2011 New Year Resolutions + TAG: Ups & Downs of 2010

    H A P P Y  N E W  Y E A R !

    Another day, another year.  I'm not going to lie, 2010 has been a long one for me and  I'm very glad it's over.  However, at the same time this year has taught me a lot of things...the importance of having holding onto your integrity even when the going gets tough, of growing up, of counting the blessings that I have, and how even in troubled times there is always something to smile about.  *insert cheesy music*  Nevertheless, I hope 2011 will be the beginning of better things and I'm ready to just dive on in~  But if I want things to get better, I need to start off on the right foot :) So here we go!

    The Notoriously Hard-to-Keep New Years Goals List
    1.) Procrastination! When something need to be done, do it right away!
    2.) Keep an updated address book.
    3.) Sleep by midnight, get a full 8 hours. (tho I'm having doubts about this one already...)
    4.) Keep up with this blog, strive to write more interesting posts and better reviews.
    5.) Improve videos, make them more fun to watch, be creative...and start a vlog channel xD
    6.) Take care of my health.  Eat more veggies and try to cut back on sweets (...though my blog indicates this may not happen ^_~).  Eat vitamin pills everyday (already doing this :D!).  Overall, adapt a more balanced diet. 
    7.) Master writing in Korean.
    8.) Master speaking in Spanish and increase vocabulary.
    9.) Make nonprofit work and volunteering an integral part of my life.
    10.) Drink more water!  I hate drinking fluids (weird I know)...the need to pee just gets annoying :\ nic nic knows what I'm talking about ^_^. Yet when I do drink water I can really tell a difference in my skin....

    And to everyone out there who takes the time to read this blog, you guys have brought me a lot of happiness in what has overall been a rough year.   I read every comment and always think how lucky I am to have this opportunity to share this small piece of myself with all of you :)

    I pretty much stole this banner from Elisa ^^ Sorry!

    I was so excited to do this tag since it's not strictly beauty related and just a great way to quickly hit all the high and low points of 2010.  Elisa from Memorable Days tagged me for this puppy (thank you!) and I'm glad I got it up just in time for New Years!

    Ups of 2010
    1.) This blog yo.  I've just learned so much from the whole experience... how to edit videos, improve speaking on the spur of the moment, how to put on makeup (properly), find my way around the blogosphere, getting to know a lot of great people....:)
    2.) Graduating! No more exams!
    3.) Hopping around Korea for a glorious summer.  I love traveling, though I don't get to do so as much as I would like.  It was wonderful seeing Korea for the first time (well, I was there when I was 6 but that doesn't count since I don't remember a thing).
    4.) Being able to come home to my family and not having to leave again for school ehhe ^^

    Downs of 2010
    1.) Health/allergies.  Health-wise, this year has been a disaster for me.  On the surface, a lot of people have complimented me on "losing weight" but I only look smaller and am lighter because I lost a lot of muscle mass and ate very poorly.  I did not eat right during my last year in school, so I was sick quite often and my immune system suffered.  I developed several severe allergic reactions all this year...twice on my face and twice from food. I'm positive that I've become so sensitive internally because I haven't been caring for my body as I should have been.   I've been healthy and fit all my life (thanks to swimming), but last year without exercise, crazy sleep habits, stress, and a total aversion to cooking unless I was about to starve, I ruined the good health I've been lucky to have for so long.
    2.) Being separated from many of my close friends. I miss them.
    3.) And just a lot of little things that don't need to be rehashed cuz - it's a new year!

    Technically, I should only tag 5 people but this is such a good tag...seriously....so if this strikes your fancy, definitely do it.  Tho there are a couple of peeps I INSIST upon doing this tag and you know who you are ^_~

    2011, here I come....
    I wish everyone all the best~
    Here's to hopes, dreams and a beautiful future!

Review: Face Cleanser Comparison (Boscia VS Neutrogena)

    This is actually a two part review because I figured the cleanser comparison should just be one video & post ^_^ Just to keep things tidier and shorter~

    I'm on a serious Boscia fix right now - I was so impressed with the Boscia Luminizing Black Mask (review coming up in Part 2 aka the next post) that I binged on a bunch of Boscia products with the Boscia $10 off $30 off sale.   So there will a lot of Bosica reviews coming up ^_^ Anyway, this cleanser was my first try at a "higher end" aka non-drugstore, non-bar-of-soap for removing makeup attempt.  I was looking for makeup cleanser that cleans AND removes makeup in one step (I'm too lazy to do an oil-cleansing step and a cleansing step every day :P).

    Bosica is all about no preservative, very gentle and as natural as possible - and while people can be just as a allergic to something "natural" as to something artificial - I had no breakouts and I felt this was a very gentle yet effective product.  I won't rehash everything I said in the video, but overall I think the Bosica Purifying Gel is a good cleanser for people with sensitive skin not on a tight budget.  This does remove all my face makeup in one step (BBcream, concealer, and setting powder), but this will NOT remove eyeliner (I tried MAC Fluidline in Blacktrack and Urban Decay pencil in Zero), so you will need to use eye makeup remover.  However, it does remove Koji Dolly Wink Liquid Liner and most eye shadows.  Otherwise, this helps you get as much makeup off your face as possible at once without irritation.

    This bottle is rather small and one is tempted to use more than 1 pump at a time since it seems so mild, so this runs out in 2-3 months.  Speaking of, don't be tempted to use a lot of pumps...this cleanser is a clear gel and you need to lather it up first to get enough to cover your face.  Foam up your cleanser before you decided to use more. 

    The Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser claims to:
    Fresh Foaming Cleanser is a cleanser and makeup remover in one.
    Removing makeup before you go to bed has never been easier. This dermatologist-tested formula effectively removes dirt, oil and makeup. It even removes eye makeup, without soaps or oils that can sting or irritate the sensitive eye area. No more raccoon eyes! It rinses completely and won't leave any pore-clogging residue. Forget the excuses and get refreshingly clean skin and complete makeup removal in one step. 
    - Soap-free 
    - Oil-free 
    - Non-comedogenic (won't clog pores) 
    - Hypoallergenic
    I need to wash my face 2x at least to remove just BBcream, concealer, and setting powder.  It definitely does not remove eye makeup in general, though it does remove lighter eyeshadows.  It  does not irritate my face or cause breakouts, but I feel that it "strips" my face and is a little drying.  It doesn't leave a residue though.  What really turns me off this product is the scent (and appearance); it looks and smells like a cheap handwash soap you use in public restrooms :\  It doesn't seem to harm my face but the experience isn't that great.  Also, this doesn't lather any better than the Boscia Cleansing Gel.  This is a problem since Neutrogena's cleanser specifically advertises itself as a foaming cleanser whereas the Boscia cleanser is just a gel.  It's not a huge deal, but it irks me a little.

    Anyway, let's just cut the chase and keep this post as short as possible ^_^

    Overall, both are quite "usable" though I much prefer the Boscia - which I should considering the price!  However, even though the Boscia is effective, I still will be keeping an eye out for a cheaper cleanser that is comparable to the Boscia.  After I'm done with this bottle, I'll be back on the hunt for the perfect makeup remover + cleansing in one!  I have my reservations about finding my dream cleanser though :P there's a reason the "Asian skincare regime" involves double cleansing :(....

Korea Trip 2010, Part 9: The 63 Building

    Continued from Part 8: Apartments in Seoul
    Or start from the beginning, Part 1: Flying to Tokyo

    This is long, pic-heavy post :D So brace yourselves y'all!

    It was raining :P Hence the crap picture.

    While I was in Korea, I was very lucky to have the opportunity to visit the Korea Life Insurance/63 Building in Yeouido, Seoul, Korea.  The names come from the fact that the HQ of Korea Life Insurance and other major financial firms are there and how it's 63 stories tall!  It was the tallest building outside of North America till 1985 and though it isn't even in the Top 100 Tallest Buildings anymore, it's still a major tourist attraction.  There is an IMAX theater, an aquarium, a wax-doll museum, world-renowned restaurants, and an art gallery.  Read the wiki page if you're ever in Korea because this is a definite must-see.  Not to mention the sheen on the building is beautiful, it's a molten bronze-gold even on a rainy day~ Just look at the pic I got off Google:

    Isn't it just beautiful ^_^? Anyway, some trivia: there is an elevator called the Love Elevator (for couples only!), a private 1 minute ride up ;) You should definitely do this if you're in Korea with your boyfriend...eheh imagine everything you can do in a minute in a private glass elevator (ok I have a dirty mind xD).  Also the Korean drama, My Girl, shot a lot of scenes here :D

    The entrance had a bunch of these huge metal balls (ehehe) on the floor.   The windows inside are really reflective :)  When we got up to 57th floor, the door opened to this:

    There are a lot of very famous restaurants on the 57th floor, they're all fusion or traditional Western, Korean, Chinese, or Japanese restaurants.  The restaurant we ate at was Paengni-hyang (백리향), a traditional Chinese restaurant.
    PAENGNI-HYANG is the best place to enjoy Chinese food with the authentic taste and aroma of Cantonese cuisine. We offer Chinese delicacies of world-class quality that satisfy world's gourmands, all prepared with rare and precious ingredients and profound relish. The qualities are achieved by our Cantonese Chef, with careful preparation, using only the finest natural ingredients.
    The website is very minimal :P but I took many pictures, so you guys can all see what it was like! Believe it or not, this is only a fraction of the pics I took at this restaurant ><

    Supposedly, the chef is some amazing, award-winning chef that specializes in only traditional Cantonese food ^_^ 

    There were traditional Chinese wedding outfits hung on the wall off to the right, but I forgot to take a picture of it.  We were escorted to a private room; I'm not sure if everyone gets a private room to eat but I didn't see any open dining areas.  It was just a long corridor of doors O_o

    This was our room.  It didn't photograph very well because of the terrible weather outside :P

    This is Seoul from 57 stories up!  The weather was SO bad, on a clear day you can see all the way to Incheon usually.  Anyway, remember what I said about Korea being covered with sky-rise apartment buildings? Well, here's proof ^_^  The bottom picture is the Han River - scene of many a breakup, secret rendezvous, make-out session, and killing sprees in K-dramas and movies ^_^  If there's a river with lights along a bridge in a k-drama, it's 99% certain that it's along the Han River.

    The table arrangement was very elegant.  I particularly dig the polished wooden slats embossed with flowers ^^ We were served chrysanthemum tea while we were waiting and given cool, damp towels to wipe our hands.  Then came the food!  We ordered the "seafood" course so the meal was seven courses of various seafood-based dishes.  The waitresses were dressed in black qipaos and impeccably mannered. And I'm sorry, but I don't know the names of anything ><!   If I mis-named anything, please let me know~

    The first course was some kind of broth.  Btw the 3 little dishes are peanuts, pickles and something I forgot.  It was the one thing about this restaurant I thought was oddly "cheap." I mean peanuts and pickles?  I'm not sure if this is because of Koreans just wanting something crunchy with a bit of tang to eat (since there was no kimchee ahah) or that these are things that Cantonese eat often?  Not sure, please let me know if you do!

    The broth was super light and had a very "clean" taste - aka the mark of a well-made broth.  Absolutely no fat floating on the top at all.  In the broth were pieces of shiitake mushrooms, some sort fluffy fish-flavored rectangles (like fish cakes?), and black chicken.  I know black chicken is a rare delicacy in Asian culture, I believe it's called a Silkie chicken.  Koreans believe black chicken is very healthy and has curative properties for one reason or another.  The meat was very delicate and literally fell off the bones.  It tasted like a regular chicken ^_^ but the way it was cooked made it melt in your mouth.  I enjoyed this course immensely - it was a great little dish to pique my appetite.  I think this was my favorite dish.

    The second course was probably my least favorite because of that unpleasant looking blob on the plate >< It's a sea slug and while it tasted pretty good, cinnamon-y, the texture made me want to barf >_<!  The outside/skin covered with a cinnamon-flavored sauce (the sauce you see on dish).  While the sauce was quite good, it made the skin seem slimy and uncannily...alive >_>  The skin just slips off the *ahem* innards, which were stuffed with something I recall tasting pretty good.  The innards were bready and delicately spiced but I was so busy recovering from the slimy skin, I didn't enjoy it.  The skin is rubbery, very hard to cut, and very, very chewy.  I found it hard to chew and it felt like it was getting stuck in my throat (or that may have been my gag reflex).

    The oval things were nothing particularly amazing. There was more sea slug in the middle *ugh* which is prolly why I didn't enjoy it very much.   I was very happy to see this dish go ^^;;

    The third course was very good! It was abalone with hatch marks cut on it so that it was perfectly cooked.  There were also pieces of fried scallops (I think).   I don't remember what the sauce tasted like - lemony maybe, but I recall enjoying this dish.

    Fourth course: fried shrimp, a slice of sweet potato, all drenched in some sort of sweet and sour sauce. I liked this dish even though it was a little on the sweet side.   Also isn't the rectangular dish friggin awesome?!

    Like I said, this was very sweet - almost like a dessert, but it was still really good.  The crispy-soft texture of the shrimp was an interesting contrast with the slice of sweet potato.  Quite enjoyable for me, but I know people without a sweet tooth may find this too cloying.

    Fifth course: My second favorite!  An absolutely perfectly medium rare piece of beef.  The sauce was not teriyaki or anything I ate before. Quite unique.

    Really enjoyed this piece of beef. I'm not going to lie, I'm not big on seafood ^^ so this was a nice break for me~  I polished this off pretty quickly.

    The sixth course was an option between jajangmyun or what is in the pic above.  I liked this a lot - a tie for second place even though I was getting pretty full at this point.  It was a filling broth with noodles, shrimp, scallions, other sea food I can't name, spring onions...and I'm going to stop trying to name things because it's embarrassing ^^  It was comforting, homey dish ^_^

    The seventh and last course was dessert!  As most you guys probably know, Asians aren't too big on sweet desserts.  We got little balls of pistachio ice cream, which I enjoyed even though I don't like pistachios, and chilled fruit pieces.   When we were done, a glass of dessert wine was brought out.

    This was a tangy, sweet drink with just the barest hint of alcohol~ I don't like the taste of alcohol, but I love dessert wines.  A very nice way to end the meal indeed :) That's one of my little cousins through the glass btw ^_^

    *whew* That was a long post~  Next up, Part 10: Namdaemun Marketplace, one of the most famous open air markets in Seoul!

Korea Trip 2010, Part 8: Apartments in Seoul

    Continued from Part 7: Back in Seoul
    Or start from the beginning, Part 1: Flying to Tokyo

    After stuffing ourselves, we rolled over to my aunt's apartment.  Pretty much everyone lives in apartments in Seoul (and Busan, the two largest cities in Korea) and they all look something like this:

    Super-tall (20+ stories) apartment buildings dominate Seoul's landscape - it's one of the first things I noticed the second I entered Seoul.   Huge companies like Samsung and Hyundai build clusters of 5-10 apartment buildings like this and the "neighborhood" shares really nice walking paths, gated security, a pool, and other community complexes.  Naturally, some apartments/neighborhoods are more upscale than others but the principle are all generally the same - it's a lot of people crammed into one building. Seoul, Korea is one of the densest cities in the world and as a twinkie, I didn't realize exactly what that meant until I visited.  Everyone - including the wealthy - are truly packed in like sardines. I felt a little claustrophobic, honestly.  It's not like Japan where things are *ahem* small (I don't think I've recovered from the hobbit bathroom), but neatly spaced out.  Korea is regular-sized yet squished closer together somehow.   I could elaborate more on my thoughts about this topic but then this would turn into to anthropological analysis of Korean society xD

    Anyway, this is one of the awesome playgrounds in this neighborhood:

    Yeah, it's a whale!  Cool tidbit: Playgrounds have cameras running 24/7 and the neighborhood broadcasts these camera channels so that moms in their apartment can watch their kids playing on the playground via TV.  Very practical :) Anyway, my aunt likes to collect little gizmos and some of them are really pretty ^_^

    I was especially fond of her tea sets~

    Aren't they pretty ^_^? Totally impractical for anything, but nice to look at~ The red teacups are actually transparent :D so delicate!

    She also had a cool lamp:

    They were so pretty to look at with the lights off ^_^ They made the room very romantic ;)  And sorry that I've been no-makeup-ish the past few posts....I dunno, I just felt like taking a break ^_^

    And next up, the shiny Part 9: The 63 Building

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