Friday, December 30, 2011

December 2011 Wrap Up - The Month and Year in Perspective

Ah, finally... the last month of 2011. At the end of every it seems as if time flew by too fast and I often look back and wish that I had done more throughout the last 12 months. December was a very busy month for a variety of reasons and I hardly had time to catch my breath, let alone reflect on the other moments of 2011. December was a culminating time where everything I have been working on for about half of the year came together.

I have to admit I fall into the Asian stereotype of being a stickler in terms of grades. I take my schoolwork very seriously and all my life I have worked very hard in my classes. My final exams ended on the 21st and the end of the semester is always a bit nerve wracking because you see what grades you earned throughout the past four months. This semester was definitely the most challenging one yet simply because I had a lot of other extra work to juggle along with school work. I can honestly say that I have never been so busy in my life. My studying paid off and I received decent marks in my classes which gives me hope that I can juggle the same workload during the upcoming spring semester.

So what exactly have I been juggling on the side? From April to November I volunteered at an animal shelter once a week after school which was a great experience. I never really liked animals as a child but in the last few years I have grown more fond of animals and interacting with them on a more intimate way definitely has made me more of an animal lover. At first I was extremely awkward around animals because I was scared of them. I was always worried about being bit or scratched. I stopped going to the shelter around November because my other duties were taking over my life. I hope to eventually start volunteering again to visit my furry little friends!

I intern for a large (I won't get into specifics) company and work as a sales associate at another large (again, no specifics) retail store. On a typical Thursday I am out of the house for 16 hours going from school then to intern and then to work at night. The internship and retail job are my first "real life" work experiences so it was somewhat risky to jump into all of it at around the same time. Thankfully my managers and supervisors are all amazing and I have learned much throughout the last few months. On the 9th, Z100's annual Jingleball concert took place at Madison Square Garden and I went as part of my internship. I was mostly running around doing errand-type work but it was an incredible experience in and of itself to be assisting at such a grand venue. I will definitely remember that day fondly and will utilize the knowledge I gained for my future career.

With all the academic and career driven activities that I pursued for the last few months I had to fore-go time with my friends. Most of my weekends are spent folding clothes and talking to customers instead of getting together with old pals. I am typically very exhausted so I prefer to spend any off days I get at home snuggled on my couch. My birthday was on December 12th (12/12!) and I was perfectly fine with spending my 19th birthday weekend at home this year. I usually opt for a big dinner with around 10 friends to join me but this year I was just not up for it. The night after my last final, I was able to meet up with a bunch of my close highschool friends and we had a great evening out in the city. I think I was running off of the leftover energy that helped me get through that last test!

Someone recommended Bare Burger, an up and coming burger chain specializing in organic and exotic meats, and I have to say it was really good! My pescatarian diet totally went out the window since Thanksgiving but I will try to get back on track when 2012 comes around. I felt a bit better that Bare Burger is marketed as organic, free range and all that jazz but then again it might just be marketing. You never really know until you've actually visited the farm....

I had a regular beef patty with delicious onion rings, bacon strips and some veggies all stacked on a brioche bun. The portions are very generous and I actually couldn't finish the last two bites of the burger because I was that full. The burger was very well cooked and very moist. I have to say this might be better than Shakeshack.... The burgers at Bare Burger are a tiny bit pricier but you get more food so it evens out.

We walked around the city a bit and it was extremely refreshing even though I find myself somewhere in Manhattan everyday. Usually I am always concentrated on getting to my destination and I have no regard as to my surroundings. It's difficult to appreciate anything in the city when you're in it so frequently and many times I think the city is only a good place if you have money. Sad, but true. Anyway, we walked by the Empire State Building and although it was almost nine at night, the sky was filled with white light from the buildings. The atmosphere almost reminds me of Gotham City from Batman with the gray concrete buildings and all.

Christmas decorations always make me smile and Macy's definitely had the most robust sales force this year. I forget if they do it every year but this year they were open 24 hours throughout the days leading up to Christmas Eve.... Not sure if that helped boost their sales as i have no idea who shops at four in the morning but go figure.

In the past few years Christmases have gotten less exciting to be honest. I'm pretty sure the only reason why my family and my close family friends all celebrate Christmas is so that us kids can feel more "American". I don't really mind but it's interesting that we put up mini trees and dress up one of the dads as Santa Claus when the holiday has very little meaning to us. I had fun wrapping gifts this year but I went to Lush to pick out most of my gifts as they already had conveniently packaged and wrapped sets. I did not snap up pictures of the food and whatnot of the Christmas celebrations but just imagine a fusion of Asian and American dishes (a platter of stir fried noodles next to a honey ham). I typically get gift cards and cash for the holidays and my birthday now so whatever was relevant to this blog have and will be included in haul posts.

So that was my December, and much of my year, in one post. I am hopeful that January will be an especially interesting month because I do not have classes (interning and working are still occupying about four days a week though). These monthly wrap up posts are really fun for me to write as I get to ramble as much as I like and look back at the month. Let me know what you loved, hated, and treasured from the past month and year in the comments!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

December Haulage Part 2

I don't think hauls need much of an introduction and because I have quite a lot to show you, let's just get on with it! This month I have accumulated quite a bit of makeup here and there, most of them being gifts.... So I don't feel too bad.

The above Sephora haul is what my boyfriend bought me for my birthday with the help of two of my best girl friends. If any of them are reading this, THANKS SO MUCH! I had wanted the Naked Palette months before its release but for various reasons never bought it. I explain in my haul video at the end of this post on what those reasons were if you're interested. I also received my second Nars blush, highlighter actually, in Albatross which I also really wanted. They also picked out a Buxom duo set with an eyeliner and mascara as well as another polish set which I adore. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Sephora By Opi nail polishes.... Another four plus the set of six I bought myself during the Friends & Family Sale makes an even ten!

My good friend also got me two goodies from Sephora for my birthday and Christmas gift. She made me come up with a list of items for her to choose so I kinda knew what I was getting... heh. She picked Illamasqua's Rude Cream Blush (my first cream blush!) and Nar's lipstick in Cruising. Both are really beautiful and I can't wait to wear them. Sorry that I forgot to take Cruising out of the package. You can see the actual color in the haul video!

Now for the drugstore things! My mom picked up a Rimmel Lasting Finish Pro nail polish in Hot Cocoa for me because I said I wanted a brown nail polish. I bought the Maybelline Dream Mousse Blush in Soft Plum and the Physician's Formula Gel Liner Trio in Glam Green Eyes from CVS's Beauty Clearance Sale. They gave me a $3 coupon for my birthday so I got both items for only $5!

I also went to target to get some eye makeup remover and chanced upon the limited edition Ecotools Kabuki Set. I also picked up the angled liner brush from Sonia Kashuk. I can already say I really like the mini kabukis (they will be great for travel!) and the angled brush is decent so far but I need some time to get used to it more.By the way, you can't tell from the picture but the Sonia Kashuk eye makeup remover is a bi-phase remover but I shook up the bottle so the liquids mixed and turned cloudy.

Lastly I have a piece of Lush's Angel's Delight Soap which I got as a freebie when I went to buy Christmas gifts. I went in on my birthday and spent over $100 on Lush goodies (none of which were for myself....) so the sales girl let me choose something to sample. She gave me a really generous sample! I also cut my Lush soaps differently than how I showed HERE. I used to cut them very small so I could use them in one or two showers but the little pieces were hard to hold and resulted in a lot of product wastage. I cut the Angel's Delight Soap into three pieces so I have hand held pieces now if that gives you an idea.

Check out the video below to see some preliminary swatches and my first impressions!

This is definitely one of the larger, more pricey, hauls that I have done thus far and I received several giftcards furing December as well. I already went shopping yesterday and amassed a bunch of items so I already know what is going to be in my next haul :) My next haul will be more fashion oriented with a few bits of beauty goodies thrown in! Hope you like hauls and expect reviews of the aforementioned products really soon!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Belated Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The past few days were filled with family dinners and get togethers so I couldn't wish all of you lovely readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I hope everyone had a healthy and happy year and that the year to come will be even better! Surprisingly I did not wear any makeup for Christmas day and I did not take many pictures of the holiday festivities. At the end of the month I will be posting a "December Wrapup" to highlight some of the interesting events that occurred throughout the month. I hope to consistently do a wrap up post each month just to make this blog a little more personal because I enjoy peeking into other people's lives too!

Anyway, here was how my nails looked like for the past few days leading up to Christmas!~

Excuse the blurry photo but you can clearly see I am still in love with Sephora by OPI nail polishes! This is another shade from the Manhattan Minis Collection called "Say It Ain't So-ho". This eye catching bright tangerine red looks orange or red depending on the lighting. It's definitely one of the brightest nail colors I own and is very nice for the holidays. 

Once again, enjoy the rest of what's left of 2011 before it's over! I am aiming to film and post my collective haul and empties before the new year but I'm not sure that I can do it.... We'll see :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm: Review and Swatch

Awhile back when I made a purchase at Sephora, the kind sales girl threw in a couple of samples into my bag. Now, I don't know how often anyone else gets samples like that at the store without asking but that was the first and last time I had gotten some freebies at the counter. When I saw that she had given me samples of the Dr. Jart BB cream, I was ecstatic! If you don't already know, BB creams were originally from Germany but popularized by Korean celebrities who wore them to achieve natural, flawless skin. For the past few years BB creams have made their way across Asia and recently they have been popping up all over the Western hemisphere.

I guess it's somewhat surprising that I have never tried a BB cream but needless to say, I was all over this one when I read the description off the tube. BB creams generally serve multiple purposes and tend to claim many skincare benefits. This particular BB cream has SPF45 PA+++ which is very high for a makeup product. The PA+++ stands for the amount of UVA protection that you are getting, the more pluses, the better. A full size tube of this BB cream is $39 for 1.4 oz which is definitely something you would expect from a brand at Sephora but it is pricey compared to other BB creams from Asia.

Here is a "swatch" of what the cream looks like out of the tube. You can see the texture is quite thick but it is spreadable with your fingers. On the right is an unedited photo of my face with only the bb cream applied. No concealer or setting powder, just my bare skin and the BB cream (just a reminder, you can always open my pictures in a new window to view them in full size). The coverage is not bad and it definitely evens out most of the redness in my skin. You can still see some of the redness on my cheeks and the acne scars all over my skin. I found the cream to be a bit drying upon application and it tends to cling to my dry spots and acne spots. That being said, it leaves a matte finish that is comfortable to wear. The consistency makes it a bit harder to blend so you have to work fairly quickly.

The biggest downfall is that this product only comes in one shade and the coverage is definitely not light enough so that it can work with any skin tone. I have light to medium skin and I feel like this cream looks a tad bit too light for me. The shade has a gray cast, also typical of generic BB creams. The gray tint fades and the cream kind of oxidizes on my skin throughout the day to match my skin tone better. However, the biggest color issue I have found is that due to the high SPF, this product will make you look extremely ghostly in flash photography. This is definitely not something to wear if you are going out and taking lots of pictures.

All in all, if you have light skin, normal to somewhat oily skin, with minimal spots you might like this BB cream for day wear. It definitely is not a perfect product and the price is definitely marked up because Western consumers probably do not know how inexpensive BB creams can run (I have seen many for between $10 and $20 which is already marked up with importation and shipping fees). I am happy I got a sample to try but it has made me more skeptical of these "all in one" type of products. Have you tried BB creams and what's your opinion on them?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

HANA Professional Flat Iron Review

Judging from the number of hair related posts (or lack thereof) on this blog,  you can probably figure out that I don't take much time to do anything to my hair. A few weeks ago Brian from Misikko contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in trying out one of their most popular items, the Hana Professional 1'' Flat Iron. I figured I had nothing to lose and one of the reasons why I don't straighten my hair often is because I'm not a huge fan of the Solia flat iron that I purchased over a year ago. I am happy to report that the Hana hair straightener definitely works better than my Solia iron and I want to share my honest opinions about the Hana flat iron.

The flat iron itself is very sleek and lightweight which makes it easier to maneuver and bring along with you on trips. Compared to my Solia iron, the Hana is thinner on all sides and therefore lighter. I believe the thin design will also be good for people who like to use straighteners to curl their hair. I have yet to master that technique and when I want curls I opt for my curling iron. Interestingly, both the Hana and Solia irons feature blue ceramic plates. The Hana iron heats up within a matter of seconds which is another feature I really enjoy about it. I literally plug in the cord, flick the switch to on, spray some heat protectant into my hair and it's ready to use!

Here is some information taken directly from Misikko's website about the Hana flat iron. Although the Hana is quite pricey at $119.98, you do get a few freebies such as the leather pouch, silicone mat and tin case. I really like all three of the freebies as they are all very high quality and the pouch is perfect for vacation packing! I also prefer the silicone mat over the felt mats that come with most other flat irons.

My hair is naturally wavy and I tend to get flyaways which are extremely annoying. I use the Hana iron between the 200 and 300 degree setting and section my hair so that I can evenly straighten each part. You can see that although the ends of my hair are not totally straight, the roots and midsection of my hair are tamed and sleek. I have never been able to totally straighten my hair from root to tip by myself and I don't particularly mind as it looks very unnatural when my hair is extremely straight. 

I was also sent a mini Hana Shine Shield which is a heat protectant and styling liquid. I usually do not like to put products into my hair unless it is a heat protectant but I quite like this. The texture is liquidy and very runny so it is easy to smooth through the hair. It leaves my hair feeling light yet tamed. It's something I can live without simply because I like to put as few things in my hair as possible but if you enjoy testing out products in your hair, this is pretty good.

All in all, I really enjoy the Hana Professional 1'' Flat Iron and would recommend it those looking for a hair straightener. It is a bit pricey but it is on par and even less expensive than some other high end irons on the market. The added bonuses and high quality packaging make this investment worth it, especially if you travel a lot or need to tote around a straightener for freelance jobs or something of the sort. The team at Misikko displayed some of the best customer service I have ever encountered as well. I hope this review was helpful and would be happy to answer any questions you may have!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In My Stash: Eyeshadow Primers

Eyeshadow primers are one of those things that I think anyone who wears eye makeup should take the time to do some research on. I encourage everyone who is just starting to dabble in the world of makeup to purchase a good eyeshadow primer because it makes a huge difference in the way your makeup applies and lasts. That being said, not every primer is made equal. I have accumulated quite a few of the more popular eyeshadow primers available on the market right now and put them to the test. I'll briefly sum up my feelings on each of them and recommend my favorites of the bunch.

E.L.F Mineral Eyeshadow Primer - This is the only inexpensive primer I own and the only one I have tried. At $3 it really doesn't break the bank. The consistency is the most runny out of the all the primers I have and it blends out to a clear finish. This works very well for $3 so I definitely urge those of you who have tight budgets to check this one out! Unfortunately the inexpensive cost is reflected in the cheap packaging. If you see the video below, you'll see how the cap breaks easily! I take very good care of my beauty products and I hardly use this primer so there should be no reason why the cap should break....

Urban Decay Primer Potion - The infamous "UDPP" will forever hold a special place in my heart (or vanity I should say) because it was the first primer I had ever purchased and the one I use the most often. To be perfectly honest, I use this 95% of the time just because I want to desperately want to finish the tube and move on to my other primers.... That being said, this stuff lasts forever (I have the XL tube though) and is totally worth the $19 price tag. After about two years of using this product, I am no where near to being done with it and while the consistency has changed a bit and become less watery, it is far from being dry. This primer easily spreads onto my lids and I have no issues blending shadows over it. After a whole day (around ten hours average) of wear, my shadows and liner are usually still going strong. I highly recommend this primer as it has yet to fail me (well the packaging is quite fail but now they've changed it to a better squeeze tube)!

Too Faced Shadow Insurance - This is pretty much the same as the Urban Decay Primer Potion only it feels a bit more dense and has a texture like silicon. This almost feels like a face primer. This is also packaged in a squeeze tube and is a dollar cheaper than the Urban Decay primer at $18. I have heard that Shadow Insurance has a tendency to separate after a long time but I have yet to see that happen after owning this tube for over a year.

Benefit Stay Don't Stray - This is touted as both an eyeshadow and concealer primer. Why does one need to set their concealers? Beats me. But as an eyeshadow primer, this is by far a decent one. The color of this product is an opaque "skin tone" shade which evens out the eyelid area if you have discoloration and redness around that area. However, skin tones are relative and although Stay Don't Stray looks invisible on my skin, it would probably look too dark or too light depending on if you are very fair or very dark. This primer leaves a very matte and dry finish so eyeshadow does not adhere well to the skin. Also, at $26, this is one of the pricier primers on the market for what it is. The packaging features a pump but it dispenses way too much product and is hard to control so it definitely makes this an unrecommended product. Smashbox's Photo Finish Eye Primer, which I used up awhile ago, is very similar to Stay Don't Stray so I cannot recommend that either.

Nars Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Base - This is one of the newer eye primers available to us and it is a good one. Many credible beauty fanatics have already made this their HG (holy grail) eyeshadow primer and I can see why. This is a white base which becomes translucent once blended into the skin. It has a bit of tackiness to ensure that shadow and liner stick to your skin and stay there. This primer is $24 so it is less bang for your buck compared to Urban Decay and Too Faced because it contains less product than them as well. In my experience, I have not had any more success with the Nars primer compared to the others so I cannot say that it is any better.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vampy Lips

If you asked me a year ago if I would try a burgandy, plum, or even red lip, I would have said no. I think it takes a degree of confidence to wear a bold lip but once you try it, your fears usually disappear almost instantly. I still love nude and baby pink lips but the fall and winter is definitely the perfect season to try to expand one's comfort zone.

A few weeks ago I wore a plum colored lipstick outside for the first time and it felt good to try something different on my lips. Darker lip colors definitely age most people but I don't particularly mind looking somewhat older (I'm sure by the time I'm in my late twenties I'll be minding!). I wore Dior Addict Lipcolor in 783 which I featured in my Fall Beauty Must Haves post awhile back.

What are your favorite dark lip colors? Do you prefer nudes, "natural" my lips but better shades, or dark and edgy colors?