Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hello 2014!

Hallo, hallo! 
(Warning: this is an epic picture-loaded post!)

I know, I know, I’ve been MIA on the blog for the past month. My good intentions of regular blogging came unstuck even before I started! This is not off to a flying start for 2014!

I apologise but I blame the holiday brain. I was on holidays overseas and despite having time to blog, I was very restless. It was very hard to sit in front of a laptop to type away for a blog post when there is a new town, a department store, a boutique, a new must-see sight waiting for me to explore in the cities I visited. Besides, if I didn't venture out I would have missed out on the opportunity to visit places that I may not ever see again (I suffer severely from the Gen-Y condition known as #fearofmissingout or #FOMO as it’s endearingly known).

So what’s happened over the past month? Well I’ve eaten some of the most amazing food across 3 wonderful countries, seen spectacular views, had an amazing White Christmas experience in Hokkaido and then rang in the new year with smashing fireworks along the harbour of Hong Kong island. Of course, I've also shopped up a storm and have maxed out two credit cards in the process and was shocked when I sat down to do calculations of the final cost of my latest trip.

All the Christmas trees in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong
You may have seen snippets of the snaps I’ve taken during the holidays on Instagram but let me do a recap of my favourite moments in plenty more pictures. 

First up the food. Without doubt, Taiwan is the capital of fabulous food. If you love food, you must come and visit this country. The variety is wide, the offerings fresh, scrumptious and inexpensive. It’s rare to to get a bad meal there (although I did manage to find a bad takeaway one evening) and there is so much to try, you would need to find another stomach to sample all the food during a outing at one of the numerous night markets in the city. 
A large array of food in the night markets in Taipei  
some of the Japanese and Taiwanese dinners we had

Meals from Hong Kong
Most Memorable Meal:
Peking duck at the Westin Hotel in Taipei. As my good friend Tina said "f*ck the duck, the soup is da bomb"! It was truly to-die-for and the star of the meal. The night markets filled with lively atmosphere, the tantalising smells of food cooking sprinkled with the excitement of finding a good bargain with the various wares and clothes that were on sale. It is a match made in heaven for the foodie and shopaholic in me.
Amazing Entree and duck soup from Yi Yuan restaurant at Westin Hotel Taipei

Runner-up Mention: 
There was a dinky take-away joint away from Shilin market in Taipei that sold pork chop take-away (便当) for only $85NTD (roughly A$3). Seriously, I’m still thinking of that succulent pork chop as I type away right now. Sadly, I forgot to get a photo of the place so I'll have to rely on my bad memory to find the place again the next time I visit. 
only $85NTD. I would pay 10 times that amount for that amazing pork chop
The best pizza I’ve ever had was in Sapporo (who would have thought). Freshly oven baked, thin crust and amazing flavours of broccoli, chorizo and mozzarella. It was better than the pizzas I've had in Italy- true story . 
Best pizza found in Sapporo @ Salvatore Cuomo & Bar Sapporo

Best Shopping: 
Hands down I burnt the most cash in Japan. The fashion in Japan is fantastic and there were so many clothes I just want to cart home with me (both for work and play). The department stores were great as were the subway boutiques which I wandered around and got totally lost in during the feezing days where it was too cold to venture above ground.
Subway shopping at Poletown - this was closing time
Rilakumma store can be found in Paseo East shopping centre in Sapporo 
I spent a small fortune picking up some items from Burberry, and other Japanese brands like Yodabashi, Honeys, Uniqlo (cannot wait for them to open a store in Melb!) and in the many Japanese drugstores. I bought many skincare and makeup items that were Asia only products (or if available outside of Asia, was very hard to get a hold of, especially in Australia).
I might have a shopping addiction in Japan...

Limited Edition Laudaree blushes
Jill Stuart also gets 1000 points for the pretty packaging and pigmented products
Unfortunately (or fortunately), my luggage wouldn’t allow me to buy up more after 3 days of shopping. In the end I posted back 11kg of good before leaving the country after my shopping sprees. I got to the point towards the end of my holiday in Hong Kong that I avoided going into another Watson or Sasa because I had bought too many beauty products already!

Runner-up Mention: 
Horizon Plaza shopping centre in Aberdeen in Hong Kong. They have a Prada and Mui Mui outlet store there (sadly nothing I wanted was there when I visited as it mostly goods from a few seasons old). I did however, pick up a beautiful pair of Salvatore Ferragamo kitten heels at 50% off! 
I'd never have found the Prada/Mui Mui outlet store if I didn't have locals taking me there
Favourite Sights:  
I've never had a white Christmas so hands down for me was seeing and enjoying the snow in Sapporo. Now I've experience snow before but the snow in Sapporo was different to the snow in Australian alps. The dry crisp air there and sub-zero climate meant the snowfall was powdery soft and stayed that way for longer. I was truly like a kid in a candy store, even lying on the pristine white powder to create snow angels a quite a few times.
Snowed under - on the streets of Odori

Sapporo Central - loved the Diamaru food hall!
Runner-up Mention: 
I've always loved fireworks and Hong Kong put up a very good show for 8 minutes. Despite the short duration, it was spectacular, majestic and magical. Mind you, I still think Sydney’s new year fireworks are work class and slightly better than those in Hong Kong.
New Years fireworks on Wanchai Harbour

Hong Kong lights up at night
Temple Visit to Wong Dai Sin
Other memorable moments include getting to sleep in a flat bed on the plane with our business class flight, a spiritual Lantau Island visit to see the big Buddha, to Sapporro and a visit to the Wong Dai Sin temple. 

Big Buddha at sunset - Lantau Island
In 2014...
With the new year I only made one resolution - to get into a good early morning habit. I have for the past 15 years been a night owl and I feel it’s time for me to kick that habit for good. So this year, I’ve decided to gradually become a morning person buy getting up at 7.30am and eventually working towards an early bed time.  So far I’ve not had not luck (I’m writing off January, and going start in Feb instead) but I’m determined to succeed. I’ve also decided I’ll finish work at 6pm no matter what and take the work home with me or go into the office very early rather than staying back to create a better work habits. 

I’m also going to try and get back into the things I love most in what little spare time I have. I’d like to get back into my street photography, crafting, cooking and DIY skincare making again. The year is still young so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to achieve these goals. 

How has 2014 been for you so far? Have you been holding up to your New Year resolutions?

Monday, December 16, 2013

The 2013 Christmas Gifting Season

For me, travelling means that my days are blurring and I sometimes forget which day of the week it is anymore, since it doesn't matter as much when I'm on holidays. But I was looking up the calendar today and I can't believe there are less than 10 sleeps before Christmas. Where did the days go?

I have not even started on my Christmas shopping (but I do get special pardon, since I'm travelling and will be bringing gifts from overseas to my friends and family when I get back). If you don't have an excuse like I do, then you need to start making a list of things you need to get for the people you will be seeing this holiday season quick stat!

Now there is a plethora of gifting ideas but sometimes it's hard to narrow it down to the right present, especially for those hard-to-please people. I find asking them what they want to be futile as they will give you non-committal and confusing responses so I just pick for them something I think is a bit of a luxury and indulgence.

There's a few of such gifts I've cast my eyes on over the past few weeks that I think will make beautiful gifts for a bit of luxury and pampering.

Jurlique Hand Care Essentials - RRP A$85* 

This rich and emollient hand cream set will delight the fussiest recipients with signature scents from Jurlique including rose, lavender, citrus and jasmine. Enriched with natural botanical, you're getting hand and aromatherapy every time it's used. With four 40ml tubes, there's one to leave at home, another in the car, office and even a spare to stash into that big handbag so you're never without a hand cream.

-Available at David Jones, Jurlique concept stores and online.

Philosophy Care Package - RRP A$130
If you think someone deserves a little TLC this Christmas, then send them this care package to show them how much they mean to you. Containing everything to turn around their skin around, this easy to follow regime contains the micro-delivery exfoliating facial wash; purity made simple
3-in-1 cleanser; hope in a jar moisturiser, hands of hope hand and cuticle cream and a two-step vitamin c/ peptide peel to give healthy glowing skin.
- Available in David Jones, Mecca Maxima stores and adorebeauty online.

Laura Mercier Mini Lip Glace - RRP A$45 

Everybody loves a good lip gloss and these five colour-coordinated bare nude shades by Laura mercier will beautifully enhance lips with subtle soft colours as well as add shine, sparkle and hydration, ensuring these lips will be kissed on Christmas day. Shades include pout, bare peach, bare blush, bare baby, gilded rose.

- Available in Laura Mercier counters in David Jones.

Jo Malone Cologne Collection - RRP A$150 

Now even the fussiest scent lover will fall in love with this collection of signature scents from Jo Malone. Containing mini sized (9ml each) bottles of lime,basil & mandarin, english pear & freesia, blackerry & bay, peony & blush suede, amber & lavender, there is a scent to suit every style, occasion and mood.

- Jo Malone is available in city David Jones stores.

Voluspa Crane Flower 100 hour candle - RRP A$49.95 

If home is more the space you want to be gifting then nothing is more pampering and inspiring than one of these beautiful crane flower candles. With a burn time of 100 hours, you will have many nights (or days) of enjoyment and with its unique birds of paradise nectar and grapefruit scent. Beautifully packaged in a gold embossed holder, it will become a keepsake that can be reused for holding trinkets or cotton pads.

- Voluspa is available online at Saison Shop

Illamasqua Fatale Palette - RRP A$53*
What's Christmas without a bit of colour to add cheer to the day? With this beautiful palette of surprisingly wearable shades, you can turn up or down the festive mood with the use of mauve and plum shades alone or layer it with copper and/or aubergine to create a smokey party look. Pigmentation and blending is never an issue with Illamasqua so any girl can pick this palette up and use it in a cinch.

- Illamasqua is available in selected Myer stores or online.

Burts bees Tint n Shine - RRP A$19.95*

For a Kris Kringle or stocking-stuffer, I can't recommend this little pack from Burt's Bees enough. Made with nourishing shea butter and apricot kernel oil, I find their hibiscus lip balm very moisturising and impart a soft tint that keeps lips soft all day. The blush lip shine can be layered on top for an extra gloss or used on its on for lucious looking lips. The best thing is that I spied these in Target online for $9.99 this week!

Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal 

Now finally, if you can spare a gift (this might be the perfect and charitable re-gifting opportunity for that cheese board you don't need), get into the spirit of giving to those less fortunate. Head to a Kmart store and make a wishing tree donation to give someone who would otherwise miss out on Christmas, a little cheer this festive time of the year. They would be most grateful for your generosity of giving back to the community. Just mark your gift for the most age/gender appropriate when dropping it off to the wishing tree. 

- You can make a wishing tree donation at any Kmart stores up until Christmas eve. 

I hope this small selection gets you thinking of the last minute beauty gifts you might want to pick for the special someone or for those in need if you're in a capacity to be charitable. I'm off to make my wishing tree option now (yes, you can donate online via giftcards too!)

Have you done all your Christmas shopping yet? What else have you got to pick up? 

* products marked were provided for editorial consideration. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Travel Guide - How to travel light and have more fun

Travelling for long periods of time, especially overseas makes you value how much you value space and weight. So that's why whenever I travel, I try to pack as little as possible (which of course frees up more space in my luggage and allows me to buy more products along the journey to take home with me :D)

So if you are curious with what I brought with me for my 4 weeks of travel, take a look at the photos below. I must say looking at them, I think I still over-packed, as I have bought more toiletries and skincare products from Watson and Sasa to compensate for all the decanting and travel sizes I brought over! A beauty addict like me just never seems to learn ><

With clothing, I usually pack light shirts and natural fibre tops like woolen sweaters that can be worn in mild weather or layered if it gets colder. I always pack 2 pairs of jeans and get a whole week's wear between them before they get washed. I also bring a cardigan for those strange weather days or cool evenings, leggings that can be worn on its own casually or under a skirt in the evenings and a weather proof jacket for those wild rainy days which offers some protection when it's too hard to trek around lugging an umbrella (and your shopping bags and camera).

Jeans, North face jacket, a few woolen knit tops, hats and scarves (I'm heading to Sapporo in winter) are all fairly lightweight items in my suitcase. 
With beauty products and toiletries, sample or travel sizes are my favourite products to take away (this is where all those gift with purchase products get used). Decanting full sized products into smaller sized pots, bottles and jars are also another favourite options of mine, especially if the original packaging isn't very travel friendly (eg. made of glass, awkward shaped etc). And remember you don't need to bring your whole bottle of shampoo because if you do run out and not stuck in some remote part of Africa or some other far flung exotic locale, you can always duck into the local shops to pick up a replacement and even try their local offerings (and treat it as part of the travelling experience).  Wet wipes are always handy to have to remove makeup, clean and refresh your face and hands on the go so I always have a pack of that in my bag whenever I'm on travels.
Travel sized skincare
Products in the bag:
  • Kiehl's Creme de Corp body cream for my dry skin
  • Guinot Biological Peeling radiance gel for a evening facial when my skin is stressed and worn out. 
  • Kiehl's ultra facial cleaner. This isn't a travel size but I couldn't decant it and love how it's gentle but gets rid of all grease and grime in one easy wash
  • Abivon - my French gem of a vitamin A cream for evenings to keep my skin supple and those fine lines at bay. 
  • La Roche-Posay Melt-In BB Cream - I love this non-greasy lightweight BB cream that gives a natural finish to help with minor imperfection and all day round SPF protection. A must when travelling. 
  • Bobbi Brown hydrating eye cream - emollient and rich, the perfect cream for restful eyes whilst travelling 
  • Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eyes - intense hydration for times when I need more stronger skincare and given it's so small, I'd probably finish it in a week's time anyway. 
  • Origins Ginzing refreshing eye cream - because I'm obsessed with eye creams and this little tube will only go another week after my other two finishes up. 
  • Pelativ Facial Refiner Deep Cleansing Scrub - for days when I need to exfoliate my face of the dead skin cells but don't want my skin feeling raw afterwards. 
  • *edit* I forgot to include earlier but the Clinique bottle is actually my diy vitamin C serum that I've decanted into the small bottle to take with me for this travel. It normally sits in big bottle in the fridge at home. I'll post a post on the how to make the serum over the new year! 

I carry minimal cosmetics products whenever I travel as I find I don't have time to do my face in the mornings and even when I do, by the time I'm finished walking around all day long, my makeup looks smudged and worse for wear. So my only products that I carry for travelling liquid eyeliner, mascara, tinted lip balm/gloss with UV filters, concealer, BB cream, pressed powder and oil blotting paper. I also carry a long wear lipstick for evenings when I do want staying power on my lips.

Minimal makeup kit
  • Estee Lauder concealer - this cream base concealer is the best for hiding dark cirlces and imperfections without budging once set. It's my new holy grail concealing product this year. 
  • La Roche-Posay Melt-In BB Cream - I love this product so much I've included it twice in this post! Great for a light hydrating, coverage and sun protection and shade #2 is a surprisingly good match for me, I can't sing the praises of this product enough. 
  • Clinique Super City Block SPF 30+ - this isn't makeup I know, but I always have a tube of sunscreen in my makeup bag just in case I don't use any makeup, at least my skin is still protected, especially when travelling]. 
  • CoverGirl pressed compact - its convenient, has a built in mirror for quick on-the-go touch ups. I can't ask for more. 
  • Kiss Me Heroine liquid eye liner - my hero liquid liner that I never stray from 
  • Lancome Hypnose Drama mascara - this deluxe travel size means its easy to carry and won't dry out before I finish using it. I love how this particular one gives me intense thick lashes that are non-clumpy and easy to remove. 
  • Lancome Tresor EDP miniature. I haven't put this to use yet so thought I may as well bring it with me. I am after all going to be spending NYE in Hong Kong in a potentially swanky place, I should come prepared. 
  • L'Oreal Shine Caresse lip gloss in Juliet - a deep berry shade that lasts hours without drying lips. It will be on me for NYE for sure.  

Is this too much products to bring for 4 weeks? Do you travel with more or less?  If you want to see what I've been buying and getting up to in Asia, head over to my Instagram for the glory pictures.