November 29, 2012

Festivity & A Big Hello!

starbucks christmas bear / accidental christmas color combo this week / festive lights over a bridge in central hong kong
i might love thanksgiving leftovers more than the original meal / note to self: make gingerbread men / snowy ornaments 
first christmas tree spotted this year / winter berries / loving starbucks' toffee nut latte with mr gingerbread man

 When an Instagram addict comes across the most picture worthy time of year, you end up with a dork pointing her iPhone camera at every Christmas/festive object she sees, and standing in the middle of the street for a minute or so checking every Instagram filter till she's found the perfect one for each shot. The imagery is pretty silly now that I think about it. Oh well, nothing beats the excitement building up to Christmas. Tis the season to be Instagramming :)

Coco and I

Also, thank you so much for all your kind comments and for everyone who participated in the blog hop this past Wednesday. I had so much fun clicking on all your blogs and if I haven't already, you'll probably see me stopping by yours very soon!

For those who are new here I thought I'd do a little self intro... 

I'm Rachel
Chinese American
Currently living in Hong Kong
Loves blush & brunch (surprise surprise)
Calls California, Illinois and Hong Kong home
Blogs about beauty, baking, and life randoms that inspire
Aspires to work in the beauty industry some day (hopefully real soon!)
Has a weak spot for all things cute. Especially anything Yorkie or Panda related

Welcome and thanks for stopping by! :)

November 28, 2012

Hop Right In...

One of the best things I've gained from blogging are friends that share my interests - raving about our favorite beauty finds, sharing our favorite recipes, writing about our daily ups and downs... Not that real life friends aren't awesome (of course they are!), but blogging allows you to meet fellow friends from all over the world that share your exact same interests - high 5 beauty-addicted-baking-obsessed girls! ;) Blog hops are my favorite way to discover new blogs written by girls that share my same interests, so this week I'm excited to be co-hosting the Followers to Friends blog hop with Sherry and Sylvia (who both have lovely blogs by the way!).

So hop right in, click on a few interesting lookin' blogs, and meet a few new friends.
Can't wait to check out some of your blogs! :)

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR CO-HOST SOPT RIGHT NOW!

--

November 27, 2012

Review: Bobbi Brown Best Sellers

This past Sunday concludes a week of crazy sales at Sogo, a Japanese-originated department store in Hong Kong. Sogo has its Thankful Week twice each year, where all the makeup, clothing and home goods brands have major discounts, awesome package deals, and countless freebies. Although I did not have the stamina and energy to brave the crazy crowds flooding the 7-8 floors of counters, I did check out the Bobbi Brown and NARS counters (that are fortunately right at the entrance, requiring minimal pushing and shoving to get to them). I walked away happily with some awesome goodies, all packaged in really good deals.

Bobbi's concealers and face products are highly raved about in the beauty community, and are the products I'd recommend trying out if you're new to the brand. Thanks to Sogo's crazy deals, I've finally been able to try out a good portion of Bobbi Brown's concealers (that I've been wanting to for a long time but never felt like paying full price!), plus a couple other goodies. Here's what I think about them so far...


The Concealers
"Face Touch Up Stick"
Formulated for blemishes and redness, this concealer comes in a roll up stick form and is very creamy. The sales associate mentioned that it also has anti-inflammatory ingredients that help calm angry spots. I like the creamy yet light consistency of this stick, coverage is natural and not completely opaque. This may not fully conceal blemishes, but I found layered under a setting powder it works wonderfully - since it's light and applies on as a thin layer, even by building it up, the concealer never looks cakey. Also packaging is sleek, compact, and great for on-the-go touchups.

"Corrector"
I've been using the corrector for quite some time now, this is probably my 3rd or 4th time re-purchasing this. I'm in the shade light peach, which has pink undertones that help cancel out the greys/blues of dark  under-eye circles. I've found that for a lighter application, use your fingers; for a thicker application, use Bobbi Brown's concealer brush .

"Creamy Concealer"
I never purchased this creamy concealer before, because I found that the corrector was good enough for my under-eyes. The idea is to first apply the corrector to cancel out dullness, then apply this creamy concealer on top, and finally set the concealer with the yellow hued powder (the circle of product next to the creamy concealer). Since this set came with this creamy concealer, I've finally been able to try it out and see if it made a difference - I was soooo pleasantly surprised. This stuff is amazing! The corrector does most of the concealing, but this creamy concealer is what helps brighten the under-eye area to remove the typical ashiness you usually get after applying a regular concealer. I don't use the setting powder though - doesn't do much and I prefer the Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder over it. Still I am now fully a convert - don't be lazy, get both the corrector and the creamy concealer!


The Eye Cream
Bobbi Brown's Hydrating Eye Cream is a relatively new product, marketed as a no-frills eye moisturizer that's perfect as a base before under-eye concealer. The cream goes in light and gives a slight cooling sensation. I noticed that the corrector and concealer does go on smoother initially with the eye cream as a base, however it doesn't help much with the staying power of the concealer. All in all a nice refreshing eye cream pre-makeup, but not a must-have.



The Eyeshadows
The only Bobbi Brown eyeshade I've tried prior to this is Taupe, a perfect crease shade which I raved about in a previous post. This mini eye palette that came with the set offers some of Bobbi Brown's signature neutral shades. My favorite shades of the palette are Beige (a shimmery nude shade that reminds me of Stila's Kitten), and Hot Stone (a matte coffee brown). If you're a boring neutral eyeshadow girl like me, I definitely recommend giving these 2 a try.




I hope this helped if you've been thinking of trying any of these Bobbi Brown products. Bobbi Brown also did an awesome job with their holiday sets this year - beautiful shades, packaging and varieties. These would make great Christmas presents - for the women in your life, or... for yourself. ;)

November 25, 2012

When You Can't Eat on Thanksgiving...

A stomach infection on Thanksgiving is the.absolute.worst.timing. everrrrrr. Yes. While everyone was gobble-gobbling away, I had unfortunately been spending Thursday home with stomach pains. I finally ended up at the doctor's on Friday and was told to stick to a plain diet for the next few days as my digestive system recovers. That meant congee, plain white bread and warm water... for Thanksgiving!

So what does one do when one can't eat on Thanksgiving? One cooks. Although I had to miss my long anticipated Friendsgiving meal on Friday, I managed to soak in the festivity with an entire day of Thanksgiving cooking on Saturday for my extended family - together with my mom we made smoked turkey, sweet potato salad, pumpkin pie, and my favorite cranberry, apples & sausage stuffing.

I always go back to this stuffing recipe that I discovered a few years back (I like to alter the recipe by using fresh bread instead of croutons). The recipe is flexible and fool-proof, and proves to be a huge hit at the dinner table year after year. And the best thing is that it tastes even better the next day, so it's perfect if you want to pre-make your stuffing before Thanksgiving, and just pop the entire dish into the oven right before serving.

I also love that its ingredients are reasonably healthy, keeping the calorie count low so everyone can indulge on more pie later!






In the end I somehow managed to sneak in a few bites of plain turkey and innocent stuffing amidst my plain bread/cracker diet. No harm done ;)

I also successfully cleaned out parts of my closet, and picked out a good amount of less-worm clothes that I'll be sending to Salvation Army next week... PROUD MOMENT! Going through my closet has proven a much bigger challenge than I had anticipated - I spent a good 15 minutes simply staring at my huge closet mess, not knowing where to even begin sorting it out. I'm glad I'm half way through now, and hopefully will finish this nightmare of a task next weekend.

So that's how I spent my Thanksgiving. I guess this just means I'll have to make up for all the missed indulgent yummy goodness next month.

Next, Christmas!!!!!!!!!!

Linking up with Sami's Shenanigans

November 22, 2012

Counting My Blessings

bottom left doodle by me. other 3 images from Pinterest

Happy THANKSGIVING DAY! Here comes the obligatory "what I'm thankful for" blog post for Thanksgiving :)

2012 has been quite a long year for me - it's been one of those young adult limbo years where I'm trying to figure things out. The typical annoying young adult questions - "what do I want? Where am I going? Did I make the right decision?" But then again, I guess that's what growing up entails -
seeing what's out there,
intrinsically reflecting on your values and priorities,
identifying what you want
and making choices in order to attain them.

And it's years like this where Thanksgiving really reminds me to count my blessings. Okay so all that deep heart-to-heart talk aside, here are some specific things that I've felt hugely grateful for this year:

1. I am thankful for being given the opportunity to take a very exciting step in my career next year. Yay!!!! Now that I at least have a next step laid out and ready to go, I am very thankful that I've been given the opportunity, and that I can afford the option to make this change. And best of all - that 2012 is almost over so that it can begin soon!

2. I am thankful that my boyfriend and I survived our first year of long distance (and hopefully not too many more to go!). I'm extra thankful that he's only a 3 hour plane ride away, so we've been able to afford flying back and forth. And although being apart sucks, the silver lining is that we've made good use of the opportunity to travel and see a couple cities in Southeast Asia for cheap.

3. And that brings me to all the wonderful technology - Whatsapp, my iPhone, Skype, Viber... thanks to modern day technology I'm able to feel like my boyfriend is still spending every day with me although he's in an entirely different country. I'm also able to "see" my brother in London with a click of a button (we love virtual dinner dates).

4. I'm thankful for being able to see Europe for the first time, and I can't wait to see more European cities in the future (near future hopefully!)

5. This sounds silly, but I am thankful for our new oven at home. I used to have to go over to my aunt's place to use hers, which meant much less baking. I wouldn't be able to leisurely bake as much as I do now without our own.

6. I am thankful for this blog which I started this year. Blogging has inspired me way more than I would have thought. I had no idea where this was going but I've been having so much fun writing about what I love and meeting new friends that share common interests.

Then there are the constants (and randoms) that I am thankful for all the time:


my family / my boyfriend / my lovely friends / my colleagues that seem more like friends that co-workers / my home / home cooked meals and soups / job security / my health / my loved ones' health / education / my religion / handy baking utensils / coffee & teas / colored pencils / concealer / my iPhone / gel manicures that don't chip / satisfying good books / popcorn / DVDs of my favorite TV shows

[Side note: I am actually off sick today thanks to one of the worst stomach infections I've had... on Thanksgiving weekend. Worst timing ever! Suddenly I am pretty thankful that our celebrations don't start till Friday/Saturday, since I'm not in shape right now to be gobbling down big plates of mashed potato/turkey goodness. Must. recover. right. away!!!]

Have a great Thanksgiving day! And however you decide to celebrate (or not celebrate), be happy, eat some good food, and count your blessings :)

Happy Thanksgiving, I Made Pie!

Happy Thanksgiving! I really really wish I was in the US right now - 3 day work week? Yes please!!! In preparation for my family's Thanksgiving meal this Saturday (since we don't have the public holidays off here for Thanksgiving), I tried to replicate my favorite Urth Caffe Pumpkin Pie from when I used to live in LA - a nice thick slice of creamy pumpkin pie with a cinnamon-y graham cracker crust. Although it's been a long day, I had to get this post up because this recipe is a must-share for Thanksgiving!


Since Urth's recipe is unavailable (they keep it top secret!), I referenced a couple online recipes and altered them to make my pie. The crust was tough - mine came out a bit loose and flakey, but the pie as a whole came out beautifully. Creamy, heavy on the cinnamon, and not too sweet.

Also as an alternative to most recipes out there, I chose to use fresh pumpkins instead of canned pumpkin puree. Pumpkin is actually very easy to work with, so if you're trying to make a pumpkin pie, don't be intimidated to use fresh ones. All it takes is an extra step to steam them, easy peasy :)


Here's my recipe:

The pie filling...
15 ounces of fresh pumpkin (steamed and mashed)
10 ounces of sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs (separate the yolk & whites)

The crust...
20-30 graham crackers
1 stick of butter
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
a pinch of salt

1. Crush all graham crackers till you get fine crumbs. Mix in cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Melt butter and mix the liquid butter into the crumbs
2. With the back of a spoon, pack all the crumb mixture onto a 9 inch pie pan. Line the entire bottom and sides to create a pie shell. Put aside for later use.
3. Prehead oven to 350 degrees. 
4. In a large bowl, mix mashed pumpkin, sweet condensed milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Beat in the egg yolks.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites till soft peak forms. Gently fold in egg white mixture into the pumpkin mixture
6. Pour pumpkin mixture into graham cracker pie shell
7. Bake for 20-35 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted in the center of the pie comes up clean 










If you're looking for a good Thanksgiving pumpkin pie recipe, I highly recommend trying this recipe out. The pie crust took quite some time (and was a bit tough to put together), but so yummy. Apart from that the pie filling was easy, and the mashed pumpkin keeps the pie healthy and fresh. So if you want a time saver - I'd say get a readymade pie crust. I will be re-making this for my actual Thanksgiving meal, but will probably use a readymade pie crust too this time. Not as yummy but definitely quicker - a girl has to buy some time to make a couple more dishes for Thanskgiving!

November 18, 2012

Starbucks Love


J is one of my best friends whom I met in college. She throws the most thoughtful, sweet and creative birthday parties each year for her boyfriend. Such a sweet heart! Since her boyfriend is a huge Starbucks fan, this year's theme was all things Starbucks. From invitations to party favors to the cake - everything was absolutely perfect and so adorable!

The dinner was at a gorgeous private kitchen/venue serving French cuisine for 20 around the Soho area in Hong Kong. We had so much fun sipping wine and chit chatting over hor d'oeuvres, scallops, lamb chops and pear & almond cream pies. But it were the little touches of the party that really made the night. J had an endearing photo slideshow playing, as well as a fun Starbucks green dress code going on (at least a few of us went with it!). She also home-made adorable Starbucks themed coffee cupcakes and a beautiful cake for the birthday boy. At the end of the night, all of us left with a party favor goodie "cup" - a personalized Starbucks cup filled with coffee beans, candy, a Christmas ornament, Loccitane handcream and a thank you note.

Thanks for the fun night J!
And time to steal an idea or two for your next party girls ;)





PS. For those in Hong Kong who are interested about the private kitchen we went to:
G/F, 5 U Lam Terrace, Central, Hong Kong

Linking up with Sami's Shenanigans for my favorite linkup of the week :)

November 16, 2012

Current Fall Loves

Happy Friday! I'm trying out this new layout tool today, with a few goodies and randoms that I've been really into in the past few weeks. Some are good ol' favorites and some new discoveries... all equally loved.

Oh dear weekend I'm so glad you're here... what's been taking you so long!

Seven Facts

my usual desk mess at work. 
bath & bodyworks anti-septic spray in sweet pea / starbucks christmas mug / random bunny / loccitane hand cream / soap & glory hand cream / hair clips and pins / fresh sugar lip treatment / michael kors watch / random rings / giant stack of starbucks napkins (which make the best blotting sheets by the way)

I was tagged by the lovely Ellie from Ellalogy for the Versatile Blogger Award (thanks hun!). It's a really fun tag where you have to share 7 things about yourself. I love these tags because it's so interesting to get to know fellow bloggers better. I'm in a lazy Thursday mood right now so thought I'd do this while sipping tea in bed. So here it goes...

1. My purse, my desk, my makeup bag, my weekly schedule - I am the worst at keeping things organized (case in point - my desk. See above)
2. I never know how to answer the "where are you from" question in one quick reply. Answer is I call both the US and Hong Kong home.
3. I was a fat fat fat kid. And although I've shed the excess weight naturally growing up, that little fat girl still lives inside of me. When she wants a cookie, she will have a cookie. (burrrp)
4. I am somewhat technologically challenged. Blogging is probably the biggest technological achievement I've had so far.
5. I am not a morning person. Getting up for work every day is the hardest thing! From 9-11am every morning I struggle to avoid all human contact until I gradually feel more awake.
6. I am a Taekwondo black belt. Yup, Taekwando as in the Korean martial art. Don't mess with me! (kidding. I've forgotten 99% of my childhood martial art classes by now)
7. I love gummy candies of any sort. Love is an understatement really.


November 14, 2012

Thanksgiving To Do List

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year - the family time, the food, the weather. I love that it's one of the few holidays that ends with anticipation instead of post-holiday blues - because once Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas and New Year excitement quickly follows after.

Being in Hong Kong means there is barely any Thanksgiving festivity around me. No cold weather, no pumpkin patch, no red-leaves-covered pavements. In fact Hong Kongers do not celebrate Thanksgiving at all, so that means I need to go out of my way to live out the Thanksgiving traditions here (try finding a turkey or cranberry sauce in Hong Kong.. it ain't easy). Apart from the usual turkey (which my family usually orders online), here are a few things I want to accomplish this Thanksgiving...

1. Make pumpkin pie from scratch
since I don't have access to my favorite Urth Caffe one
2. Alter my usual stuffing recipe to make a healthier version
spicy sausage and cranberries... yum
3. Donate unworn clothes to Salvation Army
hopefully the clothes get distributed in time for Christmas
4. Blog about what I'm thankful for
of course

That's it so far... what's on your Thanksgiving to do list?

November 13, 2012

Cinnamon Cheesecake Bars


I have to share this recipe - so easy, so fun to make, SOOOO good. I think I've found what I'll be making for dessert this Thanksgiving! I recently came across this Cresent Roll Cheesecake recipe and slightly altered it to make adorable cinnamon cheesecake puff rolls. Is it just me or does cinnamon make anything seem more festive? These are the perfect way to serve cheesecake at a big gathering or party, since they're easily divisible and are a convenient finger food option.

Here's my super simple cheesecake recipe:

You'll need:
1 readymade puff pastry sheet (or cresent rolls)
250g cream cheese (1 pack)
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon butter (softened)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Beat cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla extract until smooth
3. Spread cream cheese mix onto puff pastry
4. Fold pastry in half, sealing edges to create a giant roll
5. Spread butter onto the roll, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top
6. Bake for 13-15 minutes
7. Cut into bars after fully cooled

The best part of this recipe? Enjoy the most decadent cinnamon scent that will fill your kitchen, your living room, and the rest of your house ;)

Bon apetite!





November 11, 2012

Five Things

Five things that made me very happy this weekend:


Coming home to the score for my favorite piano piece as a child. I used to think this song was so grown up, so girly and so romantic. For years I lost my piano book and forgot the title of the song, until a dear family friend recognized it and sent me the score sheet as a surprise.
***
Laying down in bed to the scent of fresh clean sheets. And knowing I have a couple hours more the next morning to snuggle in them.
***
Finding the perfect final goodies for an exciting package I'm about to send out.
***
Discovering that I have enough loyalty points to redeem not just one trip to Singapore to visit my boyfriend, but two. Two whole trips!
***
Baking cinnamon cheesecake bars. And feeling so satisfied and giddy before even cutting into them thanks to the heavenly scent of cinnamon and pastry circling in the kitchen.


And one more - easily being able to come up with 5 happy moments off the top of my head. It's been a good weekend :)

P.S. My 100th blog post! :)

Linking up with Sami's Shenanigans

November 10, 2012

Currently...

... pondering this
― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

... loving this

Newest favorite handcream. Lightly perfumed and non greasy.

... reading this 

 
Let's see what all the hype is about.

... craving this

Soy latte and chicken curry salad from Urth Caffe.

... missing this

Vacation with the boyfriend. 
Scratch that. Make that any type of boyfriend time.

Happy Friday! What are you up to currently?

November 7, 2012

Just In: Burberry Complete Eye Palettes!


Ever since the Burberry SA told me about their first ever eyeshadow palettes that were coming out in November, I've been counting down the days till the product launch. Burberry's single eyeshadows have been much raved about (the shade Pale Barley has been on my wishlist since forever), so I was excited to see what Burberry had in store this time.

I finally managed to stop by the counter during lunch yesterday to check out the new palettes - naturally, I had to swatch all of them! I fell in love with the No. 7 Pink Taupe eyeshadow palette and happily dished out the HKD$390 for it. (Hong Kong's price is actually cheaper than both the US [$59] or the UK [£40]. Score!)

The Pink Taupe palette features a matte dark chocolate brown, a matte plummy pink, a shimmery olive green, and a shimmery light brown. The last shade is very similar to Pale Barley, except that Pale Barley is a slight bit more golden.

Pigmentation is good - smooth, buildable and vibrant. Some say the single shades have a better pigmentation but I didn't see much difference. Lasting power was decent as well - stayed put after a 10 hour work day. And did I mention the beautiful packaging? The palette has a sleek magnetic closure, mirror inside, and comes with 3 mini brushes as well.

The selection of palettes offer a beautiful array of wearable neutrals to dramatic smokey eye shades. Will you be asking for one this Christmas?

Available at any Burberry counter or online.







November 6, 2012

Wishlist: Sweet, Fruity & Floral


1 / 2 / 3

3 lovely scented products that I've been drooling over recently.

The Floral - Juicy Viva Le Fleur Eau de Toilette
[Notes: Viva la Juicy La Fleur is a sheer veil of sparkling mandarin and wild berries, combined with luminous florals of lush honeysuckle, gardenia petals, and soft jasmine.]
I've never liked the Juicy fragrances till I sniffed a sample of this newest Juicy fragrance in my Glamour magazine. The full size is pricey but the rollerball size won't hurt the wallet too much right? ;)
And Juicy's description of this scent is the cutest ever:
"Uplifting. Playful. Dreamy. Inspired by the blushing aura of being in love, Viva la Juicy La Fleur is a breathtaking new fragrance that captures the dreamy, ethereal feeling of love’s first embrace."

The Fruity - Jo Malone Blackberry & Bay Cologne
[Notes: A burst of deep, tart blackberry juice, blending with the freshness of just-gathered bay and brambly woods.]
This new fragrance from Jo Malone is inspired by the memories of blackberry picking - sticky hands, sweet scent. I want to give this one a sniff... I can imagine this smelling heavenly and right up my alley - fruity mixed in with the earthy scent of wood.

The Sweet - Kiehl's Creme de Corps Whipped Body Butter
I tend to get lazy with body lotions, so getting a lovely scented one helps motivate me to slather it on every time I get out of the shower. Sweet vanilla scented lotions always bring a smile on my face, and this soy milk & honey one sounds too perfect to be true. And did I mention it's whipped? "It's so fluffy I'm gonne die!!!!"


**********
And finally the 2 winners of the Think Pink OPI giveaway:



Congratulations Sandrine and Traci!
Please email me at blushandbrunch@hotmail.com with your mailing address for your bottle of Passion by OPI :)




*********************
By the way, election time. If you're American, don't forget to vote!
Overseas Americans can vote too xx

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