Friday, October 17, 2014

Strawberry Macaron Lip Balm

I  am mad about macarons.  Those lovely, delicate petite French perfections... What girl wouldn't be?  At least one time or another, right?  I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to these edible art!  However, I have to admit: I am macaronned out... I have tried high and low, big and small, near and far.  These French confections are just more pleasing to the eye than my sweet tooth now.  Don't get me wrong though, I would still reserve them for those special occasions and tea party pairings.

On my trip to Vancouver this week, I was reluctant to stop by yet another Asian shopping mall, but was glad I did.  Inside Yaohan Centre in Richmond, B.C., Osaka Supermarket had the largest collection of Japanese and Korean cosmetics.  Among the aisles, I spotted some colorful lip balms shaped into macarons by Korean brand, It's Skin.  How adorable is this?!

Needless to say, it was one of those things I had to have.  There were four "flavours" to choose from: grape, green apple, pineapple, and strawberry.  My only regret was that I only picked up one for myself - strawberry, of course!

Ingredients listed on the box: paraffinum liquidum, butyrospermum parkii oil, pentaerythrityl tetraisostearate, diisostearyl malate, polybutene, ceresin, cocoa butter, carnauba wax, ethylhexylglycerin, butylene/ethylene/styrene copolymer, tocopheryl acetate, retinyl palmitate, triethylhexyl trimellitate, hydrogenated polycyclopentadiene, BHT, titanium dioxide, CI 15850 (red 7), CI 19140 (yellow 5)

This incredibly cute packaging houses nine grams of yummy fruit scented balm.  The formula is more pliable than EOS, and gives a modest sheen when applied, but that is probably due to the mineral oil as the main ingredient.  Other notable ingredients include shea butter oil, cocoa butter, and vitamin E and A derivatives.  The rest of the ingredients are not so natural.  Honestly, I normally would not purchase a mineral oil-based lip balm, let alone mineral oil-anything for my face as this could clog pores, but was is too adorable to pass up!

Verdict:  Although this may be the most creative container for a lip balm - I do love good packaging as much as a great product - it would not be something I would take to the French Alps.  But for a little daily touch-up after a visit to the café or pâtisserie, this little dainty purse candy will certainly do!  Wouldn't hurt as a cuticle moisturizer either, especially during the Autumn and Winter months to come.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Neiman Marcus' 2014 Christmas Book

As a sweater-weather (ahem, cashmere) fanatic, a rainy-day prancer, and a Christmas baby, one of the most exciting things for me about Fall - besides the holiday decorations, festive gatherings, and hints of winter months to come - is the annual release of THE Christmas Book from Neiman Marcus!  I admit I get overly excited when I see this book, almost like a child on Christmas morning, but who can blame me?  It's exclusive... it's fashion... it's luxury... it's new... and unarguably, it's a FABULOUS DREAM (especially the Fantasy Gifts)!
It's Here!

The 2014 book was just released Tuesday, making it their 88th annual edition.  There are gifts for everyone: for her, for him, for home, and for little munchkins (those we call our kids - fur and not!).  Within the 190 pages of drool-worthy gifts, the least expensive item is $15, and the most... $475,000!

Like all previous years, there are 10 Fantasy Gifts, with proceeds benefiting The Heart of Neiman Marcus, a foundation supporting youth arts education:
Fantasy Gift No. 1
Tanqueray No. Ten Imperial Shaker by Jason Crawley
Fantasy Gift No. 2
Vanity Fair Academy Awards® Experience
Fantasy Gift No. 3
The House of Creed Bespoke Fragrance Journey
Fantasy Gift No. 4
100th Ann. NM Limited-Edition Maserati Ghibli S Q4
Fantasy Gift No. 5
Custom Locket and Trip with Monica Rich Kosann
Fantasy Gift No. 6
Ultimate Mardi Gras Experience for Six Couples
Fantasy Gift No. 7
His & Hers Vilebrequin Quaski
$50,000 each
Fantasy Gift No. 8
The Slot Mode USA Ultimate Slot Car Raceway
Fantasy Gift No. 9
Preston Bailey Garden Peacock Floral Sculptures
$25,000 to $65,000
Fantasy Gift No. 10
Leontine Linens Home Trousseau

As extravagant as those Fantasy Gifts are, here are my top picks from the book:

Inverni Iris Rabbit Felt Floppy Hat in Burgundy - $305
Floppy hats are universally flattering; just choose one in a fabric appropriate for the season.

Neiman Marcus Monogrammed Cashmere Robe in Wine - $505
See the "S" - as if it were meant for me!

Monique Lhuillier Gown - $9,995
Winter ball?  Done!

Neiman Marcus Exclusive Quilted Leather Jacket (right) - $395
This is perhaps the perfect leather jacket - for me!

Neiman Marcus Exclusive Monogrammed Silk Pajamas - $170
As any fashionable mademoiselle would tell you: Must-have, enough said!

Also, did you know that Neiman Marcus always offers free standard shipping and complimentary gift wrap on all purchases? So whatever treasures and treats you find in this year's book, don't forget to to include this message in your gift tag...

Photo credits: Neiman Marcus

Monday, September 29, 2014

Falling in Love with Fall

This past week was the beginning of Fall and already I am loving the cooler weather, the soul-warming pumpkin spice lattes, autumn and harvest decorations seen everywhere, nearby pop-up pumpkin patches, Fall parties with friends and family, and even seriously considering to dress up as Maleficent for Halloween!

They say a photo is worth a thousand words, so instead of explicitly describing all that went on during the first week of Autumn, here is an Instagram summary of my past week-at-a-glance for the beginning of Fall:

Pumpkin spice and everything nice!

Is it crazy that it's only September,
but I'm already buying four pumpkins for Thanksgiving?

Wrapped up a birthday present for my dear not-so-old Mummy.
Tied with pink tulle and finished with a J.Crew satin flower brooch / pin.

A present to myself: my mantra, my motto...
finally set in stone - crystal, to be precise!

Finally Friday and getting ready for the weekend party
with a mani-pedi from uTOEpia!
(Will blog about the party soon in a later post.)

Arranging these Fall blooms for a special party,
adding glitz and glam with glitter and gold in glass vases.

Do you see what I see?  Is this a propagation of a rose?!
This never happened before and I most certainly do not have a green thumb.
I hope some roots would emerge soon... Stay tuned and we will see!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Christian Louboutin Suspenodo Flats

When it comes to red soles, the shoe that immediately comes to mind is the stiletto pump.  Some people are actually surprised to learn that Loubies also come in zero elevation.  Behold... my new Christian Louboutin Suspenodo Flats!

This time visiting the Louboutin store on Maiden Lane, I wanted a pair of flats that I can wear daily, run errands, or shop in the city with.  Pumps or flats, I have always preferred the pointed toe over the round ballet.  So among their Fall / Winter collection that just arrived, I spotted this dainty red bow, shining bright against the glossy navy backdrop of this feminine flat.  What makes these shoes more eye-catching is the illusion of the "suspended" metallic gold band.  Louboutin takes his designs to another level by incorporating a shapely arch, even to their flats - not every designer can make a heelless shoe sexy!

As my second pair of red soles, Louboutin proves to fit true to size.  When I tried these shoes on in the store, my first thought was that I would not need to break them in.  Joseph, who turned out to be the boutique manager, reassured me that sticking with my half size was the right decision, or else my heel may slip out while walking due to a gap in the back.  This was comforting, since I had previously purchased a half size as well in my Geo Pumps.

So far, the service of the Christian Louboutin boutique in San Francisco has been outstanding.  During my first visit shortly after their grand-opening in May, Jeff was a great salesperson.  He was both knowledgeable and humorous (referring to my first Loubies here).  This time, Joseph was extremely approachable, patient, and laid-back - I had no idea he was the manager until he gave me his business card after my purchase.  On both occasions, I was shopping after-hours (the store closes at six), but I never felt rushed.  Instead, I was telling Joseph how I loved the scalloped edge of the new Hot Chick, but 130mm was too crazy for me.  If only they made it in a 100mm!  Curious though, I said I wanted to try them on.  He happily encouraged me, but advised that I should hold on to something - or someone!

Did I mention these are not available online?  Making them boutique-exclusives!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Forever My Por Por

Besides December, August have always been one of my favorite months, but this particular August have been a serious roller-coaster of celebrations and goodbyes.

The month began with my friend's beautiful wedding in Mammoth Lakes, then I had a fallout with someone in mid-August, and that same night my Por Por 婆婆 (maternal grandma) passed away.  Furthermore, the 25th was my lucky thirteen anniversary with Tate, and yesterday was one of my best friend's engagement dinner, which I regrettably had to withdraw from due to a death in my family, but also we paid our last respects and bid farewell to my dear Por Por yesterday afternoon as we laid her to rest in Hillside Lily Garden of Cypress Lawn.

For the past couple of months, my Por Por was in and out of hospitals with her health sadly deteriorating.  Almost every day after work and on weekends, I visited her at either St. Francis Memorial Hospital, California Pacific Medical Center, or her home in On Lok Lifeways on Montgomery.  In the final two weeks, there was nothing the hospitals nor my family could do except to ensure my Por Por's comfort and to abide by her wish to spend the last days at home in On Lok instead of an unfamiliar medical building.

My older uncle flew in from China to care for my grandma around the clock, sleeping on a yoga mat every night beside her bed at the On Lok senior center.  My mum and younger uncle took turns daily cooking and bringing birds' nest porridge and chicken soup to grandma, where she sipped through a drinking straw only when she had a slight appetite.  Throughout the years, my grandma was always delighted by the different flowers and plants I bring her, so the weeks leading up to her passing, I kept a constant delivery of freshly cut spray roses in a Marquis by Waterford crystal vase - only the best for my Por Por!

The last words my grandma said to me were "Thank you Sum Yee," (my name in Cantonese) after I helped her with her last "bath."  I brought my favorite Japanese bath powder and body moisturizer, as well as my rose petal facial toner, an SKII face cream, and a heart-shaped basin to soak the washcloths in bath water before wiping her down.  This was the last time I saw her coherent.

On her last day, my mum and I visited her right after dinner.  She was breathing normally and it looked as though she was in a deep sleep, but she did not wake nor respond to us so we left after nearly an hour.  We went home and as I was done with my night shower, mum tells me uncle called and said grandma's breathing just became slow and labored, signs that these would be her last hours.  The entire family including my aunt's and younger uncle's families all rushed to On Lok.  We sat in her room in each other's company until my Por Por took her last breath in the early morning of August 20th.

I  started my bereavement leave from work on the 21th in order to help organize and plan the best funeral service we can for my grandma.  This required three appointments to Cypress Lawn Funeral Home; two visits to Chinatown to purchase ceremonial burning materials and to order five custom floral wreaths for the funeral service from Sweetheart Florist; a two-day shopping ordeal at Joann Fabrics for yardage to make traditional Chinese funeral "blankets;" countless hours of designing, translating, and creating the gorgeous funeral service program below (one of my last gifts to my Por Por); and of course several sleepless nights.

When all is said and done, I now find comfort in knowing that my Por Por passed away peacefully with family surrounding her, that she lived a full 87 and a half years of life in which she knew that I loved her dearly, and that we gave her the loveliest funeral service we can.

So to our grandma who raised my brother, sister, and I, may you rest in peace and remain...
Forever My Por Por

The last Mother's Day I celebrated with my Por Por

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Rouge Louboutin

Women have been wearing Louboutin red on the soles of their feet since he opened his shoe salon in Paris in the early 90's.  Now that same Louboutin red will be gracing women's fingers as Christian Louboutin Beauté just launched a collection of 31 nail lacquers yesterday, debuting their iconic red: Rouge Louboutin.

As Louboutin shoes are structurally works of art (in my opinion), so is the bottle of their new nail lacquers.  The dramatic tapering of the cap is inspired by Louboutin's highest stiletto ever created: Ballerina Ultima, designed in 2007 (pictured below).  The glass bottle features a black ombré effect, gradually revealing the bold rouge encased inside, as Christian Louboutin describes, "like a fine block of crystal."

Ballerina Ultima inspired the bottle design of Rouge Louboutin

Rouge Louboutin breaks the barrier of prestige nail polish.  At $50 per 0.4 oz. bottle (0.1 oz. less than Deborah Lippman, Essie, and OPI), expect nothing but the best in this rich formula; long-wearing, chip-resistant, and toluene/formaldehyde/DBP-free.  With one coat, this highly pigmented nail colour is said to produce a luxe gloss that mimics patent leather, and two coats gives a finishing shine of twenty layers!

Packaging of Rouge Louboutin, a black patent leather-like presentation box

In addition to the object d'art bottle, application is also meant to be an artistic experience like that of painting with calligraphy brushes.  The patented brush is custom-designed with a triangular shape to ensure precision while the shortened bristles pick up the perfect amount of formula without air bubbles for a flawless coverage.

Rouge Louboutin is truly a beauty - inside and out!

Ombré glass bottle of Rouge Louboutin

Rouge Louboutin has debuted first in its 15 U.S. boutiques (including their newest location in San Francisco where I purchased my Geo Pumps), plus Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship store in New York City.  More colors in the collection will soon be available, with distribution to extend to Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and select Sephora by August 2014.  Pre-order is currently available by clicking on the links of the retailers just mentioned.

Are you familiar with the story of how the red soles of Christian Louboutins came to be?  It was in 1993 (two years in business) that Mr. Louboutin felt his Andy Warhol-inspired 'Flower' shoe did not stand out as much as his drawing, but he did not quite understand why (the soles were black at the time).  Seeing that a female assistant was painting her nails red, he took her nail polish and painted it to the bottom of his creation.  Immediately, the shoe popped and he recalled thinking, "This is the drawing!"  So naturally, it was only a matter of time before Christian created this nail lacquer - even if it took 21 years!
The red sole was born from red nail polish.  I am giving back to nails what the shoe took from the nails many years ago.
~ Christian Louboutin
Rouge Louboutin Film by David Lynch:

UPDATE 07.25.14
Click here to read an exclusive InStyle interview with Christian Louboutin and to see the other nail colours in the collection.

Photo credits:

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tea with Miranda

As promised for Spring 2014, Miranda Kerr for Royal Albert is finally available for the U.S. after months of email subscribing, Instagram following, and patiently admiring!  I first posted about this much-anticipated launch back in March.  You can catch up here.

This new collection of porcelain teaware is a collaboration between Aussie supermodel / entrepreneur Miranda Kerr and Royal Albert, and is the most beautiful china pattern I have seen in a while.  For me, there is nothing more graciously beautiful than peonies and butterflies!  Oh and of course it is rimmed in gold (my bio on the right: "Loves and likes of my life: [...] Porcelain - new or old, must have gold!").

Here are some of my favorite pieces from the collection:
Friendship 3-Piece Tea Set
Friendship 5-Piece Place Setting
Friendship Teacup & Saucer

Items in this collection are currently 30% off retail prices.  Plus, Royal Albert is offering free shipping on all orders $50+ through August 31, 2014!  No codes are needed.

As part of their launch event, Royal Albert will be hosting a Twitter Party #TeaWithMiranda next Wednesday.  Be ready with your pinkies up!

Fancy a tea party?
Photo credits: Royal Albert

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fekkai PrX Reparatives Mending Elixir

There are only three names I trust when it comes to my hair: Howard Hong, a dear friend who have been cutting my hair for more than 10 years; Guy Tang, the SoCal "hair activist" in West Hollywood with a cult following, famous for his magical ombre hair color; and Frédéric Fekkai, a world-renowned French celebrity hairstylist with a self-named line of luxury hair products.

Frédéric Fekkai
Many people have asked what do I use on my long hair to keep it healthly.  Given that I wash my hair then blowdry and curl it every ... single ... day, I carefully choose products that not only works well, but also smells great!  I need a shampoo that does not strip my hair of moisture, an effective conditioner that also serves as a detangler, and a leave-in treatment to protect from daily styling.

Since discovering Sephora in my teens, Fekkai's Glossing Cream made of olive oil has been one of my beauty staples.  I rub a pearl-sized amount of the cream into my towel-dried hair (concentrating on the ends, never the crown) before blowdrying and it makes combing through my wet hair more manageable.  Plus, it conditions and protects my hair against UV rays.

Until recently, I have discontinued using Fekkai's Glossing Cream.  Why?  Because they recently launched something better!

Introducing Frédéric Fekkai's new PrX Reparatives collection!
The PrX Reparatives collection consists of Shampoo, Conditioner, Mending Elixir, Intensive Fortifying Masque, 3 Day Transformation regime, and Crème Vanillée Hair Fragrance Mist.

I  just purchased my second bottle of the Mending Elixir (first one lasted about four months with daily use).  This "versatile oil treatment" contains Moroccan Argan Oil to moisturize, nourish, and repair hair to "glorious strength."  It is a light-weight oil that leaves hair shiny and smooth, never greasy or sticky.  Besides the preventative / reparative benefits, I absolutely love the bottle!  Afterall, I am a design-driven consumer and FIDM alumus.

The Mending Elixir comes in a blue glass bottle, shaped to resemble a droplet of water.  When the silver bottle cap twists open, it suctions the product into the built-in glass dropper.  There is a button on top of the silver cap which is revealed as the bottle twists open and when pressed, it dispenses the perfect amount of serum.  In my opnion, this is a genius packaging design.  It even looks good sitting on my bath vanity!

As I mentioned above, products I choose must smell great in additon to being effective.  The vanilla crème scent of the elixir is another thing I love about this product.  I usually do not prefer the warm scent of  vanilla musk in my cosmetics and fragrances (in desserts is fine).  However, this one pleasantly surprised me and is not overpowering.

Fekkai PrX Reparatives Mending Elixir
Photo credit:

In case you are curious or interested in trying the new collection for yourself, particularly the elixir, good news!  From now until Monday, June 23rd, Gilt City is offering 30% off purchases on!  When else have you seen a THIRTY-PERCENT OFF BEAUTY?!  To sweeten the deal, ground shipping is free on any order.  Spend $50 or more to receive samples, and orders $80 and above will receive a complimentary travel hairspray.  Simply click here and "buy" the deal.  Do not worry, getting the discount is completely free.  Gilt City will email you a voucher containing a unique coupon code once you click the "buy" button.  Redeem by June 30th!

Next products I plan to try from the collection are the shampoo and conditioner.  I am curious to see if it is good enough to replace my Shiseido Tsubaki Shining duo... stay tuned!

My good hair day!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My First Christian Louboutins!

My love affair with Christian Louboutin has finally materialized into these: 100mm Geo Pumps in kid leather with patent captoe featuring Monsieur Louboutin's signature spikes.

For my first pair of Loubies, I wanted a classic silhouette suitable for work and play, but I was searching for something a bit different yet still tasteful. I love shoes with a captoe so when I saw these Geo Pumps, I knew they were my style - classics, because they were built on the Decollete 554 last, but with a kick!  Before I got these, one of my friend commented that they looked like weapons if you know where to kick a guy!

At first, I was undecided between these black ones and the gold captoe version. I have always preferred gold hardward on accessories, but the gold captoe version came in suede, which I found less versatile. Another reason I chose these all-black ones was because black is the core color of my wardrobe (although pink is my favorite color), and one can never go wrong with black. Afterall, Christian Louboutin's signature look is an all-black stiletto pump.

Christian Louboutin finally opened shop in San Francisco's Union Square district in downtown just three weeks ago on May 12th.  The 1,650-square-foot boutique, designed by 212Box of New York, is located at 29 Maiden Lane.  It is situated on the famous cobblestone pedestrian mall, home to great fashion houses such as Chanel, Gump's, Hermès, Marc Jacobs, Theory, TSE Cashmere, and Wolford among others.

I  rushed downtown after work because Christian Louboutin closes at 6:00 pm on weekdays; I probably arrived 15 minutes before closing.  When I approached the boutique, a gentleman by the name of Jeffrey Sim opened the glass door and invited me in (doors remain locked even during business hours, like fine jewelry stores).  I told him I was looking for the all-black Geo Pump and he asked which height. "100mm," I said.  I always do my research first and have a pretty good idea of what I want.

Jeff asked a lady to help locate my size in the stockroom.  I really did not expect them to have my size available since they only carry one size per shoe.  To my luck and surprise, she brought out a brand new box.  I carefully slipped on the pumps and walked around from the women's side of the boutique to the men's and back (there is a one-way mirror separating the two gender rooms, allowing women to view the men's lounge).  All the while, Jeff gave me space to try on the shoes and was never hovering over me.  He checked in with me occassionally and had answered all my questions with great expertise (he previously worked at Barney's).

I decided to take these shoes and as Jeff was preparing my purchase by tying it with a signature ribbon (I had the choice of either a red ribbon or the one with the Loubie shoes seen below), he asked if these were my first Louboutin's.  I told him yes they were and he said most girls choose the plain ones as their first pair so he was very excited for me.  I replied back with a smile, "Not this girl," then he said, "This may be your first pair, but I have a feeling you'll be back."

What came with the shoes: two dust bags (one per shoe),
extra heel tacks and spikes (in the smaller dust bags)

I have seen people bring slippers, flats, and sandals to work...

...I bring my Christian Louboutin's!