Friday, December 26, 2014

Lights, camera, Christmas!


It's hard to believe Christmas is over! Last year, I shared a picture of the tree (post here), and wanting to keep the tradition alive, here is this year's picture!

In the previous post, I mentioned cooking an Italian meal on Christmas Eve for my family, and I'm happy to say that it turned out to be a huge success! My mother was extremely satisfied, and did not shy away from getting seconds. Seeing loved ones enjoy my cooking is one of the best things ever. I hope you had a beautiful Christmas with your family, friends, pets, and loved ones. Now, onto the festivities for welcoming the new year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This Holiday Season

2 more days until Christmas!

Because we've been in a drought this year, it was nice to have some rain the past few days. I stayed in, and was able to get all my gift wrapping done. In the process, I went crazy with the glue gun, and made all sorts of bows. This DIY bow I found online (here) was one of my rainy day projects. I thought it was a perfect stand-in for a tree topper. I'm not one for a flashy tree, so I liked how the ribbon is simple, yet different. I was going for that shabby & chic look, actually. Now that the tree is complete, the gifts are wrapped, and the house decked out in holiday mode, I'm set for Christmas! Though it's been chaotic and traffic has been inevitable everywhere, I'm really going to miss all the festivities when it passes. Everything is just brighter and livelier! Peppermint bark and sugar cookies won't taste the same during any other time of the year. It makes me only want to savor every seasonal bite, and cherish every fleeting moment this holiday season.

On Christmas Eve, I'm going to be spending a good chunk of the day in the kitchen, as I will be cooking up a storm for my family. I'm excited for how everything is going to come together, since it is the first time I'll be making a proper American meal for my family. Per my mom's request, I will be serving pasta with sausage, green bean and mushroom casserole, garlic bread, and mashed potatoes on the side. What can I say, my mom loves Italian food. As for the presents, we will be opening them when it hits midnight! I can't wait to see the look on my parents' faces when they open their gifts.

I hope this holiday season brings you lots of love and cheer! Sending the warmest wishes to you all and have an amazing NEW YEAR!

 More bows!

What are your plans for the holidays?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

What's on my nightstand?


I don't think I had a proper nightstand before, so it was a nice surprise coming home and seeing the new addition in my bedroom. Because I'm not used to having a table next to my bed, I initially had no idea what to put on it other than the lamp. I really wanted to make good use of the space and give it a fun & personal touch. The holiday season is such a good excuse for me to bring out the fairy lights. Adding to the festive feel are the the snowman plush and reindeer box. The book I have there is one of my favorites, and the paper cranes were given to me by a friend. Also on the nightstand are:

From left to right: 
Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt
Bath & Body Works lotion in Sweet Pea
macaron box from Urban Outfitters
Nivea lip butter
gold bangles
hair tie
reindeer box from Michael's 
snowman plush 

In my drawer, I  have: 
fuzzy socks,
aloe body butter from The Body Shop
a pack of Kleenex 

Props to my dad for putting the pieces together! 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Snowman, sparkles, and gift tags


Remember the bath gels I got from philosophy from my previous post? Here they are, all wrapped and ready to go! Given the lack of wrapping materials I had at school, I'm very happy with how festive they look! I brought the snowman wrapping paper from home, and managed to find red tissue paper to wrap the last box. For ribbons, I used sparkly string/yarn. My favorite part is the gift tags, which I found online and they turned out to be mini DIY project. Because I printed them on thin white paper and were quite flimsy, I improvised and used cut-outs from a random paper tea box for the back. I think the black-and-white design looks lovely with the red wrapping papers, and is very versatile. The template comes with six gift tags, and they are designed by Jasmine Dowling. I wanted to share them with you, because I had a lot of fun putting them together, plus it's an affordable way to add an unique touch to your gifts. You can find the gift tags here
Happy wrapping!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

philosophy.


One of my favorite things about the holiday season is getting presents for my friends and family. It gets me excited just imagining their reactions when they receive them and open them on Christmas day. To me, gift-giving isn't about finding that "perfect gift" or something that's outrageously fancy or expensive. It's about the gesture, and the thought and care that's put into the presents. Guess you can tell I'm a sentimental person there haha. 
I had a lot of fun picking out these philosophy shampoo, shower gel, & bubble bath items because each scent reminded me of a different friend of mine. I purchased them around Thanksgiving when all the sales were happening so I got four bottles for $40, which was quite a steal because they retail at $17 a bottle. I loved their wide range of yummy & festive scents to choose from and the vibrant colors they come in are very fitting for the holidays!

almond glazed, for the friend who loves nuts 

sweet, candied apple, for the friend who embraces her fire side 

pink marshmallow buttercream, for the friend who adores pink and is the sweetest person ever

vanilla jasmine, for the friend who is classy and versatile, like vanilla 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Review: Etude House toner & night cream

This has probably been the longest I've been away from the blogging scene since I first started this space for my thoughts and all things random. I have no excuses, except to say that balancing school with work, and trying to squeeze in a bit of a social life has basically taken up a good chunk of my time. In case you missed my previous post, which was back in early October, you can read all about it here - it's a little catch-up post consisting of the bits and pieces of my time being back in school during the first week. 

Now that we're halfway through November, you have no idea how excited I am for the holiday season! I'm already in the Christmas spirit even though we haven't started with all the Thanksgiving festivities. You might think it's a little early to get out the Christmas lights and such, but personally, it is never too early. (I've already put up fairy lights in my apartment). The holiday season almost always goes by in a blink of an eye. So, why not start early?!

Anyhoo, I've gone completely off topic and let me just dive right into the review here:


For the price, this all-in-one toner comes in a very generous size. It has a refreshing and light scent, which makes the skin feel incredibly clean after each use. It's gentle, absorbs easily, and does not irritate my skin. It claims to minimize the look of pores, control oil, and firm the skin. From all the positive reviews I read online, a few users noticed differences in as little as a week. Unfortunately, this was not the case for me. I've been using it every night for over a month and has not seen any improvements to my skin. 


I picked out this night cream, because I ran out of the Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizer. The cream is incredibly lightweight and almost has an airy feel to it. Like the Wonder Pore toner, it has a light scent and leaves my skin feeling refreshed. It's very gentle as well as hydrating for my skin. I've been using it as part of my nightly routine along with the toner and have noticed that I wake up with with a slightly brighter complexion than I used to.
~ ~ ~
I think the the toner and night cream are great purchases for those who want to try Etude House's face products for the first time. Whenever I try new face products, I always have high hopes of them working its magical properties and seeing wondrous results. Clearly, that's not the case. But I will continue using them since it does keep my skin fresh and clean, and because I feel it would be a waste not to. I will keep you updated if I notice any major differences! :)

Have you tried any of Etude House's products? What did you think of them? 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Photo diary: Back to school

Back-to-school week is always filled with so many emotions and excitement. Now imagine what it must be like to have what might be your last first week of school ever. Yep, if all goes according to plan, I will be graduating in Spring next year, which makes this my last year at the university. Pretty nerve-wracking, I would say. And seeing the freshmen class with their maps and freshmen lanyards around campus makes me feel incredibly nostalgic. College years really do go by in a blink of an eye.

In the midst of the hectic week, I took some photos to document the highlights of my back-to-school week. I love looking back on them maybe years from now and having a goofy smile on my face, remembering all the wonderful and crazy times I had in college ;) 

- Saturday, Sept 27th - 
Heading home from a mini-vacay in San Diego. After arriving home at 9pm, I unpacked and packed again as I was leaving for school early in the morning the next day. 

- Sunday, Sept 28th -
Move-in day! Move-in days are always crazy, exciting, and extremely exhausting. I tend to take my time when it comes to unpacking so my desk (on the far right) was (or still is) a mess when I took this picture. As I was going through my things, I realized that I forgot to bring so many things from home. Never pack last minute guys! You are just bound to forget something if you do. 

- Tuesday, Sept 29th - 
Though school doesn't officially start 'till Thursday, I had to go to work to finish a few projects before the quarter begins. I ran into this fella on-campus as I was on my way to work in the morning. Deer, squirrels, and raccoons are all over campus so spotting animals around school is an every-day thing. Did I mention that we also have cows?

- Thursday, Oct 2nd - 
Dinner at Rosie McCann's Irish Pub and Restaurant to celebrate the last first day as an undergraduate student!

- Saturday, Oct 4th - 
Fireworks for the 100th anniversary of the Santa Cruz Wharf! Spent the day with some girl friends at the beach and caught the amazing firework show at night.

For those who are in school, I hope you study hard, sleep more, and play wisely.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Be bold, says the pillow


Society 6

                   

I've always thought that throw pillows can make such fun and statement pieces for the home. With their endless designs and patterns, they bring a little bit of a personality to a room. I picked out a few that caught my eye when I came across society6. I was particularly drawn to their unique and customized styles, which I later learned that their products on the site are designed by artists from all over the world!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Warby Parker | Home Try-On

UPDATE: read my post on my second Warby Parker Home Try-On here.



For months I've been looking to purchase a new pair of eyeglasses, and then I stumbled across WARBY PARKER's line of eyewear after vaguely hearing about their free try-on program in a Spotify ad once. I did some research here and there and discovered some impressive facts about the innovative brand:

◆ for every pair they sell, another pair is given to someone in need ◆ they believe that eyewear should be fun, easy, and inexpensive ◆ the customers, employees, community, and environment are at the heart of the brand's decision-making ◆

Fast forward another couple of months, I got the chance (and time) to order a few pairs from their collection for the home try-on.The home try-on program allows you to choose any five pairs of eyeglasses on their site and you get to keep them for five days to see how you like them. After those five days are up, you simply pack everything up and ship it back to them with a pre-paid shipping label included in the box. Pretty neat idea, right? The best thing is that it's completely free because they pay for the shipping.

With so many of their simple, yet classic designs, I spent the longest time choosing the five pairs that I wanted to try. The fact that I wasn't sure what type of glasses suited me did not help. I'm never certain about what face shape I have. Guessing that I'm somewhere in the round-oval category, I chose glasses with angular frames, hoping that would help add definition to my face.

As for the service I've received so far, I can tell that they truly value their customers in the detail and care they put into every order. They made the process extremely easy. The delivery service was excellent - the box actually arrived a day early - and with all the different options I had for reaching out to them, it made me feel like I could easily contact them for help.

Being the indecisive person that I already am, I made it even more difficult for myself to decide on a pair by picking out ones with similar frames and styles. The one pair that stood out was the first one, Baxter. But it could just be that it's the only pair that is noticeably different from the others.
What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts/comments - the good, the bad - I'm all ears!


Baxter





Is there a winner among the pairs?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Braces update #3: 12 months mark

Previous update #1#2


It was around this time last year when I was sitting nervously in the orthodontist's chair, waiting to get my braces for the first time. I still remember how weird and uncomfortable the braces felt after the visit. Now 12 months have flown by and I've adjusted very well as I rarely give them another thought.

In terms of my eating habits, I'm still reluctant to biting into one of those humongous burgers and shiny Fuji apples. Or maybe I've gotten used to not putting so much pressure on my gums. Other than that, I've pretty much given in to a lot of the foods that I didn't even want to bother with when I first got my braces, like chips, nuts, and cherry tomatoes. Considering that I was mostly consuming soft foods in the beginning (post here), it's been pretty smooth sailing. The one thing that hasn't changed is that food still gets stuck in the wires and sorts no matter how strategically I try to chew my food. Generally, it's not too troublesome as long as I don't get a piece of food stuck somewhere in the front for everyone to see. But quinoa is something I've learned to stay away from.

Like all my visits to the orthodontist, my mouth always ended up feeling sore right after and today was no exception. But I think I've gotten used to it by now that it hardly bothers me. For my visit today, I got some chains (that's what they called it in the office) wrapped on the wires of my braces on my front teeth, I'm assuming to close a slight gap that formed after shifting my teeth around and elastics to use for the right side of my mouth. They informed me that I will be getting my braces off in roughly 6 months if all goes well, which leads me to ask myself...

...when I get my braces off, should I bite into a big juicy burger first or a crispy Fuji apple?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dinner at Hula's

- | Hula's Island Grill and Tiki Room | -
Where: Santa Cruz, CA
Price: $$
Service: Casual

Hula's Island Grill and Tiki Room is known for their alcohol, i.e. the long list of cocktails with names like one eyed pyrat and dr. funk. But being that I went with my parents, who are not big on drinking whatsoever, we went right ahead and ordered a few popular plates from the menu. 
The service was very casual and the servers blended right in with the customers, occasionally chatting with old customers and giving friendly nods to new ones. Most times, you would find a male server in a bright hawaiian shirt and jeans heading for a table with a drink or two in hand. Aside from the easygoing atmosphere, the food was delicious and incredibly satisfying. I took some quick snaps of our food before they were all happily devoured:

- cocojoe's chicken plate - 
coconut encrusted chicken, lilikoi sauce, with plantains, black beans, and rice on the side 

One of Hula's favorites from the menu. The lilikoi sauce was sweet and tangy, which balanced out the  coconut-fusioned chicken.

(Halfway through the meal, I switched my plate with my mom's, which was the cocojoe's chicken plate)


 - south seas fish tacos -
grilled hapu, taco slaw, sundried tomato pesto aioli

While I didn't know what aioli was, I figured I would give the tacos a try after hearing a friend raving about them. Frankly, the fish was the only part that I liked - it was soft and lightly seasoned. The taco slaw was quite dry and with the slightly sour sauce, it tasted a bit strange.


Lastly, there was the new york steak sandwich;
marinated NY steak, grilled maui onions, jack cheese, and habenero aioli

Unfortunately, I was too distracted when my food arrived that I failed to get a good shot of the steak sandwich to post on here.  
According to my dad, the meat was juicy and tender, and he wouldn't have minded if the sandwich came with a few more steak strips. Clearly, it left him wanting more when he finished his food. 

Have a lovely weekend,

Saturday, September 6, 2014

First Blogiversary! ...and something more

It was exactly one year ago today that I started The Little Things and More blog, a place that has grown and went through many changes since the first post. Initially, I was convinced that I was going through a baking phase and thought it would be fun to share my many baking attempts on here. (I was mostly excited about getting to put up countless pictures of all the sweet treats I made). I even tried my hand on doing some fashion and beauty posts - actually, my very first post was on the Maybelline's baby lips collection. But as time passed, all the baking I did wasn't exactly a phase as I do very much enjoy making cookies, cupcakes, and such in my free time and somehow, it led me to venture out to do other food-related posts. Then, the occasional beauty and general list posts came into the mix and a blog that is filled is filled with everything food, beauty, and life related adventures was born!
I remember I was so horrible at writing in diaries when I was young, but I think I'm getting a a hang of this blogging thing :)

~ ~ ~ Happy 1st Blogiversary! ~ ~ ~

Moving on to the second part of this special post - it's about the hair! I've been wanting to color my hair for some time now. I orginally wanted to dye my hair a different color, but I didn't want to worry about having the roots grow out, which led me to look into the very popular ombre hair style. After watching a couple of How To videos on Youtube - I especially liked these two: Video #1 and Video #2 -  I went to Target and picked up an ombre hair color kit.

Hair profile: Naturally wavy, dark brown asian hair.


I picked up L'oreal Intense Ombre Kit for Dark Brown to Soft Black Hair. Being that I have thick asian hair, I was worried that the dye would make my hair coppery, so while I was at the store, I also bought L'oreal Ever Pure purple conditioner to use after coloring my hair. 

The whole process took about two hours, including the showering and cleaning up afterwards.
 - Please note that I'm no expert on this and this was my first ombre experience -

What I did:
- SECTIONED HAIR in small parts to create a messy ombre
- BLENDED the mixture well around where the ombre starts
- after 20 minutes, RE-APPLIIED mixture to the tips of the hair
- to prevent dryness, CONDITIONED hair with a purple conditioner again after using the conditioner included in the ombre kit

Quite honestly, I didn't think the ombre came out light enough. But it could have been a lot worse considering this was my first time. Surprisingly, my ends are not as dried out as I expected - props to all the deep conditioning that I did.
As you can see in the pictures below, the ends did not come out blonde like I'd hoped so I'm thinking of lightening the tips a bit more to a more caramel color for a soft ombre effect. I'm debating whether I should re-dye the ends again with a lighter color or try the chemical-free way, which is to mix some honey in my purple conditioner every time I wash my hair. I may not even do anything at all...I shall have an update on this soon! At the moment, it has definitely fulfilled my longing for a new hair change.

 Before

After


While I was at the store, this warm caramel color caught my eye. Debating whether I should go back and get it to use it on the ends of my hair. What do you think, yay or nay?


Taken the next day.
The color appears subtle on camera, but a lot intense in person.


Did I mention I also made a quick video on my first ombre experience?



Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Eats #2

Here is the second round of my Sunday eats and it's also the last one I did while living in the apartment for summer school. The food was pretty random as I was trying finish some of the things that my parents brought over from when they visited me. 

- Breakfast - 

Yogurt with oats, topped with pineapples and honey. 

- Lunch - 

Quinoa and Mandarin orange chicken from TJ's, Japanese Wakame salad, and a Hawaiian roll fresh from the oven. 
(Put my sweet Hawaiian roll in the oven for the first time and it was delicious!)

For dessert, I had a small bowl of Japanese sweet pumpkin soup.

- Snack -

Half a cup of tea with a bit of almond milk and cookies from TJ's

- Dinner - 

Leftover quinoa from lunch, steamed broccoli with black pepper, cherry tomatoes, Hawaiian roll, and homemade shaomai, which are Chinese dumplings filled with sticky rice, minced pork, and mushrooms (There are many different varieties and this one originates from Shanghai). 

Though the food was all very different and a little random, they were very yummy and satisfying :p

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Empties & almost empties review

Hi there! I'm typing this post up as I just got out of a nice and long shower after doing one of Blogilates workouts on Youtube. Tried the 5-minute ab workout for the first time and boy, was it intense!

Anyhoo, after I used up my bottle of Aveeno shave gel the other day, I thought I would do a quick review of it along with a few other products that are close to emptying out. I was thinking of saving the empties and do a collective review on all of them later, but I hoard enough things as it is that I think it's going to be hard to keep track of everything. So here are my thoughts on the things I've used up (and almost using up): 


First impression: Very gentle on the skin and has a light scent. It works into a creamy lather and leaves skin feeling soft and smooth. 
Product details: Helps you to shave less often and helps prevent nicks, cuts, and razor burns. It's gentle enough to use on sensitive skin. 
Final thoughts: While it didn't irritate or dry out my skin, I still managed to get a few razor burns from time to time. After multiple uses, I noticed that I didn't have to shave my legs as often as I used to. The hair on my legs seemed to have grown back slower and lighter. Though the same cannot be said about the armpit situation. 

First impression: A basic, travel size shower gel that has a refreshingly crisp and clean grapefruit scent. 
Product details: Soap-free, lather-rich, refreshing grapefruit scent 
Final thoughts: This tiny bottle is not worth the retailing price ($4). While I enjoyed the scent, the shower gel didn't stand out to me.

First impression: It made my hair feel light and soft. It has a flower scent that's not overwhelming at all. 
Product details: Formulated with honey and milk protein that strengthens and protects severely damaged hair. Leaves hair soft, elastic, and easy to manage. Gives limp and flat hair a light and bouncy feel.
Final thoughts: A quick hair profile ~~ I have naturally wavy thick hair with no split ends. ~~
With all the sun and heat damage my hair has gone through, I feel that this mask has really helped with keeping the ends of my hair hydrated and protected as they aren't as dull-looking as they used to be. Overall, it's a good moisturizing hair mask that leaves hair feeling extremely light and smooth.


I hope you have a warm and wonderful Labor Day weekend!!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Feelin' Blue


It's been such a long time since I've treated myself to new nail polish, and even longer time since I've painted my nails. I was trying hard to limit myself on getting new nail polishes because I tend to go overboard with all of the never-ending pretty colors that they're always coming out with. But while I was in Forever 21 the other day, I gave in and picked up this nail polish in the warm blue color, called Stone Blue. This was definitely an impulsive buy and the fact that there was a student discount happening that day did not help haha. I've never tried Forever 21's nail polishes before, but at $2.80 a bottle, I thought why not. 

This is a nice transitioning color from summer to fall since the next season is right around the corner. (I wouldn't be surprised if the stores are stocking up on Halloween things right about now). The color's not showy, but it still has a very cool and chic look to it. I applied 2-3 coats and expected for it to chip easily after a few days. It's been over a week now and the nail polish is still looking pretty good with no major chips. This is impressive considering that I didn't use a base or top coat this time (anyone else guilty of this?). In terms of the quality, it's way better than the nail polishes I have from Claire's, and I would place it right below the drugstore brand nail polishes that I own - the ones from Maybelline and Sally Hansen. 

Forever 21's nail polish in Stone Blue left a great first impression on me. It's decent quality at an affordable price, how can I say no to that? 

What are some of your favorite nail polish colors for Fall?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Beach, sand, and rocking rides

I've been looking forward to writing this post all day today because it is very different from the usual food and somewhat beauty posts that I normally do. This probably has to be one of my favorite posts to share! A big part of it has to do with the photos I've included because I think they captured my Saturday perfectly - clear sky, warm sand, and fun rides! 

Studying at a university that is only a short drive away from the beach boardwalk - the "World's Best Seaside Amusement Park" according to Amusement Today - definitely has its perks. Despite Santa Cruz being a relatively small and local town, it attracts quite a crowd all year round with its breathtaking ocean views, long scenic drives, and of course the well-known Beach Boardwalk. It's no doubt that summer is the busiest time of the year as families and friends come here for vacation. Since I've been staying here for summer school, this is the first time that I got the chance to get in on the excitement with all the tourists and such. It felt like I was on a mini-vacation myself. 

I remember the very first time that I came to the boardwalk was during the first week of my freshman year. And ever since then, I've been here so many times that I've lost count. Just last week, my friends from home came to visit and I brought them to the boardwalk. And a few days later, I came here again when my parents came to see me. Sure enough, I was back at the boardwalk this weekend when my friends invited me for a beach day! The weather's been really nice and I've been craving amusement park food so I couldn't say no. Plus I'm always down for some good company. At the end of the day and some sunburns later, I caught up with friends, played on the beach, and indulged in some amusement park food. It was all very laid-back and wonderful. 

I'm not sure why it took me this long to get a couple of decent shots of the boardwalk when I've been going to school here for more than three years now, but I finally got around to it this time around and wanted to share them here. The photos that I took are only bits and pieces of the boardwalk, but I hope you enjoy looking through them! Maybe it'll bring you a little bit of that summer vibe ☀︎ 

The view of the Santa Cruz Wharf from the beach


Now onto the rides....

 Fireball
One of the most popular rides at the Beach Boardwalk

 Sea Swings
Imagine the breathtaking views you get to see on that thing!

 Cyclone
Spins at maximum speed. I think I'll pass..

Rock-O-Plane
A ferris wheel that spins backwards where you're in control of rocking the cage you're in.

The view of the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster from the boardwalk...

...and here's the spectacular view from the top

And finally, craving satisfied.