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Archive for November 30, 2012

It ain’t easy being beautiful…

One of my favorite beauty blogs is the 15 Minute Beauty Fanatic. Christine, the writer, is a doctor and a mom and has very little time for much of anything, let alone for pampering and makeup. I can relate to her busy-ness and love her tutorials on fast looks. So when she asked her audience to volunteer for a new series on her blog called, “Quick Looks,” I volunteered.

I didn’t expect to be picked.

But she sent me a very nice email inviting me to do a look, explain how I do it and include photos…


And then, I started timing my routines.

The first morning was great: 6 minutes. But it turned out to be about the same exact look that Kirstie from Blushing Basics — including the same eyeshadow!

Monday fresh face

Single eyeshadow – Urban Decay’s YDK – all over lid and in crease, quick line with UD 24/7 liner in dark brown, swipe of black mascara, bb cream, and some lipgloss. 5 minutes. Not original.

So I decided to try something different.  Since it’s Holiday Season and I have to get a bit dressed up to work at Seaport Village, I would do a more glamorous look.

I thought of a color scheme that would be both trendy, yet classic, and definitely a step above my usual beige. So I started out and did my look…and I discovered that I spent a lot of time hunting for the right brush or this that or the other…and before I knew it, the timer went off and I wasn’t halfway finished.

Sigh. I finished what I was doing and went to work, all the while thinking of ways to streamline the process.

It all comes down to organization.  If you know what you’re going to do and have all the tools laid out beforehand, things go much faster — from making a cake to putting on makeup. It was a little appalling to see exactly how much STUFF I used — 6 brushes, 4 eyeshadows, 2 eyeliner pencils, concealer, dusting powder, powder foundation, blush, bb cream, eyeshadow primer, 2 mascaras and a lip pencil… wow!   So I put everything I needed to use into its own container and was ready for the next go-round.

This time I sailed through the application in record time! 12 minutes! Then I took the pictures with my new(er)  Nikon DSLR.

holiday hairline

Not exactly what I see in the mirror…

Where did those grey hairs come from?  I just hennaed my hair…um, must have been about 3 weeks ago… the wisdom is peeking through and it doesn’t look like blond highlights…

eye wrinkles

Where did those come from?!

And those wrinkles under my eyes?!  I never saw those before…

Reality. Sigh. I just never saw those flaws in the mirror as I applied my make-up with my glasses off… it took a good camera to show me what I really look like.

Yah. The gray roots I can fix.  The wrinkles, just got to accept them.  As a non-spring chicken, you got to expect that you are eventually going to start looking like a non-spring chicken.  It’s just that with the soft-focus of vision without glasses, I’d overlooked a few details. And I was hoping I could still pass for a slightly younger bird.

Sigh. Time marches on and no-one is immune.  I knew that.  I knew I had wrinkles and age spots, but I just never really LOOKED at them. Now I really know.

Just ‘coz I look old doesn’t mean I quit…the next morning, right before a long day at Seaport Village, I tried again.

And this time I managed to squeak in at just 15 minutes! With eyeshadow contouring and lipstick and everything! Yea!  I grabbed my stuff and camera and took some photos before I had to dash off to work.

Post written and rewritten, photos cropped, and everything sent to Christine… so now we wait and see.

All in all it’s been an interesting and enlightening exercise — both in terms of observing exactly what I do (instead of being on autopilot) and in terms of really SEEING what I look like (as opposed to just focusing on a single feature or looking in the mirror sans glasses).

I am going to work on being more mindful in the morning, but I think it’s OK to have a soft view of myself in the morning. I know the signs of age are there, but perhaps it’s part of God’s plan that my eyesight is getting fuzzier as I get more wrinkles. There’s time enough to ponder on aging and mortality, but first thing in the morning I’d rather think happy thoughts about bb creams and pretty lipstick colors.

What about you?

Is nothing sacred? Coffee with mushrooms! And I like it!

Yes.  You heard it right.  Mushrooms in my coffee. But you’d never know it.

In an ironic twist of fate, we met at a Starbucks for me to try her coffee — and for her to try out one of my glitter tattoos.

glitter Om lotus

Glitter tats and coffee…doesn’t get much better than that!

Marie gave me a packet of instant latte to add to a cup of hot water.  It dissolved instantly and only needed a quick stir. It tasted… like coffee with milk and a little sugar.  Not too sweet, not too bitter.  But good coffee.

However, coffee is not new. What makes this coffee stand out from its Starbucks cousin, is ganoderma lucidem.  All of Organo’s products are infused with this mighty mushroom and anti-oxidant powerhouse.  So with each cup of joe you drink during the day, you are also giving yourself a dose of some of the most potent Chinese traditional medicine: 灵芝 língzhī or reishi as it’s known in Japanese.

lingzhi mushroom

The ganoderma lucidem or lingzhi mushroom, photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Chinese being Chinese, there are layers of meaning for the first part of the name. Líng can mean spirit, spiritual, soul, miraculous, sacred, divine, mysterious, efficacious or effective. Zhī has no English equivalent but generally means mushroom essence.

The língzhī has been used since the Han Dynasty (206BCE – 220CE) in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is also popular throughout Korea, Japan and Vietnam.  It has cholesterol-lowering properties and helps stabilize blood sugars. It also helps with hypertension and supports liver health.  According to Dr. Andrew Weil,

reishi can improve immune function and inhibit the growth of some malignant tumors. It also shows significant anti-inflammatory effects, reduces allergic responsiveness, and protects the liver.

And according to Dr. Oz:

Reishi mushrooms have been used in traditional Asian medicine for over 4000 years to treat liver disorders, hypertension, arthritis and other ailments. Modern studies show that they may help boost insulin levels, allowing the body to more efficiently use blood sugar for energy production. Additionally, reishi’s anti-inflammatory properties may neutralize the chemicals that drain your energy.

All that and your coffee, too!

Marie Champagne

The lovely and gracious Marie Champagne

Marie was very low-key in her presentation of the coffee.  No hard sell.  Let the product sell itself.  She gave me several samples to take home.  Good-tasting coffee with the benefits of ancient Chinese mushrooms.  What’s not to like?

OK.  It’s not Starbucks.  I am very partial to the rich, syrupy Sumatran flavor. Organo coffee isn’t quite there.  But it’s good enough to drink at the office as an iced coffee with milk or as an afternoon pick-me-up.  And even though I drank that cup of coffee at 5:30pm, I was still able to get to sleep at my usual time with no trouble.

In addition to selling coffee, Marie is an accomplished quilter who also makes and sells bags to raise money to build a children’s home in Haiti. (This is the link for the facebook page for MChampagne Designs and her bags)  And if that weren’t enough, Marie is also mathematics teacher at a High School in Chula Vista.

Come for the coffee, but you’ll stay for the conversation.

A rose by any other name… but snow fungus, really?

Beauty is in the ingredients… and we in the West have our share of exotic ingredients… but the Chinese have definitely got the most “funky” of exotic ingredients.  Here is a facial mask made by MG that I picked up this summer when we visited Beijing:

Snow fungus and Birds Nest Mask

Behold the Snow Fungus and Bird’s Nest Facial Mask

Actually, Snow Fungus and Bird’s Nests are not terribly exotic in China. Snow Fungus is a kind of mushroom that is often used in desserts and sweet drinks; the bird’s nests in question have been used in soups and Chinese Traditional Medicine for centuries, if not millenia.  According to Wikipedia, bird’s nests are among the most expensive (up to $2,000USD per kilo) animal products consumed by humans. When boiled in water, the nests dissolve into a gelatinous texture, and

The most heavily harvested nests are from the Edible-nest Swiftlet or White-nest Swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) and the Black-nest Swiftlet (Aerodramus maximus).[3] The white nests and the red nests are supposedly rich in nutrients, which are traditionally believed to provide health benefits, such as aiding digestion, raising libido, improving the voice, alleviating asthma, improving focus, and an overall benefit to the immune system

Snow fungus, tremellis fuciformis, is actually a parasitic yeast, which is a gelatinous goo until it finds a host to invade and then it produces its silvery “ears”.

Delightful.  Now I’m getting squeamish….

But I have already drunk the koolaid… or used the facial mask as it were… When in Rome, do as the Romans… and when in China, do as the Chinese.  So when I saw this unusual mask at the Watson’s close to our hotel, I had to try it out.



All the advertising was in both Chinese and English… unlike the ingredient list

I like it!  It looks like some gelatinous rice starch pudding, but when I rinsed it off after a half hour, my skin was like buttah.  And the next morning, it was still  soft and smooth. Not sure it was supple and elastic as the casablanca lily under the moonshine, elegant and sacred….but it was nice.

Thanks to a recent review by CakePieabout a similar product, I learned the name of a valuable ingredient to look for on the list: glycerin.Glycerin is an almost magical ingredient, soothing to irritated, dry and sensitive skin because it attracts moisture and gets deep into the skin layers to keep the skin hydrated.

So armed with  Google Translate, I looked up the word for glycerin and found:

甘油 (Gānyóu)

(As a total tangent, 甘Gān means sweet or willing and 油 yóu means oily…. and together they mean glycerin.  I just love Chinese language!)

And it’s there. Second after a special type of water, and followed by the Bird’s Nest ingredient and the the Silver Ear (aka Snow Fungus) ingredient.  The character for glycerin shows up again in the 5th ingredient which is a longer string of characters and thus is probably a glycerol of some sort. And the rest are probably emulsifiers and preservatives.


The word for glycerin is in the box.

Not sure about the specific beauty benefits of the bird’s nest, but mushrooms are a hot ingredient these days in skincare due to their anti-inflammatory properties and high levels of anti-oxidants. I suspect that the concentration of the exotic ingredients is pretty low and that the main powerhouse of this mask is the glycerin, but I can’t say that for certain.

What I can say for certain is that I’m glad I took a chance on this oddly named facial mask, even though I had no clue at the time what exactly was in it.  Now, with a bit of linguistic sleuthing, I have a good portion figured out, and I am pretty happy that it only has 12 ingredients and that I know what 3 of them are, and have an educated guess as to the rest.

Now, if you will excuse me, it’s been a long day and I think I need to refresh and rehydrate my skin with a little snow fungus and bird’s nest… and glycerin.


Monday Blog Love: The Unknown Beauty Blog

The Unknown Beauty Blog: Confessions of a B-List Beauty Blogger!

The Unknown Beauty Blog

What a fun blog.  Olivia is knowledgeable, honest, funny and has great photos.  And I also appreciate that she’s of about a certain age… close to my age, in fact.

The products she reviews run the gamut of drugstore hauls to premium theatre quality products, and each is shown in its full light: good, bad, expensive, strong, weak or not worth it. And you know that these are really her opinions.  You can trust them.

The are tutorials are informative and I love the unique way she illustrates her points. The one on hooded eyes is quite good, and useful (as a person with hooded eyes).

And if you can’t get enough tutorials, there’s Olivia’s other blog: Into the Palette where she takes inspiration from TV, movies and beauty dilemmas to create digital make-overs. Too much fun! And you learn something, too!


Sunday Pictures: X-Mas at Seaport Village

On Saturday, November 24, 2012, Seaport Village in San Diego broke out the Christmas Cheer.

poinsettia tree at Seaport Village

The poinsettia tree in all its glory next to the carousel

flipflops at seaport

They hung up their flipflops with care…

Mrs. Claus at Seaport

In case Mr. Claus got too busy, Mrs. Claus was ready to lend an ear…

Surfin' Santa at Seaport Village

Never fear, Surfing Santa is here!


Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing everyone a very happy Thanksgiving!

no brown skin

Happy Thanksgiving from LOLCats!

The turkey is in the oven, the stuffing is baking (both kinds: regular and my mother’s gluten-free with rice bread), the pies are done, the sweet potatoes are ready to go in and the gravy is a-simmering.

Time for a quick breath and a gratitude break.

I am so thankful for all the blessings I have. Health, an adoring husband, two wonderful cats, a house in the suburbs outside San Diego, the weather, a day job, a dream job, a country at peace, and the knowledge that  my family is all safe and sound today. Life is truly good.

Here’s my recipe for island-style sweet potatoes.  Gluten-free, dairy-free so my Mom can eat them.  Little marshmallows on top for my hubby and me.

Natasha’s Island-style Sweet Potatoes

3-4 large sweet potatoes
1 can crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup coconut flour (found at ethnic grocery stores) or 1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 cup candied ginger, chopped
1/4 cup rum (opt)
1/2 package little marshmallows

Bake sweet potatoes until soft.  Let cool and peel.  They are MUCH easier to peel when cooked; the peels just slide off.

Mix cooked sweet potatoes with drained crushed pineapple and coconut.  Fold in candied ginger.  Add the rum and mix it all together.

Spread little marshmallows over the top and bake until the marshmallows are gorgeous golden brown and crispy on top and gooey underneath.

YUM!  Serves 8

Shop Onyx on Friday, and Shop Small on Saturday…

Onyx Friday

Onyx Friday: an alternative to the insanity of Black Friday
Friday, November 23rd, 2012
Starts at 8am (PST)!

Get your holiday shopping done AND support real artisans

Are you tired of the craziness, the crowds, the frenzy that is shopping in big box stores on the Friday after Thanksgiving?
The stampedes for riduculously marked down items that were ridiculously marked up to begin with?
Getting run over by little old ladies with killer shopping carts?


You don’t have to shop that way.  There IS a real alternative.
Siren Song Productions presents “Onyx Friday: a black friday alternative“!
Hang out with your computer and that cup of steaming chai and peruse offerings from the finest crafters, artists, performers and film makers all across the country.  Whether it’s hand-painted bags, pretty shiny baubles, hand-crocheted winter garb, one-of-a-kind artworks or independly produced DVDs, you’ll find something for everyone!  At big discounts that are only offered for ONE DAY ONLY.  You do not want to miss this opportunity.

So, eat, drink, be merry and have more pie on Thanksgiving. And in the morning, enjoy one of the best online sales events ever!

1. Log in to Facebook on the morning of the sale.
2. Go to the “Onxy Friday” event page.
3. Browse through all the goodies for sale
4. Want something?  Click the link next to the item, and you will be directed straight to that seller’s website where you can purchase the item.Easy peasy.
If you choose one of my items (or anything in my etsy shop), use the coupon code: OnyxFriday for 40% off!

See you there!

red backpack
One of my offerings is this red backpack — which is a great alternative to wearing a purse.


Don’t forget that Saturday (November 24, 2012) is Small Business Saturday.

What is Small Business Saturday®?

Small Business Saturday is a day for everyone — from the business owners who create jobs to the customers who buy locally — to support small businesses that invigorate the economy and keep communities thriving.

It began in 2010 when American Express founded Small Business Saturday to help small businesses get more exposure during one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. Last year, over 100 million people came out to shop at independently-owned small businesses on the day. Now, in its third year, Small Business Saturday will be even bigger. American Express is offering free and easy-to-use tools to help small businesses get the most out of the day and tools for consumers to show their support.

Please consider buying things on Saturday from the small businesses in your community. Your purchases go directly to the local economy, your local economy, and you might just find some cool stuff and meet some cool people, too.
A Few Suggestions for Saturday:
  • Check out your local farmers’ market.  They’re not just about locally-grown fresh produce, but also include small crafters and skincare products. If you are in the San Diego area, Skinfolk is a fabulous small business in San Diego that sells most of their products at the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market (Normal St DMV parking lot), *Every OTHER Sunday 9-2.  OK, so that’s a Sunday, but you get the idea!
  • Try a local bakery, such as the Grove Bakery in Lemon Grove, or the small pizzeria down the block.  Or that little taco stand.

Need help finding local businesses in your community? You can start here.

Who are the great local businesses you like to support — on Saturday, or any day?

One Billion Rising

I am a woman.

And I cannot tolerate rape.

As a victim, a comfortor, a former college activist, and a woman, I encourage you to rise up with one billion women worldwide to stop the violence. To end the culture that says some rape is OK. To end the craziness that some rape is not really rape and that the woman asked for it.

Rape is rape. And all rape is wrong.

I’ve said it.

There is no fuzzy gray area with rape. Rape is wrong. In all circumstances.

I found out about the One Billion Rising movement from Caroline Hirons’ blog, BeautyMouth.

And I was so moved to join myself. It’s free. And it’s powerful.
Where will you be on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2013?

For folks in the San Diego area,

In order to maximize both participation and impact, San Diego is planning three events for Thursday, February 14th.

STRIKE: We’re calling on activists county-wide to join us in a 20 minute walk-out. (at 2:14 p.m.) Get up, walk out, join fellow activists in the street wherever you are in San Diego County.

DANCE: The day will culminate in a massive gathering – tentatively planned for the Spreckels Organ Pavillion in Balboa Park – which will include words of inspiration from community leaders and V-Day activists, uplifting music, and…of course…DANCING.

RISE: Just prior to the gathering at the Organ Pavillion we’re asking as many activists who are able to join us for a march from the Civic Center in Downtown San Diego to Balboa Park. Let’s show everyone in San Diego watching the 11:00 news that San Diegans have had ENOUGH of the violence and will stand for it NO…MORE.

Monday Blog Love: Cakepie: Beauty, Games, Life

On Mondays I will feature a blog I’ve recently discovered and want to share.

Cakepie is the interesting ramblings of Tiffany Martin, a Vermont-based editor, game enthusiast and beauty addict (and Asian product-o-phile). Her perspectives are unique and delightful. She, too, has battled the perception that being interested in beauty and skincare is akin to being vapid and shallow. And she, too, threw off that idea to celebrate beauty as a form of self-care and self-expression.

I particularly appreciate her obsession with Korean BB creams — as I share that obsession.  Her review of Skin79’s The Oriental Gold BB Cream is succinct, well-reasoned and has excellent photos.

The Cakepie is not just about beauty reviews, but also essays on life, and the struggle to be seen and appreciated as an independent thinking person and not a stereotype of any boxed variety.  (I quite enjoyed the post on Tropes vs Women in Video Games).This site is not all fluff and fancy, but some real critical thinking and thought evolution.

Check out her site!  I think you’ll stick around!


Sunday Pictures: Calm for the Holidays

The Holidays are upon us.  I’m already stressing out.

My mother is visiting and she has multiple food restrictions, which is making preparing for our Thanksgiving feast much more interesting than usual.  And we’re travelling for most of December, so coordinating gifts and catsitting and budgets is difficult.  And the missles are flying in the Middle East… 30 days before we are scheduled to fly to Tel Aviv…

So to bring myself back to a sense of calm and equilibrium, I am posting three of my favorite photos from our vacation to Beijing this summer.  They take me right back to magical places and a wonderful time.

Mother duck and ducklings from Beijing

I saw this mother duck and her babies at the Ethnic Minorities Culture Park in Beijing this past August.

Lotus from Beijing

Lotuses rise above the muck to show their true beauty.

Boy and cat conversing in Beijing

A boy conversing with a cat in the Temple of the Moon in Beijing.

What calms you down when you start feeling frazzled and in a frizzle?