Jul 25, 2014  •  In Aerin, Claire, Education, Parenting, Personal

Summer Camp

Claire and Aerin are now halfway through their first summer camp experience. 8-)  

The camp is run by Claire’s Montessori school; it is set during the hours that would otherwise be taken up by classes during the school year. And while the school continues to run educational programs and activities at camp, these summertime sessions tend to be less structured with more “fun” activities like outdoor games, messy art projects, visits from exotic animals and their handlers, and even field trips.

For a small additional fee, children ages 3 and over — like Claire! — can take a bus to the local pool and take 2-hour group swimming lessons twice a week.

Aerin’s first week was admittedly tough with some tears and extra clinginess toward her mommy. But this was expected; I knew camp would be tough for my little girl who has never been in a daily class environment before.

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Puffy eyes from crying! (I am so glad that the school sends us photo updates!)

But by the end of the first week, she no longer cried at dropoff, and even began to voluntarily hug and kiss her teacher — something she only does with 3 other people in her life!

I had been nervous all last month that Aerin’s delays would adversely affect her participation in class. But a week before I left for Korea, Aerin went through a mini language explosion: constantly repeating things we say; correctly identifying objects, letters, colors, and numbers; regularly using 2- and 3- word sentences; and most importantly, verbally communicating her wants and needs.

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Learning colors while making (and eating) different-hued popsicles at camp

With the language explosion came another desirable behavior: interacting, and playing with other kids more — especially her older sister! Many times, Aerin will follow Claire around the house, imitating her and trying to include herself in whatever activity Claire might be doing. Claire sometimes gets annoyed at Aerin and they will inevitably fight, but to have my two girls play with each other and communicate amongst themselves…to have Claire look out for her little sister (she defended her at the playground the other day) and to see Aerin clearly looking up to her older sister for companionship and guidance — all behaviors they had never exhibited before — are so encouraging and heartwarming!

Aerin’s teacher tells me that while her speech is still behind other kids her age, the delay is modest, and at about the same level of that of other young children who come from households whose main language isn’t English. “Most importantly,” she told me, “we can all tell that she’s trying. She looks at my mouth when I speak, and I could tell that she’s just soaking everything in!”

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Lining up for relay games. (Faces and names blurred for privacy reasons.)

For Claire, the transition from preschool to summer camp has been painless save for one aspect: her twice-weekly swimming lessons. My cautious girl has never been a big fan of water and hates to get water in her eyes. Even when taking a bath, I have to place a washcloth over her eyes whilst rinsing her hair!

Her swimming instructors tell me that Claire refused to get her torso into the water for the first couple of sessions. Instead, she sat on the pool steps and splashed around. :-|  But little by little, she has gotten braver — she even tried to doggy-paddle the other day!  :mrgreen:

J, who was a competitive swimmer in his younger days, wants the instructors to push Claire more. However, they told us that because she is still at such a young age, they don’t want her to associate the water with bad experiences. Instead, they want her to feel fully comfortable in the water and see her having fun first. This is the teaching style with which I agree, but J believes that it’s too “American.” :-?  He feels that children should be pressured to succeed. It’s a topic we will certainly approach again and again as our girls grow older.

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When Claire showed me this geography exercise, she told me, “Look, umma! Orange is
North America! Pink is South America! Green is Africa! Red is Europe!” It’s hard to believe
she’s only 3 years old!

Aside from her swimming lessons, Claire continues to thrive and be a leader amongst her peers. While her introspective and analytical tendencies definitely come from me, she is much more confident, assertive, and social than I ever was as a child. Her teachers and classmates love her, and I am so glad that preschool has helped her get out of her shell this past year.

J and I are thinking about extending C&A’s summer camp by another couple of weeks because it seems so beneficial for everyone involved. We especially feel that it will be a nice transition period for Aerin, who will start preschool in September. (Claire will move onto pre-K…where does the time go???)

As for me, while I have been enjoying the extra 3 hours to myself while the girls are at camp, I’ve been keeping myself busy…by job-hunting. Yes, I am back in the market again so that we can comfortably send both girls to school starting in the fall. Please wish me luck!

Jul 23, 2014  •  In Art/Design, Books, Entertainment, Geek

Clever Game of Thrones Mashups

Eric La Sorda (Imgur user timburtongameofthrones) is an illustrator who — you guessed it — imagines GoT characters in the style of, or as certain characters from pop culture. It seems that he started by drawing his favorite Westerosians à la Tim Burton, and eventually went on to mash them up with individuals from Family Guy, Scooby Doo, Warner Brothers cartoons, Disney, and even Pokémon.

I’ve decided to share with you some of my favorites from his expansive collection. Be sure to check out his gallery for the full collection!

Peter Stark:
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Lois Stark:
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Chris Snow and Brian:
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Continue reading »

Jul 21, 2014  •  In Asian, Beauty, Korean, Reviews, Shopping, Travel

Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 3

see:
Korean Beauty Haul: Introduction
Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 1
Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 2


Sheet Masks, prices vary
korean_sheet_masksSheet masks are sheets of cloth or thick paper — with appropriate cutouts for the eyes and nose — that are soaked with skin-improving chemicals. Although the instructions for each mask varies between each brand and type, they usually are to be left in place for a period of 10-20 minutes, and upon removal, the leftover liquid to be patted or massaged into the face.

(XOVain calls Korea sheet masks the “Lazy (Broke) Girl’s Facial.” :-P  You can also check out The Beauty Department‘s “Sheet Masks 101″ article for a bit more information and their recommendations.)

Like most other Korean skincare products, every mask serves to target specific skincare issues. The good news is that they’re available everywhere in Korea (practically every beauty brand has their own line, and even convenience stores carry them), and they’re usually inexpensive; many are less than ₩2,000, or less than $2 each.

I wish I could recommend some specific sheet masks, but since I only just started using them myself, I’m still a n00b on the topic. :-|  What I can say is that I bought a crapload of sheet masks of various brands while I was in Korea— mostly anything that was on sale in the shops — and I have loved every single one I’ve tried. I also purchased for my mother a set of high-quality snail masks (snail mucus has been all the rage in Korea for a few years now) and she loves them too.

As sheet masks have become such a ubiquitous part of Korean culture, you can easily find them at Korean grocery stores here in the U.S., or other places that carry Korean products. There’s also the fact that many Korean beauty brands that are venturing out onto U.S. soil carry sheet masks: The Face Shop, Missha, Skinfood, and Sulwhasoo, to name a few. And, as with practically every Korean beauty product, Amazon and eBay are safe bets too.

Foot Peeling Masks, prices vary
foot_peeling_maskAlong a similar line to facial sheet masks are foot peeling masks. I first read about Baby Foot, a Japanese foot mask brand that is now available in the U.S., in Allure last year and I was very tempted to try it. Unfortunately, I was attending yoga classes regularly at the time and I didn’t want to shed my dead foot skin all over my yoga mat. 8-)  

But when I saw foot peeling masks in beauty stores all over Korea…

And I saw that most cost less than ₩5,000 (less than $5) compared to Baby Foot’s $30…

I knew I had to pick some up.

…To be completely honest, I still haven’t tried a foot peeling mask. But you can read reviews of them all over the web (warning: the pictures can be pretty gross!) like this hilarious one over at XOJane. Additionally, I know that Korean beauty companies are great at taking a tried-and-true product, reformulating it for the better, and distributing them at (usually) lower price points. So I’m pretty confident that if you purchase a foot peeling mask by reputable brands like Etude House, Tony Moly, or  The Face Shop, they would give similar, if not the same, results as Baby Foot.

(Perhaps I will do a future post on my first foot peeling mask experience?)

Missha Mild Essence Sun Milk, $18 ($17 at Soko Glam)
missha_mild_essence_sun_milkI first read about this product at the Soko Glam Blog, and I decided to pick up a bottle in Korea since my EltaMD (reviewed here) was running low.

Compared to the EltaMD, the Missha is runnier and has a floral scent (the EltaMD is unscented). Oh, and the Missha has essence as part of the formula (and I know that Missha makes some kickass essence ;-) ) — added skin benefits FTW!

But to me, the biggest advantage that the Missha has over the EltaMD is the price. $17 vs $30? It’s no contest.

I actually picked up a bottle of the men’s version of this sunblock, the Missha Sun Milk for Men, for my father and he really likes it as well. :-) (Unfortunately, the Missha US site doesn’t carry this item. You can buy it on Amazon for ~$20.)

Clio Waterproof Pen Liner, $15
clio_waterproof_pen_linerThis is an item I’ve purchased and enjoyed prior to my trip to Korea, and I can’t believe I’ve never mentioned it here before!

This pen eyeliner is a best-seller in both Korea and Japan, and even has been touted as “the best eyeliner in the world.” When I picked up an extra on my trip to Korea, my cousin, who accompanied me to the Clio store, tried it out and got hooked too.

And while I already have an HG eyeliner — the Milani Infinite in Unlimited, a replacement for the discontinued MAC Liquidlast — when I want a sharp, precise line, nothing can beat a pen liner. And this is the best I’ve found. (I like it even better than the popular Stila All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner!)

Because this eyeliner is so popular in Asia, you can easily find them in Korean or Japanese stores. Amazon sells them for pretty cheap, but they’re usually shipped from Asia so may take a while to arrive. Fortunately, for those who prefer their items to be shipped from the U.S., Soko Glam carries the Clio Pen Liner for $15 (check out all the rave reviews on the product page!).

Etude House products
etude_houseI can’t name just one product from Etude House, because there are too many I like!

Etude House is a reputable brand in Korea that is known for not only having quality products, but its oh-so-cute stores and adorable product packaging. (Here‘s an example of a typical Etude House store.)

Some of their most popular makeup products include the Dear Girls Cute Eye Maker, Magic Any CushionLovely Cookie Blusher, and Precious Mineral BB Compact. I have tried all of these items (and bought some of them) in Korea and I can personally attest to their quality!

Etude House is also well-known for its Collagen Moistfull skincare line. I have heard wonderful things about its cream and emulsion, and the only reason I didn’t purchase any is because they’re more geared for those with dry skin.

Freshlook Illuminate Daily Disposable Contact Lenses, ~$30 per box of 30
freshlook_illuminateThese aren’t necessarily beauty products, per se, but I thought they deserved a mention since circle lenses are partly cosmetic and I’ve mentioned them numerous times in the past.

Oh, and because they’ve become my new favorite daily lenses. :mrgreen:  

With a 69% water content, the Freshlook Illuminate Dailies are by far, THE most comfortable contact lenses I’ve worn in my lifetime. In comparison, my regular lenses, the Proclear 1-Day Disposables — which my optometrist also uses for its superior comfort — have a 60% water content. (The higher the water content, the thinner and generally more comfortable the lenses. The downside? The lenses can be flimsy and can tear easily.)

They’re especially designed for Asian eyes for the most natural look and very minimal enlargement. In fact, many reviewers state that they can’t notice any enlargement of their irises. For me, however, because I have small irises, the before-and-after effect is very similar to the one in the promotional picture above: minimal enlargement with an extra sparkle to the eyes. :-D  

The Freshlook Illuminates come in three colors: black, rich brown, and light brown. I use rich brown and it blends with my natural eyes so well that you can’t tell I’m wearing contact lenses unless you’re inches away from my face. The last shade, light brown, is a new one that was released this year, and I want to give that a try next time I order lenses.

P.S. — Many Koreans (and SNSD fans everywhere) may recognize these lenses because Yoona is a spokesperson for the line. You can see a print ad here and a TV commercial here. ;-)  


That’s it for my Korean Beauty Haul series! I hope you’ve enjoyed these posts, and please let me know if you have any questions!

Jul 18, 2014  •  In Asian, Beauty, Korean, Personal, Shopping, Travel

Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 2

see:
Korean Beauty Haul: Introduction
Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 1
Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 3


Laneige Water Sleeping Pack_EX, ($23 at Target)
laneige_water_sleeping_pack_ex(As far as I can tell, the Water Sleeping Pack_EX is the Asian version of the American Water Sleeping Mask — same formulation but different names. If I am wrong, please correct me.)

I’ve wanted to try this “sleeping mask” ever since Target began to carry Laneige, a popular Korean beauty brand, earlier this year. This is supposedly one of Laneige’s best-selling products across all of Asia, and after a couple of weeks’ use, I can definitely see why!

The Water Sleeping Pack_EX is a thick cream that looks like a translucent blue gel. It glides on smoothly and absorbs quickly, and is meant to be used 2-3x a week as you sleep overnight. In fact, the instructions come with a little diagram of how you should massage it into your face!

That being said, because I’m a lazy bum, I use this product in lieu of a night cream every night. (I don’t do the massage either; I just haphazardly slather it over my face and neck. :-P ) So far I haven’t noticed any harm in using the sleeping mask more often than instructed; I still wake up with firmer, softer, and more supple skin every morning. :-)

My cousin decided to try this after she saw me buy it, and she loves it too!

Innisfree Long Wear Cushion SPF50+/PA+++, ~$20
innisfree_long_wear_cushionDid ya hear? After the proliferation of BB creams, air cushion makeup (a sponge soaked with foundation enclosed in a compact) is the next big thing to come from the Korean beauty industry. In fact, at the height of its popularity, an IOPE Air Cushion was sold very 30 seconds in South Korea!

I’ve been intrigued by air cushion makeup since I first heard about it last year. However, two things held me back: (1) I already have an HG foundationlove; and (2) air cushions seemed to suit dry skin better than my combination/oily. (Most Korean women have dry skin, and the dewy-almost-bordering-on-shiny skin which is so trendy in Korea right now turns me into a oily, blotchy mess by the end of the day.)

So you can imagine my delight when I discovered, upon my arrival in Korea, that Innisfree had just released the Long Wear Cushion (in conjunction with the Water Glow Cushion, see here for an ad featuring the two), which is formulated for those with oilier skin.

The Long Wear Cushion has a soothing, cooling effect upon application and certainly feels refreshing on these hot summer days. And while it looks a bit shiny when you first put it on, it dries to a dewy, radiant finish that lasts a good 5-6 hours.

While I am sticking to the Giorgio Armani Maestro as my main foundation, I have taken to carrying around the Innisfree Long Wear Cushion for touchups during the day, and will certainly be purchasing another when I run out!

The Face Shop Blackhead Out White Clay Nose Pack, ~$5
the_face_shop_blackhead_outThis one is another relatively new product. I bought it on whim waiting in line at a The Face Shop store — the clean packaging and the attractive price (I think I paid ₩3,000, or less than $3 for it) made me go for the impulse buy.

There is nothing spectacular about this product, but I really like the way it works. You apply an even coat over your nose, and several minutes later, when it is dry, you peel it off.

Yes, it works like a Biore Nose Strip. :-)  Except more fun! (At least to me.)

I only just discovered that there are The Face Shop locations in the U.S., in areas with heavy Korean populations, so you can be sure that I’ll be making a visit in the future!

to be continued…