Thankful Tuesday

The little and big things that worth being grateful for this week:

  • A clean house. Ah.. nothing compared to the feeling that everything is in order, clean and a little bit lighter after organizing. The Qi is definitely flowing in the house.
  • Wendy's drive thru, especially when the Tod is sleeping (totally negate my previous post, I know, but life is such duality & contradiction, no?)
  • The Tod's teacher in his preschool; hardly we stop and think about teachers, especially those of younger children, for their job is almost a combination of parenting + teaching all in one. I'm definitely thankful for them and for the tremendous responsibility that they take when they chose the teaching job.
  • A good working car with a good working AC (my car is 17 years old and it is still running, thankfully!)
  • PapaLorp taking the Tod over during the weekend
  • A good night sleep
  • A time to read
  • Yummy popsicles from the Farmer's Market
  • The Tod's eating popsicle, with elbow dripping with sticky juice, right down to his shirt and short
What's on your list this week?


Rise and Shine

For those of us who are recovering from a long weekend in the U.S. this post is for you. 

I've always wanted to take little steps to improve my diet. Not that we eat junk: we eat whole foods most of the times, prepared at home or from the store. We shop produce as much as possible from small, local vendors and we eat things that are in season. But every now and then, as the fate of busy person, I resorted to convenient food, in my case power bars or the Tod's snacks (which are not necessarily healthy).

I'm going to try something new here, replacing a meal/a snack with a hearty, healthy shake. I came across this recipe from somewhere and added a touch or two of my own taste. I've been drinking this shake in lieu of breakfast and it holds me up well until lunch time, leaving me plenty of energy to play with the Tod.

Chai Smoothie

makes 1 serving

3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp almond butter
1 Tbs maca powder mix (I use the Superfood Blend above, or you can use any of your "healthy drink" mix here)
1 Tbs vegetable-based protein powder (you can use whey or soy protein, too, if you like. Mine is made from brown rice and other sprouted grains)
1/4 tsp Rooibos Masala Chai
1/2 of very ripe banana or avocado
Sweetening of your choice (I don't use any, especially if I'm using the banana)

Rooibos and maca powder contain lots of antioxidants. Almond milk & butter will stave off hunger, so is protein powder. You can choose other rooibos tea, but I like the combination of chai + almond milk best.

Steep your tea with boiling water according to package. Mine is powder, so I simply mix 1/4 tsp into boiling water.

Blend everything, including the hot tea, in a blender. Be careful. Serve warm otherwise the almond butter won't mixed in properly.

To mix things up, sometimes I also throw in flax seed or chia seeds. A little word of caution with chia: they swell, so drink immediately before the smoothie turns into gungey mess. I hope you enjoy this recipe, let me know if you decide to try it.


Pasta Pasti

As a mom, I have a LOT to be thankful for my LittleLorp. He is perhaps an exception of most toddler: he loves eating. From blueberries, olives, stinky natto, pungent shoga (pickled ginger), to chalk and worms, everything is fair game. 

But, even an equal-opportunity eater has his own moment and when that moment comes, I always revert back to two things that he likes the most: peas and bacon. I'm especially pleased with this recipe that I came across from Genaro, but they don't list the recipe, so I improvised below.

Pasta for Kids (adapted from Gennaro Contaldo)
serves.. few days worth of hungry toddler's lunch

8 oz tube pasta (1/2 package, I use elbow)
4 slices of bacon (approx 4 oz), chopped
1 zucchini,  cubed
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
10-oz bag of frozen petit pois/young green peas 
Grated parmesan to serve
Salt & pepper to taste
Fresh herbs if you have any (I actually used dried mint from a mint tea bag since I don't have fresh mint on hand).

If you follow my direction closely, this dish can be prepared in under 30 minutes (i.e. one episode of Peppa Pig). Ready?

Put a large pan of water on high heat to boil pasta and a saute pan over med-high heat for the sauce. While waiting for water to boil, chop the bacon and render it on the heated saute pan. 
Chop the onion and zucchini, set them aside.
Once the bacon is rendered (takes about 3-5 minutes), drain all the fat but 1 Tablespoon. Toss in the onion and sweat for 5 minutes.
Toss in frozen peas into the pan.
By this time, the water would have been boiling. Boil pasta according to package direction (mine says 6 minutes). Don't forget to salt the water.
Shift your attention back to the sauce. Continue tossing the peas until they are almost heated through but not overly cooked. Add zucchini, toss for another 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat to prevent overcooking the zucchini.
When the pasta is ready, reserve about 1 cup of pasta water. Over medium heat, toss pasta into the waiting zucchini/bacon/pea melange, adding reserved pasta water to moisten it. 

Serve with a handful of parmesan.

We've been having and anticipating hot sunny week here at the Land, so I'm going to lay off makeup in lieu of thick slathering of sunscreen. MOTW will be back next week.


Mascara Dilemma (dis)Solved

Is desperation the mother of all inventions? At least, it is true for me. Desperation of finding a mascara that stays put and smudge-proof with the ease of removal, that is. Perhaps something close to that ideal is a tubing mascara which is easily removed with soap and warm water. Easy enough, but the problem is, I no longer cleanse my face with soap and water. On the other hand, I've got several waterproof mascaras waiting to be used but oh, the tenacity! No matter how long I soak the lashes with waterproof/bi-phasic makeup removal on a cotton pad, I still need to rub and rub and rub to remove it completely. Worse than rubbing (and the lashes that shed as the result of it), the solution gets into my eyes, coating my contact lens with a film of slick oil.

One day out of a desperate attempt to remove waterproof Japanese mascara, I dipped a clean mascara wand into the makeup removal solution and swiped it back and forth, like applying mascara, onto my lashes. I let the it marinade for a bit, then one swipe of the cotton soaked with remover to finish the task and voila! All the mascara came of without killing any lashes in the process and no solution got into my eyes. YAY!

I suppose any mascara wands will do. This one is salvaged from an old mascara tube. The dense, short bristles are of the perfect length to hold the solution together without dripping. True, there is such product as mascara remover in a wand, like this one. But I think this method is a double win: you get to use a makeup remover you already owned and you get to repurpose a mascara wand. You can also use this method using regular Q-tip but I found the fibers get into the eyes. I found mascara wand delivers just the right amount of solution directly onto the lashes.

By the way, this method also works for non-waterproof mascara. I just use Bioderma instead of the bi-phasic L'Oreal Clean Artiste.

So, the next time you are finished with a mascara tube, salvage the wand and see if it can help you dissolved your current mascara problem. Let me know if you decided to try this method!


MOTW: Splurge and Save

The inspiration

This beautiful Chantecaille Save the Bee Palette look is utterly glowing. More inspiration of a real-life look can be found at Island Fever Sisters here

Pictures from chantecaille.com
But alas! I have neither $83 lying around waiting to be spend nor been impressed with the quality of Chantecaille eye shadows so far. So that's when I started..

The save

..shopping my own stash, I use:

Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum Foundation no 52 + Healthy Mix Concealer no 51
Still loving these combo. I've forgotten how good they are!

Eve Lom Radiance Lift Foundation SPF 15 in shade Honey 12
I normally wear the lightest/second lightest shade of foundation range. I got this sample in Honey 12 is the second darkest shade which I don't waste and I use as contour instead. Glowy, radiant, and seamless, a little goes a long way. I can't vouch for its performance as overall foundation, though, but as contour color it is lovely.

RMK Mix Colors for Cheek 02 Coral
A lovely pinky-coral, not unlike the Nectar from Chantecaille palette. As a bonus, the sheeny pink block doubles as a highlighter.

Lunasol Sand Natural Eyes 04 Cool Sand
A mini review of this palette: it contains shimmery white, sparkly beige-grey (with golden and silver shimmer/sparkle), satin beige-grey (that is similar in tone to the sparkly one), and dark grey-chocolate shades. This is quite a lovely palette, color-wise it complements my skin tone and eye color. But if you are looking for buttery shadow texture, look elsewhere. All the colors, with the exception of the dark grey-chocolate, goes on very sheer and I think it is intended to be that way. I wear it sans primer, but you definitely can (Lunasol makes a good eye primer as well, which makes me think that their shadows are not as pigmented). 
For this look, I use the two mid-tone shades all over the lid, and the darkest shade near lash line and socket.

Shiseido Maquilage Clean Contrast Eyes SV844
An old, old palette which deserves a lot of love. I use the light blue shade in the inner corner for a pop of blue and the darkest shade do line.

Le Volume de Chanel Mascara in 10 Noir
A sample, glad to have used this. This is the type of volumizing mascara that uses plastic/molded wand, not the fiber/brush wand. It is quite interesting. The formula is goopy but the brush does all the job of separating the lashes.

And finally...

The splurge

Dior Addict Fluid Stick in 373 Rieuse
A treat for myself on Mother's Day. Rieuse is a lovely everyday pop color and the formula is surprisingly comfortable despite containing alcohol in the ingredient. This is a dead ringer to Burberry Primrose Hill Pink so I bid her adieu. A well-earned splurge, indeed!
They use a bright fuchsia lipstick for the Chantecaille look whereas Rieuse is a coral pink which does not register any fuchsia tone at all. Nevertheless, it is a lovely complement to the coral cheek and my overall look has the same feel to the inspiration picture.

Is there anything more satisfying than shopping your stash and finding out that you've got what you need all along? 

Happy Mother's Day to all my fellow readers, whether or not you have children. As a woman, you are a mother when you give of yourself to others in whatever way you do. 

The lovely Monika from Rocaille Writes so kindly bring this up to my attention. Here's a quick comparison between Dior Rieuse and Burberry Lip Cover Primrose Hill Pink. I really should have not said it is a "dead ringer" -- a lesson in blogging integrity! Although it looks almost identical on my lips, I acknowledge that there are differences. Rieuse leans more coral, PHP is duskier, rosier. On rosy lips like mine, the difference is subtle since Rieuse is less opaque than PHP, allowing my natural lip tone to shine through. They are of the same depth of color, I'd say. These pictures were taken under shaded sunlight. I did manual white balance and I didn't compensate for the exposure. Sorry for the shaky/blurry picture, I didn't use tripod for this one. Hope it helps some!

R: Burberry Primrose Hill Pink, L: Dior Rieuse


The Brush Series: Face

As a blogger, I am seriously lacking creativity. Take a look around and you'll see a lot of me-too posts. This one is no exception as the lovely Bellyhead came up with the inspiration a while back. Like a loong while back.

I love makeup brushes but I feel brushes are like mascaras: they are equal-opportunity makeup item, especially in this day and age. Price point may dictate quality (especially for fine ingredients like squirrel, weasel, etc.) but not always. I think function is also equally important in the consideration. Don't get me wrong, none of the brushes below are of low quality. I buy brushes to keep so they have to perform and so far these brushes have stood up lots of washing and usage from me.

I do have core brushes in rotation that I've used for years and still function admirably. In fact, some of my most-used brush are quite low-end, a freebie even (see case points #1 & #2 below). In terms of function, I strive for my brushes to have dual/triple/quadruple functions if possible. The more multi-tasking a brush is, the better. I like researching brushes in terms of size, density, function, material, etc. over and over again until I found one that suits me. The problem is sometimes I can't see the brush in person so I have to just buy it blindly, but this is why beauty bloggers out there can be extremely helpful in determining purchases of exotic items, or not -- which we will see in my case below. 

Core Face Brush
O.k. onward to the meat.

Case point #1: the two Sonia Kashuk brushes circa 2000. That was the very first time when quality makeup brushes were available for us, regular people. There used to be Bobbi Brown who was renowned for her brushes (which are, ahem, perform far below what SK has to offer, I should say, for a lot more price). You can read more about Sonia and her brushes here -- it really brings back good memories of the times when I first really got into makeup.

These brushes, my friend, are still phenomenal. They are dyed goat, so yes, they do bleed when I wash them (considerably less now), but they are still very durable, and the tip of the fibers are surprisingly NOT trimmed, making them feel soft across the skin, and dare I say it rivals the squirrels. These are perhaps the hardest working brushes in my arsenal, and it has been with me close to 14 years. The 01 is wider and thicker; I use for powder bronzer, but now that I hardly wear any powder, I use it as more of a buffing/finishing brush. The 02 is narrower and more directional, I'd use it for powder highlighter, blush, etc. 

Case point #2: see the wooden-handled brush which I got as GWP from Prescriptive back in the late 1990s. Prescriptive (do you still remember that line?) It is the best brush to apply highly pigmented blushes, it beats any skunks that I've came across. It is made from.. goat maybe? some natural fiber for sure, but again, the tip of the fibers are not trimmed and it is surprisingly soft and sparse at the same time. The head size is very small so it is very versatile. This is the only powder brush that I'd pack for traveling.

Rounding up the core face brush is Hakuhodo J5521. I needed a brush for contouring, highlighting and blush all in one, and this one fits the bill. It is dense enough to apply powder/cream blush, but the tapered head allows me to blend and control how much product to pick up. The head is small enough for contour and blush and highlight. Triple checks!

Now that I use more cream products on my face, I get quite a bit of a use from my Real Tehcniques brushes and sponge. The sponge has been torn in two, courtesy of the Tod, but still works very well. It is almost -- if not the -- exact dupe of Beauty Blender sponge for a fraction of the price. It is often sold out in Ulta, so do call ahead of you are interested. The RT Expert Face Brush is my go-to foundation/cream bronzer brush. The gripe about cleaning foundation brush, especially if not the paddle-type, is how to get the brush completely cleaned, especially when the foundation went into the middle of the fibers. Being synthetic, this brush can stand up a thorough cleaning -- definitely worth the money. Another RT brushes that I use as face/concealer brush are from the eye brushes line up. Again, they are synthetic, withstand repeated washing and are suprisingly soft.

I must admit I don't get a lot of use from the SK Paddle foundation brush, but it's there occasionally to... maybe blend blush? or tap some liquid highlighter? The white ELF concealer brush is of perfect size to cover imperfection and pat it down to oblivion. Did I mention that it is $0.99? I have another one dedicated to clean up nail polish around the edges of the nails. 

These three brushes have specific functions and as such, they are not often used. The Hakuhodo K001 is mainly used to lay down loose highlighter/pigment. It is small and quite compact, sometimes I even use it to blend eye lid colors. The two Burberry Kabukis are super useful for compact powders and bronzers. Both came with their own pouches and the smaller one is especially handy for traveling.

No brush round up is complete without the duds.. er, nope. These are the least-used ones. RMK blush brush was a goodie I got a while ago. This one turns out to be not as useful as I thought, especially since my SK 02 brush is still performing well. In fact, RMK's head is denser than SK that I feel it picks up too much product at a time and not as blend-able as the SK 02. Still every now and then I use this as a travel brush since it comes with a nice pouch. 

Finally, pardon my blasphemy, Suqqu Cheek brush. Initially, I purchased this as a replacement of several brushes above in order to cut down the number brushes even more. Alas, I don't particularly find this brush quite useful, again since the SK 02, GWP Prescriptive, and J5521 above have taken care of my needs so well. It is not a bad brush, per se, but I found it not dense enough to contour (which J5521 does so well) or a tad too dense to pick up pigmented blush (which GWP Prescriptive does so well) or too floppy to blend (which SK 02 does so well). Perhaps, there is no such brush to replace all three brushes at once, I did have an unreasonably high expectation for this one. I still use the Suqqu every now and then for products that I need to apply ever so gingerly (like the shattered Charlotte Tilbury blush, or loose pigment or highlighter -- but K001 will function as well in this case). This is a good example on why millions of glowing reviews alone won't necessarily translate to a product that fits the need of an individual. 

Washing and care: I wash my brush once weekly, if I remember to do so, or at least once monthly (yikes!). Don't call the brush police yet, because I love washing brushes; it does not feel like a chore for me and I love taking care of them, it's just I hardly have time to wash myself, left alone the brushes. I use liquid hand soap (which is usually from EO) and a squirt of non-silicone conditioner (the travel-sized variety I accumulated from hotels, etc.). For more tenacious stains/products, I use liquid dish detergent. I dry them on bathroom counter overnight.

Next installment will be a shortie as it only includes eye brushes and maybe other brushes I've missed. I want to see your brush collections, would you share them with me on the comment below?


Thankful Tuesday

Dahlia Bakery Donuts. From Seattle Serious Eats.

I had a chat with a girlfriend the other day, she confided in me that her husband (who is perhaps only one or two years older than I am) is recently prescribed Lipitor for cholesterol. I thought, gosh, he's not that old, and taking Lipitor already? Am I almost there, too? I'm certainly grateful that my health still allows me to enjoy things I often take for granted, like:

  • Dahlia Bakery donuts that I enjoy with the Tod today. I'm talking freshly fried, fluffy, billowy, warm bites of donuts, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, slathered with seasonal jam (this time it is rhubarb) and whipped vanilla mascarpone. Being a good mom that I am, I let him have the last bite.
  • A nice family brunch at Lola last weekend, to commemorate PapaLorp's birthday and Mother's day combined, featuring a thick-cut bacon that was sooo good, I had to ask the waiter where I could find them (she didn't know, sadly).
  • House-made maple pork breakfast sausage at the said establishment.
  • ... and a serving of perfectly poached egg. With Hollandaise sauce. On perfectly toasted English Muffins.
Other non-food grateful things:
  • Meeting other moms through parenting class
  • My work that allows me to spend time with my child at home while taking care of him most of the days
  • Tea (I drink Sa Sencha today)
  • Good nail day (is there such thing? I have on OPI Care to Danse)
  • A quiet time to write this post
Please share with us your gratitude for the day/week.


MOTW: Glowy Spring

MOTW resumes with Glowy Spring theme on eyes, cheeks and lips... while hopefully not to make self into disco ball.

Bourjois Healthy Mix Foundation in Vanilla 52
Still a bit too dark for me now, but I'm glad the formulation is quite forgiving and light. Combined with emollient base, it creates a dewy finish.

Canmake Cream Cheek no 11
A "cute" baby pink-peach hue, a staple when I can't think of a suitable cheek color. 

Benefit Watt's Up
A sample, but I've been quite pleased with this. A light touch to highlight around the cheek bones, inner corners of the eyes, cupid's bow, etc.

Chanel Les 4 Ombres in Raffinement no 39
Basic palette leaning peach but not too warm. The color combo in this palette brings out the hint of green of my eyes. I go for an easy day-time smoky with a combo of the two darker shades all over the upper lids and the second peachy-taupe shade on the socket and lower lids. If I have more time, I'd do gradation placement from light-dark with slight winged liner. At least that's the plan.

Dior Lip Polish Smoothing Lacquer
On my lips, it gives a nice milky baby pink glaze. I can't stand the smell but thankfully it is not as tenacious as say.. YSL or Burberry.

Burberry Effortless Mascara in Midnight Black no 1
Last leg on this one.. it gives a subtle definition to the eyes (read: not particularly volumizing, lengthening or curling).

Have a great week, everyone and please share with us what's in your makeup bag this week.


Living Below Our Means, Part 2.

In previous installment, I shared with you practical things to start curbing spending, maybe even start thinking about what it means to live below your means. Today, I invite you for a change of pace, to cozy up with your favorite drink and blanket, as I share with your some philosophical thoughts of living below the means that I've gleaned over the years. I have quite a few ideas on this topic so I will spread this out into a few posts.

from wikimedia commons

Intention v.s. willpower
Willpower alone can never get me far. Budgeting, sales shopping, coupon clippings, or even no-buy etc. work only so far for me without a true intention. How many of us have caved into BOGOF, GWP, goodie bags? (yep) online discounts/free shipping/buy that extra item that we don't need just to qualify for free shipping? (me) events? (moi) Or go on no-buy period only to binge after or justify other purchases? (yes) Or use coupons only to buy things you don't really need (just so the coupons work)? (oui, oui!).

Intention comes from a different plane of awareness. It is where a deliberate choice in our lifestyle are made, those which reflect our values. In our family, one of them is to be a good steward of the Earth, to respect all beings and things. Whoa.. sounds deep? Not necessarily. Certainly we don't take care of forrest animals and I wouldn't think twice of swatting a spider if it ever gets near me. But we open the doors for someone behind us (respect of human beings), we have house plants and take care of them (respect for other beings), we take care of our belongings by cleaning/washing/repairing, etc (respect for things). Bigger gestures would encompass recycling, using non-toxic gardening potions since it may drain to the salmon stream, composting, etc. By doing these little things, we slowly feel a sense of ownership of the community and the space where we live.

Many times, I read discussions about how a purchase creates an endless buying and returning cycle. In fact, for those of you who live outside the U.S., it is unheard of that one can return something that has been bought. Isn't this just a reflection that blind consumption creates more agony rather than not having it in the first place? And I do wonder where do these returned/discarded goods go. Perhaps that very item I put in the trash sit for as long as hundreds of years in a landfill somewhere, intact. (For more enlightening take on this subject, I suggest The Story of Stuff)

My half-used items could very well end up here, in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. (image from empressofdirt.com)

One way I consciously break the cycle of buying/selling/returning is by donating used items. The very gesture of donation reminds me that there are many good things in life that have come my way and I am here as a temporary steward; I am passing it on to the next person who may need it. If I feel I can "recoup" the monetary value of the item by re-selling it, I take the "monetary value" as the price to learn my lesson of ownership of that item.

Donation gives a finite ending to an item, at least from my part. Just like breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend, donation gives me closure so I can move on. I am making room for more things to come in my life, more good things, whatever those may be. If I keep hanging on to the stuffs that become clutters, how am I going to receive the abundance that this universe has in store for me?

Back to intention: one way to find/clarify one's intention/value in life is to start noticing the small, uneasy feelings related to possession/purchases. My dear fellow blogger Bellyhead here so candidly share hers, which I'm sure all of us can relate. Start noticing those feelings, jot them down somewhere, and then start asking questions, particularly "why?" The answer may not come to you instantaneously and the answer may be different from person to person, or even day to day. When you start there, you start to be more mindful of your actions and you may even start noticing a pattern.

Unfortunately, there is no short cut to this one, but the work done will improve other areas of your life as well.

Scandinavian-style Hot Tub. Ahh.... (from wikimedia commons)

Take care of yourself first
Another reason to fill that void feeling with consumption is the feeling of not enough. Often I found myself spending/consuming because I didn't take care of myself. Spending is a substitute, sort of, for "nourishment" to ward off that deprivation feeling. Sounds familiar?

The antidote to feeling of not enough is to realize that my life is already abundant as it is (thanks, Eckhart Tolle!). I keep a daily gratitude journal in my phone and I'd "flip" through it when I need a dose of reality (sometimes I share them with you on my Thankful Tuesday posts). Soon, I saw a trend that gratitude is not about money or possessions; I am thankful that I have enough money not to worry about X, yes, but there are so many other things that money can't buy: friendship and love of family and friends, my child laughing, beautiful weather outside, people that I meet, a job that I still have, my health, time, silence, space. Most of all, I am thankful that I can experience all these in my life -- I'm thankful to be alive.

Doing little things that fuels you is part of taking care of yourself. Yes, it would be nice if all of us can spend a week in a great vacation but let's be real. Whether it be engaging in hobby/something you like doing, acknowledging gratitude, praying (if you are religious), laughing, connecting with loved ones, eating a nourishing meals, or even a mental break, these little morsels of real fuel will keep you going through the drudgery of daily tasks. Maybe I'm just really spent that week and need PapaLorp to take the Tod outdoor for the weekend. Maybe I just need to work out and get a nice good soak afterwards. Maybe I just need a bit of extra sleep. I found the sooner I restore the balance within, the better I can deal with the other things without.

I hope these strategies provoke thoughts and considerations rather than proselytize. If you care to share any that resonates with you, I warmly invite you to do so on the comment section below.

P.S. For my readers who are makeup fans, some creative ideas of places that receive used-makeup donation: local women's shelter, high school/local drama/theatre production, even preschools/art schools/alternative schools (yes! Toddler's preschool accept makeup donation that they'll use for art project: melt lipsticks for making waxed-paper "stained glass," break shadows pigments for finger paintings, etc.). Most importantly, check with the school/institution that you plan to donate your items, many have certain rules/regulations.