December 29, 2012

2012 Top Five: Skincare

These skincare picks were by far the hardest to pick out, more so than my makeup top 5. Skincare is what I'm most passionate about because ultimately it's all about taking good care of your skin - everything else comes after! When it comes to skincare, I find it best to keep your products streamlined and simple. A good few that work are more than you need :)

Lush Grease Lightening
Best spot treatment or area treatment to calm patches of skin that are acting up. Great for sensitive skin because it's effective yet mild.
SK-II Facial Treatment UV Protection
If you're looking to splurge, this is the product to splurge on. Best sunscreen ever. Non-greasy non-clogging non-scented. So gentle it's said to even be safe for the eye area. Also acts as a good makeup base.
Melvita Argan Oil
Completely worth the hype - an awesome multi-purpose oil to add to your moisturizer or to soften dried skin.
Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment in Rose
Among my giant pile of chapsticks/lip balms, this one is still my number one. Softens lips and leaves them with an even rosy tint.
Exfoliating Face Cloth
The cheapest of my top 5 but so "life changing"... no joke! This unbranded wash cloth totally changed what cleansing meant to me. Makes deep cleansing so easy and thorough.

And 3 more honorable mentions:

Melvita Fresh Eye Contour Gel
My hunt for the perfect eye cream is over. This eye gel hydrates, refreshes and visibly lessens my dark circles. Only drawback is that it does not work well under makeup, so I've only been using it at night.
Melvita Orange Blossom Extraordinary Water
(Can you see how obsessed I am with Melvita? I promise I'm not sponsored... I wish I was!) This is my favorite toner of the year. Softens and brightens skin. I also love that it calmed my temperamental skin a few months back too.
Laneige Water Sleeping Pack
A great treat on nights you feel like you need an extra pick-me-up. Moisturize your skin in your sleep, and wake up with softer, happier skin. My full review here.

P.S. I'm flying off to South Korea for the New Years Eve countdown *squeals* See you all in 2013!

2012 Top Five: Makeup & Fragrance

I can't believe we're only 3 days away from 2013! 2012 has been a year of many firsts... the biggest being this Blush and Brunch blog. I also tried a lot of new beauty products and want to take a few blog posts to mention my favorite products of the year. Because I'm an undecisive hoarder, I will try to limit myself to only choosing the top 5 from each category (makeup, skincare, other randoms). 

To start, here are my top 5 makeup/fragrance favorites of the year: *drumroll please!*

Bobbi Brown Corrector in Light Peach
Best undereye concealer. Kept me looking rested and awake all year.
Maybelline Falsies Mascara
The ultimate lengthening and defining mascara that converted me to drugstore mascaras for good.
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Zero
The no-smudge, no-frills black eyeliner that stays on all day yet comes off easily with any simple face wash.
MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural
My go-to for a light all over dusting to even out skintone, eliminate shine and set everything. Also perfect to dot onto concealed nasty red spots as a setting powder and an extra layer of concealer.
Jo Malone Orange Blossom Cologne
My favorite spring/summer scent that I now find myself reaching for even in the colder months. So sweet and so unique.

I'm also going to cheat a bit by sneaking in these 3 "honorable mentions":
Stila Convertible Color in Peony
My first and favorite cream blush ever. So easy to apply and truly creates the "blushing from within" effect. 
Bourjois Healthy Mix Concealer
I'm a concealer junkie that rotates a ton of concealers that I've acquired over the years, but this one stood out the most for me. Drugstore price point, but top quality in terms of coverage, staying power and its natural-looking effect.
Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder
The undereye setting powder I've sworn by since college. Brightens, sets, and manages to make undereye concealer look less cakey.

Side note: can I keep my Christmas tree up all year...? It's too pretty to be taken down! :(

December 28, 2012

Organic Goodness at Christmas

I am still in complete holiday mood since I won't be starting work again till next year (yay!). I've been spending the past few days reading, crafting (blogging about this soon), eating lots of comfort food and spending time with my baby brother who's visiting from London. I've also been trying out quite a few new beauty products, many of which were gifted to me at Christmas. Speaking of which, my boyfriend earned some major brownie points for his creativity and thoughtfulness with my present ;)

Before Christmas I had been sniffing around under our tree, trying to find out what's inside this big box wrapped in cute Christmas wrapping paper. Turns out my boyfriend really did his research! He got me this awesome organic beauty read - "The Green Beauty Bible," which has everything organic beauty junkies need to know about from skin to hair, head to toe. It's an easy and interesting read that's perfect to flip through before bed.

He then took an extra step to round up some of the top rated products from the book into my Christmas box. It literally felt like a Birchbox on steroids! Being a huge organic product junkie it felt like Christmas going through everything. Oh wait, it is Christmas!

I've been a long time fan of the Korres Lip Butter in Guava, so I was very excited to see their body butter in the same scent. I've been using it every day since I got this and absolutely love it! The lotion sinks in so quickly and doesn't leave my skin greasy for long. The scent lingers only for a while, unlike Body Shop body butters. This is a plus because I get to enjoy the sweet guava scent fresh out of the shower in the morning, but it fades away just soon enough for me to spritz on my daily perfume before heading out the door.

REN Clean Skincare is completely new to me. Their Morrocan Rose body wash won InStyle's "best body wash" 9 years running, and the bath oil sounds too good to pass up. Can't wait to try these soon!

P.S. Starting to think of my 2013 New Years Resolutions... ideas anyone?

December 26, 2012

Happy Holidays!

My favorite moment this Christmas - cozy time by the tree.

Hope you're all having a great holiday season :)
I'm off to lunch on Christmas leftovers now. Nom.

December 25, 2012

12 Days of Christmas: Happy Christmas Eve!

❤ Day Twelve 

That's a wrap, 12 days counting down to Christmas!
I had the perfect Christmas Eve doing some last minute holiday shopping, attending the Christmas service at church, enjoying a scrumptious dinner and now watching "Four Christmases"and sipping apple cider (and hot chocolate!) in our jammies.

And we also cheated and opened our presents too. Woops :)

Back to the movie now, Merry Christmas!

1 day till Christmas! 

December 24, 2012

12 Days of Christmas: the Ugly Sweater Brunch

❤ Day Eleven 

Tidbits of our (not so) ugly sweater besties Christmas brunch today. It was a blissful 4 hours of pancakes, coffee, bacon, scrambled eggs, and lots of laughs. And a ton of pictures beside the Christmas tree, of course ;)

2 days till Christmas! 

December 23, 2012

12 Days of Christmas: Christmas Tree Cake Pops

❤ Day Ten 

Christmas baking project two... Christmas tree cake pops! I discovered Bakerella earlier this year and have always wanted to try making cake pops ever since. I finally made my first attempt at cake pops with these adorable Christmas trees. Cake pops are so fun to make - the possibilities are endless! It's more decorating then actual baking with these.

I used regular chocolate cake mix and ready made frosting to create the cake pop batter (any cake works. Simply crumble the cake and add frosting till the batter becomes dough-like). Next I moulded the batter into "tree" shapes and left the cakes to refrigerate for an hour or so. I then inserted a lollipop stick into each cake, coated each with green candy melts and sprinkled rainbow colored sprinkles as the ornaments/lights. I topped each tree with a teeny tiny star-shaped candy.

I managed to make 25 cake pops with a standard sized box of cake mix. They turned out so adorable!

- work fast. Candy melts harden really quickly! If melted candy melts start to thicken, pop the bowl into the microwave for 30 seconds for smoother chocolate that will coat better.
- while the candy melt is hardening on your cake pop, use a toothpick to create the unevenness of  leaves on the tree (see picture below)
- since I used chocolate cake, some pops had parts where the chocolate cake color peeped through. Re-coat with an additional layer of candy melt to avoid any "bald spots"
- for more texture I mixed tiny sprinkles with slightly larger ones. Loved how they looked together on the cake pops
- dip your lollipop stick into the candy melt before inserting into the cake. This will help secure the cake better onto the stick

3 days till Christmas! 

December 21, 2012

12 Days of Christmas: Guide to A Stay-In Spa Night

❤ Day Nine 

Today is an extra happy Friday for me. It was my last working day of 2012 as I will be taking the rest of the year off from work (yay!). Also my boyfriend is back in town for Christmas (double yay!), and I can't wait to finally drag take him to see Twilight tomorrow. I can't wait for the all the fun stuff lined up this pre-Christmas weekend! *squeals*

To get cozy and relaxed for the holidays, I've recently come up with a stay-at-home spa routine for those quiet evenings at home. It's the perfect stay-in night of pampering, best followed by a good night's sleep. Feels especially amazing for 1. chilly winter nights, and 2. evenings during the holiday season where you do not have to wake up for work the next day :)

Step One.
Take a long and steamy shower, then slip into your comfiest bath robe.
Slather on body butter - it feels extra amazing on soft, clean skin. My favorite is the Raspberry Body Butter from the Body Shop. The Body Shop makes the best body butters - non greasy yet creamy, and sinks into skin so so quickly. I usually prefer Bath & Body Works products over the Body Shop, all except their body butters. 

Step Two.
Now that you have clean skin and relaxed pores after the shower, give yourself a stay-at-home facial! I like to do a two step routine: start with a deep cleanse mask, then follow with a hydrating one. My two favorites are the Fresh Umbrian Clay Mattifying mask (which can be used as an all over mask, a problem-area remedy, or a spot treatment), and Laneige Water Sleeping Pack (slather on before bed, feel the cooling sensation, wake up with happy supple skin).

Step Three.
Now clear your mind and relax under the aroma of your favorite candle. 
The Lavender Vanilla candle that Ellie sent me has been my recent favorite.

Happy Friday, relax and enjoy.

4 days till Christmas! 

12 Days of Christmas: Swap with Ellie

❤ Day Eight 

Blogging about an early Christmas present from a fellow blogger friend today :)

Ellie from Ellalogy is one of the first friends I "met" when I started blogging. I stumbled upon her blog and quickly fell in love with it. My favorite Ellalogy posts are her heartwarming diary posts and her sweet & simple outfits of the day. I feel like we share similar tastes in beauty products, so much that I somehow end up loving almost every product she mentions. And on top of that, she's a really sweet girl that I've gotten to know as friend over the past few months of blog comment convos, and emailing back and forth. So when Ellie suggested doing a swap I of course said "yes":) 

We were really excited about this swap because 1. it's our first swap (ever!), and 2. we are able to send products that the other person probably doesn't easily have access to (Ellie lives in the US, while I'm in Hong Kong). To make shopping for the swap a bit easier, we decided to focus our goodies on 5 categories - skincare, makeup, accessories, home goods and snacks.

So here is my lovely bundle of goodies from Ellie. I literally squealed as I tore open the package - Ellie chose the perfect mix of products for me! Everything was so nicely packed into the box & makeup pouch that she got me, I was beyond impressed. (Ellie - I really should take notes from you on how to pack a box of swap products...! *bashful smile*)

Ellie sent me:
Forever 21 cosmetic pouch
Forever 21 pocket mirror
Bath & Body Works lavender vanilla Candle
EOS lip balm
Bath & Body Works hand sanitizer
Forever 21 flower bracelet
Maybelline BB Cream
Wet N Wild eyeshadow palette in "Comfort Zone"
A lovely chocolate treat
A sweet card

The package felt like a little slice of home... ohhh how I missed you Bath & Body Works! I've been burning the candle almost every day since I got the package. And Ellie was also sweet enough to send me the Comfort Zone eyeshadow palette that I blogged about back in September... I can't believe she remembered!

Check out Ellie's blog to find out what I sent her :)

Ellie - thank you so much for all these goodies... I LOVE them! Swaps around Christmas time are the best aren't they? I hope you liked everything I sent you too :) May this be the start to much more "blogger pen pal" mail to come! x

5 days till Christmas! 

December 19, 2012

12 Days of Christmas: Gingerbread Men

❤ Day Seven 

Christmas baking project number one... GINGERBREAD MEN! These took me 2 batches to get right, simply because I love the flavor of ginger and was looking for a heavily flavored gingerbread man recipe (think ginger snaps... love those).  I tripled the amount of ground ginger in the original recipe I found, and also added a hint of cinnamon. The tweaked batch came out the perfect level of ginger-ness, so much that I'm finding it kind of hard to give them away!

My recipe:
For the cookies
2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
3 tablespoons of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 cup firmly packed dark brown/cane sugar
150g butter (softened)
1 egg (beaten)
cookie cutter

For decorating the cookies
cookie icing
mini M&Ms

1. Sift the flour, baking soda, ground ginger and ground cinnamon into a big bowl. Add in brown sugar
2. Using an electric beater or your fingers, blend the softened butter into the flour mixture until the mix looks like fine crumbs (note: this might take a while!)
3. Add in beaten egg, mix until dough forms. If dough is too moist, add a bit of flour
4. Wrap dough in cling wrap, refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180c while waiting for dough in the fridge.
5. On floured surface, roll out dough to about 5mm thick. Cut out gingerbread men cookies. Lay on a baking tray.
6. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until edges turn slightly golden brown
7. Cool completely and decorate with icing and M&Ms. Have fun!

I managed to make 16 cookies with this recipe.

Meet the gingerbread gang. Edward, Nelson, Simon, Paul, Francesco and Waldo.

And the funky bunch that my brother made...

I got these cute cookie bags from a local baking supplies store that are perfect for individually packaging the gingerbread cookies as gifts.

With the twist tie that came with the cookie bags, I also attached my homemade Christmas cards to each bag by punching a hole on the corner of the card. A thoughtful message makes the perfect compliment to a sweet Christmas cookie :)

6 days till Christmas! 

12 Days of Christmas: Christmas Cozy

❤ Day Six 

clockwise from top left: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Although I'd never pass up on a fancy Christmas party with champagne and cute cocktail dresses, nothing beats a cozy evening on Christmas eve. My cozy must haves for the holidays include a cheesy Christmas sweater, snuggly jammies, and of course a cute holiday mug for my mulled cider and tea. Here are some ideas and inspirations that I came across and absolutely love.

Also an update on my hunt for a Christmas sweater. I finally managed to find one in the most random tiny boutique in the business district. Who knew it would be that hard to find a holiday sweater in Hong Kong?

PS. If you're still looking for Christmas jammies, GAP has some really cute stuff this year.

7 days till Christmas! 
(one week! one week!!)


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