Friday, March 29, 2013

First Impression - Smashbox's CC Cream

Smashbox's CC Cream found its way to my inbox yesterday so of course I HAD to try it immediately.

Advertised as follows: "The advanced, lightweight formula neutralizes and brightens skin for a more even complexion.  It's also proven to fade dark spots, sun spots and post acne-marks instantly and over time.  Primes, perfects, protects (with SPF 30!), moisturizes and controls oil...prevents discoloration in the future."

My first impression:
  • Creamy formula
  • Gives more coverage than Smashbox's BB Cream counterpart but I don't consider this medium/heavy coverage
  • Disappears into the skin
  • Sets to a satin finish, not dewy
  • It's been about 6 hours now and my face has not gotten oily (I'm usually oily in my T Zone area)
This formula differs from Smashbox's BB Cream in that CC Cream is advertised to fade dark spots, sun spots, and discoloration over a period of time.  Smashbox's BB Cream does not advertise these benefits.  

I can't speak to the long lasting skin benefits of this product as I haven't used it long enough.  However, upon first impression, this cream seems to function like a tinted moisturizer with added skin benefits that should become noticeable over time.  

Will I purchase this again?  I'm leaning towards no at this point because my current BB Cream (Miisha M Perfect Cover) offers coverage as well as skin benefits that you immediately see once the cream sets.  I will blog more about BB creams in a future post once I'm done testing out a few different brands so stay tuned, dear readers!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Clarisonic Brush Head Value Pack!

For all of you Clarisonic fans and users - There is currently a great value pack for Clarisonic brush heads right!  Get 4 for the price of 3.  Retails for at $75 (valued at $100).

Available at: Sephora,, Ulta,,,, Nordstrom

If you are ordering online, this product qualifies for FREE SHIPPING since the purchase is over the monetary minimum required for free shipping with each of the above mentioned retailers.

Happy shopping!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

FAVORITES: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencils

Update: Beginning March 26, 2013, Urban Decay will be releasing a 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencil Vault that will include 40 full sized eye pencils that will retail at $295.  It has a value of $760.  Here's your chance ladies!

In 2011, Urban Decay turned 15 years old.  To celebrate, they released this 15 Year Anniversary Collection 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencils set.  Included in this set are 15 full sized 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencils.  Each pencil currently retails at $19.

The set also includes Urban Decay's Grind House sharpener, which currently retails at $10.  It would normally be in the bottom left corner compartment of this set, but I forgot to put it back in when I took the above photo.  Anyway, I included a picture of the sharpener to the right.  

When I purchased this fabulous set back in 2011, it was specially priced at $92.  Its retail value would be $295.  Worth the investment, right?  (Note: this is why palettes and sets like this are worth your investment, assuming it's a quality product.)

The colors include:
  • Stray Dog: taupe brown
  • Corrupt: dark brown
  • Bourbon: glimmering dark brown
  • Midnight Cowboy: shimmery champagne peach 
  • Baked: coppery bronze
  • Stash: antique gold
  • Mildew: deep forest green
  • Perversion: matte blackest black
  • Electric: bright iridescent teal
  • Binge: midnight blue
  • Ransom: bright iridescent purple
  • Asphyxia: fuchsia violet
  • Rockstar: dark purple
  • Zero: black
  • Uzi: gunmetal silver

Formulated without parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.  These pencils glide on like butter.  They have a creamy application that prevents tugging and pulling on the eye area, which is important as it won't promote wrinkles.  Upon application, it stays soft for blending for a short period time (advertised at 30 seconds).  When it dries, it remains waterproof.  Highly pigmented, these liners have gorgeous color pay off.    

The beauty of these eye liners is that they are multi-functional: You can wear them as eye liner, wear them as eye shadow, or use them as a base for eye shadow resulting in long lasting eye color.  I've used these liners as a base for eye shadow from the Naked Palettes. The Baked eye liner, for example, pairs perfectly with Half Baked from the Naked Palette 1.  It also pairs beautifully with Chopper from the Naked Palette 2.  

Should you choose to wear them as eye shadow, be sure to blend out the edges so that there are no harsh lines.  I recommend using a synthetic brush to blend out the harsh edges.  See my post about Real Technique Brushes for an explanation as to why I prefer synthetic brushes to blend out a creamy product.

For those searching for a fantastic black eyeliner, Perversion is one of this line's best sellers.  If you prefer a liquid liner, Urban Decay does sell Perversion in liquid form (24/7 Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner).  I am so obsessed with Perversion and Zero that I have one of each in my purse, my makeup train at home, and my makeup train for clients.  

The eye liners are available at: Sephora, Ulta, Macy's, (free shipping on all orders over $25 until March 31, 2013).  However, this palette is no longer available as it was a limited edition.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Vietnamese Sizzling Crepes - Banh Xeo

One of my all time favorite Vietnamese dishes is banh xeo aka Vietnamese Sizzling Crepes - the name deriving from the sizzling sounds during the cooking process.  For those who are unfamiliar, banh xeo is a delicate crepe made from rice flour, turmeric, coconut milk, scallions, and water/beer.  Yes, beer - it yields a crispier result.  The crepe itself is typically filled with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts.  Crepes found in southern Viet Nam are thinner, larger in diamater, filled with mung beans, and are usually folded in half like a taco.  Crepes found in the central region of Viet Nam are typically smaller, do not contain mung beans, and are served open faced.  Certain regions in central Viet Nam also skip the turmeric altogether.  Personally, I love the bright yellow color of banh xeo as it's consistent of typical Vietnamese food: colorful and vibrant.

The banh xeo itself is wrapped in lettuce or banh trang (rice wrappers) along with various herbs such as mint leaves, red perilla leaves, and Thai basil.  You then dip the wrap into fish sauce.   It's heaven in a bite.

The type of pork and shrimp used for the filling may vary.  I've seen recipes that call for ground pork, pork butt, and pork shoulder.  My mom always uses pork belly because she feels the same way about bacon as I do - undying devotion.  Hence, I stick with pork belly.  While most recipes you see will instruct you to sauté the pork, I adopt my mom's approach of poaching the pork belly because it retains its tenderness better.

As for the shrimp, my mom would use whole pieces of shrimp without the shell.  You'll see that some recipes keep the shrimp shells in tact.  I prefer not to because while I don't mind shrimp shell, I just don't prefer it in a delicate dish such as banh xeo.  Since banh xeo is also a wrap and dip dish, I personally prefer chopping up large prawns into 3 so that they are bite size pieces.  (I prefer U-15 prawns purchased from Costco.)

Non stick frying pan

1 pound sliced pork belly
1 pound med/large shrimp, chopped up into halves or thirds
1 medium onion, sliced
1 package of soy bean sprouts (500 grams), pre-steamed
1 tbsp of fish sauce
1.5 tbsp of sugar
white pepper

1 package of banh xeo mix (it it doesn't come pre mixed with turmeric, add 1/2  - 1 tsp of turmeric)
1 cup coconut milk
5 stalks of scallion, chopped (more or less depending on personal preference)
3 cups of beer or water
(Cook's Note: use a blanche colored beer - ales will turn your crepes a brownish color instead of a vibrant yellow.  If you do not use beer, do not fret about using water.  I've made plenty of crisp crepes using just water.)

Thai basil
Red perilla leaves
Mint leaves

This is the batter mix I use.  It's sold at the local 99 Ranch Market.  The turmeric is in a separate pouch attached at the top.  

Mise en place: sliced onions, marinaded shrimp, marinaded pork belly, and batter

Note: In order to speed up the process of banh xeo making, I "pre-cook" my filling so that I'm not starting from the beginning cooking the protein for each individual banh xeo.  (Gotta love mom imparting her wisdom)

1. Marinate the pork belly with the fish sauce, sugar, and white pepper.  Set aside for about 20 minutes.

2. Salt and pepper the shrimp.  Set aside.

3. While the protein marinates, prepare the batter.  Combine the bank xeo mix, beer, coconut milk, and scallions.  (Tip: If you want a more savory taste for the actual batter itself, after you poach the pork belly, use 1 cup of the stock and 2 cups of beer instead of 3 cups of beer).  Set the batter aside for about half an hour so that the ingredients can "marry."

4. While the batter ingredients "marry," prepare a pot of boiling water.  Poach the pork belly for about a minute.  Don't over cook as it will further cook later with the batter.

5.  Heat a non stick pan with 1 teaspoon of cooking oil.  Sweat the onions.

6. Add shrimp to the pan.  Do not completely sauté the shrimp.  Remove from the skillet and set aside.

7.  Heat 1 tsp of cooking oil over medium heat.  Envision a line halfway down the middle of your pan.  Distribute the pork, shrimp, and onion onto the pan so that it doesn't fall onto the imaginary line.  This will make it easier to flip the crepe in half later on.

8.  Using a ladle, stir up the batter as the mix will settle to the bottom of the bowl.  Since the filling has already been pre-cooked, pour about 3/4 of a ladle of batter into the pan and quickly swirl the batter around so that a thin layer of batter is evenly distributed in the pan.

9. Add the pre-steamed bean sprouts to one side of the crepe.  (As I'm right handed, I put the bean sprouts to the left of the imaginary line.  When I go and flip the crepe later, I flip the side that doesn't have the bean sprouts.)

10. Lower the heat to medium low and cover the pan for 2 minutes.

11. Remove the lid.  Return the heat to high.  Once the edges of the crepe crisp up to a golden brown color, pour a small amount of cooking oil around the edges of the crepe so the edges avoid burning.  It will also make it easier to flip the crepe in half.  Let the high heat remain to crisp up the crepe.  Be patient.  If you flip too early, the crepe will not be crispy.

12. Using a spatula, flip the crepe in half (the side without the bean sprouts goes over the side with bean sprouts).

13. Do not lift the crepe to remove it from the pan.  Tilt the pan and allow the crepe to slide on its own onto a plate.

Banh xeo is best when it's hot.  If you wait, the crepe will turn soggy.  Wrap the banh xeo in lettuce along with Thai basil, mint leaves, and red perilla leaves.  Dip it in nuoc cham aka fish sauce to complete the experience.

Bon appétit mes amis!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Urban Decay's Naked Basics Palette

For years, I've been searching for the perfect neutral eye shadow palette.  Not one single neutral palette out there satisfied me.  As I got older, my search for a matte neutral eye shadow palette increased.  I've been trying to steer clear of shimmery shadows since I've entered my thirties as they draw attention to wrinkles.

Enter Urban Decay's Naked Basics Palette: 6 neutral shades.  5 of the 6 are matte and 1 is shimmery.  I can forgive for the 1 shimmery shadow since I use it to highlight the brow bone area and the inner corners of the eyes to brighten them up.  The color pay from the shadows are good since they are well pigmented.  The shadows themselves are smooth and blend very well.

Shadow colors from left to right: Venus, Foxy, Walk of Shame (W.O.S), Naked 2, Faint, and Crave.

Venus: I use Venus, the shimmery white to the far left of the palette, as a brow bone highlight as well as an inner eye brightener.

Foxy and W.O.S. can be used all over the lid, as a brow bone highlight, or inner eye brightener.

Naked 2 can double function as an all over lid color or as a transitioning/blending shadow.

Faint can be used as an all over lid color or for the outer corner of your eyes to make it more defined.  I personally like to use Faint to define the creases of my eyes.

Crave can be used for the outer corner of your eyes in addition to being a great liner.

If you want to transition from a natural daytime look into an evening look, the eye shadows in this palette can act as a base.  Apply colored shadow over the Naked Basics shadows and, voila, you're ready for a night out.  As with any other eye shadow, I recommend using an eye shadow primer before application to prolong its staying power as well as decrease creasing from oily lids.

Aside from the gorgeous shades and their smooth application, I like that these shadows come in a very compact container.  In fact, the palette itself is smaller than an iPhone and just as sleek.  Thus, this will be a staple in my makeup bag when I travel.

Available at, Sephora, Ulta, and Macy's for $27.

Verdict: A necessary staple in my makeup bag.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Recipe of the Week: Skillet Roasted Bacon Garlic Yukons

A few weeks ago, the culinary talent over at Insatiably Epicurious introduced this recipe by disclosing that she and her 6 year old engaged in an unspoken race to see who could eat more spuds.  Intrigued, I continued studying the recipe.  Potatoes?  Always a good thing.  Garlic?  Lovin' it.  Bacon?  SOLD.

All three ingredients together?  HEAVEN ON A FORK!

Ok, so that may be a tad bit over the top but only a tad...because even before you sink your teeth into the pillowy soft goodness known as yukon potatoes after they've been introduced to bacon fat during the roasting process, your olfactories are assaulted (in a good way!) by the comforting smells of bacon and garlic.  As I was about to pull the skillet of goodness out of the oven, my husband arrived home from work and immediately exclaimed, "That smells GOOD!"

That first bite?  Wildly delicious beyond imagination.  3 ingredients - so simple yet oh so packed with flavor!  Easily a staple dish for any gatherings. 

Head on over to Insatiably Epicurious for many many other delicious recipes that have been tried and true

Skillet Roasted Bacon Garlic Yukons
Recipe courtesy of Insatiably Epicurious

Special Equipment:
1lb yukons- peeled and quartered
4 slices thick cut hickory smoked bacon- sliced
4 cloves garlic- smashed
½ tsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
  1. Place skillet in oven and preheat at 400 degrees.
  2. Set a medium pot of water to boil. Add about a tsp of kosher salt into the water.
  3. Once water comes to a boil, add potatoes. Loosely cover and boil for about 5min. Drain in colander and set aside.
  4. Once oven is preheated, add bacon into skillet. Close oven door and let cook until translucent, for about 3-5min.
  5. Carefully pour out bacon grease into a small bowl. Set aside the bacon in a separate bowl.
  6. Place potatoes into skillet and toss with sugar, 1 tsp salt, fresh ground pepper, and 2 tbsp of bacon grease. Toss thoroughly. Tuck in smashed garlic in various parts of skillet in between pieces of potato. Spread bacon evenly throughout skillet.
  7. Place skillet in oven and roast for about 15min. Remove and flip over pieces of potato so that you get it crispy on both sides. Place back into oven and roast for another 10min or until golden.
  8. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Review: Maybelline Color Tattoo 24 Hr Cream Gel Shadow

Left to Right, Top to Bottom:
Painted Purple, Edgy Emerald
Electric Blue, Inked in Pink

While at Ulta recently, I decided to give drugstore makeup a try.  I had heard good things about Maybelline Color Tattoo 24 Hr Cream Gel Shadow, which Maybelline advertises as a cream gel eye shadow.  These little pots remind me of MAC paint pots based on the packaging and the creamy consistency.  Wear alone as eyeshadow or use as an eyeshadow base.  At $6.99 each at Ulta with a Buy 1, get 1 at 50% off, I couldn't resist and grabbed four to experiment.  Since Emerald is the IT color right now, I HAD to select it as one of the colors.  Into my shopping basket then home with me four of them went!

Left to Right: 
Painted Purple, Edgy Emerald, Electric Blue, Inked in Pink

At home, I was so eager to see how they'd swatch that I didn't mind swatching them in my bathroom under poor lighting conditions because you truly see how marvelous the color pay off is!  I can't pick a favorite from these four because they each swatched beautifully.  The Inked in Pink is the most frosted/shimmery out of these four and is absolutely beautiful to wear during the summer.  Anyway, they swatched beautifully, but would they last as advertised and apply on the eyes as pretty?  Let's take a look:

Here, I applied the Electric Blue onto my bare eye lids with my fingers.  I then used the Real Techniques Shading Brush to blend out the edges (synthetic brushes are better for blending when dealing with cream products such as this).  Pretty fabulous color pay off!  However, I decided to then convert the cream gel eye shadow into a base by applying a blue eyeshadow over it.  Enter MAC's Limited Edition Chen Man Love Cycle duo eye shadow.  I used the darker blue eye shadow from this duo:

And the application....

It made the eyeshadow pop even more!  In terms of color pay off and pigmentation, this product delivered on its promise.  So how did it perform with its promise of 24 hour longevity?  I applied this early in the morning during my usual makeup routine.  I went about my day running errands and doing makeup for a client.  When it was time to remove my makeup to go to bed, the eyeshadow color stayed and there was no creasing.  SCORE!

The Buy 1 get the 2nd at 50% off promotion is still going on at Ulta. 

Verdict: Buy! Buy! Buy!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Understanding the Color Wheel and Makeup

I don't have a background in graphic design or anything in the art field.  In fact, if you ask me to draw something, even my stick figures will look pitiful.  However, when you delve into the world of makeup, a basic understanding of the color wheel is necessary.  After all, makeup doesn't just involve brush technique and skin care, it's about mixing colors onto a human canvas.

I'm going to assume everyone knows that the three primary colors are Red, Yellow, and Blue.  On the color wheel, colors opposite from one another are complementary colors.  For example, the complementary color to yellow is violet.  Yellow and violet will pair very well together since they are...complementary.

In my previous blog post, I had a few people ask me if Alma had used contacts after her makeup was complete.  The answer is no.  The reason why her eyes stand out so much is because of the pairing of purple with her eyes.  Her brown eyes have specks of yellow in them.  Thus, the purple eyeshadow complemented her eyes, making them stand out.

When choosing which eye shadow colors to pair, looking at the color wheel to play with complementary colors is a great start.  However, feel free to stick to colors that match your eye color as well.

Now how does this relate to the application of products to your face?  Not all of us are blessed with beautiful picture perfect skin like Hollywood actresses.  We wake up with dark circles under our eyes; we suffer from acne; we have a natural red flush; we get skin discoloration; etc.  All of these "skin problems" gave rise to colored concealers.  These colored concealers will neutralize your skin and or blemishes depending on the color of the skin problem.  Rule of thumb: USE THE COMPLEMENTARY COLOR of the color of your skin problem.

  • Green concealer = neutralizes red skin and or blemishes (green is opposite of red on the color wheel)
  • Blue concealer = neutralizes orange-y skin from fake tans (blue is opposite of orange on the color wheel)
  • Purple concealer = neutralizes yellow tones (purple is opposite of orange on the color wheel...see a pattern?)
  • Yellow concealer = neutralizes pink undertones (yellow is opposite of purple and blue and close to red).  If you have a bruise (purple and blue!), a yellow concealer is great to help cover it up.  Blue and purple under eye circle?  Pop on a yellow concealer to neutralize the raccoon look.
  • Pink concealer = neutralizes green veins.

    After you apply the colored concealer to neutralize your skin problem, you can then proceed with your usual concealer that matches your skin. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Makeup for Alma

"I want purple eyes and nude lips."

And her wish was my command!  I had tons of fun doing Alma's makeup for a black tie event.  It is AWESOME when a client gives me no limit as to how she wants her makeup done.  I went smokey on the eyeshadow and winged out her eyeliner.  The effect?  Well, you be the judge.

Make Up For Ever Face Primer
Make Up For Ever Face and Body Foundation
Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer

Urban Decay Eye Primer
Sigma Paris Palette - Elysees
MAC eye shadow - Satellite Dreams
MAC eye shadow - Carbon
MAC eye shadow - Beauty Marked
MAC eye shadow - Pink Freeze
MAC eye shadow - Mylar
MAC eye shadow - Parfait Armour
Urban Decay Naked Palette - Half Baked

Make Up For Ever - Aqua Brows #25

Benefit Hoopla
Sigma Paris Palette - Peche

MAC lipliner in Barely Nude
MAC lip stick in Pink Plaid
MAC lip gloss in Kiss Me Softly

Friday, March 1, 2013

Ulta Sale - Real Technique Brushes

Visit Ulta if you are interested in buying my favorite face brushes (UK Makeup Artist Samantha Chapman's Real Technique Brushes) at the moment.  They're having their Buy 1 Get 1 50% off sale again!

Check out my review of her brushes HERE

Celebrity Makeup Artist Beau Nelson shot a photo of the brushes he used to get Kristen Stewart ready for the Academy Awards...among them, a Real Techniques Brush.  See below

Check back here soon for my recent makeup haul: Chanel, Urban Decay, Smashbox, and Maybelline galore!

Heureux d'achats mes amis!  Happy shopping!