Monday, April 29, 2013

Maybelline Eyestudio Mono Shadows in Iced Fudge and I Love Lilac

I'm somewhat ashamed to report that my eyeshadow addiction is resurfacing.... I've been eyeing the Maybelline Eyestudio singles since I first saw them at the drugstores here in the Netherlands and a few weeks ago Kruidvat (one of the drugstore chains) was doing a buy one get one free sale on Maybelline so I picked up two shades in Iced Fudge and I Love Lilac. Iced Fudge was the main attraction for me since it's a beautiful brown taupe and I have a hard time saying no to any taupe eyeshadow. I Love Lilac seemed pretty in the pan and was one of the more wearable and unique shadows out of the lineup. Although Maybelline is an American brand and we have the Eyestudio shadows back at home, there are no Eyestudio singles nor these particular shades in the United States.

Quality wise, the shadows are decent but not great and arguably less good than the American formulated Eyestudio eyeshadows which are smooth and creamy. These shadows are much more flakey with fallout and not particularly smooth. Iced Fudge has much better pigmentation than I Love Lilac although I found that digging past the initial first two or three swipes of shadow yielded better payoff. I used both colors for an eye look with Iced Fudge on the middle and outer part of the lid and I Love Lilac in the inner third and after packing on a few layers, it actually turned out to be a pretty lavender taupe smokey eye that was day time appropriate. I Love Lilac definitely needs to be layered over an eyeshadow base and can look decent if you have some patience to build it up.

All in all, I probably shouldn't have purchased these shadows as they aren't stellar by any means and I'm sure I have similar shades in my collection back at home. But with a bit of effort and lots of brush tapping, I can make these work. What are your favorite drugstore eyeshadow formulas?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

First Primark Haul!

Last week I made a trip to Zaandam, about 15 minutes by train from Amsterdam Central, for one purpose: Primark. I've seen Primark hauls from UK Youtubers but I've never been really curious about the brand since we don't have any stores in America. After seeing numerous people carrying large brown bags with the Primark logo in city center (where there is no Primark, ironically) I figured I should go see for myself what all the hype is about.

As you can see, I definitely went a bit overboard and came out with a big brown bag of my own. The prices are very low and there is such a large variety that it's hard to not grab everything in sight. I ended up with three purses, two pairs of pants, and quite a few tops. Check out the video below to see everything I picked up!

Another trip to Primark will probably in the works before I leave for home as I assume they change their stock frequently. Have you ever been to Primark? What are your favorite budget fashion labels?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Number 4 Lumiere d'hiver Reconstructing Masque: Worth The Splurge?

In the last few months I have been more concerned about the health of my hair which I am trying to grow out. I am often prone to split ends and frizz so good hair days were far and few before I started using after shower creams and hair masks. In one of my last Birchbox orders, I chose a generous sample of the Number 4 Lumiere d'hiver Reconstructing Masque at check out, just to see what a high end mask could do for my locks. 

The brand claims that "soy protein works to reconstruct and strengthen hair while natural conditioners like shea butter, jojoba seed oil, and sunflower oil nourish and moisturize". All those nourishing ingredients will set you back $58 for the full size 5.1 oz bottle which is quite hefty. There are a load of unpronounceable ingredients in this mask and the smell is something quite bizarre and off putting (in my opinion). The texture is akin to mashed bananas which I find kind of interesting and unique. The cream can be easily massaged into the hair and it clings onto strands without sliding off before you want it to. A small dollop goes a long way and this 1.5 oz sample should last me about five or six applications. But the most important question boils down to: does it work?

Quite simply, yes, it does work. It actually works really well which I'm not sure if I'm happy or sad about considering the extortionate price tag. The instructions say to leave the mask in your hair for two to five minutes which is quite little compared to most masks that recommend upwards of ten minutes. Two minutes is really all you need as my hair feels instantly smoother and healthier after rinsing. There is a noticeable improvement to the texture of my hair after using this product that I have yet to achieve with other masks. 

If you have the money to splurge on a great hair mask and need something intensive that works quickly, this might be for you. The scent is honestly the biggest downfall but I can stand it for two minutes if it means smoother and healthier hair. As for me, I am tempted to purchase more Number 4 products to try but the expensive price makes me hesitate to shell out the big bucks for things I will need to repurchase over and over. Do you spend as much money on your hair as you do your skin or makeup? What are your favorite hair treatments?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Sunny Afternoon in Brussels, Belgium

My parents took a few days off from work in order to squeeze a very short trip to visit me in Amsterdam and although we only had four days together, we wanted to make the most of their journey.  We decided to take a bus ride from Amsterdam to Brussels to get a feel for another European city and the weather could not be more perfect for our day trip to the Belgian capital.

I had researched a number of good restaurants before the trip but scrapped the ideas in favor of a busy cafe right in the middle of Grote Markt, the main square in Brussels. The food was nothing spectacular but the location was great for soaking up the sun and people watching. I fueled up with a melty croque-monsieur and fresh squeezed orange juice, mMm.  

The streets are quite tiny in Brussels and turn every which way, making it somewhat nerve-wracking if you don't have time to get lost. 

The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert shopping center was beautiful and unlike anything I've ever seen in America. The architecture in Brussels transported me to a time period I've only seen in movies and read about in books. Unfortunately we happened to be in Brussels on a Sunday so most shops were closed. 

The details in the buildings are absolutely breathtaking. It's hard to imagine every sculpture being carved and every brick being laid in such intricate fashions.

If you're interested in architecture, art and culture, Brussels would definitely be a good place to drop by for a day or two. 

Wandering away from the main square, my parents and I stumbled upon the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.

The inside of the cathedral was impressive as the high ceilings and amount of natural light made it a very welcoming and calming place. 

We mainly stuck to the Grote Markt and the little streets surrounding it since we were only in the city for a few hours and did not want to risk getting lost and missing our bus.

Before we left we had to eat a famous Belgian waffle at Maison Dandoy, which is apparently one of the best waffle places in Brussels. There are several Maison Dandoy shops around Brussels but some don't carry waffles and only cookies and sweets that make great souvenirs.

My parents shared a Belgium waffle while I opted for the chewy and sweeter Liege waffle with ice cream and chocolate syrup. It is safe to say I had more sugar that day than I should have for a week but it was absolutely delicious!

Brussels is a small city and the main area is ultra-touristy so an afternoon visit was perfect for me. It was nice to experience a different European city with my parents and get a taste of Belgium.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Reviving The Youtube Channel: Get Ready With Me!

Recently I've had this nagging guilt regarding my Youtube channel which I've completely neglected since coming to Amsterdam. I made no notice of my study abroad plans and have not posted a video in over two months..... Truth be told, I lacked motivation and blogging is much more convenient and easy for me. But it's time for me to get back into video making and hopefully I'll be posting more consistently from here on out. I'm not making any solid promises though!


I was thinking long and hard about what kind of video I should do first to ease back into the beauty vlogging world and I thought a simple get ready with me tutorial would be a nice way to say hello again. You can see some of the products I've been loving in use as well as some of the newer beauty additions to my collection. 

Please comment with any video suggestions that you may want to see! I'm on the look out for new video ideas!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Yves Rocher Eyeshadow Duo in Prune & Powdery Taupe: Not Any Old Taupe and Plum

I have a weakness for eyeshadows, taupe and plum eyeshadows to be exact. The people over at Yves Rocher obviously knew about my obsession because their eyeshadow duo in Prune and Powdery Taupe had my name all over it.

Aside from the weird name, everything about this duo is pretty sweet. You get a hefty .1 oz of shadow and although the retail price is not cheap, $16 on the American website, you're bound to get a deal on Yves Rocher as they hold frequent promotions. The plastic packaging is not exquisite by any means but not as flimsy as the average drugstore compact and the clear window makes it easy to see what shade you're grabbing if you collect several shadows or blushes from the brand.

Both eyeshadows are smooth and pigmented; in other words, they are a joy to use. The taupe does not lean too warm or cool and sits at a happy midway point. The plum has just the right amount of depth without yielding shimmer which makes it perfect for defining the outer corner and crease. 

The somewhat high price for a low to mid range brand like Yves Rocher put me off for a bit but after testing out the shadows, every penny was worth it. These shades are not the most unique but they are definitely staples in one's collection. All in all, I highly recommend Yves Rocher eyeshadows and they were a pleasant surprise coming from a brand I had seen relatively little of in the blogging world. I now have my eye on several of the other eyeshadow duos... and singles... and trios.... Oh boy....

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Scrub For Smoother Skin with L'Occitane's Almond Delicious Soap

Looking back I surely overpacked for my four and a half month trip abroad in terms of beauty products. Thankfully I do not regret my body scrub of choice for the journey as L'Occitane's Almond Delicious Soap is the perfect compact exfoliating soap. 

The 1.7 ounce bar retails for $5 which might be pricey compared to drugstore, run of the mill bar soap but in the grand scheme of things, you can easily shell out for this without breaking the bank. The soap has lovely little imprinting detail and the shape fits easily into my hands. The scent is akin to the L'Occitane almond range which is not particularly a favorite of mine. I'm situated in the middle in terms of the scent as I do not hate it but I don't particularly love it either.

I use this about once a week in place of my regular bar soap or body wash. The soap base foams up and cleanses the skin while the crushed almond shells exfoliate. The particles can be a bit scratchy so I use very light and gentle circular motions to buff my skin. So far I've used up about half the bar in about two months.

After using this product, my skin feels noticeably smoother and hydrated without greasiness. The sweet almond oil probably factors into that result somehow. Above you can take a gander at the ingredients list if you're curious about what exactly is in this little bar of goodness.

If you want a moisturizing body scrub without an oily residue, this might be a nice option to look into. I love that it cleanses and exfoliates all at once and comes in a handy size for me to travel with. If you love the scent, then that gives you just another incentive to try out this luxurious little soap.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Kiko Long Lasting Stick Eyeshadow in 05 Rosy Brown: Rose Taupe Perfection In Crayon Form

Retractable stick eyeshadow pencils seem to be all the rage lately and after trying the Kiko Long Lasting Stick Eyeshadow in 05 Rosy Brown, I'm beginning to see why. Kiko is an Italian brand that is available only in select European cities which is a shame considering they make some fantastic cosmetics at a reasonable price! 

For only €6.90 (about $9) you get .05 ounces of product in a sleek twist up tube. For reference, the Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Colors contain the same amount of product but retail for $24. Above is the eyeshadow twisted all the way up and you only need a tiny amount so I know one tube will last me years.

The color is absolutely stunning. I literally stood in the store and tilted my hand in the light for about five minutes, deciding which color I wanted to get. I was between three of the neutral brown tone shades and ended up with 05 because it leaned more purple and taupe whereas the others were more bronze and warm. Now I wish I had scooped up all the colors that were available.

The eyeshadow applies very easily straight from the tube. I find that gliding the pencil directly over my eyelids and then using a finger or fluffy brush to blend out the color after is the easiest and most effortless way to use this product. Of course you can also use it as a base for powder eyeshadows and the multi dimensional shimmer in the cream will add a pop of brightness to your look.

I wore this product over Too Faced Shadow Insurance (I apply eyeshadow primer 99% of the time I wear eye makeup) and the color stuck around for the entire day. There was no migrating or creasing which is great and, frankly, what I expect since it's touted as a long lasting product. *EDIT* I wore the shadow without primer, by itself, and it stayed on for over eight hours with no signs of fading or smudging. The claims are true!

If you can get your hands on Kiko cosmetics, you need to try at least one of these stick eyeshadows. For the price and the quality, you cannot go wrong. Since it will be difficult for me to haul anymore of these particular eyeshadow sticks, I have many others from various brands on my wishlist. What is your favorite stick eyeshadow?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Yves Rocher Malaysian Coconut Silky Body Lotion: Must Have For Coconut Lovers!

The winter in Amsterdam has been especially long this year so I am religiously slathering my body with lotion to prevent dry flakes. I was drawn to the Yves Rocher Malaysian Coconut Silky Body Lotion simply because of the name. When a beauty product has some kind of Malaysian association, my interest is usually piqued since my family is from there. I took a whiff of the lotion in the store and was automatically sold. The scent is almost exactly like one of my favorite Malaysian coconut jello desserts!

While the scent may be my favorite aspect, the lotion itself does a decent job at moisturizing and keeping skin supple. The consistency is very light which means the lotion absorbs quickly into the skin and does not leave a greasy residue. The formula feels refreshing and soothing on the skin. On the other hand, this lotion is not ideal for very dry skin as the thin texture does not give enough moisture as a thicker cream might.

The ingredients list is peppered with a long list of unpronounceables which may alarm some of you. A 400 ml bottle retails for $10 on the American Yves Rocher website but I believe I picked up my bottle for under €5. Yves Rocher regularly goes on sale so be sure to wait for a discount before ordering!

If you don't have seriously dry skin and love the scent of coconuts, this would be a great addition to your pamper routine! For me, this is not an ideal winter body lotion but probably better suited for the summer months. Perhaps when my skin is less flaky I will indulge in another bottle.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Few Days in Amsterdam With The Boy

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend flew in from New York during his spring break to visit me in Amsterdam! I was beyond elated at the prospect of having someone from home to explore the city with and who better to spend six days with than my best friend?

We did a bunch of tourist-y must-dos such as a canal tour around the city. Although Dennis looks full of energy in the photo, he was anything but during most of the ride due to jetlag.

It was my first time on the canals even though I had walked along them so many other times. Whether you're in Amsterdam for a few short hours or a long period of time, an hour long ride on a boat is worth  doing.

Then we had to get some famous flaamse frites with mayonaise which might not have been the best idea since we were both incredibly tired from Dennis' early arrival flight. After waking up at five in the morning I probably shouldn't have filled my stomach with greasy fries. 

Dennis was excited to climb one of the IAmsterdam letters while I laughed at his struggle.

The weather was quite dreary that day (typical Amsterdam) and the letters were wet so I played it safe and stuck to the ground.

I often feel weird asking other people to take photographs for me but it's much easier for me to look natural in front of the camera when my boyfriend is the photographer. We strolled along Prinsengracht on a somewhat clear day, admiring the apartments and enjoying a sandwich from the Kaaskamer. I forgot to take a photograph of the yummy sandwich as I was way too hungry.

While walking around the Negen Staatjes neighborhood we walked past a woman who was walking her cat! Yes, a cat on a leash! I was surprised and incredibly amused as the orange tabby looked like he was going about his usual business like nothing was strange.

As for museums, we visited the Anne Frank House and the Queens Palace in Dam Square. I believe photography is prohibited at the Anne Frank House so there are no snaps of that but I think the wait and price is worth it. Although I cannot say I appreciated the book very much when I read it as a child, I am highly interested in the World War II era and the Holocaust. The Anne Frank House was a surreal experience and it took quite a bit of time for it to sink in that I was at the very place the Frank family lived in hiding.

The palace, on the other hand, is very lighthearted and a nice place for visitors of all ages. The central location make it a great place to stop by and warm up a bit while peeping into the rooms Napoleon's brother, Louis Bonaparte, occupied while he was king of the Netherlands. The chandeliers were my favorite aspect of the palace and each room seemed to have a different variation.

Six days was definitely not enough time and I wish we could have traveled outside of Amsterdam and seen some other places. Nonetheless, I am grateful that Dennis took out time and money to come see me and I cannot be more thankful. Looking through my files, we actually did not take very many photographs at all. I guess we were living in the moment and having fun instead of concentrating too much on taking pictures to show others, which is perfectly fine by me!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bourjois Express Eye Makeup Remover: Best For Your Buck

I only brought a small travel sample of Lancome's BiFacil Eye Makeup Remover with me to Amsterdam so I headed to the drugstore to find an inexpensive option to last me the rest of my stay. There were a few dual phase makeup removers from the likes of Nivea and Garnier but my eyes glanced over the Bourjois Express Eye Makeup Remover and was sold as Bourjois is not readily available in the states. I guess you always want what you can't have, right? The €5 price point was not bad either so into the basket the bottle went.

Having tried several dual phase eye makeup removers, Lancome's BiFacil was always a step above the rest but surprisingly the Bourjois formula works just as well! My eye makeup, including waterproof mascara, wipe off incredibly easy when I soak a cotton pad with the remover and there is no oily residue or irritation. The only minor complaint I have involves the packaging which is a somewhat awkward flip top as the little knob takes some getting used to. The two phases seem to un-mix quite quickly so it's imperative to shake, open and pour as fast as possible.

I did not expect to like this eye makeup remover as much as I do and now wish it was available in the United States. A little goes a long way so a bottle is bound to last me a few months. I am debating if I should purchase a back up to bring home but would that be crazy? It's only eye makeup remover afterall.... What is your favorite eye makeup remover? Have you tried any Bourjois products?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Another Trip to Yves Rocher

Membership cards are the bane of my beauty existence.... Seriously. After my first Yves Rocher experience, I couldn't wait to go back and purchase a few more products (for blog content, of course). Armed with coupons and the Yves Rocher We Love You membership card, I ended up spending a pretty penny on some new makeup bits and a skincare "necessity".

Yves Rocher does promotions pretty much every single day and the day I went, it so happened that everything in the store was 50% off. I picked up the Hydra Végétal Intense Hydration Gel Cream because my Kiehl's Ultra Facial Moisturizer is more than halfway gone and I like to have back up skincare in my wares. The rest of the goodies were eyeshadow bits which were totally unnecessary. I grabbed a tube of the Pastel Cream Eyeshadow in Aube Rosée as the liquid eyeshadow concept looked interesting. I also picked up the Beige Doré Single Eyeshadow and the Prune and Powdery Taupe Duo Eyeshadow because I obviously can't control my eyeshadow obsession. I received some fragrance samples and a small pocket mirror as a freebie.

Reviews on these products will be coming up but to give you a little preview, the powder eyeshadows are amazing and definitely star products from the brand. Detailed photos and descriptions will be up on the blog within the next few days or weeks so stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Venture Into Kiko Cosmetics

At the rate I'm hauling beauty products, I'll be amassing a collection rivaling my vanity at home really soon. Kiko Cosmetics is an Italian beauty retailer that has free standing shops in a handful of European cities so I was extremely excited to find out they had one in Porto. I had seen reviews and swatches of some Kiko products over the years and had to really restrain myself from hauling too many goodies. 

The store has a very inviting atmosphere with a wide variety of products and shades to swatch to your heart's content. I had scoped out the product line up online before even jetting off to Porto because I knew it would have taken me way too long to thoroughly examine everything. The mineralized eyeshadows were beckoning to me and so were the abundance of lipsticks. 

Alas, I allowed myself to purchase a mere five products which is more than I needed in the first place. The prices are reasonable even with the exchange rate. The look of the product packaging is very simple and high quality, somewhat similar to Mac products but at half the price.

Here's a sneak peak at the goodies I narrowed my basket down to! In depth reviews and swatches are forth coming. I really wish Kiko was more readily available (ahem, international shipping?!) because they have such an extensive range of products at a good price. Have you tried any Kiko products?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Peering into Porto, Portugal

Last week I took my first journey out of the Netherlands and spent a few days in Porto, Portugal expecting balmy weather and scenic views of the Douro River. While the temperature was much warmer than in Amsterdam, it rained every single day I was in Porto and none of the boats could sail due to strong currents. Nonetheless, the experience showed me a different side of Europe and was well worth the effort.

The Clérigos Tower has one of the best views of the city although it is quite crowded with tourists (as is the rest of Porto). The city is quite small and most of the main tourist attractions are within walking distance. There seemed to be more tourists than local people in Porto which was both comforting and off-putting at the same time. 

Café Majestic is a popular eatery in Porto which is where I ate my first meal after dropping off my belongings at the hotel. I would recommend this place more for lunch rather than dinner and the portions are quite dainty. The servers are incredibly sweet and have a decent grasp of English. The price of food and lodging is considerably less expensive in Porto compared to Amsterdam which was a relief.

Many of the buildings, especially churches, have blue and white tile accents which remind me of Dutch delft pottery. You can definitely feel how old the city is just by looking at the crumbling cobblestone streets and run-down buildings.

As someone who is not religious and does not believe in a higher being, I am fascinated by buildings of worship. I made it a priority to visit a few of Porto's many churches.

The Igreja de São Francisco was by far my favorite church that I had a chance to visit. The interior is breathtakingly detailed and beautiful. Simply sitting in a pew, listening to the gentle footsteps of the other visitors and taking in every inch of the church puts me at ease.

Every other shop in Porto seemed to be a bakery which was heaven! I knew I had to try pastel de nata which is pretty much dan tat, which I'm sure my Chinese readers will know about. Egg tarts are one of my favorite Asian sweets and I believe they were inspired by the Portuguese snack. Each bite of the flaky crust and creamy center reminded me of home....  

Several of the main streets were dug up and surrounded by chicken wire, making it quite difficult to navigate the already steep hills of the city.

If you ever stop by Porto, avoid the restaurants along the river as they are complete tourist traps. I had one too many meals along the Douro and I will spare you the details of the long waits and tasteless entrees. Above is my favorite meal that I had throughout the entire trip which was a veal wellington at Andor Violetta. The prices were still reasonable (coming from New York City, everything is average or inexpensive...) but the only complaint is that they charged my table €2 per person for bread, butter and olives which the waitress handed out at the beginning of the meal. This happened at another restaurant in Porto as well but it was €3 for three people. It was a real surprise finding out that the bread was not complimentary as it usually is back in America and in the Netherlands.... 

Stray cats are quite common in the streets of Porto. I love cats but was too afraid to pet any as the streets are quite dirty and I'm sure fleas and other pests run rampant. 

Porto is most famous for producing port wine and there are dozens of cellars located just on the other side of the Dom Luís Bridge in Gaia. I have a very low alcohol tolerance and just can't enjoy a glass of wine, beer or any other alcoholic beverage but I went on two cellar tours and had a great time. I love learning little tidbits and even though I can't drink much, it doesn't hurt to know a bit about a topic most other people find interesting.

I highly recommend a tour at the Ferreira cellar as the guide spoke impeccable English and gave a very comprehensive explanation of the port making process which was perfect for beginners like myself. At the end of the tours you get a tasting of a white and red port. I took the tiniest of sips of each and passed the rest on to my wine-loving friends who were happy not to waste a drop. Port has a very fruity and sweet taste but a strong alcohol kick due to the high brandy content.

 My last meal in Porto was at Presto Pizza simply because it was raining cats and dogs and my hotel was nearby. I had walked by it a few times during the days before and it seemed to be a busy place so it was worth a try. The mini pizza was a reasonable €3.50 and the service was quick. The pace of Porto life is quite mellow and slow from what I gathered. As a Type-A New Yorker, it was painful at times having to wait 45 minutes for a meal to reach the table. Also, the people seem to eat later in Porto because the restaurants tend to open at seven and close at midnight. 

A year ago, I wouldn't have been able to tell you were Portugal was on a map so who knew it would be one of the first European countries I would visit. I did pretty much all the tourist-y things in Porto and I think the experience would have been better if the sun had made a longer appearance. The valley would definitely be more scenic and alive during the late summer and early fall months since that is when the grape picking takes place. While I won't be rushing back to Porto anytime soon, it was a nice change from Amsterdam life.