The "Alphabet Cheek Dictionary" MOTW: W is for Pink

Phew, after recovering from the bizzaro blush world of last week, the W for Wink, er.... Pink is an unexpected conclusion to this ABC series. Again, the theme of using a blush for something else other than a blush, such as highlighter, contour, and in this case bronzer, continues.

The Tuto

The playful and cute alternative to bronzer: this technique mimic the placement of natural tan, where the sun hits the face. Use matte pink powder blush to achieve this look, i.e. NARS Blusher 4039 New Attitude (a cherry blossom pink). Alternatives include Paul and Joe Face Color CS 089 Azalea, Les Merveilleuses Ladurée Creamy Cheek Pot 103 and Jill Stuart Mix Blush Compact N 07 Sweet Primrose.

From the highest point of both cheeks, trace a U shape, then connect both on the bridge of the nose.

Swipe on grey-gradation shadow on the upper lids, brown liner on the bottom lashes and pink lipstick to round up the look.

Products Used

  • Burberry Complete Eye Palette in 01 Smokey Grey is the only Burberry quad I owned and perhaps the most underused eye palette in my collection. The shades themselves are quite lovely and I'm glad that I can use this palette for at least a week straight with this look. Not shown but also used is Burberry Eye Shadow in Pale Rose (discontinued), a pearly pinky base.
  • Chanel Le Crayon Yeux in Gris Scintillant, a sparkly grey liner that is stunning paired with matte greys of the Burberry. If I were to stay true with the tuto, I'd also line my bottom lids with taupey-brown liner like LMdB Champagne pencil, for example. 
  • Maquillage waterproof comb mascara (discontinued).
  • Since the look is all matte-matte, I think a nice slick of YSL Rouge Pur Couture Glossy Stain in 17 Encre Rose will give it a bit of a twist.
  • The blush! Oh, it is a vintage Ettusais circa 2002.. Guava is actually a shade of pure baby pink. Alternatively, I can use something like Burberry Peony or Chanel Blush in Tweed Pink.

My Impression

I would think that using bronzer in W-shape across the bridge of the nose would produce a more natural result than baby pink but the opposite is better for me (I don't tan, I burn whenever the sun hits my face and thus the pinkish-reddish burn in the W-shape). The cool grey eyes offset the saccharine baby pink and giving it a slight rock-chic edge, it is surprisingly tomboy & yet sweet at the same time.

The end! I've had fun preparing this series and I hope you have gleaned some tips/tricks on achieving the perfect cheek look for this Fall. Adaptations? Well, I can tell that I'll be wearing this W-rock-chic look for a bit, and the J-look is great translated into deep russet blush of the Fall.


The "Alphabet Cheek Dictionary" MOTW: T is for Orange

Just when I thought we've finished visiting the bizzaro world last week, this week's feature is even more, well, bizzaro. "T is not for Orange, Ma. T is for Tiger!" I think the Tod is right, although tiger is often orange-looking. Oh well, who am I to argue with a three year old? To further the bizzaro-ness of this look, I think the "orange" they are referring to is more of a coral for my taste. What do you think?

The Tuto

This "cheek look" starts from the under eyes area, which at first glance seems to appear introspective (?) (想定内) yet the juicy orange turns the look coquettish. O.k. I have to admit, this translation is a bit outlandish, but I think the look is supposed to be the playful-yet-shy-innocent type.

Directly on the under eyes area, draw a horizontal line using medium-size blush brush (the model uses something that very much look like an elongated-version of SUQQU blush brush), approximately the corner-to-corner width of the eye. Next, draw a vertical line on the middle of the cheek, using the side, narrow part of the blush brush.

The featured blush is Les Merveilleuses de Ladurée Face Color Rose 102 (mini), with alternatives from Elegans Cosmetics, Shu Uemura (Silk Cushion Blusher in Orange Quartz) and Lunasol. 

Finish the look with gradation of shimmery brown (Estee Lauder Pure Color Five Color Eyeshadow Palette 28), black liquid liner (Majolica Majorca BK999), and sheer orange gloss (RMK W Crayon & Gloss Lips 05).

Products Used

  • Tom Ford Quad in Enchanted palette needs a bit of love so I use that. In reality, perhaps this palette is a bit warmer than inspiration EL palette, but I like the contrast of slightly cooler-eye to offset the warm cheeks and lips. Note, on the model, the eyes are lined both top and bottom (maybe bottom slightly smudgy using the darkest shade from the eye palette).
  • Lunasol Liquid Eye Liner, mine is in brown-black, paired with the Little Witch Mote Mascara, my fave tubing mascara (hoarding every single drop of this!).
  • RMK Mix Color Cheek in 02 Coral has the top orange bits that fits the look.
  • NYX Butter Gloss in Appel Strudel is perhaps a bit too milky, but it has that peachy look that I need.

My Impression

Whoa, this look does not work on me at all! Something about drawing the T-shaped coral right underneath the eye makes me look like a clown, er.. a bizzaro Mama Lorp, perhaps? I try blending it more into a triangular shape, still does not work. The closest that I can achieve with this look, keeping the spirit of cute-innocent-coquettish is placing the blush on the apples, slightly higher up than I'd normally do.

I guess I'm not that innocent, but it does not mean you can't rock this look! See it for yourself and if you do decide to try this one, maybe an instagram?


Breakfast Porridge

There's nothing better in a chilly Autumn morning than a bowl of freshly prepared breakfast porridge. The Tod, especially, since it affords him an independence of choosing his toppings and the inevitable consequence of freedom to eat only the toppings. Steel cut oatmeal is our favorite but my version today is made crunchier with addition of quinoa and amaranth. I follow the ratio of 1:3 of grain to liquid, with any combination of grains I have on hand.

A time-saving tip for a busy mom like me is knowing when to hover around the stove and stir; not the entire 25-30 minutes of cooking time, but only for the last 5 minutes, when the grain has turned sticky and has more potential to burn on the bottom of the pot. Before then, just stir the pot every 5 minutes or so while keeping your little ones happy. In the end, perfect porridge is achieved without much elbow grease or accidents happening in the living/play room.

Toasting the grains take an extra 5 minutes at the beginning but it is so worthwhile. It really elevates a regular, oat-mealy porridge into something quite fragrant and earthy. I toast my grains dry but I think you can use a pat of butter, too.

Finally, don't skip/skimp on the salt. I use 1/2 teaspoon of salt, but many will find this too salty. I adore the contrast between the sweet maple syrup, the tartness of the fruit and the saltiness of the porridge. A little bit of salt will turn your porridge from just ok, to WOW!

Breakfast Porridge with Steel Cut Oats, Quinoa and Amaranth

makes a pot enough for one hungry family

1 cup of grains (I chose 1/3 c of each steel cut oats, quinoa and amaranth)
3 cups of liquid (milk, or water, or in my case 1 1/2 cups of each water and whole milk)
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoonful of salt.

If using quinoa, wash it thoroughly under running water to get rid of saponin (a substance that coats the quinoa and makes it taste bitter).

Toast the grain over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until it turns a bit golden and smells nutty. This step also helps to dry the quinoa which we just rinsed.

Once toasted, pour in the liquid, crank up the heat to high. Bring everything to boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes to desired doneness (we like our porridge crunchy, so I stop around the 25-min mark) -- stirring occasionally & judiciously.

Topping ideas include:
Brown sugar, maple syrup, a bit more milk to thin out the porridge or cream to make it richer, fruit compote, figs, honey.. practically endless. We used up our last precious homemade peach compote that we canned earlier in Summer.


The "Alphabet Cheek Dictionary" MOTW: J is for Coral

The J-Coral look is perhaps the most no-brainer look in the series but with a little bit of a twist. Again, we see flip-flop placement of (colored) blush in lieu of highlighter in the J-section area around the cheek bone up toward the temple -- a doppelgänger of the red blush on the cheek hollow from last week's look. Bizzaro universe, indeed!

In Bizzaro Seinfeld, did Elaine probably wear her blush as contour and highlight?

The Tuto

The soft-coral blush (Chicca Flush Blush Powder in 05 Peach Mission, other alternative products included matte-peach from THREE, Ipsa and RMK) on top of the cheek bones creates the air of healthy "charm." Continue blending the blush upward towards the temple to give a more "lifted cheeks" effect by accentuating the J-curve.

The tutorial features powder blush using medium-sized, stubby cheek brush, not unlike Tom Ford's blush brush (although the tutorial does not specify the kind of blush brush used). 

Start in the center of the cheek, from the highest point when smiling (I assume this would be the apples), glide along the cheek bone upward. Then resting the brush on the temple, brush lightly in short strokes near the hairline.

Shimmery golden wash on the moving lids (Addiction Beauty 3AM eye shadow, from Eivissa Dream collection 2014), pinky-shimmer on bottom lash line (Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Sea Shell), slight-winged eye liner and a nude mouth (MAC Close Contact lipstick) finish the look.

Products Used

  • Burberry Eye Shadow in Pearl White is used as an all-over base, along with Burberry Eye Liner in Midnight Ash. In retrospect, I could have used the golden-shimmery champagne shade from Chanel Mystere quad on the upper lid and By Terry Ombre Blackstar in Frozen Quartz for the bottom lid, but I think, again, the point of the look is not the eyes but the healthy-looking cheek.
  • Chanel Joues Contraste in Espiegle, the perfect apricot-coral (as opposed to pinky-coral) for this look. Note that the look is achieved using matte/non-pearl blush, I think JC has somewhat of a low-wattage pearl which fits the bill.
  • Aerin Lipstick in Sunday Morning is my go-to nudy peachy lip.

My Impression

An easy, very wearable look, despite the bizzaro placement of blush on the highlighter area. Definitely give this a try!



Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette) is one of those deceitfully simple dish that needs a bit of an experience and skill to do. Here, I'll share with you mine so you won't have to waste a perfectly good egg mixture.

Tips for success:
  • Use non-stick pan if you have one, it does not need to be the rectangular-special tamagoyaki pan (as you'll see below). You don't need a non-stick pan but if you use it, it'll make things a lot easier.
  • Use plenty of oil: the right amount is when you can see beads of oil on the pan floating around but not swimming, it is quite a bit of oil!
  • Use medium-high heat. The egg will cook very fast but it needs to be on rather high heat.

(makes 3 servings)

3 eggs
3 Tbs water/dashi
1 tsp mirin
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
a pinch of salt (optional)
minced parsley or chopped green onion (optional)

Mix all the above ingredients together, set aside.
Heat the pan on medium-high heat and smear generously with paper towel-soaked oil (see above tip for oil). Test the pan for readiness: a smidgen of egg mixture should bubble vigorously when dropped on the surface.
Pour about 1/3 of egg mixture . Swirl it around the pan -- the egg should be a bit thicker than a crepe but thinner than a pancake. Wait until the surface is almost set and custardy-looking before rolling the egg toward you. Keep rolling the egg then slide the rolled egg on the other side of the pan. Oil the pan generously and repeat the same process until all egg mixture is used.
When properly done, the egg will look like this:

Shape it gently into a log while still on hot pan. When the surface is lightly golden brown, transfer the egg log onto cutting board but let it cool for about 10-15 minutes before slicing.

I serve tamagoyaki as part of breakfast, but I think you can eat it any time of the day.


Living Below your Means, Part 3

Dearly beloved, somehow this post got buried under "scheduled" post that never got published. Yikes! Only recent virtual convos with other fellow bloggers remind me of these ideas of living below means that I go back to again and again. As I wrote my comments on these lovely blogs, I have a deja vu feeling... did I already write about that before?

Without further ado, I hope these ideas will be useful and inspiring. All of us are work in progress, if we are done, we won't be here, right?

Mariah's Shoe Closet (from instyle.com)

Will this object improve the quality of my life?
If you can answer YES wholeheartedly and honestly to this question, then the object is worthy of your possession. Say, you want to purchase something, and you find yourself reasoning with the answer of this question, then wait a day, a week, a month, as long as you can. Most of the time, purchasing something does not really improve the quality of life -- it is quite the opposite: ownership of something, anything, comes with a burden of using, maintaining, storing, and eventually disposing the item, not to mention future opportunity lost because money spent in this particular item, right now. When you think of all that, every items you bring into your home adds up to that burden of ownership. If nothing else, they become background clutter of energy and things. Multiply that by 3,000 pairs of shoes that you owned, that is a lot of energy/time/money/space that you can possibly spend on something else. 
The more I appreciate objects that surround me, the stronger my resolve to only obtain and keep things of highest quality that I can afford, that will really add value to what I already own. Owning a few excellent things, rather than a lot of mediocre things, are quire liberating, not only in terms of space, cost, but most of all, peace of mind.
The opposite is also true, that when an object cease to add quality to your life, give yourself the permission to part with it. Objects, as anything else in life, are here to serve a purpose: maybe a blouse that your mom gave for your Birthday no longer suits you but you are reluctant to let it go. It is the memory that you hang on to, not the blouse -- the love of your mom somehow "materialized" into this ugly blouse that no longer adds value to your life. Cherish your memory and give thanks to your mom. Let go of the blouse and let it be a blessing for someone else instead of becoming a burden in your life.

Toyota Headquarter in Japan (from wikimedia commons)

Just in Case v.s. Just in Time
I heard this concept about "Just-in-Time" Toyota philosophy many years ago in college while studying economics. The idea is so simple but quite revolutionary in commercial goods industries. Why can't we apply the same concept to our life? Here's an inspiring article by Martha Beck about "Just in Time" application in real life.

My fellow blogger Bellyhead has put it so eloquently in her blog about buying "just in time" v.s. "just in case." Do I buy bulk/do I buy when there's sale even though I don't really need it? Or do I buy later when I really need it and pay full price for it? Sadly, I think we are a nation of "just in case" buyers. I buy this, just in case I need it, while there's a sale/coupon/... going on. That's why there's Costco, known for its BIG huge, giant package sizes of toilet papers, diapers, even smoked salmon. That's why we clip coupons and buy in bulk and rent a heated storage space somewhere so we can free up our garage spaces and buy more stuff to be stuffed in our garage, etc.

The opposite is actually quite true. By purchasing things "just in time" not only we eliminate the superfluous items that takes up the space of our home, we reduce the burden of ownership (see above). In return "just in time" mentality gives us so much freedom: freedom to choose how we will spend our money in the future, freedom from guilt of not using up things we don't use, freedom from waste, etc. etc. We will cherish and enjoy things that we own more because those things are the ones that we really, truly need and love to use everyday.

Patience and Forgiveness
When I was young, my piano teacher used to tell me that it was my own fault of not spending enough time practicing that I was not moving on with my lessons. And with such stern advice, am I a concert pianist now? Far from it..
Sounds familiar? Well, slip ups are bound to happen, after all we are only human. Remember this, and this? I tend to beat myself up/blame myself when things happen, but that will not solve any problem. Worse, it will make me feel even more guilty and bad and when I feel bad, I spend. Patience and forgiveness is the essential part of growing. Give yourself permission to make that mistake and the patience to practice the mindful ownership. Just like muscle, the more you use it, the easier it gets.

If you care to share any that resonates with you, I warmly invite you to do so.

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, used makeup brushes, etc.). Most importantly, check with the school/institution that you plan to donate your items, many have certain rules/regulations.



I reflected our misfortunes at the Land this past summer, a whirlwind to say the least! But I know that our life experiences are here to teach us something. What I've learned through these tragedies is joy.

Feeling of joy is real, no matter how or where it comes from. Whether it comes from laughing from a joke, or feeling inspired from watching a movie, or playing with your puppy, the feelings are equally real. Joy is an equal-opportunity contagion, it is not exclusive to anyone or anything. One doesn't need to earn anything to feel joy.

Joy happens so sneakily. It happens when we realize that the small stuffs are not important anymore, when we breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the long day knowing we still have a warm house and food on the table and people who love us the most. It sneaks upon us when we hear an old tune on the radio that causes us to sing with abandon, or in the form of a smile when we see the abundance of flower at the florist. It comes in a form of corn in a cob, so surprisingly sweet that it gives the cheeks tingle with each bite, or that first sip of cold drink in a hot day.

If we let it, joy will come. It may disguise itself as "doing" but it is already within us; like a melted chocolate center in the molten chocolate cake. Let it ooze and savor it slowly; otherwise, it is just another gooey mess of a half-baked cake.

Joy and gratitude are sisters. Wherever there's one, the other one will soon follow. They come when we let this moment be and wanting to change nothing.

Wishing you all joy, here and now.


The "Alphabet Cheek Dictionary" MOTW: A is for Red

This tutorial features rosy red/bright red blush in a side-way "A" application. As a self-professed blush addict, I'm sorely lacking bright, rosy reds in my collection, gasp! Here's my entire blush collection for your perusal. The recent addition of the Josie Maran Watercolor Cheek Gelee comes to the rescue for this look. If you don't have a red blush, you can always use a red lipstick in a pinch -- if your lipstick is too pigmented, you can "thin" it down with lip balm, face balm, or even a bit of foundation.

The tutorial features Le Blush Creme de Chanel in Chamade 67

The Tuto

A strong, red blush demands clean lines to enhance and contrast the complexion, thus the A-sideway shape. Somehow, a Japanese-version of sensibility always combines cuteness/sweetness/charm with feminine, grown-up feel which will be the underlying theme in this series (or in fact, in any of Japanese makeup look). 

The key success to this look is to blend it generously under the cheek bones to give a facial framework, so to speak. Notice this type of placement normally is done with contour shade in our Western beauty world (say.. Burberry Earthy, or Chanel Notorious), thus using an actual bright color to "contour" or give a facial framework is quite an interesting idea!

Using red-hue cream blush, start from the hollow of the cheek just in front of the ear lobe, patting towards the center of the face against the cheek bone. Then from the side of the nostril, blend the contour following the hollow. 

The look is finished with goldish-beige shadow and sheer red glossy lips. 

Products Used

  • Chanel Quad Mystere, for that sparkling, golden beige and the middle bronzy shade of Chanel Ombres Matelassees circa Holiday 2013 for more definition. You can play around with the shadow as you see fit as this is not the focus of the look. I opted for a simple wash and crease color.
  • Bobbi Brown Gel Liner in Black to line
  • Le Volume de Chanel Mascara (not shown)
  • Josie Maran Coconut Water Cheek Gelee in Getaway Red (oops, I mistakenly photographed Poppy Paradise instead, but Poppy Paradise, too, is a red variation, leans slightly more coral).
  • Stila Lip Pots tinted lip balm in 01 Fraise. Peeps, don't try this at home, this product is very, very old... oldie but goodie, use your own sheer red balm of choice.

My Impression

I thought contouring using bright blush may look odd but the result was not as odd. First, it looks like my cheeks are naturally blushing from the exercise without that clowny/cutesy effect that "pop" on the apples often creates. Second, since the placement is not at the apples but on the hollow, it creates a blank canvas on the apples and the cheek bones, acting as a "natural" highlight. Third, the placement, combined with my own facial shadow from sunken cheeks creates a very slimming effect, something I read over and over again is very appealing to Asian beauty sensibility.

Let me know if you decides to give this look a try -- I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!


The Alphabet Cheek Dictionary: A New MOTW Series

Happy Fall, everyone! Starting soon, MOTW is back with the "Alphabet Cheek Dictionary" which was originally featured on Maquia Magazine Feb 2014.

Fall is probably the least likely season to think about cheek and blush. Naturally, this article was featured on Maquia's Spring edition. But, I really think blush is the most-often used makeup product, only second to mascara. I know some ladies who don't like putting on lipstick/gloss in regular basis (me included), so blush + mascara have become de rigueur. Regardless, these techniques can be used any time of the year with any color of the season.

This series will also include a brief tutorial and my explanation/take of the general feel of the look. As always, I will gladly include translations of the actual products used. I really would love your input, especially if you decide to try on the look; what you use, how do you adopt the look, whether you like it or not, etc.

Finally, in the spirit of MOTW, I will give you some ideas of products that I use or substitutes in case you don't have any in your collection. Again, the whole idea of shopping your own stash is to go after the feel of the makeup look by using things you already have at home.

I hope you will enjoy this series as much as I have prepared them. See you soon!