March Purchases

At the beginning of the month, I decided to stop blow-drying and embrace the natural straightness of my hair. Why not? I hardly have any time to shower in the morning, left alone doing my hair. I chopped off about 3-4 inches of my locks into a simple lob (long bob). So, this month, my purchases comprise some hair products and replacement of regular products (aka this is my panic buy!!). More about that panic in a second, but first...

Oribe Conditioner for Magnificent Volume

I celebrated my new do, naturally, by purchasing the most expensive conditioner I've ever bought, a whopping $39.00 (per 6.8 fl.oz)!! To be totally fair, I received a few sachets of this conditioner a long time ago and I really love it (it has one of my most fave ingredients in hair conditioner: behentrimonium chloride. The other is cetrimonium chloride, both are essentially do the same thing on hair).

It is a natural replacement to my old Kerastase Lait Vital (now at $42.00/6.8 fl.oz -- I don't think I purchased it for that much, I think back then Lait Vital was only $35-$38/6.8 fl.oz. bottle). While in essence I may have saved a bit, the winner in regards to Oribe is the scent. Yep, if you like the fresh, fruity scent of Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray, you will also like this one. Nuff said, hope this bottle will last me at least two years! (o.k. maybe an exaggeration but ykwim..)

Spice Sisters Wave Style Soft Styling Wax

This wax is a bit peculiar but brilliant product. The consistency of this wax is not waxy at all, but rather of a loose, whipped cream. On my straight, flat, limp hair, it tames flyaway and frizz, making it shiny without weighing it down (like silicone serums). On curly/styled hair, it adds a bit of soft hold and shine while still feeling oh-so-bouncy. When I don't know what to finish my hair with, I just dab a bit of this on my palm and run my fingers through. My hair looks instantly polished without the least bit of crunchiness. The scent is of fresh, juicy pear that is nothing artificial, even the Tod loves it.

This beauty, sold at my local hair salon and at amazon.com, is made by Arimino -- a Japanese hair product company. The "Spice" line has with many sisters and brothers (e.g. soft wax, freeze wax, straight, shining, etc.) and all are highly recommended by my salon. I purchased this for $15/1.25 oz. Price on Amazon is all over the place (depending on where you buy this from), but I think it is still worth the money. You need only but a smidgen of this to polish your hair.

Now to the panic buy!! The panic was induced by a. the fact that my replacement, staple sunscreen Hada Labo was en route from Japan and took forever to arrive, b. a sudden streak of sunny days in the otherwise gloomy Seattle and c. my current bottle of Hada Labo was on its last drop. Cue in the killer Psycho EEK EEK EEK!! Srrrysly, don't try this at home, it was worse than an impulse buy.

Ingredient List: top (green) for Clinique, bottom (white) for CeraVe

Clinique Face Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen 

This sunscreen is actually more than half-decent. SPF above 30, check. Unscented, check. Moisturizing, check. I love that this also make for a very nice primer, I do notice my foundation goes on nicely on top. The downside is the inclusion of homosalate, one of the sunscreen ingredients that I'm not really keen on. This is also an all-chemical sunscreen that may not be suitable for those with sensitivity. Finally, the texture is quite creamy and tacky, I don't think this will go along well with ladies with normal-oily/oily/combo skin.

A note about sunscreen ingredients and stability: recently FDA has revised and mandated new testing and labeling on all sunscreens and in essence, the sunscreens that are sold as of now should be photostable -- meaning the combination of the sunscreen ingredients won't break down upon UV exposure as feared before (in case you are a follower of MUA skin board -- lots of lengthy discussions there, just peruse them at your leisure). I do plan to write a sunscreen primer, if and when I have time (I have a list going on things I'd like go blog about.. just not enough time!!).

CeraVe Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 with Invisible Zinc

This sunscreen ticks even more boxes than the Clinique one above -- the all-physical sunscreen is definitely more suitable for sensitive skin alike (although too much zinc = dryness). Even the zinc is not a problem on this one; it is balanced with the addition of titanium dioxide. Alas! What looks good on paper does not always translate well on skin -- this is why we can't judge a product just by its cover box err.. ingredient list. This sunscreen goes on white, ghost-white, and super duper tacky and draggy with very little slip. It does not mean it is useless, I just slather this on my arms and legs and on the Tod, but it is so very not suitable for the everyday, non-ghostly face.

Finally, a few samples from when I purchased staple things from Paula's Choice

Resist Vitamin C Spot Treatment

Supposedly contain the highest percentage of ascorbic acid in any of PC's product. This paste, yep paste-thick product is intended to be a spot treatment. I dabbed a pinhead-size on my most prominent age spots nightly as the last step of my skin care routine. It left a slightly tingly feeling but without redness and irritation. I've been using this faithfully for a month now and have yet to see any visible improvement, but honestly, I'm not hoping for much as my spots were the result of long-term sun exposure since a very young age. It may work for you.

Resist Moisture Renewal Oil Booster

Silky, readily absorbed (unlike Sunday Riley Juno), unscented, and basic. This one is a great moisture-booster to any of your regular moisturizer. Definitely worth considering if you want a face oil that is moderately-priced and without a lot of frills.

BONUS: Silicone Mask from Daiso

The idea is you put this on top of your sheet mask or any other mask you have to retain moisture/prevent the mask from drying too fast. Super useful in dry, central-heated weather, not so much now. I tried this a couple of times, it actually works pretty well! Thin, washable, flexible, stretchy, it just plain works. The best $1.50 I've spent so far, available from local Daiso store or amazon.com


French Lentil Soup

Spring is officially here, the cherry blossoms around the neighborhood are actually already blown away by rain and wind this past weekend. My tulips and daffodils are on their way to harvest time before they wilt. And at home, I've been doing lots of spring cleaning and finding bits and pieces of things to cook with in my cupboard.

I found bags of leftover lentils here and there to add up to 2 cups (dry) so I thought I'd make this Autumn/Winter staple one last time. As with any soup, this one gets better the day after. You can make the soup heartier by adding more vegetables (turnip and potato are regular addition here) Finally, you can make this soup all vegetarian if you like, just omit the bacon (which ain't gonna happen chez moi).

French Lentil Soup

Makes about 6-8 servings

4 slices of bacon or plain olive oil

2 cups of dry green/French lentil (lentilles du puy), rinsed and drained

2-3 medium carrot, diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 14.5 oz can diced tomato
1 bay leaf

1 medium size turnip and/or 2 small yukon gold potato, diced (optional)

water about a quart or more (you can also use chicken/vegetable broth, we use "Better than Bouillon")

salt, pepper, sugar and balsamic vinegar to taste

chopped parsley to serve

Slice the bacon however you like, render them nice and crisp over medium low heat, set bacon aside and reserve about a tablespoon of the oil. Otherwise, heat olive oil in medium high heat.

Saute vegetables (carrots, celery, onion, garlic) about 10 minutes, or until they begin to brown a bit. Next, add lentil, tomato, bay leaf and enough water/broth to cover the whole thing plus an inch above the surface. This is also the time to add turnip or potato if you use them. Simmer the pot for about 30 minutes or so until lentil and vegetables are tender.

Add your seasonings. Usually a touch of sugar and balsamic vinegar will round up the taste. I also blend part of the soup to make it thicker using immersion blender, but you don't have to. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and bacon. Serve warm with lots of crusty bread, it definitely hits the spot on those rainy Spring evenings at home.

Bon App├ętit!


MOTW: Biscuity Makeup, aka the Shaggable Eyes

Every now and then, I would see a look and thought, "Where have I seen it before?" and inevitably, I also wonder, "I must have something similar already in my stash" because when a look appeals to me, it must be something that I know would look good on me. Beauty, like fashion, has its own cycle and things must have been cycled and recycled so many times, it is refreshing to try a newer, more modern take to the same basic theme.

This week, I'm doing the tone-on-tone, aka the "Biscuity Makeup" of Lisa Eldridge's fame. Remember this?

Upgrade it to a more shaggable slant of "Shaggable Eyes" of Tom Ford AW 15 like this..

images via style.com

So, Biscuit and Shaggy both feature tonal brown eyes, nude cheeks and lips -- with cheeks and lips playing supporting role. While Biscuit is a more harmonious ensemble of matte-on-matte, Shaggy's eyes are the focal point with the chocolate haze wrapping around the outer corner of the eyes all the way to the upper cheek bone.

image via style.com

My version is somewhere in between -- not quite shaggable, but still biscuity -- "the Shaggy-Biscuit?"

Skin is prepped using foundation of choice to achieve a natural finish. I like mine on the glowy side, so I prep with my regular, quite moist skin care base, with Lunasol Skin Modelling Liquid Foundation patted on top to form a synergy (ah, don't you just love that word, synergy?). I opted for gently sculpted cheeks, using a smidge of Chanel Bronzing Base and Burberry Fresh Glow (aka, my dupe for Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate) at strategic spots. All bounced and blended very, very gently with Beauty Blender sponge. This completes the Biscuit part.

For the Shaggy part, eyes are prepped with Burberry Trench, followed by Chanel Kaska Beige quad, emphasizing darker shades on the outer corner of the eyes -- strictly hugging the eyes to the bottom lash line and all the way down to the cheek bones like TF's version. I shaggify the eyes further by smudging Charlotte Tilbury The Classic Powder Pencil Liner in Audrey on the upper lash lines and adding few lashings of MAC False Lashes (which in reality does not make me look like I'm wearing falsies. We want to keep it biscuit-shag, remember?). I topped off the cheeks with peachy cream blush from Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar on the Go in Breakfast at Tiffany's. For lips, I chose a satin-matte of Charlotte Tilbury Penelope Pink.

O.k. I'm seriously getting hungry and in need of a sh.. err.. biscuit myself. Wishing everyone a great week ahead!


MOTW: Spring Blossom using Burberry Beauty

I've seen a lot of movement on Burberry Beauty, one of my favorite brand, and I think for the better! These past two weeks, I visited the local counter to play with many of their new products and I think the textures are better, colors are more edited, and -- not available at Nordstrom counter yet but I heard reviews -- lipsticks has no scent. No scent, I tell you!!

Are all those improvements an excuse to get rid of old stuff and buy new things? Not in this Land. I think it's time to dust-up some old favorites from Burberry Beauty and make the most of them.

  • Base: I'm currently testing NARS All Day Luminous, AmorePacific CC, Dior CC, and a few others. They are all samples from Sephora. The aim is luminous skin, akin to Burberry's ethos, you know the deal; glowy, but not shimmery, flawless but far from perfect. Just your skin but better.
  • Eyes: Burberry Pale Pink shadow is a discontinued shade of satin pink with iridescent pink/purple almost-duochrome. It is hard to capture in picture but it is not at all shimmery or glittery. Just think of a very sophisticated wash of gleam on the lids. I don't think there is a comparable shade in the current Burberry line up. I use this as a base all over. Burberry Rosewood is a cooler taupe with satin finish that is perfect as lid color. I finish with a stroke of Eye Definer pencil Midnight Ash on the top lashes and Eye Definer Pencil in Golden Brown on the bottom lashes to give a little definition. Use whatever mascara you have on hand to achieve a naturally defined lash.
  • Cheeks: Burberry Light Glow blush in Cameo is a dusky rose shade that warms up the skin, which is very nice since bronzer/any contour would be too stark this time of the year, at least on me.
  • Lips: I patted Burberry Lip Glow in English Rose on the lips to brightened up my natural lip color. After all these times, I still cannot stand the scent, so maybe this is one shade worth switching to the Kisses formula.

Lipstick, blush, liners, Rosewood and Pale Pink shadows.

On the rare days when the sun shines in this part of the Land, I try to take swatch pictures. I almost have forgotten how time-intensive taking these pictures can be! Really, it made me appreciate the amount of work that goes on into blogging.

Wishing everyone have a terrific week ahead!


Thankful Wednesday

These past few weeks have been busy ones for us. The weather was really nice and we are reminded once again of things we are always grateful for:

  • Friends
    I had a mini discussion with Sumi from The Worship Blues about friends. More and more, I appreciate people around me who make my life that much better with their daily, seemingly mundane gestures: the waiter and waitress at our neighborhood cafe, who know our order by heart and always make sure there are extra croutons on the Tod's salad, the moms, nannies, caregivers and their children we meet, play and chat with at the park, the lovely teachers with their students at a nearby school who wave at us, thoughtful drivers who honked playfully & stopped by patiently as we crossed the street. They can choose to be grumpy, impatient, ignore our presence and mind their own business, but by the grace of love they don't! And these people may not fit the conventional definition of friends -- they are strangers, really -- but, as I said, they make my life  a little bit  better because of their simple gesture of love. 
  • Nap, the Tod's that is..
    Ah, sweet, sweet nap. I savor every minute of it, it makes me look forward to playing with him more after he wakes up. I know the days are numbered when he will still be home with me, with nothing planned and all the time in the world. I know this time is special. I wouldn't trade it for the world!
  • Flowers and gardens
    There are flowers blooming everywhere, they make me smile and they remind me of my dad and my grandfather who are all garden/plant-lover. Not to mention the abundance of wiggly worms, slimy slugs, fleeting ladybugs, and other garden creatures who are always ready and available to keep the Tod entertained.
  • Silence and solitude
    What can be better than these??
Life is good, indeed. I hope you also enjoy your blessed week so far and please, share your gratitudes with us!


Coconut Banana Chia Pudding

It must be the Tod and PapaLorp's past time to make fun of MamaLorp's latest health food fad. 
"Who wants some chia pudding??" 
"Not me!" 
"Not me, either!"
 Good. A double negative. More for me.

This chia pudding looks menacing but chia gel actually tastes like nothing at all. It is crunchy and slimy at the same time -- if you like okra, you are all set. If not, don't give up yet. You can mix any liquid, fruit, topping until it's yummy (or so the Tod would ask me -- "Ma, mix-mix-mix the milk with chocolate syrup until it is yummy!"). You can sprinkle chia on everything, from salad, to morning cereal, to baked goods (like muffin -- kinda taste like poppy seeds without the poppy-aroma).

This pudding, however, is riddikulusly easy that you may as well give it a try. Chia seeds are available as bulk at Whole Foods and other health food market.

To make chia gel:

Mix 4 T chia with 1 c. water/milk/liquid of your choice, the ratio comes down to about 1 T of chia seeds : 1/4 c of liquid. Stir and leave for about 15-30 minutes until gelled. Add more or less liquid as desired.

To make the above pudding:

Mix chia gel with few tablespoons of coconut milk and a pinch of salt (trust me on this). Top with ripe banana, the riper the better so you won't need sweetener. I can eat this by the bowlful for breakfast or snacks. Also good with fresh berries, muesli, regular milk/cream, yogurt, etc.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

P.S. Yes, yes, we are growing our own chia pet. No hairs yet, though.


Thoughts on Beauty and Vanity

At a recent school auction, I was complimented by a fellow mom of my hair and makeup. The compliment bloomed into a discussion about beauty and vanity -- sadly more about beauty as vanity. It was a that moment I said something to her that I've always kept for myself

"... I'm turning 40 this year, isn't it about time that I can do my own hair and makeup?"

The idea of having hair and makeup done as vanity is truly unfortunate. It is a miss-opportunity. In this part of the country, no-makeup makeup is de rigeur. So, when I came to the function with my hair and makeup -- which consisted of a simple at-home blow out, a red lip, and a little shimmer on the eye -- I was quite done up.

Actually, it was nothing extraordinary that I did. Yet, I've gotten comments when I do so. Sometimes, I see women my age or even older with somewhat awkwardly-put makeup, on an occasion when makeup is expected, that I wish I could lend a little advice on them, "try a bronzy-brown liner on your blue eyes instead of teal," "that tawny, too-bronzed blush on your peaches-and-cream skin ages you -- try a rose instead," "a bit bolder on the shadow, just use a matte one instead of shimmer." Or more poignantly, I would come across someone who poke fun at those who are able to use a blow-dryer/curling iron/eye lash curler/mascara, while I think that very simple, doomed-to-be-vapid skill would bring out her natural beauty front and center.

Growing up with a post-WWII grandma and a feminist-at-the-height-of-its-movement mom, I've seen both sides of the ideals. I come to a conclusion that there is no such thing as a balance between primping and being a woman. It is the whole package. As women, or men for that matter, we all have the privilege and the responsibility to take care of our physical form in this life. Presenting the best version of myself to the world is far from frivolous or vapid, it is a life-affirming act I do everyday. As such, it is not vain to acquire skills to improve my appearance -- just as it is not vain to learn how to do yoga, running, swimming, playing tennis in order to enjoy life and to maintain one's health, or even to brush teeth, get a hair cut, or shave. If these things are done as maintenance and improvement on physical self, why should doing makeup or hair be any different? Being able to present one's best physical appearance does not diminish one's accomplishment, point of view, experience, skills, education, status, etc. How could the daily act of brushing teeth daily diminish the value of a human being?

If the idea of using a pair of tweezer or blow-dryer or mascara or eye lash curler scared you to death, or makes you giggle with unease, now is the time to give them a chance. These seemingly superficial act of putting makeup and doing hair can be transformed into a mindful act of self-respect and respect to other. Sure, there are plenty of days I go barefaced, but it hardly comes from the "who cares, who gives a damn" attitude. Whenever humanly possible, each moment presents itself as an opportunity to show up and I choose to show up by being my best-self version.