Author: 0d3s5a

My Sephora Haul

My Sephora Haul

I am a self-proclaimed junkie, and my drug of choice is make-up. And clothes. But let’s talk about make-up. A trip to the US would not be complete without making several treks to Sephora. Sephora for me is like Toys’ R Us for my sons and Best Buy for the hubby. I could, for the life of me, stay there all day long. Take my dollars, already! But, being the budget savvy mom that I am (hope you’re reading this, hubbs!), these are what came home with me during my visits to the beauty mecca of the US of A. I tried to limit my purchases to those that are either not available here. There are lots more on my wishlist, but that’s for the next trip.

Disclaimer: descriptions taken from sephora.com.

 

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ForeoLUNA™ 2 for Oily Skin – “A revolutionary, sonic-powered, silicone facial-cleansing brush that deep cleans and delivers a powerful anti-aging treatment for brighter, firmer, more youthful-looking skin.” I love facial brushes. I’ve been using the Clarisonic for more than 5 years now. I’ve decided to give the Foreo brush a try. Several things I like about it is that I don’t have to replace brush heads, like the Clarisonic. And it has an anti-aging surface you can apply to the face. Third, they have especially designed bristles for each skin type. This is for oily skin.

 

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Eyeliner in Dark Brown – a perennial favorite among make-up artists and editors in the United States. It’s an “easy-application, waterproof liquid liner that stays on all day and night.” I hope so.

 

Stila Eyeshadow in Kitten, a shimmering nude pink – “award-winning eye shadow in a refillable compact.”  Almost always not in stock at most stores. Great for base and for applying all over the lid.

 

 

Nars The Multiple in Orgasm – “cream-to-powder multipurpose stick for the eyes, cheeks, lips, and body. ” I’ve been using the powder blush ever since I can remember so I’ve decided to use the stick time. It eliminates the use of a brush, and I can use it on the go, which I usually am.

 

Milk Makeup Lip + Cheek in Quickie (a berry shade) – like the Multiple, this is also a  multi-use lip and cheek color stick.” I love make-up, but I’m not a fan of the long process. For everyday, I just swipe this on my cheeks and lips and I’m good to go. A little color on the cheeks and lips (plus mascara) brightens up the face. This looks just like the face natural flush.

 

Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey – a sheer lipstick that “fuses with the natural tone of your lips”. In other words, it enhances the color of the lips Perfect for all skin tones. Buildable, too. I had this lipstick 15 years ago and it’s as good as I remember. Not available in the Philippines.

 

Burt Bees Lip Shimmer in Cherry  – I love Burt’s Bees lip balms! I alternate between the tinted lip balm in Rose and this one. Hydrates the lips and gives just the right amount of color. This one I bought at a local Walgreen’s.

 

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment with SPF 15 in Petal (bold pink blossom tint) – “bestselling, cult-favorite lip treatment with SPF 15 that moisturizes, protects, and smooths the lips in clear and sheer or buildable color.” Okay. 

 

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment with SPF 15 in Ruby, a shimmery rouge tint. How much do I love Fresh? Let me count the ways. I love that it uses natural ingredients. It hydrates and moisturizes the lips, not drying like some lipsticks are. And it is one of the few that offers sun protection for the lips. What I don’t like? The $24 price tag.

 

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tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in Paaarty and Natural Beauty – ” long-wearing, solar-baked blush that lasts up to 12 hours.” And tarteist Lip Birthday Suit. Like Fresh, taste also uses natural ingredients and free of chemicals like parabens, etc. It does stay on for a long time, but not necessarily 12 hours.

 

Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb “This floral explosion releases a profusion of flowers that has the power to make everything seem more positive. Magically evocative notes immediately awaken your deepest senses, giving you the impression of living life in your own secret garden, away from reality. Sambac jasmine, centifolia rose, cattleya orchid, and ballerina freesia bloom on a base of patchouli.
Notes:
Sambac Jasmine, Centifolia Rose, Cattleya Orchid, Ballerina Freesia, Patchouli.
Style:
Oriental. Gourmand. Floral.
This product is an Allure Best of Beauty award winner and an Allure Reader’s Choice award winner.” – I usually prefer citrus to floral, but I’ve been reading good reviews about this scent and it is always in Sephora’s top seller list. Glad I bought this as I am loving it.

 

 

Kiehl’s Deodorant – I think I’ve mentioned in my previous beauty post that I have really sensitive skin. And that includes my armpits. So far, this deodorant works best for me. I alternate it with an antibiotic cream. Cause we all know what causes odor, right? Bacteria. $19.50 + tax in the US, compared to P1800 here at Kiehl’s store, not Sephora.

 

 

 

The Barn by Tipsy Pig

UP Town Center is fast becoming a food lover’s  favorite destination. A lot of really good restaurants have long been serving customers here, like Mama Lou’s, Cafe Shibuya, Mad Mark’s, Backyard Kitchen, Casa Verde, Dulcelin, Silantro, Genki Sushi, and a lot more.
One such establishment that recently opened is The Barn by Tipsy Pig. Originally located in Capital Commons in Pasig, they opened their door in Katipunan November last year. They mostly serve Filipino food, with some pizza and pasta in the mix. The Barn drafts their own beer, and it goes without saying that they serve good “pulutan” to go with that beer.

 

Signature Burger – very juicy and the meat is cooked just right

 

 

Not your typical kare-kare, this one is made with crispy fried liempo underneath the steamed vegetables

 

 

 

My favorite – their version of pares made from premium beef, with garlic rice, of course!
Sebastian dip – spinach + crab meat + cheese = FTW
Nachos – pack a flavor and good enough for 4-5 persons
Sebastian’s salad – greens with candied walnuts and balsamic dressing, my kind of salad
Their signature dish, sisig tacos. So good one order is not enough
One of their house-brewed beer, Salted Caramel

 

 

 

Since it opened, The Barn by Tipsy Pig has been a regular hangout for us Katipunan moms, not only for the good food, but great ambiance and service.

 

Hair Horror Story

Let me tell you story that happened not so long ago. A year ago, to be exact. Now I can finally write about it. Who would have thought that something as trivial as hair could cause me so much stress.

I’ll begin my story by giving a background on my hair habits. I’m not much of a hair person. I rarely go to the salon to have my hair done, 3-4 times a year, tops. And I would only go it it’s nearing a special occasion, like my birthday or Christmas, or going on a trip, or my sons’ graduation. To be honest, I get bored sitting in a salon while others milled around me.

The last hair appointment I had prior to this last disaster was March 2015 in time for my son’s high school graduation. It helped too that the salon, which we shall call T & G, had an ongoing 20% discount on colors and treatment. That session went well, and I liked how my haircut and color turned out. I’ve beenn having my hair dyed ombré since 2012 because it’s pretty much low-maintenance, I don’t need to dye my roots every so often.

Then in October 2015, the same salon had another promo, 15% off for color. And I thought, just in time for Christmas and our annual family holiday. So I booked an appointment at a T & G salon near our place in Quezon City. It was a different branch from where I had my last appointment. Even with the discount, it was not cheap, so I expected good service. It’s a given that immediately after a haircut and color, one has exceptionally beautiful looking hair. It’s the days after that, that counts. Less than a week after, I chanced upon a three-way mirror and I noticed that one side of my hair was lighter that the other side. I had my son take pictures of the back of my head. Sure enough, the left side of my hair was lighter than the right.

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I immediately booked an appointment with the salon and came back the following week. When I told them the problem, the color technician said it was just the gloss – like the dye they apply all over the hair after the ombré. So they dyed my hair a second time. Still, I keep noticing something is still not right. A week after, I went back to the salon to have my hair treatment, which I paid for. After the treatment, I said to the technician, I think there’s still something wrong with my hair. I asked them to take a picture. And this is what came out.

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The left side versus the right. I will leave it up to you to decide. And then the next day when I shampooed my hair…

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This! My hair looked like a walis tambo! It was frizzy all over. My hair was so over-processed it looked like it was fried. You know, like that fried pasta appetizer they serve at Torch. Arghhh!!! It was so infuriating, knowing you spend a not insignificant amount of cash and you get this. Of course I called them up and told them about my problem. In fairness to them, when they saw the state if my tresses, they offered to color it again, and added a keratin treatment. But I had to wait a couple of weeks since it was recently colored, twice. So everyday, for the next couple of weeks, I would take a shower, look in the mirror, comb my hair and be really, really pissed. I had to tie my hair all the time, lest I looked like a witch, with a broom for my hair. I did not really think it would be that stressful, but it was.

So I came back to the salon for the corrective color and the keratin treatment. Here’s a side by side photo of my hair before that ill-advised salon appointment, and after.

I hated my hair. Seriously.  This hair experience was truly traumatizing. I was afraid to go to the salon again.

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Then in May, right before my birthday, I decided to treat myself and have my hair done again. This time at Juro Salon in BGC. I used to have my hair done at that salon when they were located in QC. I’ve been hearing great things about them and I decided to bite the bullet.

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Do you see my before photo? I didn’t realize it was still that bad even after several months until Jude took a photo. The bottom, obviously is my after photo. With me are Jude and Rose Hipolito, owners of Juro Salon Exclusif. But we all know that the true test of a good haircut is second and third day hair, right?

Tadaaa! My hair the next day. I felt so light and happy after, truly. It felt so liberating that I wouldn’t have to add my hair problems (though trivial) to other concerns that I have.

So. What’s my take-away from this? Don’t trust your hair to just anybody. And when you’re not happy with a service, let them know and ask them nicely to do something about it. And now I know what it means when we say hair is our crowning glory.

My Top Shelf Part 2

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Perfumes

I like my perfumes light and citrus-y. I don’t like heavy and musky scents at all. Ever since my first pregnancy 17 years ago, perfumes give me a headache. My favorite scent is Bond No. 9’s Scent of Peace and I use it only for special occasions. I like L Éclat D ‘Arpage by Lanvin. It is very light and perfect for everyday. Jo Malone’s Nectarine Blossom and Honey is a nice daytime scent, too. JM’s Lime Basil and Mandarin and Serge Luten’s Five O ‘Clock Gigembre is a little on the heavy side and I only use it at night. I make sure to have my menthol stick handy because, as I’ve said, I get dizzy with heavy perfumes.

Hair Products

I have fine wavy hair, well I used to. That was before I had this really awful experience where a salon over processed my hair. Now I have frizzy wavy/curly hair. I apply argan oil to my wet, after shower hair everyday. I use Beaver or Kérastase. Sometimes I use Macadamia Healing Spray, but the scent gives me a headache, too. Bed Head TIGI’s On the Rebound gives my wavy hair a nice curl that stays. For volume and beachy waves, I use Tony & Guy Casual Sea Salt Spray or Lush’s Sea Spray Hair Mist. The Lush spray smells really good, like perfume for the hair. Both provide a nice hold. For styling, Kiehl’s Creme With Silk Groom is a cult favorite. Also works for men’s hair, as my husband uses it, too.

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Make-up

I love make-up. I really do. People who know me would be surprised to learn this as I hardly wear any. Because, one, it’s time consuming to put one and to take off, and two, my skin gets irritated if I wear it too often. Full-on face paint – powder, eyeshadow, liners, blush, bronzer, lipstick – I only wear on special occasions, like birthdays and special dinners.  What I know about make-up, I learned from the internet. Instyle Magazine has a yearly Best Beauty Buys list that I swear buy and where I found most of the products I have here. And these has been tested to be okay for sensitive (pain-in-the-***) skin like mine.

Face (L-R)

Nars Bronzer in Laguna, Nars Blush in Orgasm, Benefit Hello Flawless Face Powder in Champagne, Stila Convertible Blush in Poppy, Benefit High Beam Highliter, Benetint Lip and Cheek Tint, Clinique Chubby Stick (for cheeks) in Apple, Benefit Porefessional Pore Refiner, and Benefit Some Kinda Gorgeous Foundation.

Eyes

Naked 2 Eye Shadow Pallete by Urban Decay, Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler, Billion Dollar Babes Eyebrow Pencil, Smashbox Always Sharp Eyeliner, K-Palette Eyebrow Liner and Powder, K-Palette Eyeliner (bought in Japan for P450, as opposed to P790 here), Benefit They’re Real Eyeliner, Benefit They’re Real Mascara, Benefit Roller Lash, Benefit Gimme Brows.

Lips

Nars Lipstick in Niagara, Honolulu Honey, Dolce Vita, and Schiap. MAC Diva, Lady Danger, Morange, and Ruby Woo. Nars in Dragon Girl, various lip balms by Burt’s Bees, Benefit Lipgloss, Lancome Juicy Tube, Nuxe Lipbalm, and MAC Lipliner in Spice.

 

I don’t really like a well-made up face. For me, a tinted lip balm and a cheek tint does the trick. And maybe a swipe of mascara. What’s important is we take care of our skin first. But most of all, do away with stress and always be happy. That’s the best make-up there is!

 

 

Hey Oscar!

Yes, yes, Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar after 25 years of being an actor and 6 nominations. Twitter was ablaze, even beating Ellen’s 2014 epic Oscar selfie. But I’ll be honest, I eagerly wait for and watch the Oscars to see what everyone is wearing. I am in no means an expert, but these are a few of my favourites from Hollywood’s biggest night.

Cate-Blanchett
Cate Blanchett in Armani Prive. Best dressed for me. No boring gowns for Queen Cate. She likes to take risks and it almost always pay off.

 

Saoirse-Ronan
Saoirse (like inertia) Ronan in custom Calvin Klein by Francisco Costa. Not a fan of the sideboob, though.
Naomi-Watts
Naomi Watts has been very consistent every year. This year is no different in Armani Prive. 
Diane-Kruger
Like Cate, Diana Kruger is also a risk-taker. Here in Reem Acra
Charlize-Theron
I adore JLaw, but Charlize seems to be a better ambassador for Dior
Elizabeth-Banks
Gwyneth wore it first in 2012, and this cape gown by Ralph and Russo Elizabeth Banks wore is also a hit for me.
Nina-Dobrev
Nina Dobrev in a sweet, dusky gown by Elie Saab
Emily-Blunt
To me Emily Blunt in Prada was the best dressed preggo of the night (vs Christy Teigen and Anne Hathaway)
Jennifer-Garner
Jennifer Garner serving out the best revenge in custom Atelier Versace
Rachel-McAdams
Rachel McAdams in a simple August Getty Atelier gown

 

Julianne-Moore
Julianne Moore in Chanel. I think I like this better than her winning gown (also custom Chanel) from last year
Lady-Gaga
One of the 5 Brandon Maxell gowns custom-made for Lady Gaga
Kate-Bosworth
Kate Bosworth also in Ralph and Russo. I heart the neckline.
Charlotte-Rampling
The details of this Armani dress on Charlotte Rampling…

I was a little bit disappointed in Brie Larson and Alice Vikander’s gown. I was hoping to be blown away since this was their night, but their gowns were just okay for me.

 

Until next year’s Oscar!

 

My Top Shelf

As you know, we here at Sari-Sari  Stories are a group of Gen Xers into our late 30s. At this age, it is very important that we take good care of our skin. Let me start by saying I have really bad, sensitive skin. I breakout at the tiniest provocation, which can be a real pain. My own sweat makes me breakout. It has been a trial and error for most products over the years. Shampoos make me breakout in my forehead and temples, while body wash and soaps, on my back. I have to be careful especially with face wash as I get a bad reaction all over my face. I discovered and realized that simple products works best for me, meaning those with less chemicals and fragrance, and “natural”.

For my hair, I alternate between different shampoos. I read somewhere that shampoos work better if you use them in rotation. I alternate between Zen Nutrients Gugo Shampoo and Conditioner, Marc Anthony Oil of Morroco, which is sulfate free and best for color treated hair, Herbal Essenses Naked, Macadamia Cleansing Conditioner, and Kerastase. Once a week I use a clarifying shampoo by Neutrogena to remove product build-up. And Nizoral every 4 days for dandruff prevention. I recently had issues with a salon that over-processed my hair so I have to use Bed Head TIGI Resurrection to “resurrect” my damaged locks. I use it with a sulfate and fragrance free shampoo by Snoe.


For the body, I also like to alternate between body washes. Fragrance is not an issue for me here so I go with what smells good for me. For everyday, I use Dove body wash and bar soap. I just finished my Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Wash. I also like the smell of Bath and Body Works Olive Showe Gel (buy Body Shop products when on sale, they have great deals!) I like to use the corresponding lotion to layer the fragrances. I especially like L’occitane’s Verveine body wash and lotion and try to save it for special occasions.

Have I mentioned that I have sensitive skin? My underarms get irritated with deodorant so I have to be careful with them and can’t use them everyday. I switch from Dove and Nature’s Gate. In between days, I apply an antibiotic cream (I got this from my dermatologist) to my pits in place of deodorant to counteract offensive smells, lol.

As for my face, I have oily skin. That, large pores make a terrible combination. It seemed like acne was waiting for me all my life and couldn’t wait to meet me once I hit puberty. Acne has always been a problem for me. I thought I overcame it when I reached my 20s but alas, our love affair did not end there. I was plagued by adult on-set acne when I was at my late 20s partly due to stress and hormones. Recently, I had to take birth control pills to control hormones that causes acne. I’ve been to a lot of dermatologists, and I realise it’s a matter of being “hiyang.” Same goes for facial products. I’ve tried and tested a lot, and these have been pretty good to me, meaning no breakouts or allergies. I’ve been using the Clarisonic Mia brush for several years now. I use it only at night with Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash. I feel like my face is not as clean if I don’t use it. The Neutrogena contains salicylic which is good for acne-prone skin, specifically for blackheads and whiteheads. But if too much it causes drying (which is not good for oily skin as it makes it produce more oil) so I use Cetaphil Oil Control Foam Wash in the mornings. I use Cerave or Cetaphil Facial Wash for Normal to Oily skin to remove make-up. Once I week I use Cure to exfoliate. The Aztec Secret I recently bought, it has over a thousand positive reviews on amazon.com and I have yet to try.

Now for skin care. I did say I have problem skin, right? I regularly go to a dermatologist, otherwise I will regret it later. Most of the products I use I got from the doctor. I go to Dr. Sylvia Huang in Greenhills and, upon Bobbie’s recommendation, the Aivee Clinic in Megamall. I rarely buy OTC products because I almost always breakout. I swear, it’s a pain. After washing, I use a pore-minimizing toner by Dr. Huang, followed by a clindamycin solution for ance. If I have a pimple I use a spot treatment like Duac. In the daytime I apply AHA lotion by the Aivee Clinic, followed by Cetaphil Oil Control Moisturizer with SPF 30. Even though I have oily skin, I still use moisturiser, because like I said, dryness is not good, too. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of suncreen. I’ve been using it since my early 20s. KT, on the other hand, has been applying sunblock since college! At night, after applying toner and clindamycin, I put on SK II. This was my recent purchase from Haneda airport (cheaper there). And immediately I noticed an improvement on my skin. So far, so good! Up until recently, I’ve been using Clarins Double Serum, White Plus Serum, and Shaping Facial Lift. I had  really high hopes for the Double Serum as it has received multiple beauty awards and received good consumer reviews. I had used up three-quarters of the bottle when I noticed my skin breaking out so I had to stop altogether with the Clarins, too bad. I also apply a bleaching cream by Dr. Aivee for acne scars and brown spots.

 

To be continued…

 

 

Tokyo Holiday ’16 (Part 2)

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Mama and Papa with all 10 grandchildren

We started our Tokyo adventure with a city. Our first stop was at the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, which was per usual teeming with tourists. The weather was pretty cold, about 8C so we made sure to bundle up. The nice thing about having a private tour is that you can take your time. Sometimes group tours can really be stressful, especially if you have small kids in tow, like we do. Group tours mean you have to keep pace with everybody, and some actually mind having children on board. So we pretty much took our time, took a lot of pictures, and went back to the shuttle when we were ready. By the time we were done, it was almost lunch.

 

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Gonpachi in Roponggi that inspired a set in the movie Kill Bill

Since we were a big group, we asked our guide Yosuke to make reservations for us at Gonpachi in Roponggi, also known as the Kill Bill restaurant. I always wanted to see this particular restaurant since the first time we went to Tokyo in 2013. Unfortunately, the Gonpachi we went to then was in Shibuya. Gonpachi mostly caters to tourists, so it’s menu is a bit diverse and international. Nonetheless, food is very good and not terribly expensive. If you want to see the Kill Bill set, make sure to go to the one in Roponggi, as they have other branches in the city.

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A Tokyo City Tour would not be complete without a visit to Hachiko in the busiest crossing in the world, Shibuya.

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Hachiko
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Shibuya Crossing

Our tour ended in Omotesondo, where of course we had to go to Kiddie Land. But be warned, items in Kiddie Land are overpriced. You can easily find toys cheaper elsewhere, like in Yodobashi or Donki. Personally, I love Omotesando! The streets are lined with trees and are so very pretty. The shops here are concentrated, unlike in Ginza where the shops and restaurants are too far apart. Last summer when we stayed in Ginza and Omotesando was one stop away, we would go there almost everyday. Omotesando and the surrounding areas just be my favorite in all of Tokyo. At the other end of Omotesando where you can find the Meji Shrine. And Harajuku where the ultra hip Takeshita Street is located.

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Star Wars Mania in Kiddie Land

While the rest of our family opted to go home, my boys and I decided to be left behind in Omotesando to, what else, but eat! Japanese food in itself deserves a separate post altogether, methinks! So I will go into that later.

The next day was Mt. Fuji day. It was about and hour and a half drive via private shuttle, a little more if you take a group tour. My family have been to Mt. Fuji before the first time we went to Japan in 2013. And let me tell you, no matter how many times I see it, my amazement and wonder at God’s wonderful creation and goodness does not diminish one bit. I was surprised that I still got really excited when I got a glimpse, just like I did the first time.

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As bad luck would have it, me and the kids got sick the next day and opted to stay in bed. Another tip, before going on a trip, go to the doctor first and have a check-up. Which I did with my boys. I was armed with medicines and vitamins. Sadly, it was not enough. The day was spent sleeping and resting. It was the worst time to get sick. While we were recuperating, the rest of the group went to Kawamura, an hour’s ride from Tokyo. This is where you can see Kotoku-in Temple’s Great Buddha.

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Our fifth day was spent at the Premium Outlets located in Gotemba. I made sure we were rested enough so we can go. It is quite near Mt. Fuji, and many tours offer Mt. Fuji in the morning and Gotemba outlets in the afternoon. We opted to spend the whole day in the outlets because we are talking about shopping here, lol, and we don’t want to rush. Unfortunately, the day we went, December 31, happened to be a holiday and there were tons of people around. The outlet there is the same Premium Outlet brand that has locations all over the United States. It is heaven for bargain shoppers like me.

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Mt. Fuji saying hi in Gotemba Premium Outlets

It is fairly easy to go to Gotemba via public transportation. I suggest taking the shuttle at the Shinjuku Sation New South Exit. The last one leaves at 9am. You can also take the Shinkansen, but there are a lot of stops, take double the time, and very expensive. Likewise, a shuttle also leaves Gotemba and takes you back to Tokyo Station in the afternoon.

New Year in Tokyo was pretty quiet. There were no revelry or fireworks. Honestly, it was a little sad. I remember, more than 10 years ago, New Year in Hong Kong used to be quiet, too. I had to take my son to the hospital (indigestion, too much pork suckling) at midnight and there were no people in sight. I heard, later on, that there was countdown near Tokyo Tower, so maybe we should’ve gone there. Nothing really compares to celebrating New Year the Filipino way.

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The highlight of this trip especially for the kids was hands-down the trip to Gala Yukawa, a ski resort 75 minutes from Tokyo via Shinkansen. We bought a Tokyo Wide Pass, an unlimited 3-day JR Pass you can use to go around Tokyo and it’s surrounding areas. It costs Y10,000/person and Y5,000/child. This is not similar to the JR Pass that take you all over Japan and you can only buy outside of Japan. You can get the Tokyo Wide Pass at the JR Tourist Center in the New South Exit.

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Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort

It was absolutely beautiful. The view was breathtaking. There was powder white snow all over. It was the first time for us to experience snow. We feel so blessed and thankful to be there.

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Achi and mommy sledding 
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Kuya and Diko hitting the slopes

Japan is our favourite place in the world. We’ve been a couple times but I feel like there’s so much more to explore. The food is extraordinary, the people the kindest and most helpful. Can’t wait to go back!

Tokyo Holiday ’16 (Part 1)

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Santos Family in Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa

It has been a tradition for our family to celebrate and spend the New Year (not CNY, as this post has long been overdue, and we’re not Chinese) holiday with my husband’s family out of the country, particularly Hong Kong. We started with just ten people then. Now, our family is composed of 20 people, 10 grandkids and 10 adults. For this year, to coincide with my FIL’s 70th birthday, we went to Tokyo, Japan to celebrate.

Before, it was fairly easy to go around, we just used public transportation. But since this time we are far too many, and with small kids to boot, we had to hire a private service. Though we’ve all been to Tokyo before separately, this was the first time for all 20 of us to travel together so we wanted to go to the usual tourist spots as a group.

We hired Mr. Yosuke Yokokura of discover-japan-tours.com as our guide/driver.  Among the three companies that provided private tours that we inquired at (one of which was owned by a Filipino), he had the best rates for tours and airport transfers. He was also the most prompt in answering e-mails (which I take as a good sign). Mr. Yokokura is very fluent in English so communication is not a problem. He was very nice and accommodating. I highly recommend him when in need of private service in Tokyo.

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With the highly recommended Yosuke Yokokura of discover-japan-tours.com

Our party of 20 stayed at Hilton Tokyo located in Shinjuku. It was about a 20-minute walk to Shinjuku Station, 5 minutes via the free shuttle service. The rooms are quite spacious compared to typical Japanese hotel rooms. It was relatively quiet, with no malls or restaurants nearby. The nearest Family Mart is about a 5-minute walk. If you want any action, you have to take the shuttle bus to Shinkuju Station. The breakfast buffet was not that impressive, in my opinion. They serve the same food Every. Single. Day. The hotel restaurants are very expensive, Michelin-starred (they they are not) expensive. I suggest eating elsewhere, Tokyo doesn’t lack for good, inexpensive food. Checkout was a breeze though. They send a form to your room on your last day, just fill it out, and leave it at the reception. And as expected, Japanese service was top-notch, the best in the world.

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Hilton Lobby

 

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Spacious rooms at the Hilton

 

A tip when going to Japan (or Hong Kong) in the winter – buy winter clothes when you get there. The moment we arrived, I hauled myself to Uniqlo to buy Heattech thermal and winter coats. They are so much cheaper there compared to here. Case in point, a woman’s thermal top cost P990 here, Y1290 on sale (P520) there. For our family of 5, I spent a total of Y50,000 (around P20,000) for 4 winter parkas, 10 thermal tops and bottoms, 5 knitted caps, and 5 gloves.  The savings was well worth freezing for a couple hours, if you ask me. Most, if not all of the shops are on sale by the end of December anyway. Better yet, take a trip immediately to the outlet shops in Gotemba, where there’s Columbia and North Face to get extra savings.

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All bundled up at the Hilton lobby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hooked on Hallyu

My name is Odessa and I’m a K-Drama addict. There, I’ve said it and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m hooked on Hallyu.

Hallyu or the Korean Wave is Korea’s greatest import. Korean dramas and Korean pop (K-pop) gained popularity in the 90’s and has spread not only in Asia but in Latin America and United States as well.

In the Philippines, “Koreanovela” was first broadcast in 2003. Local networks have been constantly airing them ever since. According to Wikipedia, the first Koreanovela aired here was “Bright Girl.” And I remember I used to watched it then. But my fascination with K-Drama didn’t start there. It actually began when I read an article at refinery29.com more a year ago about “Coffee Prince.” Since then, I have been addicted.

One of the many reasons why I liked K-dramas is because of its format. They have a pre-determined number of episodes, usually 16. A couple of episodes are added depending on the show’s popularity. Meaning, the storyline has a definite end and it doesn’t drag on forever. It’s just like watching a really long movie.

Korean dramas are also diverse. They deal with a lot of topics. There are historical dramas, medical dramas, crime, television production, cooking, horror, comedy, and of course, romance. I noticed that they are well-researched, especially the medical and historical, ones. Plot and story lines are generally very complex, not usually straight forward. Some dramas feature a lot of prologues and epilogues to explain these storylines. Admittedly, many plots involves a chaebol (rich heir) falling for a poor girl. Sometimes, it’s just cringingly cheesy, but often times it’s much more than it seems, and the poor girl can kick some serious behind. And I really like dramas with a strong female character who doesn’t need a leading man.

That is not to say there aren’t bad dramas. Believe me, there are. There are shows that I’ve thought were a complete waste of my time. I wondered why I bothered watching past episode 4.

Here are a few of my favourite K-Dramas. Almost all of them are light, comedic-dramas and romance. I prefer not getting depressed over tragic endings. I’d take getting giddy and happy every time. I’m shallow like that.

*Descriptions taken from Dramago website.

Secret Garden 313

Drama Titles:

Sikeurit Gadeun, 시크릿 가든

Description:

The drama tells the story of Kim Joo Won (Hyun Bin), an arrogant and eccentric CEO who maintains the image of seeming perfection, and Gil Ra Im (Ha Ji Won), a poor and humble stuntwoman whose beauty and body are the object of envy amongst top actresses. Their accidental meeting, when Joo Won mistakes Ra Im for actress Park Chae Rin, marks the beginning of a tense, bickering relationship, through which Joo Won tries to hide a growing attraction to Ra Im that both confuses and disturbs him. To complicate matters further, a strange sequence of events results in them swapping bodies.
I have to say that this one os my favourite. Primarily because the female lead character is one tough chick. Damsel in distress, she is not. There is a fantastical twist, but if you can get over that, this one’s really good, worth watching over again.

Healer 4933

Drama Titles:

Hilleo, 힐러

Description:

A mysterious messenger of the 22nd century, an online newspaper reporter who only concerns her own interests, a popular reporter who agonizes over the truth and reality. When these three people meet, a passionate romance starts and the truths from the past and present reveal themselves to the world. This drama features young people and how they grow into real reporters.
It’s about an annoyingly persistent female reporter who like to get her way, and a shady guy who falls in love with her.

My Love From Another Star 3670

Drama Titles:

My Love From the Star, My Lover From The Stars, You Came From the Stars, 별에서 온 그대/Byeoleseo On Geudae

Description:

Do Min Joon is an alien who lands in the Joseon era, and then lives through the next four hundred years to the present day where he works as university professor and falls in love with a haughty top actress, Chun Song Yi.
The breakout drama of 2014. It would not be fair if I leave this one out.

Fated to Love You (Korean)

4451

Drama Titles:

Woonmyungcheoreom Neol Saranghae

Description:

An ordinary woman happens to spend one night with the successor of a large company. She finds herself being pregnant…..

This one is just so damn cute. And I like the part where the “ordinary woman” makes something of herself.

67Coffee Prince

Drama Titles:

The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince

Description:

The life of Go Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) is not easy; she works many jobs to pay off debts and even gave up her feminine image. Choi Han Kyul (Gong Yoo) is the heir of a big food company, but his grandmother wants him to settle down, so she arranged many dates for him. After Eun Chan bumped into Han Kyul and was mistaken for a boy, Han Kyul decided to hire Eun Chan to be his gay lover in order to avoid the arranged dates. Desperately in need of money, Eun Chan had no choice but to accept. Han Kyul’s grandmother also made Han Kyul in charge of a filthy coffee shop in danger of being bankrupt. Eun Chan begged to work at the coffee shop, and not long after, feelings start to spark, except, how would Han Kyul accept his “homosexuality”?
The drama that started it all for me. Great acting by the female lead, and a very handsome male actor.

5565Oh My Venus

Drama Titles:

O Mai Bineoseu, Oh My Venus 2015, 오 마이 비너스

Description:

Kim Young-Ho (So Ji-Sub) is a personal trainer for Hollywood stars. Even though he comes from a wealthy family background, he suffered a devastating injury during his childhood days. Now, he overcomes his problems with patience and stubbornness. Kang Joo-Eun (Shin Min-A) is 33-years-old lawyer. She has struggled to support her family. Now, Kang Joo-Eun is overweight and not so attractive.
Another Cinderella story, I know. But again, don’t judge the book just yet. The female lead is great, and whatever she puts her mind to it, she can do it, just as she always says. So Ji-sub, the male lead is hot. Like sizzling.

5320My Love, Eun Dong

Drama Titles:

Beloved Eun Dong

Description:

A top star’s love for one woman spanning over 20 years.
Speak of enduring love. This is the kind of love every woman dreams of. That is it.

2855A Gentleman’s Dignity

Description:

A drama about the careers and love lives of urban professionals. It will tell the story of four men in their forties as they go through love, breakup, success and failure. Kim Do Jin, an architect with a scathing tongue have romantic relationship with strict high school teacher Seo Yi Soo, who moonlights as an umpire at amateur baseball games. Im Tae San is dating a cold-hearted woman but wonders if there is someone else out there for him. Choi Yoon tries to heal his heart after losing his wife seven years ago. Lee Jung Rok marries an older woman for money but may lose his comfortable lifestyle in a divorce.
So funny, this one. Each episode has a prologue and an epilogue. The four main actors chemistry is undeniable. It has a lot of LOL scenes, always a good way to pass time.

5665.jpgCheese in the Trap

Drama Titles:

Chijeu In Deo Teuraep, 치즈 인 더 트랩

Description:

Hong Seol and Yoo Jung attend the same college, but they couldn’t be more different. Hong Seol is a poor, unpopular student with no money, while Yoo Jung is rich, well-liked, extremely smart, and popular. Hong Seol just wants to get through her college career quietly, but finds herself getting caught up in whatever Yoo Jung drags her into. Can Hong Seol break away, or will she continue to be the only person who sees Yoo Jung’s true self?
I’m just on the 3rd episode on this one, but I’m really liking it a lot. Complicated characters, especially the male lead. We’ll see how it goes.

3419Running Man

Drama Titles:

none

Description:

Running Man (Korean: 런닝맨) is a South Korean variety show; a part of SBS’s Good Sunday lineup, along with K-pop Star (K팝 스타). It was first aired on July 11, 2010. This show is classified as an “urban action variety”; a never-before-seen new genre of variety shows. The MCs and guests complete missions in a landmark to win the race. It has garnered attention as being the come-back program for Yu Jae-suk, the main MC of the program, after leaving Good Sunday’s Family Outing in February 2010. 

This one is a variety show. As time went on, I got to know Korean stars and they appear on this show. I really find this one funny, really laugh-out-loud funny, like people-looking-at-me-LOL funny. I am amazed by the lengths the production people go through with  different challenges/missions at every episode.

So there. I hope you would enjoy watching Korean Dramas as much as I do!

 

 

 

Pasta Cream Recipes

Here’s a simple pasta recipe anyone can make. It’s our family’s go-to pasta recipe, just 4-5 ingredients. It’s fairly easy to do and just about anybody can cook it. Plus, it’s delicious.

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Truffle Oil Pasta

500 g linguini or any kind of pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine)

1/4 cup (or quarter bar) unsalted butter

1 cup cooking cream

1 tbsp truffle oil

optional 1/4 pork cube

parmesan cheese

Boil hot water and cook pasta al dente. While pasta is cooking, put butter and cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add truffle oil and stir thoroughly. Season with pork cube and salt. While cream is simmering, toss cooked pasta to cream. Transfer to a plate and serve with parmesan cheese and freshly cracked pepper.

Lemon Cream Pasta

For this recipe, just substitute lemons for truffle oil. Add 2-3 tbsp of fresh lemon juice and  grated rind of 4 lemons to boiling butter and cream. No need for pork cubes here. Let simmer for a minute then turn off heat. Stir in the cooked pasta pasta to the cream together with parmesan cheese. Season to taste.

The important thing here is to use good cream like Elle & Vire or President. Otherwise, it wouldn’t taste as good. Make sure pasta is al dente, 8 minutes in boiling water should do it.

Easy peasy.

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