. Lipstick? Ok.. if you can get over the icky factor of trying on the tester (will this give me herpes/cold sores?). Nail polish? Nope. There's no amount of in-store testing that will give reliable indication of the two most important thing in nail polish: application and longevity, for the product in question must be applied in the manner/condition similar to what you would have done at home.

So this Burberry Nail Polish in Mink no. 105 has been stuck with me for quite some time, occupying my tiny nail polish shelf. I dislike the thick consistency, albeit the beautiful color. Plus, I found the wear time vary a lot. There were times when it peeled in sheets in a matter of two-three days after application (why bother!) and times when it chipped the very next day. 

Nevertheless, in an effort to... er, not turning it into yet another toxic landfill, I tried to give it another go, this time by watching a long-winding Netflix movie. I started off by using Deborah Lippmann Rehydrating Base Coat, followed by one thin polish of Mink (not easy to achieve, remember the heavy cream consistency?). I waited a long time. Not two minutes, more like 10-15 minutes, while the protagonist of our movie trudging through Bagghar and cleaning up the edge of each nail with acetone. Did I mention I also wrapped around the free edge of the nail (something I never, ever do and worked just fine with my other beloved Dior, Chanel, OPI polishes)? Next, a second thin coat, wrap and wait another 5-10 minutes. Then CND Super Shiney Top coat, again wrap and wait.

Lo and behold, my manicure never lasted this long. Today is day 4 without showing signs of wear and tear. As I mentioned before, I wear my nails hard. Glad I found a way to salvage this beautiful color into a wearable, albeit high-maintenance application for once in a while.


MOTW: Bobbi meets Twiggy

I have lots of Bobbi Brown items in my stash that need some lovin' lately. Some of her products really perform and not to mention, she was probably the first makeup "guru" pre-Youtube. This week, I'm continuing the Spring fling theme with shimmery bronzy-goldy eyes, fluttery lashes and fresh pink to round up the look.

I still like having quite emollient skin care + sun screen followed by thin, watery foundation gently patted to meld them together. Benefit Hello Flawless Oxygen WOW Foundation is something that I found last year. I wear the lightest shade now, and second lightest during the summer. I found the finish is not as dewy as I expect it, but not flat either. It wears well, perhaps 6-8 hours depending on the day, sans powder. Burberry Sheer Concealer 01 Light Beige is making its regular appearance.

Burberry Trench as a base, followed by Gold Trench as deepening color for crease.
The whole thing is then sprinkled with the glorious, oldie-but-goodie Bobbi Brown Beige Shimmerbrick. Yes, Shimmerbricks tend to give me disco-ball effect on the face but it is absolutely fantastic for eye-toppings. The liner is Bobbi Brown Gel Eyeliner in Chocolate Shimmer -- it has a bit of a reddish tone to bring out the green in my eyes. I haven't quite decide to wing-it or not but either way, I'm aiming for a toned-down, Twiggy eye look, so top and bottom lashes are coated with Maybelline the Colossal VolumExpress Mascara -- which I surprisingly love.

Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge in Pale Pink, gently patted on freshly moisturized-and-foundationized skin. 

A swipe of the above-mentioned Pot Rouge + a slick of Bobbi Brown Lip Gloss in Pink Lily circa Spring last year.

I hope everyone has recovered from the Easter weekend. We had great fun, great food and lots of bouncy-house enjoyment: so much so that all the parents got motion sickness form it. Have a great week, everyone!


The PHD thesis: Living Proof Perfect Hair Day 5-in-1 Styling Treatment

As I said before, there's no such thing as "good makeup day" but there's a big importance on having a good hair day. My problem is I have little time getting ready in the morning anyway, much less time to do my hair. Most of the time, I take my shower and wash my hair when the Tod is taking a nap (aka mid-day) or after he goes to bed at night. In the morning, I just did my skin care & makeup. But if I don't do my hair, I'll look like c%rp for the rest of the week.

So, when a while ago the ladies at Makeupalley Family Board were clamoring about PHD, Perfect Day Hair by Living Proof,  I have to test it to see if it can be the holy grail product that I've been looking for. My thought is, if I can prolong my style just by even a day more, that means a day I don't have to worry about juggling things and possibly starting the third World War with the Tod. 


This patented molecule OFPMA supposedly repel grease & dust to make hair looks fresher longer. Another molecule PBAE supposedly gives volume. I checked the patents on these two molecules, the holders are people from Living Proof. Hmm.. do they test these on animals? I hope so, so at least I know that these won't give me cancer. Flock here for product ingredient list.

End points:
  1. non-greasy looking bangs
  2. style still holds up the second/third day if I style my hair in the morning
  3. style still holds up if I style my hair the night before and go straight to bed --> ain't it the true test of any styling product. If it survives the overnight sleep, it'll survive anything.

I wash my hair with conditioning shampoo (lately it is dryBar Sake Bomb). Then put on some conditioner (dryBar Happy Hour conditioner or Kevyn Murphy). Then I put PHD styling 5-in1 approximately a-dime-sized dollop on my just-below-the-shoulder-length hair, spreading from roots to tips, just as suggested. Then I style as usual, usually blow dry using 1.5 an 3 inches barrel brushes. I do not put extra styling products on top of PHD.


The product consistency is similar to a thick cream/gel conditioner. It is scented but isn't overpowering (a lot less stinkier than Elnett hairspray). It does not weigh down my thin hair and it spreads nicely.

  1. It does make my bangs less greasy looking, especially on the second and the third day, but the roots on my crown does look visibly greasy on the third day.
  2. My style holds up some on the second day, went straight on the third day. 
  3. Style went flat right after waking up in the morning when I styled my hair the night before with PHD. Usually, when I get my hair blow-dried professionally, it can retain some of the styling the next day (I sleep on satin pillow sheet for this purpose). 
  4. I found that when I use PHD, my hair is having a hard time retaining curls/curling. I have to blast hot air several times before achieving the same curl that I would have without using PHD. 
  5. My hair looking nice and smooth right after styling. No noticeable volumizing effect, definitely comparable with using my regular volumizing mousse.

PHD only prolongs my hair style by one day. I usually wash every other day, now I can wash on the third day, but with visibly greasy roots on the crown. Unfortunately, it does not aid styling; in fact, it is harder for my hair to hold curls when I use PHD. Maybe I should combine it with PHD 'poo and conditioner for best result? I don't know.. both are pricey. I suspect that perhaps PHD is better used in conjunction with hot-styling tools like straight/curling irons. I also think that maybe you should still use your regular styling products on top of PHD to retain style.

My next research project is to bring PHD to a professional blow-dry bar. Who's willing to fund me in this research endeavor (it's $35 a pop in my neck of the woods)?


For home styling, not worth the money & effort. Won't repurchase.

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day 5-in-1 Styling Treatment ($26) is available at Sephora, Nordstrom or online from their website.


MOTW: Coral Eyes

I love the idea of following makeup trend but hate to shell out money, especially for trendy stuffs. One of the trend I like to try this Spring is coral eyes, so I whip out this selection from my own stash:

  • Horizon de Chanel Blush: the middle dark pink/purple bar on lash line to soften the pencil liner (see below) and the coral shade below it as accent on the eyes.
  • Burberry Gold Trench: hardly ever used this one, but it makes the perfect canvas/deepening color on the crease for coral accent.
  • Burberry Trench as a base
  • Lunasol Skin Modeling Foundation: I'm testing this one out. This foundation is not ideal for dry skin like mine, but I use quite emollient base & skin care daily anyway. I apply this with wet sponge, lightly tapping to synergize it to the moist, freshly-prepped skin.
  • NYX Butter Gloss in Apfel Strudel: a pale, coral pink with sickly fruity scent which is a bit less offensive than NYX Mega Shine gloss.
  • Maquillage Mascara, the lengthening kind. LOVE!
  • Burberry Sheer Concealer Pen in 01 Light Beige
  • Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen in Black Tulip
  • Charlotte Tilbury Love Glow to round up the look for the lovely pink-coral halo.
    A little note about using broken blush/pan: if you have used broken pan before, you know that it will never deliver the same uniform pigment. Every time I open this pan, a bit of blush chipped out and the dust just inevitably cling patchily to the brush. So sad.. In my MUA heyday, I would have packed this baby with alcohol but I learned that once I did so, the pigment/powder never picked up the same with brush. Totally still usable but I wish I have a new pan so I won't have to deal with the patchy powder in daily basis. 
The Tod is sick so we'll most probably be staying at home during this whole Spring break week. I hope everyone have a great week!


Thankful Thursday

So Thankful Tuesday comes two days late, but better late than never. I've been especially thankful for:
  • Great weather! I mean, no rain is great, right? I don't mind a bit of cloud, but non-rainy day means scooting in the park, getting into the zip line with the Tod, eating ice cream, all those wonderful things
  • Friends. Ah.. where would we be without them. The only reason why we have not moved from our tiny house is friends we have nearby & neighbors with whom we actually love to hang out. No amount of money can buy that..
  • Flowers, flowers everywhere.
  • My orchid coming back to life, thanks to my green-thumbed neighbor. Apparently some mold has been eating at the root but thanks to her, I think Vandy is going to be ok.
  • Birthdays. I used to hate birthdays, mine or anyone else's. But now that I have friends who have children, I am always reminded that birthdays are privileges. It is truly an honor to have witnessed yet another year of a child growing up healthy and happy, especially in this world that is full of things that can go wrong, really, it is against all odds to have a wonderful celebration of life.
I hope everyone has had a good week so far!


Monday MOTW

Liberty print J.Crew Makeup Bag. Art and half-chewed Real Technique Miracle Complexion Sponge courtesy of ToddlerLorp

After somewhat a basic week, I crave some color. This week, I'm experimenting with some warm, coral colors.

  • SkinFood Good Afternoon Honey Black Tea BB SPF 20 PA+
    A goodie from recent Asian travel. I wear the lightest shade No 1. Light Beige, which is a perfect match to my face once blended (the swatch below looks garishly pink but I think it is because the mineral sunscreen in it reflects the light). It has a decent coverage and a moist finish reminiscent of last week's Chantecaille Just Skin. Such a shame that such an affordable, high performing BB cream would sport such gimmicky honey scent (I hope the grammar police won't come and get me for using such three times in a sentence). 
  • Kanebo Coffret d'Or Black ink liner.
    I suspect mine is a discontinued model from years ago, but it produces the blackest of black that lasts throughout the day without it being waterproof. Something about the formula that is sebum-resistant. Here's a version that is available today.
  • Burberry Trench eye shadow for base.
  • Le Métier de Beauté Creme Fresh Tints in Coral Nymph.
    A nice milky coral. Delicate Hummingbird (where is she, btw? I miss her..) has a great post about it here. Truly good for lips and cheeks, certainly on the drier side of lips but much creamier than say, BB pot rouge. 
  • LMdB Chameleon Eye Shadow.
    A complex dusky celery green with gold and copper shimmer, really lovely. It is almost duochrome on my lids, sometimes flashing gold, other times greenish. Hard to explain.. I can't believe I'm not reaching for this more often. It looks flat antique gold on the picture, but it is really greener in person.
  • LMdB Champagne Eye Pencil.
    I use this most of the time -- to quote Mary Greenwell -- "to take the blondness out of the eyes" especially when I just need a little definition without being too obvious. I also use this as e/s base to modulate the shadow color on top, as in Le Métier's own advice of Couches de Couleurs.
  • Little Witch Mote Mascara.
    Still loving this. I'm nursing every single last drop.
  • Innisfree Eco Flower Tint in Camelia.
    Another travel haul. Goes on very cushy but readily absorbed on my parched dry lips, the tint turns into stain that lasts for hours. Be forewarn that this thing will suck every single moisture from the lips. It has some boozy-flowery-lychee scent to it that sadly lingers. It goes on pinker than it looks. I put this on, then top the lips with the Creme Fresh and then some more balm. It is such a beautiful color, the balm makes it a bit more wearable & tolerable (I use Aerin's or Nuxe).
I aim for an overall fresh look that is still Spring-appropriate and not at all summery. On a side note, what happen to LMdB? My local Nordstrom seems to cease carrying this line (practically nothing is available anymore, either via online/in store), my local Neiman's does not have everything stocked. Then, I get this "Shop the Vault" emails about monthly "subscription" program from their own website. When a brand do "not-your-usual-readily-available retail" like this, I do wonder if the products not selling that much anymore that they need to secure customers with subscriptions. Anyone knows? Either way, I think these products from LMdB are fabulous and worth a look-see.

Cloudy-day, iPhone picture for reference: SkinFood BB Cream, LMdB Coral Nymph, LMdB Champagne e/p, LMdB Chameleon e/s, Innisfree Camelia tint.

Have a nice week, everyone!


Lion's Head Meatballs

I found out that lots of Asian cuisine, I'm particularly talking about Chinese and Taiwanese dishes, are deceitfully time-consuming. The prep work is immense, mostly chopping, mincing, and grinding spices and vegetables. Cooking also rivals the prep in terms of involvement: first deep-fried, then steamed, etc. In short, it is not a fast food but a whole-afternoon food prep that needs a lot of TLC.

Sure, there are many simpler versions out there but the most memorable meals are the ones prepared with love and effort. This is a re-make of Lion's Head Meatball, a dish that I enjoyed with our extended family back in Taiwan.

Lion's Head Meatball (狮子头) is perhaps not a traditional Taiwanese dish per se, rather it originated from eastern China, where my family migrated from before the Chinese Civil War. There are two versions: the "red" one, cooked with dark soy sauce, and the "white" one in simple braised vegetables. Other than braised, you can also make it into a soup. Different parts of the country, I learned, have their own version of this meatball dish. The "lion" supposedly comes from the vegetable that looks the mane of the lion, surrounding the meatball head. My family prefer the braised, white version with Chinese/Napa cabbage.

There are as many versions of Lion's Head as there are families, so I scour the internet for the one that was closest to what I tasted. The meatball was really a hybrid between meatloaf and meatball, huge yet fluffy and tender. The seasoning was both sweet and savory at the same time. It was a flavorful, spongy morsels of meat in its own vegetable braising liquid.

Lion's Head (White version -- adapted from Food52 Shanghainese Lion's Head Meatballs)
Makes 12-15 meatballs

1 lb ground pork (ground dark turkey/chicken will make fine substitutes)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs Shao Xing wine/cooking wine
2 Tbs dark/mushrooms soy sauce
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger
1 green onion chopped
3 garlic cloves minced
2 extra large eggs (or 3 large eggs) beaten
1/4 c corn starch

Cooking oil such as canola

1.5 lbs greens such as bok choy (halved/quartered), or baby bok choy (intact), chinese/napa cabbage, etc.

Mix everything besides bok choy and cooking oil in a big bowl. Alternatively, you can use food processor like I did below. The resulting batter is quite runny and unlike your regular meatball mixture. Keep processing and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up.

The mixture will be quite runny. Chill in the fridge for 30 mins before frying.

Heat work/deep pan with about 1/4 inch of oil in it. Use two large soup spoons to make large balls and drop it into the hot oil. Brown meatballs in batches about 2-3 minutes per sides until firm but not done through. Set meatballs aside.

Pour off excess oil from the pan. Place bok choy in single layer on the bottom of the pan, set over medium-high heat. I'd also put maybe about 1/4 cup of water to help the steam going. Next, lay meatballs on top of the bok choy bed, cover and steam bok choy and meatballs for 20-30 minutes over medium-low heat until cooked through.

When done properly, the meatballs will be done and tender, the bok choy will melt and all the juice will mingle on the bottom of the pan to make a flavorful sauce. Serve with plenty of rice.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, let me know if you decide to try it!